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Chris Chambers @CDChambers62
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There is a lot going on in space these days! Here is an update on the current status of modern missions, and some of the most innovative and interesting projects on the planner, plus some longer term projects for the near and distant future.
Also included are many of the companies that make space exploration and travel possible.
NASA’s current missions:

NASA currently has 39 different active missions. Some are decades old, like the Voyager I mission that launched September 5th, 1977 and is now in interstellar space (made famous, or more famous, by "Star Trek: The Motion Picture").
Coincidentally, Voyager 2 launched days earlier, August 20th, 1977, and has visited Uranus and Neptune & should be entering interstellar space soon. Voyager I's slingshotting using planetary gravity sped it past Voyager II. NASA said the slingshotting saved 20 years travel time.
Other missions include the Mars Rover, various space telescopes, spectrometers, Earth weather and soil detecting radars, and numerous other orbiters and explorers for various bodies in the solar system along with components for the International Space Station (ISS).
Future NASA missions include more orbiters and radars, a more versatile and robust Mars rover, several more ISS lab projects, several asteroid mapping, analyzing, and exploration missions.
The Psyche mission is a journey to a unique metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. What makes the asteroid Psyche unique is that it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.
Psyche's science objectives are:

1-Determine whether Psyche is a core, or if it is unmelted material.
2-Determine the relative ages of regions of Psyche's surface.
3-Determine whether small metal bodies incorporate the same light elements as in the Earth's high-pressure core.
4-Determine whether Psyche was formed under conditions more oxidizing or more reducing than Earth's core.
5-Characterize Psyche's topography.
Proposed NASA projects are limited to two (2): the “Mars Sample Return” (MSR) mission, made to return soil samples of Mars to Earth, and the “Inertial Stellar Compass” mission, a sort of “intergalactic auto-pilot” system for possibly future autonomous space exploration missions.
Private companies are involved in vehicle development, planetary exploration, launch systems, & space industry, specifically asteroid mining.

Crew and Cargo Transport Systems:

Orbital ATK & SpaceX are the only 2 private companies that have operational launch systems in place.
Orbital ATK is currently operating a cargo delivery system named in honor of the recently deceased astronaut John Glenn, the Cygnus “Glenn” cargo delivery system. Orbital ATK has performed 7 resupply mission to the ISS so far.
Orbital ATK uses the Antares, Pegasus and Minotaur rockets to launch its payloads, depending on what the payloads are.
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(NOTE: This series is several months old. Orbital ATK has had a couple of recent missions to the ISS as well.)
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working on creating a reusable launch system that enables the first stage of the rocket to land on a stationary platform (the current platform is a stationary, autonomous landing barge in the Atlantic Ocean named “Of Course I Still Love You”).
So far SpaceX has succeeded in sticking the landing several times, most recently on February 19th, 2017. Since rocket launches are hugely expensive, the reusable systems should be a long term cost savings & will establish the technology for future space travel and space tourism.
The video link shows the recent landing with the ground control crew cheering in the audio. (There was an additional successful landing on the barge on 30 March 2017.)
SpaceX has also proposed the first realistic space tourism plan, hoping to send to civilian tourists on a trip around the moon in 2018 and will follow-up with extensive tourist trips to the projected space colony on Mars over the next 2 decades.

space.com/35861-spacex-c…
Space Stations:
Bigelow Aerospace has developed inflatable space station modules, with unmanned prototypes currently in low earth orbit (LEO). Longer term aspirations include larger stations used for supply warehousing & personnel modules for space habitat and scientific testing.
Bigelow Aerospace has publicly stated the company has “both lunar and Mars ambitions”.
Landers and Rovers:

Two companies have been testing space vehicles: Armadillo Aerospace and Moon Express.
Armadillo Aerospace had won some competitions for a lunar lander but one of the prototypes crashed on a landing attempt and was engulfed in a huge fireball (as most space related crashes end).
The company was operating on a pretty thin budget and the loss of their prototype forced a company reorganization. Several former employees bought the remaining assets of Armadillo and have renamed it “Exos Aerospace”.
Moon Express is concentrating on space tourism and eventually establishing a mining colony on the moon in order to harvest rare minerals. They will also be placing lunar telescopes on specific peaks for maximum visibility for future surveys of space.
On July 20th, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration approved Moon Express's plans for a mission to deliver commercial payloads to the Moon in late 2017, making Moon Express the first private company to receive government approval...
...for a commercial space mission beyond traditional Earth orbit under the requirements of the Outer Space Treaty.
Space Mining:

Two companies dominate the space mining category-Planetary Resources, Inc. and Deep Space Industries.
Asteroid composition:
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There are three (3) main asteroid types; C-type or carbonaceous asteroids, S-type or silicaceous asteroids, and M-type or metallic asteroids.
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Pictured is an asteroid named "Lutetia". Photo taken by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on July 10, 2010.
C-type asteroids are very dark in color, and may be the most common. They closely follow the elemental composition of the sun, which leads scientists to conclude that C-type asteroids are very primitive objects, formed at the dawn of the solar system.
Planetary Resources plans to mine water from the C-type asteroids.
S-type asteroids are a mixture of rock and metal mixed together. These rocky asteroids dominate the inner portion of the Main Belt and are often found as near-Earth objects. Scientists believe they are the source of the chondrite meteorites...
...which are the most commonly found meteorite. These are composed of material that was heated to melting but never separated from the rock as happened with similar ore bodies on Earth.
M-type (X-type is a sub-category of the M-type) asteroids are composed of primarily metal. They appear to be the remnants of large (> 100 km) asteroids that fully separated into a core and mantle.
Some of the these large asteroids were pulverized in massive collisions early in the Solar System’s history leaving only the tough metallic cores they have today. They are known for being extremely dense, unlike any metallic ore bodies we find on Earth today.
One of Planetary Resources' targets is an X-type asteroid, and may have more platinum than has ever been mined on Earth to date. fortune.com/2015/07/20/ast…
Planetary Resources’ primary mission is to mine near Earth asteroids, but to get to that point the company is working on launching Earth observation satellites in part to fund future growth, but also to experiment with the needs and costs of the satellite systems...
...and to study near-Earth asteroids in order to select particular asteroids for harnessing and mining. The Arkyd-6 spacecraft launched on January 12, 2018, as part of an R&D program that will detect water on near-Earth asteroids.
Planetary Resources is researching several different systems to grab asteroids and push them into a stationary orbit around Earth while the asteroid is mined out.
Deep Space Industries is focusing on mining asteroids as well as extracting trapped water from these same asteroids. Company plans also include researching whether there are ways to harness passing comets in order to harvest the ice crystals on them.
They have stated all the resources mined in space would be expected to remain in space to further production of industry to save the tremendous costs of launching materials into orbit.

Space Manufacturing:

The previously mentioned Deep Space Industries is also developing orbital fuel stations, called “Propellant Depots” which will carry stores of various chemicals, delivered by space tankers, and can be accessed...
...by ships and other space borne craft to refuel in space. Space infrastructure is also being researched, as are communications platforms and space solar powered satellites.
Shackelton Energy Company is also working on developing space propellants, propellant depots, and space solar powered satellites.
Space Settlement:

Now here is a category that will give you visions of Space 1999, Outland, and The Time Machine.

This image hopefully never comes to fruition, unlike most of the others presented here.
Inventor and author H. G. Wells (or Alexander Hardtegen in the more recent version) went forward in time to see the moon shattered due to over colonization and lunar mining]. That would probably end it all for the Earth, so let's hope we can prevent that.
Interplanetary Transport Systems (part of SpaceX) and Mars One are both in the early stages of planning a Mars colony, or components of a colony.
A Mars One 2025 settlement; an ambitious artist concept of the future Martian colony.
Rocket Launch Systems and Component Suppliers:

There are many, many rocket component and launch system companies. In fact, too many to list. Of the dozen or so some are diversified & the smaller ones tend to focus on only one tech in order to concentrate their capital outlays.
The largest active launch operator is United Launch Alliance, 50% owned by Boeing and 50% by Lockheed Martin using the Atlas V, Delta II and Delta IV, and the Vulcan rockets. Suffice it to say this segment of the space industry has many active participants.
These last two categories are very interesting. They are the biggest players in space, have the most invested, and even though they are competitors they do work together in joint ventures when the job is too big for one entity to take it on alone.
Russia is the biggest single player in this arena. The previous photo is of the ancient and deteriorating Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Built in 1957, the rocket that lifted Yuri Gagarin, the first human in orbit, was also launched from Baikonur.
In fact, all Russian crewed missions are launched from Baikonur, as well as all geostationary, lunar, planetary and ocean surveillance missions. Khazakhstan might be corrupt and authortarian, but is has an advanced space launch program (while the US currently does not).
Spaceliner Companies:

There were more active participants in this category in the past. Benson Space Company had begun the development of a tourist liner called the “Dream Chaser”, but the founder became ill and died in 2008. The company dissolved after his death.
Russia’s MIR program had hopes to secure the ancient station as a tourist destination, but MIR performed what is called “deorbiting”, meaning it fell out of the sky and burned up on March 23rd, 2001.
In all fairness, the MIR had a controlled reentry, but the destruction of the station was a great loss for space exploration at large.
A company called “Rocketship Tours” hopes to use a platform called the “Lynx Rocketplane”, but it is in early development. I love the retro advertisement!
Virgin Galactic is building “SpaceShip Two”. There are several that have been ordered. The first one, VSS Enterprise (Virgin Space Ship) was destroyed in a test flight in 2014 when the “feathering” system deployed in error during acceleration.
The second ship, VSS Unity, is under construction. Two more are in preparation for construction, but have not yet been named.
The only company to have a record of successful space tourism so far is “Space Adventures”, a joint project between the Russian Soyuz and the International Space Station Group. The photo doesn’t look like a 50 million dollar trip.
These trips are also launched from the aging Baikonur Cosmodrome in Khazakhstan. To date seven tourists have actually been to space, but many other prospective tourists when through the training, including artist Sarah Brightman.
Space Adventures is also offering early booking on a circumlunar trip around the moon for 100 million dollars per seat. While expensive, it might be worth it for a rich person to check off their bucket list.
Future Space Missions:

President Trump just signed a bill funding NASA at $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2018, with a mandate to “to create a plan to send a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.”
In the meantime, lawmakers also require NASA to create ways to "extend human presence, including potential human habitation on another celestial body and a thriving space economy in the 21st Century.”
And just for fun, here are a couple of really beautiful space tools for you to play with. First a manipulatable solar system, with the inner planers and the Perseids Metoer Shower.The Earth is the blue orbit, Mars is red, Mercury is purple, Venus orange. meteorshowers.org
Finally, try out "Solar System Scope". It is a very detailed computer model of our Solar System, including most moons with accurate orbits. Takes a few minutes getting used to the controls, but beautifully done. /end solarsystemscope.com
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