Credit: Hassel-Eckersley-Ocallaghan / 3D printed Habitat Challenge / NASA






Astrobotic is contracting payloads to Trans-Lunar Insertion (TLI), Lunar Orbit, and Surface on the Moon at Lacus Mortis for theirFirst Mission. 

ISPACE - Expand our planet. Expand our future.

Japan-based lunar exploration company ispace, inc. raises $90.2 million to be used for development of lunar lander and two lunar missions by 2020.

ISPACE has already started the development of its small, agile and modular lunar lander. The main goal is to provide a regular transportation service to the Moon.

ROSCOMOS gives OK to LUNA-25

The Russian Luna-Glob mission, currently scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s, will study the physical conditions and composition of the regolith near the lunar south pole, as well as test new soft-landing technologies.

The engineering constraints for the mission require that potential landing sites lie between 70-85°S and 0-60°E, and Boguslawsky crater fits the bill and was selected as the primary target.

The Chinese  Chang'e-5 mission will return samples from the Moon

Since the Apollo's missions, China will be the first to return to Earth, samples from the near side of the Moon. That will be the mission of Chang'e-5, scheduled for November 2019, near Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum, a large area of lunar mare in the northwest region of the Moon.

Scientists work on China's Chang'e-5 landing and ascent vehicles. Credit: Framegrab/CCTV

Chang’e-5 is China’s first lunar sample return mission and the most ambitious endeavor in the country’s lunar program, aiming to introduce new technologies and techniques such as a fully-automated rendezvous in lunar orbit and sample transfers in between different spacecraft modules. 

The Indian Chandrayan-2 is ready for the Moon

Chandrayaan-2 is an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) trivia mission including an orbiter, a soft lander and a rover. 

Its primary mission objective is to do a soft-land on the lunar surface at the South Polar region, situated between the 65° and 90° latitudes, and operate a robotic rover. LEARN MORE

The Lunar Orbital Platform, "Gateway", or LOP-G

As reflected in the NASA's Exploration Campaign, the next step in the human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. pre-eminence in the cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Lunar Orbital Platform, “Gateway,” (LOP-G).

The LOP-G can evolve depending on mission needs. Basically, the initial functionality will include four main elements, such as a Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), a habitation element, a airlock element to enable docking and Extra-Vehicular Activities (EVA), and a logistics element for cargo delivery, science utilization, exploration technology demonstrations, and potential commercial utilization.

Credit: Cislunar and Gateway Overview, William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD AA / Jason Crusan, AES Director and Gateway Formulation Lead, NASA HQ

The Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) is an uncrewed mission to test Orion’s capabilities in deep space. EM-1 is the first flight of the European Service Module (ESM) and also Orion’s first flight on the new SLS. During the mission, the Crew Module guidance navigation and control system will command the ESM propulsion system to place the spacecraft into a Distant Retrograde Orbit around the moon. The nominal mission duration is 25 days, but will be adjusted between 21 and 43 days in order to ensure a landing under daylight conditions.

The Gateway will be constructed in orbit, incrementally, with the uses of the American-built Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), as well as commercial launch vehicles.

In fact, NASA plans to build the Gateway with just five or six rocket launches, compared to the 34 launches it took to build the space station. Large parts will be set up by automatic assembly, mean robotically. LEARN MORE

The China Chang'e-4 mission to the Moon will be Historical!

For the first time a country will land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon! Chang'e-4 will be the fourth mission in its series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

In October of 1959, the Luna 3 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Luna 3 was the third spacecraft to reach the Moon and the first to send back pictures of the Moon's far side. The pictures were noisy and indistinct, but because the Moon always presents the same face to the Earth, they offered views of a part of the Moon never seen before.

The far side of the Moon is surprisingly different. The most striking difference evident in the Luna 3 pictures is the absence of the large, dark seas of cooled lava, called maria, that cover a substantial fraction of the Earth-facing near side. The far side is instead densely peppered with impact craters of every size and age. Published: September 26, 2017. Credit: NASA

The two-part missions of Chang'e-4 will focusing on the low-frequency astronomy and the investigation of the subsurface, the topography and the mineralogical composition of the lunar far side.

First part - the relay satellite

The Chang'e-4 mission will start in June 2018 with the lift off of the relay satellite aboard the Long March 4C rocket. The spacecraft will be placed in halo orbit at the Lagrange-Point 2, at some 60,000 km behind the Moon. Its goal is to provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side surface. LEARN MORE

The Space Launch System (SLS)

The first launch of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) is scheduled for 2018, with a capability of over 70 t or 154,000 lbm of payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Not only its payload is greater than the twice of the Space Shuttle, the SLS will be the first in over 40 years that will have the capability to go well beyond LEO.

In parallel with the development of the SLS, NASA work on two other exploration systems, that is the Orion Program and the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO)Program. The Orion spacecraft is designed to carry astronauts on exploration missions into Deep Space, means for long travel. The GSDO Program is converting the facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) into a next-generation spaceport capable of supporting launches by differents vehicles. LEARN MORE

The FY 2019 budget request includes $10.5 billion to pursue an exploration campaign that will focus on transitioning LEO operations to commercial providers and returning humans to the Moon and cislunar space, with eventual missions to Mars and beyond. NASA will evolve its core capabilities through continued technical advancements and new approaches and industrial partnerships to maintain the U.S.’s leadership role in human spaceflight. 

The campaign will be enabled by pursuing near-term milestones for lunar exploration, such as the commercial launch of the power propulsion element, a key element of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. A new Lunar Discovery and Exploration program would support innovative approaches to achieve human and science exploration goals by funding contracts for commercial transportation services and the development of small rovers and instrument to meet lunar science and exploration needs.


Studying Volatiles in the Intercrater Highlands of the lunar North Pole 

Lunar polar volatiles can provide clues about solar and planetary evolutionary processes . In addition, local sources of water and other volatiles on the Moon may enable in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) for future permanent human bases. To address these science and exploration issues, we need to identify lunar landing sites where the distribution and physical properties of volatiles can be studied.

The Intercrater Polar Highlands region (IPH) near the lunar North Pole contains landing sites where all five NRC science objectives can be addressed. In the above figure. it is showing some observations from many spacecrafts around the Moon. 

In general, the North Pole is characterized by an high density of small Permanent Shadowed Regions (PSRs). At the PSRs, a high number of small sites can be found in the area between Hermite and Peary craters, as well as on the northern wall of Hermite, Rozhdestvensky, and Rozhdestvensky W craters. Learn More

Pit crater/lava tubes - 33.22°E, 8.336°N - Mare Tranquillitatis

Just below - Five of many LROC Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) showhigh resolution views of the increasingly famous "Mare Pit Crater" in the Sea of Tranquillitatis.

Lunar pit craters are small, steep-walled collapse features that suggest subsurface voids. Over 200 pit craters are located in impact melt and are relatively shallow, at about 10 m. LEARN MORE

 The Aristarchus plateau - 50°W, 25°N

Aristarchus crater is located on the edge of the Aristarchus Plateau, one of the most geologically interesting regions of the Moon. It is a complex crater of 40 km wide, 3.5 km deep, that has been formed about 175 millions years ago. 

West wall of Aristarchus crater seen obliquely by the LROC NACs from an altitude of only 26 km. Scene is about 12 km wide at the base. Image NAC M175569775. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

The impact straddled the boundary of the plateau and the surrounding mare, thus excavating both very different rock types, as well as underlying crustal rocks. 


Tycho has a diameter of 85 km and a depth of about 4.5 km. Located at 11.1° West and 43.4° South, Tycho is the youngest large crater on the nearside of the Moon with a conspicuous ray system.

Above, we see an oblique view of Tycho crater looking from east-to-west. Image was acquired on 2 November 2014 from an altitude of 59 km. The central peak rises more than 2000 m above the crater floor and the far wall exhibits more than 4500 m of relief. Image: M1169552252LR. Credit: NASA

Tycho could potentially be a two-mission site. LEARN MORE


Safe Haven Configurations for Deep Space Transit Habitats

Smoke, fire on board, as well as pressure loss or a collision with another spacecraft during docking or undocking operations could provide For Mars missions, ground operations will be limited, quick return impossible.

So, the risk of a collision during deep space missions could yield disastrous results, such a loss of mission and a loss of crew for transit habitat designs without safe haven capabilities.

Configuration 4 shown in Fig. 4 show a new concept utilizing the pressure vessel volumes planned for the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), which yielded a convenient large volume habitat with a closed loop system paired with a smaller volume using a 30-day open loop system.


Crews'preparation for the ISS

NASA and Private Space Companies elaborated a Crew Transportation System (CTS) to orbital destinations based on a Design Reference Missions (DRMs) framework. 

For the CTS to provide successful services to the ISS, 2 major objectives must be met. The first one is to insure a crew rotation capability for 4NASA or NASA-sponsored crew-members.

The second objective is to transport a limited amount of ISS Program-specified pressurized cargo to the Station, to return that cargo and provide a safe haven when the spacecraft is docked.


Virgin Galactic

In 2004, the British entrepreneur Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic in Mojave, California. His major goal has always been to promote Space tourism and research.

Blue Origin, LLC

Blue Origin was created in 2000 by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. The headquarter is based at Kent, Washington, and its launch site is at Van Horn, Texas, USA.

Like oases in the desert, the Spaceports network presents outlines ofa pioneering, multi-purpose logistics network of safe havens, enabling human and robotic expansion into the hostile space environment. A spaceport is an infrastructure that provides services for space vehicles and facilitates their departure and arrival.

The Spaceport envisioned includes one depot in LEO, one in Lagrangian-1, and one in Mars' orbit, to support human missions to all destinations of interest.  This operating scenario makes the depots and reusable vehicles part of a permanent infrastructure. Eventually, this infrastructure could support dozens of commercial and/or exploration missions simultaneously, for decades to come.

In November 2015, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) selected Made In Space's project for a public-private partnerships to advance Tipping Point Technologies. Funded by NASA, the project named Archinaut™ was to develop technologies and subsystems to enable the first additive manufacturing, aggregation, and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronaut extravehicular activity (EVA).

3D Space Manufacturing in ISS. Credit: NASA



Funded by NASA's NIAC program, the company Made in Space has completed its Phase I, named RAMA project. The objective of this concept study is to answer the question: can we utilize space manufacturing activities to convert an asteroid into anautonomous, mechanical spacecraft?

Asteroid Redirect Robotic and Crewed Missions  (almost canceled by WH's decision!)

Then, what was the concept of the Asteroid Redirect Mission?

In November 2015, the Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST), drafted its Final Report for NASA`s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The primary decision was made on March 2015, to select the boulder capture option for the robotic segment of ARM with a launch scheduled for the end of 2021. For the crew's segment, the launch was planned for December 2025. But, it was decided to mature the mission with one more year, 2026.

Why Russian Rocket Engines are so Popular?

Russian and American rocket engines use liquid oxygen as oxidizer and kerosene or RP-1 (some kind of kerosene) as fuel. So, why does a Russian rocket engine like the RD-191 give a specific impulse (Isp) much higher and offer a significant reduction in propellant mass than that of the Americans?

Figure: the Russian RD-191 engine

Operational Orbital Launch Vehicles

By the end of 2016, there were 82 different orbital launch vehicles operating around the world. This figure includes variants of a family of vehicles. For example, there are 10 Atlas V variants defined by the number of solid rocket boosters used, type of fairing by diameter, and type of Centaur upper stage (single or dual engine). Not all of these vehicles are available for commercial use, whereby a payload customer can “shop around” for a ride into orbit.

Launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX


The Space Launch System (SLS)

The first launch of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) is scheduled for 2018, with a capability of over 70 t of payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). With a payload capacity twice that of  the Space Shuttle, the SLS will go well beyond the LEO. 

As NASA develops the SLS, it also works on the Orion Program and the Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO) Program. The Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts into Deep Space for long exploration missions. Through the GSDO Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) facilities will become the next-generation of Spaceport. The main goal is to have capabilities to support many launches by different vehicles.

Named SLS Block 1, it will provide a 70 t payload delivery capability to LEO. This initial SLS test flight will accommodate an uncrewed Orion and a number of Secondary Payloads (SPL). Its purpose is to test SLS launch capabilities and Orion’s ability for safe trans-lunar crew return. This is planned no earlier than 2018 on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).


. Launch Propulsion Systems

. In-Space Propulsion Technologies

. Some gas used in the Rockets

. Launch and reentry sites

. The Cryogenic Rocket Engines

. Advanced Propulsion Technologies

. Operational Orbital Launch Vehicles

and many more subjects


Launched in October 1997 by a Titan IVB booster rocket with an orbiter of 2,125 kilograms (kg), a probe (Huygens) of 320 kg and 3,132 kg of propellants, the spacecraft weighed a total of 5,712 kg. It is one of the largest, heaviest and most complex interplanetary spacecraft ever built and reached Saturn and its moons in July 2004.

With a total height of nearly 7 m and a 4 m-high-gain antenna on the top, Cassini-Huygens is the most complete interplanetary spacecraft ever constructed by NASA. 

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft during vibration and thermal testing in 1996. Credit: NASA

Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft has done a Very Good Job!

Cassini-Huygens was a three-axis stabilized spacecraft equipped for 27 diverse science investigations: the Cassini orbiter included 12 instruments and, the Huygens probe, 6. Instruments such as the spectrometers, cosmic dust analyzers, magnetometers, radar and imaging technologies had multiple functions. 

Exceptionally, the spacecraft's instruments, computers, radio transmitters, attitude thrusters and reaction wheel, were powered by 3big Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs).

The UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS), a box of 4 telescopes, creates pictures by observing ultraviolet light. In ultraviolet wavelengths of light, gases are observable and UVIS determines what type it is by splitting the light into its component wavelengths, or colors.

Saturn's auroral emissions are similar to the Earth's Northern Lights. These dual images were taken in 2005 with Cassini's UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph. Credit: NASA

This ultraviolet's view of Saturn's rings  indicates more ice toward the outer part (in blue), and less in the inner part (in red), hinting at their origins and evolution. Color view of Saturn's rings. Credit: NASA/JPL

The Huygens Probe's separation from Cassini Orbiter

Huygens separated from the Cassini spacecraft on December 25, 2004, using aspring-loaded separation mechanism, called the spin eject device. This device provided a nominal relative separation velocity of 33 cm/s and a nominal spin of 7.5 rpm to provide inertial stability during the ballistic trajectory and atmospheric entry. Following release, the probe had no maneuvering capability and functioned autonomously. After 20 days, Huygens arrived at the 1,270-km interface altitude on the predicted trajectory, triggering the sequence to turn on the batteries, the on-board computers, and the sensors and instruments according to the programmed sequence.

Huygens' Probe began its descent through Titan's hazy cloud layers from an altitude of about 1,270 km. First, it had to decelerate from 18,000 to 1,400 km/h using a sequence of parachutes, to slowed it down to less than 300 km/h. At an altitude of 160 km, everything was exposed to Titan'satmosphere. When the Probe reached about 120 km, it replaced the main parachute by a smaller one to complete the 2.25 hour descent. 


Cassini's Grand Finale began on April 22, 2017, when it leaped over Saturn's rings to start its final series of daring dives between the planet and the inner edge of the rings. Each of these orbits took 6 days to complete.

In fact, the spacecraft climbed high above Saturn's North Pole, then plunged to a point just outside the narrow F ring, 22 times, When everything was complete, Cassini plunged into the planet's upper atmosphere and burned up like a meteor, ending the epic mission to the Saturn system. 

Why some Spacecrafts missions are extended?

The 2016 Planetary Mission Senior Review (PMSR-16) was conducted from May16-26th for 9 missions: Curiosity, Dawn, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Mars Express (MEx), Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), New Horizons, Odyssey, Opportunity, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN).

Spacecrafts last through their proposed prime mission because they are tested in harsh conditions similar to those found in the space vacuum of their target mission. 

An extended mission is possible when more valuable scientific data can be received and the spacecrafts are fit to pursue their travels in space. For that latter case, engineers designed them to do so.

Mars Reconnaissance orbiter (MRO). Credit: NASA / Mission Extended

The Fantastic Voyage of JUNO to JUPITER

The U.S. orbiter JUNO was launched on August 5, 2011, in the direction of Jupiter. The main goals are to Reveal the story of the formation and evolution of Jupiter. How did Jupiter form? Does it have a solid core? How is its vast magnetic field generated?

Pluto's spacecraft few seconds after launch in August 2011. Credit: NASA/JPL


The C  and the S types are the most common asteroids founded in-space. They includes some organic compounds, water-ice or stony/metal combination. Psyche is made only of metal!

The mission was chosen by NASA on January 4, 2017, as one of two missions for the agency's Discovery Program, which provide a series of low-coast missions to solar system targets.

Space Environmental Effects on Materials

The International Space Station (ISS) provides a challenging research environment with its exposure to extreme heat and cold cycles, ultra vacuum, atomic oxygen and high energy radiation.

Because of those space environmental effects, the ISS has been for many years the ideal place to test future materials to be used in space.

View of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) 6A and 6B Passive Experiment Containers (PECs) on the European Laboratory/Columbus. Photo taken during a fly around of STS-123 Space Shuttle Endeavor.


When a spacecraft does many passes through a planet's atmosphere with only small changes during each pass, meaning when passing from a larger eccentricity to a smaller one, it makes an Aerobraking maneuver. One example of that maneuver is Cassini's Grand Finale on the planet Saturn in September 2017.

Propulsion without fuel is possible when using the techniques of Aeroassit, such as Aerocapture, Aerobraking, Entry and Aerogravity Assist maneuvers.

TIPS for the selection of spacecrafts missions

When NASA Give an ANNOUNCEMENT OF OPPORTUNITY (AO)- example, for the DISCOVERY PROGRAM (or the New Frontiers Program)

NASA issues this AO for the purpose of soliciting proposals for investigations to be implemented through its Discovery Program. All investigations proposed must support the goals and objectives of the Program, must be implemented by Principal Investigator (PI) led investigation teams and through the provision of complete spaceflight missions.

Proposed investigations are evaluated and selected through a two-step competitive process.