Spacecraft

Astronaut Scott Kelly with cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko in front of a model of the Soyuz rocked used for the launch (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A few hours ago the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and after almost exactly six hours reached the International Space Station carrying astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko. The Soyuz traveled on the fast path normally used.
Generally, the members of the International Space Station crew spend about six months in space, this time there there’s a change because a very special mission lasting one year is starting. Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year on the Station to make a series of more in-depth studies on human beings reactions to life in the microgravity of space.

Artistic concept of a spacecraft capturing a boulder on an asteroid (Image NASA)

NASA has announced new details on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which over the next decade aims to test new technologies for use in future manned missions in deep space. However, this mission will be accomplished by a spacecraft that will reach an asteroid, will pick up a boulder and will carry it up to the Moon to place it in a stable orbit. There, astronauts will be able to go to study it to prepare for deep space missions.

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.