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Unmanned Rocket Bound For ISS Explodes

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antares explosionOne of Orbital Science’s Antares rockets exploded yesterday, just seconds after launch from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital Sciences is one of the private companies contracted to bring supplies to the ISS — it was the second private company to complete a cargo run to the ISS (SpaceX was the first). Yesterday’s flight would have been the third such mission for Orbital Sciences, but instead, it’s entering the record books for another, grimmer reason.

While the explosion shook those near the launch site and was by some likened to a small earthquake, no one was injured. It isn’t clear yet what happened, and today an investigation team began sifting through data, while another started sorting through debris near the crash site. Frank Culbertson, Orbital Sciences’ executive vice president, says the company will “get things back on track,” and that such an occurrence is, unfortunately, all too common, but they’ve “all seen the teams recover from this, and we will do the same.” Of course, that can’t happen until damage to the launch pad and other infrastructure is repaired, so it might be a while.

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ISS Is About To Get This Weird Sounding Expansion

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BEAMInflatable rooms aren’t just for carnivals and massive house parties anymore. The ISS is about to get one as an addition to its existing digs. BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) will be the first privately designed and built room or habitat to be used in space when it launches next year, appropriately hitching a ride with one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

The habitat was conceived and constructed by Bigelow Aerospace, which won the $17.8 million contract last year. While private companies have taken over the space shuttle industry, this is the first such foray into habitat or room building for crewed systems. This is also a potentially important shift when it comes to the materials used to build space habitats, as an inflatable design would save lots of room.

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ISS Astronauts Tip Their Hats To Hitchhiker’s Guide With New Mission Poster

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Unless you’re a die-hard NASA junkie, you might not know about the space agency’s tradition of getting a bit silly when it comes to the posters for their missions to the International Space Station. After all, astronauts are real-life heroes, so why not put that in perspective by letting them stand in for some fictional versions? So what movie would get the nod for ISS Expedition 42? Don’t panic — they’ve already got the perfect idea.

HHGG

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SpaceX To Bring Zero-G 3D Printer To The ISS

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zerogprinterSpaceX will be bringing the first 3D printer to space on Friday, delivering it to the ISS. Once it’s up and running, astronauts will be able to print new parts for the station and for repairs, rather than wasting precious space storing spares or having to wait for a supply run.

Private companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Science make cargo delivery runs to the ISS every few months, but every inch of cargo space is valuable. If there’s room, then the additional cost is difficult to calculate and depends on the size and mass of the parts being delivered. Generally, though, it costs anywhere from $3,000-$13,000 per kilogram to send objects into low Earth orbit (depending on the rocket and its manufacturer). So the only question regarding having a 3D printer on the ISS is, what took them so long?

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First Vine From Space Shows Endless Sun

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We’ve got plenty of images and video from space, but now we’ve got the first Vine of the cosmos, courtesy of astronaut Reid Wiseman, who landed on the International Space Station just a couple weeks ago.

It’s a great condensed view of one ISS revolution around the Earth, which takes roughly 92 minutes. That means astronauts on the ISS are treated to 15 or 16 sunrises in a 24-hour period — like at the end of Chris Hadfield’s explanation about how to puke in space. But on Wiseman’s Vine, you’ll notice that the sun never sets. Because space is magical. And because the space station’s orbit aligned with the line between light and dark on Earth, otherwise known as the day/night terminator line.

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Astronaut Reid Wiseman Is Your New Twitter Must-Follow

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One of the coolest things about social media is the way it lets us experience by proxy something most of us probably never will directly: travelling into space. Sure, we’ve had access to videos taken in space for decades now, but social media has narrowed the distance between us and the humans who are currently orbiting high above us by quite a bit. Now that Chris Hadfield is back groundside, it’s time to update your Twitter with some new astronaut-y goodness. Allow us to suggest astronaut Reid Wiseman, who recently joined the crew of the ISS, and who is bleeding enthusiasm all over Twitter in a truly endearing way.

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