With two veteran test pilots at the controls, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane climbed to the edge of space for the first time Thursday in a major achievement for Richard Branson’s long-sought ambition to begin regular commercial hops with space tourists, and the first piloted flight by a U.S. vehicle above an altitude of 50 miles since the last space shuttle mission in 2011.
Clad in pressurized spacesuits, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev used knives and scissors to slice through insulation and a debris shield on a Soyuz spaceship set to return to Earth next week, finally reaching the capsule’s metallic hull to examine the site of an air leak plugged in August.
A commercial supply ship owned and operated by SpaceX arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, delivering a pair of NASA experiments to demonstrate satellite refueling techniques and monitor changes in Earth’s forests, along with a special holiday menu of turkey, candied yams, cranberry sauce and shortbread cookies.
A Soyuz FG rocket thundered to life and shot into orbit smoothly Monday carrying three crew members on a six-hour flight to the International Space Station. The problem-free ascent came less than two months after an Oct. 11 launch abort that forced a different crew to carry out safe-but-scary emergency landing.
Veteran Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, flanked by Canadian flight engineer David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, launched toward the International Space Station at 6:31 a.m. EST (1131 GMT) Monday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the first crew launch for Russia’s space program since a Soyuz booster failure led to the emergency landing of a two-man crew in October. The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docked with the station at 12:33 p.m. EST (1733 GMT).
Keeping up a tradition dating back to the dawn of the Space Age, a Russian Soyuz rocket emerged from a hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before sunrise Saturday for rollout to Launch Pad No. 1 at the Central Asia space base, moving into position for liftoff Monday with a U.S.-Russian-Canadian crew heading for the International Space Station.
SpaceX is targeting Jan. 7 for launch of its first Crew Dragon commercial ferry ship on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station, NASA announced Wednesday, a major milestone in the agency’s drive to end its sole reliance on Russian Soyuz crew ships for carrying astronauts to orbit.