Unmanned, solar-powered US military space plane returns from record 908-day flight

The robot craft – which has now clocked up over 1.3 billion miles in orbit across its six missions – was carrying experiments for the US Air Force, Navy and also NASA.

By IAN RANDALL

United States Space Force: ULA launch X-37B spaceplane.

An unmanned, solar-powered US military space plane returned from its sixth mission on Saturday, having spent a record-breaking 908 days in orbit. Built by Boeing, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — which resembles a miniature space shuttle — was developed to test space technologies. It was launched on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida back in May 2020. The craft landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the same complex from which the Artemis I Moon rocket will hopefully be blasting off early tomorrow morning.

For the first time, the space plane carried a so-called service module designed to increase the total number of payloads it could carry. This carried scientific experiments for partners including the Naval Research Laboratory and the US Air Force Academy.

To ensure a safe landing, the module was jettisoned from the vehicle before it left orbit. The space plane and the module then returned to Earth separately.

Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president Jim Chilton said: “Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivalled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies.

“With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”

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The World’s First Floating Spaceport Will Launch Travelers Into the Stratosphere in 2024

MS Voyager will be the waterborne launchpad for Spaceship Neptune. 

Spaceship Neptune’s inspiring journey from MS Voyager to the edge of space.

By MICHAEL VERDON 

Talk about a new kind of pleasure vessel. Space Perspective plans to launch the first-ever Marine Spaceport named, appropriately, MS Voyager, for test flights in early 2023. The Cape Canaveral-based firm plans to start testing its Spaceship Neptune—a cockpit tethered to a giant space balloon—next year for six-hour civilian journeys in 2024 that will go high into the stratosphere. Unlike competitors Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, the space balloon won’t involve rockets or ten-minute spaceflights.

The 292-foot Voyager is designed to be a floating “spaceport,” which gives Space Perspective the option of launching Spaceship Neptune from either land or water. The company has a land-based launch site on Florida’s Space Coast for its initial flights in 2024, but its long-term plans include other destinations around the world.

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Chinese Scientists Converted Lunar Soil Samples Into Rocket Fuel, Oxygen

Lunar soil collected from China’s Chang’e-5 moon mission display during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing on March 4, 2021.

By Margaret Davis

A team of researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China, Nanjing University, and China Academy of Space Technology said that they managed to convert actual lunar soil samples or regolith from the Chang’e mission into a source of rocket fuel and oxygen.

Futurism reports that the team found that the regolith samples can act as a catalyst to convert carbon dioxide and water from the bodies of astronauts and the environment into methane and oxygen. The discovery is a potential game-changer for future space exploration, ensuring the success of the mission by providing in-situ resources to fuel up their spacecraft for the return journey.

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Want To Send A Parcel To The Moon? A Japanese Startup Is Working To Establish A Courier Service For Space- Technology News, Firstpost

By Amelia Podder

The race to be the first one in space, and then the Moon was a contest between mainly the USA and the Soviet Union. Today though, the race to be the first one to completely commercialise space travel and make it feasible for tourists is practically anybody’s race, including private players.

Thanks to a Japanese aeronautical research company, people on Earth can now send parcels and couriers to space. Image Credit: ISpace.

We have heard about space agencies and aeronautical firms partnering up to make the world’s first space hotel. Now, we have an up-and-coming startup from Japan that wants to establish a courier service in space. Want to send a parcel or an urgent document to someone in space? Well, in a few years, you can.

ISpace Inc., a Tokyo-based company, plans to launch a lunar lander by the end of this month, that will carry a variety of commercial and governmental payloads, including 2 rovers.

The goal of this firm is to establish a human population on the moon by 2040, but before then it wants to transform one of its modules on the moon as a courier and logistical lunar hub. The aim is to make money by transporting commercial products and research equipment up in space, on behalf of research institutes, private players, and certain government agencies.

ISpace’s first trip will test both the technological capabilities it has developed since its creation in 2010 and the trust of its investors. The Japan Times reported that a lot depends on its success, including the possibility of an IPO as early as this fiscal year and a chance to take a larger piece of space tourism and commercial logistics industry, which, Morgan Stanley predicts would triple to $1 trillion in two decades from 2020.

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China successfully launches second lab module for its space station

About 10 minutes into the launch, an official of the China Manned Space Agency announced that the mission was successful and the spacecraft reached its intended orbit.

China’s space station lab module Mengtian and the rocket Long March-5B Y4 being transported to the launch area

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The lab module called Mengtian was launched using a Long March-5B Y4 rocket 
  • It was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site 
  • Long March-5B Y4 rocket is one of China’s biggest rockets 

China on Monday successfully launched a second lab module to be part of its ambitious space station currently under construction.

The lab module called Mengtian was launched using a Long March-5B Y4 rocket, one of China’s biggest rockets, from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.

The launch was telecast live by the news channels here. About 10 minutes into the launch, an official of the China Manned Space Agency announced that the mission was successful and the spacecraft reached its intended orbit.

Later, it will dock with the orbiting core module of the space station.

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HAL to advance India’s space race with launch of new cryogenic engine facility

By Anthony Wright

A new state-of-the-art cryogenic engine manufacturing facility is set to be inaugurated by the President of India, Droupadi Murmu in Bengaluru today (27th September).

Commissioned by Indian aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the 4500m2 Integrated Cryogenic Engine Manufacturing Facility (ICMF) will be used to manufacture and test cryogenic (CE20) and semi-cryogenic (SE2000) engines for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

The most widely used engines for launch vehicles designed to send rockets into space, cryogenic engines are highly complex and only a handful of countries are involved in their manufacture. 

In 2014, India successfully flew the GSLV-D5 launch vehicle with a cryogenic engine built by ISRO, which led to it becoming just the sixth country to develop cryogenic engines. 

ISRO and HAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2013 to enable HAL’s Aerospace Division to manufacture cryogenic engine modules. 

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Shanghai rocket maker considering developing huge methane-fueled rockets

A Long March 5 launches the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission Nov. 23, 2020.

By Andrew Jones

PARIS — A major arm of China’s state-owned space contractor is looking at developing a series of partially and fully-reusable launch vehicles apparently in response to SpaceX’s Starship.

A paper published in the journal Aerospace Technology outlines plans under consideration by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) for a number of launch vehicles with varying diameters and clusters of methalox engines.

A first generation of three launch vehicles with reusable first stages would have diameters of 3.35, 4.0 and 7.0 meters, powered by clusters of five, seven-to-nine and 9-22 “Longyun” 70-ton-thrust engines. Second stages would use vacuum-optimized versions of the engine.

The 3.35m version is to be capable of lifting 2,500 kilograms to a 700-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), while the 4.0m variant—a size chosen to meet the maximum which can be transported to China’s inland launch sites—could launch up to 6,500 kg of payload to a similar orbit. 

The 7.0 meter version is planned to be able to launch more than 20,000 kg to 700 km SSO, while requiring new launch facilities and an offshore platform for recovering the first stage. 

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This Reusable Space Freighter Would ‘Open the Door’ to European Space Exploration

Artist’s conception of SUSIE performing a vertical landing

By Passant Rabie

CALLED SUSIE, THE REUSABLE SPACECRAFT WOULD BE CAPABLE OF DELIVERING CREWS AND CARGO TO SPACE, AND PERFORM VERTICAL LANDINGS WHEN RETURNING HOME.

French aerospace company ArianeGroup has revealed a concept for a reusable upper stage spacecraft that would be capable of delivering heavy payloads to space and carry out crewed missions before landing vertically back on Earth. 

SUSIE, short for Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration, was introducedto the world at the International Astronautical Congress held in Paris from September 18 to 22. The fully reusable upper stage could eventually serve as an automated freighter and payload transporter, as well as a spacecraft for crewed missions carrying a crew of up to five astronauts. SUSIE remains a concept for now, but if realized, the spacecraft would support various European space endeavours for years to come. 

Reusability is fast becoming a necessity in modern spaceflight, as launch providers work to keep costs down. “It is our industrial duty to contribute to this ambition and offer European decision-makers smart and ambitious technological solutions capable of contributing to independent access to space, and also to open the door to European space exploration and address commercial and institutional needs for services in space over the coming decades,” Morena Bernardini, head of strategy and innovation at ArianeGroup, said in a statement.

Europe’s private space industry has fallen a bit behind its American counterparts in terms of developing reusable vehicles. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is a reusable two-stage rocket that has flown to space nearly 200 times, while the company’s reusable Dragon capsules, whether for cargo or crews, are now in steady circulation. Boeing’s Starliner, a reusable crew capsule, recently completed its first uncrewed end-to-end test flight (although it was a less-than-perfect mission). Reusable launchers and vehicles aren’t so much the future as they are the present.

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Vast Space To Build an Artificial-Gravity Space Station in Orbit

By Tiffany Winfrey

Jed McCaleb, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur and founder of Vast Space, wants to build an artificial-gravity space station in low Earth orbit.

According to McCaleb (via Space News), there will be a lot of humans living all around the solar system in the future.

Since other businesses are assisting in lowering launch costs, McCaleb believes that building substantial buildings for people to live and work in space will be the next crucial step.

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CHINA BUILDING SECRETIVE ‘SPACE NUCLEAR REACTOR’ THAT COULD POWER 10 ORBITING STATIONS

China has reportedly been developing a powerful nuclear reactor for its groundbreaking moon and Mars mission

CHINA has reportedly been developing a powerful nuclear reactor for its groundbreaking moon and Mars mission.

The reactor was designed to power the spacecraft and propulsion using one megawatt of electricity.

That means the reactor is 100 times more powerful than a similar device Nasa is developing for the Moon, per Interesting Engineering.

Meanwhile, Space estimated that the reactor has enough power for 10 International Space Stations.

Most recently, the reactor passed a comprehensive performance review by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology on August 25.

Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the reactor has been funded by the Chinese central government since 2019.

Currently, there are no details on how China is planning to use the reactor.

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SKYROOT AEROSPACE RAISES $51M TO BOOST R&D OF VIKRAM ROCKET WITH 3D PRINTED CRYO-ENGINE

A concept image of a Skyroot Aerospace Vikram rocket. Image via Skyroot Aerospace. 

By PAUL HANAPHY

Indian space start-up Skyroot Aerospace has raised $51 million towards the development of its 3D printed cryogenic engine-powered rockets. 

Capable of carrying up to 815-kilos into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Skyroot Aerospace’s Vikram launch vehicles are propelled by the Dhawan-1, an engine 3D printed from a superalloy, in a way that reduces its production time by 95%. Having secured Series B backing via a round led by Singaporian investor GIC, the firm now has the cash to fund its initial launch tests, and establish its own satellite launch service.

“This round puts us on a trajectory of hyper-growth by funding all of our initial developmental launches, and enables building infrastructure to meet high launch cadence required by our satellite customers,” said Pawan Kumar Chandana, CEO of Skyroot Aerospace. “Our objective is to establish ourselves as a provider of best-in-class rocket launch services and the go-to destination for affordable and reliable small satellite launches.”

“WE ARE PROUD TO WELCOME ONE OF THE WORLD’S LEADING INSTITUTIONAL INVESTORS AS A LONG-TERM PARTNER IN OUR MISSION TO ‘OPEN SPACE FOR ALL’”

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Blue Origin’s ‘Orbital Reef’ Space Station Gets Green Light from NASA

By Ryan Whitwam

The International Space Station (ISS) has been a key part of humanity’s presence in space for years, but its useful life is coming to an end. NASA and other stakeholders currently plan to end ISS operations by 2031, but what comes next? NASA is funding the Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development Program (CLD) to encourage aerospace firms to build new stations, and a proposal from Blue Origin and Sierra Space just got the green light to move forward. 

The station, known as Orbital Reef, was submitted to NASA for System Definition Review (SDR) earlier this summer. This report allowed the agency to assess the feasibility of the design, and it’s good news for Blue Origin and Sierra Space — NASA believes the companies have the technology and expertise to successfully build the Orbital Reef. Initial timelines project that construction could begin in 2026, and the station could begin operating as early as 2027. 

Whereas space on the ISS was controlled exclusively by partnering space agencies, these new commercial projects will be different. “The microgravity factories and services provided by Orbital Reef have the potential to revolutionize every industry and become a major growth contributor to the U.S. and world economies,” said Tom Vice, CEO of Sierra Space. Other partners in the endeavor include Amazon, Boeing, and Arizona State University. 

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