Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket successfully launched from the Wallops Flight Facility and will deliver the Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS in order to resupply them. As another company successfully performing operations in outer space they will become instrumental in the future of spaceflight, aiding in the delivery of important
Asgardia’s satellite was also on board and has been launched with the hopeful nation’s constitution, national symbols and an assorted variety of text files and photographs.
In a reverse of ATK’s fortunes, the SpaceX test of their new variant of the Merlin engine resulted in an explosion in their testing facility in Texas. The engine was still experimental but it appears that a leak caused the fuel to ignite. SpaceX has said that this will not affect their schedule, which is slated for the usage of this new engine at the end of 2018.
The object 2010 JO179, located beyond the Kuiper Belt, is believed to be a new dwarf planet. The object is about 1/3 of the size of Pluto for comparison but was only discovered recently by Matthew Holman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) with his team. If the pace of these discoveries of dwarfs keeps up we may have to introduce a list of them for people to memorize too.
Voyager 1, Still Traveling
Voyager 1 has started up again. This time, the team in charge of the spacecraft at NASA has turned on the trajectory correction maneuver thrusters, thrusters which haven’t been activated since 1980. This was done to align Voyager with Earth and, despite the uncertainty surrounding the probability of its success, the thrusters were activated again and are working, providing the scientists and engineers with another option, at least in the meantime.
The Kepler Space Telescope has shown to us another astonishing discovery. The star Kepler-90 was previously known to have several planets surrounding it but now new findings have shown that the total number of planets is now at 8. In order to discover the planet the researchers, Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg, created an AI, taught it how to sift through the data from the telescope and then sat back and let their AI continue learning and search for planets. There were plenty of false positives but the new Kepler-90 planet was a fantastic success. It’s also helpful to note that the telescope had already found the planet; the data just had to be examined differently.
A Satellite Fleet
The Finnish Meteorological Institute has proposed an Asteroid Touring Nanosat Fleet propelled by solar sails which could study 300 asteroids within 3 years. Dr. Pekka Janhunen presented the idea to the European Planetary Science Congress, citing the lower cost but higher research potential since sending a more professional mission would be extremely costly by comparison.
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