In 2011, NASA announced a bold new program to leverage partnerships between the government and the commercial space sector to restore domestic launch capability. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop next-generation crew-rated capsules that would transport astronauts and payloads to International Space Station (ISS) and other locations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
While SpaceX has managed to meet all the requirements of the CCP with their Crew Dragon module, Boeing’s Starliner has experienced technical problems and several delays. With the latest delay (caused by the ISS being temporarily pushed out of its orbit), NASA has decided to reassign the astronauts that were scheduled to take the Starliner on its maiden crewed flight (Starliner-1) to the next crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS (Crew-5).
Continue reading “The Astronauts who Would Have Tested Starliner Have Been Reassigned to an Upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch”
History has viewed mining as a job that requires a lot of heavy machinery and physical labor. Pulling valuable material out of the ground has been necessary for human progress for thousands of years. That progress has led to an alternative method of getting those resources out of the Earth or other celestial bodies. The new technique relies on a symbiotic life partner that has co-habited with us for millennia – bacteria. A recent experiment conducted by ESA’s Biorock investigation team shows that this process – known as “biomining” – might be the most effective way to collect some materials in space.
Continue reading “Astronauts Have Used Bacteria to Extract Useful Metals out of Rocks”
It appears that the International Space Station is showing its age. Or, at least, the older modules that have been in space since 1998 certainly are. According to statements made by a senior Russian space official, cosmonauts aboard the ISS have discovered new cracks in the Functional Cargo Block (FCB) module – aka. Zarya (“Dawn”). These cracks were found in seven of the module’s twenty windows and could eventually threaten the entire station.
Continue reading “Cosmonauts Find Cracks in the Aging Zarya ISS Module”
It’s no secret that China has become a major contender when it comes to spaceflight. In the past twenty years, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) has accomplished some historic firsts. This includes sending astronauts to space, deploying three space stations (as part of the Tiangong program), developing heavy launch vehicles (like the Long March 5), and sending robotic explorers to the far side of the Moon and Mars.
Looking ahead to the next decade and beyond, China is planning on taking even bolder steps to develop its space program. Among the many proposals the country’s leaders are considering for its latest 5-year plan, one involved creating an “ultra-large spacecraft spanning kilometers.” Having this spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) would be a game-changer for China, allowing for long-duration missions and the utilization of space resources.
Continue reading “China Wants to Build a Spaceship That’s Kilometers Long”
One of the reasons the ISS is still alive and kicking is that it offers a unique environment for testing that is available nowhere, either on the Earth or off of it. Plenty of science experiments want to take advantage of that uniqueness. This week, a fresh crop of experiments was delivered to the ISS aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply craft. They range from 3D printers to a high school science experiment with mold, and now they each have the opportunity to make use of the ISS’s microgravity environment.
Continue reading “NASA Sends a 3D Printer for Lunar Regolith and More to the ISS”
With all the news recently about relatively young rocket companies successfully flinging their founders and some actual astronauts into space, it might be surprising that the rocket company with the most experience of all still hasn’t gotten its flagship new rocket off the ground with people yet. And after yet another delay, there is now no firm date for the launch of Boeing’s Starliner.
Continue reading “Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed. No Idea When it Might fly”
On July 28th, the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a mishap after a new Russian module (named Nauka) fired its thrusters just hours after arriving. As a result, the entire station was temporarily pushed out of position, forcibly delaying the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. This would have been Boeing’s CT-100 Starliner’s second attempt to rendezvous with the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
The ISS managed to correct its orbit shortly thereafter, while the OFT-2 launch was delayed until the next available opportunity (Wednesday, Aug. 4th). Unfortunately, the mission was delayed again due to an issue with one of the valves on the spacecraft’s propulsion system. This prompted the ground crews to move the Starliner and Atlas V launch vehicle back into Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), so they can look for the source of the problem more closely.
Continue reading “Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner”
The robotic arms of the ISS are some of its most useful tools. The arms, designed by Canadian and Japanese space agencies, have been instrumental in ferrying around astronauts and shepherding modules to one side of the ISS. However, the Russian segment lacked its own robotic arm – until a new one designed by ESA was launched last week.
Continue reading “Europe Launches its new Robotic arm, Which Will Crawl Around the International Space Station Like an Inchworm”
The International Space Station (ISS) is not only the largest and most sophisticated orbiting research facility ever built, it is arguably the most important research facility we have. With its cutting-edge facilities and microgravity environment, the ISS is able to conduct lucrative experiments that are leading to advances in astrobiology, astronomy, medicine, biology, space weather and meteorology, and materials science.
Unfortunately, the cost of transporting experiments to and from the ISS is rather expensive and something only a handful of space agencies are currently able to do. To address this, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Tiger Corporation partnered in 2018 to create a new type of container that would cut the cost of returning samples to Earth. With the success of their initial design, JAXA and Tiger are looking to create a reusable version that will allow for regular sample returns from the ISS.
Continue reading “JAXA Using Water Bottle Technology for Sample-Return Missions From the ISS”
Early on Thursday, a Long March 5B rocket – currently the most powerful of China’s space launch vehicles – blasted off from Wenchang, carrying the first major component of an ambitious new modular space station.
The station module, dubbed Tianhe (Harmony of the Heavens), marks the next big step in China’s human spaceflight program in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Barred from participating in the International Space Station (ISS) by US law, which forbids cooperation in space between the two countries, China has been developing its own LEO capabilities for over a decade now.
Continue reading “China Launches the Core Module of Its New Space Station”