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Three astronauts return to Earth after staying at space station for five months

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Expedition 53 crew mates naming Randy Bresnik of NASA, Paolo Nespoli of European Space Agency (ESA) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed in Kazakhstan at 2.37 p.m. after spending five months a The International Space Station.

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Three astronauts landed on Earth after spending five months at space station.
Three astronauts landed on Earth after spending five months at space station. IANS
  • Three astronauts land in Kazakhstan
  • The astronauts spent nearly five months at The International pace Station
  • The astronauts ventured for three spacewalks

Washington, Dec 14, 2017: Three astronauts landed in Kazakhstan on Thursday after spending nearly five months at the International Space Station.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Expedition 53 crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA, Paolo Nespoli of European Space Agency (ESA) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos landed at 2.37 p.m. Kazakhstan time, NASA said.

During his time aboard the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the space station for three spacewalks.

Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2.

They also lubricated the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replaced cameras on the left side of the station’s truss and the right side of the station’s US Destiny laboratory.

Ryazanskiy conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples and perform structural maintenance.

Bresnik now has spent 150 days in space on two flights. Ryazanskiy now has 306 days in space on two flights. Nespoli has logged 313 days in space on his three flights.

The Expedition 54 crew continues operating the station, with Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos in command.

The three-person crew will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members on December 19, NASA said. (IANS)

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Firefly Aerospace Inc Plans to Build a Factory at Cape Canaveral

NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface.

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Rocket
A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket stands ready for launch on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 5, 2018 VOA

Firefly Aerospace Inc, a resurgent rocket company founded by a former SpaceX engineer, plans to build a factory and launch site at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Spaceport in a $52 million deal, people familiar with the project said on Wednesday.

The Firefly project is strategically important for the Cedar Park, Texas-based startup as it competes with several other new entrants vying to cash in on a big jump in the number of small satellites expected in the coming years.

Companies like Firefly, billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, and the U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, are among the most promising companies designing miniaturized launch systems to link a broader swath of the economy to space at lower cost.

Firefly and Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority, declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

Beginning around 2020, around 800 small satellites are expected to launch annually, more than double the annual average over the past decade, according to Teal Group analyst Marco Caceres.

The boom is fueled in part by new venture cash and technology leaps that have reduced the size of satellites used for everything from communications to national security.

A Florida project code-named “Maricopa” was publicly disclosed in November by Space Florida, but officials have been tight-lipped on specifics. Two people familiar with the project said Firefly is the company involved, though one of the people said the deal had not been finalized.

Firefly aims for a first flight in December of its Alpha rocket, which is capable of carrying around 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) into low-Earth orbit at a cost of about $15 million per flight.

NASA, tissue
Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha.

By comparison, it can cost around $62 million for a ride on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with a payload topping 50,000 pounds (22,700 kg).

Firefly, founded around 2014 by former SpaceX and NASA engineer Tom Markusic, says its main competitors are government-subsidized foreign ones like the Indian Space Research Organization.

Asset management firm Noosphere Ventures bought Firefly’s assets in 2017 after it nearly shut down when a key European investor backed out. That resulted in the cancellation of a $5.5 million NASA contract for small satellite launches.

Also Read: NASA Planning to Use Blockchain Technology For Air Traffic Management

Firefly has a launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and has generally talked about expanding operations for Alpha and a higher-capacity Beta rocket around 2021. It was not clear when the Florida expansion would be completed.

In November, NASA named Firefly as one of nine U.S. companies competing for funding under a program to develop technology to explore the moon’s surface. (VOA)