News

What has hubble discovered recently?

Jan. 7, 2014

RELEASE 14-006

AAS Meeting Highlights Several New Hubble Science Findings

Distant Galaxies in GOODS North - Hubble Space Telescope

This composite of Hubble images was taken in visible and near-infrared light.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Illingworth,Oesch,UC-SC/Bouwens, Labb,Leiden U.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is providing a new perspective on the remote universe, including new views of young and distant galaxies bursting with stars. Scientists described the findings Tuesday in a news conference sponsored by the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Highlighted in the briefing were three discoveries — four unusually bright galaxies as they appeared 13 billion years ago, the deepest image ever obtained of a galaxy cluster, and a sampling of galaxies thought to be responsible for most of the stars we see today.

The ultra-bright, young galaxies, discovered using data from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, are bursting with star formation activity, which accounts for their brilliance. The brightest one is forming stars approximately 50 times faster than our Milky Way galaxy does today. These fledgling galaxies are only one-twentieth the size of the Milky Way, but they probably contain about 1 billion stars crammed together.

Although Hubble has previously identified galaxies at this early epoch, astronomers were surprised to find objects that are about 10 to 20 times more luminous than anything seen previously.

“These just stuck out like a sore thumb because they are far brighter than we anticipated,” explained Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz. “There are strange things happening regardless of what these sources are. We’re suddenly seeing luminous, massive galaxies quickly build up at such an early time. This was quite unexpected.”

The galaxies were first detected with Hubble. Its sharp images are crucial to finding such distant galaxies and enabled the astronomers to measure their star-formation rates and sizes. Using Spitzer, the astronomers were able to estimate the stellar masses by measuring the total stellar luminosity of the galaxies.

“This is the first time scientists were able to measure an object’s mass at such a huge distance,” said Pascal Oesch of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. “It’s a fabulous demonstration of the synergy between Hubble and Spitzer.”

The result bodes well for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, currently in development. Scientists anticipate using Webb to look even farther back in time to find young, growing galaxies as they existed only a few hundred million years after the universe began in theorized big bang.

An unprecedented long distance view of the universe comes from an ambitious collaborative project with Hubble called The Frontier Fields. It is the longest and deepest exposure obtained to date of a cluster of galaxies, and shows some of the faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected. The image contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago.

Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 - Hubble Space Telescope

Astronomers used Hubble and the magnification power of the giant cluster of galaxies Abell 1689 to find 58 remote galaxies.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/B.Siana, A.Alavi, UC Riverside

Appearing in the foreground of the image is Abell 2744, a massive galaxy cluster located in the constellation Sculptor. The immense gravity in Abell 2744 is being used as a lens to warp space and brighten and magnify images of more distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did longer than 12 billion years ago, not long after the big bang.

The Hubble exposure reveals almost 3,000 of these background galaxies interleaved with images of hundreds of foreground galaxies in the cluster. Their images not only appear brighter, but also smeared, stretched and duplicated across the field. Because of the gravitational lensing phenomenon, the background galaxies are magnified to appear as much as 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. Furthermore, the faintest of these highly magnified objects is 10 to 20 times fainter than any galaxy observed previously. Without the boost from gravitational lensing, the many background galaxies would be invisible.

The Hubble exposure will be combined with images from Spitzer and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to provide new insight into the origin and evolution of galaxies and their accompanying black holes.

Hubble also uncovered a substantial population of 58 young, diminutive galaxies that scientists long suspected were responsible for producing a majority of stars now present in the cosmos during the universe’s early years.

Deep exposures in ultraviolet light, made with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, revealed a sampling of galaxies that existed more than 10 billion years ago, when the universe was roughly 3.4 billion years old. They are the smallest, faintest, galaxies seen in the remote universe to date. A census of galaxies existing at the time indicates these small, faint galaxies are 100 times more abundant in the universe than their more massive cousins.

“There’s always been a concern that we’ve only found the brightest of the distant galaxies,” said Brian Siana of the University of California at Riverside. “The bright galaxies, however, represent the tip of the iceberg. We believe most of the stars forming in the early universe are occurring in galaxies we normally can’t see at all. Now we have found those ‘unseen’ galaxies, and we’re really confident that we’re seeing the rest of the iceberg.”

Hubble Frontier Field Abell 2744 - Hubble Space Telescope

This long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image of massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 (foreground) is the deepest ever made of any cluster of galaxies.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/J.Lotz, M.Mountain, A.Koekemoer/STScI HFF Team

Normally too faint for Hubble to see, these galaxies were revealed through gravitational lensing focused on a massive galaxy cluster known as Abell 1689 in the constellation Ursa Major. The cluster magnified light emitted by distant objects behind it, causing the newly discovered galaxies to appear bigger and brighter. If this sample is representative of the entire population at the time, then the majority of new stars formed in such small, unseen galaxies.

“Though these galaxies are very faint, their increased numbers mean that they account for the majority of star formation during this epoch,” said team member Anahita Alavi, also of the University of California at Riverside.

The astronomers were surprised to find the deeper they looked with Hubble, the more faint galaxies they found.

“Our goal with these observations was not to find a large number of galaxies, but to find much fainter galaxies,” said Alavi.

For images and more information about the ultra-bright young galaxies, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/05

To see more images and information about The Frontier Fields campaign, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/01

For images and more information about Abell 1689, visit:

http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/07

For more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

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Why do some dogs go around in circles before finding just the right spot to poop?
Jan. 5, 2014

Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm MF conditions.

Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm MF conditions.
Image via Therealrevo.com

Several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts. Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation. With this in mind we searched for signs of magnetic alignment in dogs. We measured the direction of the body axis in 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582 observations) over a two-year period. After complete sampling, we sorted the data according to the geomagnetic conditions prevailing during the respective sampling periods. Relative declination and intensity changes of the MF during the respective dog walks were calculated from daily magnetograms. Directional preferences of dogs under different MF conditions were analyzed and tested by means of circular statistics.

Continue Learning: http://www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/10/1/80/abstract

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What Planet Should You Go to for the Best French Fries?

JAN 3, 2014 06:21 PM ET // BY IAN O’NEILL

NASA (EDIT BY IAN O'NEILL)

Image via News.discovery.com
[Originally via NASA (EDIT BY IAN O’NEILL)]

At last, scientists have answered one of the biggest questions hanging over the future of space exploration: Where in the solar system can you find the best French fries? The answer, as it turns out, is Jupiter.

In research published in the journal Food Research International (yes, it’s real research), scientists were let loose on a European Space Agency centrifuge to see what gravitational conditions would produce the perfectly-fried French fry. Using a special deep fat frier, John Lioumbas and Thodoris Karapantsios at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, tested different orientations of “potato sticks” — i.e. French fries — under different gravitational conditions. Probes were inserted into the samples to monitor heat flow as the fries cooked.

Continue Learning: http://news.discovery.com/space/go-to-jupiter-for-the-best-french-fries-140103.htm
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How The Earth Was Made – Birth of the Earth

Published on Dec 26, 2013

How The Earth Was Made – Birth of the Earth – Documentary

(Watch More Videos)

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NASA and JAXA Announce Launch Date for Global Precipitation Satellite
Dec. 26, 2013

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite.

Artist concept of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

RELEASE 13-376

Environmental research and weather forecasting are about to get a significant technology boost as NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) prepare to launch a new satellite in February.

NASA and JAXA selected 1:07 p.m. to 3:07 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 27 (3:07 a.m. to 5:07 a.m. JST Friday, Feb. 28) as the launch date and launch window for a Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.

GPM is an international satellite mission that will provide advanced observations of rain and snowfall worldwide, several times a day to enhance our understanding of the water and energy cycles that drive Earth’s climate. The data provided by the Core Observatory will be used to calibrate precipitation measurements made by an international network of partner satellites to quantify when, where, and how much it rains or snows around the world.

“Launching this core observatory and establishing the Global Precipitation Measurement mission is vitally important for environmental research and weather forecasting,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Knowing rain and snow amounts accurately over the whole globe is critical to understanding how weather and climate impact agriculture, fresh water availability, and responses to natural disasters.”

With the addition of the new Core Observatory, the satellites in the GPM constellation will include the NASA-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership mission, launched in 2012; the NASA-JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), launched in 1997; and several other satellites managed by JAXA, NOAA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, the Centre National D’Etudies Spatiales of France and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“We will use data from the GPM mission not only for Earth science research but to improve weather forecasting and respond to meteorological disasters,” said Shizuo Yamamoto, executive director of JAXA. “We would also like to aid other countries in the Asian region suffering from flood disasters by providing data for flood alert systems. Our dual-frequency precipitation radar, developed with unique Japanese technologies, plays a central role in the GPM mission.”

The GPM Core Observatory builds on the sensor technology developed for the TRMM mission, with two innovative new instruments. The GPM Microwave Imager, built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo., will observe rainfall and snowfall at 13 different frequencies. The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, developed by JAXA with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Tokyo, transmits radar frequencies that will detect ice and light rain, as well as heavier rainfall. It also will be able to measure the size and distribution of raindrops, snowflakes and ice particles.

For more information on the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/gpm

and

http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/gpm/index_e.html
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ESA Preview 2014


Copyright ESA

2014 has all the elements to become an interesting year for Europe in space… Exciting launches, new European astronauts on the ISS, new satellites and landers and important decisions that will mark the direction of Europe’s future space programme. But 2014 starts with one name: ROSETTA.

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ESA Highlights 2013


Copyright ESA

2013 has been a year of firsts, farewells and astonishing findings. It began with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano training for the Volare Mission in Russia’s Star City and it ended with Gaia, ESA’s billion-star surveyor, lifting off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou. But a lot more has happened in between!

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NASA Engineers Crush Fuel Tank to Build Better Rockets
December 17, 2013

RELEASE 13-372

aluminum-lithium cylinder

NASA’s Mark Hilburger prepares to buckle an aluminum-lithium cylinder about the size of fuel tank barrels for the largest rockets ever built.
Image Credit: NASA/Fred Deaton

NASA completed a series of high-tech can-crushing tests last week as an enormous fuel tank crumbled under the pressure of almost a million pounds of force, all in the name of building lighter, more affordable rockets.

During the testing for the Shell Buckling Knockdown Factor Project, which began Dec. 9 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., force and pressure were increasingly applied to the top of an empty but pressurized rocket fuel tank to evaluate its structural integrity. The resulting data will help engineers design, build and test the gigantic fuel tanks for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket NASA is developing for deep space missions.

“These full-scale tests along with our computer models and subscale tests will help NASA and industry design lighter, more affordable launch vehicles,” said Mark Hilburger, senior research engineer in the Structural Mechanics and Concepts Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Hilburger is conducting the tests for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. “We were looking at real-time data from 20 cameras and more than 800 sensors during the final test.”

The aluminum-lithium tank was made from unused space shuttle tank hardware and decked out in 70,000 black and white polka dots that helped high-speed cameras focus on any buckles, rips or strains.

“When it buckled it was quite dramatic,” Hilburger said. “We heard the bang, almost like the sound of thunder and could see the large buckles in the test article.”

Engineers are updating design guidelines that have the potential to reduce launch vehicle weight by 20 percent. Lighter rockets can carry more equipment into space or travel farther away from Earth for exploration missions to asteroids, Mars or other distant locations.

“In addition to providing data for the Space Launch System design team, these tests are preparing us for upcoming full-scale tests,” said Matt Cash, Marshall’s lead test engineer for the shell buckling efforts and the SLS forward skirt and liquid oxygen tank structural testing. “Performing structural tests on hardware that is the same size as SLS hardware is providing tremendous benefit for our future development work for the rocket.”

The testing was conducted at Marshall’s load test annex, part of the Structural and Dynamics Engineering Test Laboratory previously used to test large structures for the Saturn V rocket, space shuttle and International Space Station.

NASA’s Space Launch System will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for crew or cargo missions, the SLS will be safe, affordable and sustainable to continue America’s journey of discovery from the unique vantage point of space. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft’s crew to deep space destinations including an asteroid and eventually Mars.

For images and video of the big crush and to learn more about the shell buckling project, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1dil1uF

For more information about NASA’s Space Launch System, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/sls

-end-

Rachel Kraft
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100
rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov

Tracy McMahan
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Al.
256-544-0034
tracy.mcmahan@nasa.gov

Chris Rink
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
757-864-6786 / 757-344-7711
chris.rink@nasa.gov

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GAIA SECURED INSIDE FAIRING

13 December 2013

ESA’s billion-star surveyor Gaia, less than a week from launch, is now tucked up inside the fairing that will protect it during the first few minutes of ascent into space.

Last week, Gaia was loaded with the propellants it will need to journey to its ‘L2’ destination, a gravitationally stable location 1.5 million km away from Earth, from where it will survey our Milky Way galaxy.

After fuelling, it was mounted on the Soyuz adapter and added to the Fregat upper stage, which will boost Gaia towards L2.

Meanwhile, the basic assembly of Soyuz – the boosters, core stage and third stage – has been completed in its integration building.

In the coming days, the Soyuz lower stages and the upper assembly containing Gaia will be transported to the launch pad and mated.

Launch is scheduled for 9:12:19 GMT (10:12:19 CET) on 19 December.

Follow the launch campaign on our dedicated blog.

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Imagine Taking a Vacation to the Moon by 2043
By Dave Gilbert, CNN
December 9, 2013

England (CNN) — Imagine the delight at unwrapping your Christmas present in 2043 and discovering you’ve been gifted a trip around the Moon.

It may seem a little far-fetched right now but it could become a reality if space companies like Virgin Galactic realize their aspirations over the next 30 years or so.

Richard Branson and his children are due to fly in his company’s spaceship on its first commercial flight currently slated for 2014. But speaking to CNN outside a space conference in the UK last week, the company’s CEO George Whitesides said their ambitions extended beyond sub-orbital flights for those first customers.

“If we can make significant progress on the challenge of reusable space access then I think that opens up all kinds of opportunities in the future,” he said.

“One of the directions that might open up is high-speed point-to-point travel on Earth — so that you could go from London to Singapore in an hour or go from London to Los Angeles in a couple of hours.

“We may be able to open up the opportunity for habitats in low Earth orbit, we could make it more affordable to do longer term flights — even trips around the Moon. I think he [Branson] has high aspirations for a lot of these different activities.”

Continue Learning: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/09/tech/space-tourism/

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The VASIMR Plasma Rocket: Bridging the Gap in Space Travel
December 7, 2013

Image via Astronaut.com

Image via Astronaut.com

Plasma rocket technology was first introduced to the scientific community in 1977 by Franklin Chang Díaz, a Costa Rican scientist and astronaut. The idea has been developed since then and is now at the stage where it can be implemented into future projects. The technology allows for considerably faster space travel than what the technologies currently employed by organizations such as NASA can do.

What is the VASIMR Plasma Rocket?

VASIMR stands for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, which makes use of argon gas (one of the most stable gases known to man) and a renewable source of energy found in space, radio waves in the form of light. The main difference with this type of rocket is being able to use mostly renewable energy in the propulsion system, which gives the rocket a greater lifespan than similar, modern-day rocket technologies. The plasma technology has multiple applications such as the cleaning and coating of surfaces in a plasma coating system at nano-level. The uses of plasma, the 4th state of substances, are just being touched on now with recent advances in science.

Continue Learning: http://astronaut.com/vasimr-plasma-rocket-bridging-gap-space-travel/

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Goddard Planetary Instruments Score a Hat Trick
Dec. 5, 2013

Three mass spectrometers built at Goddard

Three mass spectrometers built at Goddard were operating on the same day at the moon, on Mars and en route to Mars.
Image Credit: NASA

Planetary instruments from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., hit the trifecta on Dec. 4, running three experiments of the same kind at different places in space.

The instruments, all flying on NASA missions, are mass spectrometers, designed to take in atmospheric, rock or soil samples and identify particular molecules in them. The investigations lined up because of the operating schedules for the three, which must take turns with other instruments on their respective spacecraft.

“At the moon and Mars and part way in between, we had three mass spectrometers happily operating in their other-worldly environments or being checked out for the first time in space on the same day,” said Paul Mahaffy, the principal investigator for the instruments.

Goddard’s Planetary Environments Lab, headed by Mahaffy, built all three instruments. The mass spectrometers identify gases in atmospheric samples or gases that get released from rock or soil samples as they are processed. To pick out individual components in a sample, an electron beam is used to break the large molecules into smaller fragments. Then high-frequency electric fields are applied to the resulting mixture to sort the fragments by mass and electric charge, producing a fingerprint of the molecules present.

Stationed at the moon was NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, which entered an equatorial orbit on Nov. 20 and began science operations the following day. On Dec. 4, the mission’s Neutral Mass Spectrometer was checking out the moon’s thin atmosphere. The instrument will continue to collect samples over multiple orbits with the moon in different space environments.

En route to Mars was NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission. Launched on Nov. 18, the spacecraft is in the early cruise phase and is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014. The mission’s Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer was turned on for the first time on Dec. 4 and measured calibration gases in the instrument.

Upon the spacecraft’s arrival at Mars, the instrument will study the planet’s fragile upper atmosphere, examining its composition and determining how quickly some of the gases are escaping into space over time. This information will help scientists understand what the Martian atmosphere looked like billions of years ago and how most of it has been lost since then.

On the surface of Mars was NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which carries the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. SAM has been analyzing multiple samples of the atmosphere and soils and rocks to help scientists understand how habitable Mars was in the past.

“With these studies, mass spectrometry is helping us piece together the histories of the moon and Mars and offers a vision of their futures,” said Mahaffy. “It’s a perfect example of how invaluable these instruments are for space science.”

MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. Goddard manages the MAVEN mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., built the Curiosity rover and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California manages the LADEE mission.

By Elizabeth Zubritsky, NASA

(www.nasa.gov)

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NASA Aircraft Collects Data On Earth’s Ecosystems
Dec. 5, 2013

NASA's ER-2 No. 809

NASA’s ER-2 No. 809 banks over California’s Sierra Nevada capped by a mantle of snow near the Owens Valley following a winter storm in February 2008.
Image Credit: Carla Thomas

NASA’s ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft wrapped up the fall 2013 series of flights during the first week in December for the Hyperspectral Infrared Imager, or HyspIRI, airborne campaign.

The Airborne Visible / Infrared Imaging Spectrometer, or AVIRIS, developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the MODIS / ASTER Airborne Simulator, or MASTER, developed jointly by JPL, NASA Ames Research Center and the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center, are mounted in the ER-2 to collect early datasets for the future HyspIRI satellite mission. When launched into low Earth orbit, the satellite mission will study the world’s ecosystems and provide critical information on natural disasters.

AVIRIS and MASTER are collecting data under cloud-free daylight conditions during the spring, summer and fall of 2013 and 2014 over six diverse areas of California from San Francisco to near the Mexican border.

JPL scientist Robert Green is leading the effort to use imaging spectroscopy to capture a unique set of reflected wavelengths to learn about Earth’s ecosystems, how they function and vary from season to season.

The aircraft flew the missions from NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

Beth Hagenauer, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

(Source: http://www.nasa.gov)

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NASA’s Dawn Fills out its Ceres Dance Card
Dec. 3, 2013

It’s going to be a ball when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft finally arrives at the dwarf planet Ceres, and mission managers have now inked in the schedule on Dawn’s dance card.

Dawn has been cruising toward Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, since September 2012. That’s when it departed from its first dance partner, Vesta.

Ceres presents an icy — possibly watery — counterpoint to the dry Vesta, where Dawn spent almost 14 months. Vesta and Ceres are two of the largest surviving protoplanets — bodies that almost became planets — and will give scientists clues about the planet-forming conditions at the dawn of our solar system.

When Dawn enters orbit around Ceres, it will be the first spacecraft to see a dwarf planet up-close and the first spacecraft to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth.

“Our flight plan around Ceres will be choreographed to be very similar to the strategy that we successfully used around Vesta,” said Bob Mase, Dawn’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “This approach will build on that and enable scientists to make direct comparisons between these two giants of the asteroid belt.”

As a prelude, the team will begin approach operations in late January 2015. The next month, Ceres will be big enough in Dawn’s view to be imaged and used for navigation purposes. Dawn will arrive at Ceres — or, more accurately, it will be captured by Ceres’ gravity — in late March or the beginning of April 2015.

Dawn will make its first full characterization of Ceres later in April, at an altitude of about 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the icy surface. Then, it will spiral down to an altitude of about 2,750 miles (4,430 kilometers), and obtain more science data in its survey science orbit. This phase will last for 22 days, and is designed to obtain a global view of Ceres with Dawn’s framing camera, and global maps with the visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR).

Dawn will then continue to spiral its way down to an altitude of about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers), and in August 2015 will begin a two-month phase known as the high-altitude mapping orbit. During this phase, the spacecraft will continue to acquire near-global maps with the VIR and framing camera at higher resolution than in the survey phase. The spacecraft will also image in “stereo” to resolve the surface in 3-D.

Then, after spiraling down for two months, Dawn will begin its closest orbit around Ceres in late November, at a distance of about 233 miles (375 kilometers). The dance at low-altitude mapping orbit will be a long waltz — three months — and is specifically designed to acquire data with Dawn’s gamma ray and neutron detector (GRaND) and gravity investigation. GRaND will reveal the signatures of the elements on and near the surface. The gravity experiment will measure the tug of the dwarf planet, as monitored by changes in the high-precision radio link to NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth.

At this low-altitude mapping orbit, Dawn will begin using a method of pointing control that engineers have dubbed “hybrid” mode because it utilizes a combination of reaction wheels and thrusters to point the spacecraft. Up until this final mission phase, Dawn will have used just the small thruster jets, which use a fuel called hydrazine, to control its orientation and pointing. While it is possible to explore Ceres completely using only these jets, mission managers want to conserve precious fuel. At this lowest orbit, using two of the reaction wheels to help with pointing will provide the biggest hydrazine savings. So Dawn will be spinning up two of the gyroscope-like devices to aid the thrusters.

In 2011, the Dawn team prepared the capability to operate in a hybrid mode, but it wasn’t needed during the Vesta mission. It was only when a second (of four) reaction wheels developed excessive friction while Dawn was leaving Vesta in 2012 that mission managers decided to use the hybrid mode at Ceres. To prove the technique works, Dawn engineers completed a 27-hour in-flight test of the hybrid mode, ending on Nov. 13. It operated just as expected.

“The successful test of this new way to control our orientation gives us great confidence that we’ll have a steady hand at Ceres, which will enable us to get really close to a world that we only know now as a fuzzy dot amidst the stars,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at JPL.

Of course, mission planners have built some extra days into the schedule to account for the small uncertainty in the efficiency of the solar arrays at such a large distance from the sun, where sunlight will be very faint. The solar arrays provide power to the ion propulsion system, in addition to operating power for the spacecraft and instruments. Mission planners also account for potential variations in the gravity field of Ceres, which will not be known precisely until Dawn measures them.

“We are expecting changes when we get to Ceres and, fortunately, we built a very capable spacecraft and developed flexible plans to accommodate the unknowns,” said Rayman. “There’s great excitement in the unexpected — that’s part of the thrill of exploration.”

Starting on Dec. 27, Dawn will be closer to Ceres than it will be to Vesta.

“This transition makes us eager to see what secrets Ceres will reveal to us when we get up close to this ancient, giant, icy body,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn’s principal investigator, based at UCLA. “While Ceres is a lot bigger than the candidate asteroids that NASA is working on sending humans to, many of these smaller bodies are produced by collisions with larger asteroids such as Ceres and Vesta. It is of much interest to determine the nature of small asteroids produced in collisions with Ceres. These might be quite different from the small rocky asteroids associated with Vesta collisions.”

Dawn’s mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

To learn more about hybrid mode at Ceres, read Rayman’s Dawn Journal.

For more information about Dawn, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov .

Jia-Rui Cook 818-354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

2013-347

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Laser communication mission targets 2017 launch
December 3, 2013

This is an artist rendering of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration hosted aboard a Space Systems Loral commercial communications satellite.  Credit: Space Systems/Loral

This is an artist rendering of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration hosted aboard a Space Systems Loral commercial communications satellite.
Credit: Space Systems/Loral

NASA’s next laser communication mission recently passed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), another major milestone towards the launch of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) scheduled for 2017.

The PDR is a major agency evaluation milestone of the engineering plan to execute the build and launch of LCRD onboard a Space Systems Loral commercial satellite. “The board concluded that the LCRD review was a resounding success,” said Tupper Hyde, chairperson of the PDR. “They met all review success criteria and the LCRD team is ready to proceed with mission plans to conduct this ground-breaking demonstration.”

The LCRD project is NASA’s first long duration optical communications mission. This demonstration will build from NASA’s highly successful Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) mission. LCRD will conduct a two-year demonstration of optical relay services to determine how well the system operates and collect long-term performance data. The Goddard team leads the project with significant support from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Space Systems/Loral (SSL).
Continue Learning: http://phys.org/news/2013-12-laser-mission.html
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Blue Origin Debuts the American-made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine
Dec 3, 2013

KENT, Wash. – Blue Origin reached a key milestone in the development of the liquid-fueled BE-3 engine by successfully demonstrating deep throttle, full power, long-duration and reliable restart all in a single-test sequence.  The BE-3 is the first completely new liquid hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed for production in the U.S. since the RS-68 more than a decade ago.

The test demonstrated a full mission duty cycle, mimicking flight of the New Shepard vehicle by thrusting at 110,000 pounds in a 145-second boost phase, shutting down for approximately four and a half minutes to simulate coast through apogee, then restarting and throttling down to 25,000 pounds thrust to simulate controlled vertical landing.  To date, the BE-3 has demonstrated more than 160 starts and 9,100 seconds of operation at Blue Origin’s test facility near Van Horn, Texas.

Designed and developed in-house by Blue Origin at the company’s research and development center outside Seattle, the BE-3 features a “tap-off” design, in which the main chamber combustion gases are used to power the engine’s turbopumps.  Tap-off is particularly well-suited to human spaceflight because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shutdown mode.

“The BE-3 will gain extensive flight heritage on our New Shepard suborbital system prior to entering service on vehicles carrying humans to low-Earth orbit,” said Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin.  “Given its high-performance, low cost, and reusability the BE-3 is well suited for boost, upper-stage and in-space applications on both government and commercial launch systems.”

Blue Origin previously conducted testing of the BE-3 thrust chamber in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, as part of a long-term vision to provide safe, affordable crew transport to low-Earth orbit.

About Blue Origin

Blue Origin, LLC (Blue Origin) is a private company developing vehicles and technologies to enable commercial human space transportation. Blue Origin has a long-term vision of greatly increasing the number of people that fly into space so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. For more information and a list of job openings, please visit us at www.blueorigin.com.

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Spacesuit of the future could power gadgetry with body heat
by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore December 3, 2013 10:33 AM PST

Researchers at Kansas State are investigating how the difference in temperature between body heat and a spacesuit’s cooling garment could run the suit’s electronics.

Kansas State engineering students work with a model spacesuit to explore the potential integration of wearable medical sensors. Credit: Kansas State University

Kansas State engineering students work with a model spacesuit to explore the potential integration of wearable medical sensors.
Credit: Kansas State University

Wondering what’s next in wearable electronics? Fitness trackers like the Fitbit Force and the Nike+ FuelBand SE may be fine for the earthbound, but for the astronauts among us, NASA’s working on a different kind of fashionable circuitry.

At Kansas State University, researchers are just over two years into a three-year, $750,000 NASA grant to turn current spacesuits into even better readers of astronauts’ vital signs — and on top of that, make use of the inner workings of the suits themselves to power radios and other embedded electronics.

“Right now the spacesuits pretty much only measure heart rate,” said William Kuhn, professor of electrical and computer engineering and part of the spacesuit team, which includes engineering professors and a dozen-plus students. “In this project we’re focused on EMGs [electromyography] that can monitor muscle activity. The biggest problem that the astronauts have when they’re doing their work is they get very fatigued because of the pressure in the suits, so we’re focusing on being able to predict when they’re going to be fatigued so we can help them reorder their tasks in space.”

Continue Learning: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57613825-76/spacesuit-of-the-future-could-power-gadgetry-with-body-heat/
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Spacelab: Space Shuttle Flew Europe’s First Space Module 30 Years Ago
by Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com Editor | December 02, 2013 01:17pm ET

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Spacelab module is seen in the payload bay of space shuttle Columbia during the lab's first spaceflight on the STS-9 mission in 1983.  Credit: NASA/RetroSpaceImages.com

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spacelab module is seen in the payload bay of space shuttle Columbia during the lab’s first spaceflight on the STS-9 mission in 1983.
Credit: NASA/RetroSpaceImages.com

It doesn’t seem out of place today, but the sight 30 years ago of a cylindrical module mounted inside the space shuttle’s cargo bay was described as an “odd-appearing assemblage” in 1983.

The unusual payload was Spacelab, a $1 billion European built, NASA-operated space-borne science platform, which would not only set the stage for investigations onboard the space shuttle, but would lay the foundation for major parts of today’s International Space Station.

Space shuttle Columbia launched on Nov. 28, 1983, lifting into orbit the Spacelab and six astronauts. Under the lead of commander John Young, the STS-9 crew included pilot Brewster Shaw and mission specialists Owen Garriott and Robert Parker.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23796-spacelab-space-shuttle-30-years-anniversary.html

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NASA Issues Human Exploration Rover Challenge To Students
November 30, 2013

mars-rover-thinkstock-176039988-617x416

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

Susan Bowen for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Students, some of whom will have only recently earned their driver’s licenses, will soon have the opportunity to test drive vehicles for use on other planets, asteroids, moons and comets.

NASA has issued a new engineering design challenge for teams of high school and college students: to design, build and test vehicles on the simulated surface of another world.

Registration for the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge will be open until early in 2014 and will provide students with an authentic engineering challenge.

“We designed this engineering challenge to align with NASA’s commitment of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s,” said Rocky Lind, who manages education and outreach efforts in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The student teams will be timed, ranked and scored based on design, safety and how well they traverse the set course. The results of the competition will contribute to the design process for NASA’s future exploration goals.”

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113016275/stem-nasa-human-exploration-rover-challenge-113013/

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Joshua Buck
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100
jbuck@nasa.gov

Josh Byerly
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281-483-5111
josh.byerly@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-351
NASA Enhances ‘Space Station Live’ and Launches New Weekly Web Series

Starting in December, NASA will show the public the International Space Station in new ways that will highlight all the scientific research, cutting-edge technology testing and even the wonder of living and working in space.

NASA is enhancing its daily NASA Television “Space Station Live” program and beginning a new weekly web series called “Space to Ground.”

“Space Station Live” will continue to air weekdays at 11 a.m. EST and now will be in a 30-minute format beginning Dec 2. It will feature live views from the International Space Station, updates on the crew’s daily activities, enhanced content and interviews on space station science and features on how that science benefits life on Earth.

The “Space to Ground” web series will be available every Friday beginning Dec. 6. This series will be a short wrap-up of the week’s activities aboard the space station that will showcase the diversity of activities taking place aboard the world’s only orbiting laboratory. This video also will be posted to the agency’s social media accounts and can be shared and downloaded by the public.

The International Space Station remains the springboard to our next great leap in exploration. The space station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that is helping us learn what it means to be a spacefaring people by demonstrating new technologies and making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.

To view “Space to Ground” beginning Dec. 6, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/spacetoground

For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

For media b-roll and resources on the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/stationnews

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

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NASA Taps Student Teams to Simulate Human Exploration of Other Worlds

Nov. 29, 2013

Ann Marie Trotta/Joshua Buck
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1601/202-358-1100
ann.marie.trotta@nasa.gov / jbuck@nasa.gov

Angela D. Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
256-544-0031
angela.d.storey@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-354
NASA Taps Student Teams to Simulate Human Exploration of Other Worlds

NASA is debuting a new engineering design challenge to engage students worldwide in the next phase of human space exploration. The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is a more complex follow-on to the successful NASA Great Moonbuggy Race.

The competition is open to high school and college students and challenges them to create a vehicle designed to traverse the simulated surface of another world. Registration closes Jan. 10 for international teams and Feb. 7 for U.S. teams.

During its 20-year run, the Great Moonbuggy Race engaged more than 10,000 students and demonstrated these budding scientists and engineers were capable of even more complex undertakings. The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge will provide that complexity through an authentic engineering experience. The student teams will design, build and test technologies that enable vehicles to perform in a wide variety of environments. Their results and findings will inform the design process for NASA’s next generation space systems.

“We designed this engineering challenge to align with NASA’s commitment of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s,” said Rocky Lind, who manages education and outreach efforts in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The student teams will be timed, ranked and scored based on design, safety and how well they traverse the set course. The results of the competition will contribute to the design process for NASA’s future exploration goals.”

With the agency taking a stepping-stone approach to building capabilities necessary for sending astronauts to Mars, this student design challenge represents a logical next step. It also continues NASA’s effort to use the appeal and intrigue of its space missions and programs as catalysts for engaging students in STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Students will create their own vehicles to power around a rugged course at the final competition.” said Tammy Rowan manager of the academic affairs office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “The obstacles around the course will mimic some of the real terrain challenges of solar system exploration, so students must design robust and durable rovers with the traction to scale obstacles and meet other challenges.”

The culminating event of the NASA rover competition is scheduled for April 10-12 at the U.S. Space and Rocket in Huntsville, which is home to U.S. Space Camp and serves as the official visitor center for Marshall. Corporate sponsors will award prizes for winning components of the challenge.

The planned course for the competition will require teams to traverse a terrain that includes a simulated field of asteroid debris – boulders from 5-15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles about 6 inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses in varying widths and depths. A full description of the obstacles and qualifications for vehicle designs can be found at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge website listed below.

The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge looks to the next generation of scientists and engineers to aid in the design process by providing innovative designs and unique perspectives. It also continues the agency’s legacy of providing valuable experience to students who may someday be responsible for future mission planning and crewed space missions to other worlds.

For more information about the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge

For more information about NASA’s education programs, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/education

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NASA’s Ailing Kepler Spacecraft Could Hunt Alien Planets Once More with New Mission
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer | November 27, 2013 06:00am ET

NASA’s hobbled Kepler space telescope may be able to detect alien planets again, thanks to some creative troubleshooting.

Kepler’s original planet hunt ended this past May when the second of its four orientation-maintaining reaction wheels failed, robbing the spacecraft of its ultraprecise pointing ability. But mission team members may have found a way to restore much of this lost capacity, suggesting that a proposed new mission called K2 could be doable for Kepler.

Engineers with the Kepler mission and Ball Aerospace, which built the telescope, have oriented the spacecraft such that it’s nearly parallel to its path around the sun. In this position, the pressure exerted by sunlight is spread evenly across Kepler’s surfaces, minimizing drift.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23760-nasa-kepler-spacecraft-k2-planets-mission.html
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With 2 More Cubesats in Orbit, Earth-imaging Startup Planet Labs Ships Next Batch of 28 to Wallops
By Debra Werner | Nov. 26, 2013

Planet Labs is preparing for the scheduled launch Dec. 15 of its operational Earth imaging constellation of 28 satellites, dubbed Flock 1, to the international space station.  Credit: Photo by Gabriel Liendo

Planet Labs is preparing for the scheduled launch Dec. 15 of its operational Earth imaging constellation of 28 satellites, dubbed Flock 1, to the international space station.
Credit: Photo by Gabriel Liendo

SAN FRANCISCO — Planet Labs, the San Francisco company planning to establish the world’s largest Earth imaging constellation, announced Nov. 26 the successful launch of two satellites and shipment to Virginia of 28 additional spacecraft in preparation for their December launch.

On Nov. 21, Planet Labs sent triple cubesats Dove 3 and Dove 4 into polar orbit on a Dnepr rocket from Russia’s Yasny launch site. “The launch was extremely successful,” said William Marshall, Planet Labs co-founder and chief executive. “They went into precisely the orbit we wanted. We have also successfully made contact.”

The latest additions to the Planet Labs fleet offer improvements in the capability provided by the firm’s first satellites launched in April, Dove 1 and Dove 2, which also were triple cubesats measuring 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 30 centimeters.

Dove 3 and Dove 4 will demonstrate the firm’s latest technology, including upgraded communications, attitude control and observation technology. “We like to iterate our satellite designs very rapidly,” Marshall said. “It’s the same compact form factor as Dove 1 and Dove 2, but we have stuck in more capability.”

Continue Learning: http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/38361with-2-more-cubesats-in-orbit-earth-imaging-startup-planet-labs-ships-next

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Hi-Def Space Selfies Coming To Your Web Browser Soon
Posted by Andrew Fazekas in StarStruck on November 25, 2013

Space buffs can expect to to ogle stunning near-real-time Earth views anytime on their computers and mobile devices once new HD cameras are installed on the International Space Station.  Credit: NASA

Space buffs can expect to to ogle stunning near-real-time Earth views anytime on their computers and mobile devices once new HD cameras are installed on the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

Coming soon—take the ultimate selfie from space!

Two high-definition cameras are on their way now to the International Space Station. There, they will aim to revolutionize how we view our planet and ourselves.

A Canadian-based company named UrtheCast will offer the world’s first near-live HD video and imagery of Earth from space, using the new cameras. Launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Monday, the two eyes in the sky will be installed on the underbelly of the space station over the next few months. Expectations are that space buffs everywhere with an internet connection will see the first live streaming-video broadcast from the cameras on the company’s web portal early next year.

One of the cameras will offer sharp five-meter resolution stills of a broad 25-mile-wide (40 kilometer) swath of the globe, with pictures taken anywhere between 51°N and 51°S latitude (from England to Chile). The other camera can be pointed at 150 specific targets of interest per day. It has the capability of generating video with super-sharp Ultra-HD or 4K quality, and offers one-meter resolution.

Continue Learning: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/25/hi-def-space-selfies-coming-to-your-web-browser-soon/

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Russian Cargo Ship Heading to Space Station
Nov. 25, 2013

A new Russian Progress space freighter loaded with nearly three tons of food, fuel, supplies and holiday gifts for the International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:53 p.m. EST Monday (2:53 a.m. Tuesday, Kazakh time).  During its four-day journey to the orbiting complex, the ISS Progress 53 cargo ship will conduct a “flyby” of the station to test an enhanced docking system for future Russian spacecraft.

At the time of launch, the station was flying about 260 miles over southern Russia, near the northeast border with Kazakhstan.

Progress 53, which along with its Soyuz booster was rolled out to Baikonur’s Site 31 launch pad on Saturday,  is delivering  1,763 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 925 pounds of water and 3,119 pounds of spare parts and experiment hardware to the station.

Once the Progress reached its preliminary orbit nine minutes after launch and deployed its solar arrays, it was set to begin a series of automated engine burns to put it on track to fly within one mile of the station on Wednesday. That close encounter “flyby” Wednesday at 4:53 p.m. will test lighter, more-efficient Kurs automated rendezvous system hardware for upgraded Soyuz and Progress vehicles.  After it finishes its “flyby”, the Progress will loop above and behind the station, returning Friday for a docking to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 5:28 p.m.

Meanwhile the Expedition 38 crew aboard the station continued their support of station science and maintenance Monday.

Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio spent most of his morning preparing hardware and test samples inside BioLab, a research facility located in the Columbus laboratory. BioLab is used to perform space biology experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, plants and small invertebrates.  Results from experiments performed inside this facility could benefit biomedical research in such areas as immunology, pharmacology, bone demineralization and biotechnology.

Inside the station’s 7-windowed cupola, Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata set up the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s ultra-high definition camera system to capture detailed imagery and video of Comet ISON as it orbits around the sun.

Afterward, Wakata participated in the periodic Body Measures experiment, which collects anthropometric data to help researchers understand the magnitude and variability of the changes to body measurements during spaceflight. Predicting these changes will maximize crew performance, prevent injury and reduce time spent altering or adjusting suits and workstations to accommodate anthropometrics. Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins assisted Wakata throughout the experiment session, setting up the calibration tape, collecting data and taking photographs.

Hopkins rounded out his day installing wire harnesses in the Harmony node to support the installation of Ethernet video cables for the station’s local area network.  These new cables will provide Ethernet connectivity to the visiting vehicles that dock to  Harmony’s Earth-facing port.  The first required use of this capability will take place when the SpaceX-3 commercial cargo ship arrives in February 2014.

On the Russian side of the complex, Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy conducted the Bar experiment, studying methods and instruments for detecting the location of an air leak from one of the station’s modules.

In advance of the arrival of Progress 53, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin conducted a test of the MPEG2 video stream over the Ku-band system. Tyurin  also performed the Uragan Earth-observation experiment, which seeks to document and predict the development of natural and man-made disasters on Earth.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/content/russian-cargo-ship-heading-to-space-station/#.UpVRecSKK-3

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NASA Launches Technology Transfer ‘Super Tool’

Nov. 25, 2013

Sarah Ramsey
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1694
sarah.ramsey@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-347

Businesses and individuals interested in using NASA research to develop new technologies and products now have access to an online tool to make the process of licensing easier.

The QuickLaunch licensing tool provides access to a select portfolio of NASA technologies for the purpose of licensing and commercial development.

The tool features pre-approved terms and conditions, including fixed, up-front and royalty pricing, a streamlined process for electronic agreements and significantly reduced response and approval times. It provides access to existing, patented NASA technologies to provide rapid and cost-effective deployment to industry.

“The QuickLaunch Licensing tool will enhance our efforts to transfer more NASA technologies to American industry and U.S. consumers in a timely manner,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s technology transfer program executive. “NASA develops hundreds of technologies each year in support of its aeronautics and space exploration missions. This new tool ensures that the American taxpayer will receive a second benefit from its investment in NASA through the creation of new products, new markets and new jobs.”

More than 30 technologies currently are available for license using the QuickLaunch website. The number will increase during the coming year. Technologies range from a plant chlorophyll content meter, which detects plant stress by determining the chlorophyll content of plants, to a propulsion-controlled aircraft computer that provides a low-cost method of implementing this aircraft technology for a wide range of aircraft.

QuickLaunch users can search by NASA center or by technology category, ask questions of NASA licensing managers, and file a licensing application online.

For more information about NASA’s QuickLaunch Licensing website, please visit:

https://quicklaunch.ndc.nasa.gov

For more information about NASA’s Technology Transfer Portal website, visit:

http://technology.nasa.gov

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2014 NASA Rover Challenge

2014 NASA Rover Challenge

2014 NASA Rover Challenge

NASA is introducing a new engineering design challenge that will focus on NASA’s current plans to explore planets, moons, asteroids and comets — all members of the solar system family. The new NASA Rover Challenge (formerly NASA Great Moonbuggy Race) will be held April 10-12, 2014, at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center. The challenge will focus on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in these different environments, and it will provide valuable experiences that engage students in the technologies and concepts that will be needed in future exploration missions. Registration is OPEN! 

Visit the registration section of this site for details.
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Is Inspiration Enough To Launch Inspiration Mars?
NASA By Amy Shira Teitel Posted Nov. 22, 2013

An artist's concept of Inspiration Mars Inspiration Mars Credit: Inspiration Mars

An artist’s concept of Inspiration Mars Inspiration Mars
Credit: Inspiration Mars

In 2001, Dennis Tito used his millions to buy a seat on a Soyuz spacecraft for an eight-day visit to the International Space Station. On February 27 of this year, he announced his plan to foot a large portion of the bill for Inspiration Mars, a flyby mission to the red planet. On Wednesday in front of a House Committee on Space, he called for NASA to pick up the slack to see his mission fly, both financially and technologically. Inspiration Mars had some obvious problems from the start, but this latest development looks a little like it might be the first nail in the mission’s coffin.

Tito unveiled Inspiration Mars earlier this year as a philanthropic mission; technological and scientific ends were secondary to the primary goal of inspiring the nation to aspire to great things in space once again. The mission itself is fairly straightforward. A crew of two (a married, middle-aged, heterosexual couple) will launch in January of 2018, fly to Mars, and whip around the planet’s far side using gravity to boost them back to Earth. The mission isn’t designed to land on Mars of even go into orbit. It would be a 501 day flight with a very short but exciting flyby around one of our neighbours.

Continue Learning: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/vintage-space/inspiration-enough-launch-inspiration-mars

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Ukraine Keen on Working with India on Space Programmes
November 22, 2013

Image via Astrowatch.net

Image via Astrowatch.net

After co-developing semi-cryogenic engines for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch vehicles, Ukraine is now keen on working with India on other space programmes, including missions to moon. Ambassador of Ukraine to India, Oleksandr D Shevchenko, told dnaindia.com on Wednesday that the head of State Space Agency of Ukraine visited ISRO facilities in Bangalore and held meetings with its chairman K Radhakrishnan to explore areas where the two countries can work together. “The two space agencies have agreed to launch a joint working programme,” he said.

He added that Ukraine has been involved in joint manufacturing of semi-cryogenic engine for ISRO in the past.

“Now we want to identify other areas where we can cooperate. We are waiting for specialists from the Indian side to visit Ukraine so that we can start the projects by next year,” he added.

The future programmes would also include moon exploration programmes, he said. Ukraine is also interested in supplying power generation equipment to India and is keen to work on thermal and hydro power projects, he said.

Continue Learning: http://www.astrowatch.net/2013/11/ukraine-keen-on-working-with-india-on.html
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NASA Halts Work on its New Nuclear Generator for Deep Space Exploration
by DAVID DICKINSON on NOVEMBER 21, 2013

In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, spacecraft technicians from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory park the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, spacecraft technicians from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory park the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG) for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Another blow was dealt to deep space exploration this past weekend. The announcement comes from Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Division Director. The statement outlines some key changes in NASA’s radioisotope program, and will have implications for the future exploration of the outer solar system.

We’ve written about the impending plutonium shortage and what it means for the future of spaceflight, as well as the recent restart of plutonium production. NASA is the only space agency that has conducted missions to the outer planets — even the European Space Agency’s Huygens lander had to hitch a ride with Cassini to get to Titan — and plutonium made this exploration possible.

Probably the most troubling aspect of the announcement is the discontinuation of procurement by NASA of flight hardware for what was to be NASA’s next generation nuclear power-source for exploration, the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator, or ASRG. This was to replace the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Generator, or MMRTG that has been in use on spacecraft for decades.

The announcement states:
“With an adequate supply of Pu-238… NASA has decided to discontinue procurement of ASRG flight hardware. We have given direction to the Department of Energy… to end work on the flight units. The hardware procured under this activity will be transferred to the Glenn Research Center to continue development and testing of the Stirling technology.”

Continue Learning: http://www.universetoday.com/106604/nasa-halts-work-on-its-new-nuclear-generator-for-deep-space-exploration/
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Clock Ticking for 2018 Private Manned Mars Mission
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer | November 21, 2013 06:00am ET

An artist's illustration of the manned spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars mission to send two astronauts on a Mars flyby mission in 2017-2018. Credit: Inspiration Mars

An artist’s illustration of the manned spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars mission to send two astronauts on a Mars flyby mission in 2017-2018.
Credit: Inspiration Mars

A private manned Mars mission won’t get off the ground as planned in January 2018 unless it secures the support of the federal government within the next few months, officials say.

The nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to partner with NASA to send two astronauts on a flyby mission to the Red Planet in 2018. Inspiration Mars has little chance of making this launch date unless it receives assurances very soon from Congress and the White House that the mission will be a NASA priority, officials said.

“We have a just a couple of months to get some signals that would indicate that there’s serious interest developing,” Inspiration Mars founder Dennis Tito, who became the world’s first space tourist when he paid his own way to the International Space Station in 2001, told reporters during a teleconference Wednesday (Nov. 20). “So, not much time.” [Private Mission to Mars Explained (Infographic)]

Inspiration Mars’ “Mission for America” would launch a married couple on a 501-day flyby mission to the Red Planet in January 2018. The astronauts would not land on Mars, but would streak within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of its surface before beginning the long trek back to Earth.

The mission would lay the foundation for even more ambitious exploration efforts in the future and helpcement the United States’ status as a global leader in science and technology by inspiring the next generation of researchers and engineers, Inspiration Mars officials say.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23678-inspiration-mars-manned-mission-deadline.html

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Discovery Of Cosmic Neutrinos Signals New Era Of Astronomy
November 21, 2013

Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice.  Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF

Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice.
Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Astronomers working with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica have announced that they have, for the first time, observed 28 very high-energy particle events, leading them to conclude that “the era of neutrino astronomy has begun.”

Cosmic neutrinos are nearly massless particles that stream to Earth at the speed of light from outside our solar system. This observation, published in the journal Science, will allow scientists to learn about the nature of astrophysical phenomena that occurs millions to billions of light years away from Earth.

“The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, has been a mystery for more than 100 years. Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It’s working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years,” Gregory Sullivan, who led the team from University of Maryland, said in a statement.

Between May 2010 and May 2012, the IceCube detector at the South Pole captured a total of 28 neutrinos with energies greater than 30 teraelectronvolts (TeV). Two of the neutrinos had an energy of more than 1,000 TeV, which is more than the kinetic energy of a flying bug.

“This is the first indication of very high-energy neutrinos coming from outside our solar system,” said Francis Halzen, principal investigator of IceCube and the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113010258/icecube-cosmic-neutrino-discovery-astronomy-112113/
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China’s 1st Moon Lander May Cause Trouble for NASA Lunar Dust Mission
by Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist | November 21, 2013 06:45am ET

The Chang’e 3 lunar lander and moon rover Credit: Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering

The Chang’e 3 lunar lander and moon rover
Credit: Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering

China’s mission to robotically land on the moon next month is sure to stir up lunar dust, but it may also cause a political dust up, too.

China is in the final stages of preparing its robotic Chang’e 3 moon lander to launch atop a Long March 3B rocket, slated for liftoff in early December. The ambitious mission is built to first orbit the moon, then propel down to a landing site, after which a small, solar-powered lunar rover will be unleashed.

Already on duty orbiting the moon is NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). The probe’s science instrument commissioning is now underway, after which the spacecraft will drop down to the lower lunar science orbit and start the full science phase of the mission. [NASA’s LADEE Moon Mission in Photos]

LADEE Readies for Orbital Maneuvering Thruster Burn  Credit: NASA Ames/Dana BerryView full size image

LADEE Readies for Orbital Maneuvering Thruster Burn
Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry

LADEE is designed to study the moon’s thin exosphere and the lunar dust environment. However, there is concern that China’s ambitious Chang’e 3 mission could impact LADEE’s science goals.

Continue Learning:  http://www.space.com/23675-china-moon-lander-trouble-nasa-ladee.html
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NASA, Planetary Resources Sign Agreement to Crowdsource Asteroid Detection
Nov. 21, 2013
Rachel Kraft/Becky Ramsey
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1100/202-358-1694
Rachel.h.kraft@nasa.gov / sarah.ramsey@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-350

NASA, Planetary Resources Sign Agreement to Crowdsource Asteroid Detection

NASA and Planetary Resources Inc., of Bellevue, Wash., are partnering to develop crowd-sourced software solutions to enhance detection of near-Earth objects using agency-funded data. The agreement is NASA’s first partnership associated with the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.

Under a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement, Planetary Resources will facilitate the use of NASA-funded sky survey data and help support the algorithm competition and review results. NASA will develop and manage the contests and explore use of the best solutions for enhancing existing survey programs. The first contest is expected to launch early in 2014 based on Planetary Resources’ and Zooniverse’s Asteroid Zoo platform currently in development. The partnership was announced Thursday at NASA’s Asteroid Initiative Ideas Synthesis Workshop in Houston.

“This partnership uses NASA resources in innovative ways and takes advantage of public expertise to improve identification of potential threats to our planet,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive of NASA’s near Earth object observation program. “This opportunity is one of many efforts we’re undertaking as part of our asteroid initiative.”

Through NASA’s asteroid initiative, the agency is enhancing its ongoing efforts to identify and characterize near-Earth objects for scientific investigation, find asteroids potentially hazardous to Earth and find candidates viable for redirection to a stable orbit near the moon as a destination for exploration by astronauts.

“The foundation of the asteroid grand challenge is partnerships like this one,” said Jason Kessler, program executive for the asteroid grand challenge. “It fits the core purpose of the grand challenge perfectly: find innovative ways to combine ideas and resources to solve the problem of dealing with potentially hazardous asteroids.”

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/november/nasa-planetary-resources-sign-agreement-to-crowdsource-asteroid-detection/#.Uo_55fmKK-0

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NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data
Nov. 21, 2013

Artist’s concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft  Image Credit: NASA Ames / Dana Berry

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA Ames / Dana Berry

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is ready to begin collecting science data about the moon.

On Nov. 20, the spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit around the moon’s equator — a unique position allowing the small probe to make frequent passes from lunar day to lunar night. This will provide a full scope of the changes and processes occurring within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere.

LADEE now orbits the moon about every two hours at an altitude of eight to 37 miles (12-60 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. For about 100 days, the spacecraft will gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.

“A thorough understanding of the characteristics of our lunar neighbor will help researchers understand other small bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets,” said Sarah Noble, LADEE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists also will be able to study the conditions in the atmosphere during lunar sunrise and sunset, where previous crewed and robotic missions detected a mysterious glow of rays and streamers reaching high into the lunar sky.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for – we are already seeing the shape of things to come,” said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-spacecraft-begins-collecting-lunar-atmosphere-data/#.Uo7JjfmKK-0

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Inspiration Mars Press Release

Press Release – Nov. 20, 2013

Inspiration Mars Foundation Chairman Dennis Tito testifies before House Subcommittee on Space
Tito unveils results of 90-day study on baseline architecture for human mission to Mars

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dennis Tito, founder and chairman of the Inspiration Mars Foundation, testified today before the House Science Subcommittee on Space during a hearing on commercial space. Tito shared the results of a 90-day study undertaken by Inspiration Mars and developed through collaborative efforts with NASA centers and industry partners to define a baseline architecture for a human mission to Mars. The Foundation proposes to send a spacecraft in late 2017 or early 2018 bearing two astronauts, a man and woman, to the far side of Mars and return them to Earth.
Within its Architecture Study Report and through Tito’s testimony today, Inspiration Mars asks Congress and the President to grant an American mission to Mars a place within a launch schedule already set, using rockets and systems already in testing, to meet an objective already set forth.

Speaking to the House subcommittee, Tito recognized that the necessary components for a mission of this magnitude exist, “The work of this subcommittee … gave NASA the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion program, and new commercial capabilities. We propose to combine all these elements, as we have explained in (the) Architecture Study Report.”

Inspiration Mars’ Architecture Study Report describes the proposed mission architecture to enable the voyage of 314 million miles in 501 days, which requires collaboration through a public-private partnership with NASA. The plan calls for two launches to keep crew and cargo separate, an inherent safety feature to the mission architecture. First, the SLS will lift off from Kennedy Space Center with a four-part payload to place cargo into Earth’s orbit, consisting of: an SLS upper-stage rocket to propel spacecraft from Earth’s orbit to Mars; a service module containing electrical power, propulsion and communication systems; a Cygnus-derived habitat module where the astronauts will live for 501 days; and an Earth Reentry Pod derived from Orion. The second launch will take the crew into orbit aboard a commercial transportation vehicle (selected from competing designs under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program). From there, the crew and Inspiration Mars vehicle stack will rendezvous in orbit using docking procedures perfected by more than 130 trips to the International Space Station.

The report also calls for immediate action to ensure the viability of this approaching mission and rebound America’s human spaceflight program: “In recent years, the most notable movements of American spacecraft have been powered by trucks and barges in the direction of museums, as if all we can afford and aspire to is a careful preservation of past glories.”
During today’s testimony, Tito said, “If I may offer a frank word of caution to this subcommittee: The United States will carry out a Mars flyby mission, or we will watch as others do it – leaving us to applaud their skill and their daring.”

Tito noted there is a window for a mission by a different trajectory, a mission longer by 88 days that could be flown in 2021. Tito stated, “Given Russia’s clear recognition of the value and prestige of accomplishments in human space exploration, and their long-time interest in exploring Mars, my personal belief is that in all likelihood the Energia super-heavy rocket revival announcement signals Russian intent to fly this mission in 2021. Their heavy lift rocket, along with their other designs for modules and the Soyuz, can fly this mission with modest upgrades to their systems. China is also developing suitable capabilities and must surely be contemplating this opportunity to be first to Mars. It is our civic duty to bring this to the attention of the executive and legislative government branches. The 2010 NASA authorization has given America the opportunity to be first to Mars, and we believe it should be taken by launching the mission to Mars in 2017.”

Tito concluded his testimony, ““If Congress and the president will give NASA this great mission, we will be able to say in 2019 that two of our countrymen have just traveled the distance of Mars and back – the longest journey ever made – and that they were the first.”
About Inspiration Mars

A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Inspiration Mars Foundation believes in the exploration of space as a catalyst for growth, national prosperity, knowledge and global leadership. The Inspiration Mars mission will showcase American innovation at its best, generating knowledge, experience and momentum for the next great era of space exploration. It represents an unprecedented, long-duration research opportunity that will lead to new, cutting-edge discoveries, and inspires the next generation of explorers to pursue their destiny through STEM education. This mission is the ultimate demonstration of our collective space exploration capabilities to date.

MEDIA NOTE:
An Architecture Study Report summary and corresponding fact sheet are housed at http://www.InspirationMars.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Deanna Wilke
Griffin Communications Group
832-864-7227
281-881-2981 (cell)
Deanna@GriffinCG.com
Jessica Ballard
Griffin Communications Group

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NASA’s Chandra Helps Confirm Evidence of Jet in Milky Way’s Black Hole
Nov. 20, 2013

Composite image of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z. Li et al; Radio: NRAO/VLA

Composite image of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z. Li et al; Radio: NRAO/VLA

Astronomers have long sought strong evidence that Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is producing a jet of high-energy particles. Finally they have found it, in new results from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.

Previous studies, using a variety of telescopes, suggested there was a jet, but these reports — including the orientation of the suspected jets — often contradicted each other and were not considered definitive.

“For decades astronomers have looked for a jet associated with the Milky Way’s black hole. Our new observations make the strongest case yet for such a jet,” said Zhiyuan Li of Nanjing University in China, lead author of a study appearing in an upcoming edition of The Astrophysical Journal and available online now.

Jets of high-energy particles are found throughout the universe, on large and small scales. They are produced by young stars and by black holes a thousand times larger than the Milky Way’s black hole. They play important roles in transporting energy away from the central object and, on a galactic scale, in regulating the rate of formation of new stars.

“We were very eager to find a jet from Sgr A* because it tells us the direction of the black hole’s spin axis. This gives us important clues about the growth history of the black hole,” said Mark Morris of the University of California at Los Angeles, a co-author of the study.

The study shows the spin axis of Sgr A* is pointing in one direction, parallel to the rotation axis of the Milky Way, which indicates to astronomers that gas and dust have migrated steadily into Sgr A* over the past 10 billion years. If the Milky Way had collided with large galaxies in the recent past and their central black holes had merged with Sgr A*, the jet could point in any direction.

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/news/high-energy-particles-in-milky-way.html#.Uo0-CfmKK-0
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NASA outlines the final steps in plan for next manned spaceships
Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Posted: Nov. 19, 2013

Future NASA astronauts will rely on commercial transports Image via Nbcnews.com

Future NASA astronauts will rely on commercial transports
Image via Nbcnews.com

As promised, NASA issued the formal invitation on Tuesday for a competition leading to new types of commercial spaceships that could carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Three of the invitees have a multimillion-dollar head start.

NASA expects the final phase of the competition — known as the Commercial Crew Transport Capability program, or CCtCAP — to result in a fleet of commercial spacecraft that are certified to transport crew by 2017. The space agency would prefer to have more than one provider for those transport services, but that might depend on how much funding is available.

The timetable and resources available for commercial spaceships are key sticking points that are left unresolved in Tuesday’s request for proposals. Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called on Congress to provide the full $821 million requested for the current fiscal year “to keep us on track to begin these launches in 2017.” Congress, however, has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars less.

Continue Learning: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/nasa-outlines-final-steps-plan-next-manned-spaceships-2D11624551

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Crowdfunded nanosatellites unleashed in orbit
Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Posted: Nov. 19, 2013

A picture taken from the International Space Station shows a Japanese-built launcher sending three nanosatellites - ArduSat 1, ArduSat X and PicoDragon - into Earth orbit. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata conducted the remote-controlled release. "Pretty exciting to see live," NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins (@AstroIllini) wrote in a Twitter update.

A picture taken from the International Space Station shows a Japanese-built launcher sending three nanosatellites – ArduSat 1, ArduSat X and PicoDragon – into Earth orbit. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata conducted the remote-controlled release. “Pretty exciting to see live,” NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins (@AstroIllini) wrote in a Twitter update.

Two tiny satellites supported by Kickstarter campaigns were kicked out into orbit from the International Space Station on Tuesday, beginning what’s expected to be a months-long citizen science mission.

NanoSatisfi’s ArduSat 1 and ArduSat X nanosatellites were deployed by a Japanese-built, spring-loaded launcher attached to the space station. A Vietnamese-built nanosat called PicoDragon was sent out as well. All three satellites were built to CubeSat specifications, 4 inches (10 centimeters) on each side, and delivered to the station in August aboard an unmanned Japanese cargo ship.

The ArduSats were funded in part by a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort that raised more than $100,000. NanoSatisfi’s venture-capital backers kicked in an additional $1 million-plus to get the project off the ground. Each CubeSat costs on the order of $200,000 to build.

Continue Learning: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/crowdfunded-nanosatellites-unleashed-orbit-2D11624550

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High-Tech VASIMR Rocket Engine Could Tackle Mars Trips, Space Junk and More
By Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist | November 19, 2013 07:01am ET

Former astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz leads Ad Astra Rocket Co. and highly charged work on the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine. Credit: Ad Astra

Former astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz leads Ad Astra Rocket Co. and highly charged work on the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine.
Credit: Ad Astra

Scientists are making progress on an advanced space propulsion system aimed at a variety of uses, including reboosting space stations, cleaning up space junk and powering superfast journeys that could reach Mars in less than two months.

Led by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz, Ad Astra Rocket Co. is developing the versatile, high-tech engine, which is known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR for short.

Engine work has been underway for more than 25 years, and is based on NASA and U.S. Department of Energy research and development in plasma physics and space propulsion technology. Commercializing the VASIMR electric propulsion engine is the flagship project of Ad Astra, which has been in business for nine years and has invested $30 million to date to mature the concept.  

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23613-advanced-space-propulsion-vasimr-engine.html
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Russia starts ambitious super-heavy space rocket project
Published time: November 17, 2013 03:26

Image via Rt.com The Buran orbiter landing at the Baikonur space center.(RIA Novosti / Alexander Mokletsov)

Image via Rt.com
The Buran orbiter landing at the Baikonur space center.(RIA Novosti / Alexander Mokletsov)

On the 25th anniversary of the historic flight of the Soviet space shuttle Buran, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency has formed a working group to prepare “within weeks” a roadmap for the revival of the Energia super-heavy booster rocket.

The group led by Oleg Ostapenko, the new head of Roscosmos Federal Space Agency, is set to draw up proposals on the design of a super-heavy launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 100 tonnes of payload to the baseline orbit, former Soviet minister of general machine building, Oleg Baklanov, said on Friday.

“You have assumed the responsibility and dared to head the group, which is supposed to find an answer to the question how we can regain the position we demonstrated to the world with the launch of a 100-tonne spacecraft [Buran in 1988] within a few weeks,” the ex-minister told Ostapenko at the event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the flight of the Buran shuttle spacecraft.

The new carrier rocket Angara is set to become the base for the ambitious project that could bring Russia back to its heyday of space exploration. It could be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome which is now being constructed in Russia’s Far East, and will replace Kazakhstan’s Baikonur as Russia’s main launchpad.

Continue Learning: http://rt.com/news/russia-booster-rocket-energia-817/

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New Algorithm Will Help Curiosity Rover Analyze Mars Soil
November 16, 2013

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

While the instruments on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity are able to easily identify the chemical composition of rocks, measure the speed of the wind and snap amazing images from mast-mounted cameras, the process of analyzing soil images can be a somewhat daunting task, according to researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU).

After all, the university points out, many times there are several thousand images to analyze, and the soil particles are typically only five to 10 pixels wide. Now, however, a research team led by Suniti Karunatillake of the LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics has come to the rescue with a new algorithm that should make the task easier.

Karunatillake and colleagues from Rider University, Stony Brook University and the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Flagstaff, Arizona joined forces to create an image analysis and segmentation algorithm specifically to help NASA scientists complete this basic, but nonetheless challenging, part of their mission.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113005274/mars-curiosity-algorithm-for-soil-images-111613/
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Ames to pitch NASA on value of ‘new’ Kepler mission
By Stephen Clark
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 16 November 2013

Artist's concept of the Kepler spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Ames

Artist’s concept of the Kepler spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Ames

Managers in charge of the Kepler telescope have identified a way of salvaging the crippled observatory for a modified, less-sensitive cosmic survey for alien worlds, but NASA may not have the money to pay for the mission.

Since Kepler was knocked offline in May, officials at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California have considered and analyzed new missions for the telescope.

And they think they have found a concept that is both feasible and scientifically intriguing.

The new mission scenario, dubbed “K2,” calls for pointing Kepler across a swath of sky known as the ecliptic plane, or the plane where all the solar system’s planets orbit the sun.

If approved by NASA Headquarters, the renewed Kepler campaign would be a shift from looking at stars like the sun to observing smaller, cooler stars that may harbor rocky planets close in, meaning they would be easier to detect.

“This is science that Kepler can do, and the K2 mission can do this uniquely, so this is really a selling point,” said Steve Howell, Kepler’s project scientist, during a Nov. 4 presentation at the second Kepler Science Conference held at Ames.

Plagued by reaction wheels and unable to adequately control its roll motion, Kepler is no longer capable of holding its gaze toward a field of more than 150,000 stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. Kepler’s optical detectors kept up a near-contant stare at the star field, which was selected because it was representative of the rest of the Milky Way, allowing scientists to extend their findings predict what may lie elsewhere in the sky.

Continue Learning: http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1311/16kepler/#.UojvPvmKK-0

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NASA Looks To Small Businesses For Big Space Programs
November 15, 2013

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

NASA is seeking proposals for the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs to enable future space exploration while helping to seed viable commercial products and services here in the US.

Small businesses and nonprofit research institutions that participate in the SBIR and STTR Programs are provided with opportunities to address specific technology gaps in NASA missions. The programs stimulate opportunities for the commercialization of new technologies developed through federal research and development. Many NASA efforts have been aided through the program results, such as modern air traffic control systems, Earth and sun observing spacecraft, the International Space Station (ISS), planetary and astrophysics science missions and the technologies needed for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113004473/small-business-key-for-nasa-space-program-111513/

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Roscosmos Wants Only Domestic Civilian Satellite Makers
15 November 2013 | Issue 5256
The Moscow Times

Image via Commons.wikimedia.org

Image via Commons.wikimedia.org

Federal Space Agency Chief Oleg Ostapenko proposed in a letter to Deputy Premier Dmitry Rogozin to end the practice of placing orders for the production of civilian communication satellites with foreign manufacturers, a news report said Friday.

The new head of Roscosmos sees such orders as a kind of subsidy of foreign manufacturers, Kommersant reported.

If the government heeds Ostapenko’s advice European space concern EADS may lose part of its contracts here, leaving Russia’s Information Satellite Systems Company, or ISS, as the only supplier of civilian communication satellites. Ostapenko noted in the letter that the planning for the launch of the next series of three communication satellites — Express-AMU2, Express-AMU3 and Express-AMU4 — in 2016-2025 — involves only one supplier, ISS.

Continue Learning: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/roscosmos-wants-only-domestic-civilian-satellite-makers/489671.html

Related articles

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NASA Commercial Crew Partner SpaceX Achieves Milestone in Safety Review
Nov. 15, 2013

This is an artist concept of SpaceX's Dragon capsule in orbit. (Image Credit: SpaceX)

This is an artist concept of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule in orbit. (Image Credit: SpaceX)

Engineers and safety specialists from NASA and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) met in late October to review the safety of the Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket being developed to launch humans into low-Earth orbit later this decade.

The detailed overview of safety practices the company is implementing was a major milestone for SpaceX under a funded Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

SpaceX is one of NASA’s commercial partners working to develop a new generation of U.S. spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting humans to and from low-Earth orbit from American soil. NASA intends to use new commercial systems to fly U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station within the next four years.

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/november/nasa-commercial-crew-partner-spacex-achieves-milestone-in-safety-review/#.Uoenh_mKK-0

Related articles

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Are electric aircraft next for Tesla’s Elon Musk?
Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY 8:15 p.m. EST November 12, 2013

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, in a USA TODAY interview (Photo: Maxine Park USA TODAY)

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, in a USA TODAY interview
(Photo: Maxine Park USA TODAY)

Having tried to conquer earth with Tesla Motors and the stars with SpaceX, CEO Elon Musk now appears interested in the void in between — commercial aviation.

He says there is “an interesting opportunity” to make a radical change in aviation with an electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing supersonic aircraft. As much as he admires aerospace companies like Boeing and Airbus — he lauds the Boeing 747 as his favorite while dissing the new 787 — Musk questions whether the otherwise staid industry is passing up the opportunity for “radical” change.

Continue Learning: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/11/12/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-electric-planes/3509361/

Related articles

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International Linear Collider will search for ‘unifying theory of everything’
By Arion McNicoll, for CNN
November 5, 2013

Deep in the Kitakami Mountains of Japan, a group of impassioned scientists are working on proposals for a revolutionary project: a machine that will hunt for dark matter. The aim of the International Linear Collider (ILC) is to shed light on the mystery of what makes up most of the universe. This problem has been pursued for millennia, but could this machine hold the key? Here, we take a closer look at the ILC and go on a journey through time to look at some of the inventions that led to the most significant breakthroughs in scientific history. <i>Gallery by </i><strong><i>Monique Rivalland</i></strong>

Image via CNN.com

Deep in the Kitakami Mountains of Japan, a group of impassioned scientists are working on proposals for a revolutionary project: a machine that will hunt for dark matter. The aim of the International Linear Collider (ILC) is to shed light on the mystery of what makes up most of the universe.

Learn More: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/05/tech/innovation/international-linear-collider-higgs/

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X-ray Space Telescope of the Future Could Launch in 2028
by Elizabeth Howell, SPACE.com Contributor | November 01, 2013 05:16pm ET

Athena+ X-ray Space Telescope

Image via Space.com

There’s a big expiration date looming ahead in astrophysicist Kirpal Nandra’s mind. The current X-ray space telescopes in orbit will likely be at or near the end of their lifetimes by about 2020, so plans are underway to develop a successor to keep watch on deep space.

Continue Reading:  http://www.space.com/23440-athena-xray-space-telescope-2028.html

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Station Tour: Harmony, Tranquility, Unity

Published on May 19, 2013

Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams starts off her tour of the International Space Station with a look at its nodes — Harmony, Tranquility and Unity — which include the crew’s sleeping quarters and hygiene station.

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Station Tour: Kibo, Columbus, Destiny

Published on May 19, 2013

Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams continues the International Space Station tour with a look at the Destiny, Kibo and Columbus labs as well as the Quest airlock.

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Station Tour: Cupola and Leonardo

Published on May 19, 2013

Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams continues the tour of the International Space Station with a look at the station’s observation deck, the cupola, as well as the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device in the Tranquility node, before heading into the Leonardo Permanent Multi-Purpose Module.

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Station Tour: Russian Segment

Published on May 19, 2013

Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams concludes her tour of the International Space Station with a visit to the Russian segment, which includes Zarya, the first segment of the station launched in 1998, and Zvezda, the central command post. She also takes a look at the Poisk and Rassvet modules where Soyuz spacecraft are docked.

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