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  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DSCOVR, NASA,   

    From INVERSE: “Here’s what you should know about DSCOVR, this little-known but totally essential tool” 

    INVERSE

    INVERSE

    July 27, 2016
    Neel V. Patel

    1

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    https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/d/dscovr

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    NISTAR on DSCOVR
    http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/noaas-dscovr-nistar-instrument-watches-earths-budget/#.V5oKGILCvRs

    4
    Credit: NOAA artist’s concept

    “Space weather impacts all those kinds of things,” says Douglas A. Biesecker, the chief program scientist for DSCOVR, based at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. “These are systems you and I don’t necessarily use on a day-to-day basis,” he tells Inverse, but they are critical for keeping our world spinning (figuratively speaking).

    DSCOVR resides in the very distant Lissajous orbit (about 930,000 miles away). It’s not the most well-known spacecraft orbiting the Earth, but it plays a critical role in helping scientists on Earth monitor space weather.

    As stated, the biggest concern about solar winds relates to power grids. Space weather could damage critical transformers that move power across large distances at very, very high voltages, and scale that power down to something suitable for our home. If an aberrant space weather event were to knock out those transformers, “it could take years to replace them all,” Biesecker says.

    “We consider it critical to provide customers with the best quality forecasts in the mornings.” DSCOVR can see an event from the sun — which produces energetic phenomena traveling at about one to four million miles per hour — and warns us humans to make preparations to protect essential tools, instruments, and infrastructure.

    The biggest advantage to DSCOVR over ACE is “the continuity of observations,” he says. “The quality of [ACE’s] data suffers frequently, explains Biesecker. NOAA issues space weather forecast alerts on a scale of 1 to 5. The “noise generated by the ACE data will, by default, add 1 to the scale. An alert under ACE turns out to be nothing as observed by DSCOVR. Its really been remarkable to see how much of a difference that makes to our models,” he says. “The data is unprecedented.”

    DSCOVR’s role as the world’s space weather meteorologist is all thanks to its Plasma-Magnetometer (PlasMag) instrument. “PlasMag provides us with data on the solar winds,” says Biesecker. “The magnetic field and its direction, and the solar winds’ speed, density, and temperature.” This is the information that helps inform NOAA what kind of warnings to send out to the public, as well as drive the models that illustrate how the planet is responding to these constant winds.

    In addition, Biesecker and other researchers are hoping to use DSCOVR for more ambitious forms of solar wind research. We’re delving so fast into new “atomic- scale physics”, like sampling shockwaves caused by coronal mass ejections “in very high detail,” he says.

    Besides that, however, DSCOVR has a couple other tricks up its sleeves. Two of its instruments, operated by NASA, have to do with observing Earth from such a far distance and providing a broader view of the planet and its activity. The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) takes photos of the full hemisphere of the sunlit side of Earth. “It’s why Al Gore was so interested in the mission,” says Biesecker. EPIC takes 12 “blue marble” images of the Earth every day. Blue Marble refers to an iconic photo taken during Apollo 17. It’s not just an inspiring view of the little rock we call home, but scientists can use these images to track weather patterns without having to stitch individual images together. A dozen different filters allow researchers to observe trends and movement in dust particles or pollution across the globe.

    The last instrument is the National Institute of Standards and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR), which measures the energy being reflected by the sunlit side of the sun at any given moment. Scientists use this data to track how much radiation enters and exits the Earth’s climate system — an increasingly important data point in the face of climate change.

    Overall, DSCOVR is perhaps the most underrated essential space instrument used by NASA and NOAA. It’s a multitasking boss that gives us a heads up when the sun is getting a little violent, and provides us with no shortage of lunar photobombs. It’s precisely the type of thing experts and space-newbies alike can get behind.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:32 pm on July 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Milky Way Galaxy’s 'Halo', NASA   

    From NASA: “Astronomers Discover Dizzying Spin of the Milky Way Galaxy’s ‘Halo’ “ 

    NASA image

    NASA

    July 25, 2016
    Felicia Chou
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov
    NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

    Astronomers at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) discovered for the first time that the hot gas in the halo of the Milky Way galaxy is spinning in the same direction and at comparable speed as the galaxy’s disk, which contains our stars, planets, gas, and dust. This new knowledge sheds light on how individual atoms have assembled into stars, planets, and galaxies like our own, and what the future holds for these galaxies.

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    Our Milky Way galaxy and its small companions are surrounded by a giant halo of million-degree gas (seen in blue in this artists’ rendition) that is only visible to X-ray telescopes in space. University of Michigan astronomers discovered that this massive hot halo spins in the same direction as the Milky Way disk and at a comparable speed. Credits: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss/Ohio State/A Gupta et al, 2012

    “This flies in the face of expectations,” says Edmund Hodges-Kluck, assistant research scientist. “People just assumed that the disk of the Milky Way spins while this enormous reservoir of hot gas is stationary – but that is wrong. This hot gas reservoir is rotating as well, just not quite as fast as the disk.”

    The new NASA-funded research using the archival data obtained by XMM-Newton, a European Space Agency telescope, was recently published [Published 2016 April 27] in the Astrophysical Journal. The study focuses on our galaxy’s hot gaseous halo, which is several times larger than the Milky Way disk and composed of ionized plasma.

    Because motion produces a shift in the wavelength of light, the U-M researchers measured such shifts around the sky using lines of very hot oxygen. What they found was groundbreaking: The line shifts measured by the researchers show that the galaxy’s halo spins in the same direction as the disk of the Milky Way and at a similar speed—about 400,000 mph for the halo versus 540,000 mph for the disk.

    “The rotation of the hot halo is an incredible clue to how the Milky Way formed,” said Hodges Kluck. “It tells us that this hot atmosphere is the original source of a lot of the matter in the disk.”

    Scientists have long puzzled over why almost all galaxies, including the Milky Way, seem to lack most of the matter that they otherwise would expect to find. Astronomers believe that about 80% of the matter in the universe is the mysterious “dark matter” that, so far, can only be detected by its gravitational pull. But even most of the remaining 20% of “normal” matter is missing from galaxy disks. More recently, some of the “missing” matter has been discovered in the halo. The U-M researchers say that learning about the direction and speed of the spinning halo can help us learn both how the material got there in the first place, and the rate at which we expect the matter to settle into the galaxy.

    “Now that we know about the rotation, theorists will begin to use this to learn how our Milky Way galaxy formed – and its eventual destiny,” says Joel Bregman, a U-M LSA professor of astronomy.

    “We can use this discovery to learn so much more – the rotation of this hot halo will be a big topic of future X-ray spectrographs,” Bregman says.

    For more information, please visit:

    http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/xmm/xmmgof.html

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:15 pm on July 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, , NASA   

    From CSIRO: “Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex” 

    CSIRO bloc

    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

    We manage and operate one of NASA’s three tracking stations that provide continuous, two-way radio contact with spacecraft exploring our Solar System and beyond.

    Located at Tidbinbilla, just outside Australia’s capital city, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three Deep Space Network stations around the world. The Complex’s sister stations are located at Goldstone in California, and near Madrid in Spain. Together, the three stations provide around-the-clock contact with more than 40 spacecraft, including missions to study Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, comets, the Moon and the Sun.

    There are currently four antennas operating at the Canberra station: one 70-metre and three 34-metre radio dishes that receive data from, and transmit commands to, spacecraft on deep space missions. One further 34-metre antenna is under construction.

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    Tracking spacecraft with Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

    In 2015 the Canberra station celebrates 50 years of operation. In 1965 it helped to receive the first close-up pictures of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mariner 4 spacecraft. Since then, it has been involved in hundreds of missions, including the Apollo missions to the Moon, the Skylab space station, and the early flights of the Space Shuttle. In August 2012 it carried the signals confirming the landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars, and in 2015 it will have another starring role – receiving some of the first images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft.

    The Complex is currently supporting missions, including:

    Cassini spacecraft at Saturn
    Mars missions – including the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers
    Messenger spacecraft currently orbiting Mercury
    New Horizons spacecraft travelling to Pluto, and
    Voyager 1 and 2, which have been in space for over 37 years.

    Not all these missions are NASA’s. From time to time the Complex also supports the missions of other space organisations.

    Research with Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

    The Complex is also involved in radio astronomy research. NASA makes available approximately five per cent of time on the 70-m antenna for research programs, which includes detection of objects such as black holes and pulsars, radio-frequency cataloguing, and linking with other telescopes for high-resolution imaging using a technique called very long baseline interferometry.

    Fast facts about Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

    The Complex is a NASA facility managed by CSIRO on behalf of the Australian Government; it operates through a government-to-government, treaty-level agreement.
    Activities of the Deep Space Network are coordinated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

    NASA JPL Icon

    The Canberra station was officially opened on 19 March 1965; it was then known as the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Instrument Facility.
    Tidbinbilla was chosen as the location for the Australian facility because it is close to the capital, Canberra, and hills shield the site from radio-frequency interference.
    The Complex’s antennas operate at frequencies from 1660 MHz to 32 GHz.
    Each day the antennas receive hundreds of gigabytes of data, including thousands of images, from dozens of spacecraft.
    Approximately 90 staff support the 24-hour operation of the Complex.
    The 26-metre antenna that was originally located at Honeysuckle Creek and returned the first images of the Apollo 11 Moon walk in 1969 has been retired and relocated to the station at Tidbinbilla.

    See the full article here .

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    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:03 pm on July 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA   

    From NASA: “Looking Up at New Work Platforms in the Vehicle Assembly Building” Quite an Image 

    NASA image

    NASA

    July 13, 2016
    Editor: Sarah Loff

    In this view looking up from the floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, four levels of new work platforms are now installed on the north and south sides of High Bay 3. The G-level work platforms were most recently installed, at about the 14th floor level. Below them are the H, J and K level platforms.

    The G-level work platforms are the fourth of 10 levels of work platforms that will surround and provide access to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for Exploration Mission 1. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is overseeing upgrades and modifications to VAB High Bay 3, including installation of the new work platforms, to prepare for NASA’s journey to Mars.

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    Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

    [There is not much of a story here; but I could not let the image go by.]

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on July 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA, SLS   

    From NASA: “A Peek Inside SLS: Fuel Tank For World’s Largest Rocket Nears Completion” 

    NASA image

    NASA

    July 8, 2016
    Jennifer Harbaugh

    1
    Image Credit: NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel

    While this may look like a futuristic tunnel to another world, it is really looking up inside a nearly complete fuel tank for NASA’s powerful, new rocket—the Space Launch System—that will take humans to destinations never explored by people before.

    At over 300-feet tall and 5.75 million pounds at liftoff, SLS needs plenty of fuel to leave Earth. Once a final dome is added to the liquid hydrogen rocket fuel tank, shown here, it will come in at 27.5-feet in diameter and over 130-feet long, making it the largest major part of the SLS core stage.

    The core stage forms the rocket’s backbone and has five major parts, all of which are being manufactured at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Core stage tanks carry all the cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen combusted in four RS-25 engines to produce two million pounds of thrust.

    The tank holds 537,000 gallons of chilled liquid hydrogen that is completely combusted in the engines in the short 8.5 minutes it takes to send the SLS and Orion crew vehicle into orbit. The blue section, shown here, is part of the world’s largest robotic weld tool in the Vehicle Assembly Center at Michoud. Inside the tool, five barrels and one dome were welded to make the tank, shown here in silver; engineers will cap it with one more dome to complete tank welding.

    While the tank is smooth on the outside, the inside appears to have ridges because the cylindrical barrels that form the tank are manufactured with square patterns created by stiffening ribs machined into them to make the walls light but uniformly strong in every direction. When it is finished, a barge will carry this tank to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. While this qualification tank won’t actually fly, it will be tested at Marshall in a stand that simulates launch and ascent forces.

    Traveling to deep space requires a large vehicle that can carry huge payloads, and SLS will have the power and payload capacity needed to carry crew and cargo needed for exploration missions to deep space, including Mars. For the first flight of the SLS rocket, the Block I configuration can lift 70-metric-tons (77 tons).

    The next planned upgrade of SLS, known as Block 1B, will use a more powerful exploration upper stage for more ambitious missions with a 105-metric-ton (115-ton) lift capacity. For both configurations, SLS will use the same core stage and four RS-25 engines. The Boeing Co., headquartered in Chicago, is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, including avionics, and Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, California, is the prime contractor for the RS-25 engines.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:44 pm on July 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA, Titanic NASA balloon reaches milestone   

    From AAAS: “Titanic NASA balloon reaches milestone” 

    AAAS

    AAAS

    Jul. 3, 2016
    Patrick Monahan

    1
    May launch of NASA balloon. NASA

    The latest and largest pressurized balloon to be launched by NASA has set a record for endurance: the longest midlatitude flight by a large scientific balloon. Packing 532,000 cubic meters of helium and measuring 114 meters in diameter, the balloon circled the Southern Hemisphere for 46 days, lofting a gamma ray telescope to the edges of space. Nightly dips in altitude forced a premature end to the voyage yesterday, but the flight still marks a milestone in NASA’s efforts to develop so-called superpressure balloons as a low-cost alternative to satellites.

    For decades, conventional “zero-pressure” balloons have given researchers a high-altitude platform for studying atmospheric chemistry, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), and many other phenomena. But at temperate latitudes, the endurance of conventional balloons is limited. During the daytime, sunlight heats the helium, causing the gas to expand and leak. At night, the balloon cools and must drop ballast to avoid drifting too low. Zero-pressure balloons can only achieve long flights during summertime near the poles, when constant daylight allows them to stay afloat for weeks at a time.

    Superpressure balloons promise to bring that endurance to temperate latitudes, opening new phenomena to observation. Their helium is pressurized; because their volume doesn’t change as they are heated or cooled over the course of the day, they can remain at a constant altitude and don’t need to shed gas or ballast. Over the past decade, NASA has launched ever larger and more ambitious superpressure balloons, clocking midlatitude flights of up to 32 days.

    On 17 May, the agency launched its latest model from Wanaka, New Zealand. The balloon’s flight path during the long austral nights and short days was as erratic as a zero-pressure balloon’s: It dipped as much as 10 kilometers nightly from its cruising altitude of about 33 kilometers, possibly because of a helium leak that later closed back up. And rather than circling the Southern Ocean for 100 days as intended, the balloon veered off over the South Pacific after just one circumnavigation, having slipped out of the winter cyclone winds that circle Antarctica. “Mother Nature is in charge of our business,” says NASA Balloon Program Office Chief Debora Fairbrother in Greenbelt, Maryland. “She truly has been exercising her rights.”

    Yesterday, NASA brought the balloon down near the coast of Peru, 32 kilometers north of the town of Camaná. Plans are already underway to retrieve the balloon and its payload from the mountainous area. Careful study of the balloon may help NASA avoid the same altitude dips in future flights. Still, the wayward balloon hauled in some novel astrophysical data. It carried the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), a gamma ray telescope that aims primarily to probe how elements are forged in supernovae.

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    UC Berkeley/COSI

    COSI observed the gamma rays emitted by radioactive nuclei in the supernova debris, and may be able to measure their polarization—observations that are hard to make from the poles because of background gamma radiation from cosmic rays channeled toward the poles by Earth’s magnetic field.

    COSI, a lightweight instrument designed for superballoon flight, was capable of sending data back in real time in case it couldn’t be recovered. Besides studying supernovae and other gamma sources, the telescope’s long flight allowed it to detect a bright gamma ray burst, says lead COSI investigator Steven Boggs, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “You have to be in the right place at the right time to catch [gamma ray bursts].”

    Stratospheric balloon observations have limitations. For research that produces very high volumes of data, such as studies of the CMB, “we have to store all the data on-board,” says Shaul Hanany, an astrophysicist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Such research will have to wait for superpressure balloons to prove their reliability—that they and their payloads won’t be lost in the ocean.

    Still, NASA has a full slate of superpressure balloon missions lined up in the coming years, studying phenomena ranging from dark matter to cosmic rays. “I would be overjoyed if I had a telescope on this balloon,” says Eliot Young, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. As more superpressure balloon projects produce useful data, he says, “everyone is going to realize it’s a great opportunity.”

    See the full article here .

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 4:18 pm on May 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Ballooning Expectations: New Approach for Astronomy, , NASA   

    From NASA- “Ballooning Expectations: New Approach for Astronomy” 

    NASA image

    NASA

    May 3, 2016
    Editor: Loura Hall

    1
    High-flying stratospheric version of the suborbital Large Balloon Reflector (LBR). The telescope consists of an inflatable, half-aluminized spherical reflector deployed within a much larger, carrier stratospheric balloon. Credits: Christopher Walker

    Decades ago when he was in grade school, Christopher Walker stepped outside with his father to see the NASA all-aluminized Echo balloon cross the nighttime sky in Earth’s orbit. That early space spectacle stuck with him, he explains, and unknowingly, was a reflection on his future.

    Fast forward several decades. Today, Walker is a professor of Astronomy and an associate professor of Optical Sciences and Electrical Engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

    Walker’s winning NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) Phase II proposal in 2014 investigated the prospect for a 33-foot – suborbital large balloon reflector, or LBR for short.

    Scanning the universe

    Looking up from a height of some 120,000 feet above the Earth, the sensor-laden LBR can serve as a telescope. Walker’s telescope would consist of an inflatable, half-aluminized spherical reflector deployed within a much larger, carrier stratospheric balloon, about the size of a football field. The outer balloon would double as a protective structure or radome once it is positioned.

    Looking down and out, the LBR’s mission could involve Earth remote sensing by carrying out precision looks at the outer edge – or limb – of our planet and studying the atmosphere and greenhouse gases, Walker says. LBR has the capacity to become a hub to support telecommunication activities too, he adds.

    But the looking up can clearly provide an astronomical plus. That is, by combining suborbital balloon and telescope technologies, this 33-foot class telescope would be free of roughly 99 percent of the Earth’s atmospheric absorption – perfect for scanning the universe in the far-infrared.

    Addressing key unknowns

    Walker is a supporter of NIAC and its mission to nurture visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs—radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts—while engaging America’s innovators and entrepreneurs as partners.

    “There was no place other than NIAC within NASA to get this off the ground,” Walker admits. “To be honest, at first I was afraid to share the idea with colleagues because it may have sounded so crazy. You need a program within NASA that will actually look at the insane stuff…and NIAC is it.”

    Walker’s early NIAC work centered on bringing the LBR concept to a technology readiness level of at least 2 or 3 in maturity, as well as addressing key unknowns, assumptions, risks, and paths forward.

    Walker is now hard at work parlaying his NIAC Phase II research into development of a “space-based” version of LBR.

    This space-based adaptation is dubbed the TeraHertz Space Telescope (TST). If deployed, the TST would be a telescope for probing the formation and evolution of galaxies over cosmic time.

    Sphere-isity

    TST would operate at wavelengths longer than the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), but due to its size, will have the same or better angular resolution and sensitivity.

    The orbital version would shed the outer balloon, just leaving an inflated sphere. “You’re not fighting gravity to make it spherical. It makes it structurally easier to achieve very high tolerance of ‘sphere-isity,’” Walker adds. “In space the sphere can be radiatively cooled to very low temperatures, allowing a better view of the distant universe.”

    While buoyed by the TST idea and other possible applications, Walker is quick to add that technology readiness levels remain to be grappled with. Furthermore, he’s fully aware that dollar resources are precious.
    “This concept is different from the more traditional, costly approaches of building a telescope for space. It’s a tough road ahead, but we’ll keep pushing forward,” Walker says. “I’m hopeful I can get people motivated and excited about the concept…to think outside the box,” he explains.

    2
    nnovative thinker, Christopher Walker, Professor of Astronomy and also an Associate Professor of Optical Sciences and Electrical Engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Credits: Christopher Walker/NIAC

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:18 pm on April 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Advanced Electric Propulsion System, , , , NASA   

    From INVERSE: “NASA Orders a New Solar-Powered Ion Engine to Explore Deep Space and Go to Mars” 

    INVERSE

    INVERSE

    April 19, 2016
    Jack Crosbie

    We already know electric engines are the future of automobiles, and NASA thinks they’re the future of spaceflight as well. Today, NASA awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. to design a new Advanced Electric Propulsion System, mainly for use on robotic deep space ships like those used in its Asteroid Redirect Mission.

    Electric propulsion tech has been around for more than fifty years, and it’s already widely used on long distance deep space expeditions like the Dawn mission, which is surveying the giant asteroid Vesta (last seen 156 million miles from Earth) and the protoplanet Ceres between 2011 and 2015.

    Unlike electric engines in cars, electric propulsion systems still use a fuel-based propellant, they’re just way more efficient than traditional engines. An electric ion engine takes a fuel source (usually xenon or another argon gas) and ionizes it (takes off an electron), then shoots that ion out of the back of the spacecraft (and spraying out some electrons so the whole thing stays electrically neutral). It uses on-board solar panels to energize and ionize the fuel. They’re way more efficient than burning conventional fuel, which makes them perfect for long-range missions. They don’t, however, generate a tremendous amount of thrust, which means they can’t be used for taking off directly from a planet (sorry, Star Wars), but they can push big heavy stuff through space for a long, long time on not a lot of fuel.

    1
    You’re looking at the business end. NASA.

    NASA hopes that Aerojet’s new engine will increase fuel efficiency to more than 10 times the current rate of conventional chemical fuel (just burnin’ stuff and shooting it out the back, no funny ion business), and double the thrust capability compared to current electric systems (which means faster trips). The new engine’s meant for a pretty crazy purpose too — one of its first tests may be on NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, where it will attempt to capture an asteroid, push it all the way to the moon, and put it in orbit. To sum up, NASA wants to use solar-powered ion engines to steal an asteroid and put it near the moon, giving our moon a moon of its own. Science, man, whoo-wee.

    We’ll know more on Thursday, when NASA is holding a press conference call to talk about the new engine project. The AEPS contract lasts for 36 months, and is valued at around $67 million, in which Aerojet will design, construct, and test the engine.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 6:58 pm on April 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Heasarc Picture of the Week, NASA   

    From Wisconsin: HEARSARC Picture of the Week 

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    HEASARC of the week

    April 18, 2016

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    Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Wisconsin-Madison /S. Heinz et al.; Optical: DSS [?]

    In 2013, the neutron star X-ray binary Circinus X-1 produced a powerful X-ray flare. X-ray binaries are composed of neutron stars (collapsed cores of stars that are about as dense as an atomic nucleus) in orbit around a normal star. Gas is pulled off the normal star and accreted by the neutron star, producing high energy X-ray emission. Cir X-1 is the youngest known X-ray binary, created in a fiery stellar explosion about 5000 years ago (as seen from earth). Cir X-1 is also a very erratic X-ray binary, showing bright outbursts at times, while at other times showing little X-ray emission. The 2013 flare was detected by the Monitor of All-Sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument on the International Space Station. Followup observations by the Chandra X-ray Observatory and by XMM-Newton showed portions of four X-ray rings centered on Cir X-1.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    These X-ray rings are shown in the false color X-ray image above, which is superimposed on an optical image [no telescope(s) credited] of the sky around Cir X-1: red represents low energy X-rays, green medium energy X-rays, and blue high-energy X-rays. Astronomers realized that these rings are actually echoes of the 2013 X-ray flare produced by discrete clouds of dust between Cir X-1 and earth. Careful analysis of these X-ray “light echoes” allowed astronomers to determine the spatial distribution of these clouds and to resolve the uncertainty of the distance to Cir X-1.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:22 am on April 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA, ROSCOSMOS,   

    From SI: “US, Russia Should Extend Space Cooperation After Russian Rockets Replaced” 

    Sputnik International bloc

    Sputnik International

    ROSCOSMOS bloc
    ROSCOSMOS

    14.04.2016

    The United States needs to maintain close space cooperation with Russia even if it develops new rockets to carry US astronauts, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chief Richard Truly told Sputnik.

    The United States is still seeking to develop new man-rated boosters that can carry US astronauts independently into space, a capability that NASA lost after the last active space shuttle Atlantis took its final flight in July 2011.

    Until NASA or private contractors succeed in developing and testing a new man-rated booster, US astronauts will have to continue to fly to the International Space Station in Russian Soyuz spacecraft launched on Proton boosters.

    “I see no reason that that should be a damper in the long-term of cooperation between Russia and the United States,” Truly said in an interview at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Wednesday.

    Continued cooperation between United States and Russia on space issues remained crucially important, especially in light of the current political tensions between the two countries, Truly maintained.

    “It is very important. One of the things over many years that Russia and the United States have had to keep us together is the space program… I hope that cooperation continues… I think it’s important that we develop this capability that we are working on.”

    NASA image

    See the full article here .

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