Space...can it get any cooler?

Cassini's Continued Mission from Boston.com's The Big Picture
"NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now a nearly a year into its extended mission, called Cassini Equinox (after its initial 4-year mission ended in June, 2008). The spacecraft continues to operate in good health, returning amazing images of Saturn, its ring system and moons, and providing new information and science on a regular basis. The mission's name, "Equinox" comes from the upcoming Saturnian equinox in August, 2009, when its equator (and rings) will point directly toward the Sun. The Equinox mission runs through September of 2010, with the possibility of further extensions beyond that. Collected here are 24 more intriguing images from our ringed neighbor."
Even more here and here

Space Tech of the Week: Orion

What is it?: A spacecraft design currently under development by NASA. Each Orion spacecraft will carry a crew of four (for ISS missions) to six astronauts (for Lunar missions), and will be launched by the Ares I (see previous Space Tech of the Week). Both Orion and Ares I are elements of NASA's Project Constellation, which plans to send human explorers back to the Moon by 2020, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the Solar System.

"Orion will launch from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, the same launch complex that currently launches the Space Shuttle." The first Orion flight to the ISS is currently scheduled for 2015, but delays are expected. If commercial orbital transportation services (by Space X with its Dragon capsule) are unavailable, Orion will handle logistic flights to the Station.

"The Orion Crew and Service Module (CSM) stack consists of two main parts: a conical Crew Module (CM), and a cylindrical Service Module (SM) holding the spacecraft's propulsion system and expendable supplies. Both are based substantially on the Apollo Command and Service Modules (Apollo CSM) flown between 1967 and 1975, but include advances derived from the Space Shuttle program."

During the early phases of its development Orion was going to have the capability land on land (like the Soyuz) as well as on water (like Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury). Since then, due to weight issues, water landings have become the only method of recovery for this spacecraft.

"Another feature will be the partial reusability of the Orion CM. NASA aims to reuse each craft for up to ten flights." "Both the CM and SM will be constructed of the aluminium lithium (Al/Li) alloy currently used on the Shuttle's External Tank, and the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. This alloy is as strong as the Shuttle Orbiter's aircraft aluminium skin, but will make the spacecraft lighter than both its Apollo and Shuttle predecessors."

"Like its Apollo predecessor, the Orion Service Module (SM) has a rough cylindrical shape, but unlike its Apollo predecessor, the new Orion SM will be larger in diameter, shorter, and lighter. It too will be constructed from the same Al-Li alloy as the Orion CM, and will feature a pair of deployable circular solar panels, similar in design to the solar panels on the Mars Phoenix lander, eliminating the need to carry fuel cells and the associated hardware—mainly tanks containing liquid hydrogen [LH2]—needed for their operation. The spacecraft's main propulsion system is an Aerojet AJ-10 rocket engine, derived from the second stage of the Delta II rocket, powered by hypergolic fuels, that are kept in helium pressured fuel cells. "

Official NASA site
Official Lockheed Martin site


We're soooo small

Go here to see this image full size!
Found on Reddit.com


Space Tech of the Week: New Shepard

What is it?: A reusable manned rocket which is being "designed to routinely fly multiple astronauts into suborbital space at competitive prices. In addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment." The rocket is being "developed by Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon.com founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos"

"The spacecraft is based on technology like that used for the McDonnell Douglas DC-X and derivative DC-XA. Bezos told Reuters in November 2004 that his company hopes to progress to orbital spaceflight. As of January 2005, the company's website announced that it hopes to establish an "enduring human presence in space", but the 2007 version talks instead of aiming to "patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system".

"The New Shepard craft is planned to be a vertical take-off/vertical landing (VTVL) system. The overall shape is circular in cross-section and ogive (bullet shaped) from nose to tail, the base being somewhat rounded. It is powered by a cluster of nine engines powered by High test peroxide (HTP) and RP-1 kerosene, arranged in a 3 by 3 grid on the bottom. Four landing legs containing shock absorbers also extend from the edges of the bottom. The existing demonstrator vehicle has a diameter of 7 metres and a height of 15 metres. The total mass of the propellant is 54 tons and the thrust is 1000 kN."

The vehicle "will consist of a pressurized Crew Capsule (CC) carrying experiments and astronauts atop a reliable Propulsion Module (PM). "

"The launch vehicle is assembled at the Blue Origin facility near Seattle, Washington. Blue Origin is starting the process to build an aerospace testing and operations center on a portion of the Corn Ranch, a 165,000-acre (668 km2) land parcel Bezos purchased 40 km north of Van Horn, Texas."

"New Shepard will take-off vertically and accelerate for approximately two and a half minutes before shutting off its rocket engines and coasting into space. The vehicle will carry rocket motors enabling the Crew Capsule to escape from the PM in the event of a serious anomaly during launch. In space, the Crew Capsule will separate from the PM and the two will reenter and land separately for re-use. The Crew Capsule will land softly under a parachute at the launch site. Astronauts and experiments will experience no more than 6 g acceleration into their seats and a 1.5 g lateral acceleration during a typical flight."

Blue Origin Website



Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his intelligent computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of Helium 3, a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.

MOON Website

June 12 in New York and Los Angeles...
Coming soon everywhere else


Track the ISS! (live)

Google SatTrack (satellite tracker using Google Maps)
You can also track the Hubble Space Telescope and that toolbag that the ISS astronauts lost awhile back.


NASA Images

NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, have made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video. Located at www.nasaimages.org, the Internet site combines 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource.

Is NASA a scam?

NASA delivers a little bit for a whole lot of money ?

"It is the same old scam NASA has been playing out for decades — the same one that gave us the shuttle and space station, two of the biggest boondoggles in recent American history.

NASA promises a whole lot for a little bit of money.

And it delivers a little bit for a whole lot of money."


Altair Timetable

From flightglobal.com:
NASA sets out Altair lunar lander timetable

"NASA has sketched out the development timetable for its return-to-the-Moon Constellation programme's Altair lunar lander, aiming towards a long-term target of an unmanned June 2018 in-orbit propulsion test in preparation for a manned Moon mission in 2020."

Space Tech of the Week: Ares I

What is it?: "Ares I is the crew launch vehicle being developed by NASA as a component of Project Constellation. NASA plans to use Ares I to launch Orion, the spacecraft being designed for NASA human spaceflight missions after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010."

The Constellation program, which Ares I is a part of, was begun as an answer to President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration which challenged the agency to return people to the Moon and on to Mars. The official goal of the program is "gaining significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment, developing technologies needed for opening the space frontier and conducting fundamental science."

During the Apollo program one launch vehicle (Saturn V) was used to send both the crew and cargo to the moon, instead the Constellation program will use two vehicles to accomplish the same task (Ares I and Ares V). Ares I will carry the crew in the Orion spacecraft which will later dock in space with the Altair lunar lander (launched onboard an Ares V rocket) and then proceed to the moon.

Ares I will also launch the Orion spacecraft in order to send astronauts to the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010.

Ares I was designed to use previously proven NASA technologies and so as a result it uses technology from both the Space Shuttle program and the Saturn rocket program.

The first stage of the vehicle is a solid fuel rocket that is derived from the current Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB). "Compared with the current SRB, which has four segments, the most notable difference is the addition of a fifth segment. This fifth segment will enable the Ares I to produce more thrust and burn longer." The first stage for Ares I will be reusable and after flight it will crash down into the Atlantic ocean (by parachute), be retrieved, briefly serviced at Kennedy Space Center,Fl, then sent to Utah for it to be fully refurbished, and then finally it will then be sent back to Kennedy Space Center for integration into a new Ares I.

The upper stage of the vehicle will be propelled by one J-2X liquid fueled rocket engine. This engine is derived from the J-2 engine used in the Saturn program in the 1960s and 70s. Unlike the first stage, the upper stage will not be reusable. New upper stages will need to be built for every mission. This manufacturing will be done at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana. It will then be transported on a barge across the Gulf of Mexico to be integrated with the rest of the vehicle at Kennedy Space Center.

"Multiple delays in the Ares I development schedule due to budgetary pressures and unforeseen engineering and technical difficulties continue to increase the gap between the end of the Space Shuttle program and the first operational flight of Ares I. As of late 2007, the first operational Ares I flight is scheduled for late 2015, a full five years after the last Shuttle flight"

A test flight vehicle (named Ares I-X) which will be similar in shape, weight, and size to Ares I will be launched from Kennedy Space Center in Summer 2009.

NASA Ares I Page
NASA Ares I-X Page
Tall George's Visual History of Project Constellation (GREAT!)