The Falcon 9 main engines were successfully tested in earlier this month in Texas, and passed structural and propulsion tests. The first stage will now go to Florida for integration with the rest of the rocket in anticipation of a launch this winter. A SpaceX press release provides information about just what kind of thrust is generated, putting it "on par with the Saturn V F-1 engine."
Like Falcon 1 (video), the craft is among the first commercial vehicles built to reach Earth orbit.
The rocket will make its maiden flight later this year, "anywhere from one to three months after Falcon 9 is integrated at the Cape in November," according to SpaceX. A Dragon qualification unit will also be lofted to gain insight into performance characteristics of the two vehicles. Dragon will be used for cargo resupply, and, potentially, to carry crew to the ISS.
Described as an organic chemical factory, Titan has become less mysterious over the last few years thanks to Cassini, but many more mysteries remain.
This image, a combination of images taken with red, green and blue filters, was acquired on Oct. 12 and clearly shows the moon's atmosphere.
On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addressed a group of investment companies assembled in Washington, D.C. and had some interesting things to say on the potential of today's students to meet the challenges of space. On the subject of the recent winner of the Regolith Challenge, he said:
The winning team is “Paul’s Robotics”, led by a young man by the name Paul Ventimiglia. Paul not only beat out 22 other competitor teams, he beat teams of professional aerospace engineers, and teams of world-class robotics experts. Paul is a college student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. He heard about the competition from a high school teacher.
Let me say a little more. Paul’s team did not win by a nose, say by one or two percent. Paul’s team moved 84 percent more Moon dirt than the second place team that qualified to win the $150,000 prize.
Students today! They'll kick your fanny given the opportunity.
The NewScientist video below, linked from Paul's Robotics page, includes images of his robot at work.
Given the pace of discovery using Earth and spaceborne observatories, it's not too much of a stretch to assume that sooner or later a planet orbiting its parent star in the "habitable" zone, a region where liquid water is likely to exist, will be found. So let's assume that a planet has been found in this "Goldilocks" zone. How would we go about inspecting that planet to determine if there is, in fact, life present? What's next? Paul Gilster explains.
The discovery is exciting because it suggests that low-mass planets could be numerous in our galaxy.
'From [our] results, we know now that at least 40% of solar-type stars have low-mass planets. This is really important because it means that low-mass planets are everywhere, basically,' explained Stephane Udry from Geneva University, Switzerland.
'What's very interesting is that models are predicting them, and we are finding them; and furthermore the models are predicting even more lower-mass planets like the Earth.'
The report pushes the number of known exoplanets to over 400.