Archive for the ‘Spacecraft’ Category

A Front-Row Seat at Saturn


(RawStory) – Dan Reisenfeld:

Cassini now begins one last campaign. Dubbed the Grand Finale, it will end on Sept. 15, 2017 with the probe plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. Although Saturn was visited by three spacecraft in the 1970s and 1980s, my fellow scientists and I couldn’t have imagined what the Cassini space probe would discover during its sojourn at the ringed planet when it launched 20 years ago. …

rawstory 2017/04 key-things

Does Earth Have a Trojan Horde?


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Are there asteroids sharing Earth’s orbit around the Sun?

Cutting to the chase: Yes, there is at least one. But how many are there? There might be a lot, but we don’t know. The cool news is, we may very well know more soon. …

blastr 2017-2-14 trojan-horde

OSIRIS-REx at Earth's L4

How the James Webb Space Telescope Was Made


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

An Ariane 5 rocket, launching at dawn, will carry James Webb in full sunlight to its destination: the L2 Lagrange point, beyond the shadow of both the Earth and the Moon. For only 32 minutes, James Webb will be under battery power; after that, the solar arrays deploy and it will forever be in direct sunlight. Its mission to reveal the Universe will have begun, and every scientist and engineer who helped design and build it will get their celebratory moment of a lifetime. …

starts-with-a-bang 43d9faf85218

James Webb Space Telescope

Robots Beyond Earth Orbit


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

What’s ahead for our intrepid space explorers in 2017? It is with great sadness that I write that this year will be the last for Cassini. But the Saturn orbiter will be sending back spectacular ring science between now and its September end. Also in September, OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth for a flyby, enjoying the opportunity to test out its science suite on our home planet and Moon while getting an assist on to asteroid Bennu. At the end of the year, Chang’e 5 is expected to launch to the Moon to perform a robotic sample return, and there might be a Google Lunar XPRIZE launch or a few. Meanwhile, a ton of other missions continue exploring the solar system from Venus to the Kuiper belt, returning routine science or cruising to new destinations. For a rundown of what’s happening closer to home, read Jason Davis’ post. …

emily-lakdawalla 2016/12301014

Solar System missions 2017-01

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

November will be a huge month for the Cassini Saturn orbiter: it’s rapidly circling Saturn in 8- or 9-day orbits, setting up for a November 29 encounter with Titan that will shoot it much closer to Saturn, into a new orbit that takes it just outside Saturn’s main ring system. It’s the beginning of the end for the mission, but also the beginning of awesome new science. November was also supposed to be the beginning of awesome new science for Juno, but they have had to delay the beginning of their science mission because of engine and computer problems. Meanwhile, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is going to acquire its first science data, just a taste for the science instruments before they begin their aerobraking phase. And here on Earth, two important weather spacecraft, Himawari-9 and GOES-R, should be getting off the ground, while China debuts its Long March 5 rocket. …

emily-lakdawalla 2016/11010918

Solar system missions 2016-11

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

Hopefully this month will see another ESA mission begin its science operations phase: ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrives on October 19, and it will deliver the Schiaparelli lander to its brief life on the Martian surface. Other milestones this month: Juno will shorten its long initial Jupiter orbit to its much shorter, two-week-long science orbit. Cassini will spiral through four, count them, four orbits of Saturn. ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission has issued its first science data release. And New Horizons is going to finish downlinking all its Pluto data. …

emily-lakdawalla 10041634

Solar system missions in Oct. 2016

SpaceX Plans to Colonize Mars


(Slate::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

Elon Musk finally revealed his vision for the future of SpaceX, and possibly humanity. It involves a big rocket, a big spaceship, a big fleet, and big money.

He calls it the Interplanetary Transport System, or ITS, and he’s not thinking small: He claims this plan can lead to a city on Mars of 1 million people or more, and it could be well on its way in less than a century. …

bad_astronomy 2016/09/29 colonize_mars

SpaceX ITS departure

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

Mid-month (on or after September 8), we’ll see OSIRIS-REx launch into a two-year cruise toward a rendezvous with asteroid Bennu. But you win some and you lose some: September will close, sadly, with the end of one of our great flagship planetary exploration missions. Rosetta will be brought down onto the surface of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, after which it will be unable to communicate with Earth, and the 12-year mission will be over. We’ll still have about 19 spacecraft performing routine science operations …

emily-lakdawalla 2016/0831 whats-up

Solar system missions in Sept. 2016

The Complicated Trajectory to Understand a Comet


(Slate::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

In the summer of 2014 the Rosetta spacecraft approached and entered orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. No mission had ever done that before; humans had sent missions flying past comets, and even one to smash into a comet, but no long-term stay had ever been attempted.

Comets have very little gravity, so the term “orbit” is a bit loose here. Rosetta shifted around the comet, constantly changing its trajectory to accomplish the science needed to better understand the bizarre little wordlet. The European Space Agency released a short video outlining the spacecraft’s path as it moved around, and it’s worth watching. …

bad_astronomy 2016/08/07 rosetta

Rosetta trajectory for 2015-12-28

What’s Up in Solar System Exploration


(Planetary Blogs) – Emily Lakdawalla:

We’ll finally see JunoCam‘s first high-resolution images of Jupiter. We’ll also see OSIRIS-REx making progress toward its September 8 launch. Both rovers are road-tripping at Mars, while ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has completed a major mid-course correction ahead of its October arrival. Rosetta is at the beginning of the end of its mission, saying farewell to Philae and shifting into lower orbits. New Horizons is getting very close to the end of transmitting all its Pluto data, plus a new pile of data on distant Kuiper belt objects.  …

emily-lakdawalla 2016/07291211

Solar system missions 2016-08