Last week was a big one for Indian space enthusiasts with ISRO announcing that it is ready to conduct the first runway landing experiment for its reusable launch vehicle. We also learned about how our country will soon have its first spaceflight using an indigenously-developed private launch vehicle. Read about that and more in our weekly space news recap.
During a presentation on ISRO’s future missions, Anil Bharadwaj, Director of the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory, announced that the space agency planned to send a probe to the red planet.
According to the initial plans charted out by the Indian space agency, it will build a lunar lander and rover that will be put into orbit by a Japanese rocket, with a landing planned near the south pole of the Moon. “The rover will then travel to the permanent shadow region of the moon which never sees sunlight,” Bhardwaj said, reports PTI.
Mumbai-based Space Aura has begun building a space capsule that measures 10 feet by 8 feet, able to carry six tourists and a pilot into space, according to PTI. The company presented a prototype, named SKAP 1, during a science during a space conference held in Dehradun.
The space capsule will reportedly be propelled by a balloon filled with helium or hydrogen gas, which can take it to up to 25 kilometres above sea level. At this height, space tourists can witness the Earth’s curvature and the blackness of space for around 1 hour, according to CEO Akash Porwal.
ISRO says it is ready for the first runway landing experiment of its Reusable Launch Vehicle. (RLV) PTI reports that the RLV wing body will be carried to an altitude of three to five kilometres by helicopter and released four to five kilometres away from the runway with horizontal velocity.
If all goes according to plan, the RLV will glide, navigate towards the runway and land autonomously using its landing gear. New systems like landing gear, parachutes, hook beam assembly, a radar altimeter and pseudolite have reportedly already been developed and qualified.
The Indian Express reported that Hyderabad-based Skyroot’s Vikram-S launch vehicle is all set to go on its first flight between November 12 and November 16, from the spaceport in Sriharikota. The mission is named “Prarambh” and will carry three commercial satellites into sub-orbital flight.
“The Vikram-S rocket is a single-stage sub-orbital launch vehicle which will carry three customer payloads and help test and validate technologies in the Vikram series space launch vehicles,” said Naga Bharath Daka, COO and co-founder of the company to The Indian Express.
NASA scientists had run into a technical glitch with the James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared instrument earlier this year. Mission engineers have diagnosed the issue and have defined new operational procedures to allow JWST to continue science observations despite the glitch.
The issue was with a grating wheel mechanism that supports Webb’s “medium-resolution spectroscopy” (MRS mode). Engineers discovered that the mechanism was showing signs of increased friction. MRS mode was put on hold for a while till the engineers devised the new operational procedures.
Tropical storm Nicole forced NASA to once again postpone the scheduled launch date of its Artemis 1 mission. This time, the launch was shifted from November 14 to November 16. In the meanwhile, the Artemis 1 mission stack, which includes the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft, was left at the launch pad to weather the storm.
According to the American space agency, the SLS rocket can withstand speeds close to 136 kilometres per hour or 74.4 knots. It is also designed to endure heavy rains. To protect the Orion spacecraft, all of its hatches were secured to ensure that water does not enter.
In a rare occurrence, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture three images which documented a supernova in “blow-by-blow” detail, according to a Reuters report. The distant star is about 530 times the size of our Sun and is about 11.5 billion years away. The images were discovered during a review of Hubble’s archival data from 2010.
Hubble was able to capture these images thanks to a phenomenon of gravitational lensing. The immense gravitational force exerted by a galaxy cluster in front of the supernova worked like a lens, bending and magnifying the light from the supernova behind it.
A Cygnus spacecraft was able to carry several tons of supplies to the International Space Station despite a jammed solar panel. When one of the solar panels of the spacecraft was jammed, flight controllers tried to open it many times to no avail. Finally, missions teams decided to go ahead without the second solar panel since the flight was managing to draw enough power with just one.
Space station crew took pictures of the spacecraft as it approached to understand what went wrong. According to Reuters, a piece of debris from the Antares rocket which launched the spacecraft had become lodged in the solar panel’s mechanism during liftoff. This was what prevented the second panel from deploying.
NASA successfully completed the Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID) mission, which demonstrated technology that could one day help land humans on Mars. The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology was developed by the space agency over more than a decade.
The entire HIAD system is foldable, packable and deployable, which means that it takes up less space on rockets compared to rigid alternatives. This also allows the design to be scalable. The large size of the device also means that it creates more drag and starts the deceleration process higher in the atmosphere than conventional alternatives.
NASA says its CAPSTONE CubeSat is scheduled to enter the Moon’s orbit on November 13. The microwave-sized CubeSat weighing around 25 kilograms is designed to test a unique lunar orbit called a near rectilinear halo orbit, (NRHO) which is very elongated and is located at a precise balance point between the gravities of the Earth and the Moon.
This orbit could help future long-term missions like Gateway sustain a lunar orbit by spending a minimal amount of energy. Apart from the orbit, the CAPSTONE mission also demonstrates a key software technology— the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS). CAPS uses a spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution that allows it to determine its location in space without relying on tracking from Earth.