NASA to Launch Parachute Test off Virginia Coast March 27

The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) 2 payload undergoes testing in the sounding rocket payload facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, prior to transport to the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Berit Bland)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA will test a parachute for possible future missions to Mars from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, March 27. Live coverage of the test is scheduled to begin at 6:15 a.m. EDT on the Wallops Ustream site.

The launch window for the 58-foot-tall Terrier-Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket is from 6:45 to 10:15 a.m. Backup launch days are March 28 to April 10.


It Ain’t Transparent Aluminum, But ESA’s Working on See Through Metals

Credit: Paramount Pictures

PARIS (ESA PR) — Astronauts on the International Space Station have begun running an experiment that could shine new light on how metal alloys are formed.

How humanity has mastered metallurgy is synonymous with progress, with historians labelling periods such as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Most metals used today are mixtures – alloys – of different metals, combining properties to make lighter and stronger materials.


Updates From Blue Origin, Space Angels, Exos Aerospace & More

New Shepard booster fires its engine just over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference was held in Colorado earlier this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks tweeted the sessions:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are summaries of a number of talks based on their tweets.  The talks included Erika Wagner of Blue Origin, Dylan Taylor of Space Angels, John Quinn of Exos Aerospace, Tim Lachenmeier of Near Space Corporation, Lewis Groswald of the University of Colorado Boulder, and Alain Berinstain of Moon Express.


Canon, JAXA Team for Microsat Launcher

JAXA SS520 sounding rocket. (Credit: JAXA)
JAXA SS520 sounding rocket. (Credit: JAXA)

Canon, best known for its high-quality cameras, is getting into the space business. It is working with the Japanese space agency JAXA to upgrade a sounding rocket to launch microsats into orbit.

The company’s experience designing and manufacturing devices such as digital cameras will help the team choose the best rocket parts as well as make key control instruments smaller and lighter.

Systems for changing the rocket’s orientation or separating stages once in space have already been developed. IHI unit IHI Aerospace is handling development of key engine parts such as fuel injectors.

The three-stage rocket is an upgrade to JAXA’s two-stage SS-520, which carries instruments for research observations. Measuring 52cm in diameter and less than 10 meters in length, the new version will cost less than one-tenth as much to launch as leading rockets and is expected to be used to lift microsatellites in orbit.

An initial launch is slated for early next year from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Read the full story.


Orbital Sciences’ Sounding Rocket Program Going Strong

Sounding rocket launch. (Credit: NASA)
Sounding rocket launch. (Credit: NASA)

DULLES, VA, 19 December 2013 (ORB PR) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, announced today that Orbital’s NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract II (NSROC II) team at Wallops Island, Virginia recently completed its 40th consecutive successful mission over the last 24 months for NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program (NSRP).


Norway’s Andøya Rocket Range Looks for Renaissance

Andøya Rocket Range PR — In its 50th year, Andøya Rocket Range and the Norwegian sounding rocket community is once again a rising star. After years of recess and declining funding for sounding rocket missions, two new projects were given “good to go” in December 2011 by the Norwegian Space Centre and the Norwegian Research Council.

ICI-4 will be the fourth sounding rocket project led by Professor Jøran Moen from the University of Oslo. The two-stage rocket will be launched from Ny-Ålesund at Svalbard, late 2013. The single-stage MAXIDUSTY I will mark the re-entry of Tromsø University into the sounding rocket community. Launch will take place from Andøya during the summer of 2013. Both will be based on the Hotel Payload concept from Andøya Rocket Range, and they will be built, integrated and tested on-site at ARR.


Group Sounds Alarm as Sounding Rocket Engineers Set to Lose Jobs

Engineers lose jobs at Wallops flight facility

Scientists who use the Wallops Flight Facility to get data from spaceflights were alarmed to learn that up to 30 engineers designing rockets got pink slips this week, according to their report.

The defense contractor, Northrop Grumman, terminated its relationship with subcontractor Orbital Sciences Corp. on July 1. The two had shared a 10-year contract with NASA to launch sounding rockets at Wallops. The vessels record scientific measurements during a suborbital flight.