Archive for June, 2016

A February look at China's Shenzhou-11 piloted spacecraft in testing. Credit: CCTV/framegrab via GBTimes.

A February look at China’s Shenzhou-11 piloted spacecraft in testing.
Credit: CCTV/framegrab via GBTimes.

 

China’s next piloted space mission is progressing forward. Space engineers are final checking the Tiangong-2, the country’s space lab that reportedly will be rocketed into orbit this September.

Meanwhile, the still unnamed two-person crew for the Shenzhou-11 mission is in training for their October liftoff.

The booster for their fight, the Long March 2F launch vehicle, has passed assessment testing to support the Shenzhou-11 flight.

As a target space lab, Tiangong-2 and the Shenzhou-11 crew will latch up for an expected 30-day stay in Earth orbit.

Capacity expanded

“We plan to complete the medium-term stay mission in the space lab. It also involves a manned spacecraft, which will carry life necessities of the astronauts, thus capacity of Tiangong-2 were much expanded,” explains Zhu Congpeng, chief designer of spacelab systems for China’s manned space engineering project.

China's 60-ton medium-size space station is depicted in this artwork. Credit: CNSA

China’s 60-ton medium-size space station is depicted in this artwork.
Credit: CNSA

Tiangong-2 carries much more new equipment than its predecessor space lab, Tiangong-1. This next vehicle will test gear needed to build China’s larger space station, the core module of which is headed for launch in 2018.

“We also installed a mechanical arm that will carry out automatic repair outside of the space lab,” Zhu said.

Propellant resupply

A total of 14 experiments will be carried out in Tiangong-2, and most of relevant technologies will be used on application satellites, said Zhao Guangheng, chief designer of space application systems for China’s manned space engineering project.

Long March booster to hurl Shenzhou-11 recently passed final checks. Credit: CASC

Long March booster to hurl Shenzhou-11 recently passed final checks.
Credit: CASC

 

 

In a milestone for China’s space program, a space cargo ship — Tianzhou-1 — is slated for liftoff in the first half of next year. Once Tiangong-2 and the unpiloted cargo craft are docked on-orbit, a propellant resupply of the space lab is scheduled.

 

 

Check out this video that shows Chinese designers busy testing Tiangong-2 for its upcoming space mission.

Go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEQLzgLtDaU

 

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1359, June 2, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1359, June 2, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The plan for NASA’s Curiosity rover on the Red Planet is to drill into the targeted “Oudam” bedrock.

Now in Sol 1361, Curiosity is to perform a full stint of drilling, followed by taking Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Mastcam images of the new hole.

Drill sample transfer

Explains Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, after drilling the rover will rest until Sol 1362, when the drill sample will be transferred to the scoop for Mastcam imaging and sieved.

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was used to image this vein on Sol 1360, June 3, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was used to image this vein on Sol 1360, June 3, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A fine-grained portion of the sample is slated then to be dropped into the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) for an overnight mineralogical analysis.

Vein observation

Following the CheMin data read out of the instrument on Sol 1363, Herkenhoff adds, Curiosity’s Mastcam will take a multispectral set of images of the drill tailings and a Right Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop southeast of the rover.

Curiosity rover’s ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager took this image on Sol 1360, June 3, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity rover’s ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager took this image on Sol 1360, June 3, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

In addition, the robot’s Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will observe a vein target named “Onganja” and a bedrock target dubbed “Ongeama.”

Curiosity’s Navcam will search for dust devils as part of another busy weekend, Herkenhoff concludes.

Curiosity’s Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1358, June 1, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1358, June 1, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars is busy at work, carrying out Sol 1359 duties.

According to Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, a the remaining “Okoruso drill sample” was successfully dumped onto the ground on Sol 1358. So the robot is ready for a new drill sample, he notes.

In preparation for that job, the Sol 1359 plan includes an arm preload test on “Oudam,” the next drill target, and cleaning out the sample-handling mechanisms of the rover’s Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device.

Images of CHIMRA are to verify that everything is clean, Herkenhoff adds.

Dump pile photos

Before all the arm activities, the Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will observe the Okoruso dump pile and a bedrock target named “Otjosondu,” Herkenhoff explains.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on June 1, 2016, Sol 1358. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on June 1, 2016, Sol 1358.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The robot’s Left Mastcam is also slated to acquire a 5×2 mosaic of the “Fraktuur Dorp” area and extend the “Hartmann’s Valley” mosaic.

Late in the afternoon, when lighting will be better, Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is to acquire images of bedrock target “Onguati” and a full suite of images of the dump pile.

The robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) is scheduled to be placed on the dump pile for an overnight data collection stint, Herkenhoff points out.

Russian RD-180 rocket engines used for main stage of Atlas-V rocket. Credit: Energomash

Russian RD-180 rocket engines used for main stage of Atlas-V rocket.
Credit: Energomash

 

A recently released report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) looks at the issues regarding U.S. continued access to space for national security missions.

The CRS report — National Security Space Launch at a Crossroads was authored by Steven A. Hildreth, a specialist in U.S. and foreign national security programs.

This May 13, 2016 CRS document was made available thanks to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Explains the report: “A combination of factors over the next several years, as a worst-case scenario, could leave the United States in a situation where some of its national security space payloads would not have a certified launcher available.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off April 8, 2016, carrying a Dragon spacecraft to begin the CRS-8 mission delivering experiments and cargo to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA/Tony Gray & Mike Kerley

A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off April 8, 2016, carrying a Dragon spacecraft to begin the CRS-8 mission delivering experiments and cargo to the International Space Station.
Credits: NASA/Tony Gray & Mike Kerley

 

 

Undercurrent of concern

The report reviews a long-standing undercurrent of concern over U.S. reliance on a Russian rocket engine (RD-180) for critical national security space launches on one of the primary Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rockets.

Furthermore, the report notes the legal challenges to the Air Force EELV program by SpaceX.

 

For your copy, of the report, go to:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R44498.pdf