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Monkey Business: Iran Sends Primate Into Space

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Iran monkeyIran made the news today, but thankfully not for their nuclear program or economic sanctions. Today Middle Eastern nation announced that it successfully launched a monkey into space for the second time, and that the monkey has returned home safe and sound. Phew. I’d hate to think of that monkey trying to fly a Soyuz capsule.

According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran launched Fargam, a monkey named for the Farsi word for “auspicious,” into space to celebrate the country’s Research Week. Fargam took a 75-mile ride into space and came back within 15 minutes. And he didn’t have to pay $250,000 for a seat.

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Nine Universities And A High School Launched Nanosatellites Into Space With NASA

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cubesatWhen money is tight, creative solutions make all the difference. NASA, no stranger to funding woes, has made the brilliant tactical decision to essentially crowdsource work that once upon a time it might have done itself, or work that otherwise might not have happened. One example is the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, which hopes to grow plants on the moon. Another is the ELaNa IV (Educational Launch of Nanosatellite) mission and the cubesat Launch Initiative, which involved over 300 students. Nine teams from universities and one high school team got to launch their work — nanosatellites, otherwise known as cubesats — into the cosmos.

Cubesat launch initiative started in 2010 and has since chosen over 90 cubesats from universities and colleges, as well as government labs; the upcoming launch will be the fourth. The cubesats hitch a ride up on commercial rockets, and they’re tiny — about four inches long with a weight of less than three pounds. While researching for their projects, students get to learn all kinds of awesome stuff and often snag aerospace experts as mentors. On November 19, the cubesats launched on an Orbital Science Minotaur-1 rocket. Everything went well, and that rocket brought up 29 satellites in total — a record for a single rocket. We’re making satellites like crazy, y’all!

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3, 2, 1 — Uh Oh, SpaceX Reschedules Falcon 9 Rocket Launch For Thursday

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Falcon 9

Earlier today, SpaceX’s website was counting down, stopping, then counting down again, then stopping again, scrubbing the launch that was scheduled to take place at approximately 5:37pm EST. On Thursday, SpaceX will again attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket for a GEO Transfer Mission. The rocket, which will launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, will put an Orbital Sciences SES-8 satellite, designed to support Southeast Asian communications needs for about 15 years, into a geostationary transfer orbit. Then, about a half-hour after launch, the Falcon 9 will deliver the satellite into geostationary orbit at about 22,000 miles above Earth, roughly 25% of the way to the moon. Many launchers deliver a satellite in two phases, or burns, depending on how long and how much power it takes to reach the first apogee. The transfer to geostatic orbit phase is usually performed via solar power, which reduces overall costs. This launch is SpaceX’s first attempt at putting a communications satellite in orbit.

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SpaceX Is One Step Closer To Manned Flight Capability

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DragonBack in 2009, NASA began the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), designed to promote private sector development of human spaceflight. The eventual goal is to jumpstart a spaceflight industry capable of taking tourists and government astronauts into space. The program’s focus is on crew transportation system designs, an important first step in the development of a commercial industry which is predicted to deliver cheap, reliable, and more efficient transportation of space-going folks into Low-Earth Orbit. In 2012, NASA received proposals from companies committed to working on fully developed and integrated crew transportation systems. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation were among those that received funding after a NASA evaluation, and are now expected to meet 15 milestones on the way to realizing their privatized human spaceflight plans. SpaceX just reached, and passed, the eighth milestone—a review of its in-flight abort procedures.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made its first manned test flight in December 2010, and a few years later became the first commercial vessel to dock with the ISS. Dragon is partially reusable, and will be sent into space by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The recent review focused on the craft’s SuperDraco engines, the software that controls the abort procedure, and the communication between the Dragon and the Falcon 9.

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SpaceX’s Grasshopper Rocket Scares The Cow Pie Out Of Some Cattle

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The recent remarkable test flight of SpaceX’s Grasshopper rocket didn’t impress everyone — in fact, it scared the living shit out of these cows. Cows might have four stomachs and be sacred in some religions, and Walter Bishop may have wanted one to keep him company in the lab, but apparently they’re not jazzed about spaceflight.

The video above raises an interesting question: who or what else observes our rocket launches? What do the birds think? Has anyone checked in with the rabbits?

Most launches happen in places a bit more removed from nature — in fact, the closest bystanders can get to a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral is four miles. Then again, the Grasshopper isn’t just any rocket.

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NASA’s LADEE Moon Probe Puts On Show For The Eastern U.S.

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LADEELate Friday night, NASA launched a Minotaur V rocket carrying a lunar orbiter called LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer). The rocket was visible to much of the northeast seaboard as it arced through the sky.

LADEE, which despite its adorable acronym is unmanned (and unwomaned), is a “modular common spacecraft bus” that weighs roughly 850 pounds and is the length of a small car. The modular components and parallel assembly keep design costs down and shortens launch preparation time. It only takes 295 watts to power—that’s akin to five 60-watt light bulbs.