Saturday, September 30, 2017

Images of the Day: SpaceX Reveals Its Updated Mars Vehicle...

An artist's concept of SpaceX's Big F(reakin') Rocket, or BFR, launching from the surface of Mars.

Yesterday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled his revised plan to begin building a new rocket and spacecraft next year that could lead to human landings on Mars by 2024. This rocket—which was initially called the Interplanetary Transport System but is better known by its colorful nickname BFR [for Big F(reakin') Rocket]—would still be designed to carry 100 people during a single launch into space...

All I can say this, Musk is a very optimistic visionary if he thinks that the chances of another Challenger or Columbia tragedy taking place drops to zero by the time the BFR becomes operational. Anyways, here are some neat illustrations of the BFR in operation...

An artist's concept of SpaceX's BFR docked to the International Space Station.

An artist's concept of SpaceX's BFR releasing payload into low-Earth orbit.

An artist's concept of SpaceX's BFR on the surface of the Moon.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Lockheed Martin Unveils Its Plans for the Red Planet...

An artist's concept of NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp above the Red Planet.
Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin Reveals New Details to its Mars Base Camp Vision (Press Release - September 28)

Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp concept shows how to send humanity to Mars in about a decade.

DENVER, Sept. 28, 2017 -- Today, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, Lockheed Martin experts are revealing new details of its Mars Base Camp concept including how it aligns with NASA's lunar Deep Space Gateway and a Mars surface lander.

Mars Base Camp is a vision of how to send humans to Mars in about a decade. It's a sound, safe and compelling mission architecture centered around an orbital outpost where scientist-astronauts can perform unprecedented, real-time scientific exploration of the Red Planet.

"Sending humans to Mars has always been a part of science fiction, but today we have the capability to make it a reality," said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. "Partnered with NASA, our vision leverages hardware currently in development and production. We're proud to have Orion powered-on and completing testing in preparation for its Exploration Mission-1 flight and eventually its journey to Mars."

Mars Base Camp is aligned with NASA's recently-announced lunar Deep Space Gateway approach for developing and testing systems, including Orion, in cis-lunar space before using them to go to Mars. The Gateway allows astronauts to live and work in orbit around the Moon for months at a time while gaining experience with extended operations far from Earth.

On the Gateway, they can perform lunar science and test out systems and operations such as habitats, airlocks, solar electric propulsion, surface telerobotics and even landers. Mars Base Camp would ultimately be built up at the Deep Space Gateway, away from Earth's gravity, before being deployed to Mars.

Mars Base Camp's first mission is intended to be an orbiting mission around the Red Planet. Following this, the architecture allows for a surface lander. The concept is designed to be a reusable, single-stage lander capable of descending to the surface from Mars orbit. Each surface mission could last two weeks with up to four astronauts, and then return to the orbiting Mars Base Camp where it would be refueled and readied for another mission.

Source: Lockheed Martin


An artist's concept of Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp orbiting the Red Planet.
Lockheed Martin

An artist's concept of the Mars Base Camp Excursion Module flying past one of the Red Planet's two moons.
Lockheed Martin

An artist's concept of the Excursion Module about to dock with Lockheed Martin's Mars Base Camp above the Red Planet.
Lockheed Martin

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Space Launch System's Full-Size Core Stage Mock-up Arrives in Louisiana...

The full-size mock-up of the Space Launch System's core stage is about to arrive at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Louisiana...on September 27, 2017.
NASA / MSFC / MAF / Steven Seipel

SLS Core Stage Pathfinder Arrives At NASA Michoud (News Release)

The Space Launch System (SLS) core stage pathfinder, which is similar in size, shape and weight to the 212-foot-tall core stage, arrived at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility early in the morning on September 27, 2017. To reduce the risk of first-time operations with one-of-a-kind spaceflight hardware for SLS, the agency built a core stage pathfinder.

Like SLS, the core stage pathfinder will be doing something that's never been done -- testing new shipping and handling equipment and procedures from the manufacturing site to the test site to the launch site.

Source: NASA.Gov

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Back in the Day: Endeavour's Aerial Tour of the Golden State...

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, on September 21, 2012.
REUTERS / Patrick Fallon

Just thought I'd re-post these amazing photos that were taken as Endeavour passed over various iconic locales of California prior to arriving in Los Angeles five years ago today. From the Golden Gate Bridge in the Bay Area to the Hollywood Sign, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the battleship USS Iowa and Angel Stadium of Anaheim in SoCal, the pilots flying NASA 905 (a modified Boeing 747) that ferried Endeavour made sure that people living in different parts of the California coastline had the opportunity to spot NASA's youngest retired space shuttle orbiter in the sky one last time. The pilots did not disappoint. Well— Except those who were down in San Diego that day... Sorry.

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on September 21, 2012.
NASA / Carla Thomas

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena on September 21, 2012.

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Honda Center and Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Orange County, on September 21, 2012.
NASA / Jim Ross

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Queen Mary in Long Beach on September 21, 2012.
Matthew Brucker -

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro on September 21, 2012.
NASA / Jim Ross

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the California Science Center on September 21, 2012.
NASA / Jim Ross

Endeavour and NASA 905 fly over the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) prior to touching down at LAX on September 21, 2012.
NASA / Scott Andrews

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Soyuz Capsule Returns to Earth with Record-Setting NASA Astronaut Aboard...

A Soyuz capsule carrying NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer, as well as Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin fires its retrorockets as it prepares to touch down in Kazakhstan...on September 3, 2017 (Kazakh Time).
NASA / Bill Ingalls

Three International Space Station Crewmates Safely Return to Earth (Press Release)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who set multiple U.S. space records during her mission aboard the International Space Station, along with crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, safely landed on Earth at 9:21 p.m. EDT Saturday (7:21 a.m. Kazakhstan time, Sunday, Sept. 3), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

While living and working aboard the world’s only orbiting laboratory, Whitson and Fischer contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, welcomed several cargo spacecraft delivering tons of supplies and research experiments, and conducted a combined six spacewalks to perform maintenance and upgrades to the station.

Among their scientific exploits, Whitson and Fischer supported research into the physical changes to astronaut’s eyes caused by prolonged exposure to a microgravity environment. They also conducted a new lung tissue study that explored how stem cells work in the unique microgravity environment of the space station, which may pave the way for future stem cell research in space.

Additional research included an antibody investigation that could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment, and the study of plant physiology and growth in space using an advanced plant habitat. NASA also attached the Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass Investigation (ISS CREAM) on the outside of the space station in August, which is now observing cosmic rays coming from across the galaxy.

The crew members received a total of seven cargo deliveries during their mission. A Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle launched to the space station in December 2016 delivering new lithium-ion batteries that were installed using a combination of robotics and spacewalks. Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft arrived at the station in April on the company's seventh commercial resupply mission. Three SpaceX Dragon spacecraft completed commercial resupply missions to the station in February, June and August. And, Russian ISS Progress cargo spacecraft docked to the station in February and June.

Whitson’s return marks the completion of a 288-day mission that began last November and spanned 122.2 million miles and 4,623 orbits of the Earth – her third long-duration mission on the station. During her latest mission, Whitson performed four spacewalks, bringing her career total to 10. With a total of 665 days in space, Whitson holds the U.S. record and places eighth on the all-time space endurance list.

Fischer, who launched in April, completed 136 days in space, during which he conducted the first and second spacewalks of his career. Yurchikhin, who launched with Fischer, now has a total of 673 days in space, putting him seventh place on the all-time endurance list.

Expedition 53 continues operating the station, with Randy Bresnik of NASA in command, and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) serving as flight engineers. The three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, and Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos. Vande Hei, Acaba and Misurkin are scheduled to launch Sept. 12 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.


Friday, September 1, 2017

EM-1 Update: The First Fuel Tank for the Space Launch System's Core Stage Booster Is Complete...

The liquid oxygen tank for the Space Launch System's core stage booster is completed at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana.
NASA / MSFC / Michoud / Jude Guidry

NASA Completes Welding of Liquid Oxygen Tank for First SLS Flight (News Release)

NASA is another step closer to completing all main structures for the agency’s first launch of the Space Launch System deep space rocket. The liquid oxygen flight tank was recently built in the Vertical Assembly Center robotic welder at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

After the liquid oxygen tank was inspected, it was moved to another area for plug welding to fill the holes left by the friction stir welding process. Five major parts -- the engine section, liquid hydrogen tank, intertank, liquid oxygen tank and forward skirt –will be connected together to form the 212-foot-tall core stage, the backbone of the SLS rocket.

Boeing, the prime contractor for the core stage, is welding the liquid hydrogen tank structure--the final major core stage structure to be built for the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion. The liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks will hold 733,000 gallons of propellant to power the stage's four RS-25 engines that together produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust.

Source: NASA.Gov