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  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on August 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA teaming up with commercial companies for return to the Moon", Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NASA teaming up with commercial companies for return to the Moon” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    August 5th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    NASA has issued a request for proposals for the space agency’s new Artemis Program. Image Credit: NASA

    To achieve the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2024, NASA announced it is teaming up with commercial companies to develop new technologies for landing on and taking off from the lunar surface.

    On July 30, the space agency issued a public call for commercial companies to build both small and medium-sized lunar landers and rovers capable of bringing science experiments and power sources to the Moon as part of its new Artemis program. The project seeks to land astronauts, including one or more women, on various regions of the lunar surface, including its South Pole. Nine companies have already signed on to a program known as the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

    “Our commercial partners are helping us to advance lunar science in an unprecedented way. As we enable broader opportunities for for commercial providers through CLPS, we’re enlarging our capabilities to do novel measurements and technology development scientists have long wanted to do at the Moon,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    In October 2018, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate issued an Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity (ACO) seeking private companies to contract with on the many components of future space missions. These include advanced communication, navigation, and avionics; advanced materials for rockets and spacecraft; entry, descent, and landing technologies; in-space manufacturing and assembly of equipment; power systems, including solar cells; propulsion, and other exploration technologies.

    Through a public-private collaboration program known as Swamp Works, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is partnering with both SpaceX and Lockheed Martin to make Artemis a reality. With SpaceX, KSC hopes to develop the technology needed to vertically land rockets on the Moon. This could be difficult because of potential interaction between plumes generated by rocket engines and lunar soil, known as regolith.

    “Missions to the lunar surface present challenges from rocket engine plume effects as they interact with the regolith surface to eject high-velocity dust particles and rocks,” explained Rob Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects development at KSC‘s Exploration Research and Technology Programs. “To mitigate the damage to equipment during landings and takeoff, we’ll work on technologies such as launch and landing pads, and blast protection berms or walls to make operations on the Moon sustainable and safe for NASA and all of our partners. These types of risk mitigations become exponentially more important as landers increase in size, and Kennedy‘s Swamp Works is at the forefront of developing new technological solutions for this based on related computer modeling tools and testing.”

    NASA hopes that in working together, KSC‘s Swamp Works program and SpaceX can develop technologies capable of landing astronauts on both the Moon and Mars, Mueller emphasized.

    KSC‘s partnership with Lockheed Martin seeks to grow plants in space autonomously with the help of robotics. If successful, this could function as a food source for astronauts on future deep space missions. Bryan Onate, chief of KSC‘s Life Sciences and Utilization Office, said the public-private partnership already has a team of engineers, scientists, interns, and other contractors working on the project.

    “Exploring beyond low-Earth orbit will require long-duration stays on the Moon and eventually Mars, meaning we are focused on providing plant growth systems that will supplement and sustain the crews’ nutrition and implement autonomous operations as required. So we are excited to be taking part in this collaborative opportunity, which will develop new technology to enable future missions.”

    NASA hopes to reduce both the cost and the amount of time needed to develop new technologies for Artemis and for subsequent long-term crewed space missions by working together with commercial spaceflight companies.

    “The Artemis program integrates our science and exploration goals, and we are using our commercial partners to help meet those goals with an innovative and cost-effective approach. The ability to land heavier payloads on the lunar surface is a service that NASA has a key interest in. We’re looking forward to innovative proposals and possibly more partners to advance what we’ve already started with CLPS,” emphasized Steve Clarke, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration in science.

    Thirteen commercial companies have been contracted with through the ACO for a total of 19 public-private partnerships.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on July 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Mars 2020 rover, , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “I have the power! Mars 2020 rover completes critical milestone” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 29th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Does this power system make my butt look big? While this likely isn’t what the Mars 2020 rover was thinking when this photo was taken, the robot is getting closer to taking flight. Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic


    NASA Mars Rover 2020

    With just one year to go before the Mars 2020 rover’s scheduled launch, work is commencing on the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) that will serve as the rover’s power source.

    Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, approved this next stage of the rover’s construction on July 24. As the first robotic spacecraft equipped with technology capable of selecting its own landing site, Mars 2020 is viewed by NASA as paving the way for crewed space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

    Construction of the rover, which viewers can now watch live online thanks to a camera installed in the clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is proceeding on target. All of its interior parts have now been built except for the highly complex Adaptive Caching Assembly, which has a total of 3,000 parts, including seven motors.

    “The progression of the Mars 2020 rover project is on schedule. The decision to begin fueling the MMRTG is another important milestone in keeping to our timetable for a July 2020 launch,” Zerbuchen emphasized.

    After launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 17, 2020, when Earth and Mars are in ideal positions relative to one another for the trip, the rover is scheduled to land in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, using a sky crane descent landing system. Favorable alignments of Earth and Mars every two years reduce the amount of power and therefore cost needed for the journey.

    Mars 2020‘s design and landing system are based on those used on the Curiosity rover, which touched down inside Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012 and is still functioning nearly seven years later.

    NASA/Mars Curiosity Rover

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:44 pm on July 23, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Conference keeps focus on Pluto following New Horizons flyby” 

    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 23rd, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Image Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

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    Three years after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gave humankind our first close-up views of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, scientists are still revealing the wonders of these incredible worlds in the outer Solar System. Marking the anniversary of New Horizons’ historic flight through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, mission scientists released the highest-resolution color images of Pluto and Charon. This image was taken as New Horizons zipped toward Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015, from a range of 22,025 miles (35,445) kilometers. This single color MVIC scan includes no data from other New Horizons imagers or instruments added. The striking features on Pluto are clearly visible, including the bright expanse of Pluto’s icy, nitrogen-and-methane rich “heart,” Sputnik Planitia.
    These natural-color images result from refined calibration of data gathered by New Horizons’ color Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The processing creates images that would approximate the colors that the human eye would perceive, bringing them closer to “true color” than the images released near the encounter.
    This image was taken as New Horizons zipped toward Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015, from a range of 22,025 miles (35,445) kilometers. This single color MVIC scan includes no data from other New Horizons imagers or instruments added. The striking features on Pluto are clearly visible, including the bright expanse of Pluto’s icy, nitrogen-and-methane rich “heart,” Sputnik Planitia.
    Date 18 July 2018
    NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Alex Parker

    A four-day science conference organized by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), Universities Space Research Association (USRA), and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) held July 14-18 focused on findings obtained by the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew by the Pluto system in 2015 and Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule in 2019.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Titled The Pluto System after New Horizons, the conference, which featured presentations by many planetary scientists, addressed Pluto’s geology, atmosphere, orbital dynamics, and system origin as well as the nature of the double-lobed Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) and the radiation environment in the Kuiper Belt as measured by the spacecraft.

    It included poster sessions on topics such as the topography of Pluto and Charon, stellar occultations by Pluto in 2017 and 2018, composition of the early solar nebula based on the findings at Ultima Thule, computer simulations based on data returned by New Horizons‘ seven science instruments, and numerous related topics.

    Held at JHUAPL‘s Kossiakoff Center Kossiakoff Center, the conference also included discussions of followup observations from the ground as well as a possible return to the Pluto system with an orbiter. According to New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado (SwRI), if an orbiter is sent, it is likely to launch in the 2030s and arrive at Pluto during the 2040s.

    The conference was a followup to a similar Pluto Science Conference held in July 2013, at which time planetary scientists used both data collected during ground-based observations and via computer models to anticipate what New Horizons would find during its 2015 Pluto flyby. That conference concluded with the announcement of a post-flyby conference then planned for the summer of 2017. A subsequent two-year delay enabled participants to incorporate data from the Ultima Thule flyby as well as data about the Kuiper Belt environment collected by the probe.

    Noting the recent 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, Kevin Schindler of the Lowell Observatory used the example of the Moon to describe the sequential stages of exploration required to learn about a celestial object. While the Moon has been observed since ancient times, Pluto is not visible to the naked eye and therefore has been studied for less than a century, he stated.

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    The conference’s topics detailed continued study of Pluto and its family of natural satellites. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben

    “If we are to comprehensively characterize Pluto, and by extension, any other planetary body, we must continue the quest for knowledge with continued multi-stage exploration.”

    Stern pointed out that due to Pluto’s 6.38-day-long rotation, New Horizons was able to image only one of its hemispheres, the “near” or “encounter” side, in high resolution. Pluto’s far side could be imaged only in low resolution because it was photographed at a greater distance, so scientists are uncertain as to whether that side is as heterogeneous as the near side is.

    Pluto’s diverse geology is most evident on the near side, which features a variety of terrains including dunes, cryovolcanoes, mountains of water ice, bladed terrain, and the young, geologically active left side of its heart feature, known as Sputnik Planitia. Its surface hosts volatile ices and complex organics known as tholins, produced by the interaction of sunlight with surface methane.

    The European Southern Observatory‘s (ESO) European Extremely Large Telescope, scheduled for construction during the 2020s, will be able to image Pluto at about the same resolution as New Horizons did at the far side.

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    While ground-based observations can and will be used to monitor changes in the planet’s color and composition, ultimately, “We need to go back with an orbiter,” Stern emphasized.

    At the 2013 conference, many scientists predicted Pluto would resemble Neptune’s large moon Triton, which likely orbited the Sun directly before being captured into the giant planet’s orbit. Yet ground-based observations of both worlds with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope revealed Pluto’s atmosphere may be more like that of Saturn’s moon Titan.

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    While Pluto’s upper atmosphere contains high levels of hydrogen cyanide (HCN), Triton’s atmosphere shows only a weak HCN signal. Pluto’s atmosphere also has abundant methane while Triton’s does not.

    Kirby Runyon of Johns Hopkins University‘s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences noted that New Horizons‘ findings, along with the discovery of nearly 4,000 exoplanets over the last 20 plus years, indicate pedagogy of the solar system needs to change from memorization of a short list of planet names to a focus on a larger, more complex solar system with inner, middle, and outer zones.

    Links to abstracts of all the presentations are available for reading on the conference’s Program and Abstracts website. Conference presentations and discussions will be the subject of a book, also titled The Pluto System After New Horizons, scheduled to be published in 2020 as part of the University of Arizona Space Science Series.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on July 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Complex organic molecules have been discovered in the plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Saturn’s moon Enceladus has conditions that could support microbial life” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    July 4th, 2018 [Just found this]
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Scientists didn’t know why Enceladus was the brightest world in the solar system, or how it related to Saturn’s E ring. Cassini found that both the fresh coating on its surface, and icy material in the E ring originate from vents connected to a global subsurface saltwater ocean that might host hydrothermal vents. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    Complex organic molecules have been discovered in the plumes of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The data transmitted back to Earth by the Cassini Saturn orbiter, which ended its service above the ringed world on Sept. 16, 2017.

    Located in the moon’s south polar region, the plumes are made up of ice-covered materials that contain complex organic compounds. Hydrothermal vents beneath the moon’s surface mix up materials from its core, Enceladus’ subsurface ocean and transport the solution upward in the forms of vapor and ice grains.

    Smaller, simpler organic compounds were already detected in the plumes years ago by Cassini. However, this is the first time complex organic molecules, which are made up of hundreds of atoms, have been found on Enceladus. These molecules are rarely seen beyond Earth.

    The presence of liquid water, hydrothermal vents, and complex organic molecules make the moon’s subsurface ocean potentially habitable for life.

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    Hydrothermal activity in Enceladus’ core and the rise of organic-rich bubbles. Image Credit: ESA; F. Postberg et al (2018)

    Bubbles of gas rising up within the ocean could be transporting these complex molecules from the moon’s porous core to the ocean’s surface just beneath its icy shell. Through cracks in the vents, these bubbles scatter the organic material, some of which is released into space.

    Complex organic molecules are produced by both biological and complex chemical processes and can also transported by meteorites, so their discovery is not proof that Enceladus harbors life.

    Frank Postberg and Nozair Khawaja of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, who led the study of Cassini‘s data and confirmed the presence of the complex organic molecules, continue to study the composition of the ice and heavy molecules found in Enceladus’s plumes.

    “In my opinion, the fragments we found are of hydrothermal origin; in the high pressures and warm temperatures we expect there, it is possible that complex organic molecules can arise,” Postberg said.

    A similar process occurs on Earth, where hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans generate complex organic molecules. Microbial life has been found in some of these vents on Earth, which may have played a role in the start of life on our planet.

    A paper on the study has been published in the journal Nature.

    “Continuing studies of Cassini data will help us unravel the mysteries of this intriguing ocean world,” said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory via an agency-issued release.

    Cassini, a collaborative project between NASA, ESA and (ASI). Launched on October 15,1997 atop a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket, the mission had spent almost twenty years (19 years and 335 days) in space. The spacecraft spent some 13 years orbiting Saturn and its moons and deployed a lander, Huygens, the only current vehicle to be placed on a world in the outer solar system.

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    Cassini in orbit above the gas giant Saturn. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:36 pm on June 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Rocket Lab’s Electron launches seven small satellites from New Zealand, Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Rocket Lab’s Electron launches seven small satellites from New Zealand” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    June 29th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    The “Make It Rain” Electron rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 1 at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 UTC), on Saturday 29 June 2019. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

    Rocket Lab, a private American company that manufactures and launches small satellites, put seven satellites via its Electron vehicle during a launch from New Zealand.

    Liftoff occurred at 12:30 a.m. EDT (04:30 GMT) on Saturday, June 29. The mission had launch dates of June 27 and 28 but was pushed back to the twenty-ninth. Each day between June 27 and July 10 Rocket Lab had a two-hour launch window to get the vehicle off the pad.

    The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 1 in Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand a site that could become very busy in the coming days. According to Rocket Lab: Rocket Lab’s next mission is yet to be announced, but is scheduled for lift-off from Launch Complex 1 in the coming weeks. Rocket Lab’s manifest is booked with monthly launches for the remainder of 2019, scaling to a launch every two weeks in 2020.

    Nicknamed “Make it Rain” after Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries’, rain-drenched home, Saturday’s launch was the seventh for Rocket Lab‘s Electron launch vehicle and the third to take flight this year.

    Following liftoff and separation of the rocket’s first stage, the satellites were delivered into an elliptical orbit by Electron’s second stage about 56 minutes after the rocket had left the pad. The rocket’s Kick Stage ignited, carrying the payloads into a circular orbit. Once that is accomplished the Kick Stage fell back to Earth and burned up in its atmosphere.

    As noted, the mission is being launched on behalf of Spaceflight Industries, a commercial company that books and manages low-cost satellite launches and ride shares for private companies, non-profits, and governments, with the goal of making space more accessible. According to Spaceflight Now, the payloads launched on this latest mission include two Prometheus nano-satellites for US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the BlackSky Global 3 commercial Earth observation satellite, two SpaceBEE data relay satellites on behalf of Swarm Technologies, a technology demonstration CubeSat named ACRUX 1 for Australia’s Melbourne Space Program, and a seventh, unidentified satellite.

    Initially conceived in 2013, Electron is designed to launch small satellites rapidly, reliably, and affordably. According to Rocket Lab, “We’ve designed Electron to be built and launched with unprecedented frequency, while providing the smoothest ride and most precise deployment to orbit.” Its “Kick Stage” is built to bring satellites to very precise orbits, then de-orbit without leaving any parts in space.

    “Congratulations to the dedicated teams behind the payloads on this mission, and also to our team for another flawless Electron launch,” says Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck. “It’s a privilege to provide tailored and reliable access to space for small satellites like these, giving each one a smooth ride to orbit and precise deployment, even in a rideshare arrangement.”

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:19 pm on June 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , COSMIC-2 satellite, , NOAA to launch six weather satellites later this month, Spaceflight Insider, Taiwan National Space Organization, The small satellites will be operated from Taiwan   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NOAA to launch six weather satellites later this month” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    June 18th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    Artist’s depiction of the COSMIC-2 satellite on orbit. Image Credit: NOAA

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) plans to launch six remote-sensing micro-satellites next week, which will monitor weather in space and on Earth beginning approximately seven months after launch.

    A joint endeavor among NOAA, the Taiwan National Space Organization (NSPO), the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), the project is named the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate or COSMIC-2. It is the successor to COSMIC, a system of weather-monitoring satellites launched in 2006.

    Known as FORMOSAT-7 in Taiwan, the mission will feature six satellites in orbits near Earth’s equator. Approximately the size of a kitchen oven, each satellite will be equipped with three science instruments, which will study temperature and humidity in the tropics and sub-tropics, the regions on Earth with the most moisture. This distinguishes them from the satellites used in the first COSMIC mission, which orbited near the planet’s poles.

    The science instruments will measure the density, temperature, pressure, and moisture in Earth’s atmosphere as well as electron density and space weather conditions in the ionosphere, the ionized region of Earth’s upper atmosphere, which extends 50 to 600 miles (80 to 1,000 km) above the planet’s surface.

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    Artist’s Rendering demonstration Radio Occultation Technique. Image Credit: The NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service

    Data collected by the science instruments will be used in NOAA computer models to predict weather conditions around the world as well as solar storms.

    “This latest generation of COSMIC satellites will continue to build on the successes of the program. The COSMIC satellites keep scientists and forecasters informed of minute changes in the atmosphere and space, with this latest batch of satellites ensuring that this critical data is collected from the poles to the tropics,” emphasized Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. NOAA is a project of the US Department of Commerce.

    Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, noted, “COSMIC-2, in concert with the infrared and microwave sounding instruments carried on polar-orbiting satellites operated by NOAA and its US and international partners, will help provide a complete set of global data for use in NOAA‘s operational weather prediction models.”

    COSMIC-2 will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on June 24 at the earliest. Following launch, the small satellites will be operated from Taiwan and will undergo a variety of tests expected to take approximately seven months before they begin collecting data.

    Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA‘s National Weather Service (NWS), explained, “COSMIC-2 will gather information about the vertical temperature and humidity of the atmosphere in the tropics, which hold most of the moisture that drives global weather patterns. The high quality and large number of observations from the COSMIC-2 data stream will improve the accuracy of our weather forecast model outputs for our national and global areas of responsibility.”

    The six satellites will use a new technique known as radio occultation to measure the bending of signals from the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) as those signals pass through Earth’s atmosphere. Studying bent signals provides scientists with important information about the atmosphere’s pressure, temperature, and moisture level, which will lead to better weather forecasting.


    Video courtesy of NOAA SciJinks

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:58 am on May 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Data shows Jupiter’s magnetic field changes over time", , , , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Data shows Jupiter’s magnetic field changes over time” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    May 21st, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    An illustration of Jupiter’s magnetic field at a single moment in time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard/Moore et al.

    Jupiter’s internal magnetic field undergoes changes over time, NASA’s Juno orbiter confirmed after recent science flybys of the giant planet.

    NASA/Juno

    The discovery is the first ever detection of internal magnetic field changes in a planet, known as secular variation, beyond Earth. According to NASA, Juno mission scientists arrived at their conclusion by studying 40 years of Jupiter data collected by several missions, including Pioneers 10 and 11, Voyager 1, Ulysses, and Juno.

    NASA Pioneer 10


    NASA Pioneer 11


    NASA/Voyager 1


    NASA/ESA Ulysses

    Magnetic fields must be studied and measured from a close vantage point. Equipped with a magnetometer, which can map a magnetic field in three dimensions, Juno accomplished this in its first eight science flybys of the giant planet, yielding data that helped scientists produce a new model of Jupiter’s magnetic field.

    “Secular variation has been on the wish list of planetary scientists for decades,” said Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, in a NASA news release. “This discovery could only take place due to Juno’s extremely accurate science instruments and the unique nature of Juno’s orbit, which carries it low over the planet as it travels from pole to pole.”

    By studying data collected during the various missions to Jupiter, beginning with the Pioneers, scientists discovered that small magnetic field changes occurred over time, likely caused by the planet’s atmospheric winds, which penetrate as far as 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) into the planet’s interior, where gases are transformed into very conductive liquid metal, cutting through and stretching the magnetic field.

    The biggest magnetic field changes occurred in a powerful magnetic area near Jupiter’s equator, known as the Great Blue Spot. Unlike the planet’s well-known Great Red Spot, the Great Blue Spot cannot be seen with the naked eye. Juno scientist Kimee Moore of Harvard University suspects this one magnetic “hot spot” could be responsible for all magnetic field changes within the planet.

    “It is incredible that one narrow magnetic hot spot, the Great Blue Spot, could be responsible for almost all of Jupiter’s secular variation, but the numbers bear it out,” Moore said, adding future science flybys would focus on creating a planet-wide map of these changes.

    The findings of the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, are expected to help scientists better understand not only Jupiter’s interior structure and atmospheric dynamics, but also those of Earth.

    Launched in June 2005, Juno traveled 1.74 billion miles (2.8 billion kilometers) before entering into a polar orbit around Jupiter in July 2016. The initial plan was for the spacecraft to move from a 53-day orbit to a closer one of 14 days, but that was scrapped after a problem with helium valves sent it into safe mode in October of that year.

    According to the revised mission, Juno was to conduct 12 close science flybys before the end of its prime mission in July 2018. One month before that deadline, NASA extended the mission to July 2021, increasing the number of flybys.

    4
    Juno arrived in orbit above Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Since that time, the spacecraft has revolutionized humanity’s knowledge of the gas giant. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider.

    The polar orbit science flybys were planned to protect Juno from the giant planet’s radiation, which could destroy its electronic instruments and solar panels. After speeding around the planet and getting to a “perijove” (the closest part of an orbit around Jupiter) of only about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers), the spacecraft’s trajectory takes it out to an “apojove” (the farthest part of an orbit around Jupiter) of roughly 5 million miles (8.1 million kilometers).

    The first spacecraft to make repeated close flybys of Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops, Juno captured stunning images of storms and cloud swirls in the planet’s atmosphere using its color JunoCam camera. One of its first findings was that the giant planet’s poles are covered by dense storms the size of the Earth. Another was that the planet’s iconic belts and zones, especially the one closest to Jupiter’s equator, penetrate far into the planet.

    Juno flew directly over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in July 2017, where it imaged tangled masses of clouds weaving around one another and found that the storm penetrates approximately 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet’s atmosphere. Analysis of JunoCam’s photos of the Great Red Spot will help scientists better understand the phenomenon’s evolution over time.

    6
    Enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as seen by Juno. This image was produced by Jason Major, a “citizen scientist” who used data from the JunoCam instrument on the spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Jason Major

    Using its ultraviolet spectrograph and energetic-particle detector instruments, Juno observed powerful auroras over the planet’s poles. While the auroras are aligned with Jupiter’s magnetic field and are between 10 and 30 times more powerful than auroras on Earth, they are not always visible. Furthermore, the mechanism that powers Jupiter’s auroras is significantly different from that which powers auroras on Earth, a phenomenon that continues to puzzle scientists.

    With data collected by Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), mission scientists created a 3D infrared movie depicting the powerful cyclones and anti-cyclones over the poles, which power the planet’s magnetic field. JIRAM detected infrared light originating within the planet and successfully studied the weather as far as 45 miles (70 kilometers) beneath the cloud tops.

    Juno also detected powerful lighting in Jupiter’s highly-charged atmosphere. While lightning on Earth is most common near the equator, on Jupiter, it occurs mostly at the poles.

    The three-year mission extension is expected to enable the probe to provide answers to questions generated by its initial discoveries, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said last year.

    “With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world,” Zurbuchen said.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on May 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Spaceflight Insider, The case of Pluto   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Scientists debate planet definition, status of Pluto” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    May 5th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet when the International Astronomical Union adopted a dynamical definition of a planet in 2006. Image Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI

    Scientists Ron Ekers and Alan Stern debated the planet definition and the status of Pluto in an event sponsored by the Philosophical Society of Washington.

    Following the debate, which was livestreamed April 29, 2019, audience members and those watching online voted on their definition preference: either the International Astronomical Union (IAU) dynamical definition or an alternative geophysical definition. The latter won by a vote of 130-30.

    Two central points dominated the debate—the question of a dynamical versus a geophysical definition and that of who gets to make the decision on the definition used.

    Ekers of Curtin University in Perth, Australia, specializes in radio astronomy.

    He was president of the IAU when the controversial vote that adopted the dynamical planet definition was conducted in 2006.

    Stern is a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

    Ekers discussed the history and role of the IAU, which is celebrating its centennial this year, noting the organization was founded after World War I to standardize categorization of celestial objects so astronomers could better communicate with one another. This process is not science but an issue of naming objects, he said.

    When Eris was discovered in 2005, it was erroneously thought to be larger than Pluto. The IAU’s 2006 vote was conducted to determine which organization committee should be responsible for naming it—the committee that oversees the naming of planets or the one that oversees the naming of small solar system objects.

    The definition adopted by the IAU that year has three components. It requires a planet to orbit the Sun; be rounded by its own gravity, a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium; and clear the neighborhood of its orbit.

    That third criterion, which has been at the center of the controversy for over 12 years, means an object must gravitationally dominate its orbit, sweeping out smaller objects in its path. Because it focuses on the effect a celestial object has on other objects, the IAU definition is a dynamical one.

    In contrast, Stern and many like-minded planetary scientists reject the requirement of gravitational dominance and favor a geophysical definition that centers on an object’s intrinsic properties. According to this definition, a planet is a substellar object that has never undergone nuclear fusion and is rounded by its own gravity, regardless of its orbital parameters.

    Stern argued the IAU definition was adopted by the wrong group of astronomers, as most of those who voted were not planetary scientists but astronomers with other specialties. He discussed what he views as the weaknesses of the IAU definition, one of which is the further a planet is from its parent star, the larger an orbit it has to “clear.”

    “Clearing the orbit was made up by the dynamicist planetary community, as a simple description where the giant planets throw things out completely,” Ekers said. “These objects which Alan showed you (dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt) are in resonant orbits with the big planets. They have no free will; they have no independence, and that’s the real intention of clearing the orbit.”

    A 2015 theoretical paper published by scientist Jean Luc Margot of UCLA shows the IAU definition is sound, he added. Stern responded by illustrating a graph from the Margot paper showing how, according to the IAU definition, identical objects are classified differently solely based on their locations.

    Because the IAU definition requires an object to orbit the Sun rather than a star, the question of exoplanets has been left unresolved. Ekers emphasized the IAU definition was intended only for our solar system and that exoplanets would be addressed in the future when more is known about them. Stern said there should be a single definition for both our solar system and others.

    Ekers said he favors distinguishing dwarf planets from full planets, adding that Kuiper Belt dwarf planets have much more in common with their smaller, Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) counterparts than with the eight gravitationally dominant planets. Stern contested this, noting the 2015 New Horizons flyby revealed Pluto to have the same complex geology as the larger planets.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:10 pm on April 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hubble Kuiper Belt survey to focus on binary systems", , , , , , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Hubble Kuiper Belt survey to focus on binary systems” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    April 8th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    The Hubble Space Telescope as seen by the crew of Atlantis on STS-125 in April of 2009. Photo Credit: NASA

    The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is set to use the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct the largest ever survey of the Kuiper Belt, focusing specifically on binary systems in which two objects of similar masses orbit one another as they circle the Sun.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Kuiper Belt binary systems are believed to be among the oldest objects in the solar system, having formed from collapsing groups of pebbles four billion years ago. According to one hypothesis, the objects in these systems initially formed alone via an accretion process and subsequently merged with companions to form binaries. Under this scenario, objects in binaries should have colors and size distributions notably different from individual Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).

    A competing hypothesis proposes the objects in binaries, along with individual KBOs, formed directly through a rapid collapse process. This would result in both the individual objects and binaries having similar colors and size distributions.

    Scientists hope this survey will yield a definitive answer regarding binary KBOs’ formation processes.

    “We will use Hubble to test the theory that many planetesimals formed as binary systems from the get-go, and that today’s Kuiper Belt binaries did not come from mergers of initially solitary objects,” said study leader Alex Parker of SwRI.

    The survey, funded by a grant from NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), will be the largest ever solar system study conducted by Hubble.

    A total of 206 Hubble orbits have been assigned to the project, which will measure the colors and binary characteristics of more than 200 KBOs.

    Hubble orbits the Earth every 97 minutes at an altitude of 350 miles (560 kilometers). Most of its studies look well beyond the solar system at phenomena in interstellar space. It is the only telescope capable of measuring distant, tiny KBOs.

    Because the Kuiper Belt is filled with ancient objects dating back to the dawn of the solar system, the survey is titled the Solar System Origins Legacy Survey (SSOLS). It builds upon previous outer solar system studies, including the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) and the Canada-France Ecliptic Plane Survey (CFEPS).



    CFHT Telescope, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA, at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Data from these earlier surveys, the largest ever done of the Kuiper Belt to date, will be used to select specific KBOs to study.

    “The Kuiper Belt is a unique remnant of the solar system’s primordial planetesimal disk,” Parker said. “This cold, calm region has preserved an extraordinarily large population of binary objects, particularly those where the two objects have similar mass. These binary systems are powerful tracers of the processes that built the planets.”

    Members of the study team include scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. STScI, which is administering the SSOLS project, focuses on studying the universe using the most advanced space telescopes and is run by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), based in Baltimore, Maryland.

    The survey will not search for a third flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons mission, according to mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, also of SwRI.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Images and updates on the survey will be posted regularly by the study team on the SSOLS website.

    5
    Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program.



    Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on March 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: According to Sierra Nevada Corporation Dream Chaser is expected to make its first test flight in spring 2021 and conduct at least six orbital flights to and from the International Space Station, Critically it could also return cargo to an airport runway., It was the selection by NASA of a cargo variant of the design called the Dream Chaser Cargo System that ultimately breathed new life into the program in January 2016., Overall the design is planned to deliver up to 12100 pounds (5500 kilograms) of pressurized and unpressurized cargo., Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser, Spaceflight Insider, The spacecraft is being designed to be able to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket or an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket., The third commercial cargo freighter for the International Space Station, Ultimately it is hoped each space plane could be used 15 or more times with a future crewed variant to fly at least 25 times.   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Dream Chaser passes latest NASA development milestone” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    March 24th, 2019
    Derek Richardson

    1
    An artist’s rendering of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser above the International Space Station. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

    Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser cargo space plane recently passed another milestone in its development to be the third commercial cargo freighter for the International Space Station.

    According to the Nevada-based company, Dream Chaser, which has been in development in one form or another for more than a decade, passed NASA’s Integrated Review Milestone 5 (IR5), which is essentially a status check on the performance of a number of ground and flight operations in advance of the spacecraft’s first resupply mission under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract.

    “This milestone is a great accomplishment for the team focused on operations development and demonstration,” John Curry, CRS-2 program director within SNC’s Space Systems business area, said in a March 21, 2019, company news release. “It shows we can operate the Dream Chaser from the ground, including getting critical science in and out of the vehicle.”

    2
    Graphic rendering of Dream Chaser spacecraft on orbit. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

    Dream Chaser is a space plane based, in part, of the design of NASA’s HL-20 lifting body concept that was studied as a crew transport vehicle to Space Station Freedom, a 1980s space station design that evolved into the International Space Station. It was to be about 30 feet (9 meters) long and sport stubby wings.

    In Sierra Nevada Corporation’s version of the vehicle, it was initially envisioned to carry up to seven people to the ISS when it was competing under the NASA’s commercial crew development programs. However in 2014, the design was ultimately not chosen primarily because of “lack of maturity,” according to Aviation Week at the time. The space agency instead selected SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft, which are expected to make their first crewed flights as early as the second half of 2019.

    Sierra Nevada Corporation at the time was beginning drop tests of the spacecraft prototype. The first glide, which took place at Edwards Air Force Base in California, performed well, save for a stuck landing gear at the end of the flight, which caused the test article to flip over upon landing.

    The company said the test was a success despite the landing gear issue, which not the design that would be used for the space-rated version as it was taken from a military jet.

    Following the NASA non-selection, the company continued development, looking for supporters and organizations that might use the crewed version, including a European company and the United Nations.

    3
    Graphic rendering of Dream Chaser spacecraft on the space station. Image Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation

    However, it was the selection by NASA of a cargo variant of the design, called the Dream Chaser Cargo System, that ultimately breathed new life into the program in January 2016.

    The cargo variant is essentially the lifting body spacecraft, with foldable wings to fit in a rocket with a 16.5-foot (5-meter) payload fairing, and a small disposable module at the back of the vehicle that could carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

    That cargo module would also hold solar arrays to increase flight time in space and support powered payloads, Sierra Nevada Corporation said.

    Overall, the design is planned to deliver up to 12,100 pounds (5,500 kilograms) of pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

    Critically, it could also return cargo to an airport runway. The cargo module would be disposed with any unneeded equipment before re-entry.

    The spacecraft is being designed to be able to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket or an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket. However, it is likely that ULA’s Vulcan rocket, which is being designed to replace the Atlas V, would be able to support Dream Chaser flights as well.

    Ultimately, it is hoped each space plane could be used 15 or more times, with a future crewed variant to fly at least 25 times.

    For IR5, the company said NASA’s review included the development of the spacecraft’s flight computers and software, its mission simulator and mission control center, and demonstrations using high-fidelity mockups of the vehicle and unpressurized cargo module.

    The review took place at Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Louisville, Colorado-facility and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Data was also used from the 2017 free-flight test, also at Edwards Air Force Base. The landing gear worked as designed for that landing.

    “Our Dream Chaser team continues to successfully execute milestones as we move closer to getting this spacecraft into space,” Fatih Ozmen, SNC’s owner and CEO, said in a March 21, 2019 company statement. “The orbital spacecraft is being built and this milestone demonstrates the vehicle keeps passing key reviews and is making great strides.”

    According to Sierra Nevada Corporation, Dream Chaser is expected to make its first test flight in spring 2021 and conduct at least six orbital flights to and from the International Space Station to deliver and return supplies and experiments.

    Under the CRS-2 contract, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft and Dream Chaser are expected to fly a minimum of six launches each with a maximum potential value overall being $14 billion.

    CRS-2 is a followup to the CRS-1 contract, which had its first operational flight by SpaceX in October 2012. The first operational flight using Cygnus was in January 2014.

    The first CRS-2 flights by Northrop Grumman and SpaceX are expected in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The contract is expected to run through at least 2024.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
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