Queen’s Speech: Government to announce plans for commercial space flights and ports for spaceships – The Independent

Powers planned by the Government aiming to pave the way for commercial space flights in Britain will be included in the Queens Speech alongside a raft of investments in transport infrastructure.

The legislation, according to Department for Transport (DfT), willallow the launch of satellites from the UK for the first time, horizontal flights to the edge of space for scientific experiments and the establishment of spaceports in regions across Britain.

The Queens Speech, which has been delayed by two days due to the current instability in British politics, will also include measures to improve conditions for the 100,000 drivers of plug-in vehicles by removing barriers that are preventing more drivers switching to electric.

As things stand, those wanting to use publicly-accessible charging points may need to register with several different companies that run them, the Department for Transport added. The planned legislation will include measures to ensure drivers need register only once to make full use of the existing infrastructure.

According to the DfT aseries of Bills will insure Britain gets the infrastructure it needs to thrive through Brexit and beyond.

But one Bill will concentrate specifically on the future of spaceflight technology in Britain. The DfT believes the new powers to be outlined on Wednesday will allow UK companies access to a wide range of new spaceflight, including vertically launched rockets, spaceplanes, satellite operation and spaceports.

Announcing the plans, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said the Government is absolutely determined to give Britain the transport infrastructure it needs so that we can thrive and grow as we leave the European Union.

He added: The measures we outline this week will ensure our legal structures are ready for the high skill, highly paid jobs of the future, while backing the transport projects that will make journeys better for ordinary working people.

Its only by backing infrastructure through our Modern Industrial Strategy that we can spread prosperity and opportunity around the country.

The Government will also set out its plans for the next stage of HS2 the new north-south railway system and provide new legal powers to build the next leg of the route that will link the Midlands and the North West.

The DfT added: HS2 will create vital capacity on the railways, freeing up commuter services on the existing network with the creation of the line, playing a role in rebalancing the economy as improved connections between our cities generate jobs, skills and economic growth and help us build an economy that works for all.

It will also help create prosperity around the country, creating tens of thousands of jobs all over the UK during its construction phase, as firms across Britain compete for contracts up and down the supply chain.

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Queen’s Speech: Government to announce plans for commercial space flights and ports for spaceships – The Independent

Complete Coverage: Final Flight Of Nasa’s Space…

Updates Atlantis’ Crew Leaves the Shuttle

July 21, 2011 07:14am ET

After gliding to a smooth landing at 5:57 a.m. EDT, the shuttle astronauts worked through a checklist with Mission Control to safe the vehicle on the ground.

Atlantis’ four astronauts, commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, have all exited the vehicle now as ground teams continue their work at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

The astronauts are now being greeted by NASA officials, including administrator Charles Bolden, shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach and Lori Garver, the agency’s deputy administrator. The four crewmembers will have the opportunity to walk around their vehicle and soak in the moment with other members of the shuttle program.

–Denise Chow

July 21, 2011 05:57am ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis glided down to Earth and slowed to a stop here on the runway of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The orbiter arrived less than an hour before dawn, heralding the end of the 30-year space shuttle program. Four astronauts returned to Earth aboard the spaceship, which flew the 135th shuttle mission, called STS-135.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 21, 2011 05:36am ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis is just 25 minutes away from touching down here at the Kennedy Space Center in the last shuttle landing ever.

The orbiter is plunging its way through Earth’s atmosphere, and is approaching the point of maximum heat on re-entry. Atlantisis currently approaching the coast of Central America.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 21, 2011 04:53am ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The space shuttle Atlantis has performed a de-orbit burn to come out of Earth orbit and begin the descent back to the ground, where it will touch down here at Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle is a little more than an hour away from its final landing, slated for 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 21, 2011 04:18am ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Mission Control gave the space shuttle Atlantis a “go” to conduct a de-orbit burn of its engines at 4:49 a.m. ET (0849 GMT) to begin the descent down to Earth.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 21, 2011 04:00am ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The weather here at Kennedy Space Center is “go” for landing today,capcom Charlie Hobaugh told Atlantis’ commander Chris Ferguson.

The shuttle is about an hour away from making a “de-orbit burn” of its engines to initiate re-entry.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 20, 2011 09:39pm ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The four astronauts aboard shuttle Atlantis’ final mission awoke to begin their landing day today at 9:29 p.m. EDT (0129 GMT Thursday). The wakeup song today wasKate Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

“What a classic patriotic song,” Ferguson said. “So appropriate for what will likely be the shuttle’s final day in orbit. Thank you to America for supporting this program, and we’ll see you in a few short hours hopefully.”

The shuttle is slated to land Tuesday (July 21) at 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 20, 2011 01:48pm ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.– The space shuttle Atlantis astronauts have gone to bed for their last sleep in orbit before landing tomorrow at Kennedy Space Center here.

Commander Chris Ferguson took time out to mention a significant anniversary.

“Forty-two years ago today Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.” Ferguson said. “I consider myself fortunate that I was there to actually remember the event. I think there was probably a lot of folks in that room who didnt have that privilege or honor.”

The spaceflyers are scheduled to land Thursday (July 21) at 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 20, 2011 04:25am ET

HOUSTON The space shuttle Atlantis released the 180th and last shuttle payload ever in the form of a tiny satellite called PicoSat.

The mini spacecraft is covered with solar panels to test new solar cell technology. After the satellite was released into orbit mission specialist Rex Walheim read a poem in its honor.

“One more satellite takes its place in the sky

The last of many that the shuttle let fly Magellan, Galileo, Hubble, and more Have sailed beyond her payload bay doors There’s still science books, and still more to come The shuttle’s legacy will live on when her flying is done We wish PicoSat success in space where it roams It can stay up here, but we’re going home Yes, soon for the last time we’ll gently touch down Then celebrate the shuttle with our friends on the ground,” Walheim said.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 19, 2011 10:19pm ET

HOUSTONThe STS-135 crew was awoken this morning by the musical piece “Fanfare For The Common Man” by Aaron Copland, played along with a video message from employees at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

“Good morning, Atlantis! Kennedy salutes you. See you back at wheel stop,” the Kennedy crowd cheered.

“Good morning, Houston, and to the great folks at the Kennedy Space Center who’vecared for these vehicles for the last 30 years, a special good morning to you,” Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson replied.

The astronauts will spend their day deploying a mini satellite and preparing for a predawn landing Thursday.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 19, 2011 12:30pm ET

HOUSTONThe shuttle Atlantis astronauts have gone to sleep after a busy day that included the last space shuttle undocking from the International Space Station.

The crew is now focused on preparing for re-entry and landing Thursday morning. They are set to wake Tuesday at 9:59 p.m. EDT to begin their final full day in space.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 19, 2011 03:09am ET

HOUSTON Astronauts onboard the International Space Station are rotating the vehicle 90 degrees while the shuttle Atlantis watches from a distance of 600 feet away. The maneuver, which will allow astronauts on both craft to capture photos of each other, will take about 26 minutes.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 19, 2011 02:28am ET

HOUSTON The space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station, capping off 37 docked missionsof the shuttle to the orbiting outpost.

The first docking of Atlantis to the ISS came in May of 2000. Thespace shuttles have cumulatively spent about 40 weeks docked at the station.

“The International Space Station now enters the era of utilization,” Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson said. “Like a proud parent, we anticipate great things to follow. From this unique vantage point, we can see a great thing has been accomplished. Farewell ISS, make us proud.”

Atlantis is slated to land back on Earth early Thursday (July 21).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 18, 2011 10:16pm ET

HOUSTONThe four astronauts onboard shuttle Atlantis woke Monday eveningjust after 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT Tuesday) to begin their 12th day in space, during which they will undock for the last time from the International Space Station.

The crew woketo the song “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay, played especially for pilot Doug Hurley.

“Good morning Houston, I’d like to thank my wife Karen and my son Jack for the great song they know I really like it,” Hurley said. “We are getting ready for undock today. We get to do one last lap of Atlantis around ISS and start our trip home.”

Hurley is married to fellow astronaut Karen Nyberg, who joined NASA in the same astronaut class as he did in 2000.

–Clara Moskowitz

July 18, 2011 02:25pm ET

HOUSTON The four astronauts onboard space shuttle Atlantis have finished their 11th day in space and begun their sleep shift.

The spaceflyers are onboard their orbiter, still attached to the International Space Station, after closing the hatches between the two vehicles earlier today. Atlantis will undock from the outpost Tuesday at 2:28 a.m. EDT (0628 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 18, 2011 01:59pm ET

HOUSTON The four astronauts onboard space shuttle Atlantis have finished their 11th day in space and begun their sleep shift.

The spaceflyers are onboard their orbiter, still attached to the International Space Station, after closing the hatches between the two vehicles earlier today. Atlantis will undock from the outpost Tuesday at 2:28 a.m. EDT (0628 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 18, 2011 09:09am ET

HOUSTON Astronauts officially closed the hatches between the International Space Station and the last visiting space shuttle today at 10:28 a.m. EDT (1428 GMT).

The shuttle astronauts said a final farewell to their six space station counterparts after spending 7 days, 21 hours and 41 minutes at the orbiting outpost.

Atlantis is due to undock Tuesday morning at 2:28 a.m. EDT (0628 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 18, 2011 07:48am ET

HOUSTON Astronauts have successfully transferred the large Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module from the outside of the space station into the shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay. Raffaello is filled to the brim with trash and broken hardware to be returned to Earth with the shuttle.

Shuttle astronauts are gearing up to depart the space station. They plan to close the hatches between the two vehicles today at 9:19 a.m. EDT (1319 GMT).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 17, 2011 11:15pm ET

HOUSTONThe crew of space shuttle Atlantis wasawoken at 10:29 p.m. EDT (0229 GMT) to the song “Days Go By” by country star Keith Urban, played along with a recorded video message from workers here at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“Good morning, Atlantis, from all of us at the Johnson Space Center. Have a great day!” the crowd shouted while holding up handmade signs for each crew member.

“Well, good morning, Houston,” replied Atlantis’ mission specialist Rex Walheim. “The days do go by, so we better start living and we are. We are enjoying every minute up here. Thanks so much for the greeting from the Johnson Space Center, our home home of some of the hardest working, most talented people who have made some incredible things happen in spaceflight.We thank you for the greeting. We’re looking forward to another great day in space.”

The astronauts will finish packing up their orbiter today and say goodbye to the space station crew before closing the hatches between the shuttle and the orbiting outpost. Atlantis is due to depart the International Space Station early Tuesday (July 19).

–Clara Moskowitz

July 17, 2011 04:35pm ET

HOUSTON The four space shuttle Atlantis astronauts are almost finished packing their orbiter for the trip back to Earth on Thursday (July 21). While the Raffaello cargo module is fully packed, the shuttle’s middeck is about 84 percent packed with trash and broken equipment to be returned to Earth.

The packing job is turning out to take quite a while, and ran into some of the crew’s time off today.

“The crew had another very busy day in space today,” flight director Chris Edelen told reporters during a briefing. “The crew used a lot of their spare time. Unfortunately, they had to work through some of their off-duty time.”

–Clara Moskowitz

July 17, 2011 08:09am ET

HOUSTON Astronauts Doug Hurley and Rex Walheim took time out today from their STS-135 mission to answer a series of recorded questions from students about what life is like in space.

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Complete Coverage: Final Flight Of Nasa’s Space…

Experiment devoted to neutron star research installed on space station – Spaceflight Now

Artists concept of a pulsar (blue-white disk in center) pulling in matter from a nearby star (red disk at upper right). The stellar material forms a disk around the pulsar (multicolored ring) before falling on to the surface at the magnetic poles. The pulsars intense magnetic field is represented by faint blue outlines surrounding the pulsar. Credit: NASA

A NASA instrument built to help astronomers learn about the structure and behavior of neutron stars, super-dense stellar skeletons left behind by massive explosions, has been mounted to an observation post outside the International Space Station after delivery aboard a SpaceX supply ship earlier this month.

Since its arrival inside the trunk of SpaceXs Dragon cargo capsule, the X-ray astronomy experiment has been transferred from the spacecrafts unpressurized carrier to a platform on the space-facing side of the space stations starboard truss backbone, powered up and checked to ensure it can point at stellar targets as the research outpost orbits around Earth.

The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, is now going through alignment checks and test scans, allowing scientists to fine-tune the instrument. The calibrations should be complete next month, and NICERs ground team has penciled in July 13 as the first day of the instruments 18-month science mission.

NICERs developers at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center crammed 56 individual X-ray mirrors inside the instruments shell, with matching silicon detectors that will register individual photons of X-ray light, measuring their energies and times of arrival.

NASA says NICER is the first mission dedicated to neutron star research. Astronomers discovered neutron stars in 1967, decades after scientists first predicted their existence.

Neutron stars are left behind after lower-mass stars exploded in violent supernovas at the ends of their lives. The material from the star ends up crammed into an object the size of a city, and astronomers say one of the densest stable forms of matter in the universe resides in the deep interiors of neutron stars.

Scientists compare the density of a neutron star to packing the mass Mount Everest into a sugar cube. One teaspoon of neutron star matter would weight a billion tons on Earth, according to NASA.

NICER flew to the space station inside the rear trunk of a SpaceX Dragon supply ship, which launched June 3 from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida and berthed with the orbiting outpost June 5.

The stations Canadian-built robotic arm extracted the NICER experiment from the Dragon spacecraft June 11, and the instrument rode to its mounting location on an external platform EXPRESS Logistics Carrier-2 on a mobile rail car down the stations truss.

Mission controllers in Houston commanded and monitored the multi-day transfer from the ground, with the help of the stations two-armed Dextre robot.

The space stations robotic arm installed NICER on its mounting plate June 13, and controllers powered up the instruments electronics the next day, verifying all systems were OK. Range of motion tests were completed Friday after engineers needed extra time to release troublesome launch restraint bolts.

NICER rode to the space station with two other experiments in Dragons trunk.

One of the payloads, sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, will test a new solar array design could be used on future commercial satellites, making the power generators 20 percent lighter and able to fit into a launch package four times smaller than conventional fold-out solar panels.

A commercial Earth-imaging platform developed by Teledyne Brown was also stowed in Dragons trunk. TheMultiple User System for Earth Sensing, or MUSES, can host high-definition and hyperspectral cameras for Earth-viewing.

The MUSES payload was robotically moved to its new home on the space station before NICER, and the solar array testbed was unfurled for seven days of testing this week.

The installation of NICER clears the way for nearly a month of calibrations before it can start regular science observations.

Neutron stars are fantastical stars that are extraordinary in many ways, said Zaven Arzoumanian, NICERs deputy principal investigator and science lead at Goddard. They are the densest objects in the universe, they are the fastest-spinning objects known, they are the most strongly magnetic objects known.

The NICER science team wants to know the structure and composition of neutron stars, which are so extreme that normal atoms are pulverized, freeing subatomic particles like neutrons, protons and electrons.

As soon as you go below the surface of a neutron star, the pressures and densities rise extremely rapidly, and soon youre in an environment that you cant produce in any lab on Earth, said Slavko Bogdanov, a research scientist at Columbia University who leads the NICER light curve modeling group.

Unlike black holes, which develop from explosions of stars more than 20 times the mass of the sun, neutron stars can be directly observed.

A partnership between NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Naval Research Laboratory, NICER should give scientists their first measurements of the size of a neutron star.

They emit light all across the spectrum, from radio waves to visible light up to X-rays and gamma rays, primarily in narrow beams from their magnetic poles, Arzoumanian said. Just like the Earth, the magnetic poles on a neutron star are not necessarily aligned with the spin of the star, so you can get narrow beams that sweep as the star spins, just like a lighthouse.

And if we happen to be in the path of the sweep we see a flash everytime one of these beams go by and the stars from a distance appear to be pulsing, so theyre called pulsars, Arzoumanian said.

Scientists will also demonstrate the potential of using the timing of pulses from neutron stars for deep space navigation.

Were going to look at a subset of pulsars in the sky called millisecond pulsars, said Keith Gendreau, NICERs principal investigator at Goddard. In some of these millisecond pulsars, the pulses that we see are so regular that they remind us of atomic clocks.

Atomic clocks are the basis of the Global Positioning System satellites, according to Gendreau.

NASA calls the navigation demonstration the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT.

Jason Mitchell, SEXTANTs project manager at Goddard, said his team aims to use predictable pulsar signals to locate the space station with a precision of 6 miles, or 10 kilometers, without the aid of GPS satellites or on-board navigation solutions.

Thats a small step compared to GPS, but its a giant step for using only pulsar measurements, and that will help us get into deep space, Mitchell said.

Our goal is to turn the G in GPS into galactic, and make it a Galactic Positioning System, he said.

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Experiment devoted to neutron star research installed on space station – Spaceflight Now

Chinese broadcasting satellite ends up in wrong orbit after rocket failure – Spaceflight Now

File photo of a previous Long March 3B launch. Credit: Xinhua

Ground controllers could try to salvage a Chinese television broadcasting satellite deployed in a lower-than-planned orbit Sunday by a Long March 3B rocket.

A brief statement from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., a state-run contractor for Chinas space program, confirmed an anomaly in the Long March 3B rockets third stage left the Chinasat 9A communications satellite in the wrong orbit following a liftoff from the Xichang space center.

An investigation into the cause of the launch failure is underway, CASC said.

The contractor said the Chinasat 9A satellite separated from the Long March 3Bs third stage after the anomaly and deployed its electricity-generating solar panels and antennas. The spacecraft is apparently healthy and in contact with engineers on the ground, who are taking relevant efforts to control the satellite, according to CASC.

Officials did not elaborate on what went wrong on the Long March 3Bs third stage, which is powered by a dual-nozzle YF-75 engine that burns a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.

Sundays launch mishap was the first time one of Chinas Long March 3-series rockets has failed to deliver a payload into its intended orbit since August 2009. Variants of the Long March 3 rocket, which include configurations with and without strap-on boosters, logged 49 straight successful launches in the last seven-and-a-half years.

Chinas other Long March rockets, which use the same engine technology as the Long March 3-series, have suffered failures in recent years. A Chinese Earth observation satellite was destroyed during the botched launch of a Long March 4C booster Sept. 1, and a Long March 2D placed a pair of commercial Earth-imaging spacecraft into a lower-than-intended orbit in December, but those satellites recovered from the rocket mishap.

U.S. military tracking data indicated Chinasat 9A is orbiting around Earth at altitudes ranging between 120 miles (193 kilometers) and approximately 10,165 miles (16,360 kilometers), significantly lower than intended.

The rockets upper stage aimed to release Chinasat 9A in an egg-shaped elliptical orbit with an apogee, or high point, around 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above Earth.

Chinasat 9A carried its own fuel to circularize its orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator following its deployment from the Long March 3B. If the satellite is able to overcome the altitude deficit after Sundays launch, it will have to consume more of its on-board propellant supply than expected, likely shortening its useful life.

In addition to the orbit-raising maneuvers needed to reach its final operating position, Chinasat 9A must also reshape its orbit, which is currently tilted 25.7 degrees to the equator, into one that always hovers over the equator.

The 184-foot-tall (56-meter) Long March 3B rocket lifted off with Chinasat 9A at 1611 GMT (12:11 p.m. EDT) Sunday from the Xichang launch base in southwestern Chinas Sichuan province.

The liquid-fueled launcher, comprised of a three-stage core and four strap-on boosters, turned east from Xichang after blasting off at 12:11 a.m. Monday, Beijing time.

Chinese media did not release any photos of the launch, but an amateur video from Xichang shared on Twitter shows the rocket taking off just after midnight.

The early portion of the mission went according to plan, and the Long March shed its four boosters and first stage a few minutes after liftoff. A second stage firing also apparently performed well, and the third stage took over nearly six minutes into the flight for the first of two burns needed to place Chinasat 9A into a geostationary transfer orbit.

The third stages first engine firing was expected to cut off around 10 minutes after liftoff to propel Chinasat 9A into a preliminary low-altitude orbit, and a second burn a few minutes later was supposed to send the spacecraft toward its high-altitude target.

Chinasat 9A, with a launch mass estimated in excess of 11,000 pounds (5 metric tons), was scheduled to separate from the Long March 3Bs third stage less than a half-hour after liftoff.

Based on the DFH-4 satellite design built by the China Academy of Space Technology, Chinasat 9A is Chinas first domestically-made communications satellite for direct-to-home television broadcasting, according to China Satcom, the crafts owner and operator.

Chinasat 9A was supposed to enter service later this year in geostationary orbit over the equator at 101.4 degree east longitude, where its orbital velocity would match the speed of Earths rotation, making the satellite remain fixed over the same geographic coverage area.

The satellites 24 Ku-band transponders are designed to provide television broadcasts and other media services to China Satcom customers in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the company said.

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Chinese broadcasting satellite ends up in wrong orbit after rocket failure – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Delays Rocket Launch, Eyes Potential Spaceflight ‘Doubleheader’ – Space.com

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the first 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 14, 2017. SpaceX will use the same Falcon 9 rocket booster to launch another satellite from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 23, with another Falcon 9 launching from Vandenberg on June 25.

SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next Falcon 9 rocket to at least Friday (June 23), setting the stage for a possible “weekend doubleheader,” company representatives said this weekend.

On Sunday (June 18), SpaceX announced it had pushed back the Monday afternoon launch of a Bulgarian communications satellite to no earlier than Friday so ground crews could replace a valve on the Falcon 9 booster.

The delay means SpaceX will now launch a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket with the Bulgarian satellite (called BulgariaSat-1) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, then launch another commercial satellite mission on Sunday (June 25) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That Sunday flight will use a new Falcon 9 to launch 10 new satellites for the Virginia-based company Iridium, which is building a 70-satellite constellation for its Iridium NEXT mobile communications network.

If schedule holds there will be two Falcon 9 launches within 48 hours (Cape & Vandenberg) this weekend https://t.co/GbleRPm6iZ

“Standing down on BulgariaSat-1 to replace a fairing valve, next launch opportunities are 6/23 and 6/24,” SpaceX representatives wrote in a Twitter message Sunday.

That note was quickly followed by another message: “Iridium targeted for 6/25could be a weekend doubleheader.”

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and founder, then chimed in on the possibility of seeing two SpaceX rockets launching in just a few days.

“If schedule holds there will be two Falcon 9 launches within 48 hours (Cape & Vandenberg) this weekend,” he wrote.

SpaceX test fires the previously flown Falcon 9 rocket booster that will launch BulgariaSat-1 during a June 15 test. The rocket is scheduled to make its second spaceflight on June 23.

SpaceX’s Florida launch is scheduled to fly no earlier than 2:10 p.m. EDT (1410 GMT) on Friday from NASA’s Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The Iridium satellite launch, meanwhile, is currently scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 4 at 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT/2025 GMT).

Earlier, Musk wrote that the BulgariaSat-1 launch delay was a safety precaution. SpaceX engineers needed time to replace a pneumatic valve on the fairing, the protective nose cone that covers the satellite during liftoff, but there was already a backup in place, he added.

“Postponing launch to replace fairing pneumatic valve. It is dual redundant, but not worth taking a chance,” Musk wrote.

The BulgariaSat-1 launch will mark SpaceX’s second flight using a used Falcon 9 rocket booster. It happens to be the same one SpaceX used in January to launch the first 10 satellites of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation.

The Iridium satellites launching Sunday on the brand-new Falcon 9 rocket will be satellites No. 11-20 of the NEXT constellation.

SpaceX is expected to attempt Falcon 9 first stage booster landings for both of the upcoming launches as part of its reusable rocket program to lower the cost of spaceflight.

SpaceX has landed Falcon 9 boosters 11 times so far, and even relaunched one of them in March. On June 3, the company launched its first reused Dragon cargo spacecraft, a robotic capsule packed with NASA supplies for the International Space Station. That Dragon capsule will return to Earth in early July.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him@tariqjmalikandGoogle+. Follow us@Spacedotcom,FacebookandGoogle+. Original article onSpace.com.

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SpaceX Delays Rocket Launch, Eyes Potential Spaceflight ‘Doubleheader’ – Space.com

Space flight bill could see Scotland become ‘thriving hub’ for the industry – AOL UK

A space flight bill to be included in the Queen’s Speech could see Scotland become “a thriving hub” for the industry, according to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

New powers would see the launch of satellites from the UK for the first time, horizontal flights to the edge of space for scientific experiments and the creation of spaceports across the UK.

A number of Scottish sites have expressed an interest in the project, including Prestwick, Machrihanish and Stornoway.

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said: “This new legislation on space ports will be a giant leap forward for Scotland’s ambitious space and satellite sector.

“It will give each of our potential spaceports a fantastic opportunity to establish Scotland as a thriving hub for commercial spaceflight.

“By capitalising on our existing scientific expertise, a Scottish spaceport would create new, skilled jobs and drive economic growth.”

More than 38,000 jobs rely on the UK’s space industry, which is worth 13.7 billion to the economy.

The global market for launching satellites is estimated to be 25 billion over the next 20 years.

New powers would be given for a wide range of new spaceflight, including vertically-launched rockets, spaceplanes, satellite operation, spaceports and other technologies.

It would take the UK into the commercial space age by enabling small satellite launch and spaceflight from UK spaceports.

And it will create new opportunities for the UK’s scientific community to carry out research in a microgravity environment by giving British scientists easier access.

The legislation comes as part of a series of bills aimed at infrastructure.

Theresa May is preparing for the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday but has not yet struck a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up her minority government.

The event sets out the Prime Minister’s legislative plans for the coming year.

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Space flight bill could see Scotland become ‘thriving hub’ for the industry – AOL UK

Full-scale Crew Dragon recovery trainer being built at KSC – SpaceFlight Insider

Jerome Strach

June 19th, 2017

Astronauts Dan Burbank (left) and Victor Glover evaluate the interior of the SpaceX Recovery Trainer, a full-scale practice version of the companys Crew Dragon spacecraft. The trainer is to be used by astronauts and support teams to rehearse recovery techniques for missions. The Crew Dragon is in development in partnership with NASAs Commercial Crew Program to take astronauts to the International Space Station. (Click for full view) Photo & Caption Credit: NASA

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is continuing with their development of the Crew Dragon capsule, which is being built for NASA per the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) agreements. The evolution in Dragon design has been shaped by the CRS contract drawing a line between a cargo version and a crew version.

Dragon v1 has been responsible for delivering 10 cargo shipments to theInternational Space Station (ISS). Crew Dragon, or Dragon v2, will fly crews to Low Earth Orbit(LEO) as early as 2018, thereby re-enabling the United States to transport its astronauts into space from their home ground.

Crew Dragon in orbit. CGI Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

In Florida, at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), engineers are building a full-scale model, orRecovery Trainer, of the Crew Dragon capsule. Training is best executed when real artifacts or carefully created test articles can be utilized in real-world scenarios. This training is essential foreveryone involved to assist in better defining procedures when things go wrong and lives are atstake.

The Dragon Recovery Trainer has been constructed with the aid of the Kennedy Prototype Lab, which has a history of providing fast solutions to complex design challenges. SpaceX is putting the finishing engineering touches into theRecovery Trainer to ensure that it will float identically to how an actual Dragon v2 will with a crewpresent.

NASA has a documented history of test flights and practice runs that ensure the flight crew,support crew, and emergency personnel are able to perform as expected during an emergencyevent. One notable incident was Gus Grissom in Liberty Bell 7 when the hatch prematurely blew on hiscapsule and suddenly the Navy was faced with a drowning astronaut and a sinking capsule. Itis critical to ensure that both crew and rescue personnel know what to do in case of an emergency.

Unlike Liberty Bell 7, the Crew Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts, which makes evacuationmore challenging. Two escape hatches and other various components within the RecoveryTrainer will be present to better reflect a real-world environment for astronaut crew and Pararescuemen, also known as PJs.

Grissom prepares to enter Liberty Bell 7. Photo Credit: NASA

USAF Pararescuemen will be required to enter the water to assist in any number ofrescue scenarios where a crew may or may not be able to assist in their own recovery. This is anexercise that neither NASA nor the USAF takes casually and both organizations will invest many practicehours to ensure a safe environment and rapid execution of rescue.

The real SpaceX Dragon v2 spacecraft has numerous features integrated into the design toensure that it is a very safe ship. It has an integrated thrust system that incorporates four pairs of twoSuperDraco engines, each engine providing about 16,000 lbf (71.2 kN) of thrust each. The SuperDraco engines are not only designedto lift the Dragon v2 with a crew away from a launch mishap to safety but also will allow the spacecraft to land anywhere on Earth with the precision of ahelicopter even if two of the eight engines fail.

Each SuperDraco engine, created with a 3-D printing process using an Inconel superalloy, sits within an isolated nacelle. Additionally, if during a descent from orbit the computers detect any of the SuperDraco engines are suffering froman anomaly, the Dragon also has an integrated parachute recovery system that has robustnessbuilt into its design. To paraphrase Elon Musks feelings on the matter, he expressedconfidence that if there is a safer way to design the capsule, he doesnt know what that is.

Additionally, the PICA-X heat shield is a 3rd generation derivative minimizing ablation duringre-entry allowing for maximum reflights of the hardware with minimal refurbishing effort. Finally,the gumdrop shape design allows for automatic orienting of the spacecraft through re-entryeven if the flight computers are compromised.

In July 2011, the United States ended its capability to launch astronauts from its soil when Congress stopped funding the Space Transportation Shuttle (a.k.a. the Space Shuttle). Since then, NASA has paid for seats on Russias Soyuz spacecraft, thereby fulfilling the role of ferrying U.S. astronauts to and from the ISS.

Soon, Boeing and SpaceX will provide a crewed capsule capability with the CRS program to ensure that U.S. astronauts no longer have to rely on a foreign government for transportation to LEO or beyond. Americans and Congress anticipate that day with pressing eagerness.

Tagged: Commercial Resupply Services Crew Dragon Dragon v2 Kennedy Space Center NASA SpaceX The Range

Jerome Strach has worked within the Silicon Valley community for 20 years including software entertainment and film. Along with experience in software engineering, quality assurance, and middle management, he has long been a fan of aerospace and entities within that industry. A voracious reader, a model builder, and student of photography and flight training, most of his spare time can be found focused on launch events and technology advancements including custom mobile app development. Best memory as a child is building and flying Estes rockets with my father. @Romn8tr

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Full-scale Crew Dragon recovery trainer being built at KSC – SpaceFlight Insider

Long March 3B to launch Zhongxing-9A television satellite – SpaceFlight Insider

Curt Godwin

June 17th, 2017

Image Credit: Peoples Republic of China

China is preparing to launch theZhongxing-9A direct-to-home (DTH) television service satellite aboard the countrys Long March 3B/E carrier rocket. Although newsfrom the countrys tight-lipped space agency is difficult to come by, information fromtheGBTimes indicates the launch may occur as soon as June 18, 2017, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Tipping the scales at more than 11,200 pounds (5,100 kilograms) is the Zhongxing-9A satellite, also known as ChinaSat 9A. It will ride to space atop the 185-foot (56.3-meter) tall Long March 3B/E.

File photo of a Long March 3B being prepared for launch at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Photo credit: Chinanews.com

Built on the indigenous DFH-4bus, the spacecraft isChinas first domestically-produced DTH satellite. It will provide services to mainland China,the autonomous regions of Macau and Hong Kong, and the island of Taiwan via 24 Ku-band transponders.

ChinaSat 9A has a design lifetime of 15 years, and will be positioned at 101.4 degrees East in geostationary orbit.

One of Chinas workhorse rockets, the Long March 3B willdeliver the spacecraft into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). The boosterhas launched 39 times notching 37 successes, onepartial failure, and onetotal failure across both its standard (3B) and enhanced (3B/E) configurations.

Although it hasnt been confirmed, its assumed the rocket will be configured in its enhanced arrangement to support delivering the heavy payload to GTO.

The Long March 3B/Eis a three-stage rocket, with four supplemental liquid-fueled strap-on boosters. When outfitted in the enhanced configuration, the vehicle is capable of lofting 12,100 pounds (5,500 kilograms) into GTO, compared to the11,200 pounds (5,100 kilograms) in the standard configuration.

At liftoff, the firststages YF-21C engine and the supplemental power suppliedby a singleYF-25 on each of the four boostersprovide 1.3 million pounds (5,923.2 kilonewtons) of sea-level thrust. The boosters operate for 140 seconds before falling away, while the first stage burns for an addition 20 seconds.

The vehicles second stage is powered by a YF-24E propulsion unit comprised of a loneYF-22E engine and a quartet ofYF-23C vernier thrusters. In total, the YF-24E provides 177,419 pounds (789.2 kilonewtons) of thrust and operates for slightly more than three minutes.

Like its first stage and booster siblings, the second stages YF-24E burns a relatively inefficient mixture of nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine. Although this toxic mixture is significantly less efficient than either a kerosene/liquid oxygen or liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen combination, it has the benefit of being able to be stored at room temperature.

The third stage is outfitted with a single YF-75 engine, producing 37,850 pounds (167 kilonewtons) of vacuum thrust and burning a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. This stage can operate for nearly eight minutes across two ignitions.

This will mark Chinas sixth launch in 2017.

Tagged: China Lead Stories Long March 3B/E Xichang Satellite Launch Center Zhongxing-9A

Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting – and safer – career field. He’s worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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Long March 3B to launch Zhongxing-9A television satellite – SpaceFlight Insider

ARCA to perform historic space flight of aerospike engine – Space Fellowship

For 60 years the aerospace industry has been waiting for this moment, a moment ARCA Space Corporation will offer to the scientific community in August this year by launching the Demonstrator 3 space vehicle: the first space flight of an aerospike rocket engine. Soon we are going to know if the hopes and dreams of generations of aerospace engineers, in their pursuit to create what is supposed to be the most efficient rocket engine in the world, will materialize. We hope to confirm that aerospike rocket engines, which are significantly more fuel efficient than the current engines, are achievable and that they can lead the way to the creation of Single Stage to Orbit rockets, which are more cost efficient and responsive.

The aerospike engine was extensively tested on the ground by NASA and Rocketdyne, and it was a strong contender for the Space Shuttle. It was also part of NASAs VentureStar, a Single Stage to Orbit vehicle. Due to schedule and budget constraints, the Space Shuttle received a classic bell-shaped nozzle engine and the VentureStar was canceled before getting to see an actual flight. Hence, the aerospike engine never saw a space flight to this day. In March 2017 however, ARCA Space Corporation brought this technology back into the publics attention by introducing the Haas 2CA Single Stage to Orbit rocket equipped with the Executor Aerospike linear rocket engine. The Haas 2CA is an orbital launcher aiming to operate on the small satellite market, estimated by Space Works and Eurostat at $5.3 billion over the next decade.

ARCA Space Corporation

The Haas 2CA engine needs to be tested. Ground and vacuum tests are scheduled at ARCA and NASAs JSC/WSTF. However, ARCA wants to gather more data about how the aerospike technology performs in flight before the launch of the Haas 2CA, which is scheduled for 2018 from NASAs Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This is where the Demonstrator 3 rocket comes in and will continue the tradition of ARCAs previous demonstrator rockets.

Demonstrator 3 will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 100 km above the New Mexico desert. What is remarkable about this rocket, aside from the aerospike technology, is that we decided to use a super cold engine, by decomposing 70% concentration hydrogen peroxide at a temperature of only 250C. This generates oxygen and water, making it environmentally friendly.

ARCA will launch the Demonstrator 3 rocket in August 2017 from Spaceport America to test the atmospheric exhaust expansion of the aerospike linear engine. ARCA will measure engine thrust variation with increasing altitude using a vast array of sensors placed on board the rocket. The type of fuel tanks that will be installed in the Haas 2CA Single Stage to Orbit Rocket will also be flight tested to pressure and acceleration similar to what is encountered during an orbital flight.

By sending the Demonstrator 3 rocket into space using a super cold engine with only 250C instead of 3500C in the reaction chamber and paired with the aerospike technology, we are going to demonstrate the impressive potential of the aerospike. The Haas 2CA Single Stage to Orbit is just the beginning of a new generation of space vehicles shaped by innovation that will generate lower costs. We are going to answer one of the industrys most asked questions: can an aerospike deliver, in flight, the pressure compensation generated by altitude variation and deliver the expected performance by saving fuel?

ARCA Space Corporation

We want to pick up where NASA left off and prove that this technology is actually the way to go for space flights. We are confident that the aerospike engine combined with composite material fuel tanks and dense fuels will significantly lower the costs for orbital and suborbital launches. We truly believe that the answer for cost reduction of space flight is innovation, not trying to make old technologies a little bit more efficient as this will never generate a significant price drop of space launches but merely small improvements. With this philosophy in mind, we expect to increase the registered value of our company from its current $20 million to at least $200 million by 2019. said Dumitru Popescu, ARCA CEO.

Due to its simplicity and low cost, ARCA is also considering utilizing Demonstrator 3 to begin commercial suborbital flight services as the rocket can carry a payload of 30 kg up to 100 km altitude. The payload will experience low accelerations during the powered flight and will experience around 5 minutes of microgravity.

ARCA Space Corporation

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ARCA to perform historic space flight of aerospike engine – Space Fellowship

Why Aren’t The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight? – Forbes


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Why Aren't The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight?
Forbes
I follow all kinds of information about space and the stars. My brother has only recently started paying attention to these issues, but has been reading some naysayer websites. Because of this, he says he has doubts about the 'truth' of the space

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Why Aren’t The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight? – Forbes

Progress cargo freighter docks with International Space Station – Spaceflight Now

Credit: NASA TV

A Russian Progress supply ship sailed to an automated docking Friday with the International Space Station two days after departing the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, delivering approximately three tons of fuel, spare parts and water to the orbiting outpost and its three-person crew.

Docking of the Progress MS-06 cargo craft to the stations Zvezda service module occurred 1137 GMT (7:37 a.m. EDT) after a radar-guided autopilot approach as the vehicles soared 258 miles (415 kilometers) over the Philippine Sea.

Thank you very much for a reliable vehicle, radioed Fyodor Yurchikhin, commander of the stations Expedition 52 crew.

I would say it was more than a gentle touch, more than anything else, Yurchikhin said of the docking.The cargo vehicle is now in a gentle but very firm embrace with the station now.

Hooks closed to create a firm attachment between the space station and the newly-arrived Progress cargo craft, which is set to stay at the research complex until mid-December, when it will detach and head for a destructive re-entry with a load of trash over the South Pacific Ocean.

Yurchikhin will open hatches leading to the Progress spacecraft later Friday.

The stations crew will unpack equipment inside the Progress MS-06 cargo capsules pressurized cabin in the coming weeks, and automated connections will route propellant from the Progress fuel tanks into reservoirs on the Zvezda service module.

The Progress MS-06 supply ship lifted off Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz-2.1a launcher, reaching orbit less than nine minutes after blastoff. The Progress began a series of thruster firings to guide its two-day journey to the space station, culminating in Fridays final approach.

The Progress MS-06 spaceship carries around 6,039 pounds (2.7 metric tons) of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, according to NASA.

The supplies include 3,069 pounds (1,392 kilograms) of dry cargo inside the ships pressurized compartment, 1,940 pounds (880 kilograms) of fuel to refill the stations propulsion system, 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of potable water, and 104 pounds (47 kilograms) of high-pressure oxygen and air to replenish the research labs breathable atmosphere, a NASA spokesperson said.

Four small satellites launched inside the Progress MS-06 spacecrafts cabin for release by cosmonauts on a spacewalk later this year.

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Progress cargo freighter docks with International Space Station – Spaceflight Now

Five Seconds of Fury: Orbital ATK conducts test fire of Launch Abort Motor – SpaceFlight Insider

Jason Rhian

June 16th, 2017

Orbital ATK conducted a static test fire of the Launch Abort Motor that is planned for use on Lockheed Martins Orion spacecraft in Promontory, Utah on Thursday, June 15. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

PROMONTORY, Utah With a brief flash of highly-controlled power, Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK, along with NASA and Lockheed Martin successfully conducted a test of a system designed to increase safety and to save lives.

The test was conducted at 100 Fahrenheit and will be followed by a test at 30 F in 2018. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

We at Orbital ATK are very proud to work with NASA and Lockheed Martin on the Orion Launch Abort System, and to provide a motor that is so integral to astronaut safety, said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATKs Propulsion Systems Division and former NASA astronaut via a company-issues release. The importance of our crews safety and well-being cant be stressed enough.

The Launch Abort Motor, the primary motor of the Orion spacecrafts Launch Abort System (LAS) would pull Orions Command Module off of its Service Module and the Space Launch System (SLS) super heavy-lift booster that is currently being developed to send astronauts to deep space destinations, such as the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

NASA and Orbital ATK carried out this test to qualify an array of elements that are a part of the Launch Abort Motors design. Some of these include, the thrust profile reduction or TPR grain design, to verify the motor-manifold joint and manifold-nozzle joint performance. This test also served to qualify the motor under high temperature limits (100 degrees Fahrenheit)and to distinguish abort motor induced environments.

The test accomplished all of that in the scant five seconds that the motor was active for.

Thursdays static test fire saw the Launch Abort Motor firmly attached to the test stand at Promontorys T-97 facility. During firing, the Launch Abort Motor exerted an estimated 400,000 pound of thrust in just an eighth of a second. The extreme capabilities that this system is capable of bringing to bear, is important given its role.

In the event of an emergency, either at the pad at Kennedy Space Centers Launch Complex 39B in Florida, or on ascent, the Launch Abort Motorwouldgofrom zero to an estimated 400-500 miles per hour in just two seconds. With an acceleration greater than that of a drag racer, the Launch Abort Motor places some 10Gs on those on board pulling them from whatever had gone off-nominal.

Given its abilities, it should come as little surprise that the Launch Abort Motor burns its solid fuel some 3-4 times faster than a typical motor of this size (according to a statement issued by Orbital ATK).

The Launch Abort Motor measures approximately 17 feet in length and about three feet in diameter.

While this Qualification Motor 1 (QM-1) test is viewed as a key milestone in allowing NASA to regain the ability to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO) it is not the systemsfirst test. In November of 2008, ATK (this test was conducted before Orbital Sciences Corporation and ATK had merged in 2014) conducted the ST-1 Static Test. This was followed by a Pad Abort Launch in May of 2010 and Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) in December of 2014 (on EFT-1 the Launch Abort Motor was inert).

Lessons learned on ST-1, helped shape certain aspects of the Launch Abort Motors design as was noted by one member of the motors development team.

Orbital ATKs Launch Abort Motor Program Director, Steve Sara, provided a detailed review of the test, as well as some of the modifications made to the design in preparation for its use on Orion. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

There a few things that we learned on ST-1, one is that one of our acoustic gauges got saturated, so the acoustic loads were higher than we had anticipated, Steve Sara, Orbital ATKs Launch Abort Program Manager told SpaceFlight Insider. We also learned about these joints, the joints survived fine on ST-1, but that was a steel manifold, this is a titanium manifold. So we changed materials for the reason of weight savings. Years ago, even before ST-1, we decided to move to a lighter weight manifold so that we could save about 1,300 lbs (590 kilograms).

If everything continues to go as currently planned, the Motors QM-2 test should take place late next year (2018). One member of NASAs astronaut corps, Rex Halheim, who was a part of the crew of the final flight of the Shuttle Program, STS-135, spoke with SpaceFlight Insider about what it was like to watch the test first hand.

I was amazed at just how powerful it was, you expect it to be powerful but, you know, its quite a ways down the hill from us and you see those flames come up (laughs) and I was thinking, this is going to be loud when it gets to me and then BAM it hits you its pretty impressive, Walheim said.

Walheimalsonoted thatthe importance of thetest simply could not be overstated, as it could one day save the lives who fly on SLS and Orion.

We want to test all of the hardware at the ends of the extremes, especially this hardware which is a part of the essential Launch Abort System for us. Whenever you build a new rocket you try to take into account all of the things that could go wrong andhave ways to fix all the failures, but, you want to have something that can get you off the rocket if you have a really bad day and thats our launch abort system. Thats what this abort motor we tested today is for, it pulls us off the Space Launch System if we have a bad day and need to get off the pad or rocket.

As Walheim noted, the test regimen is designed to validate the design under both the high and low end of what the Launch Abort Motor is expected to encounter. The next step is to test the design in lower temps (approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit).

Inabout 18 months, the three organizations are planning to conductthe QM-2 Launch Abort Motor (this will also take place in Utah), this will be followed by theAscent Abort-2 Flight Test (AA-2) currently slated to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2019.

Tagged: Launch Abort Motor Lead Stories Lockheed-Martin NASA Orbital ATK Orion Promontory Space Launch System Utah

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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Five Seconds of Fury: Orbital ATK conducts test fire of Launch Abort Motor – SpaceFlight Insider

OPINION: Radiation hucksters strike again – SpaceFlight Insider – SpaceFlight Insider

Robert Zubrin

June 16th, 2017

A new study suggests that the cancer risk on a Mars mission due to galactic cosmic-ray radiation could be double what existing models predict. Image Credit: NASA

According to a publicity campaign launched on behalf of a paper authored by UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) Professor Frank Cucinotta, the new findings show collateral damage from cosmic rays increases cancer risks for Mars astronauts.

However, an examination of the paper itself shows no analysis of experimental methods or results, because no experiments were done and no data was taken. Rather, the much-ballyhooed paper is a discussion of a computer model that Prof. Cucinotta has created which claims to have the power to predict radiation-induced cancer occurrences. In short, theres no real news.

Furthermore, to the extent that the model in question has any empirical foundation, it is based on irrelevant prior experiments done in which researchers subjected mice to radiation dose rates millions of times greater than astronauts would receive on their way to Mars.

One such example is the illustrative piece of nonsense entitled What happens to your brain on the way to Mars, published on May 2, 2015, in the open-access journal Science Advances.In the paper, a group of radiation researchers claimed that their recent experiment causing memory loss to mice by administering very large doses of galactic cosmic ray (GCR)-like high energy radiation has serious implications for human Mars exploration. According to the authors, similar effects might severely impact astronauts going to Mars, thereby placing the feasibility of such enterprises in serious question.

However, in this typical mouse trial, the victims were given a dose of 30 rads (0.3 Gray) at a rate of 100 rads per minute. On a Mars mission, astronauts would receive a dose of 1 rad per month during the 6-month outbound and return transfers as well as about 0.5 rad per month during 18 months on Mars, for a total of 21 Rads. (1 Gray = 100 rads = 100 cGray. For GCR 1 Gray = 6 Sieverts = 600 rem.) Space dose rates can be found in The Cosmic Ray Radiation Dose in Interplanetary Space Present Day and Worst-Case Evaluationsby R.A. Mewaldt, et al., 2005.

The 4-million fold difference in dose rate between such lab studies and spaceflight is of critical importance. It is a well-known finding of both chemical and radiation toxicology that the effects of large doses of toxins delivered suddenly are entirely different from the effect of the same amount of toxin delivered in very small amounts over a long time span. The difference is that the bodys self-repair systems cannot deal with a sudden dose that they can easily manage if received over an extended period.

For example, if an individual were to drink one shot of vodka per second for 100 seconds, he would die; however, if the same person drank one shot of vodka a month for 100 months, he would experience no ill effects at all. This is about the same ratio of dose rates as that which separates the invalid work reported in the What happens to your brain on the way to Mars paper (1.6 rad per second) from that which would be experienced by astronauts in space (1 rad per month.)

It should also be added that mouse studies are not an accurate predictor of cancer occurrence in humans; e.g., it is possible to induce tumors in mice by rubbing their stomachs. Such treatment is not known to be a hazard to people.

It is true that small amounts of toxins received over a long period can statistically increase a persons risk of ill effects at least according to the hyper-conservative Linear-No-Threshold (LNT) model of toxicology. However, we already have data that shows that the accumulation of slow rates of cosmic-ray radiation received during long-duration spaceflight is not a show stopper for human Mars exploration. GCR dose rates in low-Earth orbit are about half those in interplanetary space.

Therefore, there are a dozen cosmonauts and astronauts Padalka, Malenchenko, Avdeyev, Polyakov, Solovyov, Krikalyov, Titov, Manarov, Foale, Fincke, Pettit, Walz, Kelly, Whitson who have already received Mars mission equivalent GCR doses during extended space missions without any radiological casualties.

Furthermore, since the International Space Station (ISS) is continually manned, whereas Mars missions are only in space for about 40 percent of their mission time, the total GCR dose (measured in person-rems) that the ISS program crews will receive over the next ten years of planned operations is about the same as would be received by a series of five teams of five people each if they were launched to Mars every other year over the same period. Thus, in fact, the ISS program has already accepted the same level of GCR risk for its crews as would be faced by an ongoing human Mars exploration program.

Galactic cosmic radiation is not a show stopper for human Mars exploration and should not be used as an excuse for delay. The space program costs many billions of dollars, which is spent at a real cost to meeting human needs elsewhere. That fact imposes a moral obligation on the program to move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is understandable that radiation researchers should want to justify their funding. However, they should not spread misinformation to promote themselves at such extraordinary expense to the public.

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The views expressed in this Op-Ed are solely those of the author and do not, necessarily, reflect those of SpaceFlight Insider.

Tagged: Cosmic Rays Mars radiation Robert Zubrin The Mars Society The Range

Dr. Robert Zubrin is the founder and President of the Mars Society, an international organization dedicated to furthering the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars by both public and private means. He is also President of of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace R&D company located in Lakewood, Colorado. Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington.

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OPINION: Radiation hucksters strike again – SpaceFlight Insider – SpaceFlight Insider

Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Monday after hold-down engine firing – Spaceflight Now

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, without its payload, is test-fired Thursday at pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: SpaceX

The launch of a commercial Bulgarian television broadcast satellite from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida is set for Monday after SpaceX ran through a mock countdown Thursday and test-fired a previously-flown Falcon 9 rockets Merlin main engines.

The rockets recycled first stage, which first flew on a satellite deployment flight Jan. 14 from California, ignited its nine Merlin 1D main engines at 6:25 p.m. EDT (2225 GMT) Thursday for several seconds while restraints kept the two-stage Falcon 9 firmly grounded at launch pad 39A.

A cloud of exhaust erupted from the launch pads flame trench, and SpaceX later confirmed on Twitter that the so-called static fire test went according to plan.

The static fire is a customary milestone in all of SpaceXs launch campaigns, used as a rehearsal for the companys launch team and as a test of the rockets readiness for flight.

SpaceX pushed back the launch of the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite two days from Saturday to Monday earlier his week after preparations for the static fire ran behind schedule.

Thursdays test was conducted without a payload on-board the booster, standard practice for SpaceX after a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a nearby launch pad at Cape Canaveral last September, destroying the launch vehicle and an Israeli-owned communications satellite in the final minutes of the countdown before a hold-down firing.

Ground crews planned to drain the Falcon 9 of its RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants Thursday night, then lower the rocket horizontal and return it to a hangar on the southern perimeter of pad 39A, a historic facility leased by SpaceX from NASA that was originally built in the 1960s for the Apollo moon program.

BulgariaSat 1, already encapsulated inside the Falcon 9s fairing, will be attached to the Falcon 9s upper stage this weekend before the rocket rolls back up the ramp to pad 39A ahead of Mondays launch attempt.

Built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, California, the BulgariaSat 1 satellite is Bulgarias first communications spacecraft.

BulgariaSat 1, which weighs nearly 9,000 pounds (4 metric tons ) at launch, will broadcast television channels to homes in Bulgaria, Serbia and elsewhere in Europe for BulgariaSat, an affiliate ofBulsatcom, Bulgarias largest digital television provider, during a 15-year mission.

Nearly 12 years in the making, the $235 million satellite project is a big step for Bulgaria, according to Maxim Zayakov, BulgariaSats CEO.

The satellite is a huge thing, Zayakov said in a May 5 interview with Spaceflight Now. Its a big milestone and gives us a chance for regional development as well as throughout Europe, where we have our main coverage. And for the country, definitely, its the first geostationary communications satellite.

Space Systems/Loral arranged for BulgariaSat 1s launch with SpaceX in a turnkey contract with BulgariaSat, and the satellite manufacturer ultimately decided to place the spacecraft on a flight with a reused Falcon 9 first stage booster. SSL will hand over the satellite to BulgariaSat once it is ready for operations in orbit.

SSL and SpaceX started working on a deal to launch BulgariaSat 1 on a previously-flown rocket before the first partially-reused Falcon 9 took off March 30 on a widely-watched mission to deliver an SES communications satellite to orbit. But officials only finalized the agreement after the SES 10 launch, and the parties announced the decision to put BulgariaSat 1 on a previously-flown booster last month.

SpaceX says recovering and re-flying parts of its rockets will cut the cost of space transportation, but customers can expect only minor discounts for the first lot of reused rocket flights as the launch company recoups $1 billion in capital expenditures to allow the Falcon 9s first stages to make multiple flights.

The investment included modifications to the booster, such as aerodynamic grid fins, landing legs, a heat shield, and descent guidance algorithms capable of handling supersonic retro-propulsion. SpaceX also outfitted two barges for rocket landings at sea, and built landing pads at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Engineers are working on retrieving the Falcon 9s clamshell-like payload fairing, which jettisons from the rocket in two halves, with the help of a steerable parafoil, but SpaceX has so far not recovered one of the nose cone components undamaged.

SpaceX intends to recover the first stage on Mondays launch on one of its landing platforms stationed in the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral, the company said.

Mondays mission is the first of three Falcon 9 flights planned in three weeks from Florida and California.

A static fire of another Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base is scheduled as soon as Tuesday, the day after BulgariaSat 1s launch, in preparation for a liftoff June 25 with the second batch of 10 next-generation Iridium mobile voice and data relay satellites.

The next Falcon 9 mission from Kennedy Space Center is set for early July with the Intelsat 35e high-throughout communications satellite.

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Falcon 9 launch scheduled for Monday after hold-down engine firing – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage: Previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket fires engines on … – Spaceflight Now

June 15, 2017 Stephen Clark

Live coverage of SpaceXs preparations for the next Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will launch the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite for television broadcasts in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Text updates will appear automatically below;there is no need to reload the page. Follow us onTwitter. Watch on a mobile device.

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Live coverage: Previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket fires engines on … – Spaceflight Now

SFI Live: QM-1 Launch Abort Motor test fire – SpaceFlight Insider

Jason Rhian

June 15th, 2017

NASA, Orbital ATK and Lockheed Martin are preparing to conduct the QM-1 static test fire of the Orion spacecrafts Launch Abort Motor at Promontory, Utah, on June 15, at 1 p.m. MDT. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

PROMONTORY, Utah Orbital ATK and NASA are planning to conduct a static test fire of the Orion spacecrafts Launch Abort Motor. The Qualification Motor 1 test is set to begin at 1 p.m. MDT (3 p.m. EDT / 19:00 GMT) and last for approximately five seconds. SpaceFlight Insider will be on hand providing you with exclusive coverage from the T-97 viewing site about a half-mile away. Tune into our live webcast starting at 12:30 p.m. MDT (2:30 p.m. EDT / 18:30 GMT).

Tagged: Launch Abort Motor Lead Stories NASA Orbital ATK Orion Promontory QM-1 Utah

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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SFI Live: QM-1 Launch Abort Motor test fire – SpaceFlight Insider

Orbital ATK OA-8E Cygnus cargo mission slated for late summer – SpaceFlight Insider

Jerome Strach

June 15th, 2017

Orbital ATKs horizontal integration hangar at Wallops with multiple Antares rockets inside. Photo Credit: Patrick Black / NASA

On the heels of Orbital ATKs successful OA-7 Cygnus cargo run, teams at Virginias Wallops Flight Facility are preparing for the OA-8E mission. The 139-foot (42.5-meter) tall Antaresrocket is slated to take an enhanced Cygnus and several tons of science and cargo to the International Space Station on Sept. 12, 2017.

Kurt Eberly, the program manager for Antares, said that the company would haveOA-8E ready to travel as early as late July and certainly in August if necessary. Regardless of when it does get off the ground, the mission will send 7,385 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of cargo packed inside an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft. Liftoff will take place from Pad 0A at Wallops Island, Virginia.

The OA-8E mission is part of the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) 1 contract. The E signifies the CRS-1 contract extension, enabling NASA to cover space station resupply needs until the CRS-2 contract begins in 2019. Orbital ATK was awarded at least three additional Cygnus flights.SpaceX was also awarded additional flights.

MARS Pad 0A. Photo Credit: Patrick Black / NASA

After OA-8E will be OA-9E, which is currently scheduled to launch in March 2018 atop an Antares 230 rocket. TheAntares rockets for both of these missionscan be seen in the companys horizontal integration facility.

The last Cygnus mission, OA-7, launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. While the spacecraft can be sent to space using either launch vehicle, there are currently no more plans for Orbital ATK to use the Atlas V.

Eberly said that by improving the performance of Antares, utilizing the pair ofRD-181 engines, Orbital ATK is expected to achieve 13percent higher thrust with 10 seconds ofadditional specific impulse (ISP). This should net 2025 percent more mass to be delivered to orbitresulting in increased payload delivered to the ISS.

It is expected that, by OA-11E, Orbital ATKshould be able to achieve its designed mass of 7,716 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of cargo andprobably beyond in the CRS-2 missions.

For Antares second stage, there is a large Castor 30XLmotor which is manufactured by the Propulsion Systems Division of Orbital ATK located in Utah.

Dale Nash, executive director at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on WallopsIsland, indicated that Pad 0A should be ready for OA-8E by end of July.

Nash briefed themedia that with the last Antares launch, in October 2016, the rocket lifted off quickly and, as a result, therewas much less damage to the launch pad, thereby improving turnaround times between launches to about 30 days.

Wallops has a fairly wide open azimuth between 38 to 60 degrees inclination which the ISS is right in the sweet spot for that, Nash said, talking about the advantages of Wallops over Cape Canaveral. Additionally, he said that there are far fewer scheduling conflicts at the Wallops Flight Facility and less chance ofgetting bumped.

Moreover, improvementsto the design of Cygnus itself, including strengthened internal infrastructure and an improved powersupply, allows for better support of science payloads. Additionally, procedural protocolsallowing for later cargo insertion into the Cygnus have proven to have significant advantagesallowing for easier accommodation of NASA cargo requests.

On June 12, 2017, Orbital ATK and NASA gave members of the media, including SpaceFlight Insider, a review of the current operations of Wallops Flight Facility Pad 0A and the nearby horizontal integration hangar.

Tagged: Antares Cygnus Lead Stories NASA OA-8E Orbital ATK Wallops Flight Facility

Jerome Strach has worked within the Silicon Valley community for 20 years including software entertainment and film. Along with experience in software engineering, quality assurance, and middle management, he has long been a fan of aerospace and entities within that industry. A voracious reader, a model builder, and student of photography and flight training, most of his spare time can be found focused on launch events and technology advancements including custom mobile app development. Best memory as a child is building and flying Estes rockets with my father. @Romn8tr

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Orbital ATK OA-8E Cygnus cargo mission slated for late summer – SpaceFlight Insider

Robotic Russian resupply freighter on the way to space station – Spaceflight Now

Credit: TsENKI TV/Roscosmos

A Russian Progress supply ship packed with several tons of crew provisions and fuel lifted off Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

The Progress MS-06 cargo and refueling freighter launched at 0920:13 GMT (5:20:13 a.m. EDT), or 3:20 p.m. local time at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The unpiloted cargo craft rode into orbit on a Soyuz-2.1a rocket, a modernized version of Russias venerable booster.

The Soyuz blasted off from Launch Pad No. 31 at Baikonur on a nearly nine-minute journey into orbit, soaring through overcast skies before deploying the Progress MS-06 spacecraft from its third stage. Moments after separating from the rocket, the supply ship extended its power-generating solar panels and navigation antennas, setting up for a series of thruster firings to approach the space station Friday.

If the radar-guided automated rendezvous goes according to plan, the Progress MS-06 cargo freighter is scheduled to dock with the space stations Zvezda module at 1142 GMT (7:42 a.m. EDT) Friday.

The Soyuz-2.1a rocket featuresredesigned third stage propellant tanks and a digital flight control computer, upgrades introduced to Russias workhorse launcher over the last decade.

Designated Progress 67P in the space stations sequence of crew and cargo vehicles, the Russian resupply mission will reach the research outpost nearly halfway through the visit of a SpaceX Dragon capsule that delivered nearly 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) of experiments and equipment June 5.

The Progress MS-06 spaceship carries around 6,039 pounds (2.7 metric tons) of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station, according to NASA.

The supplies include 3,069 pounds (1,392 kilograms) of dry cargo inside the ships pressurized compartment, 1,940 pounds (880 kilograms) of fuel to refill the stations propulsion system, 926 pounds (420 kilograms) of potable water, and 104 pounds (47 kilograms) of high-pressure oxygen and air to replenish the research labs breathable atmosphere, a NASA spokesperson said.

Four small satellites launched inside the Progress MS-06 spacecrafts cabin for release by cosmonauts on a spacewalk later this year.

The Progress MS-06 supply ship will remain at the space station until December, when it will undock with a load of trash and re-enter the atmosphere for a destructive plunge over the South Pacific Ocean.

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Robotic Russian resupply freighter on the way to space station – Spaceflight Now

Could Teeny Fusion Rockets Propel The Future Of Spaceflight? – Wall Street Pit

As much as we want to travel outside our planet and explore the deep realms of space, theres one big problem that has been hindering our progress: speed. Or more specifically, the need for extreme speed.

With our current technologies, the farthest our astronauts can travel to is Mars. Such trip typically takes two to three years to be completed from Earth to Mars, and back to Earth. For our astronauts, that means two to three years of exposure to harmful cosmic radiation and the hazards of microgravity. And that simply isnt acceptable. By funding a New Jersey-based spaceflight company called Princeton Satellite Systems, NASA is hoping that can soon change.

Princeton Satellite Systems is said to be developing a miniature version of a fusion reactor that weighs just 11 tons, measures less than 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter, is only 13 26 feet (4 8 meters) long, and is capable of generating around 1 kilowatt of power per 2.2 pounds (1 Kilogram) of mass.

Fusion reactors work by fusing or combining two hydrogen nuclei to form helium, meaning, they make use of the same chemical reaction that stars, including our Sun, constantly undergo to generate enormous amounts of energy. Unfortunately, as powerful as fusion reactors are envisioned to be, no one has yet figured out how to build one that generates more energy than what is required to produce that energy, considering that extremely high temperatures and pressures are needed for fusion of atoms to take place. Additionally, the fusion reactors being developed are quite big, which make them impractical to bring into space.

This is what will differentiate the work being done by Princeton Satellite Systems. Instead of building the usual large fusion reactors that aim to produce hundreds of megawatts of power, they are opting to build miniaturized versions that are designed to generate only about a dozen megawatts of power. Its not just easier to build, in a manner of speaking; it will cost way less too. Just imagine, a large fusion reactor will cost $20 billion; a mini version, on the other hand, will only cost $20 million.

As described in an article by Space.com, Princeton Satellite Systems mini fusion reactor will involve heating a mix of deuterium and helium 3 using low-frequency radio waves, confining the plasma generated within magnetic fields, then directing it out of the engines nozzle to create a powerful thrust.

According to Princeton Satellite Systems president Michael Paluszek, the thrust generated can provide speeds of up to 25,000 kilometers per second (or 55.9 million miles per hour). At such velocities, space travel can significantly be shortened. For instance, a trip to Mars will be reduced to just a 310-day trip. That means less exposure to deadly radiation, and less supplies needed for the trip too. If used for a robotic mission to Pluto, it will only take four years instead of nine years, which is how long it took NASAs New Horizons mission. Paluszek even says that a 10-megawatt fusion rocket could be used to deflect asteroids that can potentially cause widespread damage to our planet.

Princeton Satellite Systems initiative doesnt come without its challenges, of course. For starters, helium 3 is quite rare, which means theres an additional step needed for the reaction to work, that is, produce helium 3 first either via nuclear reactors, or space mining. Theres also the matter of the reactor producing deadly neutron radiation. Even if the amount is minimal, it will still require some kind of shielding, which means more additional work. Theres also the need to use multiple reactors because apparently, radio waves cant penetrate too deep into plasma.

Everything else considered, the researchers are aiming to demonstrate a working prototype by 2019 or 2020. Were quite sure NASA and all other space and astronomy enthusiasts are hoping that Princeton Satellite Systems will deliver on their intent to help fast-track space missions to Mars and other target destinations.

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Could Teeny Fusion Rockets Propel The Future Of Spaceflight? – Wall Street Pit

Are These Little Rockets the Future of Spaceflight? | NBC News – NBCNews.com

Jun.13.2017 / 10:24 AM ET

Science writer Charles Q. Choi is a contributor to Space.com. His work also appears in such publications as Scientific American, The New York Times and National Geographic.

Fusion-powered rockets the size of only a few refrigerators could one day help propel spacecraft at high speeds to nearby planets or even other stars, a NASA-funded spaceflight company says.

Another use for such fusion rockets is to deflect asteroids that might strike Earth and to build manned bases on the moon and Mars, the researchers say.

Rockets fly by hurling materials known as propellants away from them. Conventional rockets that rely on chemical reactions are not very efficient when it comes to how much thrust they generate, given the amount of propellant they carry, which has led rocket scientists to explore a variety of alternatives over the years.

An option now used in spacecraft is the ion drive, which generates thrust by using electricity to accelerate electrically charged ion propellants. Ion drives are far more efficient than chemical rockets but are limited by the amount of electricity they can harvest via solar panels or generate using radioactive materials.

Related: Superfast Spacecraft Propulsion Concepts

Instead of chemical rockets or ion drives, scientists have also suggested using fusion rockets propelled by the same nuclear reactions that power stars. These rockets would not only be efficient but also generate vast amounts of electricity.

However, so far, no one has built a fusion reactor that generates more energy than it consumes. Moreover, the fusion reactors that are under development are huge, making them difficult to hoist into space.

But now, researchers funded by NASA are developing small fusion rockets.

“It’s technology that enables really interesting robotic and human missions to Mars and Pluto, and it is also potentially a way of getting into interstellar space,” said Michael Paluszek, president of Princeton Satellite Systems in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

The large fusion reactors under development today, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), usually strive to generate hundreds of megawatts of power. In contrast, Paluszek and his colleagues at Princeton Satellite Systems are designing reactors meant to produce only a dozen megawatts or so. This humbler goal results in a smaller, lighter reactor that is easier to build and launch into space “for practical robotic and human missions,” Paluszek said.

In addition, these small fusion reactors are much cheaper than larger devices. Paluszek noted that, whereas modern fusion experiments might cost $20 billion, a prototype fusion rocket the researchers plan to develop should cost just $20 million. So far, they have received three NASA grants to fund the project, he said.

The aim for the fusion drives is to get about 1 kilowatt of power per 2.2 lbs. (1 kilogram) of mass. A 10-megawatt fusion rocket would, therefore, weigh about 11 tons (10 metric tons).

“It would probably be 1.5 meters [4.9 feet] in diameter and 4 to 8 meters [13 to 26 feet] long,” Paluszek said.

Related: Will This ‘Impossible’ Motor Take People to Other Planets?

Nuclear fusion requires extremely high temperatures and pressures to force atoms to fuse, a process that converts some of the mass of the atoms into energy. The fusion reactors that Princeton Satellite Systems is developing uses low-frequency radio waves to heat a mix of deuterium and helium-3, and magnetic fields to confine the resulting plasma in a ring. (Deuterium is made of hydrogen atoms that each have an extra neutron; helium-3 is made of helium atoms, each of which is missing a neutron; and plasma is the state of matter found in stars, lightning bolts, and neon lights.)

As this plasma rotates in a ring, some of it can spiral out and get directed from the fusion rocket’s nozzle for thrust. “We can get very high exhaust velocities of up to about 25,000 kilometers per second [55.9 million mph],” Paluszek said.

The large amounts of thrust this fusion rocket may deliver compared to its mass could enable very fast spacecraft. For instance, whereas round-trip crewed missions to Mars are estimated to take more than two years using current technology, the researchers estimated that six 5-megawatt fusion rockets could accomplish such missions in 310 days. This extra speed would reduce the risks of radiation that astronauts might experience from the sun or deep space, as well as dramatically cut the amount of food, water, and other supplies they would need to bring with them.

Related: Warp Speed Won’t Get Us to the Stars, but This Just Might

In addition, the fusion reactors could also help generate ample electricity for scientific instruments and communications devices. For instance, whereas NASA’s New Horizons mission took more than nine years to get to Pluto and had little more than 200 watts of power to work with once it arrived, broadcasting about 1,000 bits of data back per second, a 1-megawatt fusion rocket could get a robotic mission to Pluto in four years, supply 500 kilowatts of power and broadcast more than 1 million bits of data back per second, Paluszek said. Such a mission could also carry a lander to Pluto and power it by beaming down energy, he added.

“With the amount of power fusion rockets can provide, you can think of science that can’t be done now with other technologies, such as powering a lander to drill through the ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa,” Paluszek said.

A 10-megawatt fusion rocket could also deflect an asteroid about 525 feet (160 m) in diameter coming at Earth, spending about 200 days to travel there and 23 days nudging it off course, Paluszek said. Fusion rockets could even enable an interstellar voyage to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, although the trip might take 500 to 700 years, he said. (Alpha Centauri lies about 4.3 light-years from the sun.)

Related: Gallery: Visions of Interstellar Starship Travel

Previous research suggested this kind of fusion rocket in the 1960s, but the designs proposed for them would not stably confine the plasmas, Paluszek said. About 10 years ago, reactor designer Sam Cohen figured out a magnetic-field design “that could make stable plasmas,” Paluszek explained.

One drawback of the kind of nuclear reactor that Princeton Satellite Systems is developing is that radio waves do not penetrate deeply into plasma. “We’re limited to something like 1 meter [3.3 feet] in diameter,” Paluszek said. To generate large amounts of power with this strategy, the researchers have to rely on multiple reactors.

Another pitfall is that, while this fusion reactor generates less deadly neutron radiation than most fusion reactors under development, it still does produce some neutrons, as well as X-rays. “Radiation shielding is key,” Paluszek said.

In addition, helium-3 is rare on Earth. Still, it is possible to generate helium-3 using nuclear reactors, Paluszek said.

Princeton Satellite Systems is not alone in pursuing small fusion reactors. For instance, Paluszek noted that Helion Energy in Redmond, Washington, also intends to fuse deuterium and helium-3, while Tri Alpha Energy in Foothill Ranch, California, aims to fuse boron and protons.

“Fusion can enable new and exciting science missions that are too expensive and difficult to do with today’s technology,” Paluszek said.

The researchers have not yet demonstrated fusion with their device, but aim to do so by 2019 to 2020. Paluszek detailed his company’s research June 3 at The Dawn of Private Space Science Symposium in New York.

Follow Charles Q. Choi on Twitter @cqchoi. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook, and Google+. Original articleSpace.com.

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Are These Little Rockets the Future of Spaceflight? | NBC News – NBCNews.com