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Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Rosetta heads for space 'rubber duck'

17 July 2014

Europe's mission to land on a comet was always going to be difficult, but the pictures released this week of the giant ice ball illustrate just how daunting the task will be.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is far more irregular in shape than anyone imagined.

It has already been dubbed the "rubber duck" in space.

The latest pictures were acquired by the approaching Rosetta probe from a distance of about 12,000km.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the spacecraft expects to reduce that separation to less than 100km.

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Spaceport Britain: 'No challenge is insurmountable'

15 July 2014
Artist's concept of spaceport

It's more than 40 years since Britain abandoned its own launch capability, cancelling the Black Arrow programme just as it successfully lofted the Prospero satellite.

The subsequent withdrawal from the European Ariane programme confirmed Britain's deep aversion to rockets. Until now. The climate is changing. Ministers are putting public funds (albeit a small sum) into an air-breathing rocket-engine technology, and they've declared their desire to see a home spaceport.

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Rosetta: 'Spuds in space'

10 July 2014
Comet 67P on Fri 4 July
Comet 67P seen on Friday 4 July at a separation of 37,000km

With the Rosetta probe closing in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we're beginning to get a sense of the ice mountain's shape.

The latest picture release from the European Space Agency (Esa) may only cover an area of about 30 pixels, but it's clear that 67P is no sphere. In some views, the object appears quite elongated.

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Ariane 6: Customers call the shots

5 July 2014
Ariane
A6.1 would loft the big telecoms satellites; A6.2 would put up the low-orbiting, Earth-observation spacecraft

Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant.

More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.

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Rosetta edges towards Comet 67P

3 July 2014
Comet 67P
Are we nearly there yet? Image taken from a distance of about 86,000km

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is edging ever closer to its quarry - the 4km-wide Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Thursday's separation is just 43,000km, and the narrowing gap is evident in the probe's latest photo release.

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Malaysian jet MH370: Refined analysis drives new search area

26 June 2014
File photo: HMAS Perth transits through the southern Indian Ocean as an Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force searches for debris for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370, 13 April 2014
Search teams have spent months trying to find signs of the missing plane

As expected, and reported by the BBC last week, the search for MH370 is going to shift hundreds of kilometres to the south of where an Australian defence vessel thought, mistakenly, it had detected signals from the jet’s submerged flight recorders.

The new region is a consequence of further, refined analysis of the brief, automated satellite communications with the plane in its last hours.

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Rosetta: Icy quarry coming into view

19 June 2014
Comet
Rosetta views Comet 67P on 4 June, using the Osiris Narrow Angle Camera

Take your seats because the show is about to begin.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is edging ever closer to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for what is expected to be one of the most daring space encounters in history.

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Skylon ‘spaceplane economics stack up’

29 May 2014
Skylon D1
Skylon is the result of 30 years' development and probably about 100m euros (£80m) of investment so far

It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane.

The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).

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MH370 spur to 'better ocean mapping'

27 May 2014
Bluefin-21
The Bluefin-21 sub aborted its first dive because it was about to exceed its depth limits

Scientists have welcomed the decision to make all ocean depth data (bathymetry) gathered in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 publicly available.

A detailed survey of 60,000 sq km of seabed is to be undertaken to help refine the hunt for the lost jet.

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Jonathan added analysis to:

Flight MH370: Malaysia releases raw satellite data

27 May 2014

The release document comprises long columns of numbers, including detail on the now famous "handshakes" when Inmarsat's ground network made connections with equipment on board the plane.

The last of these occurred at 00:19:38 UTC. It's a partial handshake, possibly the plane attempting to log back on to the network after a power interruption as the jet ran out of fuel.

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About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

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