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  • richardmitnick 3:42 pm on November 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Space Technology   

    From Discovery: “Is Russian Mystery Object a Space Weapon?’ 

    Discovery News
    Discovery News

    Nov 19, 2014
    Mike Wall, Space.com

    The orbital maneuvers of a mysterious object Russia launched earlier this year have raised concerns that the satellite may be a space weapon of some sort.

    r

    The speculation centers on “Object 2014-28E,” which Russia lofted along with three military communications satellites in May. Russian officials did not declare the object as part of the launch, and it was originally thought to be space junk. But satellite trackers have watched it perform a number of interesting maneuvers over the past few weeks, the Financial Times reported Monday (Nov. 17).

    Last weekend, for example, 2014-28E apparently met up with the remnants of a rocket stage that helped the object reach orbit.

    Why Our Galaxy’s Black Hole Didn’t Eat That Mystery Object

    As a result, some space analysts wonder if Object 2014-28E could be part of an anti-satellite program — perhaps a revived version of the Cold War-era “Istrebitel Sputnikov” (“satellite killer”) project, which Russian officials have said was retired when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.

    Military officials have long regarded the ability to destroy or disable another country’s satellites as a key national-security capability. The Soviet Union is not the only nation known to have worked on developing such technology; China destroyed one of its own weather satellites in a 2007 test that spawned a huge cloud of orbital debris, and the United States blew up one of its own defunct spacecraft in 2008.

    The concern about Object 2014-28E is legitimate, said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. But she cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying that Russia could have a number of purposes in mind for the technology that 2014-28E may be testing out.

    “Any satellite with the capability to maneuver has the potential to be a weapon,” Johnson-Freese told Space.com. “But does that mean necessarily that all maneuverable satellites are weapons? No.”

    The United States has also worked to develop maneuverable-satellite technology, she noted, citing the Air Force’s Experimental Satellite System-11 (XSS-11) and NASA’s DART (Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology) spacecraft, both of which launched in 2005. Further, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) managed a mission called Orbital Express, which launched in 2007 to test out satellite-servicing tech.

    “When we did DART and XSS-11, other countries went into panic mode — you know, ‘The U.S. has space weapons,'” Johnson-Freese said. “The first thing we did was assuage those concerns and say, ‘No, no. That’s not what it is. It’s just a maneuverable satellite.’ But any time you have dual-use technology, there are going to be concerns.”

    And pretty much all space technology is dual-use, said Brian Weeden, a technical adviser with the Secure World Foundation (a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability) and a former orbital analyst with the Air Force. For example, spacecraft capable of orbital rendezvous operations could help a nation inspect, service and refuel its satellites, or deorbit defunct craft to help mitigate the growing space-junk problem.

    Weeden thinks it’s unlikely that Object 2014-28E is up to anything nefarious.

    “The activities are much more in line with an inspection mission than with any sort of destruction mission,” he told Space.com.

    The secrecy surrounding the spacecraft helps fuel speculation about its mission, as does the fact that U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated in the wake of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine earlier this year, Weeden said.

    “I think if this had happened in a different context, the speculation would be different,” Weeden said. “But because it’s occurring in the context of heightened tensions, there’s more of a proclivity to assume the worst.”

    Russia likely regards Object 2014-28E’s mission as a national-security activity in space, he added. The secrecy is thus unsurprising, as Russia tends to keep a tight lid on such missions as a matter of policy.

    And Russian officials may be happy to keep quiet and let the mystery and speculation continue to build, Johnson-Freese said.

    “I think that anything the Russians can do to provoke the United States right now, their government is supportive of,” she said. “If this can cause concern in the United States, they’re all for it.”

    See the full article, with video, here.

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  • richardmitnick 6:20 pm on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Space Technology,   

    From SPACE.com: ” Why Space Exploration Must Continue (Op-Ed)” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    October 12, 2014
    Chris Arridge, Lancaster University

    Launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, Sputnik 1 became the world’s first artificial satellite – a “simple” battery-powered radio transmitter inside an aluminium shell about the size of a beach ball. This started a race to the stars, for both robotic space exploration and human spaceflight. This legacy continues today with our exploration of the solar system.

    spu
    Sputnik 1.

    Space exploration is a challenge to human ingenuity, and celebrations this week, under the guise of World Space Week, are an ode to it. Spacecraft have to be kept warm against the cold of space, but cool against the heat of the Sun – think of travelling from Antarctica to Africa without taking your coat off. They have to make electricity for themselves. They have to be able to work out what way they are facing. They need to be able to communicate with Earth – but even travelling at the speed of light it takes a radio signal about 40 minutes to get from Jupiter to Earth, so robotic spacecraft have to survive on their own.

    A simple reason why space exploration is valuable is that in developing spacecraft to explore distant worlds, we get better at building spacecraft for more practical purposes. Engineers and space scientists today have their work cut out to meet these challenges, but they follow in the footsteps of the early engineers and scientists who pioneer space exploration.
    From Sputnik to Mariner…

    Sputnik was originally envisaged as a scientific satellite but due to the available technology, and the developing race between the US and Soviet Union, it ended up being vastly simplified and didn’t carry any instruments. Nevertheless scientific work could still be done.

    The familiar beep-beep radio signal from Sputnik was distorted as it passed through Earth’s atmosphere. These distortions were used by scientists to study the atmosphere. These distortions affect GPS and satellite TV.

    Many other missions followed which did carry a scientific “payload”, Explorer 1 and Explorer 3 in 1958 discovered Earth’s “Van Allen” radiation belts (Sputnik 3 made similar, but incomplete measurements), Explorer 6 in 1959 returned the first pictures of Earth from orbit, and Explorer 10 in 1961 detected the first explosion from the Sun in interplanetary space, among many other firsts as human-kind learned how to explore space. Looking down on our planet from space has changed our perception of Earth and our place in the universe.

    The first spacecraft to visit another planet was Mariner 2, which flew past Venus on December 14 1962, having survived a near fatal anomaly in September 1962 that may have been the result of a meteoroid hitting the spacecraft. Other spacecrafts in the Mariner programme made spectacular firsts: Mariner 4 took the first close-up pictures of a planet, in this case Mars, from space and Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to enter orbit around another planet.
    …then Venus to Saturn

    Mariner was very successful and the spacecraft design was used to develop other space missions, such as the twin Voyager spacecraft that are still operating 37 years later, the Magellan spacecraft that explored the surface of Venus with radar, and the Galileo spacecraft that surveyed Jupiter, its moons, and its space environment.

    NASA Voyager 2
    NASA/Voyager 2

    NASA Magellan
    NASA/Magellan

    NASA Galileo
    NASA/Galileo

    Voyager was unique in that it undertook a grand tour of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, exploiting an alignment of the planets in the late 1970s that will not occur again until the mid-2100s. Voyager 1 has now entered interstellar space – the space between stars – at a distance of 20 billion km from Earth.

    The Cassini-Huygens mission is the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn and has made great discoveries in the Saturn system, such as lakes on Saturn’s largest moon Titan, giant geysers erupting from the south pole of the moon Enceladus, and potentially witnessing the birth of a new moon from debris in Saturn’s rings. Cassini is known as a Mariner Mark II spacecraft, continuing the 50-year Mariner legacy.

    NASA Cassini Spacecraft
    NASA/Cassini-Huygens

    Future of space exploration

    The European Space Agency’s JUICE mission combines all of the challenges that we started with. Aiming for launch in 2021, the spacecraft will fly by Venus on its way to Jupiter, then enter orbit around Jupiter, study its moons and then enter orbit around the largest moon, Ganymede. JUICE must survive near Venus where sunlight is twice as strong as at Earth, to Jupiter where sunlight is 30 times weaker.

    ESA JUICE
    ESA/JUICE

    More extreme challenges are found across our solar system. In July 2015, New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto. Pluto is so far from Earth that data will come back from the spacecraft about 5,000 times slower than your home broadband, mimicking the early days of spaceflight where images of Mars from Mariner 4 took hours to trickle back to Earth.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons

    But it will provide a new window into a largely unknown alien world. What will we discover? What will we learn about the origins of the solar system? What will we learn about ourselves? Continued space exploration is the only way we can answer any of those questions.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 1:14 pm on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “Planck and the cosmic microwave background” 

    XMM Newton
    XMM Newton
    herschel
    Herschel
    ESA Planck
    Planck

    Undated
    No Writer Credit

    THIS ARTICLE BY ESA IS GREAT BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON PLANCK AND ITS SEARCH FOR COSMIC BACKGROUND RADIATION. I AM ONLY GIVING HIGHLIGHTS. PLEASE SEE THE FULL ARTICLE.

    What is Planck and what is it studying?
    Planck is a European Space Agency space-based observatory observing the Universe at wavelengths between 0.3 mm and 11.1 mm (corresponding to frequencies between 27 GHz and 1 THz), broadly covering the far-infrared, microwave, and high frequency radio domains. The mission’s main goal is to study the cosmic microwave background – the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang – across the whole sky at greater sensitivity and resolution than ever before.

    What is the cosmic microwave background?
    The cosmic microwave background (or CMB) fills the entire Universe and is leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

    CMB

    Why is it so important to study the cosmic microwave background?
    The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is the furthest back in time we can explore using light. It formed about 380,000 years after the Big Bang and imprinted on it are traces of the seeds from which the stars and galaxies we can see today eventually formed. Hidden in the pattern of the radiation is a complex story that helps scientists to understand the history of the Universe both before and after the CMB was released.

    When was the cosmic microwave background first detected?
    The existence of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was postulated on theoretical grounds in the late 1940s by George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, and Robert Herman, who were studying the consequences of the nucleosynthesis of light elements, such as hydrogen, helium and lithium, at very early times in the Universe. They realised that, in order to synthesise the nuclei of these elements, the early Universe needed to be extremely hot and that the leftover radiation from this ‘hot Big Bang’ would permeate the Universe and be detectable even today as the CMB.

    How many space missions have studied the cosmic microwave background?

    The first space mission specifically designed to study the cosmic microwave background (CMB) was the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), launched by NASA in 1989. Among its key discoveries were that averaged across the whole sky, the CMB shows a spectrum that conforms extremely precisely to a so-called ‘black body’ (i.e. pure thermal radiation) at a temperature of 2.73 Kelvin, but that it also shows very small temperature fluctuations on the order of 1 part in 100,000 across the sky. These findings were rewarded with the award of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics to John Mather and George Smoot.

    NASA’s second generation space mission, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) was launched in 2001 to study these very small fluctuations in much more detail. The fluctuations were imprinted on the CMB at the moment where the photons and matter decoupled 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and reflect slightly higher and lower densities in the primordial Universe. These fluctuations were originated at an earlier epoch – immediately after the Big Bang – and would later grow, under the effect of gravity, giving rise to the large-scale structure (i.e. clusters and superclusters of galaxies) that we see around us today.

    Finally, ESA’s Planck was launched in 2009 to study the CMB in even greater detail than ever before. It covers a wider frequency range in more bands and at higher sensitivity than WMAP, making it possible to make a much more accurate separation of all of the components of the submillimetre and microwave wavelength sky, including many foreground sources such as the emission from our own Milky Way Galaxy.

    What does the cosmic microwave background look like?
    The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is detected in all directions of the sky and appears to microwave telescopes as an almost uniform background. Planck’s predecessors (NASA’s COBE and WMAP missions) measured the temperature of the CMB to be 2.726 Kelvin (approximately -270 degrees Celsius) almost everywhere on the sky. The ‘almost’ is the most important factor here, because tiny fluctuations in the temperature, by just a fraction of a degree, represent differences in densities of structure, on both small and large scales, that were present right after the Universe formed.

    What is ‘the standard model of cosmology’ and how does it relate to the CMB?
    The standard model of cosmology rests on the assumption that, on very large scales, the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic, meaning that its properties are very similar at every point and that there are no preferential directions in space. In this model, the Universe was born nearly 14 billion years ago: at this time, its density and temperature were extremely high – a state referred to as ‘hot Big Bang’. The Universe has been expanding ever since, as demonstrated by observations performed since the late 1920s. The rich variety of structure that we can observe on relatively small scales is the result of minuscule, random fluctuations that were embedded during cosmic inflation – an early period of accelerated expansion that took place immediately after the hot Big Bang – and that would later grow under the effect of gravity into galaxies and galaxy clusters.

    The standard model of cosmology was derived from a number of different astronomical observations based on entirely different physical processes. To reconcile the data with theory, however, cosmologists have added two additional components that lack experimental confirmation: dark matter, an invisible matter component whose web-like distribution on large scales constitutes the scaffold where galaxies and other cosmic structure formed; and dark energy, a mysterious component that permeates the Universe and is driving its currently accelerated expansion. The standard model of cosmology can be described by a relatively small number of parameters, including: the density of ordinary matter, dark matter and dark energy, the speed of cosmic expansion at the present epoch (also known as the Hubble constant), the geometry of the Universe, and the relative amount of the primordial fluctuations embedded during inflation on different scales and their amplitude.

    See the full article here.

    Added in:

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA Space Science Banner

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  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Space Technology   

    From ESA: “Planck reveals an almost perfect Universe” 

    XMM Newton
    XMM Newton
    herschel
    Herschel
    ESA Planck
    Planck

    21 March 2013

    “Acquired by ESA’s Planck space telescope, the most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background – the relic radiation from the Big Bang – was released today revealing the existence of features that challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the Universe.

    back
    Cosmic microwave background seen by Planck

    The image is based on the initial 15.5 months of data from Planck and is the mission’s first all-sky picture of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when it was just 380 000 years old.

    At that time, the young Universe was filled with a hot dense soup of interacting protons, electrons and photons at about 2700ºC. When the protons and electrons joined to form hydrogen atoms, the light was set free. As the Universe has expanded, this light today has been stretched out to microwave wavelengths, equivalent to a temperature of just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

    This ‘cosmic microwave background’ – CMB – shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities at very early times, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.

    According to the standard model of cosmology, the fluctuations arose immediately after the Big Bang and were stretched to cosmologically large scales during a brief period of accelerated expansion known as inflation.

    Planck was designed to map these fluctuations across the whole sky with greater resolution and sensitivity than ever before. By analysing the nature and distribution of the seeds in Planck’s CMB image, we can determine the composition and evolution of the Universe from its birth to the present day…because precision of Planck’s map is so high, it also made it possible to reveal some peculiar unexplained features that may well require new physics to be understood.

    ‘The extraordinary quality of Planck’s portrait of the infant Universe allows us to peel back its layers to the very foundations, revealing that our blueprint of the cosmos is far from complete. Such discoveries were made possible by the unique technologies developed for that purpose by European industry,’ says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

    ‘Since the release of Planck’s first all-sky image in 2010, we have been carefully extracting and analysing all of the foreground emissions that lie between us and the Universe’s first light, revealing the cosmic microwave background in the greatest detail yet,’ adds George Efstathiou of the University of Cambridge, UK.

    One of the most surprising findings is that the fluctuations in the CMB temperatures at large angular scales do not match those predicted by the standard model – their signals are not as strong as expected from the smaller scale structure revealed by Planck.

    Another is an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the sky. This runs counter to the prediction made by the standard model that the Universe should be broadly similar in any direction we look. Furthermore, a cold spot extends over a patch of sky that is much larger than expected.

    assym
    Asymmetry and cold spot

    The asymmetry and the cold spot had already been hinted at with Planck’s predecessor, NASA’s WMAP mission, but were largely ignored because of lingering doubts about their cosmic origin.

    ‘The fact that Planck has made such a significant detection of these anomalies erases any doubts about their reality; it can no longer be said that they are artefacts of the measurements. They are real and we have to look for a credible explanation,’ says Paolo Natoli of the University of Ferrara, Italy.

    ‘Imagine investigating the foundations of a house and finding that parts of them are weak. You might not know whether the weaknesses will eventually topple the house, but you’d probably start looking for ways to reinforce it pretty quickly all the same,’ adds François Bouchet of the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris.

    One way to explain the anomalies is to propose that the Universe is in fact not the same in all directions on a larger scale than we can observe. In this scenario, the light rays from the CMB may have taken a more complicated route through the Universe than previously understood, resulting in some of the unusual patterns observed today.”

    before

    See the full article here.

    ESA Space for Europe Banner

    Added in:

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA Space Science Banner

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  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Space Technology   

    From ESA: “Technology troubleshooters” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    20 March 2013
    No Writer Credit

    Need to know how a particular item of equipment will stand up to the rigours of space? The team at ESA’s Mechanical Systems Laboratory stand ready to help.

    four
    Engineers at ESA’s Mechanical Systems Lab. Seen from left to right: engineers Jürgen Eisenbraun, Carl Hall, George Varewijck, Stéphane Roure.

    Based at ESA’s technical heart ESTEC, beside the North Sea shore of Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the Mechanical Systems Lab simulates the harsh conditions of space in order to assess the mechanical and thermal performance of key spacecraft elements.

    Performing around 70 tests per year, the Lab fills the gap between individual component and material testing and the full-scale spacecraft testing taking place next door at the ESTEC Test Centre.

    It is equipped to perform thermal vacuum testing as well as mechanical vibration testing. This first type of testing simulates the vacuum of space along with its associated temperature extremes (typically ranging in the Lab from –270ºC to +550ºC), while the second replicates the violence of a rocket launch.

    Beyond standard operations, the Lab has the flexibility to react quickly to any space project in need, rapidly customising new types of tests as required.

    See the full article here.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA Technology


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