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Questions tagged [spacecraft]

Questions regarding the craft that house humans or equipment during space exploration.

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Can I drive Elon Musk's Tesla after it's been in space for 100 Years?

We know that the the payload of the maiden Falcon Heavy flight will be... Elon Musks's Tesla Which will be placed in "Mars Orbit" Assuming it is serviced and road ready when launched with the keys in ...
58
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1answer
8k views

How was New Horizons able to direct data so precisely back to Earth?

The New Horizons space probe is sending back images of Ultima Thule, 6.4 billion kilometres away. Barring having a very large power to send information back on a very large angle, it seems to me ...
57
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4answers
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How did people know how to build the first space ship?

How did the early designers of spacecrafts have any idea what space was actually like? How was a vessel ever constructed that actually flew through Earth's atmosphere without burning up, and then ...
47
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9answers
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Why are spacecraft data systems obsolete at launch?

One might think that spacecraft would be on the cutting edge of technology. However, when looking over details of spacecraft, it seems their computer systems are often very much behind the times. ...
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5answers
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Why haven't more spacecraft/satellites been hit by debris?

It is touted by the media that space is becoming more dangerous and risky due to an increase in space debris. Why haven't more craft been hit by the debris? I presume that it is not at a critical ...
39
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14answers
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Why are there no spacecraft rotating for artificial gravity?

Spacecraft rotating to generate artificial gravity through "centrifugal force" are commonplace in science fiction but not in reality. Considering the problems in long missions (among others: bone loss,...
39
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3answers
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Why was Venus rather than Mars targeted for the first interplanetary landings?

This is a question about early planetary missions. It looks like there was only one early (unsuccessful) landing mission to Mars and that subsequently Venus became the target for interplanetary ...
37
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7answers
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Why do we not fly to space with helicopters? What are the practical altitude limits?

People will tell that there is no air, and this is why we cannot. But if I read on the internet, there is air in space, much less, but still something. for example, 100 km - 0.0000006 times as much ...
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4answers
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Why wasn't the Mars Climate Orbiter's fatal error caught prior to launch?

The Mars Climate Orbiter failed in 1999 due to: ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound (force)-seconds (lbf·s) instead of the SI units of newton-seconds (N·s) ...
35
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1answer
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Why does the ascent stage of Apollo 11's lunar module look like it's made of paper?

Here's an image (AS11-40-5922) from Apollo 11 that NASA describes as: View of the ascent stage from the northeast. Note the wrinkled surface of the RCS plume deflector and the warping of the rear ...
33
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2answers
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Is the software running on any existing or decommissioned space probes available for download?

I was wondering if it was possible to download the software that runs any of the computers on existing or decommissioned space probes, landers, etc. For example, could one download the software that ...
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4answers
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Why is there a large wooden ball on Mariner 3's magnetometer?

Wood is good for certain niche space exploration applications, but the one below is not for spaceflight. According to the documentation for the archived photo: Several spacecraft were built for ...
29
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1answer
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Why were early Soviet spacecraft spherical?

Sputnik's ball shape is instantly recognizable to most of us: I was looking at the Wikipedia page for Luna 1, and saw it was also a ball-shaped spacecraft: Why do these spacecraft have a spherical ...
28
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1answer
4k views

Why are spaceship capsules frustum shaped?

Why do spaceships have a frustum (portion of a cone) shape like e.g. the pressure capsule of the SpaceX Dragon on the image below?     I think there is some engineering stuff behind ...
28
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3answers
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What is the total mass sent into orbit over all history?

I would like to find a good estimate of the sum total amount of payload that humans have put into space, that is, over all years, all space programs, and all types of payload that reached orbit. ...
27
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1answer
4k views

What are the 'lights' inside Shuttle main engines at landing?

I have a night-landing photo of the Shuttle showing lights (I assume some type of glow-plug to burn off extraneous fuel). My understanding is that only the OMS engines burn to begin reentry. Can ...
26
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2answers
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What is the fastest speed ever reached in space travel as measured from the point in space from which it was launched to its current/final position?

Answers.com lists the New Horizons to have the fastest rocket. Is this info still valid? 7 light hours in 11 years at 50,000 km/h?
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9answers
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Assuming a spacecraft is traveling in a constant rate and our Astronaut will exit it to a space walk, will he be “left behind” by the spacecraft?

Lets say our Spacecraft is traveling to a remote Galaxy at a constant speed of 1/X of the speed of light. A brave Astronaut is leaving the spacecraft to a space walk, while not being attached to the ...
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6answers
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Why does data transfer rate decrease with distance

I read that the New Horizon's probe will send data to back to Earth at 3000 bits per second by the time it reaches Pluto. I don't understand why a spacecraft has to have a lower data tranfer rate ...
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3answers
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When will we send floating probes to Venus?

Recent plans on human missions to Mars have sparked many discussions, one of which is about if we should colonize Venusian upper atmosphere with Zeppelin like floating ships and cities first. NASA ...
23
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9answers
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Can you really use Arduino for a small spacecraft?

A group of Russian geeks intends to shoot a small vehicle to the moon, which is supposed to photograph the places of the Apollo landings. This will be the ultimate proof that people actually visited ...
22
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5answers
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What is the general shape and size of a space probe, and how are they launched?

I am totally blind, and I haven't felt any models of space probes, so I have no idea how big they are, what their general shapes are, or what kind of launch systems they use. I'm assuming space probes ...
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3answers
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Do spacecraft have similar structural integrity requirements as submarines?

When a spacecraft performs a splashdown maneuver, a recovery team is standing by to retrieve the capsule and its human contents quickly. A flotation collar is deployed to increase buoyancy and ...
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8answers
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Puzzler - which spacecraft(s) incorporated real wooden structural elements?

Not a trick question, but a real puzzler - which spacecraft or spacecrafts incorporated real wooden structural elements?
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6answers
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Do windows in space stations, the space shuttle, other spacecraft have practical usage?

As we know, cars need a front window because drivers need to see the road to control the car, but how about the windows in space shuttles? As far as I know, the orbits of ISS or other space devices ...
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2answers
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Why did Soyuz TMA-18M take two days to reach the ISS?

Typically, a Soyuz crew vehicle takes 4 orbits to reach the ISS, but the Soyuz TMA-18M took 34 orbits or 2 days to reach it. Why is there so much variation from typical missions?
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4answers
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Gliding into the atmosphere

The recent question about Cessna reentering from ISS got the answers that all imply a rapid drop. But from what I know, air drag is proportional: to square of airspeed to air density to attack ...
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5answers
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What would be necessary in order for us to achieve a single stage to orbit, reusable rocket?

I have read articles and seen videos explaining why an SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit) rocket* is not possible. But I was wondering... What would be required to achieve this? Answers can be literally ...
18
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7answers
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What is the rarest launch window?

What situation would make a launch window rare? What is the rarest known launch window?
18
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6answers
9k views

Why can't they just drop a solar winch down from a shuttle and have planes fly up and clip things on?

Why can't they just drop a solar winch down from a shuttle and have planes fly up and clip things on? I know of the idea to have a space lift but the cable necessary is too expensive. Why can't we ...
18
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4answers
3k views

Can we set up an orbiting transporter between Earth and the Moon?

I will give an example with the moon. If some spacecraft is put either in orbit around both earth and moon or in highly eccentric orbit that intersects with the moon orbit, some other spacecraft can ...
18
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1answer
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How did astronauts traverse from module to module in the Apollo craft?

I was looking at some diagrams for the Apollo spacecraft, which I found to be interesting. It's clear that there's two separate enclosures that astronauts could reside in (the lunar module and command ...
18
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1answer
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Why does NASA's Juno spacecraft only have a one year primary mission?

For many years, Juno has been touted as NASA's "low cost" mission to the Jovian system. As a New Frontiers mission, it is cost capped at only $1 billion. From its launch in August 2011 to its ...
18
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1answer
765 views

Why did Apollo spacecraft use both AC and DC equipment? Still used in present and future designs?

Why did the Apollo spacecraft use both DC and AC power, requiring heavy inverters? Was it impractical to design everything to run on DC power only? Why? Are both AC and DC power still used in present ...
17
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2answers
3k views

Does anybody work on a “spacecraft linux”?

There are quite many industrial Linux adaptions around, like in your router's firmware or the Android OS. On long term, probably any spacecraft will need to run more or less standard profiles of ...
17
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3answers
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Cost-effective Space Shuttle: was it feasible?

As far as I understand, NASA's Space Shuttle was initially conceived as a cheap way of launching people and cargo into orbit, with one-week vehicle turnaround time and dozens of missions per year. ...
17
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2answers
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What factors determine whether a spacecraft/probe/satellite uses gyroscopes or propellant thrusters to rotate?

Say I'm designing a probe or satellite. To control its attitude, I can add some gyros, or I can put thrusters on each corner, or I can add both and pick one in flight according to the situation. How ...
16
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5answers
17k views

Can magnets be used to launch spacecraft?

I assume there is some reason we don't use magnets to launch off Earth. Are they not strong enough? Isn't magnetic force technically stronger than gravity?? Would either of these work: A tube tunnel ...
16
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3answers
2k views

Do we send the battle tested prototype or the freshly made copy out there?

Specifically in the case of complex mechanical space vehicles (e.g. rovers, landers), do we just refuel and send the battle tested and carefully fine tuned prototype on the mission, or do we take the ...
16
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4answers
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Reason for different “cone angles” of different space capsules?

Here is the Cargo Dragon: And here is the Orion: The "cone" that orion makes has a large opening angle - perhaps about 70 degrees. Meanwhile, the Dragon is almost cylindrical - the opening angle is ...
16
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1answer
3k views

How is sunlight simulated in spacecraft testing, given its brightness?

How could a light source like the sun be approximated on Earth for testing, given how much brighter it is in space than anything else?
16
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2answers
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Do we have any idea when Tiangong-1 will deorbit?

In March 2016 China's Manned Space Engineering Office announced that all Tiangong-1 telemetry had failed leaving no ability to safely control the space station's decent. With what we know about the ...
16
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1answer
383 views

What is the purpose of Hubble's aft vents?

What is the purpose of the 4 vents at the aft section of the Hubble Space Telescope? The spacecraft is operating in vacuum and the interior of the telescope is devoid of any gas, so venting seems ...
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2answers
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How does a space probe maintain its trajectory while passing through the extreme gravitational field of the gas giants of our solar system?

Space probes like Voyager 1, 2, New Horizons, etc, traveled beyond those gas giants, how did they cope up with their extreme gravity? How was the trajectory of these probes unhindered by the immense ...
15
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4answers
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Why is it not possible to deorbit in a shallow glidepath?

The fiery re-entry of spacecraft has been a staple of spaceflight since the beginning, making ablative heat shielding a necessary component of any craft wishing to return to Earth intact. This is the ...
15
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1answer
676 views

Will Juno record its deorbit?

I'm really interested about the Juno mission launched in 2011. The spacecraft will reach Jupiter on July 4, 2016, in couple days from when I write this question. It will orbit Jupiter 37 times ...
15
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2answers
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What is this on the craft from the Apollo 17 mission?

For me it looks like water droplets but, I doubt thats the case in space. Also I don't understand why this should be a crafts surface feature. wouldn't one aim to design a spacecraft as smooth as ...
14
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4answers
2k views

Why aren't there any space tugs in use?

Ion thrusters are capable of providing the same amount of delta-V for far less fuel (e.g. Falcon 9 v1.1 second stage specific impulse is 340 seconds, while some ion-thrusters have a specific impulse ...
14
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1answer
4k views

Can we see the Russian Progress 59 spacecraft burn up on reentry?

Progress 59's orbit is decaying and it will soon reenter Earth's atmosphere. Will it be possible for observers on the ground to see it burn in the skies as it falls towards the Earth?
14
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2answers
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How is gyroless operation possible?

I was reading recently about the near-loss of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft back in 1998, in this Wikipedia article. This article mentions that Only one gyro remained ...