Space Launch System Performs a Dramatic Hot Fire Test, Blasting With all 4 Engines at Once

Today, at close to 04:30 PM local time (CST), NASA achieved a major milestone with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) – the heavy launch system they will use to send astronauts back to the Moon and crewed missions to Mars. As part of a Green Run Hot Fire Test, all four RS-25 engines on the SLS Core Stage were fired at once as part of the first top-to-bottom integrated test of the stage’s systems.

This test is the last hurdle in an eight-step validation process before the Core Stage can be mated with its Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and sent on its maiden voyage around the Moon (Artemis I) – which is currently scheduled to happen sometime in November of 2021.

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The UK is Considering Nuclear Propulsion in Space

If human beings intend to become an interplanetary species (or interstellar, for that matter), then we are going to need new propulsion methods that combine a significant level of thrust with fuel-efficiency. One option that NASA has been exploring for decades is spacecraft that rely on nuclear power, which can take the form of nuclear-electric or nuclear-thermal propulsion (NEP/NTP).

In the current era of space exploration, other space agencies are looking into this technology as well. For instance, the UK Space Agency recently signed a contract with the British automotive engineering firm Rolls-Royce. As per their duties, Rolls-Royce will investigate applications for nuclear power and propulsion. Given the company’s record of mechanical, electrical, and nuclear power solutions

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James Webb Unfolds Sunshield

It’s almost time.

Soon the James Webb Space Telescope will be on its way to the Sun/Earth L2 Lagrange point and will begin its at least 5-year science mission. Really, it’s going to happen.

Despite several delays since the program began in 1996 and a budget that has exceeded the original by several billion dollars, the launch of the JWST seems close at hand. That is if you consider almost a year away (the new planned launch date is October 31, 2021) to be close.

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Thanks to Perseverance, We’re Finally Going to Hear What Mars Sounds Like

Many consider the various rovers we’ve sent to Mars as the next best thing to sending a geologist to the Red Planet. Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity have carried all the necessary equipment similar to what human geologists use on Earth, and are able to navigate the terrain, “see” the landscape with the various cameras, pick up rock and dust samples with scoops, and then analyze them with various onboard tools and equipment.

In addition to all those things, the new Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will add a “sense of hearing” to its robotic toolkit. The rover includes a pair of microphones to let us hear – for the first time – what Mars really sounds like.

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NASA Has Given Up on Trying to Deploy InSight’s Mole

It’s always a sad day when a mission comes to an end. And it’s even sadder when the mission never really got going in the first place.

That’s where we’re at with NASA’s InSight lander. The entire mission isn’t over, but the so-called Mole, the instrument designed and built by Germany’s DLR, has been pronounced dead.

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Mars is Still an Active World. Here’s a Landslide in Nili Fossae

Since the 1960s and 70s, scientists have come to view Mars as something of a “dead planet.” As the first close-up images from orbit and the surface came in, previous speculation about canals, water, and a Martian civilization were dispelled. Subsequent studies also revealed that the geological activity that created features like the Tharsis Mons region (especially Olympus Mons) and Valles Marineris had ceased long ago.

However, in the past few decades, robotic missions have found ample evidence that Mars is still an active place. A recent indication was an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which showed relatively fresh landslides in a crater near Nili Fossae. This area is part of the Syrtis Major region and is located just north of the Jezero Crater (where the Perseverance rover will be landing in six weeks!)

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Astronomers see a Hint of the Gravitational Wave Background to the Universe

Gravitational-wave astronomy is still in its infancy. LIGO and other observatories have opened a new window on the universe, but their gravitational view of the cosmos is limited. To widen our view, we have the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav).

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The Roman Space Telescope’s Version of the Hubble Deep Field Will Cover a 100x Larger Area of the Sky

Remember the Hubble Deep Field? And its successor the Hubble Ultra Deep Field? We sure do here at Universe Today. How could we forget them?

Well, just as the Hubble Space Telescope has successors, so do two of its most famous images. And those successors will come from one of Hubble’s successors, NASA’s Roman Space Telescope.

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With Funding From Jeff Bezos, MethaneSAT Picks Elon Musk’s SpaceX for 2022 Launch

Illustration: MethaneSAT in orbit

Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are usually rivals on the final frontier, but they both have a role to play in MethaneSAT, a privately backed satellite mission aimed at monitoring methane emissions.

Last November, the Bezos Earth Fund made a $100 million grant to the Environmental Defense Fund to support the satellite’s completion and launch. That grant was part of a $791 million round that Bezos said was “just the beginning of my $10 billion commitment” to address challenges brought on by climate change.

Now MethaneSAT LLC — a subsidiary of Environmental Defense Fund — is announcing that it’s signed a contract with Musk’s SpaceX to send the satellite into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket by as early as October 2022.

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Gateway Foundation Gives a Detailed Update on its Voyager Station Concept

In 2012, the Gateway Foundation was founded with the purpose of building the world’s first rotating space station in orbit – known as The Gateway. This is no easy task and must be preceded by establishing the necessary infrastructure in orbit and the creation of a series of smaller structures to test the concept. This includes the Voyager Class station, a rotating structure designed to produce varying levels of artificial gravity.

In recent months, the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC) – founed in 2018 by the Gateway team – began working on a crucial component, known as the DSTAR. These and other updates about their Voyager Class station were the subjects of a recent video featuring Foundation and OAC CEO John Blincow. According to Blincow, he and his colleagues will be performing a demonstration and making a big announcement in the coming weeks!

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