Space Events:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6


Blue Origin; SpaceX;
Bigelow Aerospace


April 2
Blue Origin completed a third trial launch of it New Shepard rocket, successfully guiding the rocket's booster stage to a vertical landing.

April 8
The first inflatable space habitat module, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, developed by Bigelow Aerospace, was launched to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Update May 26:
Expansion Of Flexi-Space Module Suspended

April 8
Space X successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 droneship on an ocean platform.

New Shepard landing vertically

Expandable Activity Module

SpaceX rocket on sea platform

India'S RLV-TD Test Shuttle

On May 23, the Indian Space Research Organization successfully launched its mini space plane, or Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD).

The RLV-TD was launched from Satish Dawhan Space Center at 7:00am local time, atop an HS9 solid rocket booster.

Measuring 21.3 ft (6.5 meters) long and similar in shape to the US unmanned X-37B space plane, the RLV-TD is a scaled-down test model of the spacecraft which the ISRO is planning to develop.

The rocket booster lofted the RLV-TD to an altitude of 35 miles (56 km), at which point the craft separated from the rocket and continued its ascent to 43 miles (70 km). Then the RLV-TD started to descend, and re-entered the atmosphere travelling at five times the speed of sound.

The space plane successfully flew to its designated landing spot over the Bay of Bengal, 280 miles (450 km) from the launch site. However, it is unlikely to be recovered from the sea.

Lasting only 12 minutes and 48 seconds, the mission was named Hypersonic Flight Experiment, or HEX. For this purpose the RLV-TD was equipped with different types of sensors to measures the forces exerted on the craft (such as temperature and pressure), and to assess the durability of the materials from it was made as it travelled at hypersonic speeds.

Future operations will involve:

Landing Experiment – LEX
Return Flight Experiment – REX
Scramjet Propulsion Experiment – SPEX

The ISRO considers the development of its space plane crucial to reducing the cost of launching satellites into space and thus remaining competitive in the space market. It is expected that the final version of the space plane will be ready in 10 to 15 years.

Launch of India's RLV-TD

Image credit: ISRO


NASA's Juno spacecraft was launched on August 5, 2011, and will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016. Its mission is to study Jupiter closely over the period of one year, through 33 eliptical orbits. Juno will map Jupiter's atmosphere and measure its components, in particular the amount of oxygen and water vapour; determine the planet's internal structure; and analyze the planet's radiation, magnetic belts and aurora. Interesting fact about Juno: it is the first outer Solar System probe to be powered by solar energy, in spite of the fact that Jupiter is some 778,000,000 kilometers (483,426,785 miles) from the Sun, and consequently receives 25 times less sunlight that Earth.

Learn more about the exciting Juno Mission through these links:

  1. NASA's Juno website
  2. Juno's mission page by SWRI
  3. Juno on YouTube
  4. Juno Probe Returns Close-Up Jupiter Pictures   09.02.16
  5. Juno Makes Close Pass Of Jupiter   08.27.2016
  6. Juno Spacecraft Turns on Science Gear   07.08.2016
  7. Ready To Unlock Mysteries Of Jupiter   07.01.2016
  8. Jupiter Awaits Juno’s Arrival   06.27.2016
  9. Juno Enters Jupiter's Gravity Well   06.02.2016
  10. On Its Way To Jupiter   01.15.2015
Juno at Jupiter

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

September 8

On September 11, 1999, the LINEAR Project discovered a new near-Earth asteroid and designated it 1999 RQ36.

This planetoid belongs to a group of objects known as Apollo asteroids which are those passing very close to Earth, making them potential threats to our world. For this reason, NASA decided to send a mission to investigate one of these objects and asteroid 1999 RQ36 was chosen as the mission target.

The mission is called OSIRIS-REx: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security, Regolith Explorer.

In 2013, NASA launched a worldwide campaign to rename the target asteroid and, after receiving more than 8,000 submissions, the name chosen was Bennu, submitted by nine-year old Michael Puzio of North Carolina, USA. The asteroid's official name is now 101955 Bennu.

The objective of the mission is to fly the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft to the asteroid, study its composition, determine whether it poses a significant threat to our planet, and return a pristine sample of its soil (regolith) to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in September 2016.

Arrival at Bennu: 2018

Return of sample to Earth: 2023

Learn more about the OSIRIS-REx Mission through these links:

  1. Wikipedia: Bennu in Egyptian mythology
  2. OSIRIS-REx mission website
  3. Water Found On Asteroid Bennu   12.10.2018
  4. Osiris-Rex Arrives At Asteroid Bennu   12.03.2018
  5. NASA Prepares Launch Of Asteroid
    Sample Return Mission
  6. OSIRIS-REx mission to map Bennu   05.25.2016
  7. OSIRIS-REx mission spectrometer   07.14.2015
101955 Bennu

Radar-generated image of 101955 Bennu.
Image credit: NASA/NSF/Cornell/Nolan

September 15

China launched its second space laboratory today, the 47-foot long Tiangong 2, from the Juiquan Satellite Launch Center located in the country's northwestern Gansu Province.

The spacecraft replaces the first prototype, Tiangong 1, which was launched in 2011 and is slowly losing orbit. It's expected that the Tiangong 1 will burn up in Earth's atmosphere in 2017.

Capable of housing a crew of three, the Tiangong 2 will eventually make way for the Tiangong 3, leading ultimately to China's construction of a long-term space station in the 2020s.

Related articles:

  1. China Launches Two Astronauts To Tiangong 2   10.17.16
  2. China Launches Second Space Station   09.15.16
  3. China Set To Launch Tiangong-2   09.15.16
  4. China's Tiangong-2 Tested For Launch   03.02.16
Blast off of Long March 7 rocket

Long March 7 rocket carrying Tiangong-2 into orbit
Image credit: AP

September 15

On September 15, the first Peruvian satellite, PeruSAT-1, was launched from Kourou Space Centre in French Guyana.

Built by Europe's Airbus Group, PeruSAT-1 is stationed 695km above Earth and will have an operational life of between 10 and 13 years.

From its orbital altitude, the satellite will be able to survey almost all of territorial Peru, and the images it provides will be used by both government agencies and private sector companies to facilitate, for example, better urban planning and use of agricultural land.

PeruSAT-1 is well equipped for such tasks and is able to see features as small as 70cm.

The operations of PeruSAT-1 are managed by Peru's national space administration, CONIDA - Comision Nacional de Investigacion y Desarrollo Aeroespacial (National Commission for Aerospace Exploration and Development).

Related websites:

Flag of Peru

Flag of Peru

Rosetta Finale
September 30

The end of Rosetta's very successful survey mission of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko came to an end on September 30 when the European Space Agency intentionally crashed the spacecraft onto the comet's surface. To the very last moment, Rosetta was able to transmit images and other data to Earth.

Rosetta's impact site has been named Sais, after the place in Egypt where the Rosetta Stone was unearthed.

Related links:

5.8km from impact

One of the last images from Rosetta, taken when the spacecraft was
5.8km from the comet.

Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team

ExoMars TGO

Launched on March 14, 2016, when Earth and Mars were at their closest approach, the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is expected to enter orbit around the Red Planet in October this year. It's mission is to measure amounts of trace gases, such as methane, in the Martian atmosphere, so that scientists can determine whether theses gases are the result of biological, or geological, processes.

Three days before arriving in orbit, the ExoMars TGO spacecraft will deploy a lander, named Schiaparelli (after the famous Italian astronomer), which will enter the Martian atmosphere on its own; descend towards the planet using aerobraking and a parachute; and land on its surface with the aid of rocket thrusters. During these stages, mission operators on Earth will be able to monitor the lander's progress using the TGO Orbiter as a communications relay.

The objective of the Schiaparelli experiment is to test different systems in preparation for ESA's rover mission to Mars planned for 2020.

The ExoMars Programme is a collaborative project between ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and will come to an end in 2022.

Related links:

  1. Schiaparelli: Mars Probe 'Crash Site Identified'   10.21.16
  2. Schiaparelli's Parachute 'Jettisoned Too Early'   10.20.16
  3. Where Is European Schiaparelli Mars Lander?   10.19.16
  4. Schiaparelli Probe Set For Mars Landing   10.16.16
Shiaparelli separating from ExoMars TGO

Schiaparelli lander separating from ExoMars TGO - Image credit: ESA