Spacecraft

Artistic concept of the Jupiter space tug and the Exoliner cargo module with the service robotic arm near the International Space Station (Image courtesy Lockheed Martin. All rights reserved)

Lockheed Martin has announced plans of its own private spaceship that will be among the contenders for the next contract for cargo supply to the International Space Station for NASA called Commercial Resupply Services-2 (SRC-2). The company proposes a solution more sophisticated than its competitors’ because it’s not simply a cargo spaceship but a combination of a reusable space tug, called Jupiter, and a cargo module called Exoliner.

The Orbital ATK spacecraft Cygnus during its Orb-1 mission and the SpaceX spacecraft Dragon during its CRS-5 mission (Photo NASA)

A NASA spokesman announced that the agency decided to extend the CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) contract with SpaceX and Orbital ATK for transporting cargo to the International Space Station. The additional missions are planned for 2017 and are intended to cover NASA’s needs until the new contract, called CRS 2, will be awarded. This extension provides three more missions for SpaceX spacecraft Dragon and another mission for the Orbital ATK spacecraft Cygnus.

IXV lifting off atop a Vega rocket (Image ESA)

Today the suborbital test of IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) was conducted. It’s an ESA experimental spacecraft that is designed to verify the some rentry technologies. IXV was launched on a Vega rocket in the launch indicated as VV04 from the Kourou space center in French Guyana.

The final purpose for ESA is to build a spacecraft capable of returning to Earth autonomously. Over the years, ESA has built various types of spacecraft, including cargo ships, but none are able to return to Earth. For this reason, in 2002 it was decided to develop the technologies needed in order to build a spacecraft capable of bringing cargo from the International Space Station or from other missions in orbit.

The Dragon spacecraft lifted on SpaceX ship finishing its CRS-5 mission (Photo courtesy SpaceX / Elon Musk. All rights reserved)

A few hours ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-5 (Cargo Resupply Service 5) mission for NASA splashing down without problems in the Pacific Ocean about 400 km (about 260 miles) off the coast of California. The Dragon left the International Space Station yesterday evening, American time.

Shortly after splashing down, the Dragon was recovered by the SpaceX boats that will transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth should be delivered to NASA today. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on January 12, 2015.