The successful launch of the Electron rocket in New Zealand was announced by the developer Rocket Lab. The extraordinary lightness and small size were achieved through the use of carbon fiber and 3D printing technology, which does not prevent the device from putting up to 225 kg of payload into orbit.

For example, this was enough to deliver three mini-satellites (cubesats). For comparison, the carrying capacity of the Proton-M launch vehicle allows you to send cargo a hundred times heavier, despite the fact that the launch cost is only 12-13 times more expensive. That’s just the expediency of launches is possible only with a full load of the rocket and the presence of a suitable “window” for the launch, which reduces the effectiveness of the “Proton” or Falcon 9 for use in the private sphere. Electron, on the other hand, can actually take off without any time limits, which is what makes it so attractive for private astronautics. And what other starts are expected this year?

Falcon Heavy

Space X, led by Elon Musk, continues to demonstrate perseverance and confidence in its projects. Already in early February, the first test flight of the Falcon Heavy, a super-heavy launch vehicle, is planned. Ground tests of the rocket were successfully completed and the launch was originally supposed to take place in January, but was canceled due to the failure to launch an American satellite into space. If the Falcon Heavy doesn’t explode, Musk says it will fly past Mars and shoot out into deep space for “billions of years” of travel.

Space X also plans to test the Dragon 2 apparatus, which will run between the International Space Station and Earth.

The latest space projects we're looking forward to in 2018Space “miners”

Deep Space Industries, which plans to explore asteroids for the extraction of useful resources, continues to test the technological base already in outer space. On January 12, an Indian rocket launched the Arkyd-6 probe into orbit. This is a reconnaissance vehicle whose task is to test technologies for finding water-containing substances and water directly on asteroids.

Arkyd-6 is equipped with 2nd generation avionics, orbital position detection system and infrared sensors. The construction of new equipment and the future of the company as a whole will depend on the success of the tests that will be carried out on the device throughout 2018.

Moon songs and dances

India’s space ambitions are not limited to fulfilling orders from foreign companies. Thus, in 2018, it is planned to send an automatic station for studying the moon “Chandrayan-2”, which was designed by the Indian Space Research Organization.

The mission includes a launch vehicle, a lander and a mobile rover for direct exploration of the satellite’s surface. In the event of a successful landing of the module and the success of the mission as a whole, the program will form the basis for the development of research expeditions of other space objects. The outcome of the mission will be announced next year.

In 2008, the Indians have already delivered the Chandrayaan-1 artificial satellite to the Moon. The results obtained formed the basis of calculations for an accurate landing of Chandrayaan-2.

space projectsTo the asteroid and back

In 2018, in addition to landing a research station on an asteroid, it is also planned to return it. The implementation of this mission will be carried out by the Hayabusa-2 automatic interplanetary probe, which is due to dock with the asteroid Ryugu (162173) in June this year.

In total, the device will make several descents. It is planned to land a rover equipped with a spectrometer and a magnetometer, which will perform field studies of the asteroid’s surface, as well as soil sampling by the station with return delivery.

The return of the station launched in 2014 is expected at the end of 2020.

Moon in red

The Chinese National Space Administration plans to deliver lunar soil as part of the Chang’e-5 mission. Structurally, the ship will consist of a carrier station and a module capable of holding up to 2.2 kg of samples, which will deliver them to Earth.

Starting later this year, Chang’e-5 will be the first mission since 1976 to return soil from the moon.

The latest space projects we're looking forward to in 2018BepiColombo will fly to Mercury

BepiColombo is a joint mission of the European and Japanese space agencies to study Mercury. The launch is scheduled for October this year, and the entire journey to the planet will take approximately 7 years. The launch site will be the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

Two probes will be on board BepiColombo: Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will study the planet’s magnetosphere, and Mercury Planetary Orbiter will study the surface of Mercury.

We need more exoplanets

The orbit of our planet in March will be replenished with a new space telescope as part of the NASA program to find transiting exoplanets. The TESS telescope was developed by specialists from Massachusetts and will be able to cover about 200,000 stars. By probing outer space, the telescope will read fluctuations in the brightness of stars, which will indicate the presence of exoplanets in the studied star systems.

The device will be able to determine the presence of not only giants like Jupiter or Saturn, but bodies comparable in size to Venus or Earth. Working in airless space will allow leveling atmospheric distortions that reduce the effectiveness of this kind of observations from the Earth. Previously, the Kepler telescope successfully completed a similar mission for 8 years, providing data to confirm the existence of more than 1000 potential exoplanets. The potential of TESS is many times greater than the capabilities of its predecessor, so in the coming years we will repeatedly hear news about the discovery of habitable planets in the vastness of the universe.

The delivery of the telescope will be carried out by the already familiar Falcon 9.

PHOTO: flflflflfl;bluegate;skeeze;Ponciano/pixabay

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