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  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on June 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Europa volcanism & interior heating modeled in detail offers research targets for upcoming missions", A prime candidate for the mechanism behind Europa’s heating is tidal forces imparted to it via gravitational interactions with Jupiter; Io; and Ganymede., , Europa’s eccentricity evolution is periodic., Increased periods of volcanic activity called "magmatic pulses"., Laplace resonance, NASA Spaceflight, , The extent of volcanism depends on how much melting is occurring and how heat is transferred to the seafloor., the main influence Europa is Io., The team had to consider the moon’s changing orbital parameters over the course of its 4.5+ billion year existence., Tidal heating is difficult to model because of the interaction with other bodies., Why is this model of Europa’s heating environment and volcanic history (and present) so important? It comes down to the moon’s ocean.   

    From NASA Spaceflight : Women in STEM-Dr. Marie Běhounková “Europa volcanism & interior heating modeled in detail offers research targets for upcoming missions” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    June 18, 2021
    Haygen Warren

    1
    Credit: National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/JPL-Caltech (US)/SETI Institute (US))
    Europa, an icy Jovian moon that likely possesses an ocean beneath its icy crust, may have an interior that is hot enough to produce volcanic activity on its seafloor. New research provides evidence that this seafloor volcanism likely occurred in the moon’s past and maybe ongoing at present as well.

    The team of researchers, led by Dr. Marie Běhounková of Charles University in Prague [Univerzita Karlova](CZ), developed their own 3D models of Europa’s interior and heating transfer properties to investigate the possibility of volcanism on Europa’s ocean floor given other volcanism seen in the Jovian system.

    Scientists have proposed the idea of a subsurface ocean under Europa’s crust for years, and have strong evidence from multiple missions to support the theory. Běhounková et al.’s new research provides evidence to the idea that that seafloor could be volcanically active.

    These volcanoes would form due to the melting of Europa’s interior and heat transfer from the rocky interior of Europa to the seafloor. Models developed by Běhounková et al. show that many different factors — including radiogenic power and tidal forces — contribute to the melting of the icy moon’s interior.

    But why this type of research regarding Europa?

    “In the Jovian system, it is known that there is huge activity on the moon Io, so we wanted to explore if it’s a possibility that there is something similar, although, to a lesser extent, going on on Europa,” said Dr. Běhounková in an interview with NASASpaceflight.

    The paper was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    However, the extent of volcanism depends on how much melting is occurring and how heat is transferred to the seafloor.


    Europa: Ocean World.

    Běhounková et al. modeled Europa’s internal heating to understand exactly where and how this melting and volcanic activity is occurring. Their model is the most detailed of Europa’s interior ever developed and represents the internal heat production and transfer throughout the moon’s history.

    A prime candidate for the mechanism behind Europa’s heating is tidal forces imparted to it via gravitational interactions with Jupiter; Io; and Ganymede. And those forces can be difficult to model.

    “From a point of view of numerical modeling for moons and planets, tidal heating is more difficult to model because of the interaction with other bodies. This is something many people are working on now, not only in the Jovian system, but also for extrasolar planets.”

    In the case of creating the model for Europa, the team had to consider the moon’s changing orbital parameters over the course of its 4.5+ billion year existence. “The evolution of orbital parameters is, in our case, only parameterized. But in this case, the main influence on this evolution is Io, which we didn’t model in our case. So that’s why we studied several parametric models for the eccentricity evolution.”

    This is in part due to the Laplace resonance of Europa with Io and Ganymede. A Laplace resonance is a phenomenon that occurs when three planetary bodies with an orbital period ratio of 1:2:4 exert regular and periodic gravitational effects on each other. These nudges create tidal forces that translate to the heating of the body’s interior.

    It’s that interaction that led Běhounková et al.’s research toward the conclusion that this resonance and the associate tidal forces can cause increased periods of volcanic activity — called magmatic pulses — on Europa.

    “These magmatic pulses are basically periods of increased volcanic activity which can be induced by changes in orbital parameters — in this case, [the moon’s changing] eccentricity [and its] Laplace resonance with Io and Ganymede.”

    These magmatic pulses on Europa would result in the release of volatiles from silicate melt locations on the seafloor. “That silicate melting can produce this volcanism on the top of the mantle or the bottom of the ocean,” said Dr. Běhounková.

    Additionally, the model developed by Dr. Běhounková and her team shows that Europa’s eccentricity evolution is periodic, which suggests increased periods of magmatic pulses on the moon.

    “There are models that the eccentricity evolution can be periodic, with increased periods of eccentricity which would induce a higher volcanic activity. The volcanic activity can be important as a source of energy for the chemical environment on the floor of Europa’s ocean.”

    However, tidal forces created by the Laplace resonance and Europa’s changing eccentricity has not always been the leading cause of internal melting. For the first few billion years of the moon’s formation, radiogenic power would have been the main cause of mantle melting and volcanism on the Jovian moon.

    However, due to radiogenic decay, this source of heating ends up having less control over Europa’s internal melting rate over the course of the moon’s evolution, allowing orbital eccentricity and the Laplace resonance effects to take over as the more dominate mechanisms.

    “On the other hand, the tidal evolution can be slightly different, and tidal flexing can also evolve with time. And based on eccentricity and interaction with other bodies, it can even increase with time. This is the principal difference between the radiogenic sources of energy and tidal sources of energy.”

    Tidal heating is the reason why Io is so volcanically active, and as Dr. Běhounková said, Io’s tidally heated volcanism is one of the reasons why her team wanted to research Europa for the same phenomena.

    2
    Scientists’ findings suggest that the interior of Jupiter’s moon Europa may consist of an iron core, surrounded by a rocky mantle in direct contact with an ocean under the icy crust. New research models how internal heat may fuel volcanoes on the seafloor. Credits: Michael Carrol/NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Based on the model created by Běhounková et al., Europa’s heating from tidal forces is not uniformly distributed around its oceanic surface. High latitude regions near the poles are much more prone to tidal heating melting of rock and associated volcanism than at the equatorial regions, where cold downwellings typically prohibit enhanced amounts of melting to occur.

    Despite the difficulties with modeling, Běhounková et al.’s research shows that Europa was likely very active — from a volcanism standpoint — during its years of development and is likely still an active world today.

    So what does this all mean, and why is this model of Europa’s heating environment and volcanic history (and present) so important?

    It comes down to the moon’s ocean. Where there is water and heat energy on Earth, there is life — even in the deepest recesses of the planet’s oceans, where hydrothermal vents support thriving colonies of various lifeforms.

    As Běhounková et al. state in their paper, “The occurrence of magmatic activity on the seafloor is essential to determine if it constitutes an environment hospitable to life.”

    They continue, stating, “Jupiter’s icy moon Europa harbors underneath tectonically modified ice shell (Figueredo & Greeley, 2004; Kattenhorn & Prockter, 2014) a salty ocean (Kivelson et al., 2000) in direct contact with a rocky interior that may still be active (Moore & Hussmann, 2009). Such an oceanic environment makes Europa a primary target in the search for a habitable world beyond Earth (Hand et al. 2009).” Such an oceanic environment makes Europa a primary target in the search for a habitable world beyond Earth (Hand et al. 2009).”

    “The chemical evolution of Europa’s ocean and its habitability is conditioned by the interaction with the rocky seafloor (Vance et al., 2016). It depends on the heat released from the deep interior to the seafloor (Altair et al., 2018), and hence by the intensity of magmatic activity.”

    But one sticking point remains: how to prove the model is correct and how to prove that volcanism did occur and is still occurring today?

    For decades, Europa has been one of the select few locations in our solar system where life is proposed to have possibly existed or exist currently. Because of this, dozens of missions have been proposed to visit the moon.

    Two upcoming flights, NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE), will specifically study Europa.



    While these spacecraft do not feature the proper instruments needed to perform a detailed study of seafloor volcanism on the Jovian moons, they can still be incredibly helpful in unlocking Europa’s heating and volcanism history.

    “There will still be many things we can work with,” said Dr. Běhounková. “There will be better constraints on the evolution of orbital parameters which can help to determine the condition inside the bodies. There will be gravimeters, and the gravity field will be known with better accuracy than we know right now.”

    “This can also help, and this can possibly detect some large anomalies on the seafloor. If we are lucky, we can detect some chemical and water species. It will be interesting for us to have this data and, basically, narrow the possibilities, of what’s going on in Europa and Jovian system.”

    JUICE is currently targeting launch on a Ariane 5 rocket no earlier than 9 June 2022. After five gravity assist maneuvers with Earth, Venus, and Mars, the craft will enter Jupiter’s orbit in October 2029 before dispatching a dedicated orbiter to Ganymede for a September 2032 orbital arrival around that moon.

    Europa Clipper meanwhile is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than 10 October 2024 on a U.S. commercial launch vehicle — which almost certainly will be SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy due to numerous NASA studies on which commercial vehicles were viable alternatives to the US Congress’s original law that shackled the craft to the SLS rocket.

    If launched in 2024 on a Falcon Heavy, Europa Clipper will perform two gravity assists with Mars and Earth in February 2025 and December 2026, respectively, before entering orbit of Jupiter on 11 April 2030.

    “The chemical evolution of Europa’s ocean and its habitability is conditioned by the interaction with the rocky seafloor (Vance et al., 2016). It depends on the heat released from the deep interior to the seafloor (Altair et al., 2018), and hence by the intensity of magmatic activity.”

    But one sticking point remains: how to prove the model is correct and how to prove that volcanism did occur and is still occurring today?

    For decades, Europa has been one of the select few locations in our solar system where life is proposed to have possibly existed or exist currently. Because of this, dozens of missions have been proposed to visit the moon.

    Two upcoming flights, NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE), will specifically study Europa.

    While these spacecraft do not feature the proper instruments needed to perform a detailed study of seafloor volcanism on the Jovian moons, they can still be incredibly helpful in unlocking Europa’s heating and volcanism history.

    “There will still be many things we can work with,” said Dr. Běhounková. “There will be better constraints on the evolution of orbital parameters which can help to determine the condition inside the bodies. There will be gravimeters, and the gravity field will be known with better accuracy than we know right now.”

    “This can also help, and this can possibly detect some large anomalies on the seafloor. If we are lucky, we can detect some chemical and water species. It will be interesting for us to have this data and, basically, narrow the possibilities, of what’s going on in Europa and Jovian system.”

    JUICE is currently targeting launch on a Ariane 5 rocket no earlier than 9 June 2022. After five gravity assist maneuvers with Earth, Venus, and Mars, the craft will enter Jupiter’s orbit in October 2029 before dispatching a dedicated orbiter to Ganymede for a September 2032 orbital arrival around that moon.

    Europa Clipper meanwhile is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than 10 October 2024 on a U.S. commercial launch vehicle — which almost certainly will be SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy due to numerous NASA studies on which commercial vehicles were viable alternatives to the US Congress’s original law that shackled the craft to the SLS rocket.

    If launched in 2024 on a Falcon Heavy, Europa Clipper will perform two gravity assists with Mars and Earth in February 2025 and December 2026, respectively, before entering orbit of Jupiter on 11 April 2030.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 6:35 am on May 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mission Extension Vehicles succeed as Northrop Grumman works on future servicing/debris clean-up craft", NASA Spaceflight, Northrop Grumman Mission Extension Vehicle 2   

    From NASA Spaceflight : “Mission Extension Vehicles succeed as Northrop Grumman works on future servicing/debris clean-up craft” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    May 7, 2021
    Chris Gebhardt

    1
    Artist’s impression of an MEV docked to a client vehicle in GEO. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    With the successful docking of Mission Extension Vehicle 2, or MEV-2, to the Intelsat 10-02 satellite last month, Northrop Grumman not only repeated the task of successfully attaching one of their MEV spacecraft to a functioning satellite but also successfully proved the ability to grab a still-transmitting telecommunications satellite without disrupting service.

    The success of both MEV-1 and -2 has led to an increasing interest in the use of those crafts after their current five-year missions with their present satellites are complete. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman has already begun work on the next generations of remote, on-orbit servicing and debris clean-up vehicles.

    MEV-2 builds on MEV-1’s success

    Launched in October 2019, MEV-1 rendezvoused with its target satellite, Intelsat 901, on 25 February 2020, successfully performing an automated rendezvous and docking in an area of Earth orbit known as the GEO graveyard.

    The GEO graveyard is located approximately 300 kilometers above Geostationary orbit, which itself resides at 35,786 km above Earth sea level.

    The first-ever docking in this type of Earth orbit, MEV-1 successfully demonstrated the ability to grab a still functioning but not transmitting or operational-in-that-regard satellite and provide mission extension propulsion and attitude control services.

    MEV-1 successfully maneuvered Intelsat 901 back down into the operational GEO belt, allowing it to continue to use its still operational telecommunications services even though its onboard propulsion system was running out of fuel to keep the satellite stable in orbit.

    Building on the success of MEV-1, MEV-2 successfully launched in August 2020 on an Ariane 5 ride-share mission into Geostationary transfer orbit. It then spent the months after launch slowly raising its orbit up to GEO altitude inside GEO’s operational area assigned to its target satellite – Intelsat 10-02.

    Therein is the first major difference between the two missions. MEV-2 was not grabbing a non-operational but still functioning satellite; it was instead given the obligation of docking to a still-transmitting telecommunications satellite in Geostationary orbit.

    In this case, going directly to the target satellite while it was still operational in some ways simplified the operations of getting MEV-2 to the correct point in space where it was ready to dock to Intelsat 10-02.

    According to Joe Anderson, Director, Mission Extension Vehicle Services, Northrop Grumman, in an interview with NASASpaceflight, “Docking on MEV-1 in the graveyard orbit, we had to use a lot of special operations to avoid [Radio Frequency] interference with other operating satellites in GEO as we were drifting past them.”

    2
    Intelsat 10-02 as seen from MEV-2. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    “MEV-2 was a little bit simpler for us because we didn’t have that; we weren’t drifting past other satellites.”

    Something from MEV-1 that was not originally planned for inclusion on MEV-2’s mission but proved so useful with MEV-1 that Northrop Grumman decided to make it a normal procedure was a calibration — or practice — approach prior to the actual docking.

    “On MEV-1, we had incorporated something we called a calibration approach. Because it was the first time, we wanted to do a practice approach to the client and make sure all our sensors were tuned up properly and that all the systems on both the client’s satellite and our satellite behaved properly as we got close,” said Anderson.

    “We found, actually, that that was a really good idea. Originally, we didn’t intend to continue that on our subsequent dockings. But based on what we learned there, we decided that that’s something we definitely wanted to incorporate into our future missions as well.”

    Another key change with MEV-2, and a lesson learned from MEV-1, was the addition of a Waypoint, or location along the approach vector where the MEV stops to ensure it is properly aligned with its docking target on the client satellite.

    For MEV-1, three Waypoints were used, one at 80 meters distance, one at 15 meters, and the final at 1 meter, at which point the docking sequence was carried out.

    “What we found from that,” explained Anderson, “is that it would improve our performance and our confidence in our alignment for the docking if we were to add another waypoint about 3 meters behind the client.”

    The new Waypoint was employed on MEV-2’s approach to Intelsat 10-02 and allowed for better control of the actual docking timing given the satellite would still be transmitting to customers on the ground. The new Waypoint also allowed better confirmation of alignment with the liquid apogee engine on the back of Intelsat 10-02, which was MEV-2’s docking target.


    MEV-1 Mission Profile. Oct 10, 2019. Northrop Grumman.
    Our Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1), the first of its kind spacecraft to extend another satellite’s life, is now in orbit. MEV is designed to rendezvous and dock with satellites running low on fuel. Watch for its first rescue mission early next year when this innovative spacecraft connects with an Intelsat satellite in need of life support. Learn more about this ground-breaking technology transforming the space industry: http://ms.spr.ly/6052TRikK​ .

    “Intelsat wanted to establish a service window for their customers. Their customers knew when they might expect a disturbance in their traffic,” noted Anderson.

    However, that never happened.

    “[Adding that Waypoint], that was a good decision. It really paid off for us on MEV-2, as when we did dock, we had zero transients. We had no customer outages. None of Intelsat’s customers experienced an outage when we docked.”

    Docking was conducted in the same manner used for MEV-1, with a docking probe on MEV-2 extended into the liquid apogee engine on Intelsat 10-02. Once the docking probe passed the smallest part of the nozzle opening, known as the throat, the probe expanded and, like a wall anchor, provided a secure way to slowly pull Intelsat 10-02 down onto the docking clamps of MEV-2, which themselves attached to Intelsat 10-02’s launch adapter ring.

    The method for docking an MEV with a satellite that was never designed to be docked to or serviced in space is a careful part of the overall Mission Extension Vehicle design.

    “The key there is really finding those features that are present on a large number of GEO satellites that we could attach to because we’re docking to satellites that were not designed to be docked with or serviced,” noted Anderson. “There are two key factors that are present at about 80% of all of the satellites in GEO. That is a liquid apogee engine and a launch adapter ring.”

    The launch adapter ring is no longer needed once the satellite separates from the rocket’s upper stage that launched it. The liquid apogee engine is only used for the initial orbit-raising maneuvers to begin the process of getting the satellite into a proper geostationary orbit after launch.

    2
    Intelsat 10-02 as seen from MEV-2. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    Additionally, the MEVs have to be able to dock to satellites using different buses. These different buses have different properties that affect automated rendezvous and docking operations, such as reflectivity, orientation of solar panels, and placement of attitude control thrusters.

    In fact, even though MEV-1 and MEV-2 both docked with Intelsat satellites, Intelsat 901 and 10-02 use completely different buses, which had to be accounted for when MEV-2 approached its target.

    As Anderson related, “The client satellites for MEV-1 and MEV-2 are two different satellite buses. One was made by Space Systems/Loral at the time, Maxar now, and the other by Airbus. Those satellites each have their own particular features. They look different, they have different reflective properties, they have different ways that they do their attitude control, and so you have to be very careful about accounting for all of those as you do your rendezvous approach and docking.”

    Success and future

    The success of the MEV program so far has certainly been seen throughout industry, with interest growing from potential clients.

    “After MEV-1, we received a lot of calls. ‘Can I get that MEV next?’ ‘Can I get it now?’ ‘If we have a problem, is there any way I could use it?’ ‘MEV-2 is coming, can I get MEV-2?’ We got a lot of interest like that.”

    “I’ve been saying for quite some time that this market is a ‘build it and they will come’ type of market. We’ve seen good evidence of that since I started working on this in 2012 and visiting customers.”

    In particular, Anderson noted interest within the community as far back as 2012; however, a major hesitation from customers was due to their need for such services immediately while not having a way to adequately predict what their needs would be three, four, or five years later.


    Next Generation of Satellite Servicing Products: Mission Robotic Vehicle and Mission Extension Pods. Jan 29, 2021.Northrop Grumman.
    SpaceLogistics LLC, a Northrop Grumman Company, has partnered with DARPA on the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program.

    Anderson found that as the years passed, potential customers would continue to say they required the service right then… but those specific needs changed from year to year.

    “That was the first evidence of: if we build it, if we are there in orbit, those customers will be there,” said Anderson. “There is just this latent demand for this type of service.”

    But in all of those yearly and regular conversations where Anderson sussed out what the changing needs of customers were, a pattern clearly emerged. There was a large need for different types of robotic, automated servicing missions for perfectly fine and still operational satellites that were simply running out of fuel to continue to be able to point in the correct direction for service as well as to maintain the orbits needed for those operations.

    In part, this has led to the development of not just the next generation beyond the MEVs but the next generation beyond the next generation, so to speak, of automated, geostationary orbiting servicing fleets.

    “First, we have our next generation system that we’re already constructing. It’s called our Mission Robotic Vehicle and that’s done in a partnership with DARPA, where DARPA is providing the robotics system.”

    Basically a mini-MEV, these Mission Robotic Vehicles will be able to move from satellite to satellite in Geostationary orbit installing propulsion augmentation systems called mission pods, to satellites like Intelsat 901 and 10-02 that are still functioning but simply running out of propellant for attitude and/or orbital control.

    The mission pods would provide six years of mission extension service in the form of attitude control.

    3
    Artist’s depiction of a Mission Robotic Vehicle holding a mission pod. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    After attaching the mission pods, the Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) would undock and move off on another mission. In addition to attaching mission extension pods, the MVRs would be able to grab satellites and move them into different orbits as well as assist with debris clean-up activities in GEO.

    “We are doing studies into the feasibility of using that robotic vehicle to grapple debris in the GEO orbits,” noted Anderson. “There is some debris there. It’s not a huge problem in GEO, but there are some cases where customers would be very interested in having a piece of debris removed. We are looking at and evaluating the feasibility of doing those types of missions out in the GEO belt.”

    This opens the possibility that the technology employed on the MRVs could be used for other debris cleanup operations, specifically the more cluttered low Earth orbit environment.

    “All of this technology could be applied to those types of debris removal problems,” said Anderson. “Now the issue that we see with it right now is there is no customer base. There is no one right now that is incentivized to pay for those types of services.”

    5
    A mission pod attached to a client satellite. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    But even beyond that, the third generation of robotic servicing vehicles are already in the planning stages, as well as how they will integrate with future satellites launched towards geostationary orbit.

    “We’re already starting our generation three, a third generation of GEO servicing for refueling of prepared satellites,” related Anderson.

    “Our approach is to start doing refueling with satellites that are prepared for refueling. We’re developing refueling interfaces that we would like to make an open industry standard. Then our vision here is that by 2025, every new satellite that is launched is prepared for servicing in some way.”

    This third generation of vehicle would not just be able to perform refueling operations but also robotic servicing as well using robotic arm technology to repair elements on the exterior, or even interior, of satellites — including an ability to remove and replace solar arrays.

    “Designing solar arrays so they can be taken off or put back on or add additional solar arrays to it… absolutely, that’s on the roadmap,” enthused Anderson. “That really gets to the next step of our roadmap, actually. Beyond satellites prepared for servicing is in-space manufacturing, in-space assembly of spacecraft.”

    “That’s something we see coming. There’ll be a lot of development and incremental capabilities of that over this decade, but we think it really starts to become a capability that we can utilize in the 2030s and beyond.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    5
    SpaceLogistics
    It’s impossible to revive a satellite. Until it’s not. Credit: Northrop Grumman.

    What is SpaceLogistics?

    SpaceLogistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, provides cooperative space logistics and in-orbit satellite servicing to geosynchronous satellite operators using its fleet of commercial servicing vehicles—the Mission Extension Vehicle, the Mission Robotic Vehicle and the Mission Extension Pods.

    Pioneering a New Market in Space

    6

    SpaceLogistics currently provides in-orbit satellite servicing to geosynchronous satellite operators using the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV)™ which docks with customers’ existing satellites providing the propulsion and attitude control needed to extend their lives. This enables satellite operators to activate new markets, drive asset value and protect their franchises.

    Our Life Extension Services

    Mission Extension Vehicle

    The Mission Extension Vehicle-1 (MEV-1), the industry’s first satellite life extension vehicle, completed its first docking to a client satellite, Intelsat IS-901 on February 25, 2020. MEV is designed to dock to geostationary satellites whose fuel is nearly depleted. Once connected to its client satellite, MEV uses its own thrusters and fuel supply to extend the satellite’s lifetime. When the customer no longer desires MEV’s service, the spacecraft will undock and move on to the next client satellite.

    The second Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-2) launched August 15, 2020 with the Northrop Grumman-built Galaxy 30 satellite. MEV-2 docked with the Intelsat IS-1002 satellite on April 12, 2021.

    Mission Extension Pods

    Our next generation system, Mission Extension Pods, is a smaller and less expensive life extension service that only performs orbit control.
    Mission Robotic Vehicle

    The Mission Robotic Vehicle (MRV) is a robotic servicing vehicle that installs the MEPs. The MRV can perform all the functions of an MEV while adding new robotic capabilities for additional services.

    7

    Future Capabilities

    Our vision is to establish a fleet of commercial servicing vehicles in GEO that can address most any servicing need. Northrop Grumman continues to make deep investments in in-orbit servicing and is working closely with U.S. Government agencies to develop the next generation space logistics technologies. These technologies include robotics and high-power solar electric propulsion to enable future services building upon our keep-it-simple approach to satellite life extension. These future services are expected to include:

    Propellant augmentation,
    Inspection and repair,
    Replacement or enhancement of parts and systems,
    Incorporation of auxiliary propulsion, navigation, power, payloads and other functions to enhance the performance or extend the satellite’s life,
    And in-orbit robotic assembly of space structures

    8

    Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites Program

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)(US) has selected SpaceLogistics as its commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. The groundbreaking mission will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft and expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics technology. The enhanced capabilities include in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites.

    Public-private partnership is pioneering robotic servicing of satellites
    March 04, 2020.

    SpaceLogistics LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been selected by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as its commercial partner for the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program. The groundbreaking mission will feature the first-ever commercial robotic servicing spacecraft and aims to expand the market for satellite servicing of both commercial and government client satellites with advanced robotics technology. The program objectives include enhanced capabilities such as in-orbit repair, augmentation, assembly, detailed inspection and relocation of client satellites.

    10
    The Mission Robotic Vehicle, shown with DARPA’s RSGS Robotic Payload is pioneering robotic servicing of satellites. (Artist Rendering)

    Under the agreement, DARPA will provide the robotics payload for the Space Logistics Mission Robotic Vehicle. This payload, developed and integrated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, consists of two dexterous robotic manipulator arms, along with several tools and sensors. SpaceLogistics will provide its Mission Robotic Vehicle bus leveraging technologies developed for the industry’s first- ever satellite servicing vehicle, the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV).

    MEV-1, designed and built by Northrop Grumman, launched in October 2019 and successfully completed the first docking in geosynchronous orbit with an Intelsat satellite on Feb. 25. Northrop Grumman will also channel its deep expertise in spacecraft development and on-orbit servicing to lead the system level design, integration, testing, launch and mission operations over the life of the satellite.

    “Our selection as DARPA’s commercial partner expands our leadership in space logistics,” said Tom Wilson, president, SpaceLogistics LLC. “The new robotics technology on this mission advances our vision to build a fleet of satellite servicing vehicles that provide customers with a variety of options to select the type of life-extension or in-orbit repairs they need.”

    In addition to the Mission Robotic Vehicle for SpaceLogistics, Northrop Grumman is developing expanded life extension services for the mission that include Mission Extension Pods. The new pods augment the propulsion system of aging satellites and provide six years of orbital life extension. The Mission Robotic Vehicle will be used to install these augmentation platforms on existing in-orbit commercial and government client satellites to extend their mission lives.

    Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

    MEV-1 Mission Profile

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA Spaceflight is the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    The site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:19 pm on April 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Three years on TESS delivers on discoveries as extended mission continues", , , NASA Spaceflight   

    From NASA Spaceflight : “Three years on TESS delivers on discoveries as extended mission continues” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    April 18, 2021
    Justin Davenport

    Three years ago, on April 18, 2018, NASA’s and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, launched successfully into a very high Earth orbit aboard the last new Block 4 Falcon 9 before the current human-rated Block 5 entered service.

    Since then, it has dutifully observed the southern and northern skies, searching for tell-tale signs of nearby exoplanets crossing between their parent stars and the telescope’s cameras. Its primary mission now complete, TESS is in an extended mission phase that will last until 2022 — at which point it will be eligible for another mission extension provided its systems are still in good shape as intended.

    In 2018, once the Falcon 9 placed the telescope on its correct, post-launch trajectory, TESS embarked on a journey to its science orbit over the following month, ending in a flyby of the Moon on May 17, which moved the spacecraft into a 13.7 day, 108,000 by 373,000 km elliptical orbit of Earth.

    Specifically, TESS entered a P/2 resonant orbit (2:1 resonance) around the Moon, which minimizes gravitational interferences between the body and the telescope, allows for exposure to consistent temperatures for the spacecraft’s instruments, keeps it out of the Van Allen radiation belts, and gives the telescope an unobstructed view of the stars in both northern and southern hemispheres.

    .

    After a three-month checkout, TESS started its all-sky exoplanet survey, beginning with the southern hemisphere star field. In July 2019 TESS turned its eyes to the northern hemisphere, completing its primary mission one year later.

    Whereas the first space telescope designed for exoplanet observations, NASA Kepler Space Telescope (US), focused on a far from Earth and narrow slice of sky in the Vega and Cygnus constellations for a statistical survey of exoplanets during its primary mission, TESS’s primary mission observed 85% of the sky using a wide-field telescope — with an emphasis on exoplanets orbiting bright stars within 300 light years of Earth.

    Like Kepler, TESS uses the transit method of detection to find exoplanets.

    .

    The spacecraft holds a precise position and observes a field of stars for anywhere from 27 to 100 days depending on its location in the sky. Astronomers and computers on the ground process these observations and look for minute dips in the starlight signatures from each star, dimmings that could indicate an exoplanet.

    Many of the exoplanets TESS has found to date are close enough to Earth to allow follow-up observations with telescopes in space and on the ground. These studies largely seek to both confirm the potential exoplanet as well as to begin the process of understanding its composition.

    With its primary mission complete in mid-2020, TESS was approved for an extended mission until September 2022. Presently, the telescope is observing the ecliptic plane of the solar system as well as gaps in the sky not covered during its primary mission.

    At the time TESS was launched, there were 3,717 known exoplanets, including 2,652 found by the Kepler telescope. As of April 2021, there are 4,375 known exoplanets, including 122 found and confirmed by TESS, with an additional 2,645 candidate TESS objects of interest, or TOIs, that need follow-up studies for confirmation.

    Some of those confirmed exoplanets include the first planet discovered by TESS: Pi Mensae c, a “hot Neptune” of 4.8 Earth masses orbiting a white F-class star in 6.3 days.


    TESS Completes its Primary Mission.

    This planet is 60 light years from Earth, well placed for follow-up observations, and its parent star is brighter and more massive than the Sun as opposed to most exoplanet discoveries so far that have been found orbiting red M-class or orange K-class dwarf stars.

    Additional discoveries so far include an exoplanet 40 Earth masses but only three times as large, a gas giant that survived its host star’s evolution through red giant and white dwarf stages, a planet orbiting two stars (like Tatooine in Star Wars), eclipsing binaries, variable stars, brown dwarfs, and supernovae as well as the ability to create crude atmospheric maps of brown dwarfs (failed stars) and perform machine learning to classify variable stars.

    In January 2020, NASA announced the TESS discovery of an Earth-sized world in the habitable zone of its star, where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet if it had an atmosphere. The exoplanet, TOI-700 d, orbits its red dwarf star once every 37 days and is 20% larger than Earth.

    Approximately, 100 light years away, it is well placed for follow-up studies by the James Webb Space Telescope and other observatories.

    A major non-exoplanet discovery came in 2020 from the star system TYC7037-89-1, which was found to have three pairs of stars orbiting each other, with all six stars eclipsing their partners as seen from Earth.

    The most-recent major discovery was announced in February 2021. Three “super-Earth” planets were found in TESS data to be orbiting close to a star that is 95% the mass of the Sun. The star, TOI-451, is approximately 400 light years from Earth and is only 120 million years old, placed in a stream of young stars called Pisces-Eridanus.

    The exo-system is also well placed for follow-up observations and could reveal a great deal about young planetary systems and their initial evolution — information that can help us understand Earth’s and our solar system’s early evolution as well.

    As TESS continues training its four wide-field cameras on the stars, its orbit will allow it to function with very minimal fuel usage, creating the possibility for decades of observations and discoveries.

    During the spacecraft’s lifetime, it is expected to discover approximately 20,000 exoplanets.

    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 Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:05 pm on February 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "DART delayed to November launch as environmental testing begins", , change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact., , Mission to change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact., NASA Spaceflight, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Planetary defense   

    From NASA Spaceflight and From JHU Applied Physics Lab : “DART delayed to November launch as environmental testing begins” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    and

    JHUAPL

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    February 19, 2021
    Lee Kanayama

    1
    NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has been moved to its secondary launch window as it begins thermal and environmental testing. The new launch date of November 24, 2021 is a delay from an original target of July 21.

    DART is NASA’s first planetary defense demonstration, planned to change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact. DART is a simple technology demonstrator which will attempt to impact Dimorphos, a moonlet of the asteroid Didymos.

    NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior leadership requested a risk assessment to determine the viability of the primary and secondary launch windows. After this assessment was completed, teams determined the primary launch window was no longer viable and the DART team was told to pursue the secondary date.

    “At NASA, mission success and safety are of the utmost importance, and after a careful risk assessment, it became clear DART could not feasibly and safely launch within the primary launch window,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    A part of the decision to move to the secondary date stems from the technical challenges of two main mission critical components: the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical-navigation (DRACO) imager and the roll-out solar arrays (ROSA). DRACO needs to be reinforced to handle the stress seen during launch and ROSA has had its delivery delayed due to supply chains impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “To ensure DART is poised for mission success, NASA directed the team pursue the earliest possible launch opportunity during the secondary launch window to allow more time for DRACO testing and delivery of ROSA, and provide a safe working environment through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    While not the sole factor, the pandemic has made a large impact to the safety of personnel. The delay allows extra flexibility for the remaining spacecraft testing schedule, prioritizing the safety of people alongside mission success.

    1
    NEXT-C ion engine lifted onto the spacecraft at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) .

    In the meantime, DART has completed major testing milestones. In November 2020, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne personnel installed the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Next-Commercial (NEXT-C) ion engine onto the spacecraft at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

    “The biggest part of that process was lifting the thruster bracket assembly off of the assembly table and positioning it at the top of the spacecraft,” said APL’s Jeremy John, the lead propulsion engineer on DART.

    “This took some care as the thruster’s propellant lines extended below the bottom of the bracket ring and could have been damaged if the lift was not performed properly.”

    Once the engine was lowered onto DART’s central cylinders, fasteners were installed to secure the thruster to the spacecraft. This then allowed APL to connect the electrical harnesses and propellant lines between the thrusters bracket assembly and DART. Afterwards, APL spent several days preparing and testing critical components to ensure a good integration.

    With the NEXT-C engine installed, the spacecraft had both of its propulsion systems onboard. Along with the NEXT-C engine, it will use hydrazine thrusters as its primary propulsion system. The thrusters were installed in May 2020.

    More of DART’s final systems then underwent integration as the spacecraft was prepared for environmental testing. After a pre-environmental review was held in January, the DART team was approved to begin thermal vacuum testing.

    “We’ve worked very hard to get to this critical point in the mission, and we have a great idea of spacecraft performance going into our environmental tests,” said APL’s Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer.

    “We have an experienced team that is confident with the spacecraft’s ability to withstand the rigors of testing in the next month,” added Ed Reynolds, DART project manager at APL.

    2
    Dart undergoes electromagnetic interference testing via JHUAPL.

    Thermal vacuum testing will be done throughout spring. Once testing is complete, the spacecraft will then be equipped with the ROSA and DRACO. After those are installed, additional vibration and shock testing will take place before it is delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9.

    DART will launch from Space Launch Complex 4-East (SLC-4E) on a flight-proven Falcon 9, B1063. The booster first supported the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission in November 2020. B1063 may support other missions from Vandenberg prior to launching DART in November 2021.

    SpaceX’s Vandenberg manifest includes a pair of commercial launches: the SARah-1 mission for the German military, and the WorldView Legion Flight 1 launch as early as September.

    Additionally, SpaceX will launch their second dedicated rideshare mission for their smallsat rideshare program, Transporter-2, no earlier than June. The classified NROL-87 mission for the National reconnaissance Office is also scheduled for no earlier than June.

    Falcon 9 B1063 may support any of these missions prior to DART. It is also possible, but unlikely, that B1063 won’t fly any missions between Sentinel-6A and DART.

    No matter the scenario, B1063 will launch DART on a trajectory to the Didymos binary system. After liftoff, the booster will perform a Return to Launch Site (RTLS) landing at Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4), directly adjacent to the launch pad.

    DART is a demonstration mission for future technologies. It is a simple spacecraft that doesn’t include any scientific payloads. Weighing only 500 kilograms, it includes one main instrument, DRACO. DRACO is a camera which will help target the Didymos system while in coast.

    One of the technologies to be tested is the aforementioned NEXT-C ion engine. NEXT-C is based on the NASA Solar Technology Application Readiness (NSTAR) engine which was used on the Dawn and Deep Space 1 spacecrafts.

    NEXT-C was developed by the NASA Glenn Research Center and Aerojet Rocketdyne and designed to have improved performance, thrust, and fuel efficiency compared to other ion engines. NEXT-C is not the primary propulsion system, but its inclusion on DART will help demonstrate its potential for use on future deep-space missions.

    Another technology demonstration is the aforementioned ROSA solar arrays. ROSA is a new type of solar panel that is designed to be more efficient and less bulky than other standard solar panels.

    ROSA was first demonstrated on the International Space Station, after launch on the SpaceX CRS-11 mission in June 2017. It completed all but one of its mission objectives when the solar array failed to lock back in its stowed configuration.

    New, larger types of ROSAs will be launched in 2021 and 2022 on the SpaceX CRS-22, CRS-25, and CRS-26 missions. Called iROSA, six arrays will be launched to help power the ISS for many years to come.

    3
    Infographic of DART’S objectives via NASA/JHUAPL

    DART will also be equipped with thrusters, star trackers, and several sun trackers to help navigate itself to Didymos. Once it reaches the Didymos system, DART will then target and impact Dimorphos at 6.7km/s sometime in the first weeks of October 2022.

    Dimorphos is the moonlet of the asteroid Didymos (Greek for twin). The system was discovered in April 1996 by the Kitt Peak National Observatory, when the asteroid was in close proximity to Earth. Dimorphos was given its name in June 2020.

    Kitt Peak NOIRLab National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft), annotated.

    The system is currently in a 1 AU by 2.2 AU orbit around the Sun. The impact with Dimorphos should cause the speed to change by 0.5 millimeters per second and alter the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos.

    DART will carry a CubeSat called Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIA) which will be released five days prior to impact to provide communications and images of the impact.

    DART itself is one of two missions in a joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) program called the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA). AIDA’s main objective is to understand the effects of an asteroid impact by a spacecraft.

    The ESA will conduct a follow-on mission called Hera, launching on Ariane 6 in 2024.

    Depiction of ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft.

    Hera will arrive at the binary system in 2027 to observe the changes made by DART’s impact.

    Hera is also a simple spacecraft, weighing about 1,050 kilograms and equiped multiple cameras and a LIDAR Laser Altimeter to determine how effective the impact from DART was in changing Dimorphos’ orbit.

    Hera will also use new autonomous navigation systems while at Dimorphos to will test better and more efficient navigation methods for future interplanetary missions.

    Hera will also carry two CubeSats. The first CubeSat is the Asteroid Prospector Explorer (APEX). APEX will perform surface measurements of two asteroids. Once its main surface data is gathered, APEX will attempt to land for up-close observations of the surface.

    The second CubeSat is called Juventas and will line up with Hera to perform a satellite-to-satellite radio experiment and a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior.

    Once Hera’s mission is complete, Hera will land on one of the two asteroids. The landing will provide insight into the surface material of the asteroid.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -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 Unversity campus.

    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.

    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:17 pm on January 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA selects potential small-scale astrophysics missions; Hubble measures exoplanet’s odd orbit", Aspera spacecraft, , , , , NASA Spaceflight, Pandora spacecraft, , PUEO balloon flight mission, Starburst spacecraft   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “NASA selects potential small-scale astrophysics missions; Hubble measures exoplanet’s odd orbit” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    Potential new missions to understand other secrets of the universe.

    Just as the Hubble telescope looked outward from Earth during the campaigns that gathered the data to determine the exoplanet HD 106906 b’s orbit, so too might a potential future NASA mission study exoplanets in near-by star systems.

    That SmallSat flight is one of four proposed mission concepts now under consideration by NASA that could have rather large impacts on the field of astrophysics.

    Speaking to the selection of the four concepts that are part of the agency’s Pioneer program, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said: “The principal investigators of these concept studies bring innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to the problem of how to do high-impact astrophysics experiments on a small budget.”

    “Each of the proposed experiments would do something no other NASA telescope or mission can do, filling important gaps in our understanding of the universe as a whole.”

    The four proposed missions are Aspera, Pandora, and Starburst (all SmallSat missions), and PEUO a balloon mission into Earth’s upper atmosphere.

    Aspera would study galactic evolution via ultraviolet observations to examine not the galaxies themselves, but the hot gases in the space between them (the intergalactic medium) and how those gases flow inward and outward from various galaxies.

    Pandora, the exoplanet mission, would study a total of 20 stars and their accompanying 39 exoplanets in both the visible and infrared spectrums and would seek to better understand how starlight affects the measurement of exoplanet atmospheres, an outstanding issue in determining the potential habitability of worlds beyond our Sun’s influence.

    Starburst, on the other hand, would seek to study high-energy gamma rays created by the mergers of neutron stars, which has only ever been observed once before and from which heavier elements, like platinum and gold, are formed.

    The one non-satellite mission is PUEO, a balloon flight that would lift off from Antarctica to detect signals from ultra high-energy neutrinos — particles that contain valuable information about the processes governing the creation of black holes and neutron star mergers.

    As part of the Pioneers program, such missions are not allowed to exceed $20 million in cost.

    “We don’t know if there is great astrophysics that can be done in a $20 million satellite, but we challenged the community and they sent in a lot of innovative proposals,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division. “Now, we’re excited to see if they can deliver.”
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    1
    The Hubble Space Telescope has successfully measured the highly eccentric and distant orbit of an exoplanet circling a double star system 336 light years from Earth. The new exoplanet information is potentially important much closer to home as scientists search for the proposed Planet Nine in our solar system.

    Hubble and exoplanet HD 106906 b

    First discovered in 2013, the Jupiter-like HD 106906 b exoplanet is 11 times Jupiter’s mass and exists in a relatively young star system that is only 15 million years old.

    The exoplanet orbits two stars and is presently 109.4 billion kilometers (or 730 Astronomical Units (AU), with 1 AU equaling the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) from its hosts in a highly elongated and inclined orbit relative to the system’s plane.

    In order to determine the exoplanet’s orbit, scientists needed extraordinarily precise measurements of the exoplanet’s motion — which would be incredibly difficult to detect given its slow speed. More so, at least 14 years of motion data would be required to make a proper estimation.

    The only telescope capable of performing such observations was Hubble, the impressive archive of which provided the 14 years of data needed. The exoplanet requires approximately 15,000 years to complete one, highly eccentric and inclined orbit (tilted 21° from the system’s debris disk).

    2
    Hubble Space Telescope image of of HD 106906 b and the asymmetric debris disc. (Credit NASA/ESA/ M. Nguyen, R. DeRosa, and P. Kalas.

    Closer observations of the debris disk, published in 2015, revealed its unusual, asymmetrical shape. The inner portion of the debris disk lies 10 billion kilometers (65 AU) from the stars, while the outer edge ranges in an elongated pattern from 18 to 82 billion kilometers (120 to 550 AU).

    The new orbit data obtained from Hubble observations lends support to the theory that the disk’s asymmetrical shape is likely a result of gravitational pulls and tugs from HD 106906 b.

    The question then arose: where did this exoplanet come from? Large gas giants do not form that far from their host stars, as the planetary disks they accrete from are not dense enough to allow their formation.

    Based on evidence collected in the intervening years since its discovery, the most likely hypothesis for the exoplanet’s evolution involves it forming much closer to its host stars, inside of the currently observed debris disk.

    Drag from the protoplanetary disk gradually caused the planet’s orbit to decay (just like atmospheric drag decays the orbits of objects around Earth) toward its host, eventually passing close enough to them that it was accelerated to just barely the escape velocity of the dual star system.

    Two to three million years ago, when the exoplanet was near its current orbital apastron point, two passing stars (HIP 59716 and HIP 59721) came within 3.3 light years of the exoplanet, nudging it just enough to slow its velocity below that needed to escape and send it into the eccentric and inclined orbit seen today.

    4
    HD10690 b in its inclined orbit relative to the plane of its twin-star host system. Credit NASA, ESA and M.Kornmesser (ESA/ Hubble).

    It is the combination of the exoplanet’s perturbation of its system’s debris disk and its likely formation within the system itself that makes HD 106906 b of prime interest for scientists looking much closer to home in the outer reaches of our solar system.

    There, a grouping of rocks known as extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects (eTNOs) are in very similar, highly eccentric and inclined orbits; a potential explanation for this is a proposed ninth planet that is 5 to 10 times the mass of Earth and 2 to 4 times its radius.

    The hypothetical planet would be inclined 15°-25° to the ecliptic of the solar system and have an orbital distance between 60-120 billion kilometers (400-800 AU) from the Sun that takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years to complete.

    Several proposals for where Planet Nine — if its existence is confirmed — came from have been discussed, including its formation with the other planets and ejection to its current location by encounters with the gas and ice giants, its capture from another solar system, and the unlikely but possible natural formation in its current location.

    Regardless, the planet’s existence would explain several oddities in the outer solar system; however, attempts to find it have thus far proved inconclusive.

    What makes HD 106906 b so intriguing is that it appears to prove, with the information gathered thus far, that large planets not only form very quickly within young solar systems but can be ejected and stabilized to the distances observed in a relatively short time period as well.

    4
    The calculated orbit of the proposed Planet Nine in relation to to solar system’s inner/outer planets and associated eTNOs in eccentric orbits. (Credit: Caltech)

    If nothing else, the existence of HD 106906 b lends evidence that the ejection hypothesis for the potential Planet Nine is at least possible — as is at least one method by which Planet Nine could have encountered the gravitational influences of passing stars that stabilized it and allowed it to settle into its orbit with an eccentricity between 0.2 and 0.5.

    Furthermore, HD 106906 b’s perturbational influence on its neighboring debris disk results/is resulting in far-flung objects in increasingly eccentric orbits… like those eccentricities seen in our own solar system with the eTNOs — for which Planet Nine is a potential explanation.

    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 Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on September 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Nanojets; nanoflares; & magnetic reconnection: the quest to solve the coronal heating problem", , For the first time scientists have observed nanojets- bright thin lights traveling perpendicular to the magnetic field lines of the Sun that are the telltale signature of nanoflares., If the solar surface is 5500℃ how can the solar atmosphere (the corona) be between 1 million and 10 million degrees C?, JAXA Hinode observatory of Japan Europe and NASA., NASA developed the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft., , , NASA Spaceflight   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Nanojets, nanoflares, & magnetic reconnection: the quest to solve the coronal heating problem” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    September 22, 2020
    Chris Gebhardt

    1

    It’s one of the most baffling problems in astrophysics. If the solar surface is 5,500℃, how can the solar atmosphere (the corona) be between 1 million and 10 million degrees C?

    For the first time, scientists have observed nanojets, bright thin lights traveling perpendicular to the magnetic field lines of the Sun that are the telltale signature of nanoflares: localized, rapid heating events of the corona.

    The issue of coronal heating was first identified by astrophysicists in the 1940s. Since then, numerous hypotheses have been put forth to explain how the Sun’s atmosphere is many times hotter than its surface.

    One such hypothesis put forward by Peter Gold and developed by Eugene Parker (for whom the Parker Solar Probe is named) is nanoflares, periodic small-scale heating events of the corona.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    But a fundamental problem with this hypothesis — and others — was not being able to directly observe the complex physical processes at work in the corona.

    Despite lacking a way to see the event, scientific models showed that a faint, hot emission from a nanoflare would be detectable and measurable.

    To help study the corona in more detail, NASA developed the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft to determine how the corona is heated and directly measure and observe the processes taking place at the transition point between the solar surface and corona.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft.

    Built by Lockheed Martin, the 183 kg solar observatory was launched on 28 June 2013 (UTC) onboard a now-Northrop Grumman Pegasus-XL rocket off the coast of California.


    ScienceCasts: The Mystery of Coronal Heating.

    Just over nine months later, it observed the event that led to yesterday’s nanojet discovery and coronal heating announcement published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

    On 3 April 2014, IRIS observed a coronal rain event — when streams of cool plasma fall from the corona back toward the Sun’s surface.

    During a period of 15 minutes, the portion of the corona under observation transitioned from a region filled with cool plasma to a place millions of degrees in temperature.

    In examining the data obtained by IRIS, a team of international researchers led by Dr. Patrick Antolin of Northumbria University, observed bright jets near the end of the coronal rain event.

    These flashes were streams of heated plasma traveling so fast they appeared as bright thin lines moving sideways through the magnetic field lines.

    Those flashes are nanojets — the predicted proof of nanoflares.

    “From coordinated multi-band high-resolution observations we discovered evidence of very fast and explosive nanojets, the tell-tale signature of reconnection-based nanoflares resulting in coronal heating,” said Dr. Antolin.

    The normally smooth magnetic field lines of the Sun can become tangled and woven together… and then violently snap back into their previously smooth selves. That snap-back process is called reconnection, and it converts the energy stored in the solar magnetic field into motion in the plasma environment of the corona.

    The localized plasma motion is quickly stopped by the surrounding plasma’s viscosity and turbulence in such a way that the motion (energy) is converted into heat — raising the localized coronal temperature.


    NASA Satellites Spot Nanojets On Sun.
    A faint, hot emission (the observable nanojet) from this small heating event escapes and travels perpendicular to the magnetic field lines.

    In and of itself, a small event like that would not explain the coronal heating problem. But one magnetic reconnection event triggers another which triggers another… leading to a cascading series of reconnections and nanoflares and detectable nanojets.

    This kind of cascading event is exactly what was observed by IRIS in the form of a “nanojet storm” during the same 15 minute period in April 2014 when the under-observation portion of the corona suddenly heated from a cool plasma region to a millions of degrees environment.

    With these observations in hand, there was a strong link between nanojets, nanoflares, and magnetic reconnection as a coronal heating mechanism. But more evidence was needed.

    The international team of researchers then coordinated with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Hinode observatory of Japan, Europe, and NASA to obtain a full view of the Sun to confirm their nanojets detection and assess nanojet effects on the corona.

    NASA/SDO.

    JAXA/NASA HINODE spacecraft.

    Over the next several years, the team utilized advanced, state-of-the-art simulations to recreate what they saw during the coronal heating event of April 2014.

    Using all of the collected data, the models showed nanojets are a signature of magnetic reconnection and nanoflares and that the events do contribute to coronal heating.

    “Using state-of-the-art numerical simulations, we have demonstrated that the nanojet is a consequence of the slingshot effect from the magnetically tensed, curved magnetic field lines reconnecting at small angles,” noted Dr. Antolin. “Nanojets are therefore the key signature to look for reconnection-based coronal heating in action.”

    3

    In announcing the nanojet discovery and evidence for coronal heating via magnetic reconnection and nanoflares, Dr. Antolin and his team were quick to note that additional observations and studies are needed to establish how frequent nanoflare activity is throughout the corona and exactly how much of the total energy for heating the corona those events provide.

    They also caution, as many astrophysicists do, that a singular explanation for coronal heating is unlikely, and that the large up swing in temperatures seen in the solar atmosphere is likely the result of several complex and overlapping processes.

    “The solar corona is very diverse, so it is likely there are many heating mechanisms,” said Dr. Antolin. “In active regions, the most energy demanding regions, [magnetic reconnection] may dominate because it releases a lot of energy.”

    IRIS is not the only mission currently seeking to unlock the mysteries of the corona.

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched in August 2018, is the first spacecraft to directly fly into and study the corona from the inside.

    Conversely, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, launched in February 2020, will aid in the investigation of coronal heating by seeking to understand how and where the Sun’s magnetic field forms in the corona.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on September 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "ESA’s Hera planetary defense mission signs prime contractor on course for launch in 2024", , DART will carry with it an Italian-provided CubeSat called LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids)., DART will carry with it an Italian-provided CubeSat called LICIACube., LICIACube will collect images of the impact and ejecta and transmit its captured photographs back to Earth., , NASA Spaceflight, The Didymos pair- a binary asteroid   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “ESA’s Hera planetary defense mission signs prime contractor, on course for launch in 2024” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    September 15, 2020
    Chris Gebhardt

    1
    The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a design, manufacturing, and testing contract with OHB of Germany for their Hera planetary defense mission, marking a major advancement toward the agency’s commitment to NASA for their joint Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment project.

    NASA’s portion [DART] is scheduled to launch in July 2021 and slam into the smaller of the target binary asteroid in October 2022.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic.

    Hera will then follow, launching in 2024 on an Ariane 6 and arriving at the binary pair in 2027 to assess how well its predecessor did in changing the orbit of its target.

    The contract signed today between ESA and OBH of Germany provides €129.4 million for a detailed design, build, and test of the Hera asteroid orbiter. The contract specifically includes the new and advanced Guidance, Navigation and Control system for the craft.

    Excluded from the OBH contract are the other deals already in place for the two CubeSats that will accompany Hera to the target binary asteroid and the long-lead technology items for the mission — contracts that are already underway.

    Unlike the first part of the joint Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment project from NASA, an impactor called DART, Hera will not impact either of the bodies of the target but rather perform long-term observations from a close orbit while demonstrating new technologies, particularly for autonomous deep space proximity operations.

    The target for the joint mission is the Didymos pair, a binary asteroid whose primary is 780 m in diameter and whose moonlet (small moon) is 160 m in diameter.

    The moonlet, called Dimorphos, is the target of NASA’s DART kinetic impactor.


    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART): Hitting an Asteroid Head On. DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is scheduled to launch no earlier than 22 July 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

    Powered by a NEXT ion thruster, the 500 kg (1,100 lb) spacecraft will spend 15 months cruising to its destination before slamming into Dimorphos at 6.25 km/s.

    DART carries no scientific instruments, just a star tracker and camera for autonomous navigation; it is simply an impactor. It will, however, carry with it an Italian-provided CubeSat called LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids) that will deploy shortly before observing the ejecta cloud thrown up from the impact.

    LICIACube will collect images of the impact and ejecta and transmit its captured photographs back to Earth; it was offered to DART by the Italian Space Agency after ESA’s first spacecraft contribution to the mission was cancelled in 2016.

    That project, the Asteroid Impact Mission, would have worked in tandem with DART, observing the other craft’s impact while providing immediate and long-term assessments of changes to Dimorphos’ orbit and characteristics while studying the ejecta material.

    2
    Hera inspects DART’s impact crater. Credit ESA.

    While Hera will not be able to do that first part, most of the Asteroid Impact Mission’s objectives can be accomplished with LICIACube and Hera’s long-term in situ observations that can begin upon its arrival in 2027.

    The overall mission will test whether or not a kinetic impactor can successfully deflect potentially hazardous Earth-bound asteroids by slightly changing their orbital speed to either slow them down slightly or accelerate them slightly.

    A minor velocity change imparted to a large asteroid could — over the course of months or years — alter its orbit safely away from intersecting with Earth.

    And this is exactly what NASA and ESA seek to do on a smaller scale in the Didymos pair system. The DART spacecraft, while impacting Dimorphos at 6.25 km/s will only produce a net change in the moonlet’s velocity of 0.4 millimeters per second.

    While that is an incredibly small change in velocity, it will radically change the mutual orbit of the Didymos primary and its moon.

    As such, the interagency mission represents the first time humanity will intentionally alter another celestial body’s orbit.

    By impacting the smaller of the two bodies, which orbits the larger, NASA and ESA can safely observe how a kinetic impactor alters orbital characteristics of an asteroid.


    Hera: Our planetary defense mission.

    The Didymos pair’s overall orbit of the Sun is also extremely favorable to this type of test as its orbit does not cross that of Earth’s — meaning there’s no chance the NASA-ESA experiment could accidentally cause this pair to pose a threat to our host planet.

    When Hera then arrives in 2027, it will find a very different system than the DART spacecraft encountered while on approach for impact.

    Hera will use a suite of scientific instruments as well as two ride along CubeSats (which will attempt to land on the surface of Dimorphos) to characterize exactly how much momentum was transferred between the two objects at DART’s impact and exactly how much Dimorphos’ orbit was altered.

    This will “allow, for the first time, the validation or refinement of numerical models of the impact process at asteroid scale, rendering this deflection technique for planetary defence ready for operational use if ever needed to safeguard our home world,” notes an ESA overview of the mission.

    Hera will accomplish its scientific objectives by utilizing:

    an Asteroid Framing Camera provided by Germany (that is actually a spare unit for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in the asteroid belt),
    a compact laser radar, or lidar, for surface mapping operations,
    a thermal infrared instrument to survey the asteroid in the mid-infrared spectral range and map temperature dispersions across Dimorphos’ surface, and
    a radio science experiment to measure the mass and mass distribution within the moon.

    These instruments will be supplemented by those carried aboard the two CubeSats, which will use radar to investigate the interior of the moonlet as well as imaging and mass spectrometers to study its mineralogical and elemental composition.

    See the full article here .

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    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:27 am on August 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Carrington Event still provides warning of Sun’s potential 161 years later", At the time the link between auroral displays and the Sun was not yet known., , Lloyd’s of London and the Atmospheric and Environmental Research agency in the United States estimated that a Carrington-class event impacting Earth today would cause between $0.6 and $2.6 trillion , NASA Spaceflight, On 28 August 1859 a series of sunspots began to form on the surface of our stellar parent., The Carrington Event is officially known as SOL1859-09-01., The massive solar storm caused widespread disruption to electrical and Telegraph services and spawning auroras visible in the tropics., The same day that the sunspots appeared strong auroras began to dance around Earth’s magnetic lines.   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Carrington Event still provides warning of Sun’s potential 161 years later” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    August 28, 2020
    Chris Gebhardt

    1
    A Coronal Mass Ejection erupts from the Sun on 2 December 2002 as seen by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory — SOHO.

    ESA/NASA SOHO.

    On 28 August 1859, a series of sunspots began to form on the surface of our stellar parent. The sunspots quickly tangled the Sun’s magnetic field lines in their area and produced bright, observed solar flares and one — likely two — Coronal Mass Ejections, one major.

    The massive solar storm impacted our planet on 1-2 September 1859, causing widespread disruption to electrical and Telegraph services and spawning auroras visible in the tropics.

    Officially known as SOL1859-09-01, the Carrington Event as it has become known colloquially showcased for the first time the potentially disastrous relationship between the Sun’s energetic temperament and the nascent technology of the 19th century.

    It also resulted in the earliest observations of solar flares — by Richard Carrington (for whom the event is named) and Richard Hodgson — and was the event that made Carrington realize the relationship between geomagnetic storms and the Sun.

    Coming just a few months before the solar maximum of 1860, numerous sunspots began to appear on the surface of the Sun on 28 August 1859 and were observed by Richard Carrington, who produced detailed drawings of them as they appeared on 1 September 1859.

    The same day that the sunspots appeared, strong auroras began to dance around Earth’s magnetic lines, visible as far south as New England in North America. By 29 August, auroras were visible as far north as Queensland, Australia, in the Southern Hemisphere.

    2
    Richard Carrington’s drawings of the sunspots of 1 September 1859, including notations (“A” and “B”) from where the solar flare erupted (“A”) and where it disappeared (“B”). Credit: American Scientist, Vol 95.

    At the time, the link between auroral displays and the Sun was not yet known, and it would be the Carrington Event of 1859 that would solidify the connection for scientists not only due to observations performed by Carrington and Hodgson but also because of a magnetic crochet (a sudden disturbance of the ionosphere by abnormally high ionization or plasma — now associated with solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections) recorded by the Kew Observatory magnetometer in Scotland during the major event.

    On 1 September, Carrington and Hodgson were observing the Sun, investigating and mapping the locations, size, and shapes of the sunspots when, just before noon local time in England, they each independently became the first people to witness and record a solar flare.

    From the sunspot region, a sudden bright flash, described by Carrington as a “white light flare,” erupted from the solar photosphere. Carrington documented the flare’s precise location on the sunspots where it appeared as well as where it disappeared over the course of the 5 minute event.

    What neither could know at the moment is that a major Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) had just erupted from the surface of the Sun and was headed straight for Earth.

    The major CME event traversed the 150 million km distance between the Sun and Earth in just 17.6 hours, much faster than the multi-day period it usually takes CMEs to reach the distance of Earth’s orbit.

    Follow-up investigations over the last century and a half point to the auroral displays of the 28 and 29 August 1859 as the clue for why the 1 September CME traveled as fast as it did. It is now widely believed and accepted that a smaller CME erupted from the Sun in late-August and effectively cleared the path between Earth and the Sun of most of the solar wind plasma that would normally slow down a CME.

    By the time the 1 September event observed by Carrington and Hodgson began, conditions were perfect for the massive storm to race across the inner solar system and slam into Earth within just a few hours.

    When the CME arrived, the Kew Observatory’s magnetometer recorded the event as a magnetic crochet in the ionosphere. This observation, coupled with the solar flare, allowed Carrington to correctly draw the link — for the first time — between geomagnetic storms observed on Earth and the Sun’s activity.

    Upon impact, telegraph systems across Europe and North America, which took the brunt of the impact, failed. In some cases, telegraphs provided electric shocks to operators; in other cases, their lines sparked in populated areas and — in places — started fires.

    The event produced some of the brightest auroras ever recorded in history. People in New England were able to read the newspaper in the middle of the night without any additional light. Meanwhile, in Colorado, miners believed it was daybreak and began their morning routine.

    The auroras were so strong they were clearly observed throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, southern Japan, southern China, and as far south as Colombia near the equator in South America and as far north as Queensland, Australia near the equator in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The strength of the Carrington Event is now recognized in heliophysics as a specific class of CME and is named after Richard Carrington.

    Historical evidence in the form of Carbon-14 trapped and preserved in tree rings indicates that the previous, similarly energetic CME event to the one in 1859 occurred in 774 CE and that Carrington-class Earth impact events occur on average once every several millennia.


    ScienceCasts: Carrington-class CME Narrowly Misses Earth.

    Still, lower energy CMEs erupted from the Sun and impacted Earth in 1921, 1960, and 1989 — the latter of which caused widespread power outages throughout Quebec province in Canada. These three events are not considered to have been of Carrington-class strength.

    However, a Carrington-class superstorm did erupt from the Sun on 23 July 2012 and narrowly missed Earth by just nine days, providing a stark warning from our solar parent that it is only a matter of time before another Carrington-class event impacts Earth.

    Coming shortly after the 2012 near miss, researchers from Lloyd’s of London and the Atmospheric and Environmental Research agency in the United States estimated that a Carrington-class event impacting Earth today would cause between $0.6 and $2.6 trillion in damages to the United States alone and would cause widespread — if not global — electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damages to electrical grids.

    Cascading failures of electrical grids, especially in New England in the United States, are also particularly likely during a Carrington-class event. Power restoration estimates range anywhere from a weak to the least affected areas to more than a year to the hardest-hit regions.

    Electronic payment systems at grocery stores and gas stations would likely crash, electric vehicle charging stations — that rely on the power grid — would likely be unusable for some time, as would ATMs which rely on an internet and/or satellite link to verify account and cash disbursement information.

    3
    The world’s heliophysics fleet of spacecraft that keep constant watch on the sun. Credit: NASA.

    Television signals from satellites would be majorly disrupted, and satellites, too, would experience disruptions to radio frequency communication, crippling GPS navigation.

    Planes flying over the oceans would likely experience navigation errors and communications blackouts as a result of the disrupted satellite network.

    Astronauts onboard the International Space Station would either seek shelter in one of the radiation-hardened modules of the outpost or, if enough time permitted and the CME event was significant enough, enter their Soyuz or U.S. crew vehicle and come home.

    The question of exactly how to best protect astronauts on the Moon or at destinations farther out in the solar system is an on-going discussion/effort.

    Unlike 1859, however, today, we have an international fleet — including the Solar Dynamics Orbiter, SOHO [above], the Parker Solar Probe, and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Solar Orbiter — of vehicles constantly observing the Sun and seeking to understand the underlying mechanisms that generate sunspots, solar flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections, which while linked to one another do not automatically follow each other.

    NASA/SDO.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter depiction.

    Understanding the underlying mechanisms that trigger CMEs and how severe they would be is a key driving force for heliophysicists. But even with the current fleet in space, all scientists can really do at this moment is provide — at best — a multi-day warning that a CME has occurred and is heading toward Earth.


    NASA | Comparing CMEs.

    Simply having a multi-day warning would give us time to shut down power stations and transformers, stop long-haul and transoceanic flights, and basically hunker down and wait for it to pass. The best we could do now is simply try to minimize the damage.

    It would take a large financial and time and workforce commitment to preemptively rebuild power grids and communications systems in a way that they could fully withstand a Carrington-class CME, and that is something governments around the world have shown little to no interest in doing.

    Still, the Parker Solar Probe from NASA is literally diving into the solar corona to try to unlock the mystery of how Coronal Mass Ejections form and accelerate to incredible velocities as they leave the Sun. What’s more, ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission is attempting to compliment that data by looking at the Sun and observing it from an orientation never before possible.

    But a harsh truth remains: 161 years after the Carrington Event, the world is still not prepared for a large-scale solar storm and what it would do to us.

    The nine day near miss of the 2012 Carrington-class event should have been a major wake-up call, especially given technological advancements and our dependence on it for everyday life.

    But it’s warning does not appear to have been heeded as well as it should have.

    See the full article here .

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    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:09 pm on November 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Oxygen and water showcase Mars Europa mysteries and struggles", , , , , , NASA Spaceflight   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Oxygen and water showcase Mars, Europa mysteries and struggles” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    November 27, 2019
    Chris Gebhardt

    1

    Follow the water and the oxygen. Just two of the key tenets of humanity’s early and ongoing exploration drives within our solar system. That research has received huge boons in the last two decades with in-situ exploration of Titan and Enceladus by Cassini.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    Saturn’s Moon Titan – Universe Today

    NASA’s Solar System Exploration. Color image of icy Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn

    But in the last three years, it has been NASA’s Curiosity rover in Gale Crater on Mars and a powerful telescope in Hawai’i that have given NASA scientists new insights – and questions – into the role of oxygen and water on Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa, respectively.

    NASA Mars Curiosity Rover

    NASA Europa

    That’s not how oxygen is supposed to behave:

    One of the significant benefits to the Curiosity rover’s multi Mars-year tenure has been its ability to monitor seasonal atmospheric changes on the Red Planet — something its SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) chemistry lab was – in part – designed to do.

    Over the last three Martian years (six Earth years), SAM has inhaled samples of the local Martian ground atmosphere, resulting in the first-ever measurement of seasonal changes in the gases directly above the surface of Gale Crater.

    In short, SAM returned results that the local Gale Crater atmosphere is, by volume, comprised of:

    95% carbon dioxide (CO2),
    2.6% molecular nitrogen,
    1.9% argon,
    0.16% molecular oxygen, and
    0.06% carbon monoxide.

    2
    Seasonal Oxygen levels observed b y Curiosity. Credit NASA

    These measurements have also revealed how the seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide at the poles in winter lowers the overall air pressure around the planet – air pressure that then rises in the Martian polar springs when the CO2 evaporates and redistributes in the atmosphere.

    The same results also show that the nitrogen and argon present in Mars’s atmosphere follow predictable and understood seasonal patterns.

    In this manner, scientists expected the oxygen present in the atmosphere to do the same, but it didn’t.

    Instead, the amount of oxygen rose unpredictably throughout spring and summer by as much as 30% before dropping back to levels predicted by known chemistry in fall.

    This pattern repeated each spring, though the amount of oxygen added to and taken from the atmosphere varied.

    “The first time we saw that, it was just mind boggling,” said Sushil Atreya, professor of climate and space sciences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor – co-author of a paper on this topic published on 12 November in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

    When the strange results were first observed, NASA scientists and engineers repeatedly checked to make sure SAM was functioning properly and not returning inaccurate readings. SAM was fine.


    Scientists then considered if CO2 and H2O could be releasing the oxygen – but there would have to be five times more water on Mars’ surface and in its atmosphere than is present to account for the oxygen level rises.

    They also considered if solar radiation could account for the oxygen’s rapid disappearance. But scientists found that it would take 10 years of solar radiation exposure to dissipate that much oxygen.

    “We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led this research. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”

    However, scientists have noticed a seeming correlation between the oxygen rise and the seasonally observed rises of methane at Gale Crater.

    Methane is constantly in the air in extremely small quantities (0.00000004% on average). But SAM’s Tunable Laser Spectrometer revealed that while methane rises and falls seasonally, it increases in abundance by about 60% in summer months for inexplicable reasons.

    Could the spikes in methane and oxygen be related?

    “We’re beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year,” Atreya said. “I think there’s something to it.”

    5

    Methane and oxygen rises certainly bring up the question of whether biologic or geologic processes are responsible for these seasonal variations.

    While biologic sources cannot be completely ruled out because Curiosity is not designed to investigate the current biological conditions at Gale Crater, scientists are working through the non-biologic potential answer to this quandary.

    “I just don’t have the answers yet,” said Atreya. “Nobody does.”

    Water water everywhere – Europa edition:

    Europa has, for several decades, been a tantalizing target in the search for potential life elsewhere in the solar system other than Earth.

    From the first direct images of the moon returned by NASA’s Voyager probes in the 1970s to present day observations, Europa has captivated scientific interest due to its icy exterior.

    Recent evidence has mounted for a large subterranean ocean underneath Europa’s icy surface, but direct confirmation of this has proven elusive – as has direct detection of water or water vapor in, on, or around Europa.

    Previous in-situ observations of the moon by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft from 1995 to 2003 and via the Hubble Space Telescope have returned evidence of hydrogen and oxygen in and around Europa, but no direct evidence of water.

    That is, until now.

    A team of NASA scientists led by Lucas Paganini of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have announced the first concrete detection of water vapor spewing in volcanic eruptions from Europa’s large vents.

    The observations and confirmation came from the team’s use of the W. M. Keck Observatory atop the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawai’i.

    Keck Observatory, operated by Caltech and the University of California, Maunakea Hawaii USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft)

    Paganini and his team’s findings are detailed in the 18 November publication of the journal Nature Astronomy.

    The observations, performed over 17 nights throughout 2016 and 2017, returned an immense amount of water vapor erupting from Europa’s surface at a rate of 2,360 kg per second – enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes.

    Despite this tremendous release, the team also found that water vapor appears quite infrequently.

    “For me, the interesting thing about this work is not only the first direct detection of water above Europa, but also the lack thereof within the limits of our detection method,” said Mr. Paganini.

    What’s more, the team was only able to detect water vapor along Europa’s leading hemisphere, defined as the side of the moon that always faces the direction of Europa’s orbit of Jupiter.

    Like Earth’s Moon, Europa is tidally locked with its host planet, so the same hemisphere always faces Jupiter.

    NASA/Europa Clipper annotated

    “This first direct identification of water vapor on Europa is a critical confirmation of our original detections of atomic species, and it highlights the apparent sparsity of large plumes on this icy world” said Lorenz Roth, an astronomer and physicist from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm who led the 2013 Hubble study and was a co-author of this recent investigation.

    This ultimately highlights the challenge in trying to study Europa from Earth. The amount of observation and detailed scientific equipment needed to further unlock Europa’s mysteries are either extremely difficult or not possible to do from Earth.

    Enter Europa Clipper, a flagship NASA science mission set to launch No Earlier Than 2025 that will perform direct, detailed observation and study of Jupiter’s icy moon.

    Europa Clipper’s three main scientific objectives are to:

    confirm the existence and characterize the nature of water within or beneath the ice and the processes of surface-ice-ocean exchange,
    identify the distribution and chemistry of key compounds and the links to ocean composition., and
    study the characteristics and formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:49 am on September 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Unpacking the proposed exo-planet imaging telescope HabEx", , , , , Exoplanet hunting, , NASA Spaceflight   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “Unpacking the proposed exo-planet imaging telescope HabEx” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    September 19, 2019
    Roland Winkler

    NASA Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) The Planet Hunter depiction

    1

    As part of NASA’s continued effort to ensure a steady supply of astrophysics and astronomy missions, the agency is undertaking the Astro2020: Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics. Currently, in the “Concept Study” phase, the survey includes proposals for four large-scale space telescopes – including the Habitable Exoplanet Observatory (HabEx).

    HabEx would facilitate direct observation of exoplanets, carry a primary focus on imaging Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, and be able to detect biomarkers or signs of possible life in those exoplanets’ atmospheres via spectroscopic observations.

    HabEx – taking exoplanet research to the next level:

    For millennia, the question of whether or not humanity is alone in the universe has captivated the minds of explorers and scientists.

    But until recently, an important part of that equation remained elusive: exactly how many exoplanets exist in our galaxy and the universe?

    The first confirmed detection of an exoplanet occurred in the early 1990s, with subsequent observations confirming the earliest detection actually occurred in the 1980s. But ground-based observations were slow and far between.

    To help solve the question once and for all, NASA launched the Kepler Space Telescope in 2009 – a telescope tasked solely with searching for exoplanets and determining how common they are.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018

    Kepler shattered all expectations of the number of exoplanets near Earth, revealing over the course of its multi-year mission that not only are exoplanets common throughout all regions within the visible space surrounding Earth but that almost every single star hosts at least one planet.

    What’s more, Kepler revealed an astonishing number of exoplanets that orbit within the so-called habitable zone of their parent stars – the zone in which liquid water can exist on the surface of a terrestrial planet.

    As of 1 September 2019, there are 4,109 confirmed exoplanets in 3,059 systems, with 667 systems having more than one planet.

    With that discovery, the desire to create better telescopes capable of directly imaging exoplanets and sampling their atmospheres catapulted to the top of the astrophysics mission wish lists.

    But so far only very large planets, many times larger than Jupiter and far away from their host stars have been imaged directly. Spectroscopic observations of exoplanet atmospheres are possible using telescopes and technology is possible but rare and very limited. The holy grail of directly imaging Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars is currently not possible.

    Thus, the holy grail of directly imaging Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars is currently not possible.

    3
    HabEx with its starshade performing operations NASA/JPLK-Caltech

    Enter HabEx. This proposed mission carries the stated goals of:

    Seeking out nearby worlds and exploring their habitability
    Mapping out nearby planetary systems and understanding the diversity of the worlds they contain, and
    Enabling new explorations of astrophysical systems from our solar system to galaxies and the universe by extending our reach in the ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared spectrum.

    How will HabEx work?

    When directly observing exoplanets, the biggest problem to overcome is the glare of the host star, which is billions of times brighter than the exoplanet.

    Two of HabEx’s four instruments are designed to do exactly that.

    The first instrument is a star shade, which is actually a second spacecraft that would fly in formation at an average distance of 124,000 km in front of HabEx and block most of the host star’s light but not the light of planets in orbit of the host star.

    A dedicated instrument on HabEx would then pick up the light of these exoplanets and measure their spectrum.

    With enough observation time, HabEx’s instruments would be able to measure the concentration of water vapor, oxygen, ozone, and dust through Rayleigh scattering.


    SETI Institute “Next-Generation NASA Space Telescopes” 1:13:30

    The telescope would also be able to detect carbon dioxide and methane in an exoplanet’s atmosphere if they were present in higher concentrations than on Earth.

    The observation campaign would theoretically involve nine nearby solar systems at a distance of 10 to 20 light years.

    They would be observed three times each with an accumulated observation time of three months within the first five years of the telescope’s operation.

    Due to the nature of formation flying, pointing the star shade on a different target would be a slow, time-consuming process. Therefore, during times when the star shade would be repositioned on another star system, HabEx would use its other instruments, including a vector vortex coronagraph, to create family portraits of around 110 exosolar systems.

    The coronagraph, a telescopic attachment designed to block out the direct light from a star so that nearby objects – which otherwise would be hidden in the star’s bright glare – can be resolved, would block the light of the host star but not the light of the exoplanets in the system.

    Within the first 5 years, the coronagraph would be used for 3.5 years to create family images of 110 exosolar systems and detect dust, asteroid belts, and Kuiper Belt-like regions of exosolar systems. From these observed star systems, the ones with rocky planets in their respective habitable zones would be scheduled with star shade observations.

    4
    Exoplanet observation with HaBEx and its star shade. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Together, the star shade and coronagraph would take about 75% of the first 5 years of observation time. The remaining 25% would be dedicated to the scientific community, which would submit observation proposals via a similar selection process as used today for the Hubble Space Telescope.

    In addition to the coronagraph and star shade, HabEx is proposed to contain two other important instruments: the HabEx Workhorse Camera (HWC) and the UV Spectrograph (UVS).

    The UVS intended for HabEx would provide 10 times larger area coverage compared to Hubble’s equivalent: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. With the Hubble Space Telescope close to the end of its life, the astronomic community will lose its only UV spectrograph with HST. UVS would fill that gap.

    Additionally, HabEx’s Workhorse Camera (HWC) would be an evolutionary step from Hubble’s Wide-Field Camera 3 and would provide imaging and multi-slit spectroscopy for two channels ranging from the near UV to the near IR.

    When executing exoplanet observations, both HWC and UVS could also be used in parallel with the star shade and coronagraph.

    What’s in a star shade?:

    The star shade for the HabEx Observatory would have a diameter of 72 m, consists of several thin sheets of material, and would be scaled relative to its operational distance from HabEx so that the telescope would be able to observe Earth-like planets around sun-like stars at a distance between 10 and 20 light years.

    4
    A breakdown of HabEX. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    It would have a 40 m diameter disk and 24 petals, each 16 m long and 5.25 m wide at its base for a structure tip-to-tip of 72 m. The total mass of the star shade is currently estimated at 2,520 kg with an additional 500 kg for the deployment mechanism.

    The material used to create the shade would be made of multiple layers of carbon-impregnated black Kapton. A gap between the individual layers would minimize the risk of a micrometeorite hit inducing a direct line of sight path between the target star and the telescope.

    The edges of each petal would also be chemically etched to produce a very sharp and smooth edge that minimizes light scattering.

    The star shade would be attached to its control hub, which is currently projected to weigh in at 6,394 kg.

    The hub would consist of propellant and control systems, including 12 hydrazine thrusters for station keeping with HabEx. These thrusters would use 1,407 kg of liquid bipropellant.

    Additionally, the hub would be equipped with six xenon Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) thrusters for retargeting. This would require 5,600 kg of xenon gas.

    The amount of propellant planned would be enough for 100 individual pointings with an initial mission design of 18 pointings for the first 5 years.

    Using a coronagraph on HabEx:

    Coronagraphs are already in use for solar observations as well as in various ground-based telescopes and upcoming space missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and WFIRST.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    NASA/WFIRST

    Like these telescopes, HabEx’s coronagraph could only work well if the light path through the telescope is extremely stable and matches its design exactly. Any deformation due to thermal gradients, vibration in the spacecraft, polarization, and other effects would diminish its functionality.

    The quality of optical surfaces must also be very high, which is why the coronagraph is the design driving element for many aspects of the HabEx telescope.

    To limit the vibration of HabEx, the telescope would not employ reaction wheels for pointing. Instead, microthrusters would be used, as demonstrated by NASA’s Gravity Probe B and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Gaia and LISA Pathfinder missions.

    The microthrusters would induce far less vibration to the system and would not be prone to failures as reaction wheels are.

    To limit the thermal stress on the primary mirror, the instruments are housed on the side of the telescope.

    6
    Images: Hubble left, HabEX right

    The diameter of HabEx main mirror is proposed at 4 m and designed to be made of 0-expansion glass ZERODUR, which would be heavier than other options but can be handled by the usual manufacturers without major hassle contrary to the Beryllium mirrors of JWST.

    Moreover, the coronagraph would drive the focal length of the optical design (i.e.: the length of the telescope) to a long telescope.

    How to launch HabEx:

    Should HabEx be approved as a mission, the immediate question would become how to launch it.

    In all, an integrated launch of HabEx and its star shade would place the launch mass at a little less than 35,000 kg with the launch needing to inject HabEx into the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrangian Point 1.5 million km from Earth.

    In short, there aren’t many options.

    NASA’s SLS Block 1B would be capable of launching the telescope. SpaceX’s Starship vehicle, while still in development with fluid performance numbers, is in a similar class as SLS 1B, and is thus another potential option

    However, neither of those rockets exist operationally at this point, and even when/if they do, there are questions as to what they will ultimately be capable of doing.

    8
    SLS’s Block 1B future is precarious at best with an unknown funding situation of the crucial Exploration Upper Stage – which has already been delayed multiple years and has forced NASA to switch several early SLS missions to the Block 1 configuration – as well as an “at any cost” lunar landing objective by 2024 for which the Block 1B is in no way required and would divert funds and attention away from.

    If SLS Block 1B does come to fruition and is used to launch HabEx, the telescope would benefit from the rocket’s capacity to throw more than 36,000 kg to the Earth-Sun L2 point.

    The Earth-Sun L2 point would be the primary operation location for HabEx given the area’s flat gravitational gradient and an undisturbed thermal environment.

    It would also allow for relatively easy servicing of HabEx as now mandated by the U.S. Congress in 2010 that all large spacecraft be serviceable.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

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