Carnival of Space 325

1. Universe Today – The privately developed Cygnus cargo vehicle undocked from the International Space Station on its historic maiden flight and successfully completed a highly productive month long stay during its demonstration mission.

On the morning of Oct 22. the privately developed Cygnus cargo vehicle undocked from the International Space Station on its historic maiden flight and successfully completed a highly productive month long stay during its demonstration mission – mostly amidst the US government shutdown.

The Cygnus commercial resupply craft built by Orbital Sciences Corp. departed the ISS to complete its maiden voyage after being released from Canadarm2 by station astronauts. Credit: NASA TV

2. Researchers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence that the normally dim region very close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy flared up with at least two luminous outbursts in the past few hundred years.

3. Everyday Spacer Pam Hoffman – With the Cold War long over, will nationalism still help or hinder us get back into space?

4. Universe Today features Space Trucks! A Pictorial History Of These Mighty Machines- NASA just published a brief timeline of (real-life) cargo spacecraft, so we thought we’d adapt that information in pictorial form.

A view of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft while it was being released from the International Space Station on Oct. 22. Credit: NASA/Karen Nyberg

5. What really happens in a galaxy far far away? We may never know that answer but scientists have found a galaxy a very long way from here. Here’s a quick look at the latest and most distant astronomy discovery.

6. Nextbigfuture – In 2018, the planets will align, offering a unique orbit opportunity to travel to Mars and back to Earth in only 501 days. Inspiration Mars needs to launch date on 5 January 2018. This quick, free-return orbit opportunity occurs twice every 15 years. After 2018, the next opportunity will not occur again until 2031.

An Improved Heat Shield is a big technical problem

One of them is getting the crew safely home through Earth’s atmosphere. Apollo astronauts flying back from the moon hit speeds of 25,000 mph in Earth’s atmosphere, which required extensive shielding. With the Mars flight, speeds will near 32,000 mph, and the difference is not linear, MacCallum said. Which means shielding is going to be an especially difficult problem.

NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Magnetoshell could slow the Mars free return mission

It would make the mission lower cost and allow the returning capsule to be slowed without straining any heat shield past previously proven limits. An orbital demo of a magnetoshell is planned for 2017. Slightly increased funding to bring Magnetoshell testing into 2015-2016 and in time for the 2018 Mars mission

7. Nextbigfuture – Laser communication demonstrated to space based systems will enable broadband communication to facilities on the moon and in high orbit around the Earth. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will demonstrate optical communications relay services between GEO and Earth over an extended period, and thereby gain the knowledge and experience base that will enable NASA to design, procure, and operate cost-effective future optical communications systems and relay networks.

NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) set record using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data between moon and Earth over a distance of 239,000 miles at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

8. Nextbigfuture – DARPA has a project to reuse satellite antennas, apertures, and other components from decommissioned satellites. They seek to use still-good components from dead satellites parked in high-Earth orbit for building new satellites robotically while in orbit to reduce the costs of replacing failed satellites.

Phoenix seeks to demonstrate around-the-clock, globally persistent communication capability for warfighters more economically by robotically removing and re-using GEO-based space apertures and antennas from de-commissioned satellites in the graveyard or disposal orbit.

9. Nextbigfuture – As the private spaceflight firm SpaceX works to bring more commercial rocket launches back to the United States, it anticipates some stiff competition from the burgeoning Chinese space program.

“We really feel at SpaceX that the competition is going to be the Chinese space program,” Adam Harris (Spacex VP government affairs) said last month during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2013 conference in San Diego.

The biggest threat to SpaceX’s continued success in signing up customers over the long haul is likely not the Ariane 5 or the Proton, Harris said, but Chinese vehicles such as the Long March rocket family.

10. Nextbigfuture – Blue Origin is very close to making sub-orbital flights. Blue Origin will let researchers and other companies take a payload up into space—topping out at 100 kilometers—for about three to four minutes. The hope is that Blue Origin will be able to do this at a moment’s notice and do it often. Blue Origin is funded by multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin, LLC is developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. This is a long-term effort, which we’re pursuing incrementally, step by step. We’re currently focused on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing rocket-powered Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology.

A picture from a launch made in 2012

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