Space Pioneer Unveils Rocket Prototype

Aerospace pioneer Bart Rutan has created what he calls the world’s first private space program. The three-person capsule, rocket and launch aircraft, together dubbed SpaceShipOne, were unveiled at Scaled Composite’s facilities in California on Friday to several hundred guests. Rutan and his team plans a series of test flights culminating at an attempt to win the X-Prize (the first privately built spacecraft to reach space).

Russians Say Bass is Back in Training

Pop singer Lance Bass is getting closer to getting his chance to fly in space according to an announcement from the Russian Space Agency on Friday. Bass, 23, will fly to Houston around the end of August where he will receive training from NASA. Although he is backed by a consortium of companies for the trip, no part of the $20 million fee has been paid yet – the Russians are expecting at least a deposit by the end of this week. If all goes well, Bass will join a Soyuz crew in October to visit the International Space Station for a week. He would become the youngest person ever to fly in space.

Canadian X-Prize Entrant Moves Closer to Spaceflight

A Canadian team competing to win the $10 million X-Prize announced that they had completed a major milestone on their entrant, the Canadian Arrow. The team performed a successful test burn of their prototype engine and believe it will now work in actual flight – a main engine test could happen as early as August. Twenty one teams from 5 countries are competing for the X-Prize, which will award $10 million to the first group able to launch a three-person rocket twice in two weeks to an altitude of 100 km.

Scramjet Prototype Has a Successful Flight

Image credit: University of Queensland

A new jet designed to travel more than 7 times the speed of sound has been successfully tested in the Australian desert. The prototype Hyshot engine is a scramjet; unlike a traditional chemical rocket which carries heavy liquid oxygen in gigantic fuel tanks, a scramjet pulls the oxygen it needs from the atmosphere. The engine was strapped to a traditional rocket and lifted up to an altitude of 300 km at which point the scramjet kicked in and accelerated it towards the Earth – hopefully reaching a speed of 8,600 km/hour before it crashed.

University of Queensland researchers say the launch of the HyShot experiment at the Woomera Prohibited Range today was successful.

?So far it has all gone to plan. The launch was a success, and we received data for the duration of the flight,? said HyShot program team leader Dr Allan Paull.

The aim of the experiment is to achieve the world`s first flight test of air-breathing supersonic ramjet engines, also known as scramjets. These engines could revolutionise the launch of small space payloads, such as communications satellites, by substantially lowering costs.

Today?s launch of a Terrier Orion Mk70 rocket fitted with a scramjet engine took place at 1135 local time (1205 AEST).

Dr Paull said although the signs so far have been positive, it is still too early to say the scramjet experiment has succeeded. The scramjet experiment took place within only the last few seconds of the flight, lasting almost 10 minutes.

?Hopefully we?ll be in a better position to make that assessment in the next couple of days, but at the moment I?m feeling confident,? he said.

?Nevertheless, even at this early stage we have achieved what no else has managed to do, helping put Australia at the forefront on this new technology.

?I would like to thank all consortium partners, in particular the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, Australian Defence (ARDU) and the Defence Science and Technology, Organisation (DSTO).?

Other consortium partners include Astrotech Space Operations, DTI and GASL, QinetiQ, NASA Langley Research Center, Seoul National University, the DLR (German Aerospace Center), NAL (National Aerospace lab. Japan), AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory, USA), Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI), Institute of Engineers Australia (IEAust), UniQuest and the Australian Department of Defence.

Australian firms, Alesi Technologies, NQEA, AECA, Luxfer Australia and Jet Air Cargo, and BAE Systems Australia are also involved.

Original Source: UQ News Release

Solar Flare Silences Japanese Mars Probe

A solar flare has struck Nozomi, Japan’s first probe to Mars, cutting off its communications with Earth. Japanese scientists believe that the spacecraft can repair the damage within 6-months, hopefully before it arrives at the Red Planet in December 2003. The solar flare happened over a month ago, but the damage to the spacecraft was only recently admitted to the public. Nozomi will study Mars’ upper atmosphere and magnetic field.

Families Might Make the Best Spacefarers

According to John Moore, a University of Florida anthropologist, families might have the right social dynamic to take on long duration space voyages – such as the colonization of another star, which could take 200 years to reach. By organizing the crew along family lines, Moore believes a crew would be better protected from problems that could occur over a multigenerational journey. In fact, in order to have enough genetic diversity to seed a new plant, Moore believes you only need a starting population of 150-180 people.