The Weekly Space Recap: September 24 – September 30, 2023

Asteroid Sample Lands in Houston – September 25, 2023

osiris-rex asteroid nasa
Credit: NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully completed its second touchdown in two days, bringing a sample of dirt and gravel from the asteroid Bennu to the Utah desert.

The sample was quickly transported to Houston, where it will be curated and studied.

OSIRIS-REx, which collected the sample in October 2020, arrived at Bennu in 2018, becoming the first NASA probe to gather pieces of an asteroid in space.

The mission aims to advance our understanding of planetary formation, the origins of life, and the potential impact of asteroids on Earth.

The collected sample will be studied for about two years by a global team of scientists, with a portion shared with the Canadian Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The majority of the sample will remain at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for future research.

Record Breaking Astronauts – September 27, 2023

nasa and russian astronaut nasa tv
Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin returned from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Russia’s Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft.

Their landing in Kazakhstan marked the end of their 371-day mission in space, establishing Rubio as the U.S. astronaut with the longest single mission.

They left the ISS and undocked from the Soyuz spacecraft, beginning Expedition 70 on the station.

Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin faced unexpected challenges during their mission, including an extended stay due to a coolant leak on their original Soyuz, MS-22.

They were praised for their resilience and professionalism. The crew will now undergo post-mission procedures in various locations.

Prokopyev, with 568 days in space, ranks 12th among all astronauts for total time spent off Earth, while it was the first spaceflight for Petelin and Rubio.

FAA Closes Investigation on Blue Origin Launch Failure – September 27, 2023

blue origin new shepard blue origin
Credit: New Origin

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded its investigation into the failure of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle that occurred on September 12, 2022.

During an uncrewed research mission, the first-stage booster of New Shepard experienced a structural failure about 65 seconds after launch, leading to a crash landing.

The vehicle’s capsule deployed its emergency escape system and landed safely under parachutes, with no injuries or property damage.

Blue Origin identified the cause as a “thermo-structural failure” of the engine nozzle.

The FAA’s investigation agreed with this finding and required Blue Origin to implement 21 corrective actions, including redesigning engine and nozzle components, before the next New Shepard launch.

However, specific details of the required “organizational changes” were not disclosed due to proprietary and sensitive information.

This development comes as Bob Smith, Blue Origin’s CEO, announced his departure, with Amazon executive Dave Limp set to replace him in December.

Virgin Galactic, a competitor in suborbital space tourism, has launched four crewed missions during New Shepard’s downtime.

Stoke Space Shares Photos of the Hopper 2 Test – September 29, 2023

stoke space hopper test vehicle stoke space
Credit: Stoke Space

Stoke Space has shared impressive photos from its recent flight test of the Hopper2 reusable rocket prototype.

The test, conducted on September 17, featured a vertical takeoff and vertical landing demonstration, with the second-stage rocket successfully ascending about 30 feet and then landing safely.

The images depict the spacecraft on the launch pad in Washington and capture the bright blaze generated by the rocket’s hydrogen/oxygen engine during liftoff.

The test aimed to showcase various Hopper systems and design elements, including the unique engine, coolant-based heat shield, and propulsion system.

While it didn’t undergo hypersonic reentry during the flight, the spacecraft previously demonstrated its ability to handle the expected heat load in a simulated environment, moving the company closer to fully reusable rockets.

Stoke Space plans to develop a reusable first stage as the next step towards its goal of achieving a 100% reusable rocket with a 24-hour turnaround time.

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