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Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Will Virgin SpaceShipTwo crash set back space tourism?

File photo: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo under rocket power, over Mojave, California, 29 April 2013
Engineers had decided to use a plastic-based solid fuel in the rocket engine

The significance of Friday's flight had been signalled for some weeks.

Virgin Galactic executives had let it be known that they were about to initiate a series of test outings that they hoped would finally lead them into commercial service after years of delay.

SpaceShipTwo had previously fired its rocket engine in flight only once in 2014, and that was way back in January.

Engineers had been grappling with a major technical decision which concerned the type of solid fuel that should be used in this engine - one that burnt either a rubber-type product, or one that burnt a polyamide-based plastic grain. Which would give right burn characteristics - the best performance?

Their preference, after experiments on the ground, was to go with the latter, and Friday's sortie marked the plastic fuel's first use in the air.

Read full article Will Virgin SpaceShipTwo crash set back space tourism?

Egyptian Philae obelisk revealed anew

Oxford researchers
The obelisk has not been properly studied since it was erected on the Kingston Lacy estate

Fresh information is being obtained on the Philae obelisk, the stone monument that played such a key role in helping to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Today, the pink granite shaft stands on the UK National Trust's Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset, where it was brought from the Nile in the 1820s.

Read full article Egyptian Philae obelisk revealed anew

Rosetta comet: More black swan than yellow duck

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (Enceladus); ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team and Gordan Ugarkovich (Earth); Robert Vanderbei (Moon); ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM (67P)
Enceladus, Earth, the Moon, and 67P scaled according to their global albedo number

One of the coolest things about comets is their blackness.

Think of a lump of coal or the briquettes you put on the BBQ - that's what comets would look like if you could stand on their surface. And 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently being observed at close quarters by the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, is no different.

Read full article Rosetta comet: More black swan than yellow duck

Virgin Galactic: Space could finally be getting closer

Powered flight
This is the year that Virgin Galactic should go sub-orbital - it hopes

"Soon" is the watchword. Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides says his passenger rocket plane should get into sub-orbital space within the next few months. Finally.

It's been a long road for the project, but you get the sense now that the light really could be starting to grow at the end of the tunnel.

Read full article Virgin Galactic: Space could finally be getting closer

Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

Comet 67P
Comet 67P has a very irregular shape. Landing site "J" is just out of view to the right

The date has been fixed for Europe's daring attempt to land on a comet: Wednesday 12 November.

It will see the Rosetta satellite, which is currently orbiting the huge "ice mountain" known as 67P, drop a small robot from a height of 20km.

Read full article Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling

MOM
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever undertaken

India's space programme has succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed - by sending an operational mission to Mars.

The Mangalyaan satellite was confirmed to be in orbit shortly after 0800, Indian time. It is, without doubt, a considerable achievement.

Read full article Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling

Sentinel system pictures Napa quake

Napa interferogram
The white line traces the rupture. Coloured "fringes" denote movement towards or away from the satellite

Europe's new multi-billion-euro Sentinel programme has returned its first earthquake analysis.

The EU satellite system has pictured how the Earth moved when the Magnitude 6.0 tremor hit California's wine-producing Napa region last month.

Read full article Sentinel system pictures Napa quake

Rosetta's 10-billion-tonne comet

67P
Rosetta is now moving within 80km of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The comet being followed by Europe's Rosetta spacecraft has a mass of roughly 10 billion tonnes.

The number has been calculated by monitoring the gravitational tug the 4km-wide "ice mountain" exerts on the probe.

Read full article Rosetta's 10-billion-tonne comet

DigitalGlobe launches super-sharp WorldView-3 Earth imager

WorldView-3
About 60% of DigitalGlobe's business is with the US government - for both military and civil applications

The most powerful commercial imaging satellite ever built has just gone into orbit from California, US.

DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 spacecraft will return pictures of the Earth's surface down to a resolution of 31cm.

Read full article DigitalGlobe launches super-sharp WorldView-3 Earth imager

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About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

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