Normally, it would be a very bad day if your space station habitat module blew up. But it was all smiles and high-fives in mission control when Sierra Space’s LIFE habitat was intentionally over-inflated until it popped spectacularly in an Ultimate Burst Pressure (UBP) test. This video shows the moment of boom from several different viewpoints.Continue reading “Sierra Space Inflated a Habitat to Destruction, Testing its Limits Before Going to Orbit”
About a decade ago, the prospect of “asteroid mining” saw a massive surge in interest. This was due largely to the rise of the commercial space sector and the belief that harvesting resources from space would soon become a reality. What had been the stuff of science fiction and futurist predictions was now being talked about seriously in the business sector, with many claiming that the future of resource exploitation and manufacturing lay in space. Since then, there’s been a bit of a cooling off as these hopes failed to materialize in the expected timeframe.
Nevertheless, there is little doubt that a human presence in space will entail harvesting resources from Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and beyond. In a recent paper, a team of researchers from the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China, examined the potential impact of asteroid mining on the global economy. Based on their detailed assessment that includes market forces, environmental impact, asteroid and mineral type, and the scale of mining, they show how asteroid mining can be done in a way that is consistent with the Outer Space Treaty (i.e., for the benefit of all humanity).Continue reading “What Would Asteroid Mining do to the World's Economy?”
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Things are heating up again at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas! With so many static fire and flight tests now behind them and the FAA environmental assessment complete, space exploration enthusiasts have wondered when Elon Musk would attempt to conduct an orbital flight with the Starship prototype. As of Tuesday, October 11th, the Starship 24 (SN24) and Booster 7 (BN7) prototypes were once again seen fully stacked on the orbital launch pad, leading many to wonder if the long-awaited orbital flight is imminent!Continue reading “Starship and Super Heavy are Stacked up Again. How Long Until They fly?”
There has been no shortage of exciting developments in the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace) in recent years. These include the ability to retrieve and reuse rockets (in part or whole), new configurations that reduce expendability, and new engines. But beyond making rocket launches more cost-effective, several cutting-edge ideas have been brought forward to make space more accessible. These include SpinLaunch‘s concept for an electric kinetic launch system (aka. a space catapult) that can propel payloads of up to 200 kg (440 lbs) to space.
On September 27th, 2022, SpinLaunch announced the results of its tenth successful flight test of its Suborbital Mass Accelerator (SMA) at Spaceport America, New Mexico. This time, SpinLaunch sent four partner payloads to space with its Suborbital Accelerator Flight Test Vehicle, which provided valuable data about the launch environment and payload integration process. This latest successful test has placed the company and its launch system one step closer to providing low-cost and sustainable launch services for satellites and other small payloads.Continue reading “SpinLaunch Completes its 10th Test, Hurling Payloads for NASA and Other Companies Into the air”
Edited on 10/6/22 to add new information from Seradata.
Commercial space company Firefly Aerospace successfully launched its Alpha rocket for the first time last weekend, reaching orbit and deploying three satellites. While the latest determination of the satellites’ orbit reveals they may have not been placed in the correct orbit, the company appears to consider the orbit high enough to be considered a success. But others might not agree.
This launch comes just over a year after the Alpha rocket’s first launch attempt exploded two and a half minutes after liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.Continue reading “A Year After a Failed Launch, Firefly Reaches Orbit and Deploys Satellites”
One of the more famous features of Space Age 2.0 is the rise of the commercial space industry, also known as “NewSpace.” While the space agencies of the world plan to send astronauts back to the Moon (this time, to stay), crewed missions to Mars, and robotic missions to every corner of the Solar System, NewSpace companies are offering cost-effective launch services, sending commercial astronauts to space, and commercializing Low Earth Orbit (LEO). There’s also the prospect of space tourism, with companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX offering suborbital flights, trips to LEO, and beyond!
China, one of the fastest-growing nations in space, is looking to offer commercial flights to suborbital space. According to senior rocket scientists Yang Yiqiang, who spoke to the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN), China will send its first group of commercial passengers on a spaceflight, with ticket prices ranging between $287,200 to $430,800 (2 to 3 million yuan). While China is a relative newcomer to the commercial space scene, this announcement signals its intent to catch up to companies based in the U.S. and other space competitors.Continue reading “Chinese Companies are Planning to Offer Space Tourism Flights by 2025”
In April of this year, the first all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station was successfully conducted when Axiom Space sent four non-NASA astronauts to space during the 17-day Axiom-1 Mission (Ax-1). Based on the endeavor’s success, NASA and Axiom Space have signed an agreement for the second such mission to the ISS, which will take place in the second quarter of 2023.Continue reading “Space Tourists Have Booked Their Next Private Mission to the International Space Station”
What is the greatest challenge facing humans as we prepare for the first crewed missions to Mars? Solar and cosmic radiation? Atrophying bone and muscle? Growing food? How about laundry? It’s strange but true, right now we don’t have a way to clean laundry in space.Continue reading “Socks, The Final Frontier”
There’s little doubt that we live in a new Space Age, defined by increasing access, greater competition, and the commercial space industry. The titans of this industry are well known and have even become household names. There are old warhorses like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and United Launch Alliance and fast-rising stars like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Virgin Galactic, and others. But New Zealand and California-based company Rocket Lab has also made a name for itself in recent years, moving from low-cost expendable rocket launches to reusable rockets.
In particular, their new Neutron Rocket design has been turning some heads since it first debuted in late 2021. The most recent design of this rocket features some very interesting features, which include a new engine, a new shell, and a “Hungry-Hippo” reusable fairing built from advanced carbon composites. Beginning in 2024, Rocket Lab hopes to conduct regular launches with Neutron to service the growing “satellite megaconstellation” market. Thanks to an animator who goes by the handle Hazegrayart, we now have a video of what this might look like.Continue reading “Hazegrayart Shows how Rocket Lab's Reusable Neutron Rocket Could Work”
If you’re a fan of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace), then the name Masten Space Systems is sure to ring a bell. For years, this California-based aerospace company has been developing delivery systems to accommodate payloads to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This included Xoie, the lander concept that won the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar X-Prize in 2009, their Xombie and Xodiac reusable terrestrial landers, and the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) that would allow lunar landers to create their own landing pads.
But perhaps their biggest feat was the Xelene Lunar Lander (XL-1) that they developed in partnership with the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. This lander was one of several robotic systems enlisted by NASA to deliver cargo to the Moon in support of the Artemis Program. This included the Masten-1 mission, which was scheduled to land a payload Moon’s southern polar region in 2023. The company was scheduled to make a second delivery (Masten-2) by 2024, one year before the first Artemis astronauts arrived. But according to a statement issued on July 28th, the company has filed for Chapter 11 and is bankrupt!Continue reading “Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy”