Getting ready for the mission to Hell

Airbus cleanroom
Airbus has produced a "copy" of SolO to test and validate the design

They must be the two most audacious space missions currently in development.

Solar Orbiter and Solar Probe Plus will venture inside the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun.

The temperatures on the front surfaces of these satellites will go into the high hundreds of degrees Celsius, and beyond.

You could say they are the missions to Hell.

Designing the systems needed to protect the spacecraft has stretched the minds of engineers.

Read full article Getting ready for the mission to Hell

Bloodhound: Superwheels for supersonic car go into production

Wheel machining
A forged aluminium "cheese" goes into one of Castle's machines to be cut to a very precise shape

The process of machining the fastest wheels in automotive history has begun.

The aluminium discs will be fitted to the Bloodhound Supersonic Car, which will endeavour to break the world land speed record (763mph) later this year.

Read full article Bloodhound: Superwheels for supersonic car go into production

Lisa Pathfinder: 'Exquisite' gravity probe leaves UK

Lisa Pathfinder
The Lisa Pathfinder contract represented a watershed for UK industry in space

British industry has completed construction of the modules that make up the Lisa Pathfinder satellite.

This remarkable probe will test the key technologies needed to detect gravitational waves in space.

Read full article Lisa Pathfinder: 'Exquisite' gravity probe leaves UK

Sentinel-2: Europe's 'Landsat' ready to picture Planet Earth

Sentinel-2a

The lead spacecraft in Europe's new multi-billion-euro Earth observation (EO) programme is built and ready to go into orbit.

Sentinel-2a will take pictures of the planet's surface in visible and infrared light.

Read full article Sentinel-2: Europe's 'Landsat' ready to picture Planet Earth

Hubble's star refuses to fade

Sombrero Galaxy
Hubble has wowed us all with its stunning views of the cosmos

Scientists say they have every hope that the Hubble Space Telescope will keep working for at least another five years, perhaps more.

The famous observatory is about to celebrate its 25th birthday.

Read full article Hubble's star refuses to fade

Beagle2: Small margins between success and failure

At far left, MEx snaps Beagle heading away towards Mars in its protective entry shell
Last contact: At far left, Beagle is snapped by MEx heading away towards Mars in its protective entry shell

"My nightmare is that Beagle is sat there on the surface of Mars still trying to talk to us and, for the sake of a broken cable, it's not."

That was Mark Sims, the mission manager on the UK-led Beagle2 mission to the Red Planet, speaking at the publication of the team's own inquiry report into what went wrong.

Read full article Beagle2: Small margins between success and failure

'Planet' Pluto comes into view

Pluto artwork
New Horizons will zip past Pluto on 14 July, but take over a year to downlink its data

There are three letters you need to know this year: BTH.

They stand for "Better Than Hubble"; and in the next few months, we're going to witness two remarkable BTH events.

Read full article 'Planet' Pluto comes into view

Philae comet lander: Sleep well little probe

An emotional Andrea Accomazzo
Andrea Accomazzo would like to end the Rosetta satellite's mission by also landing it on the comet

European Space Agency controllers will not give up on Philae.

They will continue to listen for the little probe in the days ahead, hopeful that it will somehow become active again.

Read full article Philae comet lander: Sleep well little probe

History beckons for Rosetta comet mission

Artist's impression of Rosetta and Philae
A first for space exploration: No probe has previously made a soft touchdown on a comet

All is on course for Wednesday's ambitious attempt to put a probe on the surface of a comet.

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is currently making a long arc around 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Read full article History beckons for Rosetta comet mission

Virgin Galactic descent system activated early, investigators say

SS2
SpaceShipTwo with the tailbooms in the feathered position - from an earlier test outing

Investigators probing the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo craft have released the first hard facts about what happened during its ill-fated flight.

Onboard video and other data now indicate that a critical mechanism that ordinarily would only be used during the descent from sub-orbital space was activated at the beginning of the vehicle's journey skywards, on ascent.

Read full article Virgin Galactic descent system activated early, investigators say