Dragonfly Titan Octocopter Mission Next in Line to Use a Nuclear Generator

By Daniel Patrascu

Now that NASA has proven helicopter flight can be achieved in alien atmospheres, there are green lights across the board for the Dragonfly mission. That would be the octocopter the American space agency plans on sending to Saturn’s moon Titan in search of, well, life, of course.

The mission is set to depart in 2027, one year later than initially planned, and land on Titan in 2035. It will be tasked with spending its next three years hopping from place to place and collecting samples, from its initial landing spot in the Shangri-La dune fields to exotic places like the Selk impact crater, for a total distance of about 108 miles (175 km).

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Virgin Galactic gets FAA’s OK to launch customers to space

This Saturday, May 22, 2021 image provided by Virgin Galactic shows the release of VSS Unity from VMS Eve and ignition of rocket motor over Spaceport America, N.M. Virgin Galactic finally has the federal government’s approval to start launching customers into space from New Mexico. Richard Branson’s rocketship company announced the Federal Aviation Administration’s updated license on Friday, June 25. It’s the final hurdle in Virgin Galactic’s years-long effort to send paying passengers on short space hops. Credit: Virgin Galactic via AP

by Marcia Dunn

Virgin Galactic finally has the federal government’s approval to start launching customers into space from New Mexico.

Richard Branson’s rocketship company announced the Federal Aviation Administration’s updated license on Friday.

It’s the final hurdle in Virgin Galactic’s yearslong effort to send paying passengers on short space hops.

The company is working toward three more space test flights this summer and early fall, before opening the rocketship’s doors to paying customers. The original plans called for company engineers to launch next to evaluate equipment, followed by a flight with Branson and then a science mission by Italian Air Force officers.

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Dreams Come True: First-Ever Luxury Space Hotel Nears Launch

Illustration of the Voyager hotel

By  Chris Young

The first prototype for an orbital hotel with artificial gravity may launch as soon as 2023.

The Orbital Assembly Corporation, a space construction firm run by NASA veterans, announced in a press statement today, June 24, that it has successfully demonstrated its technology for developing the world’s first space hotel.

The company carried out the demonstration during the official opening of its Fontana, California Facility, which will serve as its main headquarters as it aims to make luxury space holidays a reality before 2030.

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A Gigantic “Space Balloon” Just Completed Its First Flight

Would you be willing to ride to the edge of space in this balloon?

By  Chris Young

Space tourism company Space Perspective successfully conducted the first flight test of its prototype stratospheric passenger balloon, reaching an altitude of 108,409 feeton Friday, June 18, the company announced in a press statement.

The balloon prototype, called Neptune One, lifted off at 5:23 a.m. EDT from the Space Coast Regional Airport near Kennedy Space Center, Florida, before splashing down 6 hours and 39 minutes later in the Gulf of Mexico.

The first test kicks off an extensive test campaign to assess Neptune One’s feasibility as a passenger balloon for space tourists.

“This test flight of Neptune One kicks off our extensive test flight campaign, which will be extremely robust because we can perform tests without a pilot, making Spaceship Neptune an extremely safe way to go

to space,” co-CEO and founder Taber MacCallum said in the press release.

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Richard Branson ‘could beat Jeff Bezos to space by flying two weeks before Amazon founder’

Virgin Galactic founder could fly to the edge of space over the July 4 weekend – two weeks before Amazon CEO launches with Blue Origin, report claims 

By Sam Tonkin

  • Sir Richard Branson could go to space over July 4 weekend, according to report
  • Virgin Galactic founder would fly on his VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane
  • It would see him beat his billionaire rival, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, by two weeks
  • Bezos said on Monday he and his brother would fly with Blue Origin on July 20

It looked like Jeff Bezos was on the verge of winning the billionaire space race by revealing plans to fly to space ahead of rivals Elon Muskand Sir Richard Branson.

But it appears the Virgin Galactic founder might still beat the Amazon CEO to the punch, with a report claiming he plans to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother.

But it appears the Virgin Galactic founder might still beat the Amazon CEO to the punch, with a report claiming he plans to make a suborbital flight two weeks before Bezos and his brother.

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Jeff Bezos is going to space this summer

Jeff Bezos announced Monday that he and his brother Mark would be among those flying on the first passenger flight of his space company Blue Origin — via a video posted on the billionaire’s Instagram account. 

By Yacob Reyes

The big picture: The passenger flight, the New Shepard, will be launching on July 20, with Bezos and his brother joining the winner of a public auction for one of the seats. 

  • Currently, auction bidding is at $2.8 million with roughly 6,000 participants from 143 countries. 
  • The New Shepherd has flown more than a dozen successful test flights, all without passengers, per CNBC
  • “To see the Earth from space, it changes you,” Bezos said in the video. “It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”
Continue reading… “Jeff Bezos is going to space this summer”
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China’s New Space Station Is Powered by Ion Thrusters

The country is betting big on electric spacecraft propulsion.

 By VICTOR TANGERMANN

China’s first module of its upcoming Tiangong space station makes use of ion drives, technology that could vastly cut down the time it takes to travel to Mars — and greatly reduce the amount of fuel needed to make that trip, as the South China Morning Post reports.

The module, called Tianhe and launched in late April, is powered by four ion thrusters that use electricity to accelerate ions as a form of propulsion. In fact, the module could soon become the first spacecraft in history to transport humans using the technology, according to SCMP.

Ion drives are orders of magnitude more efficient compared to chemical propulsion. To keep the International Space Station in orbit for a year, the thrusters consume four tons of rocket fuel. With ion thrusters, it’d need just 400 kilograms to stay in orbit for the same amount of time, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A trip to Mars could be cut down from eight months to just 39 days.

China is betting big on ion thrusters, hoping to use them not just for its space station  but for upcoming satellite constellations and nuclear-powered spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to Mars as well, according to SCMP.

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship ahead of 1st manned flight this year

After unveiling Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft, SIR Richard Branson is installing rocket boosters as part of his cosmic plans.

The VSS Imagine sports a mirror-like coating that reflects the surrounding environment, allowing it to change color and appearance when traveling from Earth to space.9Virgin Galactic’s third spacecraft was unveiled on TuesdayCredit: Reuters

It is faster and easier to maintain than the previous two spaceships of the New Mexico-based firm.

Speaking after the craft’s unveiling on Tuesday, 70-year-old billionaire Sir Richard praised Virgin Galactic’s “growing fleet of spacecraft”.

VSS Imagine is part of the company’s third-generation rocket aircraft – which the group says will “lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles”.

Virgin Galactic said the aircraft was “built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance reach and flight rate”.

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You can bid for a seat on Blue Origin’s first human spaceflight on July 20


Aria Alamalhodaei

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is offering up one seat on the inaugural flight of its suborbital rocket New Shepard, set to take place July 20 — but instead of a fixed-price ticket sale, the seat will go to the highest bidder.

It’ll work like this: From May 5-19, bidders will be able to bid any amount on an auction website. From May 19, the bids will be made “unsealed,” or made visible, and bidders must continually exceed the highest bid to remain in the running for the seat. Bidding will conclude June 12 with a live online auction.

From Blue Origin’s website, it looks like the overall flight will be relatively quick, with the craft reaching apogee, or its highest point, four minutes after takeoff. The capsule containing the astronauts (and the lucky bidder) will land 10 minutes after takeoff near its launch site in West Texas.

Blue Origin said the winning bid will be donated to its charitable foundation, Club for the Future.

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China launches main part of its 1st permanent space station

In this image taken from video footage run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan Province, Thursday, April 29, 2021. China has launched the core module on Thursday for its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long-term. (CCTV via AP Video)

by Sam McNeil

China on Thursday launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long term, the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.

The Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony,” module blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan, marking another major advance for the country’s space exploration.

The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year.

China’s space program has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.

Minutes after the launch, the fairing opened to expose the Tianhe atop the core stage of the rocket, with the characters for “China Manned Space” emblazoned on its exterior. Soon after, it separated from the rocket, which will orbit for about a week before falling to Earth, and minutes after that, opened its solar arrays to provide a steady energy source.

The space program is a source of huge national pride, and Premier Li Keqiang and other top civilian and military leaders watched the launch live from the control center in Beijing. A message of congratulations from state leader and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping was also read to staff at the Wenchang Launch Center.

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NASA Extracts Breathable Oxygen on Mars In Historic First

NASA achieved another first this week thanks to a small box attached to its Mars Perseverance rover.

By  Chris Young

NASA added to its ever-growing list of “firsts” this week by converting carbon dioxide extracted from Mars’ atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the US space agency said in a statement on Wednesday, April 22.

The achievement comes days after NASA conducted the first controlled flight on Mars, and constitutes another step in the agency’s plans for future human exploration of the red planet in the 2030s.

The extraction of oxygen from Mars’ carbon-rich atmosphere was carried out by a small experimental instrument, called MOXIE — the first device to ever extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.

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Russia wants to launch its own space station by 2025

By Shane McGlaun 

Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced this week that it hopes to launch its own orbiting space station by 2025. The agency is considering withdrawing from the ISS program and operating its own space station. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin says that work has already begun on the first module for the space station.

Officials also warned that they are considering removing themselves from the international space station, one of the few successful cooperation attempts that Russia has made with the US. The first module for the space station is being built by the Russian Energia space Corporation with the goal of having it ready to launch in 2025.

Russia has been a participant in the ISS program since the space station launched in 1998. The ISS was a project involving Russia, the US, Canada, Japan, and the ESA. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said recently that Russia was considering removing itself from the ISS in 2025 due to the space station’s age. Russia has made statements that it would work with China on an orbiting space station near the moon and potentially on a lunar base.

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