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NASA Updates

Discussion in 'Education & Research' started by layman, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel SENIOR MEMBER

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    Don't think JWST is on schedule for launch?
     
  2. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Boeing TDRS-L Relay Satellite Sends 1st Signals from Space

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    Provides critical communications capabilities for NASA’s space network

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Jan. 23, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] has received the first on-orbit signals from the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-L after a successful launch today, bolstering the tracking and communications network used by NASA and its customers.

    TDRS-L is the fifth Boeing-built satellite to join the network that NASA uses in support of vital missions, including the International Space Station, studying Earth’s changing climate and looking into deep space with the Hubble Telescope. TDRS satellites relay signals to and from Earth and the International Space Station and other space assets.

    “This advanced satellite is an important part of NASA’s critical communications relay network and will improve capacity and enhance bandwidth at the lowest cost,” said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems.

    The satellite launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V vehicle today at 9:33 p.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Controllers at the Boeing Mission Control Center confirmed initial contact with it one hours and 54 minutes later. After reaching final orbit, TDRS-L will undergo approximately three months of tests and calibration before its handover to NASA.

    TDRS-L joins four other Boeing TDRS satellites in NASA’s network. It is the second of three advanced versions of the satellites, with the third – TDRS-M – ready for launch in 2015.

    Boeing has been providing vital space communication services to NASA for more than four decades.

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  3. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NASA Set for a Big Year in Earth Science with Five New Missions

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    The first new NASA Earth science mission of 2014 is the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint international project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Launch is scheduled for Feb. 27 from Japan.
    Image Credit: NASA

    For the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth science missions will be launched into space in the same year, opening new and improved remote eyes to monitor our changing planet.

    The five launches, including two to the International Space Station (ISS), are part of an active year for NASA Earth science researchers, who also will conduct airborne campaigns to the poles and hurricanes, develop advanced sensor technologies, and use satellite data and analytical tools to improve natural hazard and climate change preparedness.

    NASA satellites, aircraft, and research help scientists and policymakers find answers to critical challenges facing our planet, including climate change, sea level rise, decreasing availability of fresh water, and extreme weather events.

    “As NASA prepares for future missions to an asteroid and Mars, we’re focused on Earth right now,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “With five new missions set to launch in 2014, this really is shaping up to be the year of the Earth, and this focus on our home planet will make a significant difference in people’s lives around the world.”

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    The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, set to launch in July, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming.
    Image Credit: NASA

    The first NASA Earth science mission of 2014 is the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint satellite project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The mission inaugurates an unprecedented international satellite constellation that will produce the first nearly global observations of rainfall and snowfall. This new information will help answer questions about our planet’s life-sustaining water cycle, and improve water resource management and weather forecasting.

    The GPM Core Observatory is scheduled to launch on Feb. 27 from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on a Japanese H-IIA rocket. The spacecraft was built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    In July, NASA will launch a mission to advance our understanding of carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, a replacement for a mission lost after a launch vehicle failure in 2009, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming. OCO-2 observations will be used to improve understanding of the natural and human-induced sources of carbon dioxide and how these emissions cycle through Earth’s oceans, land and atmosphere.

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    NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will track Earth’s water into one of its last hiding places: the soil. SMAP soil moisture data will aid in predictions of agricultural productivity, weather and climate. SMAP is scheduled to launch in November.
    Image Credit: NASA

    OCO-2, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Delta II rocket.

    With the November launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, NASA will track Earth’s water into one of its last hiding places: the soil. SMAP will map Earth’s soil moisture, and provide precise indications of the soil’s freeze-thaw state, to improve understanding of the cycling of water, energy, and carbon. High-resolution global maps of soil moisture produced from SMAP data will inform water resource management decisions on water availability around our planet. SMAP data also will aid in predictions of plant growth and agricultural productivity, weather and climate forecasts, and monitoring floods and droughts.

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    The first of two 2014 Earth science missions to the International Space Station, ISS-RapidScat will extend the data record of ocean winds around the globe, a key factor in climate research and weather forecasting. ISS-Rapidscat is set to launch in June.
    Image Credit: NASA

    SMAP will launch from Vandenberg onboard a Delta II rocket. JPL manages the mission.

    “On our home planet Earth, water is an essential requirement for life and for most human activities. We must understand the details of how water moves within and between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land if we are to predict changes to our climate and the availability of water resources,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Coupled with data from other ongoing NASA missions that measure sea-surface salinity and that detect changes in underground aquifer levels, with GPM and SMAP we will have unprecedented measurements of our planet’s vital water cycle.”

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    The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) instrument shown here uses three-wavelength lasers to extend satellite observations of small particles in the atmosphere. CATS is scheduled to launch in September on a SpaceX ISS commercial resupply flight.
    Image Credit: NASA

    Two Earth science missions will be sent to the International Space Station this year to measure ocean winds, clouds, and aerosols, marking NASA’s first use of the orbiting laboratory as a 24/7 Earth-observing platform. The new instruments are the first of a series that will observe Earth routinely from the orbiting laboratory.

    The space station has served as a unique platform advancing scientific research and technological discovery for more than 13 years. Its mid-inclination orbit allows for observations at all local times over nearly 85 percent of Earth’s surface. NASA plans to launch five Earth-observing instruments to the ISS through 2017. These missions are developed and operated jointly by the International Space Station Program and the Earth Science Division.

    ISS-RapidScat, scheduled to launch to the station June 6, will extend the data record of ocean winds around the globe. These data are a key factor in climate research, weather and marine forecasting, and tracking of storms and hurricanes. Using inherited, repurposed hardware, ISS-RapidScat will provide high-value science at a fraction of the typical cost of developing a free-flying satellite. ISS-Rapidscat will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a commercial resupply flight for the ISS.

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    NASA’s Global Hawk (pictured here) and a fleet of aircraft equipped with sophisticated sensors will fly 12 NASA campaigns around the world in 2014. From Antarctica to the Arctic, airborne scientists will study polar ice sheets, urban air pollution, hurricanes and more.
    Image Credit: NASA/Tony Landis

    The new Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) is a technology demonstration mission using three-wavelength lasers to extend satellite observations of small particles in the atmosphere from volcanoes, air pollution, dust, and smoke. These aerosol particles pose human health risks at ground level and influence global climate through their impact on cloud cover and solar radiation in Earth’s atmosphere. CATS is scheduled to launch Sept. 12 on another SpaceX ISS commercial resupply flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    “With these two instruments launching to the space station, ISS will come into its own as an important platform for studying the Earth system and global change,” said Julie Robinson, space station chief scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This is just the beginning of the space station becoming a part of the global Earth-observing network.”

    NASA also uses a wide array of research aircraft equipped with sophisticated sensors to advance Earth science research. This year, NASA is sponsoring 12 flight campaigns that will study the polar ice sheets, urban air pollution, hurricanes, ecosystem health and more over the United States, Central and South America, Antarctica, and the Arctic Circle.

    Putting satellite data to work meeting local and regional needs around the world is another part of NASA’s Earth science mission. In 2014, projects sponsored by the NASA Applied Sciences Program will tackle ecosystem issues in the Gulf of Mexico, water scarcity in the U.S. Southwest, and flood management in the Mekong River delta.

    NASA continues to push the boundaries of current technologies to find new ways to see our complex planet in more detail and with greater accuracy. This year, NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office will test new sensors to improve measurements of water levels in lakes and reservoirs, carbon dioxide, terrestrial ecosystems, and natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

    NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

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    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
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  4. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NASA, JAXA Prepare Rain and Snow Satellite for Launch

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    The world enters a new era of global weather observing and climate science in February with the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a new international science satellite built by NASA.

    GPM, a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is scheduled to launch Feb. 27 from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The observatory will link data from a constellation of current and planned satellites to produce next-generation global measurements of rainfall and snowfall from space.

    The GPM mission is the first coordinated international satellite network to provide near real-time observations of rain and snow every three hours anywhere on the globe. The GPM Core Observatory anchors this network by providing observations on all types of precipitation. The observatory’s data acts as the measuring stick by which partner observations can be combined into a unified data set. The data will be used by scientists to study climate change, freshwater resources, floods and droughts, and hurricane formation and tracking.

    “The water-cycle, so familiar to all school-age young scientists, is one of the most interesting, dynamic, and important elements in our studies of the Earth’s weather and climate,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “GPM will provide scientists and forecasters critical information to help us understand and cope with future extreme weather events and fresh water resources.”

    The GPM Core Observatory will fly 253 miles (407 kilometers) above Earth in an orbit inclined 65-degrees to the equator. This orbit allows the Core Observatory to observe precipitation from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle at different times of day so it is able to observe changing storm and weather systems that behave differently during day and night. Normal operations will begin about 60 days after launch. Data will be downlinked through NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System to the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Precipitation Processing Center in Greenbelt, Md., where it will be processed and distributed over the Internet.

    GPM’s Core Observatory carries two instruments to measure rain and snowfall: the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR), designed by JAXA and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan, and built by NEC Toshiba Space Systems Ltd., Tokyo; and the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI), provided by NASA and built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Together, these two instruments will collect improved observations that will allow scientists to better “see” inside clouds. In particular, they both provide new capabilities for observing smaller particles of rain, ice and snow.

    “Knowledge of how water moves around the Earth system through precipitation is vital for monitoring freshwater resources,” said Gail Skofronick-Jackson, GPM project scientist at Goddard. “The data from the GPM mission provides unprecedented measurements of global precipitation. The GPM Core Observatory will observe detailed characteristics of rain and snow systems that are also extremely important for improving weather and climate forecasts.”

    The DPR precipitation radar adds a new frequency with which to observe precipitation, allowing it to capture ice and light rain. It will return three-dimensional profiles and intensities of liquid and solid precipitation that will reveal the internal structure of storms within and below clouds.

    The GMI is a microwave radiometer designed to sense the total precipitation within all cloud layers. In addition to collecting data on heavy to moderate rain, four new channels will be sensitive to light rain and snowfall, two types of precipitation that are especially prevalent in mountain regions and the higher latitudes over North America, Europe and Asia.

    Together, DPR and GMI will provide observations on the size, intensity and distribution of raindrops and snowflakes. Scientists will be able to use this data to look at how precipitation behaves and influences weather and climate patterns. These patterns affect the distribution of fresh water around the world, impacting supplies for drinking water and agriculture.

    The GPM Core Observatory, built by Goddard, will launch on an H-IIA rocket provided by JAXA. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is managing the launch.

    GPM Core Observatory is the latest mission to support NASA’s mission to monitor Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

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  5. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Launch Lights Up the Night Sky

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    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lights up the night sky over Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida as it carries NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, or TDRS-L, to Earth orbit. Launch was at 9:33 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 23 during a 40-minute launch window.

    The TDRS-L spacecraft is the second of three new satellites designed to ensure vital operational continuity for NASA by expanding the lifespan of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) fleet, which consists of eight satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The spacecraft provide tracking, telemetry, command and high-bandwidth data return services for numerous science and human exploration missions orbiting Earth. These include NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. TDRS-L has a high-performance solar panel designed for more spacecraft power to meet the growing S-band communications requirements. TDRSS is one of three NASA Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) networks providing space communications to NASA’s missions.


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  6. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NASA’s Opportunity Rover Yields More Data on Changes to Mars’ Environment

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    NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded the component images for this self-portrait about three weeks before completing a decade of work on Mars. The rover’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the images during the interval Jan. 3, 2014, to Jan. 6, 2014.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

    New findings from rock samples collected and examined by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity have confirmed an ancient wet environment that was milder and older than the acidic and oxidizing conditions told by rocks the rover examined previously.

    In this week’s edition of the journal Science, Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes in detail about the discoveries made by the rover and how these discoveries have shaped our knowledge of the planet. According to Arvidson and others on the team, the latest evidence from Opportunity is landmark.

    “These rocks are older than any we examined earlier in the mission, and they reveal more favorable conditions for microbial life than any evidence previously examined by investigations with Opportunity,” said Arvidson.

    While the Opportunity team celebrates the rover’s 10th anniversary on Mars, they also look forward to what discoveries lie ahead and how a better understanding of Mars will help advance plans for human missions to the planet in the 2030s.

    Opportunity’s original mission was to last only three months. On the day of its 10th anniversary on the Red Planet, Opportunity is examining the rim of the Endeavour Crater. It has driven 24 miles (38.7 kilometers) from where it landed on Jan. 24, 2004. The site is about halfway around the planet from NASA’s latest Mars rover, Curiosity.

    To find rocks for examination, the rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., steered Opportunity in a loop, scanning the ground for promising rocks in an area of Endeavour’s rim called Matijevic Hill. The search was guided by a mineral-mapping instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which did not arrive at Mars until 2006, long after Opportunity’s mission was expected to end.

    Beginning in 2010, the mapping instrument, called the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, detected evidence on Matijevic Hill of a clay mineral known as iron-rich smectite. The Opportunity team set a goal to examine this mineral in its natural context — where it is found, how it is situated with respect to other minerals and the area’s geological layers — a valuable method for gathering more information about this ancient environment. Researchers believe the wet conditions that produced the iron-rich smectite preceded the formation of the Endeavor Crater about 4 billion years ago.

    “The more we explore Mars, the more interesting it becomes. These latest findings present yet another kind of gift that just happens to coincide with Opportunity’s 10th anniversary on Mars,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “We’re finding more places where Mars reveals a warmer and wetter planet in its history. This gives us greater incentive to continue seeking evidence of past life on Mars.”

    Opportunity has not experienced much change in health in the past year and the vehicle remains a capable research partner for the team of scientists and engineers who plot each day’s activities to be carried out on Mars.

    “We’re looking at the legacy of Opportunity’s first decade this week, but there’s more good stuff ahead,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., the mission’s principal investigator. “We are examining a rock right in front of the rover that is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Mars keeps surprising us, just like in the very first week of the mission.”

    JPL manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, which worked for six years, and their successor, Curiosity, also contributed valuable information about the diverse watery environments of ancient Mars, from hot springs to flowing streams. NASA’s Mars orbiters Odyssey and MRO study the whole planet and assist the rovers.

    “Over the past decade, Mars rovers have made the Red Planet our workplace, our neighborhood,” said John Callas, manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project, which built and operates Opportunity. “The longevity and the distances driven are remarkable. But even more important are the discoveries that are made and the generation that has been inspired.”

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  7. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Sierra Nevada Corporation Announces New Space Plans for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

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    In the latest example of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s transformation into a multi-user spaceport, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Louisville, Colo., announced Thursday steps it will take to prepare for a November 2016 orbital flight of its Dream Chaser spacecraft from Florida’s Space Coast.

    The announcement included the purchase of an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for the launch, sharing the Operations and Checkout (O&C) development and testing facility with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, establishing an operation center at Kennedy Space Center and using the former Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) runway at Kennedy. The steps are considered substantial for SNC and important to plans by NASA and Space Florida for Kennedy’s new availability to both commercial and government customers.

    “Today’s announcement is the latest major milestone in the transformation of the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex, serving both private sector and government users,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “I salute Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana for his leadership in transitioning the space coast for the future, and applaud Sierra Nevada Corporation on their decision to carry out their ground-breaking work at Kennedy.”

    SNC said it plans to work with ULA to launch the company’s winged Dream Chaser spacecraft into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

    “SNC is thrilled to confirm a launch date for our country’s return to orbital human spaceflight and the restart of human spaceflight operations from Florida’s Space Coast,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president and head of SNC’s Space Systems. “We could not have done this without the spirit and engagement from our national and state governments, the best aerospace companies in the industry, and several major universities, which all hail from over 30 states. Together these passionate people will return our astronauts to space on American spacecraft and rockets launched from America’s space coast right here in Florida.”

    The Dream Chaser spacecraft is designed to carry crew and critical cargo to destinations, as well as perform servicing and science in low-Earth orbit. SNC said intends to complete Dream Chaser missions with a landing on the 3.5-mile runway at the SLF. Space Florida, which will operate the SLF in the future, will negotiate the terms and conditions for the runway’s use with SNC.

    “We are pleased to see continued growth of the State’s investment into KSC facilities like the O&C,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “It is clear that the future of commercial space growth is happening right now in Florida and we couldn’t be happier to work with companies like Sierra Nevada to realize their Florida-based expansion goals.”

    The company said it plans to prepare the Dream Chaser spacecraft in the high bay of the O&C building at Kennedy, with Lockheed Martin performing the work. The facility also is used for the development, assembly and testing of NASA’s deep space Orion spacecraft. Dream Chaser testing will take place without disrupting Orion, NASA’s flagship human exploration vehicle.

    “The O&C is a state-of-the-art facility that will greatly enhance Dream Chaser’s future operations through an innovative co-use plan with Orion,” said Vice President and General Manager, Civil Space, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, James H. Crocker. “The result will maximize efficiency for both the Dream Chaser spacecraft and Orion and will provide continuity for our highly trained, motivated and certified workforce.”

    SNC also plans to lease office space at Exploration Park, located just outside Kennedy’s gates.

    “We have been diligent in our efforts, and I consider this a strong vote of confidence from a company that expects to be a major force in the future of human spaceflight,” said Bob Cabana, Kennedy center director. “Sierra Nevada Corporation will find in our workforce and facilities the same dynamic and professional people who have made successful missions from here for more than 50 years.”

    Cabana said SNC’s involvement with the Florida spaceport shows the conversion to a 21st Century spaceport is succeeding, although work remains to keep the transformation on pace.

    “We are honored that Sierra Nevada Corporation has reserved a proven Atlas V to launch its first flight test in 2016,” said Michael Gass, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “With 42 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially-developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the Crew Transportation System. Because Atlas is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, ULA is able to provide a wealth of flight data, design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification and certification documentation to support the Atlas V for human spaceflight.”

    The Dream Chaser spacecraft is deep into development of flight hardware and specific plans ranging from ground support equipment to what to include in a mission operations center.

    “I had the privilege of piloting and commanding five space shuttle flights as a NASA astronaut,” said Steve Lindsey, former NASA astronaut and SNC’s senior director and Dream Chaser program manager. “This included the last flight of Discovery which was processed, launched, and on March 9, 2011, made its final landing at the SLF after 39 flights and 148 million space miles. Mark, the entire SNC Dream Chaser team, and I look forward to seeing Dream Chaser continue this legacy from Discovery when it flies in 2016.”

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    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  8. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NASA Helps Host Zero Robotics Live in Space

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    Oleg Kotov and Rick Mastracchio watch bowling ball-sized satellites controlled by student-written algorithms for the Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge.
    Image Credit: NASA TV

    On Jan. 17, teams from across the United States and abroad gathered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. and virtually for the fifth annual Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge.

    Zero Robotics is a robotics challenge where students have the opportunity to utilize the International Space Station as a laboratory to test programming codes from the ground using Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES). The program, led by MIT, is aimed at engaging students in innovative, complementary learning opportunities, as well as increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    NASA joined the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the European Space Agency, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space and IT consulting firm Appirio in hosting the live microgravity competition.

    This year, the competition included 27 high schools from the U.S. that successfully advanced to the finals out of 108 who entered. There were 18 European schools that advanced out of an original 57. Participants spend much of the summer learning to write computer programs and formulating strategies for their SPHERES in anticipation of the final competition.

    “This is not just a minor thing you did in high school. This is really significant. What you’ve been successful at is coding the SPHERES aboard the station, which is a challenge,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science, John Grunsfeld, while addressing the group of students. “That’s part of the fun, trying very hard things.”

    In addition to their use in the competition, SPHERES satellites are used on the space station to conduct formation flight maneuvers for spacecraft guidance navigation, control and docking. The three satellites that make up SPHERES fly in formation inside the space station’s cabin. The satellites provide opportunities to affordably test a wide range of hardware and software.

    For the competition, NASA uploaded software developed by high school students onto the spherical free-floating SPHERES satellites. During the simulated mission, the teams competed in a special challenge called CosmoSPHERES, a competition in which students must program their satellites to alter a fictional comet’s earthbound trajectory.

    Space station Expedition 38 Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Richard Mastracchio commanded the satellites aboard the ISS for the competition in order to execute the teams’ flight program and provided real time commentary on the competition via live feed.

    Retired NASA astronauts Gregory Chamitoff and Barbara Morgan also made a special appearance at the event.

    NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., operates and maintains the SPHERES National Laboratory Facility aboard the space station.

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  9. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Tacking sails to a satellite

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    Four-quadrant solar sail attached to Earth-orbiting satellite.

    Satellites ending their working lifetimes could sprout sails in future to ensure they are dragged down into Earth’s atmosphere, keeping crucial low orbits free of space debris. ESA’s Clean Space initiative is looking to test how this promising concept might work in practice.

    In 2008 ESA pledged to remove satellites from key orbits within 25 years after their missions have ended.

    The most straightforward method of satellite disposal would be to reserve sufficient propellant to steer the satellite downwards – but this might seriously drive up the satellite mass while cutting the overall mission lifetime.

    What are sometimes called ‘terminator’ or drag sails, deployed to increase the drag on low-orbiting satellites at the top of the atmosphere, are a low-cost, low-mass alternative.

    ESA has researched various aspects of sail technology, including deployable booms and suitable ultra-light sail membranes.

    Now ESA’s Clean Space initiative has issued a pair of research contracts: one to design a complete sail subsystem and another to select an optimal sail material, going on to produce testable ‘breadboard’ prototypes and devise plans for follow-on development.

    The aim for the ‘Architectural Design and Testing of a De-orbiting subsystem’ tender is to consider the trade-offs of the various available technologies and design an overall subsystem that could easily be accommodated on a variety of satellites.

    This subsystem is intended to be modular and scalable – its scale, and the area of its sail, could be varied based on the size and altitude of its satellite host: the higher the satellite, the greater the need to augment its atmospheric drag.

    For the purpose of the study, the intention is to design a unit to serve a satellite compact enough to be launched by ESA’s Vega rocket, able to transport satellites of 150 kg or less into low-Earth orbit.

    The challenge is to come up with a unit that can endure years of storage before it is finally put to use, before finally deploying flawlessly, with sails solidly attached to the booms to provide all the necessary strength and stiffness.

    Potentially relevant technologies include deployable booms based on carbon-fibre reinforced polymer, developed by Germany’s DLR space agency, and inflatable booms incorporating a new resin material and LED-based curing developed by ESA together with Airbus Space and Defence. Ground-based deployment of 20 x 20 m sails have been tested on the ground, while a 5 x 5 m gossamer sail engineering model has also been demonstrated.

    Once the breadboard is complete it will undergo rigorous thermal vacuum testing to ensure it can withstand the space environment over many years.

    Clean Space’s second ‘Deployable Membrane’ tender involves a review of all available membrane materials to select an optimal candidate for a drag sail.

    This material would need to be compatible with parachute-style packaging, withstand years of ageing, be reliably unfurled, and – once deployed in open space – endure years of meteoroid and space debris damage, ultraviolet and particle radiation, thermal extremes and outgassing.

    A prototype breadboard and test rig would then be produced for practical testing, with plans drawn up for future development.

    For more information, check these two new invitation to tender packages, accessible via ESA’s Electronic Mailing Invitation to Tender System (EMITS).

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  10. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    Rosetta wide awake as check-up continues

    [​IMG]

    29 January 2014

    Following last week’s wake-up of the Rosetta comet-chaser, ESA’s flight controllers have conducted the first in a series of health checks aimed at assessing how well it came through 31 months of hibernation.

    After its long deep-space hibernation, Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft woke up on 20 January to begin the final leg of its 10-year journey to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

    Its first signal was received at 18:18 GMT (19:18 CET) at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Receipt confirmed that Rosetta had exited hibernation, warmed up and – as planned – switched itself into ‘safe mode’, a basic level of functionality, transmitting a simple radio tone via its S-band transmitter and waiting for instructions from Earth.

    Within several hours, the Flight Control Team had established full control, switching on the more powerful X-band transmitter. This allowed high-rate housekeeping information to provide a detailed look at the health and status of crucial propulsion, attitude-keeping and power systems, among many others.

    “We were most concerned about power, and seeing if the solar arrays were generating sufficient electricity to support the planned recommissioning activities,” says Andrea Accomazzo, Spacecraft Operations Manager.

    “But even though we were still 673 million km from the Sun, we were getting enough power and the arrays appear to have come through hibernation with no degradation.”

    Since then, several days of detailed checks have allowed the team to determine that the rest of the comet-chaser’s systems are also working as expected.

    Reactivation of three of the four reaction wheels – spinning gyroscopes used to control attitude – went flawlessly. The fourth wheel should be reactivated in the coming weeks.
    ESA’s flight dynamics team works from a specialised control room at ESOC, Darmstadt

    “We are now back online with a fully functional spacecraft,” reports Andrea.

    The next few weeks will be dedicated to testing and configuring onboard flight systems, including the solid-state mass memory, used to store science and operations data prior to download.

    Catching Rosetta’s wake-up signal using one of NASA’s 70 m-diameter dishes was not without challenges.

    Even after 31 months of no contact, however, the team at ESOC could predict the spacecraft’s location in the sky to within just 2000 km at a distance of 807 million km – equivalent to a tiny fraction the size of a full Moon.

    “We’re now recording tracking station data and in a few days will be able to conduct the first full orbit determination since wake up,” says Frank Dreger, Head of Flight Dynamics at ESOC.

    The next phase, lasting through April, will see science teams recommissioning Rosetta’s 11 scientific instruments. This will be done on individual schedules coordinated by the Rosetta Mission Operations Centre in ESOC.

    In March, Rosetta’s lander, Philae, will also be switched on for the first time since hibernation. It, too, will be recommissioned to confirm its control systems and 10 instruments are working.

    “Over the next three months we will be making sure that each instrument is ready to perform once we finally arrive at the comet, after 10 years journeying through the Solar System,” says Fred Jansen, Rosetta Mission Manager.

    Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project Scientist, adds: “Rosetta is equipped with a range of experiments that will tell us everything about the characteristics of this comet and how its behaviour changes as we get closer to the Sun, ultimately giving us a better picture of the role comets have played in our Solar System’s evolution.”

    Starting in February, status updates will be posted regularly in the Rosetta blog.

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    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
  11. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel SENIOR MEMBER

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    Looks like NASA has abandoned its leading role of exploring deep space as its budget dries up.
     
  12. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    NASA Ramps Up Space Launch System Sound Suppression Testing

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    A 5-percent scale model of the Space Launch System (SLS) is ignited for five seconds to measure the affects acoustic noise and pressure have on the vehicle at liftoff. The green flame is a result of the ignition fluid that is burned along with the propellant during this short-duration test.
    Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/David Olive

    The first round of acoustic tests on a scale model of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is underway. The tests will allow engineers to verify the design of the sound suppression system being developed for the agency’s new deep space rocket.

    The testing, which began Jan. 16 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will focus on how low- and high-frequency sound waves affect the rocket on the launch pad. This testing will provide critical data about how the powerful noise generated by the engines and boosters may affect the rocket and crew, especially during liftoff.

    “We can verify the launch environments the SLS vehicle was designed around and determine the effectiveness of the sound suppression systems,” said Doug Counter, technical lead for the acoustic testing. “Scale model testing on the space shuttle was very
    SLS Acoustics Test

    During the tests, a 5-percent scale model of the SLS is ignited for five seconds at a time while microphones, located on the vehicle and similarly scaled mobile launcher, tower and exhaust duct, collect acoustic data. A thrust plate, side restraints and cables keep the model secure.

    Engineers are running many of the evaluations with a system known as rainbirds, huge water nozzles on the mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During launch, 450,000 gallons of water will be released from five rainbirds just seconds before booster ignition. Water is the main component of the sound suppression system because it helps protect the launch vehicle and its payload from damage caused by acoustical energy. SLS with NASA’s new Orion spacecraft on top will be launched from Kennedy on deep space missions to destinations such as an asteroid and Mars.

    A series of acoustics tests also is taking place at the University of Texas at Austin. Engineers are evaluating the strong sounds and vibrations that occur during the ignition process for the RS-25 engines that will power SLS.

    First to be tested is the rocket’s core stage, which houses many of the launch vehicle’s critical pieces including the flight computer and avionics. The test of the fully assembled vehicle, which will include the solid rocket motors, will be conducted later this year.

    The SLS core stage model has four liquid oxygen-hydrogen thrusters that simulate the four RS-25 engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif. Two Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) Rocket Assisted Take-Off (RATO) motors represent the five-segment solid rocket motors on SLS. ATK, based in Promontory, Utah, is building the boosters. The motors burn similarly to how a solid motor would burn for the initial SLS vehicle configuration.

    The first flight test of the SLS in 2017 will be configured for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit to test the performance of the integrated system. As the SLS is evolved, it will the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions even farther into our solar system.

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  13. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NASA's LRO Snaps a Picture of NASA's LADEE Spacecraft

    With precise timing, the camera aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was able to take a picture of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft as it orbited our nearest celestial neighbor. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) operations team worked with its LADEE and LRO operations counterparts to make the imaging possible.

    LADEE passed directly beneath the LRO orbit plane a few seconds before LRO crossed the LADEE orbit plane, meaning a straight down LROC image would have just missed LADEE. The LADEE and LRO teams worked out the solution: simply have LRO roll 34 degrees to the west so the LROC detector (one line) would be in the right place as LADEE passed beneath.

    [​IMG]
    LRO imaged LADEE, about 5.6 miles beneath it, at 8:11 p.m. EST on Jan. 14, 2014. (LROC NAC image M1144387511LR. Image width is 821 meters, or about 898 yards.)

    As planned at 8:11 p.m. EST on Jan. 14, 2014, LADEE entered LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) field of view for 1.35 milliseconds and a smeared image of LADEE was snapped. LADEE appears in four lines of the LROC image, and is distorted right**to**left. What can be seen in the LADEE pixels in the NAC image?

    Step one is to minimize the geometric distortion in the smeared lines that show the spacecraft. However, in doing so the background lunar landscape becomes distorted and unrecognizable (see above). The scale (dimension) of the NAC pixels recording LADEE is 3.5 inches (9 cm), however, as the spacecraft were both moving about 3,600 mph (1,600 meters per second) the image is blurred in both directions by around 20 inches (50 cm). So the actual pixel scale lies somewhere between 3.5 inches and 20 inches. Despite the blur it is possible to find details of the spacecraft, which is about 4.7 feet (1.9 meters) wide and 7.7 feet (2.4 meters) long. The engine nozzle, bright solar panel and perhaps a star tracker camera can be seen (especially if you have a correctly oriented schematic diagram of LADEE for comparison).

    [​IMG]

    LADEE was launched Sept. 6, 2013. LADEE is gathering detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determining whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.

    LRO launched Sept. 18, 2009. LRO continues to bring the world astounding views of the lunar surface and a treasure trove of lunar data.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the LRO mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the LADEE mission.

    [​IMG]

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  14. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    NASA Extends Reliance on Russian Spacecraft Until 2018

    MOSCOW – American astronauts will continue to fly to the International Space Station aboard Russian spacecraft through 2017, NASA said Monday.

    “Until a US commercial vehicle is sustained, continued access to Russian crew launch, return, and rescue services is essential for planned ISS operations,” NASA said in a procurement announcement.

    The agency intends to buy six more seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to the ISS in 2017.

    NASA will also contract with the Russian space agency Roscosmos to have seats available on docked Soyuz craft through spring 2018 in the event of an emergency evacuation of the station.

    The cost of the proposed deal was not disclosed, but NASA signed a contract with Roscosmos last spring to pay about $70 million per seat for launch services through early 2017.

    The agency, which is funding the development of several manned spacecraft, plans to select a commercial launch provider for missions starting in 2017.

    Two NASA-funded private spacecraft – SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus – have already made unmanned resupply missions to the ISS.

    No American vehicle has taken astronauts into orbit since the decommissioning of NASA’s shuttle fleet in 2011. The Soyuz is one of only two operational orbital manned spacecraft in the world, the other being China’s Shenzhou.

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  15. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Re: NASA's 3D printer makes pizzas for astronauts

    NASA's Hubble Helps Solve Mystery of Ultra-Compact, Burned-Out Galaxies

    Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory have pieced together the evolutionary sequence of compact elliptical galaxies that erupted and burned out early in the history of the universe.

    Enabled by Hubble’s infrared imaging capabilities, astronomers have assembled for the first time a representative spectroscopic sampling of ultra-compact, burned-out elliptical galaxies — galaxies whose star formation was finished when the universe was only 3 billion years old, less than a quarter of its current estimated age of 13.8 billion years.

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    This graphic shows the evolutionary sequence in the growth of massive elliptical galaxies over 13 billion years, as gleaned from space-based and ground-based telescopic observations. The growth of this class of galaxies is quickly driven by rapid star formation and mergers with other galaxies. Credit: NASA, ESA

    The research, supported by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based telescopes, solves a 10-year-old mystery about the growth of the most massive elliptical galaxies we see today. It provides a clear picture of the formation of the most massive galaxies in the universe, from their initial burst of star formation through their development of dense stellar cores to their ultimate reality as giant ellipticals.

    “We at last show how these compact galaxies can form, how it happened, and when it happened. This basically is the missing piece in the understanding of how the most massive galaxies formed, and how they evolved into the giant ellipticals of today,” said Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, who is the leader of this study. “This had been a great mystery for many years because just 3 billion years after the big bang we see that half of the most massive galaxies have already completed their star formation.”

    Through the research, astronomers have determined the compact ellipticals voraciously consumed the gas available for star formation, to the point they could not create new stars, and then merged with smaller galaxies to form giant ellipticals. The stars in the burned-out galaxies were packed 10 to 100 times more densely than in equally massive elliptical galaxies seen in the nearby universe today, and that surprised astronomers, according to Toft.

    To develop the evolutionary sequence for ultra-compact, burned-out galaxies, Toft’s team assembled, for the first time, representative samples of two galaxy populations using the rich dataset in Hubble’s COSMOS (Cosmic Evolution Survey) program.

    One group of galaxies is the compact ellipticals. The other group contains galaxies that are highly obscured with dust and undergoing rapid star formation at rates thousands of times faster than observed in the Milky Way. Starbursts in these dusty galaxies likely were ignited when two gas-rich galaxies collided. These galaxies are so dusty that they are almost invisible at optical wavelengths, but they shine bright at submillimeter wavelengths, where they were first identified nearly two decades ago by the Submillimeter Common-User Bolometer Array (SCUBA) camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.

    Toft’s team started by constructing the first representative sample of compact elliptical galaxies with accurate sizes and spectroscopic redshifts, or distances, measured with Hubble’s Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and 3D-HST programs. 3D-HST is a near-infrared spectroscopic survey to study the physical processes that shape galaxies in the distant universe. The astronomers combined these data with observations from the Subaru telescope in Hawaii and Spitzer. This allowed for accurate stellar age estimates, from which they concluded compact elliptical galaxies formed in intense starbursts inside the galaxies that preceded them by as long as two billion years.

    Next, the team made the first representative sample of the most distant submillimeter galaxies using COSMOS data from the Hubble, Spitzer, and Herschel space telescopes, and ground-based telescopes such as Subaru, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, and the Submillimeter Array, all located in Hawaii. This multi-spectral information, stretching from optical light through submillimeter wavelengths, yielded a full suite of information about the sizes, stellar masses, star-formation rates, dust content, and precise distances of the dust-enshrouded galaxies that were present early in the universe.

    When Toft’s team compared the samples of the two galaxy populations, it discovered an evolutionary link between the compact elliptical galaxies and the submillimeter galaxies. The observations show that the violent starbursts in the dusty galaxies had the same characteristics that would have been predicted for progenitors to the compact elliptical galaxies. Toft’s team also calculated the intense starburst activity inside the submillimeter galaxies lasted only about 40 million years before the interstellar gas supply was exhausted.

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