Archive for March, 2020

 

 

This year, public space travel appears on the horizon. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the work of the Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin, and the go-getting goals of Elon Musk and his ambitious SpaceX Starship plans – all pioneering efforts.

It has been a long haul to realize space voyaging by the public.

Credit: Virgin Galactic/screengrab

See You In Orbit? – Our Dream Of Spaceflight has been authored by Alan Ladwig, a former manager of both the Shuttle Student Involvement Program and the Spaceflight Participant Program, which included the Teacher in Space and Journalist in Space competitions. He is now chief of To Orbit Productions, LLC, a consulting and art company.

 

 

 

 

Go to my new Q & A featured on Space.com:

‘See you in orbit?’ New book tackles the enduring dream of public spaceflight

https://www.space.com/see-you-in-orbit-alan-ladwig-public-spaceflight-book.html

 

 

Go to: ‘See you in orbit?’ New book tackles the enduring dream of public spaceflight

https://www.space.com/see-you-in-orbit-alan-ladwig-public-spaceflight-book.html

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity is “go” for drilling reports Ken Herkenhoff, a planetary geologist at USGS Astrogeology Science Center at Flagstaff, Arizona.

During the acquisition of Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images on Sol 2705, an arm hiccup prevented the sequence from completing.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Left B Camera image acquired on Sol 2706 March 17, 2020.

“But enough images were successfully acquired that it’s not necessary to repeat the MAHLI sequence, and the arm issue is well understood so that no special recovery activities were required,” Herkenhoff adds.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Hilltop mosaic

A recent plan scripts use of the robot’s Dust Removal Tool to brush of a bedrock target named “Eshaness.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2706, March 17, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity’s Navcam will be used to search for dust devils and clouds, and Mastcam will take stereo image pairs to extend the mosaic of the hilltop.

Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) planned a horizontal Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) raster on a bedrock block dubbed “Corstorphine Hill” and another vertical raster on Glen Finglas using tighter point spacing.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2705, March 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2705, March 16, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Right Mastcam is slated to take images of both ChemCam targets and of Glen Feshie, which was obscured by the arm when it was imaged on Sol 2705.

Afternoon nap

After an afternoon nap, MAHLI will acquire a full suite of images of the Eshaness brush spot and images from 25 and 5 cm of a soil patch named “Balliekine.”

 

 

The rover’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will then hover over Balliekine for an evening integration before the instrument is placed on Eshaness for an overnight integration.

Finally, early on the morning of Sol 2707, Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) is slated to perform “funnel piezo” and wheel move activities in preparation for the next drill target.

 

 

During recent discussions, the science team concluded that the Mars machinery should go ahead and drill the Edinburgh bedrock target in the next plan.

Credit: AMAZO Toys

“Now you can help win the Space Race with the United States Space Force action figures. Build your own Space Force Red or Space Force Blue team OR combine forces to defeat Putin and make space great again!,” explains AMAZO Toys.

Credit: AMAZO Toys

 

According to the group, Commander Trump & Commander Obama join forces along with a highly trained army of Space Force Troopers as they race Vladimir Putin and his team of Russian Space Agency Soldiers to the far side of Mars.

Credit: AMAZO Toys

 

 

Interchangeable heads

Each 4” United States Space Force action figure has over 14 points of articulation, including multiple accessories and 3 interchangeable heads.

According to AMAZO Toys, if they exceed their funding goal, the group will unlock stretch goals and will add more members to the Space Force Team!

“We’re very excited to finally be able to bring this fun and exciting project to light, and are super eager to begin manufacturing and get Space Force in your hands,” explains the group.

Credit: AMAZO Toys

Strategic partners

“We are not a large toy manufacturer like Hasbro or Mattel, but we feel this allows us to be creative and a bit tongue-in-cheek with our projects. And although this is the 1st project from AMAZO and D13 Toys, we also want to make sure you know they have over 15 years in the toy business in a variety of roles, including designers, sculptors, engineers, and project and production managers,” AMAZO points out.

AMAZO and D13 TOYS are collaborating closely with The Four Horseman and other strategic partners to help Space Force get off the ground by advising them on Kickstarter and providing 3D models & assets. 

Credit: AMAZO Toys

“Once we have final quantity totals in, we will set up a timeline with the factory and let you know exactly when you can expect these soldiers to be shipping from China,” AMAZO toys explains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information, go to:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amazotoys/united-states-space-force-action-figures?

The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) is the large building located in the upper left corner of the photograph and ML-1 is the tall tower-like structure
resting on the crawler-transporter located in the lower right corner.
Credit: NASA

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released today, March 17, 2020: Audit of NASA’s Development of Its Mobile Launchers

In May 2019, NASA announced the Artemis program with the goal to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon by 2024 using the Space Launch System (SLS), the Agency’s new heavy-lift rocket. The Agency is developing two mobile launchers at Kennedy Space Center that will serve as the ground structure to assemble, process, transport, and launch the SLS.

The first mobile launcher (ML-1)—originally constructed in 2010 for the since-cancelled Constellation Program’s Ares I launch vehicle at a cost of $234 million—required large-scale modifications to support the SLS.

Source: NASA OIG presentation of Agency information.

Cost and schedule

The OIG report flags the fact that NASA has greatly exceeded its cost and schedule targets in developing ML-1.

As of January 2020, modification of ML-1 to accommodate the SLS has cost $693 million—$308 million more than the Agency’s March 2014 budget estimate—and is running more than 3 years behind schedule.

To improve potential outcomes for ML-2 development, the OIG report makes four recommendations to NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate:

To read the report — Audit of NASA’s Development of Its Mobile Launchers — go to:

https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-20-013.pdf

The “Edinburgh” target (trapezoid shaped block, upper left) as viewed by Mast Camera on Sol 2700 March 11, 2020
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recently made a small bump, moving into position to examine “Edinburgh” – a potential drill target.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo taken on Sol 2703, March 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Over last weekend, the plan called for use of the Dust Removal Tool on Edinburgh and observe the target with Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mastcam’s multispectral filters.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 2704, March 15, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

Full drill or move on?

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 2703, March 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We will analyze these observations to help make a decision on Monday about whether we want to continue with a full drill in this area or move on,” reports Abigail Fraeman, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B photo taken on Sol 2704, March 15, 2020. Photo shows Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer called APXS for short. When it is placed right next to a rock or soil surface, it uses two kinds of radiation to measure the amounts and types of chemical elements that are present.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

Other last weekend planning involved other geology-focused activities, including ChemCam observations of targets named “Tentsmuir,” “Glen Finglas,” and “Glen Feshie,” along with a 19×2 Mastcam mosaic of the robot’s surroundings.

Measuring argon

Credit: NASA/JPL

“We will also conduct a series of environmental science investigations that include a measure of the amount of argon in the atmosphere using APXS, a dust devil survey, and several Navcam observations of far-away targets to characterize the amount of dust in the atmosphere,” Fraeman adds.

Lastly, the rover will take of number of MAHLI images of the surface in front of the Mars machinery at different angles in order to understand how reflected light behaves with different viewing geometries, Fraeman concludes.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2703, March 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now engaged in Sol 2703 operations. Here is a selection of recent images taken by the robot:

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2703, March 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 2703, March 14, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity Mast Camera Left image taken on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity Mast Camera Right photo acquired on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Training exercise in emergency response preparedness at New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Credit: Spaceport America

New Mexico’s Spaceport America has held a training exercise in emergency response preparedness.

Spaceport America and the Louisiana State University National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education (LSU NCBRT/ACE) jointly held an emergency response preparedness training exercise at Spaceport America on March 10 -13, 2020 for the Spaceport America team and statewide first responders.

The goal of the training course, titled “A Prepared Jurisdiction: Integrated Response to a CBRNE Incident,” was to allow Spaceport America personnel and about 150 first responders throughout the state of New Mexico, the opportunity to cross train and understand the capabilities of each agency.

FYI: CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive materials.

The long-term partnership between Spaceport America and LSU NCBRT/ACE is focused on developing and implementing programs that set the standards for safe space travel. These goals include reviewing safety protocols for commercial space agencies, coordinating emergency efforts of local and national law enforcement agencies, and developing the proper emergency preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery guidelines.

Credit: Spaceport America

New and unique aspects

According to a Spaceport America press statement, this general emergency preparedness event is not directly related to any tenant of Spaceport America, but did deal with some of the new and unique aspects of commercial spaceport operations.

“The safety of our team, customers and guests are priority one for Spaceport America,” said Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America and Executive Director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

White Knight carrier craft carries SpaceShipTwo aloft for high-altitude release. Commercial operations for the group are expected this year at Spaceport America.
Credit: Virgin Galactic

“We are confident that the engagement with LSU NCBRT/ACE will prepare Spaceport America as we enter the dawn of commercial human spaceflight,” Hicks states, “as well as help all participating first responders in improving their emergency preparedness activities.”

NCBRT/ACE Director, Jeff Mayne also explains in the statement: “As the possibilities of commercial spaceport operations become more and more tangible, we recognize that there is a vital need for high-quality, innovative emergency training to protect our nation’s citizens,” Mayne states. “We are proud of the relationship we have built with NMSA and Spaceport America, and we hope that this partnership can pave the way for safety and security in the realm of space travel.”

Purpose-built

Spaceport America is described as the first “purpose-built” commercial spaceport in the world.

Spaceport America’s “Spaceway” – a 12,000 ft x 200 ft concrete main runway.
Credit: Spaceport America

The FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, has a rocket friendly environment of 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot runway, vertical launch complexes, and about 340 days of sunshine and low humidity.

Commercial space industry customers at Spaceport America: Virgin Galactic, Boeing, UP Aerospace, EXOS Aerospace, HyperSciences, and SpinLaunch.

 

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2702 duties.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Left B Camera photo taken on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot’s recent drive went well, reports Ken Herkenhoff, Planetary Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, “setting the rover up for contact and remote science on exposures of the pediment-capping bedrock.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Bedrock slabs

A recently drafted plan called for the Curiosity’s arm to be deployed on Sol 2701, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will measure the elemental chemistry of the sides of a couple bedrock slabs dubbed “Strath Halladale” and “Glen Tanar.”

The Right Mastcam will image both of the ChemCam targets, then the Dust Removal Tool (DRT) will be used to brush off the top of another slab of bedrock at “Assynt Window.”

Potential drill target, (slab upper right) at Beinn Fhada.
Curiosity Left Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2700, March 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Brush that off

Herkenhoff notes that the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) will take seven images of the brushed spot and another three images of a nearby slab named “Glen Feshie.”

The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) will be placed on Glen Feshie for an evening integration, then moved over to Assynt Window for an overnight integration.

The plan for Sol 2702 has the arm being stowed to allow ChemCam to observe a different bedrock slab named “Beinn Fhada” and the side of a rock called “Shieldaig.”

Short drive

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2702, March 13, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After the Right Mastcam takes images of those targets, “the rover will perform a short drive to get Beinn Fhada in the arm workspace, allowing detailed investigation of this slab as a potential drill target,” Herkenhoff says. “After the drive, the arm will be unstowed to allow unobstructed imaging of the arm workspace to support targeting for the weekend plan.”

Finally, Navcam will search for clouds and the robot’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will take a standard twilight image of a new patch of Mars’ surface.

 

 

 

 

“If all goes well and pending analysis of these new data,” Herkenhoff concludes, “the team may decide to acquire a new drill sample!”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image taken on Sol 2701, March 12, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2700, March 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 2700, March 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

The increase in proliferated low Earth orbit constellations has fueled concern over light pollution.

How might such interference affect astronomy and the astronomical infrastructure?

A new report from The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy takes a look at the proliferated low Earth orbit (pLEO) constellations set to launch over the next decade.

This development has fueled concern from the astronomy community, academia, and the general public over the light pollution visible in the night sky created by sunlight reflecting off these satellites.

Largely under-studied

“Like many aspects of large pLEO constellations, such as their effect on space traffic management efforts and potential increase in space debris, the overall impact of pLEO light pollution on astronomical observational equipment and research is still largely under-studied and merits objective analysis,” the report notes.

The report written by Luc Riesbeck, Roger Thompson, and Josef Koller of The Aerospace Corporation explains that operators of such constellations “face an opportunity” to get ahead of the issue by working with stakeholders to consider strategies for mitigation of optical reflectivity and albedo reduction.

Starlink satellites visible in a mosaic of an astronomical image.
Courtesy of NSF’s
National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/NSF/AURA/CTIO/DELVE)

 

 

“Regulators, astronomers, and industry should be in communication about their respective operational needs to explore options for building optical interference mitigation into existing constellation licensing application processes,” the report explains.

 

 

 

To read the full report — The Future of the Night Sky: Light Pollution from Satellites – go to:

https://aerospace.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/Riesbeck_SatLightPollution_03102020.pdf

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2700, March 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2700 duties.

Curiosity Front Hazard Left B Avoidance Camera image taken on Sol 2699, March 10, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The current plan calls for the major task of carrying out a science campaign investigating the Greenheugh Pediment, reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

That plan slated the task of taking a large Mastcam stereo mosaic of the pediment capping unit and the distant Gediz Vallis ridge.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2699, March 10, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

New drive decision

“This large mosaic will help link the patterns seen from orbit with what we see on the ground and help us understand how the pediment and Gediz Vallis formed and what their relative ages are compared to the rest of the features we’ve explored,” Guzewich explains.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2700, March 11, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After taking that mosaic and a Navcam dust devil survey — the Greenheugh Pediment also appears to be particularly prone to dust devils – the plan calls for making a short drive to the west to reach a 3rd stop on the current science campaign.

“After evaluating that location later this week, we’ll decide which spot we’ll want to drill,” Guzewich concludes.

Curiosity Left Navigation Camera Sol 2698, March 9, 2020.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech