And I’m not just talking about the formal bid protest that they’ve filed with the Government Accounting Office, fighting NASA’s award of the CCtCap contract to Boeing and SpaceX. No, I’m talking about something new.
Sierra Nevada has found a new partner in Stratolaunch, which from the beginning had wanted to launch humans via a large rocket slung under their monstrous twin-boom carrier aircraft. To that end, they initially had partnered with SpaceX, to fly a Falcon 9 rocket with perhaps a Dragon capsule on the end. But SpaceX eventually backed out, perhaps because of the difficulties of running a liquid-fuel rocket in that manner, perhaps because it distracted from their overall plan. Whatever the reason, they backed out, and Stratolaunch ended up teaming with Orbital Sciences, which already has experience with air-launch in their Pegasus rocket, and was more than happy to provide a larger solid-fuel rocket and the avionics they’d developed for Pegasus. Today, they’ve got a crewable spacecraft to add to the overall package: a scaled-down version of the Dream Chaser. I don’t know if this will ever fly, but I sure hope it does. In many ways, this seems like a more fitting way to launch a spaceplane — from runway to space and then back to runway. ;-)
NASASpaceFlight.com: Dream Chaser eyes rides on under review Stratolaunch system
This is trending all over the space blogs right now. The Cassini probe has discovered all kinds of amazing and wondrous things, solving old mysteries and opening up new ones, and it seems that it has found a new one. One of the great triumphs of the mission is the incontrovertible evidence of liquid on the surface of Titan, liquid that forms lakes, evaporates to form clouds, falls as rain, and flows through rivers to rejoin those lakes in a cycle very much like our own water cycle. But there’s a mystery in one of the largest of Titan’s lakes, Ligeia Mare. Off the coast of Ligeia Mare, what looked on radar like an island appeared in in 2013. It had never been seen before. In more recent images, the “island” seems to be fading away again. So what is it? A brief volcanic island formed by a cryovolcano? (On Earth, underwater volcanoes occasionally break the surface of the water with an eruption, but are then quickly eroded back into the sea.) Bubbles formed by some sort of seasonal outgassing process? Something like an iceberg? Nobody knows, which is rather exciting. ;-)
Cassini Watches Mysterious Feature Evolve in Titan Sea
After last weekend’s excitement — the Doctor invading Cole Hill School, Danny learning about the Doctor and the TARDIS, Courtney finding out as well and evidently getting a taste of TARDIS life — what could be following it up? Well, looks like we’re getting a very classic sort of story, with a terrible crisis that must be resolved even as a terrifying menace approaches…..
Next Time Trailer:
Now, I have a touch of arachnophobia, as anybody who knows me (and has probably killed spiders for me) can attest. So this should be . . . interesting. I can’t wait. ;-) It’ll be a great way to start October!
This is very cute; a five-year-old boy in British Columbia heard about the twin Voyager spacecraft, heard how far away they are from Earth, and worried: what if they get lonely? He got so worried he couldn’t sleep, so it was arranged for him to speak with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on the subject, in September 25th’s episode of CBC’s “The Current”:
“What happens if it runs into a planet?” A five-year-old boy has questions for Cmdr Chris Hadfield
Soyuz TMA-14M blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome yesterday:
The crew are Soyuz commander Alexander Samokutyaev, Soyuz engineer Elena Serova, and NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore. Elena Serova is the first Russian woman to fly into space since 1997. Serova is only the fourth female cosmonaut, following in the footsteps of Valentina Tereshkova, Svetlana Savitskaya, and Yelena Kondakova.
The flight was not without glitches; although the launch was flawless and the fast-track approach successful, the Soyuz was only able to deploy one of its solar arrays. Fortunately, one is all it really needs; the second one is a backup.
Can’t wait for the weekend. ;-)
The Mars Orbiter Mission “Mangalyaan” is now in orbit around Mars, making India the fifth agency* to put a spacecraft in orbit there and setting a new record for the total number of probes operating simultaneously at another world: seven. In reverse order of arrival, they are Mangalyaan, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, Mars Express, and Mars Odyssey 2001 (which holds the longevity record, currently closing in on its 13th anniversary at Mars).
Congragulations, India! You’re past the hardest part of the mission.
*I say “agency” because the fourth was ESA, a cooperative venture between European nations, and the second was the USSR, which no longer exists but whose space program is still maintained by Russia