Archive for February, 2015

Here’s a sub story from me that finally surfaced on Space.com:

NASA Space Submarine Could Explore Titan’s Methane Seas

Credit: NASA/NIAC

Credit: NASA/NIAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
February 18, 2015 12:04 pm ET

http://www.space.com/28589-titan-submarine-robotic-saturn-ship.html

Credit: NASA/NIAC

Credit: NASA/NIAC

 

Long March 5 engine test. Credit: CMSE/CCTV

Long March 5 engine test.
Credit: CMSE/CCTV

China rocket builders are reporting success in test firing engines for the Long March 5 booster. That launcher is tasked to further the Chinese space station program, as well as boost their future Moon exploration agenda.

China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) reported the major ground test of the engines last week.

The Long March 5 will have a payload capacity of 25 tons to low Earth orbit, or 14 tons to geostationary transfer orbit.

According to the China Manned Space Engineering Network, the engine test firing was the country’s largest undertaken to date and reached the longest test system-level of power.

The engines use non-toxic and non-polluting liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

SASTIND noted that the booster’s maiden flight has been scheduled in 2016 from China’s new launch center in Hainan province.

NASA's satellite launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.  Credit: NASA

NASA’s satellite launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.
Credit: NASA

 

NASA is pressing ahead on an air-launched concept to toss small spacecraft into Earth orbit.

The rocket-launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.

The first flights of the one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider took place last year at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

 One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight. Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight.
Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

That test program involved a 27-foot-wingspan glider that was towed behind the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone, or DROID, in the skies above Edwards Air Force Base. Once the towline was released, the twin fuselage aircraft glided to a landing on the dry lakebed.

NASA Armstrong researchers are developing TGALS, which is funded as a part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program.

The one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider rests on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base prior to its first flight Oct. 21, 2014 in this photo shot with a 16-mm. fisheye lens. Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

The one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider rests on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base prior to its first flight Oct. 21, 2014 in this photo shot with a 16-mm. fisheye lens.
Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

In a test of the launch scenario, NASA plans to outfit TGALS with a scale-model Mini Sprite rocket, built by Whittinghill Aerospace of Camarillo, California. That firm is investigating many modular designs for 3, 4, and 5 stage vehicles of different (solid, liquid, and hybrid) propellant types.

The TGALS demonstration’s goal is to provide proof-of-concept of a towed, airborne launch platform.

 

Check out this video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDhvf_ou4FQ#t=52

Credit: Spaceport America

Credit: Spaceport America

New Mexico’s Spaceport America hosted ten private pilots and 24 of their guests in a first ever Fly-in event held today at the spaceport on Valentine’s Day.

Visiting aircraft at today’s event ranging from a large twin-engine, 6-passenger Cessna aircraft to a two seat, homebuilt, RV 4, parked on the spaceport apron around the iconic “Gateway to Space” terminal hangar building.

Spaceport America is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The launch complex is situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

 

The European space transporter ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) ‘Georges Lemaître’ has “de-docked” from the International Space Station (ISS).

The ATV-5 spent more than 200 days in space – the longest period of any of the ATV spacecraft.

It is filled with 2.5 tons of waste – dry refuse, waste water and equipment that is no longer needed and will make a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere shortly. It is being aimed at a designated “spacecraft graveyard” in an empty stretch of the South Pacific.

A Break-Up Camera, or BUC, is flying for the first time on this mission.

The slow burn. So long to ATV-5. Credit: Roscosmos-O. Artemyev

The slow burn. So long to ATV-5.
Credit: Roscosmos-O. Artemyev

This ATV’s fiery demise will be tracked with a battery of cameras and imagers, on the ground, in the air and even from the Station itself, and this time on the vehicle itself.

“The battery-powered camera will be trained on the Automated Transfer Vehicle’s forward hatch, and will record the shifting temperatures of the scene before it,” explains Neil Murray, overseeing the project for ESA.

“Recording at 10 frames per second, it should show us the last 10 seconds or so of the ATV,” Murray reports. “We don’t know exactly what we might see – might there be gradual deformations appearing as the spacecraft comes under strain, or will everything come apart extremely quickly?”

Results from gathering the ATV-5 reentry data is expected to be helpful for the eventual reentry of the International Space Station, according to ESA.

Keep an eye on the ATV-5 reentry at:

http://blogs.esa.int/atv/2015/02/13/undockingreentry-timeline/

And also this twitter feed at:

https://twitter.com/esaoperations

Credit: Copyright - Don Davis - Used with Permission

Credit: Copyright – Don Davis – Used with Permission

It has been two years since a sky blast rocked the Chelyabinsk region in Russia on February 15, 2013. The event injured scores of people and damaged property as the over 65-feet (20-meter) across space rock fragmented in the atmosphere.

However, the whereabouts of its parent asteroid remains elusive according to a new paper published in the journal Icarus.

Astronomers had originally predicted that a 2-km near-Earth asteroid (NEA) designated (86039) 1999 NC43 could be the source body from which the Chelyabinsk meteoroid was ejected prior to its encounter with the Earth.

“These two bodies shared similar orbits around the sun and initial studies suggested even similar compositions,” said Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Vishnu Reddy, lead author of “Link between the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (86039) 1999 NC43 and the Chelyabinsk meteoroid tenuous” that appears in Icarus.

Unlikely link

However, reanalysis of the orbital parameters and spectral data by an international team of researchers led by Reddy has shown that the link between Chelyabinsk and 1999 NC43 is unlikely.

“The composition of Chelyabinsk meteorite that was recovered after the event is similar to a common type of meteorite called LL chondrites. However, the near-Earth asteroid has a composition that is distinctly different from this,” Reddy said.

The study also showed that linking specific meteorites to an asteroid is extremely difficult due to the chaotic nature of the orbits of these bodies.

To view this research paper, go to:

http://www.psi.edu/news/reddypaper

Deep space mission

“The week of February 15th is a good time to remember the fact that asteroids do hit our planet,” says Ed Lu, a three-time U.S. shuttle astronaut, now co-founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation.

Ed Lu, a three-time U.S. shuttle astronaut, now co-founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation. Credit: B612 Foundation

Ed Lu, a three-time U.S. shuttle astronaut, now co-founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation.
Credit: B612 Foundation

The B612 Foundation is building the Sentinel Space Telescope which will provide advance warning of where asteroids are and where they are headed, and it will see them far enough in advance so that we have time to move them out of Earth’s path.

“The B612 Foundation is leading the first privately managed deep space mission with the goal to protect our world from the impact of devastating asteroids. The fact of the matter is that asteroid impacts can be prevented using technology we can employ right now. And unlike other potentially global scale catastrophic events, the solution is nearly purely a technical one, and with a relatively small and known cost,” Lu notes in a B612 Foundation statement.

Protect, deflect

So what do we need to do to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts?

“The surprising answer is that we must find the asteroids that will hit the Earth,” Lu responds.

“In fact, sometime in the next decade, the Sentinel Mission is likely to discover an asteroid on course to hit Earth. And while that asteroid will probably be only about the size of the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk…that means that we may soon witness the first mission to deflect an asteroid to protect our planet. It is hard to believe that science and technology have advanced to this point. We live in truly amazing times,” Lu concludes.

United Nations: action plan

Meanwhile, the United Nations is making progress on responding to any potential near-Earth object impact threat.

Credit: United Nations

Credit: United Nations

The UN’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space formally dissolved its Action Team 14.

It dissolved the special Action Team in recognition of the successful completion of its mandate to coordinate international mitigation efforts for near-Earth object (NEO) threats.

“Action Team 14 coordinated the establishment of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and thus played a vital role in the international community’s response to any potential near-Earth object impact threat,” said Elöd Both of Hungary, Chair of the Subcommittee.

Heads up...but what next? Credit: NASA

Heads up…but what next?
Credit: NASA

Can we — or should we — try to protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts?How about harvesting asteroids for potential economic benefits? Could asteroid exploration be used to boost our capabilities and help clear a pathway to Mars? How should we balance costs, risks, and benefits of human exploration in space?

An effort set up between NASA, the US government’s space agency, and a group led by Arizona State University called ECAST—Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology—is offering ordinary citizens a say in decisions about the future of space exploration.

ECAST is a network of different institutions, launched in 2010 to provide a 21st Century model for technology assessment.

Let’s discuss

Want to give your opinion on what to do about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative?

Last November, several hundred people in Phoenix, Boston, and online came together to learn about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. They took part to consider and discuss different approaches to dealing with the opportunities and threats posed by asteroids.

Lots of things to consider: Detection; Increase Space-Based Observations; Mitigation; Build-Up Civil Defense; An International Consortium Should Lead Efforts; Use Nuclear Weapons; Use Kinetic Impactor Technology.

Now, the next phase of “informing” NASA’s Asteroid Initiative is an open invite for everyone to participate. So weigh in on the questions considered by the in-person and online forums.

This phase is open now, and anyone can participate.

Go to: https://ecastonline.consider.it/

Also, go to this informative video on this citizen outreach effort:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yImAjIws9A#t=137

RUSSIA bionm1missionlogo_0_1

A U.S./Russian team of experts has found that space travel may severely impair the body’s ability to regulate blood rushing to the brain. If that’s the case, it could contribute to the temporary or permanent vision problems experienced by astronauts.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers from Florida State University and Russian Academy of Sciences flag the problem.

The international research partnership is delving into the complications that occur when humans travel to space and spend weeks to months in a weightless environment.

The Russian Federal Space Agency, with the help of NASA, assembled an international team of researchers to study mice sent into space for 30 days on a Russian satellite, the Bion-M1.

On April 19, 2013 the automated Bion-M1 mission was launched carrying biological research experiments into low Earth orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. When the mission returned on May 19, 2013 after the animals were in space for 30 days, scientists conducted post-flight analysis of the mice .

Bion-M1 Russian flight hardware for bioscience research is placed aboard the Bion recoverable module by Cosmodrome staff in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.  Cedit: Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)

Bion-M1 Russian flight hardware for bioscience research is placed aboard the Bion recoverable module by Cosmodrome staff in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
Cedit: Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)

Message from mice

According to a press release from Florida State University, when Bion-M1 returned to Earth, the mice were whisked by ambulance to laboratories at the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow. Once there the research team investigated arteries that control blood flow to muscle, skin and the brain of the small creatures.

Their look at the brain revealed some interesting responses to the spaceflight.

“Without gravity pulling body fluids down toward the feet, fluid will rise toward the brain,” reports Florida State Professor Michael Delp. “When spaceflight alters the function of arteries that precisely regulate blood flow to the brain, it could severely affect many things, including vision.”

What next?

Now the issue remains how to solve that problem.

Delp and his Russian colleagues are looking into future experiments that may yield more answers and possible solutions. In May, another group of mice will be sent to the International Space Station for observation.

The international team of researchers worked out of a Moscow laboratory. Courtesy of Michael Delp

The international team of researchers worked out of a Moscow laboratory.
Courtesy of Michael Delp

Funding for the research was provided by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Russian Academy of Sciences and M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Program of Development.

IXV recovery Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

IXV recovery
Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

 

Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) – an experimental spaceplane – plopped down in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands.

The European Space Agency vehicle was launched Feb. 11 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop a Vega rocket.

The craft carried some 300 sensors to record its performance during a high-heat reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

IXV recovery Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

IXV recovery
Credit: ESA/Tommaso Javidi, 2015

Measuring 16 feet (five meters) long and weighing two-tons, the craft flew a trajectory that enabled it to reach speeds that mimicked the same conditions as those for a vehicle returning from low Earth orbit.

IXV glided through the atmosphere before parachutes deployed to slow the descent further for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The entire flight lasted approximately 100 minutes.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

Pilot mission: PRIDE

This IXV mission tested cutting-edge system and technology aspects to provide Europe with an independent reentry capability. The vehicle is considered a building block for reusable space transportation systems. It will also validate designs for lifting-bodies.

According to ESA, the IXV incorporates both the simplicity of capsules and the performance of winged vehicles, with high controllability and maneuverability for precision landing.

Such a capability is a cornerstone for reusable launcher stages, sample return from other planets and crew return from space, as well as future Earth observation, microgravity research, satellite servicing and disposal missions.

The results from the test are to be fed into the ESA’s “Program for Reusable In-Orbit Demonstrator for Europe,” long-speak for PRIDE – a reusable spaceplane.

 

Jet streams on Churyumov-Gerasimenko A prominent jet, together with gas an dust outflows are visible in this four-image mosaic, created from images acquired by Rosetta's Navigation Camera NAVCAM on January 31, 2015. The comet’s activity will increase as it approaches the Sun.  Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM - CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

Jet streams on Churyumov-Gerasimenko
A prominent jet, together with gas an dust outflows are visible in this four-image mosaic, created from images acquired by Rosetta’s Navigation Camera NAVCAM on January 31, 2015. The comet’s activity will increase as it approaches the Sun.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

Scientists on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet mission suggest that Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko could lose up to over 65 feet (20 meters) of surface material from its previously unilluminated south side when it heats up, starting in May 2015.

This possible estimate of erosion of 67P comes via data acquired by Rosetta’s Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS).

Model calculations for the erosion of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko  This image is based on a surface model of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko and shows the predicted extent of erosion of cometary material.  The left figure shows the comet seen from the north; the center image shows the equatorial plain and the right image shows the southern region. The different colours represent the predicted amount of erosion – the southern part of the comet could lose up to 20 meters of surface material during the orbit. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/DLR .

Model calculations for the erosion of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
This image is based on a surface model of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko and shows the predicted extent of erosion of cometary material.
The left figure shows the comet seen from the north; the center image shows the equatorial plain and the right image shows the southern region. The different colours represent the predicted amount of erosion – the southern part of the comet could lose up to 20 meters of surface material during the orbit.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/DLR .

“The comet sheds its surface almost constantly, revealing fresh material on its surface, which has not yet been aged by cosmic radiation,” says Ekkehard Kührt, who leads the Rosetta mission science team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

The Rosetta orbiter and its lander, Philae, will have an excellent view of the comet as it awakens and ejects gases and dust into space.

Lander wake-up call

The Philae lander now resting on the comet will be able to take advantage of the summer; at its location near the equator, it may receive sufficient sunlight to “wake up” from its current hibernation state. This might occur as early as March, but the probability that the Lander Control Center will resume contact and be able to send commands will be greatest in May, according to a DLR press statement.

The comet’s closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) will occur in August 2015.

The increasing heat as the comet approaches the Sun will trigger this “diet”, during which gases and solid materials will be ejected into space.

Griffith Observatory Event