A new era of spaceflight? Promising advances in rocket propulsion

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has recently commissioned three private companies, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics, to develop nuclear fission thermal rockets for use in lunar orbit.

NASA chooses SpaceX to take humans back to Moon

NASA has selected SpaceX to land the first astronauts on the surface of the Moon since 1972, the agency said Friday, in a huge victory for Elon Musk's company.

Liftoff! Pioneers of space

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space 60 years ago next week.

Image: Engine of Atlantis

The second European Service Module that will power the Orion spacecraft on a crewed flyby of the moon is fitted with a special engine at Airbus facilities in Germany.

SpaceX aims to launch 'all-civilian' trip into orbit

SpaceX announced Monday it's aiming to launch this year the first all-civilian mission into Earth's orbit, led by a tech billionaire who plans to raffle off one of the spots aboard the craft.

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Space Shuttle

NASA's Space Shuttle, officially named the Space Transportation System (STS), is the spacecraft currently used by the United States government for its human spaceflight missions and is scheduled to be retired from service in 2010. At launch, it consists of a rust-colored external tank (ET), two white, slender Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs), and the orbiter, which is a winged spaceplane in the narrowest sense.

The orbiter carries astronauts and payload such as satellites or space station parts into low earth orbit, into the Earth's upper atmosphere or thermosphere. Usually, five to seven crew members ride in the orbiter. The payload capacity is 22,700 kilograms (50,000 lb). When the orbiter's mission is complete it fires its Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) thrusters to drop out of orbit and re-enters the lower atmosphere. During the descent, the shuttle orbiter decelerates from hypersonic speed primarily by aerobraking and then for the landing phase it acts as a glider, making a completely unpowered (deadstick) landing.

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