Loren Grush, writing about National Reconnaissance Office’s mission patches for various rocket launches to put … secret things … into orbit:
Well it turns out that releasing creepy AF mission patches is a long-standing tradition for the NRO. It’s a far cry from the cheery NASA mission patches we’re used to. Instead, many of the NRO patches follow a specific formula: large scary animal grasps Earth.
Seriously, go look at these things. Yikes.
BEAM — the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module — is an expandable module that’s in testing at the International Space Station. As opposed to being built out of rigid material like other components on the Station, BEAM is designed to “inflate” once installed.
The upsides of this tech are huge. Currently, the size of any one structure in space is limited to what can be carried to orbit on the top of a rocket. In flight, BEAM was much smaller than it’s size will be once it’s fully expanded in space.
That was supposed to happen this morning, but the experimental mission was halted:
The operation took longer than expected as slightly higher pressure than expected was seen. Ground teams had to assess the situation and let the pressure settle before continuing expansion. Afterword, ground teams gave [NASA Flight Engineer Jeff Williams] the go ahead to add more air via the MPEV in “generous” one second bursts.
However, the module continued to remain unchanged with the initial bulge. Then just after 8:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 GMT), called off the rest of the expansion to assess the data. Expansion could resume as early as tomorrow morning.
Hopefully, this can move forward soon. Expandable modules offer lots of interesting opportunities for NASA and private companies, but sometimes early days of new tech include failures.
Today, the inner-most planet of our Solar System is making a transit across the sun.http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/satellites-to-see-mercury-enter-spotlight-on-may-9 The small planet cross the front of the sun (from our viewpoint) a dozen or some times a century, and it really is a thing of beauty.
The seven and a half hour event is being covered extensively on NASA’s website, and can be watched on YouTube.
This new 4K view of the Aurora Borealis is courtesy of the International Space Station. We live on an amazing planet.
Justin Ray, writing for Spaceflight Now:
America’s first space shuttle launched on this day 35 years ago as the reusable flying machine, Columbia, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center with John Young and Bob Crippen aboard.
That first mission was a wild one. It marked the first time a new US spacecraft carried a crew on its maiden voyage. Young and Crippen are real heroes.
After several failed attempts over the last year or so, SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an at-sea drone ship.
While this isn’t the first time the company has landed a spent rocket stage, doing it at sea (as opposed to at Cape Canaveral in Florida) should work in SpaceX’s favor in their quest to lessen the cost of future flights by reusing these vehicles. Landing at sea also means the company should be able to recover rockets from a wider range of mission types and launch locations.
SpaceX isn’t the only company racing to build a reusable rocket. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin just flew the same rocket for the third time. That is an impressive feat, but it’s important to remember that Blue Origin’s flights are suborbital And squarely within the confines of R&D. SpaceX’s primary objective today was to fly supplies to the International Space Station; the test landing was secondary to the paying work of taking equipment and food to low-Earth orbit.
Differences aside, both companies are well on their way to reusable rockets, which will allow for cheaper and safer travel to space. The future is here, and it’s on the back of rockets that can be used, refurbished and launched again.
On this week’s episode of the best space podcast on Relay FM:
This fortnight, Jason and Stephen travel the length of the Solar System to catch up on the news.
Get it while the MP3 is still hot.
Right, American astronaut Scott Kelly is on his way back to Earth after 340 days on the International Space Station. NASA’s put together a list of 10 things you should know about the mission. It’s one hell of an achievement.