Glitch with SpaceX supply flight appears fixed
SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on February 25, a few days ahead of the March 1 launch.
March 1st, 2013
10:28 AM ET

Glitch with SpaceX supply flight appears fixed

[Updated at 5:19 p.m.] SpaceX's unmanned Dragon cargo capsule suffered a temporary glitch with its thrusters after it achieved orbit Friday a development that will delay its arrival at the International Space Station, NASA said.

The Dragon, launched Friday morning atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, had been expected to dock with the space station on Saturday to resupply the station's crew.

But Friday's hiccup will delay docking by at least a day, NASA said.

The Dragon is carrying more than 1,200 pounds of supplies for the crew and the crew's experiments. The supply mission is SpaceX's second of a planned 12 under a contract with NASA.

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Filed under: In Space
Company aims to mine resource-rich asteroids
The asteroid Eros was photographed by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission in 2000.
April 24th, 2012
07:28 AM ET

Company aims to mine resource-rich asteroids

[Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET] Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis pioneered the business of sending millionaire tourists to space. Now they want to mine asteroids for what they say will be tens of billions of dollars worth of resources annually for use on Earth and beyond.

Seattle-area's Planetary Resources, backed by big-money investors including filmmaker James Cameron and Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, said Tuesday it plans to develop and launch a series of robotic systems and unmanned spacecraft, starting with its Arkyd-100 Earth-orbiting space telescopes that it hopes to launch by the end of 2013 to identify candidate near-Earth asteroids.

The company hopes to dispatch swarms of Arkyd-300 prospecting spacecraft, which would orbit candidate asteroids and finish the process of determining what they hold, within 10 years.

The Bellevue, Washington, company would then unveil a new system of spacecraft for the payoff: mining precious metal, such as platinum, for use on Earth; and extracting water, whose elements the company says can be used for fuel and life-support systems in space.

In short, Planetary Resources hopes it will be in a crucial and lucrative position of not only boosting terrestrial industry, but also setting up a network of fuel depots that humanity will need to better explore the solar system and beyond.

"The Earth is feeling a resource pinch, and ultimately we will have the ability to turn that which is scarce into abundant," Diamandis, who co-founded Planetary Resources with Anderson in 2009 but generally kept mum about the project until this month, said at a press event in Seattle on Tuesday.

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Filed under: In Space • News
March 8th, 2012
05:08 PM ET

Solar storms causing few problems on Earth

Geomagnetic and solar radiation storms hitting Earth after Tuesday's solar flares may not be as big as advertised, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

Together, such storms can affect GPS systems, other satellite systems and power grids, but none of these problems has been reported, even as the leading edge of the sun's coronal mass ejections from Tuesday hit Earth on Thursday morning, scientists said.

The geomagnetic storm has reached only G1 intensity on a scale from G1 (weak) to G5 (extreme), and the solar radiation storm is an S3 (strong) on a similar 1-to-5 scale, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said. Earlier, NOAA had predicted a G3/S4 event.

Still, the solar radiation storm has prompted some airlines to divert planes from routes near the north pole, where radio communications may be affected and passengers at high altitudes may be at a higher than normal radiation risk.

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Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries
An adult Chikilidae, a new family of legless amphibian known as a caecilian, is shown with eggs and hatchlings in India.
February 23rd, 2012
08:11 PM ET

Scientists: New amphibian family augurs more India discoveries

Scientists have found what they say is a new family of legless amphibians in Northeast India animals they say may have diverged from similar vertebrates in Africa when the land masses separated tens of millions of years ago.

The find, the scientists say, might foreshadow other discoveries in Northeast India and might help show the area played a more important evolutionary role than previously thought.

The creatures are part of an order of limbless, soil-dwelling amphibians called caecilians not to be confused with snakes, which are reptiles. Caecilians were previously known to consist of nine families in Asia, Africa and South America.

But different bone structures in the head distinguish this apparent 10th family, and DNA testing links the creatures not to other caecilians in India, but to caecilians that are exclusively from Africa, the scientists report this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.

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Kepler team confirms 26 more planets
The relative sizes of Kepler-discovered planets (pre-January in red, January in green, unverified in purple) and our solar system's planets (blue).
January 26th, 2012
07:37 PM ET

Kepler team confirms 26 more planets

Scientists' list of verified planets is now more than two dozen planets longer, thanks to NASA's Kepler space telescope team.

The Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems with 26 verified planets in the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, NASA said Thursday.

This nearly triples the number of verified multiple-planet stars that the Kepler mission has discovered, now standing at 17. And it nearly doubles the number of verified planets it has discovered, which now is 61.

Before the Kepler satellite was launched in 2009, scientists knew about perhaps 500 planets outside our solar system "across the whole sky," said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA.

"Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates," Hudgins said in a news release. "This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits."

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space • Kepler
Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003
This January 23 image captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows an M9-class solar flare erupting on the Sun.
January 24th, 2012
08:56 PM ET

Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003

Material from a Sunday solar eruption hit the Earth on Tuesday, helping to create the planet's strongest solar radiation storm in more than eight years, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said.

The eruption also has caused a minor geomagnetic storm, expected to continue at least through Tuesday. Together, the storms could affect GPS systems, other satellite systems and radio communications near the poles, the SWPC and NASA said.

The storms prompted some airlines to divert planes from routes near the north pole, where radio communications may be affected and passengers at high altitudes may be at  "a higher than normal radiation risk," the SWPC said.

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Russia: Failed probe to fall to Earth in days
The nearly 15-ton probe is projected to be over the Indian Ocean on Sunday afternoon.
January 11th, 2012
07:02 PM ET

Russia: Failed probe to fall to Earth in days

A Russian probe that was supposed to reach one of Mars' moons but failed to escape Earth orbit is expected to fall to Earth between Saturday and Monday, Russia's space agency said.

It's too early to say where pieces of the unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe could fall. But on Sunday afternoon - the middle of the re-entry window - the nearly 15-ton probe is projected to be over the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles southwest of Indonesia, the Roscosmos space agency said Wednesday.

Twenty to 30 fragments, weighing a total of up to 440 pounds, could survive the heat of re-entry, but the 7.5 tons of toxic fuel it is carrying is expected to burn up, Roscosmos said, according to the state-run Ria Novosti news agency.

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