Tag Archives: Space Exploration Technology

CHEOPS launch postponed due to ‘Software Error’

The scheduled launch of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite or CHEOPS telescope, set to usher in a new era of exoplanet research was cancelled today.

Credit: ESA.

The launch, which was set to take place at 12:54 am local time (roughly 4am ET) from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was called-off due to what the University of Bern is calling a software error. The institution was set to live stream the event. 

The launch has been rescheduled and is expected to take place within the next 24 to 48 hours. The official revised launch time and date will be announced at 6:00pm (ET). 

CHEOPS is loaded aboard a Russian Soyuz-FG, which will place it in a low-Earth orbit. The procedure — which will take around 145 minutes to complete — will result in CHEOPS taking a rare pole-to-pole orbit. 

The CHEOPS mission is designed to observe exoplanets in relatively close proximity to Earth. The aim of this is to select viable targets for future investigation by the next major development in both the fields of astronomy and exoplanet research — the James Webb Telescope, set to launch in 2021. 

It is hoped that by using a combination of these instruments, researchers will finally be able to uncover characteristics of rocky exoplanets, which has been tricky up until now. This will include discovering if such bodies can maintain atmospheres and deduce the chemical compositions of these atmospheres.

It is likely that when the launch does occur, live coverage will be provided by the ESA on its website. 


NASA funds commercial space taxi development worth $269 million

NASAAs the last two shuttle flights will mark the end of a thirty year long program, NASA is looking for alternatives to transport astronauts, cargo and equipment to and from outer space. The best alternative seems to come from the private sectore, and with this in mind NASA has awarded a total $269 million dived among several top aeronautical companies to help speed development of commercial spaceships.

The largest grant went to Boeing worth $92.3 million, which is currently under contract with NASA to develop the  CST-100, a spaceship slated to carry a crew of seven in a low orbit over the earth Boeing officials said they would apply what they’ve learned from building commercial airplanes, satellites and launch systems to build and fly the CST-100 in 2015.

Sierra Nevada Corp got $80 million, while  Space Exploration Technology (SpaceX), the privately held company founded by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, was awarded $75 million. The money will be put to good use by SpaceX by all odds, considering only a few weeks ago the company announced that their currently developing the world’s most powerful rocket. Blue Origin, another company founded by an internet entrepreneur Amazon’s  Jeff Bezos, received a contract worth $22 million.

For NASA it’s imperative to develop a space taxi solution as soon as possible, not only because of obvious logistics consideration but also financially-wise. Currently, NASA has already a lot of flights outsourced to Russia who charge $51 million per person, price expected to rise to $63 per person by 2014.

“We’re committed to safely transporting U.S. astronauts on American-made spacecraft and ending the outsourcing of this work to foreign governments,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

“These agreements are significant milestones in NASA’s plans to take advantage of American ingenuity to get to low-Earth orbit so we can concentrate our resources on deep space exploration.”

The agreement covers work for about 14 months. NASA hopes to follow the program with another competition to develop an actual flight system. The goal is for NASA to be able to buy commercial orbital space transportation services by about 2015.