Posted with permission from redOrbit
In terms of space travel and exploration, 2015 has a lot to live up to. But it will.
Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In terms of space travel and exploration, 2015 has a lot to live up to. After all, 2014 was the year in which humanity landed a probe on a comet, found yet more evidence suggesting that there had once been life on Mars, and continued key research projects both on Earth and among the stars.
On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt to kick off this year’s launch season as its unmanned Dragon capsule looks to liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 6:20am. The spacecraft, which will be transporting cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), has a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather during its launch window, according to Florida Today.
The mission was originally scheduled to take place late last month, but was pushed back into the New Year after issues during a test-firing of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle’s engines. It will be the fifth resupply mission under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA, and will be transporting over 5,000 pounds of food, supplies and experiments to the ISS, the website added.
Afterwards, the focus turns to dwarf planets, according to Wired. Later this month, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will begin its approach to Pluto, and by July, it will be in position to obtain the best view ever of the world. Similarly, the Dawn spacecraft has already entered its approach phase around the Ceres, and will enter the dwarf planet’s orbit sometime in March.
One of last year’s biggest space successes, the Rosetta mission, will continue on into 2015 as the orbiter will continue to travel alongside Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, collecting data as it closely approaches the sun and then heads back out into deep space. The ESA mission team is also hopeful that the Philae lander will reactivate sometime early this year, after it receives enough sunlight to recharge its depleted battery. That could happen as early as Easter.
The MESSENGER spacecraft, which has orbited Mercury for nearly four years, is slated to end its mission in early 2015. According to Wired.com, the probe was expected to run out of fuel in March, but mission engineers were able to squeeze out enough propellant using helium to stretch the length of its service time by one more month. Once it runs out of gas, it will crash into the planet, capturing close-up data and pictures of Mercury’s surface along the way.
After making history with Rosetta and Philae, the ESA is back at it with the eLISA mission, which will feature the first space-based instrument to ever detect one of the most elusive phenomena in astronomy – the space-time ripples known as gravitational waves. The agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft will launch this year, the agency hopes that the data will provide new insight into the formation of galaxies, stellar evolution and the early universe.
Space.com has also compiled a list of 15 amazing space missions to watch in 2015 – a list that includes XCOR Aerospace’s continued work on its Lynx commercial space plane, the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite in late January, a test flight of the European-developed reusable Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spacecraft on February 11, and the Japanese Akatsuki spacecraft’s second attempt to enter orbit around Venus in November.
“NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station for a one-year stay in space on March 27,” the website added. “This will mark the first time an American has ever spent a continuous year in space, and it is the first-ever mission of this length attempted on the space station. Usually missions to the orbiting outpost last about six months.”