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Russia Gears Up for Angara 5 Test, Eyes Ending Use of Rockot

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Rockot launch vehicle

Rockot launch vehicle

Following a successful suborbital flight of the Angara 1 booster in July, Russian space officials are gearing up to test the larger Angara 5 launch vehicle by the end of the year.

The Khrunichev-built Angara is a modular family of rockets on which additional boosters are added to the first-stage core.  Angara 5 is designed to place 24.5 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit (LEO). The smaller Angara 1 can loft 3.8 metric tons to LEO.

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SpaceShipTwo Conducts Successful Glide Flight

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WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

It’s funny. You see the most interesting things driving into Mojave sometimes. Driving in on Highway 14 this morning, I saw that WhiteKnightTwo was down at the end of the runway, as I had expected. I new a flight was planned, so I got up early.

Then I noticed it seemed to be getting bigger and a whole bunch of dust getting kicked up. Hey! That thing’s taking off. So, I pulled over to the side of the road and snapped a few photos as it flew overhead.

Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Takeoff! (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo are pretty amazing vehicles to look at. You don’t get tired of watching them take off.

For this flight, I decided to drive up to Koehn Lake, which is a dry lake bed that’s probably 20 miles or so north of Mojave. I figured it would be a good spot to try to get some photos of the drop.

It would have been, had my camera been cooperation. But, it picked a fine time to go not cooperate with me. I did get a few shots of the release with my cell phone.

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo was venting something, but I saw no flames nor did I hear the rumbling across the desert that accompanies a powered flight. It was fairly silent out there, except for the distant drone of WhiteKnightTwo’s engine. [UPDATE: Virgin Galactic confirms that the test was a cold flow of gasses used in  powered flight.]

Virgin Galactic Tweeted that it was “an in-flight test of #SpaceShipTwo’s ‘plumbing’ – the pressurization system for the rocket motor.” It’s also a dress rehearsal for the next powered flight, which the company promises is “coming soon.”

That flight will likely come in September. I’m looking forward to it.

First SLS Flight Slips to Late 2018

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Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

UPDATE: NASA officials just completed a teleconference in which they said November 2018 is a No Later Than date. They are hoping to do much better; there’s still a chance of launching in December 2017 or sometime soon afterward.

NASA just announced an 11-month delay in the first Space Launch System flight from December 2017 to November 2018 in the fourth paragraph of a press release.

This decision comes after a thorough review known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), which provides a development cost baseline for the 70-metric ton version of the SLS of $7.021 billion from February 2014 through the first launch and a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018.

The full press release is below.

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Steve Jurvetson Talks Investments in SpaceX, Tesla

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CNBC’s Josh Lipton speaks to Steve Jurvetson, Draper Fisher Jurvetson managing director, about his investment in all things Elon Musk and the future of Tesla.

Boeing Docking System Passes Critical Design Review

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Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

Boeing CST-100 docking at ISS. (Credit: Boeing)

HOUSTON, Aug. 26, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] will begin manufacturing a new docking system for the International Space Station (ISS), having recently completed the critical design review for the NASA Docking System Block-1 (NDSB-1). In compliance with the International Docking System standard, NDSB-1 will be compatible with any space craft.

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Elon Musk Updates Status of Satellite Launch, Falcon 9R Destruction

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Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

A message from SpaceX:

SpaceX has decided to postpone tomorrow’s flight of AsiaSat 6. We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9, nor the interfaces with the Spacecraft, but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again. We expect to complete this process in one to two weeks.

The natural question is whether this is related to the test vehicle malfunction at our development facility in Texas last week. After a thorough review, we are confident that there is no direct link. Had the same blocked sensor port problem occurred with an operational Falcon 9, it would have been outvoted by several other sensors. That voting system was not present on the test vehicle.

What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under US law.

– Elon Musk

NASA Completes Successful Battery of Tests on Composite Cryotank

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One of the largest composite cryotanks ever built recently completed a battery of tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The tank was lowered into a structural test stand where it was tested with cryogenic hydrogen and structural loads were applied to simulate stresses the tank would experience during launch. (Credit: NASA/David Olive)

One of the largest composite cryotanks ever built recently completed a battery of tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The tank was lowered into a structural test stand where it was tested with cryogenic hydrogen and structural loads were applied to simulate stresses the tank would experience during launch. (Credit: NASA/David Olive)

HUNSTVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA has completed a complex series of tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace industry much closer to designing, building, and flying lightweight, composite tanks on rockets.

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SpaceX Postpones AsiaSat6 Launch

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Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launches AsiaSat8 into orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has postponed a Falcon 9 launch planned for this evening. The rocket was to have launched the AsiaSat6 satellite.

Early reports are that engineers need more time to review data from a failed test flight last week of its Falcon 9R reusable test vehicle in McGregor, Texas. The vehicle was blown up in flight after it suffered an anomaly. The Falcon 9 launch could be rescheduled for sometime next week.

Update: NASASpaceflight.com reports that SpaceX has provided no official reason for the delay. However, it reports that “engineers had been working on a helium leak throughout the past 24 hours or so.” That problem had been resolved with the replacement of two valves, but Elon Musk apparently then called a scrub to allow engineers to check the health of the vehicle. It’s not clear why.

Falcon 9 launches have been dogged by helium leaks this year. Reliable reports say the company brought helium tank production in house earlier this year.

 

Shuttle Carrier 747 to be Displayed in Palmdale

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Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)

Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)

One of the modified 747 aircraft used to transport space shuttles will be going on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, Calif., in about a month.

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Director David McBride revealed the plan during a press event on Tuesday to mark the dismantling of the space shuttle mate-demate device, which was used to mount the orbiters on their carrier aircraft after they landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

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NASA to Test Green Thruster Propellant in Space

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Artist rendition of NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) that will demonstrate and test the capabilities of a high-performance, non-toxic, “green” fuel on orbit. (Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.)

Artist rendition of NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) that will demonstrate and test the capabilities of a high-performance, non-toxic, “green” fuel on orbit. (Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Milestone progress is being made in readying NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM) for launch in 2016, a smallsat designed to test the unique attributes of a high-performance, non-toxic, “green” fuel on orbit.

The GPIM marks the first time the United States will use a spacecraft to test green propellant technology, thereby showcasing the innovation needed to develop a fully domestic, green propellant solution for the next generation of space flight.

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