Tagged: JHU APL Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 1:02 pm on August 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , JHU APL, , , NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Catches a Comet Before Starting Science   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Catches a Comet Before Starting Science” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO JLT in L.A., a fan of JPL who really ought to be thinking about Goddard as he plans his future. Goddard would mean either John’s Hopkins for the Applied Physics Lab or of course M.I.T.

    Aug. 6, 2018
    Claire Saravia
    claire.g.desaravia@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    Before NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started science operations on July 25, 2018, the planet hunter sent back a stunning sequence of serendipitous images showing the motion of a comet. Taken over the course of 17 hours on July 25, these TESS images helped demonstrate the satellite’s ability to collect a prolonged set of stable periodic images covering a broad region of the sky — all critical factors in finding transiting planets orbiting nearby stars.

    Over the course of these tests, TESS took images of C/2018 N1, a comet discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite on June 29. The comet, located about 29 million miles (48 million kilometers) from Earth in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus, is seen to move across the frame from right to left as it orbits the Sun. The comet’s tail, which consists of gases carried away from the comet by an outflow from the Sun called the solar wind, extends to the top of the frame and gradually pivots as the comet glides across the field of view.


    This video is compiled from a series of images taken on July 25 by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The angular extent of the widest field of view is six degrees. Visible in the images are the comet C/2018 N1, asteroids, variable stars, asteroids and reflected light from Mars. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets around other nearby stars.
    Credits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    In addition to the comet, the images reveal a treasure trove of other astronomical activity. The stars appear to shift between white and black as a result of image processing. The shift also highlights variable stars — which change brightness either as a result of pulsation, rapid rotation, or by eclipsing binary neighbors. Asteroids in our solar system appear as small white dots moving across the field of view. Towards the end of the video, one can see a faint broad arc of light moving across the middle section of the frame from left to right. This is stray light from Mars, which is located outside the frame. The images were taken when Mars was at its brightest near opposition, or its closest distance, to Earth.

    These images were taken during a short period near the end of the mission’s commissioning phase, prior to the start of science operations. The movie presents just a small fraction of TESS’s active field of view. The team continues to fine-tune the spacecraft’s performance as it searches for distant worlds.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 11:09 am on December 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , JHU APL, , Mission to the sun: Special delivery - Parker Solar Probe heads to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for environmental testing, ,   

    From JHU HUB- “Mission to the sun: Special delivery – Parker Solar Probe heads to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for environmental testing” 

    Johns Hopkins
    JHU HUB

    12.20.17
    Hub staff report

    Spacecraft designed, built at JHU’s Applied Physics Lab is scheduled for launch in 2018.

    1
    The Parker Solar Probe team at Johns Hopkins APL prepares to lift the heat shield in preparation for shipment to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    How do you prepare to move the first spacecraft to touch the sun? The same way you would move anything else: carefully wrap it, pack it, rent a truck, and perform a nitrogen purge.

    Last month, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft traveled from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where it was designed and built, to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It’s a short drive, but it took significant preparation.

    2
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, shown in protective bagging to prevent contamination, is mounted on a rotating pedestal. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

    First, the spacecraft was wrapped in a special protective layer to prevent dust or dirt from reaching the probe. Then it was bolted to a specially designed pedestal that carefully tilted the probe onto its side to fit it inside a shipping container. If kept upright, the probe would have been too tall to pass under highway bridges during transport.

    Once boxed and loaded onto a truck bed, the scientists performed a nitrogen purge, slowly sucking air and moisture out of the container and replacing it with ultra-dry nitrogen with an extremely low dew point. A nitrogen purge is a common practice among military and commercial aerospace projects to prevent corrosive moisture and condensation from reaching sensitive electronics.

    3
    Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

    The move, accompanied by a state police escort, took place at 4 a.m.—to avoid traffic, of course.

    4
    No, it’s not a still from the movie E.T., it’s members of the testing team preparing the Parker Solar Probe for environmental testing in the Acoustic Test Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    At Goddard, the Parker Solar Probe has undergone extensive testing and simulations to ensure it’s ready for its historic mission next year (launch is scheduled for between July 31 and Aug. 19).

    It underwent an acoustic test, which subjected the probe to sound forces like those generated during a rocket launch. Goddard’s Acoustic Test Chamber is a 42-foot-tall chamber that uses 6-foot-tall speakers that can reach 150 decibels to simulate the extreme noise of the Delta IV Heavy, the highest-capacity rocket currently in operation and the vehicle that will carry the probe into space.

    The spacecraft’s specially designed Thermal Protection System, or TPS, has also gone through thorough testing. The heat shield, developed by scientists at APL and the Whiting School of Engineering, is made of carbon-carbon composite material to protect the probe from the intense heat of the sun’s atmosphere, which can reach temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. As the spacecraft hurtles through the hot solar atmosphere and back out into outer space, the TPS will keep the instruments on the spacecraft at approximately room temperature.

    5
    The probe’s Thermal Protection System is lowered into the Thermal Vacuum Chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in preparation for environmental testing. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman.

    The heat shield was tested in Goddard’s Thermal Vacuum Chamber, which simulated the harsh conditions that it will endure during the mission.

    During its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will use seven Venus flybys over the course of nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun, coming as close as 3.7 million miles—about eight times closer to the sun than any spacecraft has come before. Upon its closest orbit, the Parker Solar Probe will be traveling at about 450,000 miles per hour. That’s fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

    The solar probe, named for Eugene Parker, the astrophysicist who predicted the existence of the solar wind in 1958, is a “true mission of exploration,” the scientists write on the mission homepage. “Still, as with any great mission of discovery, Parker Solar Probe is likely to generate more questions than it answers.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on November 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , JAXA MMX spacecraft, JHU APL, Seeing red: JHU's Applied Physics Lab will build 'eyeglasses' for Mars moon mission   

    From JHU Applied Physics Lab: “Seeing red: JHU’s Applied Physics Lab will build ‘eyeglasses’ for Mars moon mission” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    JHU Applied Physics Lab

    Nov 17, 2017
    Michael Buckley

    1
    Martian moon Deimos with the red planet Mars in the background. Image credit: Getty Images

    2024 launch planned for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission.

    Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory have been tasked with building a pair of space-ready spectacles for a Japan-led mission to two moons of Mars.

    The instrument, a sophisticated gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer named MEGANE—pronounced meh-gah-nay, meaning eyeglasses in Japanese—will help scientists resolve one of the most enduring mysteries of the Red Planet: when and how the small moons formed.

    Planned for launch in 2024, the Martian Moons eXploration being developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will visit the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, land on the surface of Phobos, collect a surface sample, and then return that sample to Earth. NASA is supporting the development of one of the spacecraft’s seven science instruments.

    “Solving the riddle of how Mars’ moons came to be will help us better understand how planets formed around our sun and, in turn, around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at headquarters in Washington, D.C. “International partnerships like this provide high-quality science with high-impact return.”

    2
    Artist’s concept of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s MMX mission to explore the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos; the inset shows the gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer—to be built by APL—that will measure the moons’ surface elemental composition.
    Image credit: APL/JAXA


    JAXA MMX spacecraft

    APL space scientist David Lawrence will lead the team developing MEGANE, also an acronym for Mars-moon Exploration with GAmma rays and NEutrons. The instrument will give the mission team the ability to “see” the elemental composition of Phobos and Deimos by measuring naturally emitted gamma rays and neutrons from the Martian moons. These gamma rays and neutrons are generated by cosmic rays that continually strike and penetrate their surfaces.

    The measurements will help scientists determine whether the Martian moons are captured asteroids or the result of a larger body hitting Mars. MEGANE data will also support site selection for the MMX-gathered samples that will be returned to Earth, and provide critical context as scientists study these samples.

    “Understanding how Phobos and Deimos formed has been a goal of the planetary science community for many years,” Lawrence said.

    APL has built 69 spacecraft and more than 200 specialized instruments that have collected critical scientific data from the sun to Pluto and beyond. The lab’s most recent Mars instrument—the powerful Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM, aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—uncovered a wide range of chemical evidence indicating where and when water was present on the Red Planet.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—APL was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:13 pm on September 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: APL JEDI-built Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument, Electric potentials, JHU APL, Jupiter’s Auroras Present a Powerful Mystery, ,   

    From JHUAPL: “Jupiter’s Auroras Present a Powerful Mystery” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    JHU Applied Physics Lab

    September 6, 2017
    Michael Buckley
    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory,
    240-228-7536
    michael.buckley@jhuapl.edu

    D. C. Agle
    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
    818-393-9011
    david.c.agle@jpl.nasa.gov

    NASA/Juno

    1
    This image, created with data from Juno’s Ultraviolet Spectrograph, marks the path of Juno’s readings of Jupiter’s auroras, highlighting the electron measurements that show the discovery of the so-called discrete auroral acceleration processes indicated by the “inverted Vs” in the lower panel. This signature points to powerful magnetic field-aligned electric potentials that accelerate electrons toward the atmosphere to energies that are far greater than what drive the most intense auroras at Earth — and scientists are looking into why the same processes are not the main factor in Jupiter’s most powerful auroras. Credit: NASA/SwRI/Randy Gladstone

    2
    Ultraviolet auroral images of Jupiter from the Juno Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument. The images contain intensities from three spectral ranges, false-colored red, green and blue, providing qualitative information on precipitating electron energies (high, medium and low, respectively). Credit: NASA/SwRI/Randy Gladstone

    3
    Reconstructed view of Jupiter’s northern lights through the filters of the Juno Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument on Dec. 11, 2016, as the Juno spacecraft approached Jupiter, passed over its poles, and plunged toward the equator. Such measurements present a real challenge for the spacecraft’s science instruments: Juno flies over Jupiter’s poles at 30 miles (50 kilometers) per second — more than 100,000 miles per hour — speeding past auroral forms in a matter of seconds. Credit: NASA/Bertrand Bonfond

    Scientists on NASA’s Juno mission have observed massive amounts of energy swirling over Jupiter’s polar regions that contribute to the giant planet’s powerful auroras — only not in ways the researchers expected.

    Examining data collected by the ultraviolet spectrograph and energetic-particle detector instruments aboard the Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft, a team led by Barry Mauk of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland, observed signatures of powerful electric potentials, aligned with Jupiter’s magnetic field, that accelerate electrons toward the Jovian atmosphere at energies up to 400,000 electron volts. This is 10 to 30 times higher than the largest auroral potentials observed at Earth, where only several thousands of volts are typically needed to generate the most intense auroras — known as discrete auroras — the dazzling, twisting, snake-like northern and southern lights seen in places like Alaska and Canada, northern Europe, and many other northern and southern polar regions.

    Jupiter has the most powerful auroras in the solar system, so the team was not surprised that electric potentials play a role in their generation. What’s puzzling the researchers, Mauk said, is that despite the magnitudes of these potentials at Jupiter, they are observed only sometimes and are not the source of the most intense auroras, as they are at Earth.

    “At Jupiter, the brightest auroras are caused by some kind of turbulent acceleration process that we do not understand very well,” said Mauk, who leads the investigation team for the APL-built Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument (JEDI). “There are hints in our latest data indicating that as the power density of the auroral generation becomes stronger and stronger, the process becomes unstable and a new acceleration process takes over. But we’ll have to keep looking at the data.”

    Scientists consider Jupiter to be a physics lab of sorts for worlds beyond our solar system, saying the ability of Jupiter to accelerate charged particles to immense energies has implications for how more distant astrophysical systems accelerate particles. But what they learn about the forces driving Jupiter’s auroras and shaping its space weather environment also has practical implications in our own planetary backyard.

    “The highest energies that we are observing within Jupiter’s auroral regions are formidable. These energetic particles that create the auroras are part of the story in understanding Jupiter’s radiation belts, which pose such a challenge to Juno and to upcoming spacecraft missions to Jupiter under development,” said Mauk. “Engineering around the debilitating effects of radiation has always been a challenge to spacecraft engineers for missions at Earth and elsewhere in the solar system. What we learn here, and from spacecraft like NASA’s Van Allen Probes and MMS that are exploring Earth’s magnetosphere, will teach us a lot about space weather and protecting spacecraft and astronauts in harsh space environments. Comparing the processes at Jupiter and Earth is incredibly valuable in testing our ideas of how planetary physics works.”

    Mauk and colleagues present their findings in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Nature.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of SwRI. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—APL was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:00 pm on May 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: JHU APL, , ,   

    From popsci.com: “How NASA is planning to touch the sun” 

    popsci-bloc

    Popular Science

    February 14, 2017 [Where has this been?]
    Ian Graber-Stiehl

    A look behind the scenes of NASA’s advanced solar probe

    1
    An explosion on the sun shoots fiery plasma out into space. NASA/Goddard/SDO

    Our sun might not seem as enigmatic as more exotic, distant stars, but it’s still a marvelously mysterious miasma of incandescent plasma. And it’s certainly worthy of our scientific attention: Curiosity aside, a violent solar event could disrupt satellites and cause $2 trillion in damages for the U.S. alone. Yet, despite living in its atmosphere, we don’t understand some of its defining phenomena. For sixty years, we haven’t understood why the surface is a cozy 5,500 Celsius, while the halo called the corona—several million kilometers away from the star’s surface and 12 orders of magnitude less dense—boasts a positively sizzling 1-2 million Celsius.

    To figure out why, NASA needs to fly a little closer to the sun—and touch it.

    We know that magnetic reconnection—when magnetic field lines moving in opposite directions intertwine and snap like rubber bands—propels nuclear weapon-like waves of energy away from surface. Meanwhile, magnetohydrodynamic waves—vibrating guitar string-like waves of magnetic force driven by the flow of plasma—transfer energy from the surface into corona. However, without more data, our understanding of phenomena like coronal heating and solar wind acceleration remain largely theoretical…but not for long.

    Launching in 2018, NASA’s Solar Probe Plus will travel nearly seven years, setting a new record for fastest moving object as it zips 37.6 million kilometers closer to the sun than any spacecraft that has ever studied our host star.

    2
    Artist’s impression of NASA’s Solar Probe Plus spacecraft on approach to the sun. Set to launch in 2018, Solar Probe Plus will orbit the sun 24 times, closing in with the help of seven Venus flybys. The spacecraft will carry 10 science instruments specifically designed to solve two key puzzles of solar physics: why the sun’s outer atmosphere is so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface, and what accelerates the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system.
    Date 4 December 2008
    Source http://www.jhuapl.edu/newscenter/pressreleases/2014/140318.asp
    Author NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    But what manner of sensory equipment does one bring to Dante’s Inferno?

    3
    From top left: the FIELDS experiment, ISIS, WISPR, SWEAP NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    Spacecraft systems engineer Mary Kae Lockwood tells PopSci that the craft will rely on four main instruments. The Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons systems, or SWEAP, will monitor charges created by colliding electrons, protons and helium ions to analyze solar wind—ninety times closer to the sun than previous attempts. Similarly, the ISIS (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) employs a state-of-the-art detection system to analyze energetic particles (think: cancer-causing, satellite-disabling particles).

    The FIELDS sensor, meanwhile, will analyze electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shock waves—while gathering information on the high-speed dust particles sanding away at the craft using a technique discovered by accident. Lastly, the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe, or WISPR telescope, will make 3D, cat-scan-like images of solar wind and the sun’s atmosphere.

    There’s just one problem. Between intense heat, solar radiation, high-energy particles, the fallout of solar storms, dust, and limited communication opportunities at closest approach, all that sensitive equipment is going to an environment that almost makes Juno’s new home look sympathetic by comparison.

    “One of the things we had to watch out for in the design,” according to Lockwood, was the electrical “charging” of the spacecraft by the solar wind. The probe has to be conductive “so that the instruments that are actually measuring the solar wind don’t have interference.”

    4
    The probe’s planned trajectory. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    To get close enough to worry about that, though, the probe’s has to “lose some energy” says Lockwood, performing several Venus flybys to shrink its orbit “[allowing] us to get . . . closer and closer to the sun.”

    However, that comes with “interesting design challenges, because you’re not only going into the sun” as heatshield mechanical engineer Beth Congdon tells PopSci. “You get hot on approach, and then come out and get cold,” over and over for 7 flybys and 24 orbits. “You actually need to have it cyclically survive hot and cold temperatures.” And high energy particles. And hypervelocity dust. For that, you need a heat shield “different from any other heat shield that has ever existed.”

    5
    NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

    The incandescent elephant in the room

    “A lot of heat shields you typically think about, like the shuttle . . . They have a few minutes maximum of that kind of heat.” But at the probe’s closest approach of 5.9 million kilometers, Congdon says, temperatures will reach up to 1,377 Celsius for a full day.

    But carbon can come to the rescue. “On Earth, carbon likes to oxidise and make barbeque,” chimes Congdon, “[but] in the vacuum of space, it’s a great material for high temperature applications. The probe’s shield is made of carbon foam, sandwiched between layers of carbon composite, with a reflective ceramic coating.

    What’s more, she says, most shields have the luxury of being attached to a vibration-dampening platform. This shield, on the other hand, had to be integrated in such a way that it could mitigate vibration without one “so that we could keep the whole system as low mass as possible.” The slim, trim, and ultralight build, however, makes it challenging to keep all the sensitive equipment hidden safely behind it.

    To that end, the craft is outfitted with solar limb sensors. These sensors would be the first thing to get illuminated if the spacecraft started drifting off-kilter, and would inform the autonomous guidance and control system that keeps all the instruments behind the thermal protection system, and which is even outfitted with a backup processor in case of any malfunctions.

    Meanwhile, the solar array, facing solar intensity 475 times greater than here on Earth—in an environment where “one degree of change, at closest approach, equals a 30 percent change in power”—will automatically retract behind the heat shield whenever it swings toward the sun. From there, it’ll be kept at a cool 160 Celsius by a network of water-filled titanium channels.

    So while the heatshield weathers a minefield of million-mile-per-hour winds and countless coronal mass ejections, the communication system scarcely able to relay information for 11 straight days, the array will be kept comfortable—all while powering an autonomous 1,345 lb scientist on the doorstep of our little cosmic neighborhood’s big, confounding catalyst.

    “Going to a place changes everything we think about a place. Just look at New Horizons and how it’s changed our thoughts, beliefs, and understanding of Pluto. We’re really excited to go and totally change our view of the sun,” says Congdon. Understanding the sun’s defining phenomena is a tantalizing goal. But first we have to contend with 143.3 million kilometers of space—and one of NASA’s most technically challenging builds, over half a century in the making.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on April 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: JHU APL, , SPP- Solar Probe Plus   

    From Motherboard: “Humanity Will ‘Touch the Sun’ with the Fastest Spacecraft Ever Made” 

    motherboard

    Motherboard

    Apr 8 2017
    Becky Ferreira

    The most ambitious NASA mission you’ve never heard of.

    1

    Sun worship is a popular theme in human history, for good reason. Our local yellow dwarf star is the head of our solar family, the most influential body in our cosmic vicinity, and the midwife of all life on Earth. It’s the biggest cheese for light years around, and it’s earned its share of reverence.

    Yet our Sun remains one of the most unexplored bodies in the solar system. After all, it is tough to study a massive fusion reactor that will burn out your retinas if you even look at it the wrong way, let alone send a spacecraft to brave the inferno up close.

    Enter: Solar Probe Plus (SPP) , a NASA mission in development at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory [JHUAPL]. This robotic explorer will venture closer to the Sun than any other probe before it, flying through its corona—the searing atmosphere surrounding the star—for the first time in history. It will brave both fiery and freezing temperatures, travel faster than anything ever made by humans, and deliver the most intimate glimpse of our star—and the forceful solar wind it emits—in spaceflight history.

    Scheduled for launch in the summer of 2018, the mission has been a major goal in space science since before NASA was even formed, according to SPP project scientist Nicola Fox.

    “We’ve been waiting an awfully long time to go touch the Sun,” Fox told me over the phone. “It’s the last major region in the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft, and it’s an important region, because the Sun is the center of the solar system, and our life depends on it. All the planets get affected by it in some way or another.”

    SPP is designed to swoop through the outer corona at altitudes of 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers or 3.67 million miles) above the Sun’s “surface,” or photosphere. This beats out the next-best distance—27 million miles set by NASA’s Helios 2 probe in 1976—seven times over.

    2
    A technician stands next to one of the twin Helios spacecraft. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/multimedia/display.cfm?IM_ID=10624

    If all goes according to plan, the Sun-kissing robot will also become the fastest human-made object in history, with an estimated orbital velocity surpassing 450,000 miles per hour, triple the 165,000 mph record recently established by NASA’s Juno orbiter. To put that in context, if you were to accelerate to the SPP’s breakneck pace, you could scoot from Philadelphia to Washington, DC in one second. (The speed of light, meanwhile, would take you around our planet’s equator almost eight times in a single second.)

    3
    SPP’s flight trajectory. Image: NASA/JHUAPL

    The spacecraft will moderate these mind-boggling speeds with the help of seven Venus flybys over the course of seven years, which will cumulatively propel it into an ever-tightening orbit around the Sun.

    “It’s almost like we surf around the Sun like a surfer on a wave,” Fox said. “Surfers don’t fall into the ocean as long as they’re going fast enough. That’s kind of what we do. We use successive flybys of Venus to slow us down a little bit, and take some energy off. So, we’ve got to gracefully step closer and closer into the Sun over seven steps.”

    These repeated swan dives through the corona will expose SPP to scalding temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius), which would normally fry electronics and equipment.

    That’s where the probe’s sophisticated Thermal Protection System (TPS) comes into play. Measuring eight feet in diameter but only 4.5 inches in depth, the solar heat shield is constructed from lightweight carbon-carbon foam wedged between two facesheets.

    4
    SPP heat shield design. Image: NASA/JHUAPL

    “We like to call it a giant Frisbee,” said mechanical engineer Elizabeth Congdon, who leads the TPS materials testing team, in a phone interview with Motherboard. “We had some strict constraints about how heavy everything could be, so one of the drivers was to figure out not only how to design something that could get really hot, but also to make sure that it was lightweight enough that we could actually get off the ground.” Building the fastest spacecraft ever, she said, is “really a mass game.”

    The interior foam, which is 97 percent air, helps the shield meet the weight restrictions of 160 pounds. The foam also provides a load-bearing layer for the facesheets and a thermal buffer for the probe’s instruments. The extraordinary heat on the Sun-facing side is efficiently dissipated into a comfortable room temperature environment on the shaded side.

    On top of that, the TPS is flexible and durable enough to withstand the extreme pendulum shifts in temperature that SPP will experience as it crosses through the solar atmosphere, then hurtles back into the freezing environment out in Venus’ orbit.


    Animation of SPP approach. Video: JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/YouTube

    “We actually test hot and cold,” Congdon said, describing the process of inspecting the TPS. “Because of the Venus flybys, we have a cycle that we go through of hot-cold, hot-cold in 24 cycles. Not only do we get very hot, we also get down to about minus 200 Fahrenheit. That happens 24 times over seven years. That’s just a lot of life on something.”

    The spacecraft’s suite of instruments will remain blissfully unhindered by these punishing conditions, freeing them up to focus on measuring and observing the Sun’s magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and the dynamics of the solar wind, which is the powerful flow of charged particles emitted by the Sun.

    Because the probe will dip into the never-before-explored outer corona, the mission is expected to solve lingering enigmas about the solar wind. Space weather, auroras, comet tails, life on Earth, and the performance of our civilization’s electronics are all deeply shaped by the solar wind, so it’s imperative that we better understand its whims.

    “There are a few major mysteries with the Sun and the solar wind,” Fox told me. “One is that the corona—the atmosphere that you see around the Sun during a solar eclipse—is actually hotter than the surface of the Sun. So, that kind of defies the laws of physics. It just shouldn’t happen.”

    This inexplicably hot region is also where the solar wind becomes so energized that it’s no longer constrained by the gravitational pull of the Sun, which is a second unsolved riddle.

    “It’s like [the solar wind] gets a big injection of caffeine, and off it flies and breaks away from the Sun,” Fox said. “These two big questions have been around for more than 100 years, since the solar wind was first discovered, and no one’s been able to explain them.”

    SPP aims to demystify this tantalizing environment near our star, while shattering several spaceflight records in the process. “We’re going to a region we’ve never been before,” Fox said.

    “Magic happens in that area.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The future is wonderful, the future is terrifying. We should know, we live there. Whether on the ground or on the web, Motherboard travels the world to uncover the tech and science stories that define what’s coming next for this quickly-evolving planet of ours.

    Motherboard is a multi-platform, multimedia publication, relying on longform reporting, in-depth blogging, and video and film production to ensure every story is presented in its most gripping and relatable format. Beyond that, we are dedicated to bringing our audience honest portraits of the futures we face, so you can be better informed in your decision-making today.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:23 am on May 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , JHU APL, NASA’s Van Allen Probes Reveal Long-Term Behavior of Earth’s Ring Current   

    From Hopkins APL: “NASA’s Van Allen Probes Reveal Long-Term Behavior of Earth’s Ring Current” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    Applied Physics Lab

    1
    During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms impacting the area around Earth, high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet (also known as “the ring current”). Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

    2
    During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth, new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the preexisting ring current (orange). Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

    New findings based on a year’s worth of observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes have revealed that the ring current — an electrical current carried by energetic ions that encircles our planet — behaves in a much different way than previously understood.

    NASA Van Allen Probes
    “NASA Van Allen Probes

    The ring current has long been thought to wax and wane over time, but the new observations show that this is true of only some of the particles, while other particles are present consistently. Using data gathered by the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment, or RBSPICE, on one of the Van Allen Probes, researchers have determined that the high-energy protons in the ring current change in a completely different way from the current’s low-energy protons. Such information can help adjust our understanding and models of the ring current — which is a key part of the space environment around Earth that can affect our satellites.

    The findings* were published in Geophysical Research Letters.

    “We study the ring current because, for one thing, it drives a global system of electrical currents both in space and on Earth’s surface, which during intense geomagnetic storms can cause severe damages to our technological systems,” said lead author of the study Matina Gkioulidou, a space physicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “It also modifies the magnetic field in the near-Earth space, which in turn controls the motion of the radiation belt particles that surround our planet. That means that understanding the dynamics of the ring current really matters in helping us understand how radiation belts evolve as well.”

    The ring current lies at a distance of approximately 6,200 to 37,000 miles (10,000 to 60,000 km) from Earth. The ring current was hypothesized in the early 20th century to explain observed global decreases in the Earth’s surface magnetic field, which can be measured by ground magnetometers. Such changes of the ground magnetic field are described by what’s called the Sym-H index.

    “Previously, the state of the ring current had been inferred from the variations of the Sym-H index, but as it turns out, those variations represent the dynamics of only the low-energy protons,” said Gkioulidou. “When we looked at the high-energy proton data from the RBSPICE instrument, however, we saw that they were behaving in a very different way, and the two populations told very different stories about the ring current.”

    The Van Allen Probes, launched in 2012, offer scientists the first chance in recent history to continuously monitor the ring current with instruments that can observe ions with an extremely wide range of energies. The RBSPICE instrument has captured detailed data of all types of these energetic ions for several years. “We needed to have an instrument that measures the broad energy range of the particles that carry the ring current, within the ring current itself, for a long period of time,” Gkioulidou said. A period of one year from one of the probes was used for the team’s research.

    “After looking at one year of continuous ion data it became clear to us that there is a substantial, persistent ring current around the Earth even during non-storm times, which is carried by high-energy protons. During geomagnetic storms, the enhancement of the ring current is due to new, low-energy protons entering the near-Earth region. So trying to predict the storm-time ring current enhancement while ignoring the substantial preexisting current is like trying to describe an elephant after seeing only its feet,” Gkioulidou said.

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, built and operates the Van Allen Probes for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. RBSPICE is operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey. The mission is the second mission in NASA’s Living With a Star program, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    *Science paper:
    Electron dropout echoes induced by interplanetary shock: Van Allen Probes observations

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—APL was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: