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Vega to fly ESA experimental reentry vehicle

Copyright ESA

The launch of ESA’s IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle on Europe’s new Vega rocket is now in detailed planning, a major step towards the craft’s flight in 2014.

Launched into a suborbital trajectory from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, to test and qualify new critical technologies for future reentry vehicles. It will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing it to reach a velocity of 7.5 km/s on entering the atmosphere. It will collect a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while it is being controlled by thrusters and aerodynamic flaps.

IXV will then descend by parachute and land in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and analysis.

Mr Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace and Mr Fabrizi, ESA Director of Launchers ESA and the Arianespace launch provider signed a contract on 14 December to study the launch on Vega, as part of the VERTA – Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment – programme.

The rocket’s qualification flight planned for liftoff at the end of January will pave the way for the next five VERTA missions that will demonstrate the system’s flexibility.

At [...]

SpaceX Launches Success with Falcon 9/Dragon Flight

Copyright NASA

SpaceX Corp. tested its Falcon 9 and a fully functioning Dragon capsule combination during a brief mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 8, 2010. The uncrewed capsule parachuted back to Earth about three hours after liftoff following maneuvers in orbit, a first for the privately owned company.

Flames erupted from the base of the Falcon 9 at 10:43 a.m. as it sat at Launch Complex-40. A few seconds later, the rocket and its Dragon capsule pushed above the surrounding lightning towers and headed into orbit.

The first stage separated on time and the second stage took over as planned. A camera on board the rocket showed the Dragon capsule separate from the second stage and trunk to orbit on its own.

After working through its maneuvers, the Dragon fired its braking rockets to begin re-entry. Like the Apollo spacecraft of the 1960s and 70s, the Dragon pierced Earth’s atmosphere protected by an ablative heat shield. Parachutes deployed and the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

“This has really been better than I expected,” said Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX. “It’s actually almost too good.”


Demo Flight a First Step to Commercial Jaunts to ISS

Copyright NASA

Future payloads and cargo to the International Space Station will one day be carried by commercially developed vehicles for NASA. The maiden demonstration flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is one step closer after a successful 3.5-second first-stage hot fire test on March 13, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex-40.

SpaceX Director of Mission Assurance and Integration Scott Henderson said the launch pad is fully activated.

“We’ve been through a successful booster tanking test,” Henderson said. “And the static fire of the first stage demonstrated the full countdown sequence through engine ignition.”

The two-stage fully integrated launch vehicle on the pad consists of a first stage powered by nine SpaceX-developed Merlin 1C engines, a second stage, an interstage, an unpressurized trunk and the Dragon spacecraft qualification unit.

SpaceX was awarded procurement for three demonstration flights under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, program managed by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

A subsequent contract for Commercial Resupply Services, or CRS, was awarded in late 2008 to resupply the space station. The SpaceX CRS contract provides for 12 missions to resupply the station from 2011 through 2015.


The longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight to date

The SJX61-2 engine that powered the X-51A test vehicle successfully completed ground tests simulating Mach 5 flight conditions at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., in 2008. Credit: NASA “This is great news for the hypersonics community,” said Jim Pittman, principal investigator for the Hypersonics Project of NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program. “It’s also good for NASA’s research into flight at Mach 5 or faster. We will receive the X-51 flight data for analysis and comparison to the data we obtained during ground tests at NASA Langley’s 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel and to predictions from our propulsion codes.”

Air Force officials called the test — the first of four planned — an unqualified success. The flight is considered the first use of a practical hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet in flight.

“We are ecstatic to have accomplished most of our test points on the X-51A’s very first hypersonic mission,” said program manager Charlie Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines.”

The X-51A launched from Edwards Air Force Base in California, carried aloft under the left [...]

High ride with Maxus-8

Copyright ESA ESA’s Maxus-8 sounding rocket was launched today from Kiruna in northern Sweden carrying four microgravity research modules on a hectic 12-minute space voyage. The ultimate results may include improved turbine blades for aircraft engines.

At 14:43 CET, Maxus-8 took off from the launch pad at the Esrange Space Centre watched by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight, Olle Norberg, Director General of the Swedish National Space Board, and Lars Persson, Director of the Swedish Space Corporation. Witnessing the launch, they paid tribute to the importance of microgravity research in Europe and to the international European cooperation that makes this research possible.

“I am very happy to be back at Esrange to take part of a sounding rocket campaign again,” said Mr Dordain. “The campaign team has done a tremendous job and the researchers are pleased with the results so far. I must say I’m impressed by this extraordinary launch site and proud of having such a facility in Europe. It is a unique complement to International Space Station utilisation for the scientific community”.

“With the Maxus-8 mission, ESA continues its leading role in maintaining autonomous European microgravity [...]

REXUS 7 and 8 student research rockets launched successfully

On Thursday, 4 March 2010 at 11:15 CET, the research rocket Rexus 8 (Rocket EXperiment for University Students), a joint project of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), launched from SSC’s Esrange Space Center near Kiruna, in Sweden. Students from the Technical Universities of Berlin (Technische Universität Berlin; TUB) and Munich (Technische Universität München; TUM) and from the Royal Institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan; KTH) in Stockholm used the flight to conduct satellite communication experiments and also tested a newly-developed descent probe. The rocket reached an altitude of 88 kilometres during its flight. Rexus 7 was launched just two days earlier, on 2 March.

The flights lasted about five minutes each. They followed a year of intensive preparation, during which students from Germany, Sweden and Italy developed and built the experiments. While still in flight, most of the data were transmitted to the ground station at Esrange. They will be evaluated over the next few weeks. The scientific payloads landed by parachute, were retrieved by helicopter and the experiments were handed back to the students.

TUPEX-3, VECTOR and LAPLander test satellite communication and descent probe

During [...]

Falcon 1 Successfully Delivers RazakSAT Satellite to Orbit

Falcon 1 Successfully Delivers RazakSAT Satellite to Orbit

Hawthorne, CA – July 15, 2009 – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces the successful launch of Falcon 1 Flight 5 launch vehicle and the precision placement of Malaysia’s RazakSAT into Earth orbit. “This marks another successful launch by the SpaceX team,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “We are pleased to announce that Malaysia’s RazakSAT, aboard Falcon 1, has achieved the intended orbit.” Falcon 1, a two-stage, liquid oxygen/rocket-grade kerosene vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX, lifted off Monday, July 13, at 8:35 pm (PDT). Lift off occurred from the Reagan Test Site (RTS) on Omelek Island at the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. RazakSAT was designed and built by Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd (ATSB), a pioneer and leader in the design and manufacture of satellites in Malaysia. “Our ground systems were able to pick up communication from RazakSAT on its first pass,” said Norhizam Hamzah, Senior Vice President / Chief Technical Officer, Space Systems Division, ATSB. “The satellite is communicating as expected and our team will continue to monitor the data closely.” Preliminary data indicates that the RazakSAT, equipped with a high resolution Medium-Sized Aperture [...]

Herschel and Planck launch update


Copyright ESA

The verification of operations procedures for Herschel and Planck at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) has now positively concluded. However, during final checks on the spacecraft, concerns have arisen and a short delay is proposed in order to allow ESA and Arianespace to carry out a final and independent check of the safety margins. Therefore, the final decision on the date of the Herschel and Planck launch will be postponed by a few days.

The Herschel telescope mirror, the largest ever to be launched in space, is a novel and advanced concept using 12 silicon carbide petals brazed together into a single piece; it is one of the major technological highlights of the mission. The complexity of the structure and its uniqueness means great care must be taken to ensure that stresses exerted on it during launch are well understood.

Over the next few days, a panel of independent experts led by the ESA Inspector General and Arianespace will carry out a final cross-check of the documentation to demonstrate that the required safety margins for the telescope are met.

The new launch date will be defined shortly.

The Herschel and Planck satellites, currently at Europe’s Spaceport [...]

ESA and CNES sign contract on Guiana Space Centre (CSG)


Copyright ESA

On 25 March, ESA and CNES, the French space agency, signed a €435 million contract assuring the availability of the CSG launch range for ESA programmes and activities and for the exploitation of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz launchers during 2009 to 2013.

The ceremony took place at the Guiana Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais – CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Antonio Fabrizi, ESA Director of Launchers, and Joël Barre, Director of CNES/CSG, signed the contract in the presence of ESA Member States’ Delegations to the Launchers Programme Board.

From 2009, the Ariane, Vega and Soyuz family of launchers will be operated from CSG under a new legal framework, which includes in particular an agreement between ESA and the French Government on CSG and associated services. Under this agreement, the French Government guarantees to ESA the availability of CSG for ESA programmes and activities and for the exploitation of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz. The French Government has designated CNES as the authority responsible for the implementation of this guarantee on its behalf by means of the contract just concluded between ESA and CNES.

ESA has, since 1975, contributed through such contracts to the upkeep and operating [...]

Liftoff for latest REXUS flights


Three educational experiments sponsored by ESA’s Education Office blasted off to the edge of space on 12 and 13 March during the latest REXUS sounding rocket campaign from the Esrange Space Centre in Kiruna, Sweden.

First to fly was REXUS 6, which soared to an altitude of 88 km before returning its payload safely to the ground for subsequent recovery and analysis. On board was the ESA-sponsored Nordic Ionospheric Sounding Rocket Seeding Experiment (NISSE), which was developed by a student team from the University of Bergen, Norway, the University of Oulu, Finland, and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The experiment was designed to spray 11 kg of water into the ionosphere to study the formation of a cloud of ice crystals and water vapour with the EISCAT radar system. The three EISCAT radars, located in Kiruna (Sweden), Tromsø (Norway) and Sodankylä (Finland) are normally used to study auroras and the properties of the ionosphere. On this occasion, it was hoped that they would be able to detect the signal reflected by the cloud in order to study the ionisation of the water molecules.

Unfortunately, although the rocket was clearly detected by the EISCAT radars, a malfunction in the spraying system prevented [...]