JPL has released a brief podcast of the sounds that can be heard from the Mars' rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
The picture above of a "PocketQub" was snapped on a recent trip to Morehead State University to talk with Profs. Bob Twiggs and Ben Malphrus. The personal satellite can be flown with whatever science or technology that can be put inside on missions measured in weeks or months at very low orbital altitudes, and vaporize on reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. This example is sitting on a magazine-sized brochure.
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Taking a look at the business prospects for sub-orbital research payloads, the Space Business Blog noticed the work being done by NanoRacks and Kentucky Space to make microgravity research on the International Space Station an affordable and repeatable proposition. It likes, in particular, the modular nature of the solution and points out one very important benefit of using Cubelabs:
NanoRacks has developed a standard rack that plugs into a [mid deck locker] on station. NanoRacks worked with Bob Twiggs (co-creater of the CubeSat) from Kentucky Aerospace to build a standard experiment module called the CubeLab. Still 10cm-cubed, and plugs into their rack via a standard USB port. Very plug-and play! I like this. NanoRacks and Kentucky Space intend to offer this CubeLab technology as open-source for the benefit of the industry. One important nugget: the CubeSat has already passed significant ITAR hurdles, and since the CubeLab is based on similar technology to the CubeSat, a business using this open-source technology should have a significantly easier time attracting and working with international customers. NanoRacks goal is to offer Micro-gravity research opportunitis on the ISS, but I think the technology ports very well into the suborbital arena as well.
Space blogs typically focus on hardware and technology, but rarely on the business prospects for that hardware and technology in the developing frontier of commercial space. Read the entire piece from Space Business Blog.
According to a SpaceX press release, all the hardware needed for the debut launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle has arrived at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and a launch can be expected in one to three months after full vehicle integration. The first flight for the 154 feet tall rocket will include a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit.
SpaceX is developing a line of commercial rockets to take satellites to space, supplies to the International Space Station, and, it hopes, humans to orbit.
Its lighter lift Falcon 1 successfully reached orbit last year.
Image credit: SpaceX
The Principal Investigator for the project, Dean Ahorn, has let Kentucky Space know that Nanosail-D has been resurrected and is being readied to fly on the FASTSAT-HSV1 satellite later this year. Similar in concept to the Planetary Society's Lightsail project, the 3U (unit) Cubesat packs an unbelievable amout of fabric into its diminutive body.
Use the radiation pressure of light from the stars or a laser to propel themselves forward, solar sails can in theory reach very high speeds over time.
The two spacecraft are among the very first to test the material and sails that could form the basis for a technology first envisioned by writers in the 1960s, as well as push the technology boundaries of what's possible using the Cubesat platform.
This video demonstrates how Nanosail-D will unfurl its sails.
These last 3 days some of the Kentucky Space team was able to visit NASA Wallops Flight Facility as NSROC tested the payload section of Hall 12.067, the launch vehicle for SOCEM. The payload section passed vibration testing in all 3 axes, was spin balanced, and then, today, underwent the spin-up and deployment test in which the payload section was spun up and the pyro holding the deployment door was fired, thereby releasing the two CubeSats (ADAMASat and the Cal Poly 1U) and the beanie. In this final test, all three pieces of hardware successfully exited the rocket body and inspection after the test did not reveal any damage to the payloads nor the rails of the PCL. Congratulations to all who have worked on SOCEM!
Anthony Karam - University of Ketucky, Kentucky Space
Second stage test firings were successfully conducted by SpaceX, bringing Falcon 9 closer to its inaugural flight. Space.com:
SpaceX announced this week that the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage successfully completed a full-duration test firing at the company's proving grounds in Texas. The test was the last hurdle for the upcoming demonstration launch, which is targeted to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...
'This was the final stage firing required for launch, so the second stage will soon be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by the end of the month,' said SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a Jan. 4 update. 'Depending on how well our full vehicle integration goes, launch should occur one to three months later.'