Archive for February, 2015

Credit: ESA–J. Huart, 2014

Credit: ESA–J. Huart, 2014

Look for a February 11 liftoff of the European Space Agency’s space plane – the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, or IXV.

It will be launched on a Vega launcher at 13:00 GMT (14:00 CET) for a suborbital flight to test technologies and critical systems for Europe’s future automated reentry systems.

From liftoff to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will take 100 minutes.

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the mission live starting 12:30 GMT (13:30 CET) via Arianespace TV and ESA TV.

Go to:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Launchers/IXV/Watch_IXV_launch

Meanwhile, take a look at this informative time-lapse video that shows IXV’s preparation, fairing encapsulation, transfer to the Vega mobile gantry and upper composite integration on the Vega launcher, at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Go to:

http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2015/02/IXV_ready_for_liftoff

 

After releasing a test return capsule to Earth, the solar-powered service module first loitered at Earth-Moon L2 and then moved into orbit around the Moon. Credit: China Space Website

After releasing a test return capsule to Earth, the solar-powered service module first loitered at Earth-Moon L2 and then moved into orbit around the Moon.
Credit: China Space Website

China’s “service module” that is orbiting the Moon has conducted a series of tests – all in prelude to a robotic lunar sample mission eyed for 2017.

According to a statement of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), the orbiter modulated its speed, height, and overall orbit around the Moon.

Those tests were completed February 6-7, SASTIND reported.

 

Space ballet: L2 to lunar orbit

The service module used in the tests was part of China’s experimental Moon probe that was launched on Oct. 24, 2014, a craft that made a circumlunar trek during an eight-day mission. On its flight back to Earth, the service module ejected a return capsule on Nov. 1, with the capsule parachuting to Earth that same day.

After release of the capsule, the service module made its way to the Earth-Moon Lagrangian (L2) position. The craft completed three circuits around that point prior to heading for lunar orbit. It then performed a set of braking maneuvers that nudged itself into lower and lower orbits around the Moon.

China mooncraft jumps from Earth-Moon L2 position into Moon orbit. Credit: CMSE

China mooncraft jumps from Earth-Moon L2 position into Moon orbit.
Credit: CMSE

 

Future mission

Experience gained during the service module’s flight is intended to sharpen the skills of ground controllers to undertake a lunar sample mission projected for 2017.

China's Chang'e 5 mission is slated for 2017 and will land, collect, and return to Earth lunar samples. Credit: China Space Website

China’s Chang’e 5 mission is slated for 2017 and will land, collect, and return to Earth lunar samples.
Credit: China Space Website

That mission, China’s Chang’e 5, would be a sample return effort, entailing a soft landing on the Moon, scooping up several pounds of rock and soil, then rocket those specimens off the lunar surface for transport back to Earth.

Up, up and away! Credit: DARPA

Up, up and away!
Credit: DARPA

This week, at the 18th Annual Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) highlighted its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program (ALASA).

The current ALASA design envisions launching a low-cost, expendable launch vehicle from conventional aircraft. Serving as a reusable first stage, the plane would fly to high altitude and release the launch vehicle, which would carry the payload to the desired location.

The goal of ALASA is to develop a significantly less expensive approach for routinely launching small satellites, with a goal of at least threefold reduction in costs compared to current military and US commercial launch costs. Currently, small satellite payloads cost more than $30,000 per pound to launch, and must share a launcher with other satellites.

ALASA seeks to launch satellites on the order of 100 pounds for less than $1 million total, including range support costs, to orbits that are selected specifically for each 100 pound payload.

Credit: DARPA

Credit: DARPA

According to DARPA, the ALASA program is moving ahead with rigorous testing of new technologies that one day could enable revolutionary satellite launch systems that provide more affordable, routine and reliable access to space.

 

 

 

Take a look at this DARPA video:

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

 

Courtesy: Spaceport America/Leonard David Archives

Courtesy: Spaceport America/Leonard David Archives

Spaceport America is seeking approval from the New Mexico Legislature of a special appropriation of $1.783 million to cover the shortfall resulting from the delay due to the Virgin Galactic/SpaceShipTwo mishap last October.

“If the funding is approved, it will only be drawn upon if the spaceport does not make up the difference in additional revenue. It is an insurance policy for the $218.5M state’s investment,” explains Christine Anderson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA).

Anderson said that Spaceport America staff are in discussion with many prospective customers, in varying degrees of development, and hope to have more customers near-term to make use of the sprawling complex.

Spaceport America is located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in New Mexico, United States west and north of the White Sands Missile Range. It lies 89 miles north of El Paso, 45 miles north of Las Cruces, and 20 miles southeast of Truth or Consequences. Spaceport America was officially declared open on October 18, 2011.

Credit: NMSA

Credit: NMSA

Sweetheart deal

Want to wing your way into Spaceport America?

The spaceport is hosting a Valentine’s Day Fly-In on February 14th for private pilots. A special spaceport tour, presentation and Valentine’s Day luncheon are included at a price.

For more information on the first-ever fly-in, go to:

http://spaceportamerica.com/press-release/spaceport-america-to-host-private-pilot-fly-in-on-valentines-day/

“So if you are a pilot, bring your sweetheart and come celebrate the day with us,” Anderson adds.

Mission Control equipment at Spaceport America. Credit: NMSA

Mission Control equipment at Spaceport America.
Credit: NMSA

Gateway gallery

In other news, the expanded Visitor Experience is almost complete, with the last touches being made on the fit-out of the Gateway Gallery in the Gateway to Space building.

The Gallery will feature a G-Shock Simulator, a number of interactive kiosks and displays focused on the science behind the commercial space industry.

In addition, there are several displays of archaeological artifacts from the region from the residents that lived in the area over 10,000 years ago.

Anderson also notes that the spaceport has current openings in IT, aerospace, marketing and maintenance.

For more information on current openings at Spaceport America, go to:

http://spaceportamerica.com/jobs/employment/

One small step for making business on the Moon a new economic sphere? Credit: NASA

One small step for making business on the Moon a new economic sphere?
Credit: NASA

The FAA’s Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has given thumbs-up regarding private sector operations on the Moon.

In a December 22 letter to Bigelow Aerospace, the FAA’s AST — in consultation with the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies, including NASA and NOAA – “is prepared to support Bigelow Aerospace’s trailblazing initiative.”

The letter is in response to a Bigelow Aerospace “payload review” tied to commercial development of the Moon.

Protect assets and personnel

The FAA/AST letter, obtained by Inside Outer Space, encourages the private space firm to continue to invest in the development of Bigelow Aerospace’s lunar habitat to support public and private sector activities.

“Moreover, we recognize the private sector’s need to protect its assets and personnel on the Moon or on other celestial bodies,” the FAA AST letter explains. “Supporting non-interference for private sector operations will enhance safety and only add to the long history of preserving ownership interests in hardware and equipment.”

Ill-equipped regulatory framework

Furthermore, the letter explains that the Department of State’s fundamental concern is that the national regulatory framework, in its present form, is “ill-equipped” to enable the U.S. Government to fulfill its obligations under the Outer Space Treaty with respect to private sector activities on the Moon or other celestial bodies.

Space entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow (left) explains company's plans for commercial operations on the Moon. Credit: Bigelow Aerospace/Leonard David Archives

Space entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow (left) explains company’s plans for commercial operations on the Moon.
Credit: Bigelow Aerospace/Leonard David Archives

“This response represents one small step for Bigelow Aerospace and one giant leap for lunar development,” said Mike Gold, Director of Washington, D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, LLC.

Economic growth

In 2013, after completing a Space Act Agreement on behalf of NASA to identify potential next steps for commercial space development, Bigelow Aerospace determined that the best destination for future private and public sector activities is the Moon.

Unlike asteroids or Mars, Bigelow Aerospace believes that the Moon has the potential to support near-term opportunities for economic growth.

“As is the case with any new frontier, prospects remain uncertain, but the Moon offers a variety of minerals and resources that could support mining or other forms of commercial operations,” adds Gold. “Bigelow Aerospace sees its role in lunar development as the historic equivalent of the Hudson Bay Company, providing the necessary habitats, equipment, and transportation for entrepreneurs to execute their business plans. Bigelow Aerospace wants to enable individuals, companies, and countries to transform the Moon into a dynamic arena for imagination and innovation.”

Beginning of a process

Does the FAA now have jurisdiction over the Moon? Does this letter fully resolve the legal vacuum that has existed for low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond LEO commercial operations?

“This is the beginning of a process, not the end,” Gold said. “This response represents a first step by the AST to use what authority it has to create a safe and attractive environment for commercial lunar development. The first step is always the most challenging, and we’re grateful to the FAA AST and their colleagues at the Department of State for this decision.”

 

 This series of 19 images, acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on 12 November 2014, shows the Philae lander during its descent towards Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.


This series of 19 images, acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on 12 November 2014, shows the Philae lander during its descent towards Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

 

Europe’s Philae lander sits somewhere on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – its battery depleted as of November 15, 2014.

But there are high hopes that the lander can muster up sufficient energy to “phone home” as the comet continues its journey towards the Sun.

According to Project Manager, Stephan Ulamec from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; (DLR): “We will start looking to see whether Philae has been exposed to enough sunlight and been able to acquire sufficient energy as early as the end of March.”

Needle in a haystack

Philae is no bigger than a washing machine making it extremely difficult to spot the lander via the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter that is circling the comet. However, that optical search is viewed as looking for a needle in a haystack.

 This image was acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) at 18:18 CET on 12 November 2014. The Philae lander is visible at the intersection of the red lines – above the crater rim. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.


This image was acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) at 18:18 CET on 12 November 2014. The Philae lander is visible at the intersection of the red lines – above the crater rim.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Philae touched down on Comet 67P on November 12, 2014. Due to the comet’s low gravity, the tiny spacecraft made a triple landing then carried out more than 56 hours of scientific work.

ESA researchers have determined that the lander is located in a shadowed position close to the rim of a crater on the “head” of the comet, adjacent to its equator.

Philae’s final landing site has now been named after the ancient Egyptian city of Abydos.

Wake up work schedule

If Philae does wake up, it is programmed to listen for the Rosetta orbiter and to transmit a signal at regular intervals.

Philae lander may wake up early next month. This composite image was created using images acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on  December 13, 2014 from an altitude of 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the final landing site. Philae would be about three pixels across in this image. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Philae lander may wake up early next month. This composite image was created using images acquired by the Rosetta orbiter’s Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) on December 13, 2014 from an altitude of 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the final landing site. Philae would be about three pixels across in this image.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

According to the DLR, after the initial awakening, it could take several weeks for the lander to generate sufficient power to execute the first commands received from the DLR Lander Control Center and then start charging its battery. Solar cells fitted to the lander are expected to generate needed amounts of power.

By summer, Philae could have stored energy to use its instruments for several hours, notes the DLR.

logo-space-full

A team of Belgium researchers is on tap next year to toss into space what they advertise as the first space billboard.

“CubeSats can clearly play a very important role in the future of space research and with SpaceBillboard, we want to give CubeSats and space research an extra boost,” the group says on their website.

The students are from KU Leuven University in Belgium.

Funding for future projects

“We want to start up new and groundbreaking research at KU Leuven, such as formation flying with CubeSats, autonomous docking (two satellites connecting in space), high accuracy pointing platforms to make even more accurate measurements, etc,” the team reports.

Credit: SpaceBillboard.com

Credit: SpaceBillboard.com

SpaceBillboard is now set up to sell advertisement space on a billboard – “the first advertisement platform ever to pass the boundary of space,” they claim, with the revenues of the project used to sponsor space research at the University of Leuven.It should be noted, however, that U.S. entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow, also had an advertising campaign making use of the Bigelow Aerospace Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 modules that flew in 2006 and 2007. Other advertising ideas have also made their way into space in the past.

Squares available for purchase

To be lofted from Brazil’s Alcantara rocket base, the CubeSat billboard will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers) and some 80 miles (130 kilometers above the International Space Station.

SpaceBillboard is the initiative of three PhD researchers in engineering at the University of Leuven (Belgium). Credit: SpaceBillboard.com

SpaceBillboard is the initiative of
three PhD researchers in engineering
at the University of Leuven (Belgium).
Credit: SpaceBillboard.com

To get an advertisement on SpaceBillboard, the advertiser can select preferred squares on the billboard or go to a special “Buy squares” page. The billboard itself measures approximately 8×8 centimeters, consisting of 400 squares that are available for purchase.

A special Internet site allows you to upload an image you want to put on the billboard as well as a link to which visitors will be guided if they click your advertisement. SpaceBillboard says they have already attracted several sponsors, including Microsoft.

Personal messages

“Next to brands putting their logo on the billboard, we also want to allow everyone to send their personal message to space and get it around the world,” the site explains.

Individuals can choose a message of a maximum of 140 characters. “And because we want to honor the fact that you supported space research, we also send you a personal certificate afterwards.”

For a personal message, the charge is one Euro per character, or roughly a dollar in U.S. currency. For example, the message “happy birthday Hannah!” counts 22 characters and would cost about $25.00.

Will the billboard be seen from Earth?

No, the CubeSat is moving too fast and at too high of an altitude. “Our goal with the billboard is to give our sponsors and our project visibility here on Earth. By the way, obtrusive space advertising is illegal and a visible billboard in space would just litter our beautiful night sky,” the website adds.

Want more information on the effort?

Go to:

http://spacebillboard.com/

For a video describing the project, go to:

http://vimeo.com/80134768#at=9

IXV will be launched into space on top of a Vega rocket, VV04, climbing up to 260 miles (420 kilometers) before beginning a long glide back through the atmosphere. In the process, IXV will gather data on reentry conditions to help guide the design of future spaceplanes. Credit ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2015

IXV will be launched into space on top of a Vega rocket, VV04, climbing up to 260 miles (420 kilometers) before beginning a long glide back through the atmosphere. In the process, IXV will gather data on reentry conditions to help guide the design of future spaceplanes.
Credit ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2015

Stand by for flight of the cutting edge Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, or IXV mission.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has green-lighted the February 11 liftoff of the test vehicle atop a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Here’s what’s cool about this ESA high-speed plunge from space.

This IXV mission will test 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.

Controllability and maneuverability

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.

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

Credit: ESA–M. Pedoussaut

Credit: ESA–M. Pedoussaut

100 minutes

After being boosted skyward, the IXV will maneuver to decelerate from hypersonic to supersonic speeds. Then the IXV will deploy a multistage parachute to slow the descent further. Flotation balloons will keep it afloat after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered by a ship for detailed analysis.

The entire flight will last about 100 minutes.

The prime contractor for IXV is Thales Alenia Space Italia, supported by about 40 other European companies. The mission will be controlled from the Advanced Logistics Technology Engineering Centre (ALTEC) in Turin, Italy.

For a video detailing this upcoming mission, go to:

http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2012/11/ESA_s_IXV_reentry_vehicle_mission