Thursday, April 19, 2012
Dynetics and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne announced Wednesday they are teaming up to resurrect the Saturn 5 rocket’s mighty F-1 engine to power NASA’s planned heavy-lift launch vehicle, saying the Apollo-era engine will offer significantly more performance than solid-fueled boosters currently under development.
“The ability to come back and offer NASA a resurrection of probably one of the most venerated successful engines ever, the F-1, is very neat,” said Steve Cook, director of space technologies at Dynetics Inc. “The cool factor on this is very high.”
NASA plans to award $200 million to multiple companies later this year for 30 months of design and risk reduction work on advanced booster concepts for the agency’s Space Launch System, a powerful heavy-lifting rocket designed to dispatch astronaut crews to deep space destinations, including asteroids, Mars, and the moon.
The 30-month performance period is expected to begin Oct. 1 and run through early 2015. The first two flights of the Space Launch System will be boosted off the launch pad by five-segment solid rocket motors built by ATK and derived from the space shuttle program.
NASA hopes a bigger booster will be ready by the third SLS flight in the early 2020s.
Dynetics of Huntsville, Ala., is leading the contractor team proposing the F-1 engine design. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is the bid’s propulsion partner and engine builder.
Cook, NASA’s former manager of the scrapped Ares rocket program, said each of the two Dynetics boosters on an SLS mission would be propelled by a pair of kerosene-fueled F-1 engines.
An audacious new private space exploration company backed by billionaire investors and filmmaker-turned-explorer James Cameron will unveil its master plan “to help ensure humanity’s prosperity” on Tuesday, April 24.
While details of the company, called Planetary Resources, Inc., and its mission are still under wraps, officials with the enterprise did state that “the company will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources — to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP,” according to media alert sent to reporters today (April 18).
On April 24, Planetary Resources officials will announce details of their space exploration plans in a press conference at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash., according to the alert. The announcement will be held in the museum’s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, which is named after billionaire software developer Charles Simonyi, a Planetary Resources investor.
“This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources,’” company officials said in the statement.
Planetary Resources was co-founded by two veteran commercial space pioneers: Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson.
Diamandis is chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, which offers prizes for technological feats, as well as a co-founder of Zero-G Corporation, which offers commercial flights to experience weightlessness aboard a modified Boeing 727-200 jet. Anderson, meanwhile, is the chairman and co-founder of Space Adventures, the only company ever to broker multimillion-dollar flights for private citizens to the International Space Station. Simonyi, for example, flew to the space station twice with Space Adventures, most recently in 2009 on a trip that cost a reported $35 million.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The first cargo resupply mission to the space station to be carried out by a commercial operator is likely to be on 30 April, the US space agency says.
The flight of the unmanned Dragon freighter is supposed to be just a demonstration, but its success would mark a new era in spaceflight.
Nasa is keen to hand off routine space transportation to the private sector - for both cargo and crew.
The upcoming mission will be performed by the SpaceX company of California.
It has been given tentative clearance to launch Dragon on 30 April at 12:22 EDT (16:22 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The date was confirmed during a Flight Readiness Review meeting attended by company personnel and Nasa officials on Monday.
Friday, April 13, 2012
New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows that NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week.
Further, NASA doesn’t need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News.
“The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move,” Miller said.
“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” he added.
Miller’s confidence stems in part from a new study that reanalyzed results from a life-detection experiment conducted by NASA’s Viking Mars robots in 1976.
Researchers crunched raw data collected during runs of the Labeled Release experiment, which looked for signs of microbial metabolism in soil samples scooped up and processed by the two Viking landers. General consensus of scientists has been that the experiment found geological, not biological, activity.
The new study took a different approach. Researchers distilled the Viking Labeled Release data, provided as hard copies by the original researchers, into sets of numbers and analyzed the results for complexity. Since living systems are more complicated than non-biological processes, the idea was to look at the experiment results from a purely numerical perspective.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
An unmanned rocket blasted off from the California coast Tuesday (April 3) carrying a clandestine new spy satellite for the U.S. military.
The United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:12 p.m. PDT (2312 GMT) on a mission to orbit the classified satellite, called NROL-25, for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The liftoff came after several delays due to bad weather and a technical glitch.
“Congratulations to the NRO and to all the mission partners involved in this critical national security launch,” said Jim Sponnick, vice president of mission operation for ULA, which oversaw the launch. “ULA is proud to have supported this mission and delivered critical capabilities to the men and women defending our freedom throughout the world.”