Lynx space plane, China shooting crude oil into space and New Horizons goals

13-03-16_lynx-cutaway_v02a-public-1200xPrivate Lynx space plane could take off in early 2017

As Virgin Galactic rolled out its brand-new SpaceShipTwo during a grand gala in Mojave, California, earlier this year, another private spacecraft was coming together virtually next door, with much less fanfare.

That other vehicle is the Lynx rocket plane, a reusable spacecraft being built by XCOR Aerospace. Like SpaceShipTwo, Lynx is designed to carry paying customers and scientific payloads to suborbital space and back.

The Lynx currently under construction is a prototype, and it was a wingless shell when Space.com dropped by XCOR’s Mojave headquarters on Feb. 19 — the same day that Virgin unveiled its shiny new SpaceShipTwo, dubbed “Unity,” at a hangar just down the road.

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Why on earth is China shooting crude oil into space?

On April 6th, China’s SJ-10 satellite will launch into orbit from the remote Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi desert. The event would be unremarkable if not for the satellite’s rather unusual payload: six titanium cylinders of crude oil, compressed to 500 times standard atmospheric pressure.

Launching stuff into orbit is expensive, and we don’t exactly need oil in outer space. (Most rockets today run on liquid hydrogen and oxygen.) But China’s not interested in building a fleet of gas-guzzling spacecraft. It’s interested in finding more oil on Earth to support its gas-guzzling cars. And strangely enough, running experiments in zero-g might be the best way to do that.

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New Horizons fills gap in space environment observations

nasasnewhoriWhen NASA’s New Horizons sped past Pluto on July 14, 2015, it took the best-ever pictures of the rocky world s surface, giving us new insight into its geology, composition and atmosphere. These stunning images are the most famous result of New Horizons, but the spacecraft also sent back over three years worth of measurements of the solar wind the constant flow of solar particles that the sun flings out into space from a region that has been visited by only a few spacecraft.

This unprecedented set of observations give us a peek into an almost entirely unexplored part of our space environment – filling a crucial gap between what other missions see closer to the sun and what the Voyager spacecraft see further out. A new study to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement lays out New Horizons observations of the solar wind ions that it encountered on its journey.

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A job opening for a Satellite Systems Engineer, Thales (France). Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. As a Satellite Systems Engineer, you will be involved in system studies requiring innovation: Observing Earth satellites, interplanetary probes, observatories of the universe. More information


Contribute to space exploration by participating in the project Astro Pi: devise computer science experiments to be run on board the ISS. There will be opportunities to examine the results of the winning competition experiments, and there will also be a data analysis activity where you can obtain a CSV file full of time-stamped sensor readings directly from Tim Peake. More information

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