A Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft has made a successful inaugural flight as its makers prepare for what they hope will be the first round-the-world solar flight. The aircraft spent 2 hours and 17 minutes in the air above western Switzerland early Monday. The Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger and better version of a single-seat prototype that first took flight five years ago and can theoretically stay airborne indefinitely.
The SuperDraco thruster, an engine that will power SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to orbit, has completed a test regimen held over the last month at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in Texas. This qualification test involves a variety of conditions conditions including multiple starts, extended firing durations and extreme off-nominal propellant flow and temperatures.
The commercial cargo ship Dragon returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing back nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment for NASA. SpaceX's Dragon splashed into the Pacific, just five hours after leaving the orbiting lab. It is the only supply ship capable of returning items to Earth.
Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed new modifications for technology that helps pilots of small aircraft avoid midair collisions. The modified tools significantly improved pilot response times in making decisions to avert crashes. At issue are cockpit displays of traffic information (CDTIs). These are GPS displays used by private pilots to track other aircraft in their vicinity.
More than a dozen media organizations challenged the government's ban on the use of drones by journalists Tuesday, saying the Federal Aviation Administration's position violates First Amendment protections for news gathering. The organizations, including The Associated Press, filed a brief with the National Transportation Safety Board in support of aerial photographer Raphael Pirker.
Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via a Dragon, versus a bunny. The SpaceX company's cargo ship, Dragon, spent two days chasing the International Space Station following its launch from Cape Canaveral. Astronauts used a robot arm to capture the capsule 260 miles above Egypt.
SpaceX is shooting for another launch attempt Friday to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. NASA confirmed the launch date Wednesday, two days after a last-minute rocket leak delayed the mission. Stormy weather, however, is forecast for Friday. Saturday is the backup launch date.
A space station cargo ship will remain Earthbound for a while longer. With just over an hour remaining, the Space X company called off Monday's planned launch because of a rocket leak. A new launch date was not set; the next opportunity would be Friday. Officials said a helium leak in the first-stage of the unmanned Falcon rocket forced the postponement. The launch already had been delayed a full month for various reasons.
NASA is pressing ahead with Monday's planned launch of a supply ship despite a critical computer outage at the International Space Station, promising the situation is safe. Mission managers decided Sunday to proceed with the countdown for the SpaceX capsule, Dragon, already a month late in delivering more than 2 tons of cargo.
On the less glamorous side of space exploration, there’s the more practical problem of waste: in particular, what to do with astronaut pee. But rather than ejecting it into space, scientists are developing a new technique that can turn this waste burden into a boon by converting it into fuel and much-needed drinking water.
Navy researchers have recently demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled P-51 fighter replica fueled by a new gas-to-liquid process that uses seawater as carbon feedstock. The fuel is made using an innovative and proprietary electrolytic cation exchange module that separates gases from water at 92% efficiency. Catalysis converts the gases to liquid hydrocarbons.
Underwater sounds detected by a ship searching the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet are consistent with the pings from aircraft black boxes, an Australian official says Monday, dubbing it "a most promising lead" in the month-long hunt for the vanished plane.
The European Space Agency is launching the first of six satellites for a new system designed to better monitor climate change, environmental disasters and catastrophes like floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Military brass shopping at Asia's biggest defense expo this week have drones high on their to-buy list. But for U.S. manufacturers including General Atomics, which makes the Predator hunter-killer, there's one problem: they can only sell to a few countries because of tight export restrictions.
Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, offers a compelling alternative to more traditional manufacturing approaches at NASA, where the need for highly customized spacecraft and instrument components is quite high. The agency has recently launched a number of formal programs to prototype new 3-D printed components, including rocket engine injectors, and 3-D printers for use in space.
The concept of a hypersonic aircraft that takes off from the runway and doesn’t need a rest, inspection or repair is still a unbuilt dream, but Univ. of Cincinnati researchers are developing the validation metrics that could help predict the success or failure of such a model before it is even built, as test data becomes available from component, to sub-system, to the completely assembled air vehicle.
Since the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster, business professor Peter Madsen at Brigham Young Univ. has examined how NASA recognizes “near-misses”, where narrowly averted failures result in successful outcomes. A new study of NASA’s safety climate finds that recognition of those near-misses goes up when the significance of a project is emphasized, and when organizational leaders emphasize safety relative to other goals, such as efficiency.
An unmanned rocket blasted into a chilly, clear sky Thursday night carrying the latest, third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The TDRS system, used on several satellites to support the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope, is so vital it's considered a national asset. Together they supply real-time global coverage at all times.
A decade after landing on Mars, the rover Opportunity is still chugging along. Sure, it has some wear and tear. One of its six wheels and two instruments stopped working long ago. It has an arthritic joint. Its flash memory occasionally suffers a senior moment. But these problems are considered minor for a journey that was supposed to be just a three-month adventure.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, Sierra Nevada Corp. will publicly discuss expansion plans for its Dream Chaser Space System Program. The press conference, to be held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will detail the company’s efforts to build a winged, lifting-body spacecraft that provides a flexible, credible, affordable solution for ISS crew transportation.
Aircraft maker Boeing Co., Etihad Airways, the oil company Total and others say they will work together on a program to develop an aviation biofuel industry in the United Arab Emirates. Etihad ran a 45-minute demonstration flight Saturday in a Boeing 777 partially powered by aviation biofuel produced in the UAE.
According to Anupam Agrawal, a professor of business administration at the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, firms can manage their sourcing better by developing relationships not only with their suppliers but also with their suppliers’ suppliers. The lack of communication or collaboration between the big players at either end of the supply chain spectrum can prevent gains in efficiencies.
The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission has helped confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.
Astronomers are still largely working with a “flat” map of the galaxy, and the European Space Agency hopes to change that with Gaia, its star-surveying satellite which launched into space Thursday. The spacecraft will produce the most accurate 3-D map of the Milky Way yet. Gaia is now heading for a stable orbit on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, and will always keep its back to the sun.
NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station, a massive repair job that could stretch to Christmas Day. Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. The task will require two and possibly three spacewalks on Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday.