China is gearing up for the launch of its first cargo spacecraft intended to support a future space station. The Long March 7 rocket that will launch the Tianzhou-1 spacecraft arrived last week at the Wenchang launch site for a launch planned for the latter half of April. Tianzhou-1 will dock with the uncrewed Tiangong-2 module currently in orbit and test the ability to transfer propellant between the spacecraft and the module.
Despite uncertainty about potential policy changes, NASA is pressing ahead with plans for a cislunar “gateway” outpost for future human missions, with decisions about how to develop it expected in the coming months. Speaking at the American Astronautical Society’s Goddard Memorial Symposium here March 8, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said he was studying concepts for launching the first elements of the proposed outpost as secondary payloads on early flights of the Space Launch System.
After a two-month stay aboard the International Space Station, NASA’s Technology Educational Satellite (TechEdSat-5) that launched Dec. 9, 2016, was deployed on March 6, 2017 from the NanoRacks platform and into low-Earth orbit to demonstrate a critical technology that may allow safe return of science payloads to Earth from space.
This summer, an ice chest-sized box will fly to the International Space Station, where it will create the coolest spot in the universe. Inside that box, lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife" will be used to cancel out the energy of gas particles, slowing them until they're almost motionless. This suite of instruments is called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), and was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. CAL is in the final stages of assembly at JPL, ahead of a ride to space this August on SpaceX CRS-12.
NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft performed a previously unscheduled maneuver this week to avoid a collision in the near future with Mars’ moon Phobos. The Mars Atmosphere and VolatileEvolutioN (MAVEN)spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. On Tuesday the spacecraft carried out a rocket motor burn that boosted its velocity by 0.4 meters per second (less than 1 mile per hour).