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Chinese Space ProgramChina's Chang'e-3 lunar probe soft-landed on the moon at Sinus Iridum, the Bay of Rainbows, on December 14, 2013. Chang'e-3 carried a robotic lunar rover named Yutu ("Jade Rabbit"), which separated from the lander several hours later.
China's first lunar orbiter, Chang'e 1, entered lunar orbit in Oct., 2007. The launch vehicle was a Long March IIIA. China is spending 7 to 8 years developing a more powerful launch vehicle called the Long March V, to be used for launching a space station, and for lunar missions.
A lunar sample return mission, Chang'e-5, is slated to be flown in 2017.
A 110 kilogram Chinese Mars orbiter, Yinghuo-1 was launched in November, 2011, from Baikonur, Russia. Due to failure of the Russian vehicle, the Chinese Mars probe was lost in Earth orbit.
(June 11, 2013) China launched the manned Shenzhou 10 spacecraft and it docked with space lab module Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace-1, launched on Sep 29, 2011). This was the 3rd and final mission to Tiangong-1. (June 16, 2012) Shenzhou 9 carried the first Chinese female astronaut, Liu Yang.
China intends to build a full space station by 2020.
(Sep 28, 2008) A Long March II-F lifted off from China's Jiuquan launch center on September 25, 2008 carrying Shenzhou VII, China's third manned orbital spacecraft (video). Three astronauts were on board. China's first EVA "space walk" (photos) began at 4:30pm (China time) on Sept. 27, lasting 20 minutes, and Shenzhou VII returned to Earth on Sept. 28 after a 68-hour mission.
China Daily: Shenzhou VII - Xinhua: Shenzhou VII
China Daily: China's Moon Exploration Program
Encyclopedia Astronautica: Shenzhou - Chinese Space Program
Space.com: China Prepares for Shenzhou 6
China launched their 1st manned space flight, Shenzhou V, on Oct. 15, 2003. 14 orbits were planned and executed for this 1st manned mission, lasting about 21 hours. Although the vehicle, based on the Russian Soyuz, could carry up to 3 people, just 1 astronaut (or "taikonaut" or "yuhangyuan") flew in the Shenzhou V, his name is Yang Liwei. Shenzhou V landed as planned in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Oct. 16, 2003 (at 2223 GMT Weds, Oct. 15). The Voice of Russia reported that the Shenzhou 5 mission cost $120 million (US dollars), and that China has spent $2.2 billion on their manned spaceflight program over the last 11 years.
People's Daily: Oct 2005 China's space plans:
- 2007: space walks - 2017: unmanned lunar sample return
Oct 2003 China's First Manned Space Flight
Dec 2002 China Launches Unmanned 'Shenzhou IV'
Go Taikonauts! is a website devoted to the Chinese space program, with news, links, and info on Chinese launch vehicles and the Soyuz-derived Shenzhou spacecraft.
DragonSpace is China space news from Space Daily.
Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) official site
European Space ProgramThe European Space Agency (ESA) site covers ESA programs and establishments, displays ESA press releases, has info on jobs and training at ESA, and links to ESA Videos and the ESA Image Gallery.
ESA also has a separate ESA Science & Technology website which some might prefer over their general website, and the science site has its own searchable image and video gallery.
Current ESA programs include:
Venus Express an orbiter to study the Venusian atmosphere, was launched on a Soyuz-Fregat from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in Oct 2005 and entered Venus orbit on Apr 11, 2006
Mars Express, launched on June 6, 2003, entered Martian orbit in late December and has returned many high-resolution images.
Smart-1, a lunar orbiter, was launched on Sept. 27, 2003 and used its high-specific-impulse ion drive to gradually raise its orbit until it was captured by the moon's gravity field
Rosetta was launched on March 2, 2004, and entered orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in on August 6, 2014.
Huygens was launched with the US Cassini Saturn Orbiter in 1997, and landed on Saturn's moon Titan in Jan. 2005
Bepi-Colombo, a mission to Mercury to launch in 2016 or 2017
Arianespace is the European consortium that builds and launches the Ariane V launch vehicle. Their site includes info about the Ariane launchers, "Europe's Spaceport" in French Guiana, and upcoming launches.
Russian Space ProgramIn 2004 Rosaviakosmos (the Russian Space Agency) was reformed as the Russian Federal Space Agency.
Russian Space Web is loaded with news and articles and photos covering the Russian space program, Russian designers, cosmonauts, launchers, spacecraft, and launch centers.
The International Cooperation page from NASA.
KBTM: Design Bureau of Transport Machinery is the Russian organization in charge of space launch complexes, including the complexes at Plesetsk which include 9 launch pads for Soyuz, Molniya, Cosmos-3M, Cyclone-3, and Rockot launch vehicles.
Russian Space Science Research Institute
National Space Agency of Ukraine
Japanese Space ProgramThe Japanese space agency JAXA was formed on October 1, 2003, merging their former space agency NASDA with the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL), now known as the Aerospace Research & Development Directorate (ARD).
The JAXA site includes information on all parts of the Japanese space program, including the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) for the International Space Station, the H-IIA launch vehicle, the HOPE-X prototype space plane, and many others (site map).
JAXA's Digital Archives is their photo & image repository.
JAXA Earth Observation Center.
Hayabusa asteroid sample return mission brought back samples of asteroid Itokawa in June, 2010.
The SELENE lunar orbiter was launched atop a H-IIA on September 14, 2007.
US Commercial Crew VehicleNASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office is currently funding the development of several competing commercial spacecraft which would be used to deliver crews and supplies to and from the International Space Station. NASA's own spacecraft, the Orion MPCV, is intended for use on missions to asteroids, the Moon, and possibly Mars, although it might be used on trips to the ISS if necessary.
The SpaceX Dragon is a capsule-type spacecraft which they deliver atop their own Falcon 9 launch vehicle. SpaceX has said their manned spacecraft might be ready for use by 2014.
SpaceX already has a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to resupply the International Space Station with a cargo-only version of Dragon. Dragon successfully completed its first ISS unmanned cargo mission in October, 2012.
The Boeing CST-100 (being developed in conjuction with Bigelow Aerospace) is a capsule-type spacecraft which would utilize an Atlas V launch vehicle. The CST-100 is expected to be operational by 2015.
Sierra Nevada Space Systems is developing a runway-landing spacecraft called the Dream Chaser, a lifting body based on the NASA HL-20 design. The Dream Chaser would also utilize an Atlas V launch vehicle, and is also expected to be ready by 2015.
Blue Origin, funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is developing a Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) vertical take off and landing type vehicle (and crew capsule) called the New Shephard, which is similar to the McDonnell DC-X Delta Clipper. However, the vehicle currently under development is strictly suborbital, and thus of limited utility. The New Shephard is expected to be operational between 2016 and 2018.
Private Orbital Space ProgramsIn August, 2006, NASA awarded Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contracts to two companies: $278 million to SpaceX and $207 million to Rocketplane Kistler
In February, 2008, when Rocketplane Kistler failed to secure enough financing to meet contract obligations, the remainder of their part of the COTS contract was transferred to Orbital Sciences, a company which already has proven its capabilities with dozens of payloads launched to orbit.
The COTS program, the cost of which was about the same as a single Space Shuttle flight, called for the companies to demonstrate their capability to service the International Space Station (ISS) after the Space Shuttles was retired in 2011.
Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, founded in 2002 by PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, had 400 employees as of November, 2007. SpaceX is developing their Dragon spacecraft in both manned and unmanned versions to recrew and resupply the International Space Station.
SpaceX also has two launch vehicles, the Falcon 1 and the Falcon 9, both of which use LOX/kerosene burning engines. The Falcon 9 began lifting Dragon spacecraft on flights to the ISS in 2012.
The 4th test of the Falcon 1, with 364lb test payload, launched from the Reagan Test Site on Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll, on Sep 28, 2008, was a success, becoming the first privately developed launch vehicle ever to reach orbit (500 km by 700 km, 9.2 degrees inclination, "exactly as targeted"). press
...Private Orbital Space Programs (contintued)Orbital Sciences has conducted over 50 space launch missions since 1990, using solid fueled vehicles.
For NASA's COTS program, Orbital intends to develop the medium-lift Taurus II solid-fueled launch vehicle, and a cargo spacecraft called Cygnus, using interchangeable modules for pressurized and unpressurized cargo. The Taurus II/Cygnus combo is to deliver up to 2,300 kg of cargo to the ISS, and return 1,200 kg of cargo to Earth. Taurus II/Cygnus artists renderings
Orbital's Pegasus XL, air-launched from an L-1011 aircraft at an altitude of about 40,000 feet, can carry satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds to low earth orbit. Pegasus XL is a winged, three-stage, solid rocket booster that weighs approximately 23,130 kg (51,000 lbs), and measures 16.9 m (55.4 ft) in length and 1.27 m (50 in.) in diameter, and has a wing span of 6.7 m (22 ft). Pegasus fact sheet, .pdf
Orbital has also developed a ground-launched derivative of the Pegasus, called the Taurus. The four-stage Taurus can deliver a 1,350-kilogram (3,000-pound) satellite to low-Earth orbit. Taurus fact sheet, .pdf - Taurus user guide, .pdf
The Minotaur I utilizes a combination of decommissioned Minuteman II ICBM motors and Orbital's own stages and avionics.
Minotaur fact sheet, 1.9MB .pdf - Minotaur user guide, 6.6MB .pdf
Orbital is developing the Minotaur IV, which will use a combination of decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBM motors and Orbital's own stages and avionics. Minotaur IV fact sheet, 903KB .pdf - Minotaur IV user guide, 5.5MB .pdf
Oklahoma City-based Rocketplane Kistler was formed in February, 2006 by the merger of Kistler Aerospace and Pioneer Rocketplane. Their 2-stage vehicle was to use LOX/kerosene burning engines made by Aerojet, and be capable of placing over 4,000 lbs into orbit from launch sites near Woomera, Australia, and Las Vegas, Nevada. First launch of RPK’s K-1 launch vehicle was planned for late 2008. However, they have not issued a press release since 2007.
Interorbital Systems (IOS) "is currently developing two orbital launch vehicles, each utilizing the unique Stage-And-A-Half-To-Orbit (SAAHTO) configuration... The manned Neptune SAAHTO will be used in Interorbital Systems' orbital tourism operations..." IOS plans to use "aerospike" type engines (with an expansion ramp instead of a nozzle) which are pressure-fed (no turbopumps).
Kelly Space & Technology
Current Major Launch VehiclesTable: Comparison of Current and Historic Launch Vehicles by Richard Welty
International Launch Services was formed as a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, formed to market the Lockheed Martin Atlas and Krunichev Proton launch vehicles.
In October 2006, privately held Space Transport Inc. acquired Lockheed Martin's shares in ILS. Thus, ILS now provides launch services only on Proton. ILS will also market Khrunichev's next-generation Angara launch vehicle when it becomes available.
The complete Proton Launch System Mission Planner's Guide is a 408 page .pdf, but "only" a 19 MB download. Proton Launch System History is one of the sections that can be downloaded separately. You might be asked to register (free and easy) to download these documents.
Lockheed Martin builds the Atlas V launch vehicle. The United Launch Services Atlas V User's Guide is now a 26.9MB .pdf.
Delta Launch Vehicles are built by Boeing. Delta II Payload Planner's Guide - Delta IV Payload Planner's Guide
Boeing Launch Services offers the Delta II and Delta IV, plus the Russian-built Zenit-3SL, which can be launched from land or from an oceangoing platform, the Sea Launch system, which permits launches to any orbital inclination (they also market land-based Zenit launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome). When Sea Launch was founded, Boeing provided 40% of the capital and S.P.Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia provided 25%. The two Ukrainian companies which build the first two stages of the Zenit LV, Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmashzavod, put up 15%, and a Norwegian holding company, Kvaerner, the remaining 20%. Kvaerner controls Kvaerner Maritime, which modified an off-shore oil drilling rig into the launch platform, and built the Sea Launch assembly and command ship.
Zenit-3SL User's Guides are available in both Sea Launch and Land Launch versions, but you must register (for free) before you can proceed to download them.
Boeing Delta and Lockheed Martin Atlas launches for the US Government are now conducted by the Boeing-LockMart joint venture United Launch Alliance.
Arianespace is the European consortium that builds and operates the (primarily French) Ariane 5 launch vehicle; they also market Russian-built Soyuz, and the forthcoming (primarily Italian) Vega launchers. The Ariane 5 User's Guide .pdf is a 17 MB download, and includes extensive info about the Guiana Launch Centre as well as the vehicle.
As of April, 2007, Soyuz launch vehicles had flown 1719 times. The June 2006 edition of the Soyuz User's Manual is available in two versions; the one for launches from Guiana Space Center (a 6.9MB .pdf) is available from Arianespace. This document is loaded with good info and photos of the current Soyuz launch vehicle, which is the direct descendant of the original R-7A that carried the first Sputnik into orbit in 1957. The Soyuz LV is built by Starsem, and you can download the same Baikonur Cosmodrome version of the Soyuz User's Manual from their website.
The updated Vega Users Manual .pdf is now a 10 MB download.
The H-IIA is the major launch vehicle of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency; it has a LH2/LOX 1st stage, and can launch about a satellite of about 2-tons to geosynchronous orbit. The H-IIA first flew in 2001, and in Dec 2006 the eleventh H-IIA was launched. The JAXA H-IIA Pamphlet is a 5MB .pdf.
The upgraded H-IIB is under development; the H-IIB Pamphlet is a 1.04MB .pdf.
Space Launch Vehicle Reliability statistics
Private Suborbital ProgramsOn Jun 21, 2004 SpaceShipOne became the first private vehicle to reach an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). The craft was built by Scaled Composites, whose founder and CEO Burt Rutan also designed the world-circling Voyager airplane.
On Sep 29, 2004, SpaceShipOne made a second flight to over 100 km. Then, just 5 days later, on Oct 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne made a third trip to over 100 km. For reaching over 100 km twice within 2 weeks, SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize, a $10 million award to the first private group to do so. SpaceShipOne photo gallery
The Spaceship Company, a joint venture of Scaled Composites and Sir Richard Branson, are now developing SpaceShipTwo, which will carry 2 pilots and 6 passengers. Branson's Virgin Galactic will sell tickets for tourists to take a suborbital joy ride on this craft to an altitude of about 68 miles. The tickets will initially sell for about $200,000; it is expected that the price would eventually drop to around $20,000.
Copenhagen Suborbitals - Starchaser (UK)
Other Space ResourcesEncyclopedia Astronautica is the most complete space reference on the Internet, listing spacecraft, launch vehicles, engines, astronauts, flights, and more, with stats and photos.
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) is a massive website of thousands of pages, including many pictures and links, and the "Nine Planets" virtual solar system.
Jonathan McDowell's Space Report lists all objects ever orbited, and over 20,000 rocket launches.
Space.com is a very elaborate and comprehensive site, including extensive image galleries.
The Space Daily puts their extensive daily news right up front, so you can see more news more quickly.
Space Online has daily space news, with Kennedy Space Center launch info, from FloridaToday.com.
Orlando Sentinel Space News.
Heavens Above provides the info you need to watch the Space Station, Space Shuttle, and other satellites flying overhead.
Astronautics and Spacecraft Design, by Mike Gruntman of the U. of Southern California's Aerospace Engineering Dept., provides many links to sites relating to spacecraft propulsion and communications, ground and launch systems, and the history of space exploration (and general space sites). Also, there is a large bibliography of related textbooks.
How to Design, Build and Test Small Liquid-Fuel Rocket Engines (1967) by Leroy J. Krzycki is a full-text online book from Rocketlab at China Lake, California, which should provide some insight into how the large engines work.
Gunter Kreb's Space Page has info on launch vehicles and spacecraft of all nations.
My Little Space Museum has some nice exhibits, including cutaway images of the Apollo Lunar Module and spacesuit.
GlobalSecurity: Reusable Launch Vehicles overview
Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century is a full-text online book, consisting of papers from a NASA-sponsored, public symposium hosted by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., Oct. 29-31, 1984. Authors include James Beggs, T. A. Heppenheimer, and Edward Teller.
Space Exploration SearchSpaceRef.com is space portal site with news (including a version for your palmtop), an events calendar, guides to the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and more, including this space website search engine.
The 1967 TIME Magazine article excerpt on the Apollo 204 fire, previously located here, has been moved to the STS-107 Columbia Breakup page.