Archive for November, 2017

The Indian Space Programme – India’s incredible journey from the Third World towards the First by Gurbir Singh; Astrotalkuk Publications, 2017, 600+ pages, 140+ illustrations, 8 appendices, 20+ tables and 1000+ endnotes; $55.00 softcover.

This book is an incredible resource and is an impressive, heavily researched volume. A unique piece of work, the book outlines how India has capitalized on space technology to foster the country’s progress into the 21st century.

Indeed, this month is viewed as the birth of the Indian Space Program. Fast forward and decades in the making, India’s space program has made impressive strides in space, from weather and Earth-monitoring satellite launches to lunar missions and orbiting Mars with the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan.

Gurbir Singh has written an informative, fact-packed volume that’s unprecedented in its scope – be it describing the founders of India’s space program, the emergence of India’s spaceport, Sriharikota, to the inner-workings of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its on-going strides in developing an array of boosters.

As Singh notes, “from a standing start in 1963, India has demonstrated the power of space-based technologies to transform a nation. Developing countries will remain developing countries unless they engage in modern space technologies.”

How is the citizenry of India benefiting from the country’s space program? How did India get to the Moon and Mars? What are the prospects for India’s ambitions in space for human spaceflight, military and science? In space, will India compete or collaborate with China, the United States and Russia? These are important questions and dutifully addressed in this very readable and engrossing book.

Singh has done a masterful job of pulling together unique material and photos for a popular reader. It’s a wide-ranging view of India’s space program – its past, current status and ambitions ahead.

For more information regarding this book, go to:

https://astrotalkuk.org/theindianspaceprogramme/

Credit: Caran d’Ache/MB&F

 

Think of it as one small step in penmanship – but at a giant leap in dollars: $19,900.

Caran d’Ache and MB&F have issued a creative odyssey: the Swiss-made Astrograph writing instrument.

This space rocket-shaped work of art contains a total of 99 components, comprising a multitude of innovative features: a “detent” system of vertical stabilization, launch-pad box, magnetic astronaut figurine.

Credit: Caran d’Ache/MB&F

It takes more than 500 manual operations to produce each instrument, “quite simply the most complex writing instrument ever made in the Caran d’Ache workshops,” notes the company’s website.

Climb on board

The rocket-shaped pen body is rhodium-plated. The base of the “engine” is plated with ruthenium. The stabilizer legs, the joints and miniature ladder are polished, sandblasted, satin-finished and rhodium-plated. A miniature lever – the entry door to the rocket — is concealed in the ring of the pen and activates the simultaneous lowering of three stabilizer legs. Once these have been deployed, it is possible to stand Astrograph up vertically, ready for take-off.

The magnetic miniature astronaut figurine is silver and rhodium-plated and can be attached at will to the body of the writing instrument, ready to “climb on board”.

Credit: Caran d’Ache/MB&F

 

Limited edition

A “launch pad” box is circular shaped, fitted with three articulated legs that allow the writing instrument to be kept inside or displayed outside, placed in the middle in a vertical position.

The Astrograph limited edition is available in three finishes. In homage to the 99 new components specially developed for the Astrograph limited edition, 99 fountain pens and roller pens are numbered: “1 in 99 pieces.”

 

 

Resources

This unique writing instrument comes complete with a manual. Go to:

https://www.mbandf.com/files/the-tribe/downs/Astrograph_user-manual.pdf

For more information on the Astrograph, scroll on over to:

https://www.mbandf.com/en/machines/co-creations/astrograph

Also, check out this Destination Moon video at:

https://www.mbandf.com/en/press/co-creations/destination-moon

Curiosity Mastcam Left image acquired on Sol 1874, November 13, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

Now in Sol 1877, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has reached a new milestone in driving – 11 miles (17.70 kilometers) — since landing in August 2012.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B photo taken on Sol 1875, November 14, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Science teams have been identifying and working out a plan to characterize several high-priority science targets, brought about due to the robot sitting right on the boundary between two geologic units observed from orbit.

 

Upper unit

Reports Christopher Edwards, a planetary geologist from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Curiosity is set to drive over this contact between the lighter-toned, lower unit and the darker-toned, upper unit of the Vera Rubin Ridge.

Curiosity Navcam Left B image acquired on Sol 1875, November 14, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“These brightness differences observed from orbit are quite striking and at Curiosity’s current position, both of these units were visible and reachable by the arm,” Edwards adds.

 

 

Very steep slope

In the plan, the robot will conduct contact science on a light-toned block dubbed “Fort Brown” and a dark-toned pebble dubbed “Middleton.”

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image acquired on Sol 1875, November 14, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“These targets will have Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) data acquired of them, illuminating their major element chemistry. Curiosity will carry out these contact science activities all while parked on a very steep slope,” Edwards notes, a slope roughly 19 degrees, “which is about as steep as the steepest road on Earth, Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.”

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 1876, November 15, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Journey continues

Edwards says that, in addition to the two contact science targets, the rover will measure several similarly appearing targets with the remote sensing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

“In the days to come Curiosity will gain a much better understanding of these darker-toned materials as it continues on its journey up Mt. Sharp,” Edwards concludes.

Traverse map

A recently issued map of Curiosity’s whereabouts through Sol 1873 shows the route driven by the robot through the 1873 Martian day, or sol.

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up.

The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 1871 to Sol 1873, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 1.80 feet (0.55 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 11.00 miles (17.70 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

NASA Kilopower project is viewed as a stepping stone to small fission-powered planetary science missions.
Credit: NASA

NASA is pushing forward on testing a key energy source that literally “empowers” human crews on distant Mars, energizing habitats and running on-the-spot processing equipment to transform Red Planet resources into oxygen, water, and fuel.

The agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has provided multi-year funding for the Kilopower project. This work is viewed as a stepping stone to small fission-powered planetary science missions. The technology is moving into a methodical and milestone-making trial program.

Go to this informative video at:

For detailed information on the on-going work, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/feature/Powering_Up_NASA_Human_Reach_for_the_Red_Planet

Credit: NASA

 

 

Keep an eye on a trio of CubeSats – tiny satellites that are expected to make a big impact on future space missions.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses a pair of CubeSats to explore data transmission to the ground via ultra-small lasers, and is also tasked to maneuver the diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses a pair of CubeSats to explore data transmission to the ground via ultra-small lasers, and is also tasked to maneuver the diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

 

 

Antenna test

Also set for space is the Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) mission. It will showcase a pioneering ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.

The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) mission. It will showcase a pioneering ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.
Credit: NASA/JPL

 

 

 

 

Both are onboard the S.S. Gene Cernan supply ship that is now docked to the International Space Station. OCSD and ISARA are to be deployed from the supply vessel after it undocks from the station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

A detailed update on OCSD/ISARA can be found here:

https://www.nasa.gov/spacetech/feature/CubeSat_Missions_Pushing_Boundaries_of_Technology

 

Floor time with InSight as technicians ready the Mars lander for launch next year.
Credit: Barbara David

Littleton, Colorado – NASA’s next Mars mission is reaching “ship and shoot” status, a lander geared next year to start probing the Red Planet’s deep interior and even eavesdrop on rumbling Marsquakes.

As spacecraft names go, it’s a mouthful: Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. That has been mercifully shortened to InSight.

Handle with care. InSight technicians give thumbs-up for Mars lander sendoff and landing on the Red Planet next year.
Credit: Barbara David

Here at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company – builder of the Mars-bound craft – technicians are in busy bee, touchy feely status  with InSight while garbed in less than stylish “bunny suits” to help keep human contaminants from getting a free ride to the planet.

For a detailed, inside look at InSight, go to my new Scientific American article –NASA’s Next Mars Lander Zooms toward Launch – at:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasa-rsquo-s-next-mars-lander-zooms-toward-launch/

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, topped by the Cygnus spacecraft — S.S. Gene Cernan — launched from Pad-0A today, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Credit: NASA

This supply ship is headed for the International Space Station, set to deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Link-up with the ISS is scheduled for Tuesday.

Laser communications

For example, onboard the cargo ship: two innovative 1.5-unit CubeSats designed and built by The Aerospace Corporation.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses a pair of CubeSats to explore data transmission to the ground via ultra-small lasers, and is also tasked to maneuver the diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Both CubeSats were developed for NASA Ames Research Center’s Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission. This effort focuses on two significant capabilities of value for future small spacecraft missions: high-speed optical transmission of data and proximity operations between two small satellites–both capabilities not previously demonstrated in spacecraft of this size.

A pioneering propulsion system on OCSD uses water as a propellant, which is exhausted as steam.

Novel antenna array

Another innovative mission on the Orbital ATK CRS-8 (OA-8) supply ship is the Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) spacecraft.

JPL’s ISARA will showcase a unique ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.

The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) mission. It will showcase a pioneering ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.
Credit: NASA/JPL

NanoRacks deployer

This supply mission to the ISS also totes a full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), a virtual reality camera, and educational research.

The NanoRacks ENRCSD is installed on the exterior of the Cygnus service module with the capability to deploy satellites after Cygnus’ completion of its primary ISS resupply mission.

On this ENRCSD mission, NanoRacks has 14 satellites ready to be deployed with customers including the NRO Office of Space Launch, Asgardia, Spire, Tyvak, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Included in this External Cygnus manifest are also The Aerospace Corporation’s AeroCube B/C satellites, water-based propulsion CubeSats.

One strange rock

This mission is enabling a unique virtual reality opportunity with National Geographic’s VUZE camera.

Integrated and launched via NanoRacks, VUZE will allow for the recording of the new National Geographic series “One Strange Rock,” in which the astronaut crew will record a series of virtual reality pieces for incorporation into a larger documentary about natural history and the solar system.

NASA’s Gerstenmaier and AIAA’s Sandra Magnus at recent hearing.
Credit: Inside Outer Space/Screen Grab

A House Space Subcommittee hearing was held November 9, dedicated to examining the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Crew Vehicle and the associated ground systems.

The hearing, titled “An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development,” heard from William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA and Sandra Magnus, the outgoing Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Delay and disappointment

A key upshot of the hearing is that NASA is sliding the first SLS launch to no earlier than December 2019 – a delay of at least one year for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first flight of SLS with an uncrewed Orion. Delays with the delivery of the European Service Module could push this into 2020.

NASA’s Space Launch System.
Credit: NASA

In his opening statement, Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, in part:

“After all these years, after billions of dollars spent, we are facing more delays and cost overruns,” Smith said. “Recent hurricanes and tornadoes have damaged some facilities and slowed localized progress but many of the problems are self-inflicted.”

Smith said it is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution when the U.S. taxpayer has invested so much in these programs.

“Congress needs to have confidence in NASA and the Exploration Systems contractors,” Smith concluded, “which I don’t believe we have now. That confidence is ebbing. If it slips much further, NASA and the contractors will have a hard time regaining their credibility.”

Smith’s full opening statement can be found here at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/11092017%20CLS%20-%20SLS%20Orion.pdf

Artist rendering of Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft in deep space.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Not out of woods yet

In an opening statement from Subcommittee Chairman, Brian Babin (R-Texas), he commented: “We aren’t out of the woods yet on this program, but we can see the edge of the forest. Significant progress has been made. We are bending metal, writing software code and integrating hardware. Given a program of this magnitude, this is no small feat — particularly given the challenges the program faced under the last administration.”

Babin’s full statement can be found here at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/11092017%20Babin%20-%20SLS%20Orion.pdf

Testimony

The written testimony of NASA’s William Gerstenmaier is available at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-115-SY16-WState-WGerstenmaier-20171109.pdf

AIAA’s Sandra Magnus is available at:

https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-115-SY16-WState-SMagnus-20171109.pdf

Hearing video

To video view the entire hearing, go to:

https://youtu.be/qqxybZPeKF0

Inspector General report

Also, take note of “NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges.”

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its annual report identifying what it views as the top management and performance challenges facing the space agency.

OIG report available at:

https://oig.nasa.gov/reports/MC-2017.pdf

An OIG video is can be viewed at:

https://oig.nasa.gov/pages/player.html?guid=0c7f3398-ce93-4b2c-979c-d5bb96c04abe

 

 

Curiosity Navcam Right B image acquired on Sol 1869, November 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now in Sol 1870, NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars has wheeled itself into a new position along the Vera Rubin Ridge.

Reports Rachel Kronyak, a planetary geologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, in looking at recent images from the robot: “I can’t help but think that Curiosity is giving us a ‘high-five’ for another stellar drive!”

High-five! Curiosity Navcam Right B photo showing Curiosity’s location after a successful drive on Sol 1869. The shadows show the Robotic Arm and turret on the left, and the Remote Sensing Mast to the lower right.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jam-packed agenda

Earth control teams have planned a “jam-packed” agenda for two sols of remote and contact science as the journey along the Vera Rubin Ridge (VRR) continues.

That plan calls for, on Sol 1870, use of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) observation on the bedrock target “Waboomberg.”

This will be followed by Mastcam imaging of nearby VRR features, including exposed rock layers and light-colored bedrock, Kronyak explains.

Curiosity Front Hazcam Right B image taken on Sol 1869, November 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Brush off

On tap is use of the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) to brush the surface on target “Platberg,” which is to be followed by Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) imaging and an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) analysis. Additional APXS and MAHLI observations are slated on Waboomberg.

On the Sol 1871 to do list, Kronyak adds that there’s a continuation of Curiosity science observations by using ChemCam and Mastcam multispectral to target Platberg.

Curiosity Navcam: Left B image taken on Sol 1869, November 8, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock features

“It’s quite common that we use multiple instruments on a single target – this is to corroborate datasets and give us a more complete, thorough analysis. We’ll take an additional Mastcam image of ‘St. Lucia’ to look at some interesting bedrock features by Curiosity’s wheel,” Kronyak reports.

Lastly, the plan calls for a suite of environmental monitoring activities, which will include use of the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instruments, a Mastcam look at dust in the atmosphere, and a Mastcam line-of-sight extinction image.

Weekend science

“To wrap up the plan,” concludes Kronyak, “we’ll drive to our next VRR stop, take some standard post-drive images, and set ourselves up for an exciting weekend of science on Mars!”

 

 

 

Why should we imagine solar flares taking down the International Space Station?

That’s the subject of a Future Tense seminar hosted by New America, Slate, and Arizona State University.

International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

So what happens when a catastrophic solar flare paralyzes global space agencies and throws the world order into chaos? This very scenario drives the plot of Deji Olukotun’s book, After the Flare. The result is an introspective look at timely questions of technology and international ambition.

 

 

 

 

 

Future Tense is bringing together Olukotun, an internet rights advocate and author, and Lucianne Walkowicz, astrophysicist and multimedia artist, to discuss the science behind solar flares and what we can learn about global tech policy through science fiction. Walkowicz is also the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress.

This event is being held today — November 8, 2017 from 6:00-7:15 pm ET – and will be livestreamed.

To view the event, go to:

https://www.newamerica.org/future-tense/events/why-should-we-imagine-solar-flares-taking-down-international-space-stations/

 

Griffith Observatory Event