China Has Built a Huge Space Simulation Chamber

China's first "ground space station," the home-grown Space Environment Simulation and Research Infrastructure, passed its acceptance review on Tuesday in Harbin, the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. [File photo/Xinhua]

Well it certainly caught my attention when I saw the headlines  “China’s first Space Environment Simulator” sounds like something right out of an adventure holiday. Whilst you can’t buy tickets to ‘have a go’ it’s actually for China to test spacecraft before launching them into the harsh environments of space. It allows researchers to simulate nine environmental factors; vacuum, high and low temperature, charged particles, electromagnetic radiation, space dust, plasma, weak magnetic field, neutral gasses and microgravity – and it even looks futuristic too!

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The International Space Station’s Air Leaks are Increasing. No Danger to the Crew

International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Only the other week I had to fix my leaky tap. That was a nightmare.  I cannot begin to imagine how you deal with a leaky spacecraft! In August 2020 Russia announced that their Zvezda module had an air leak. An attempt was make to fix it but in November 2021 another leak was found. Earlier this week, Russia announced the segment is continuing to leak but the crew are in no danger. 

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Comets: Why study them? What can they teach us about finding life beyond Earth?

Image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft on Jan. 31, 2015. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

Universe Today has explored the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, astrobiology, and solar physics, and what this myriad of scientific disciplines can teach scientists and the public regarding the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we will explore some of the most awe-inspiring spectacles within our solar system known as comets, including why researchers study comets, the benefits and challenges, what comets can teach us about finding life beyond Earth, and how upcoming students can pursue studying comets. So, why is it so important to study comets?

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Astroscale’s Satellite is Now Chasing Down a Real Piece of Space Debris

ADRAS-J Launch. Credit: Astroscale Japan, Inc.

Space debris is a thing.. It seems whether we explore the Earth or space we leave rubbish in our wake. Thankfully, organisations like Astroscale are trying to combat the problem of debris in space with a new commercial debris inspection demonstration satellite. Named ADRAS-J, the satellite – which is now in orbit – is hunting down an old Japanese upper stage rocket body which was launched in 2009.  It will approach to within 30 metres to study the module from every angle and work out how it can be safely de-orbited by a future mission. 

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Next Generation Spacesuit Gets Tested in Weightlessness

Spacesuit tested in simulated gravity. Credit: Collins Aerospace

Considerable effort goes into the design of space suits and space agencies across the world are always working on improvements to enhance safety and mobility of the designs. NASA is now working with Collins Aerospace to develop their next generation spacesuit for the International Space Station. The new designs are tested extensively and recently, the new design was subjected to a ZeroG flight on board a diving aircraft. 

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This is How Astronauts Would Escape from the Artemis II Launch Pad

KSC Emergency Escape Baskets

Space exploration is a tricky and at times, dangerous business. The safety of the crews is of paramount importance and escape technology is always factored into spacecraft design. Whilst Artemis I did not require such provisions when it launched Artemis II with astronauts on board is being prepared with a ski-lift style escape system to take them far away from the launch pad. 

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Plants Growing in Space are at Risk from Bacterial Infections

Graduate student Noah Totsline works in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources lab of Harsh Bais on a NASA-sponsored project looking at how plants grown in space are more prone to infections of Salmonella compared to plants not grown in space or grown under gravity simulations. The microgravity environment of space can be simulated in the lab by rotating the plants at a precise speed that causes the plants to react as if they were in a constant state of free-fall.

I have spent the last few years thinking, perhaps assuming that astronauts live off dried food, prepackaged and sent from Earth. There certainly is an element of that but travellers to the International Space Station have over recent years been able to feast on fresh salad grown in special units on board. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that pathogenic bacteria and fungi can contaminate the ‘greens’ even in space.

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China Reveals How it’s Planning to Search for Water Ice at the Moon’s South Pole

A render of China's planned lunar base. /CFP

It’s been a big week for Chinese space exploration. First a successful test flight of Zhuque-3 and this week we learned of their plans to explore the Moon’s South Pole. Previous missions have even returned samples to Earth but the Chinese landers have yet to explore more southerly areas of the Moon. Chang’e-6 is due to launch in a few months to collect samples from the far side of the Moon while Chang’e-7 launches in 2026 to the Moon’s south pole. 

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Chinese Firm Successfully Tests a New Reusable Booster

The sight of a Falcon-9 rocket landing in an upright orientation is not an unusual sight. It seems that the Chinese aerospace firm LandSpace is getting in on the act with their new Zhuque-3 (I don’t even know how to pronounce that) reusable methane rocket. The prototype booster took off, reached a height of 350 metres and landed 60 seconds later about 100 metres away on a landing pad. LandSpace have revealed this test showcases key technologies that will be used for their upcoming reusable rocket.

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A Self-Eating Engine Could Make Rockets More Efficient

There can’t be many ideas that beat the crazy yet ingenious idea of a rocket engine that uses part of the fuselage for fuel! Typically a rocket will utilise multiple stages so that excess weight can be jettisoned allowing the rocket to be as efficient as possible. Now a team in Scotland is working on a rocket engine that consumes part of its body to use as fuel, reducing weight and providing even more thrust so that greater payloads can be used. 

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