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Space Technology

  • Virgin Galactic VSS Unity aces first glide flight

    Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceplane has this week completed its first successful glide flight test. The flight was successfully completed at the hands of pilots Mark Stucky and Todd Ericsson alongside flight-test engineer Dustin Mosher. During the 80-minute flight, the ground crew, mission control and the two pilots collected valuable data, including a ten minute long glide, that will aid the company in future flights.e The company has stated in a press release that they haven't yet reached the rocket-powered phase of the programme and would first need to correlate and analyse the data they've collected. Virgin Galactic's latest VSS Unity flight is...

  • This Cape Town startup wants to help send your laugh to space

    A new iOS app, called Laugh, could send your chuckle into space. The app was designed in conjunction with NASA's Made in Space division, developer Platoon, 3D artist Eyal Gever, Knut Studios and Cape Town startup Gravity Ideas . "NASA recently (space)shipped the first zero-gravity 3D printer to the International Space Station. Although its main function is to help astronauts build tools and spare parts in case of emergencies, NASA's Made in Space team seized the opportunity to do something pretty special," said David Perrott, Gravity's co-founder. Working with Eyal Gever, the company helped to create an easy-to-use app which allows people from...

  • Mars: European orbiter takes its first close-up snaps

    Europe and Russia's ExoMars mission hasn't had a trouble-free journey to the Red Planet, after the Schiaparelli lander smashed into the planet. Still, the Trace Gas Orbiter, forming part of the mission, has been working just fine, orbiting Mars and gathering loads of information. Now, the European Space Agency has released an image of Mars taken by the orbiter (featured image), giving us a detailed look at the planet's surface. The ESA noted that the picture was taken near the Mars equator, showing a large unnamed crater north of a crater called Da Vinci. "A smaller, 1.4 km-diameter crater is seen in the rim...

  • NASA Cassini probe to ‘graze’ Saturn’s rings

    NASA's long-running Cassini space probe is set for a major manoeuvre on Wednesday when it comes within spitting distance of Saturn's rings. The probe will receive gravitational assistance from one of Saturn's moons, Titan, thereafter making multiple close orbits of the planet. "Between 30 November and 22 April, Cassini will circle high over and under the poles of Saturn, diving every seven days -- a total of 20 times -- through the unexplored region at the outer edge of the main rings," NASA wrote in a blog post. Cassini will use instruments to sample gases and particles emanating from the rings. "On many of...

  • What will Orion astronauts eat for breakfast?

    Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have over 200 food items choose from, thanks to constant resupply missions and ample storage. Those travelling on future Orion missions will have limited space though, resulting in different food requirements. To that end, NASA has been working on the most important meal of the day, in the form of breakfast bars for future crews. "Because flights to deep space will not rely on resupply spacecraft to deliver what astronauts need and dispose of trash, the Orion crew will have to take everything they need with them and bring it all back home," the space agency explained. "Given...

  • EMDrive: NASA paper says ‘impossible drive’ seems to work

    Several years ago, a controversial propulsion method was devised by Roger Shawyer, dubbed EMDrive. This "impossible" form of propulsion claimed to bounce microwaves to generate a small amount of thrust. Now, NASA's paper on the matter has been peer-reviewed and published - so what did the space agency make of the technology? Well, it seems like the EMDrive is the real deal to them. "Thrust data from forward, reverse, and null suggested that the system was consistently performing at 1.2±0.1  mN/kW1.2±0.1  mN/kW, which was very close to the average impulsive performance measured in air," the paper noted. The EMDrive has been the subject of...

  • 12+ Instagram snaps of last night’s supermoon from around the world

    In case you missed it, last night's supermoon was a pretty big deal. Although the phenomenon is fairly common, this particular example was a tad more special than most. It appeared around 14% larger and 30% brighter than this year's smallest full moon back in April. That's largely because the moon last night was much, much closer to earth. In fact, NASA suggests that it's the closest full moon to Earth so far this century. According to NASA, the term "supermoon" is a bit more scientific than the common it's just a larger full moon notion suggests. Supermoon is actually "a term...

  • Closest supermoon set for today – watch for spring tide

    The closest supermoon in almost 70 years is set to occur today (Monday), being the second of three supermoons in a row. A supermoon this close to Earth won't occur again until 2034, NASA said. However, if you do miss this one, the next supermoon takes place on 14 December. In a news alert on Thursday, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) warned of a spring tide as a result, urging "extreme caution" in the process. The NSRI has warned of rip currents and a stronger than normal spring tide as a result of the supermoon "The monthly Full Moon Spring Tide peaks on the Full Moon on...

  • Supermoon: NASA photographer gives shooting tips

    One of the biggest supermoons ever is set to take place on Monday 14 November. In fact, NASA says it'll be the closest supermoon to Earth in almost 70 years. Now, NASA photographer Bill Ingalls has revealed several tips to shoot the supermoon, starting with references. "Don't make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything," NASA quoted him as saying. "I've certainly done it myself, but everyone will get that shot. Instead, think of how to make the image creative -- that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or...

  • Astronauts have voted in the 2016 US elections

    Even if you're outside the USA, citizens can still vote in elections. But what if you're not even on the planet? Well, you get voting rights too. Astronauts have been able to cast their votes from space since a law was brought into place in 1997, NASA explained in a post. "For astronauts, the voting process starts a year before launch, when astronauts are able to select which elections (local/state/federal) that they want to participate in while in space. Then, six months before the election, astronauts are provided with a standard form: the “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request – Federal...

  • SpaceX set for December return to launchpad?

    SpaceX has made a lot of progress in identifying the cause behind a Falcon 9 launchpad explosion earlier this year. Now,  the company thinks they've solved the issue and could be ready to launch next month, founder Elon Musk told CNBC. "I think we've gotten to the bottom of the problem. It's a really surprising problem that's never been encountered before in the history of rocketry," he explained, saying it involved liquid helium, solid oxygen and "advanced carbon fibre" materials. "It looks like we're going to be back to launching around mid-December," the SpaceX co-founder continued. Late last month, the private space firm announced that...

  • ‘Planet Nine’ could be tilting our solar system

    Researchers from Caltech have found evidence that suggests the existence of an unknown planet in our solar system, making our neighbourhood potentially more exciting. According to researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, Planet Nine, as they've named it, is approximately 10 times bigger than Earth and orbits about 20 times further from the Sun. It has to be noted that the researchers discovered the planet's "existence" using mathematical modelling and computer simulations and have not observed the object directly. The so-called Planet Nine seems to have an elongated orbit in the outer solar system "There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times,...

  • Falcon 9 explosion: has SpaceX found cause?

    The explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on a launchpad earlier this year has resulted in SpaceX coming under increased scrutiny. However, the company has been hard at work investigating the cause of the accident, having announced a major update late last week. "Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank," SpaceX wrote on its website. It appears...

  • Citizen scientists discover intriguing circumstellar disc

    Citizen scientists and professional astronomers have found what could possibly be the oldest known circumstellar disk -- a group of dust and debris that often birth planets and stars. While most planetary discs seem to fade within 30-million years, this particular disc is still going strong. "This particular red dwarf is a candidate member of the Carina stellar association, which would make it around 45 million years old," said team leader Steven Silverberg in a blog post. "It's the oldest red dwarf system with a disk we've seen in one of these associations." This circumstellar disc could be as old as 45-million years The...

  • ExoMars: has NASA found ESA’s lost Mars lander?

    The ExoMars mission was in the spotlight last week after the orbiter and lander combination reached Mars. Although the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was successfully captured in orbit around the planet, nothing was heard from the Schiaparelli lander, which separated from the TGO to actually touch down on the Red Planet. Now, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found new markings on Mars which may be the landing site and parachutes of the lander. "The new image shows a bright spot that may be Schiaparelli's parachute, and a larger dark spot interpreted as resulting from the impact of the lander itself following a much longer...