New Russian-European Manned Space Vehicle Announced

Russian firm RKK Energia's new manned space vehicle (RKK Energia)
Russian firm RKK Energia's new manned space vehicle (RKK Energia)

NASA’s Constellation Program may be faltering, but the next Russia/ESA manned space vehicle set to replace the reliable Soyuz vehicle has been unveiled in the UK. It is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and it has a unique soft-landing thruster mechanism that will make re-entry a little less dramatic. The new design has been designed by Russian manufacturer RKK Energia and a first look at the 4-6 man capsule was showcased at the annual Farnborough Air Show in the UK last week. ESA has been discussing the collaboration with the Russian space agency Roscosmos on the Crew Space Transportation System (CSTS) since 2006 and now it seems that this vehicle may rival the Orion/Ares system being developed by NASA. What’s more, the CSTS is designed to transport a crew of four to the Moon…
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The International Space Station as the International Space Ship? Why Not?

Could the ISS be modified to travel to Mars? Credit: NASA/Ian O'Neill
Could the ISS be modified to travel to Mars? Credit: NASA/Ian O'Neill

Now this is a cool idea: Strap rockets and a steering system to the International Space Station and send it to the Moon. Is this an insane plan? Up till yesterday I would have said yes, in fact before yesterday I hadn’t thought of the idea. Then I read the Washington Post online and find a science writer has been giving this a lot of thought. What’s more it kinda makes sense! So why isn’t this an option in NASA’s mind? And what’s the point anyway?
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How Long Would it Take to Travel to Proxima Centauri?

Project Orion - Using nuclear explosions as pulsed propulsion (NASA)

This is one of those articles I’ve been meaning to write for a long time: How long would the interstellar transit be from Earth to the nearest star (and no, I don’t mean the Sun)? It turns out that there is no practical way, using today’s available technology that we can travel to Proxima Centauri (a red dwarf star, 4.33 light years from the Solar System). This is a shame as there are so many stars and so many exoplanets to explore, which space enthusiast wouldn’t want to envisage interstellar space travel? However, there may be help at hand, using modern technology and materials; we might be able to mount a manned expedition to Proxima lasting a little under a century…
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Daily Roundup: Astrium Spacecraft Mass Production, Saturn’s Rings and Quantum Communications

Astriums new concept for space tourism. Image credit: Astrium/Marc Newson. Source: BBC

It looks like things are really beginning to develop for the space tourism era. European rocket manufacturer Astrium has announced plans to develop the next generation of small space planes capable of sending 5 people into space. This design is different from the rest as it will take-off and land conventionally and will use jets for atmospheric flight but blast into space with a powerful oxygen-methane rocket. The promo video is also pretty exciting, documenting the two hour flight by means of a simulation…
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Daily Roundup: Universe Today Article

Just the one article this time for the Universe Today. Todays article covers a recent US satellite mission carrying out some cool experiments in space. This orbiting mini-lab is carrying out tests on a new nanotech sensor that is sensitive to poisons in air (useful for spaceships, protecting astronauts), and possibly even more interesting, experiments on a new electrochromic film that could be wrapped around spaceships to keep them warm or cool them down. The wonders never cease…

Snippet: Space Debris is Becoming a Serious Problem, but Google Earth is Watching

Space junk as plotted in the Google Earth software.

Every time a rocket launches, a spaceship orbits, an astronaut drops some trash or the US blows up a satellite, debris is created. Space debris (a.k.a. space junk) is a nasty side-effect of our push into space, but it isn’t a recent phenomenon. Even the early Gemini missions in the sixties did it, as does the ultra-efficient International Space Station – bits of spacesuits, cameras, nuts, bolts and tools are accidentally (and deliberately) dropped into the vacuum. But it’s only a bit of litter right? Wrong. That’s a hyper-velocity rifle shot, and it’s coming to a spaceship very soon, if we don’t take action now…
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A Possible Answer to Flyby Anomalies

The Galileo mission above Earth - subsequent flybys caused an unexpected boost in velocity. Image credit: NASA

Strange things are happening to our robotic space explorers. Also known as the “Pioneer effect” (the unexpected and sudden alterations to Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 trajectories measured as they continue their journey into the outer solar system), similar anomalies are being seen in flybys by modern space probes. Earth flybys by Galileo, Rosetta, NEAR and Cassini have all experienced a sudden boost in speed. After cancelling out all possible explanations, including leakage of fuel and velocity measurement error, a new study suggests the answer may lie in a bizarre characteristic of universal physics… [more]