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  • 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” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    April 8th, 2019
    Laurel Kornfeld

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    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.

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    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” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    March 24th, 2019
    Derek Richardson

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    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.”

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    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.

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:31 pm on March 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "We are excited that Canada will be a vital ally in this lunar journey as they become the first international partner for the Gateway lunar outpost with their 24-year commitment to deep space explorat, “Canada’s historic investment will create good jobs for Canadians- keep our astronaut program running and our aerospace industry strong and growing while opening up a new realm of possibilities fo, Canada joins NASA’s Lunar Gateway project, Canadarm 1 and 2 and 3, Canadarm was used in the initial phase of construction for the International Space Station, Canadarm2 was launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-100 mission in 2001. It would later be joined by the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator called Dextre as a sort of “robotic hand” t, Canadarm3 would take these capabilities to the next level by integrating autonomy and artificial intelligence into the design, Eight Canadians have flown in space 17 times, Eventually it would be used as a base camp to send astronauts to the lunar surface, In nearly every iconic photo from that era the arm with the Canadian flag is present, Over the years Canadarm2 and Dextre have serviced the International Space Station by assisting astronauts during spacewalks and moved modules captured visiting vehicles and berthed them also deployed , Spaceflight Insider, The Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian government has committed over $2 billion over 24 years to develop and operate a next-generation robotic arm called Canadarm3 to service the Gateway, The original Canadarm design flew on all of NASA’s Space Shuttles, The task of moving massive modules around in space however would be moved to a newer more capable manipulator system called Canadarm2, This “space station” would be much smaller than the International Space Station and support crews for up to several months at a time   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Canada joins NASA’s Lunar Gateway project” 

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    From Spaceflight Insider

    March 1st, 2019
    Derek Richardson

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    An artist’s rendering of “Canadarm3” at the proposed Lunar Gateway. The Canadian Space Agency has committed to joining NASA on this lunar outpost project. Image Credit: missing

    Having been involved with the United States in its space endeavors for decades with the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs, Canada has committed to continuing that partnership and join the NASA-led Lunar Gateway project.

    Part of NASA’s efforts to return humans to the Moon include building an outpost circling in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. This “space station” would be much smaller than the International Space Station and support crews for up to several months at a time. Eventually, it would be used as a base camp to send astronauts to the lunar surface.

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    An illustration of NASA’s Lunar Gateway with the Orion spacecraft and a commercial logistics module docked with the deep space outpost. Canada has committed to building a next-generation robotic arm to be part of the architecture. Image Credit: NASA

    “We are excited that Canada will be a vital ally in this lunar journey as they become the first international partner for the Gateway lunar outpost with their 24-year commitment to deep space exploration and collaboration,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in an agency statement:

    NASA is going back to the Moon to stay. It’s part of a bold directive from the President for the U.S. to lead a worldwide endeavor to open a new era of space exploration in a measured, sustainable way. This work is going to take collaboration with international partners, industry, and other stakeholders, and I’m delighted by Canada’s commitment today to join us in our work to go forward to the Moon and Mars.

    We are excited that Canada will be a vital ally in this lunar journey as they become the first international partner for the Gateway lunar outpost with their 24 year commitment to deep space exploration and collaboration.

    Canada’s friendship throughout the Space Age, and our longstanding partnership aboard the International Space Station have brought our two nations many benefits. From astronauts like David Saint-Jacques, currently aboard the station, to the invaluable Canadarm-2 that helps us perform many tasks on the station, everything from critical repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope to the construction of the International Space Station. Canada’s technical expertise and human resources have been an incredible component of our achievements on orbit and across the spectrum of our work. It was my great pleasure to visit Canada recently and see this innovation firsthand.

    Going forward to the Moon, we’re making progress on a Gateway lunar outpost where astronauts can live and work in orbit and from which we can go to the lunar surface, again and again. We’ve begun the process for industry partners to deliver the first science instruments and tech demonstrations to the Moon’s surface, and we’re going to keep up that drumbeat until we’ve built human landers to get us back to the Moon by 2028.

    For its part, the Canadian Space Agency and the Canadian government has committed over $2 billion over 24 years to develop and operate a next-generation robotic arm called Canadarm3 to service the Gateway.

    “Canada’s historic investment will create good jobs for Canadians, keep our astronaut program running and our aerospace industry strong and growing, while opening up a new realm of possibilities for Canadian research and innovation,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference announcing Canada’s commitment. “With the Lunar Gateway, Canada will play a major role in one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. Together, with our partners from around the world, we’ll continue to push the boundaries of human ambition, and inspire generations of kids—and adults—to always aim higher and aspire to something greater.”

    Possibly the most visible part of Canada’s space partnership with the United States is its robotics contributions. The original Canadarm design flew on all of NASA’s Space Shuttles. In nearly every iconic photo from that era, the arm with the Canadian flag is present, including in the deployment of iconic spacecraft such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

    Today, in addition to their incredible 24-year commitment, Canada is going to build a next generation Canadarm for the Gateway lunar outpost and support our work with industry to return to the surface of the moon, among other efforts. Canada’s technologic achievement as part of Gateway lunar outpost will be a part of creating the vital backbone for commercial and other international partnerships to get to the Moon and eventually to Mars. We are thrilled to work with Canada on the next generation of its robotics to help carry out incredible missions at the Gateway lunar outpost and to collaborate in our future on the lunar surface and deep space.

    I thank Prime Minister Trudeau for his vote of confidence in the Canadian Space Agency and the many innovations that its president Sylvain Laporte and the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development are pursuing for the Canadian people and the world. Our work in space improves life for people everywhere on this planet. We look forward to our deepening partnership with Canada, and the support of the many other nations I am confident will join us and help strengthen our progress on the challenging goals we’ve set in space.

    3
    Hubble was deployed from Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 using Canadarm. Photo Credit: NASA

    Additionally, Canadarm was used in the initial phase of construction for the International Space Station. The task of moving massive modules around in space, however, would be moved to a newer, more capable manipulator system called Canadarm2.

    Canadarm2 was launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour’s STS-100 mission in 2001. It would later be joined by the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, called Dextre, as a sort of “robotic hand” to go with Canadarm2.

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    Canadarm2 was used to attached the commercial BEAM module to the International Space Station in 2016. Photo Credit: Tim Kopra / NASA

    Over the years, Canadarm2 and Dextre have serviced the International Space Station by assisting astronauts during spacewalks, moved modules, captured visiting vehicles and berthed them, deployed CubeSats, performed experiments and more.

    The proposed Canadarm3 would take these capabilities to the next level by integrating autonomy and artificial intelligence into the design.

    Unlike the International Space Station, the Lunar Gateway is not planned to be permanently crewed. It will host astronauts for up to several months at a time as they conduct their mission, be it orbital (as is planned initially) or as a staging point for surface sorties using reusable commercial landing systems.

    As such, Canadarm3 would need to be able to execute tasks with minimal human input in an environment much tougher than low-Earth orbit.

    “Canada’s technologic achievement as part of Gateway lunar outpost will be a part of creating the vital backbone for commercial and other international partnerships to get to the Moon and eventually to Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We are thrilled to work with Canada on the next generation of its robotics to help carry out incredible missions at the Gateway lunar outpost and to collaborate in our future on the lunar surface and deep space.”

    5
    NASA astronaut Steve Robinson rides Canadarm2 to a work area in a spacewalk during the STS-114 mission to the International Space Station in 2005. Photo Credit: NASA

    Partnering with NASA as it moves beyond low-Earth orbit would enable Canada to continue its space endeavors. According to a press release issued by the Canadian Space Agency, the country’s space sector employs 10,000 highly-skilled workers and generated $2.3 billion for its economy in 2017, exporting over $2.1 billion in sales.

    Canada has also committed to continuing its participation with the United States on the International Space Station program and is expected to remain a vital partner for the foreseeable future.

    6
    Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques works to replace a part on the Combustion Integration Rack. Photo Credit: NASA

    The first modules for the ISS were launched in 1998 and astronauts have been living aboard the low-Earth orbit outpost since 2000. During that time, three Canadian astronauts have lived aboard it in long-duration missions. The most recent, David Saint-Jacques, has been at the station since December 2018 and is expected to return to Earth in June 2019.

    Between the ISS and Space Shuttle programs, eight Canadians have flown in space 17 times. Three of those missions were long-duration flights aboard ISS (including Saint-Jacques ongoing Expedition 58/59 mission).

    Currently, the U.S. government is slated to end its funding commitment to the ISS in 2024, however, there are efforts by the U.S. Congress to extend that commitment to 2028 or even 2030 in order to give commercial industry more time to build a sustained presence in low-Earth orbit either by taking over parts of the now-20-year-old outpost or launching smaller, more purpose-driven orbital platforms.

    “Going forward to the Moon, we’re making progress on a Gateway lunar outpost where astronauts can live and work in orbit and from which we can go to the lunar surface, again and again,” Bridenstine said. “We’ve begun the process for industry partners to deliver the first science instruments and tech demonstrations to the Moon’s surface, and we’re going to keep up that drumbeat until we’ve built human landers to get us back to the Moon by 2028.”

    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 12:05 pm on January 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Boeing-CST-100 Starliner, new era? Commercial Crew Program poised for first flights, New year, Spaceflight Insider, SpaceX-Crew Dragon spacecraft, The new year could see NASA edge closer to regaining what it lost nearly eight years ago — the ability to launch its own astronauts (with the help of private companies) from U.S. soil   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “New year, new era? Commercial Crew Program poised for first flights” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    1
    The first crews to will fly under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program were announced Aug. 3 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. From left-to-right: Sunita Williams, John Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover. Photo Credit: NASA

    With 2018 in the history books and 2019 beginning, the new year could see NASA edge closer to regaining what it lost nearly eight years ago — the ability to launch its own astronauts (with the help of private companies) from U.S. soil.

    NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was envisioned as a means to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. The companies that have been contracted to do so are Boeing and SpaceX. The former is developing the CST-100 Starliner capsule under this agreement, while SpaceX is producing its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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    A rendering of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, top and Boeing’s Starliner, right, docked to the International Space Station. NASA hopes the Commercial Crew Program will allow the agency to send astronauts to the outpost in 2019 and free the agency from its dependence on Russia. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

    On Dec. 11, 2018, the final piece of hardware for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket tapped for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The critical components for this flight are expected to be moved to the Vertical Integration Facility where they are set to be assembled and moved to the launch platform for a planned March flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

    Boeing has also been busy a few miles down the road at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility where production is wrapping for three Starliner capsules. Two of these spacecraft are designed to be flown up to 10 times. The other will be used for a pad abort test, currently scheduled sometime between OFT, and the crewed flight test planned for August 2019.

    The Starliner capsule that will be used for the first crewed flight test is currently undergoing pressurized testing at Boeing’s Space System and Satellite facility in El Segundo, California.

    Starliner launches are slated to occur atop an Atlas V in a “N22” configuration. The “N22” means the rocket will feature no payload fairing, two solid rocket boosters and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage, which will finish Starliner’s trek into orbit.

    The three astronauts tapped to fly on the August 2019 flight are Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Eric Boe and Nicole Mann. Both Ferguson and Boe flew on NASA Space Shuttles with Ferguson commanding the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135.

    Meanwhile, at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is being prepped for its first demonstration flight (DM-1), which is currently scheduled to take place as early as the end of January 2019.

    Crew Dragon’s role will be almost identical to that of Starliner’s — delivering astronauts to the International Space Station. Crew Dragon will utilize Falcon 9 Block 5 for its ride into orbit.

    On Dec. 18, the company’s Instagram page showed a picture of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket in the hangar at LC-39A, awaiting final assembly and testing for DM-1.

    SpaceX is planning an in-flight abort test sometime after the capsule’s first uncrewed test flight. Pending the successful outcome of DM-1, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are expected to fly aboard Crew Dragon for the first time in June 2019. Depending on scheduling, this could mark the first time Americans launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center since July 2011.

    3
    SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to be used on the Demo-1 mission sits in the company’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A. Photo Credit: SpaceX

    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 Insiderreports 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 2:24 pm on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A single mission could orbit Pluto and explore the Kuiper Belt, , , , , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “A single mission could orbit Pluto and explore the Kuiper Belt” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    October 30th, 2018
    Laurel Kornfeld

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft

    By using multiple gravity assists and electric propulsion, a single mission could orbit Pluto and its moons, then continue on to conduct closeup studies of other dwarf planets and small Kuiper Belt Objects, according to a Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) study presented at a workshop of the 50th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) in Knoxville, TN.

    Led by New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of SwRI, the study was funded by research grants aimed at exploring a return mission to Pluto, this time with an orbiter. While New Horizons sent back stunning images and a wealth of data about the Pluto system, its quick flyby allowed it time to image only one side of the planet in high resolution. The other side was photographed in low resolution on the spacecraft’s approach.

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    The next target for the New Horizons spacecraft is the distant Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. Image Credit: NASA

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    Image presented of Ultima Thule

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Data returned by the spacecraft raised a host of new questions about the Pluto system and quickly led scientists to consider a return mission with an orbiter.

    Other scientists who took part in the groundbreaking study, all at SwRI include spaceflight engineer Mark Tapley, planetary scientist Amanda Zangari, project manager John Scherrer, and software lead Tiffany Finley.

    A key provision of the new proposal is using gravity assists as a fuel-saving measure. New Horizons used one gravity assist from Jupiter to shorten its journey to Pluto. Similarly, an orbiter could use gravity assists from Pluto’s large moon Charon to change its orientation, allowing it to study different parts of Pluto’s surface, its atmosphere, each of its four small moons, and interactions between the system and the solar wind.

    Once it arrives at Pluto, the spacecraft could enter orbit using electric propulsion, the same technology that powered NASA’s Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres.

    NASA Dawn Spacescraft

    These methods would save fuel, enabling the orbiter to study the Pluto system for several years. After accomplishing its science objectives, the orbiter could escape the Pluto system entirely via a Charon gravity assist and head further out into the Kuiper Belt without using fuel, once again relying on electric propulsion.

    According to Tapley, this technology could enable the spacecraft to enter orbit around a second, more distant dwarf planet after Pluto.

    “This is groundbreaking. Previously, NASA and the planetary science community thought the next step in Kuiper Belt exploration would be to choose between ‘going deep’ in the study of Pluto and its moons or ‘going broad’ by examining smaller Kuiper Belt Objects and another dwarf planet for comparison to Pluto. The planetary science community debated which was the right next step. Our studies show you can do both in a single mission: it’s a game changer,” Stern emphasized.

    Finley actually designed a hypothetical mission, relying on numerous gravity assists from Charon. “This tour is far from optimized, yet it is capable of making four or five more flybys each of Pluto’s four small moons, while examining Pluto’s polar and equatorial regions using plane changes,” she explained. “The plan also allows for an extensive close-up encounter with Charon one last time to escape into the Kuiper Belt for new assignments.”

    In a separate but related study, Zangari researched potential missions to the 45 largest known Kuiper Belt Objects, including many dwarf planets, that could be done between 2025 and 2040 via gravity assists from one or more of the solar system’s gas giant planets.

    Over the next several months, the SwRI team plan to explore the ideal spacecraft for a combined Pluto orbiter-Kuiper Belt exploration mission and expect to regularly publish their findings.

    “Who would have thought that a single mission using already available electric propulsion engines could do all this? Now that our team has shown that the planetary science community doesn’t have to choose between a Pluto orbiter or flybys of other bodies in the Kuiper Belt but can have both, I call this combined mission the ‘gold standard’ for future Pluto and Kuiper Belt exploration,” Stern 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 Insiderreports 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 6:00 pm on October 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    From Spaceflight Insider: “New Horizons team previews Ultima Thule flyby” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    October 27th, 2018
    Laurel Kornfeld

    1
    An artist’s illustration of New Horizons flying by the Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule. Image Credit NASA / JPL / JHUAPL

    In an Oct. 24 online press conference broadcast from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) 50th Annual Meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, four members of NASA’s New Horizons team presented a preview of the spacecraft’s Jan. 1, 2019, flyby of Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Ultima Thule, now just 10 weeks away.

    The presenting speakers included principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), science team collaborator Carey Lisse of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), project scientist Hal Weaver, also of JHUAPL, and co-investigator Kelsi Singer, also of SwRI.

    1
    Because Ultima Thule is so far away, details cannot yet be resolved and are not expected to be until about a day before the closest approach. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Stern said this flyby will be more challenging than New Horizons’ Pluto flyby in July 2015 because Ultima Thule is located a billion miles beyond Pluto and much about it remains unknown. Mission scientists are still uncertain about its exact position and the presence of any potentially hazardous rings or moons. The spacecraft is older than it was at Pluto and has less battery power now while light levels are lower at such a great distance from the Sun.

    Additionally, communication between Earth and the spacecraft takes six hours one way, as opposed to four-and-a-half hours to Pluto.

    “New Horizons is going to have the capacity, in the space of one week, the first week of January 2019, to confirm or refute the very models [of solar system formation] presented here at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting,” Stern said.

    Ultima Thule is estimated to be about 23 miles (37 kilometers) wide, much smaller than Pluto, which has a diameter of 1,477 miles (2,377 kilometers). For this reason, pre-flyby images 10 weeks before closest approach reveal just a dot rather than the increasing level of detail seen on Pluto during the same time frame. Details on the KBO will not be resolved until about one day before closest approach, Stern said.

    In addition to being the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft, Ultima Thule, which is about ten times as wide and 1,000 times as massive as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was orbited by the Rosetta spacecraft, is set to be the most primitive object studied by a spacecraft.

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft


    ESA Rosetta Philae Lander

    To preview what the KBO’s surface might look like, Lisse presented images of Comet Wild 2, Saturn’s moon Phoebe, Saturn’s moon Hyperion, and Comet 67P.

    All seven instruments aboard New Horizons will study Ultima Thule. Between now and the flyby, mission scientists will prepare by monitoring changes in the KBO’s brightness to determine its size, shape, and rotation speed, search for moons and other potential hazards to the spacecraft, and refine navigation if hazards are found, Weaver explained.

    Diversion from the optimal closest approach of 2,170 miles (3,500 kilometers) can be made as late as Dec. 16 if hazards are discovered. An alternate, safer approach would bring New Horizons within 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) of Ultima Thule. Image resolution will be better than that obtained at Pluto because of the closer approach.

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    Possible Shapes of Ultima Thule. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

    Singer outlined the mission’s goals as mapping the KBO’s geology and morphology and mapping its color and composition. Specifically, scientists will look for craters and grooves and various ices, including ammonia, carbon monoxide, methane, and water ice. They will also determine whether Ultima Thule is a binary or contact binary object or a double-lobed object like Comet 67P.

    Because KBOs are composed of pristine materials left over from the formation of the solar system, studying Ultima Thule’s ices will give scientists insight into the materials from which Earth and the solar system’s other planets were built.

    Mission scientists also hope to find answers as to why Ultima Thule, a very dark object, is slightly brighter than expected. They do not expect to find active geology or an atmosphere on such a small object.

    “This will be our first ground truth, our first close look at what makes these [Kuiper Belt] objects dark and red,” Singer said.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    As done at Pluto, New Horizons will return a final image of Ultima Thule just before closest approach, then remain out of contact with Earth, instead focusing on data collection. Between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. EST (15:00-15:30 GMT) Jan. 1, a signal from the probe is expected to arrive, confirming it survived the flyby.

    New Horizons will continue to study the KBO and its environment for a short time after closest approach. Return of the data collected will continue through late 2020.

    3
    Ultima Thule Timeline Overview. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science.

    HPHS Owls

    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.

    [Sorry folks, I could not resist the references to my home town and my university]

    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 Insiderreports 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 5:14 pm on October 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Derived from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle which launched supplies to the International Space Station, European Service Module (ESM), NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 Orion spacecraft, Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “Orion’s European Service Module makes its debut at Kennedy Space Center” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    Joe Latrell
    October 27th, 2018

    1
    NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 Orion spacecraft will utilize a Service Module provided by the European Space Agency Photo Credit: ESA / A. Conigli

    On Friday, Nov. 16 NASA will mark the arrival of the European Service Module to Kennedy Space Center. The agency plans to honor this historic event at 9 a.m. EST (12:00 GMT) with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Jan Wörner and other officials slated to make remarks. Both Bridenstine and Wörner expected to speak at the event.

    The European Service Module (ESM) is the first major component of a NASA vehicle ever constructed outside of the U.S. The 34,085 lbs (15,461 kg) ESM is designed to provide air, water, thermal control and propulsion to the Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) crew that will fly on Orion. For comparison, the Apollo Service Module weighed in at about 54,057 lbs (24,520 kg).

    The ESM is constructed from more than 20,000 parts that are precision fit into the 12 foot (4 meter) long unpressurized component. The main body of the service module is 6 feet (2 meters) high and contains the fuel tanks as well as oxygen, nitrogen and water for the crew.

    Additionally, the ESM houses vital heat exchangers designed to moderate the climate inside the crew capsule. The remaining length consists of the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) Engine. The OMS is an AJ10-190 engine that was originally built for NASA’s Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System. This engine, which is housed inside the spacecraft adapter during launch, provides an estimated 5,778 pounds of thrust.

    The Service module is derived from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle which launched supplies to the International Space Station. A total of five ATVs were built and launched between March of 2008 and July of 2014. The knowledge gained from producing those vehicles helped influence the design of the ESM.

    The ESM provides power to the Orion systems using 4 solar “wings.” Each wing consists of 3 panel blocks that are 6 feet (2 meters) square. These wings contain more than 15,000 solar cells that produce enough electricity to power a three bedroom house. When fully extended, the solar wings bring the ESM to a width of about 62 feet (19 meters). The ESM measures 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) across before the wings are unfurled.

    Over 11 countries in the European Union are responsible for building the components used on the ESM. The list includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

    Once the ESM has been inspected, it will be integrated with the Orion spacecraft and the rest of the Space Launch System in preparation for EM-1. The EM-1 flight is designed to send humans further into space than they have ever traveled before with the spacecraft soaring 37,000 miles (59,545 kilometers) above the surface of the Moon.

    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 2:40 pm on July 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    From Spaceflight Insider: “Fermi Telescope discovers neutrino’s origin as supermassive black hole” 

    1

    From Spaceflight Insider

    NASA/Fermi LAT


    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    A cosmic neutrino detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was found to have originated in a gamma ray emitted by a supermassive black hole 3.7 billion light years away at the center of a galaxy in the constellation Orion.

    The discovery, made by an international team of scientists, marks the first time a high-energy neutrino from beyond the Milky Way has been traced to its place of origin as well as the furthest any neutrino has been known to travel.

    Neutrinos are high-energy, hard-to-catch particles likely produced in powerful cosmic events, such as supermassive black holes actively devouring matter and galaxy mergers. Because they travel at nearly the speed of light and do not interact with other matter, they are capable of traversing billions of light years.

    By studying neutrinos, scientists gain insight into the processes that drive powerful cosmic events, including supernovae and black holes.

    Gamma rays are the brightest and most energetic form of light, which is why scientists use them to trace the sources of neutrinos and cosmic rays.

    “The most extreme cosmic explosions produce gravitational waves, and the most extreme cosmic accelerators produce high-energy neutrinos and cosmic rays,” explained Regina Caputo of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and analysis coordinator for the Fermi Large Area Telescope Collaboration. “Through Fermi, gamma rays are providing a bridge to each of these new cosmic signals.”

    Scientists found this particular neutrino on September 22, 2017, using the National Science Foundation‘s (NSF) IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. They then traced the neutrino to its origin in a gamma ray blast within the distant supermassive black hole using Fermi.[ https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/the-great-neutrino-catch-a-bunch-of-articles/ ]

    “Again, Fermi has helped make another giant leap in a growing field we call multimessenger astronomy. Neutrinos and gravitational waves deliver new kinds of information about the most extreme environments in the universe. But to understand what they’re telling us, we need to connect them to the ‘messenger’ astronomers know best–light,” emphasized Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, DC.

    IceCube tracked the neutrino, which hit Antarctica with 300 trillion electron volts. Its extremely high energy level meant it likely came from beyond our solar system. Its galaxy of origin, with which scientists are familiar, is a blazar, a galaxy with an extremely bright and active central supermassive black hole that blasts out jets of particles in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light.

    Blazars have several million to several billion times the mass of our Sun. Scientists find them when one of the jets they emit travels in the direction of Earth.

    Yasuyuki Tanaka of Japan’s Hiroshima University was the first scientist to link the neutrino to a specific blazar known as TXS 0506+056, which has recently shown increased activity. Fermi keeps track of approximately 2,000 blazars.

    Followup observations of TXS 0506 were conducted with the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes (MAGIC) NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and various other observatories.[See above link to previous post Bunch of Articles]

    Two papers on the discovery have been published here and here in the journal Science.

    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 10:05 am on May 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AA-2 launch abort system (LAS), , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “AA-2 – NASA’s JSC Getting Orion Simulator Ready for Key Test” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    April 30, 2018
    Philip Sloss

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    Crew module simulator for AA-2 test at JSC, April 26. The blue tape covers pressure sensors installed for the test. Credit: Philip Sloss for NSF/L2.

    NASA is getting the hardware ready for an important test next year of the launch abort system (LAS) that Orion spacecraft will use during launch on missions to the Moon in the 2020s. At the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, a crew module simulator is being outfitted with equipment to turn it into a short-duration, high-speed flying laboratory by the end of the year, and then be connected to the rest of the test vehicle that is planned for launch in April, 2019.

    The Orion LAS is designed to instantly pull the crew module away from its launch vehicle in extreme emergency situations that might occur before or during launch. The highly instrumented crew module simulator will be connected to a flight version of the Orion LAS and a Peacekeeper missile being modified to be the booster for the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) test.

    The booster will take the vehicle up to a carefully chosen abort condition, where the LAS will fire to pull the top of the stack away. The LAS will then flip the crew module simulator around so it is in the right attitude for a real spacecraft to deploy parachutes for a soft landing before separating from the simulator. The simulator is not equipped with parachutes, but it will continue collecting and transmitting data until ocean impact less than three minutes after liftoff.

    Crew Module Simulator Preparations

    The structure of the crew module simulator was constructed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia before being transported to JSC in March. A little less than two months after arriving in Houston, JSC held a media day on April 26 to talk about work there to get ready for the test next year.

    The AA-2 team at JSC is adding only the required test equipment inside and outside the simulator to command the dynamic parts of the test, while simultaneously collecting all of the desired test data and transmitting and recording it.

    “There’s not a whole lot in there right now,” Jennifer Devolites, AA-2 crew module deputy manager for NASA, said. “We don’t have crew systems, we don’t have life support systems, but we have all the avionics and power, all the wiring and harnessing that has to be installed, all the instrumentation.”

    “You can see some blue tape on the outside, those are protections where we have pressure sensors installed,” she added. “We’ve only done about half of the sensors that need to go on the vehicle, all that gets installed.”

    To save money it was decided to use a crew module simulator for this test rather than launch a more flight-like crew module, such as the one that flew on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). The LAS itself, which is fully active and fully exercised in the test, is a production unit. “The separation mechanisms, all of that is production [equipment],” Devolites also noted.

    As with the simulator, the test avionics are not flight units. “Basically all the powered systems inside are different from the mainline Orion,” Devolites explained. “We were able to use a lot of commercial, off-the-shelf [systems since] we’re not going to space. And so we were able save a lot of money by using mostly off-the-shelf components for a lot of that equipment rather than going with spaceflight-qualified systems that are used on the mainline Orion.”

    “The only piece of the software that’s the same is the guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) for the LAS,” she continued. “We wanted that to be the same, because that re-orientation is a critical part of the flight test. So we take that and then we’ve got it embedded in a different software environment.”

    “The LAS has the computers to control the abort motor and the attitude control motor firings, but we send the commands, and so we actually send the steering commands to the LAS from our vehicle,” she noted.

    After all the test equipment has been installed and connected, they’ll make it sure it’s working. “We do powered-on testing, and we’ll actually do closed-loop, hardware-in-the-loop testing out here,” Devolites said. “We have one of the LAS attitude control motor controllers here from Lockheed Martin that we use in our testing, so we can go all the way closed loop with it. So we’ll do testing here, we’ll do mission simulations.”

    Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Orion.

    After the instrumentation and avionics are installed and tested, Devolites said they will measure the mass properties of the simulator, such as weight and center of gravity (cg), again. “It’s our X-cg fixture,” she noted. “We…put the vehicle on it [and] rotate it over 90 degrees to get the X-cg, it’s going to be very exciting.” The simulator will mimic the production Orion’s mass and center of gravity.

    2
    Crew module simulator in the X-cg fixture at Langley, February 2018. The simulator will be put in the fixture again after it is outfitted at JSC to re-measure its mass properties. Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

    The fully outfitted crew module simulator will then be transported from JSC to the Plum Brook Station facility near the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “We’re doing acoustic characterization at Plum Brook, but it’s really from the model perspective, right?” Devolites said. “So they can characterize the acoustic environment before we fly — that way they can match it to the actual flight results and compare their models. That’s really for anchoring the models.”

    While the crew module simulator is at Plum Brook, Devolites noted that the JSC team will receive the separation ring from Langley and outfit that for the test before the crew module simulator returns to Houston to be mated to the ring. “So we’ll do that here, integrate them together, and ship it all to the Cape, hopefully by December,” she said. The separation ring sits between the crew module and booster to quickly disconnect them when the abort is initiated.

    Once at the launch site, the vehicle elements will be connected for integrated systems testing. “We’ll do testing with the LAS before it gets stacked,” Devolites explained. “We do what’s called soft-mate testing. We’ll electrically connect it [and] check out all the interfaces between the systems. We also do soft-mate testing with the booster — electrically make sure everything works.”

    “We just keep doing incremental, integrated tests up until launch,” she added. The test is scheduled for April, 2019.

    AA-2 Overview

    The AA-2 test is the second and last planned abort test for Orion. The first test was Pad Abort-1 (PA-1) in 2010, which tested an early version of the LAS in an abort starting at rest on the ground. At the time, Orion was still a part of a Constellation program that was being shut down ahead of proposed cancellation; the plans in Constellation included a longer test series.

    After the Orion program was rescoped following its cancellation along with all of Constellation, the AA-2 test was the only in-flight “ascent abort” test brought forward and the program had to pick a single abort condition to test.

    “In the Constellation program we did have more in-flight abort tests planned and what we did was we picked apart that in-flight profile more,” NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich said. “I’ll give you a ‘for example.’ When you abort at a very high altitude there’s less atmosphere, so there’s not as much aerodynamic force on the vehicle. So you have to control your attitude differently, [in that example] it’s more of a reaction control system thruster test as opposed to where we’re right in the thick of the atmosphere it’s really the [LAS] attitude control motor that we’re testing, the dynamics in that.”

    3
    Image from a video of an Orion abort simulation produced by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames Research Center. Colored plumes indicate high pressure (red) and low pressure (blue). Credit: NASA/Ames/Timothy Sandstrom.

    “So we spread the test points around and…right now the point that we’re doing on AA-2 is the combination where we get…kind of a smorgasbord of the most-challenging conditions,” he explained. “Perhaps not the hundredth-percentile of every one of the five or six key parameters but 98 percent at most of them. And that’s why we picked the test conditions that we did.”

    Kirasich noted that the abort condition for this test will stress the ability of the LAS to maintain control of the aborting vehicle more than the ability of the LAS to get away from the booster. “The harder part is to control, because the aerodynamics are pushing you all over the place under those circumstances,” he explained.

    The data collected in the test will help to validate existing computer models, which will be used to simulate test cases throughout an envelope of possible abort conditions.

    The test will launch from Launch Complex 46 (LC-46) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. An Orbital ATK SR 118 rocket motor is the booster for the test. Its original purpose was as the first stage of the Peacekeeper Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The Peacekeeper program was deactivated in 2002 and today the motors in the inventory are used for commercial purposes such as space launches.

    The abort will be triggered when the vehicle is traveling at approximately Mach 1.3 at an altitude of around 31,000 feet. After liftoff, the booster takes the vehicle up to the abort condition and then signals the crew module.

    “The booster is responsible for getting us to the abort condition and then based on the signal to us to say “we’re here,” we execute the abort and perform the rest of the flight after that,” Devolites explained. “It’s over Mach 1, and it’s a high dynamic pressure, and it’s a combination of angle of attack and a couple of other parameters.”

    The LAS has three different motors that fire at different points in the test: the abort motor and the attitude control motor (ACM) are built by Orbital ATK and would only be used in an abort case, and the jettison motor. Aerojet Rocketdyne makes the jettison motor, which is used on every mission to separate the LAS from Orion.

    The Orion crew module and the LAS elements make up the launch abort vehicle (LAV) that separates from the test booster in flight. The three motors make up the launch abort tower; other elements of the LAS include a fairing assembly that covers the crew module and a Motor Adaptor Truss Assembly (MATA) that structurally connects the LAS with the CM.

    4
    Diagram of AA-2 test vehicle, left. Diagram of Orion LAS, right. Credit: NASA

    When the abort is initiated, the abort motor instantly generates about 400,000 pounds of thrust at ignition, putting loads on the abort vehicle of twelve to thirteen g’s to get away from the booster, while the ACM also fires to steer the vehicle away and put it in a good attitude. The abort motor fires for about five seconds with the thrust tailing off quickly while the ACM maintains control of the vehicle.

    The ACM then reorients the vehicle for separation events and for the crew module parachute deployment sequence. The LAS is then separated from the crew module with the jettison motor.

    The LAS can be used for aborts while the spacecraft is still on the pad and during launch up to altitudes of 300,000 feet. During a nominal SLS crew launch, the jettison motor will fire to separate the LAS from the CM and the rest of the launch vehicle about three and a half minutes after liftoff.

    During the AA-2 test, the crew module is collecting all of the data from the sensors inside and outside. “Primarily it’s a lot of pressure sensors, a lot of accelerometers, a lot of thermocouples to measure that whole aerothermal environment,” Devolites noted. “There’s of course all the on-board flight instrumentation for the systems — we get all of that data telemetered down.”

    The data is being transmitted from the crew module for local ground stations to receive and record. “We have no uplink or command capability,” she said. “We would like to watch the whole thing as it happens during flight but we really just need to get all the data down.”

    Devolites said they are looking at using four ground stations for the test: “A couple of them will be able to give us real-time data and a couple of them are going to be just recording the data that we can retrieve later.”

    For redundancy, the crew module is also recording all the data on-board. “We think we’ll have comm all the way down and get the telemetry, but just in case we’ve got the backup data recorders,” she added.

    “At the point at which the LAS jettisons, you’ve got a plume and even during abort you’ve got a plume,” she said. “We think that’s not going to be a problem [for telemetry]. You also have an orientation at various points in time away from the ground tracking stations, and so for full coverage, that’s why we’ve also got ejectable data recorders.”

    The crew module will impact the water without being slowed down and is expected to sink, so the AA-2 team is using another off-the-shelf system in order to recover the recorders.

    5
    Image from NASA animation of the AA-2 test. Credit: NASA.

    “The deployment system we’re using is ALE-47, which is a military/Air Force chaff deployment system,” Devolites explained. “It’s an ejection system for fighter aircraft for the chaff or the flares and so we said that’s perfect, we just need an ejection capability to get the data recorders out. We’re using that system and [the recorders] are just built very robust, so they can just eject and drop in the water and then survive.”

    There are twelve recorders grouped in two sets of six located at the top of the crew module simulator on opposite sides under the simulated forward bay cover. After the jettison motor fires to pull the LAS away from the crew module, the simulator will free fall to the water.

    “The recorders start getting ejected about twenty seconds after LAS has jettisoned,” she noted. “We wanted to continue collecting data during free fall and not just immediately start ejecting. They eject in pairs and we eject every ten seconds so that way we get more and more data as we get down.”

    The recorders are designed to float and they have beacons to expedite locating them for recovery. “We only need one to give us everything up through twenty seconds after LAS jettison, but we keep ejecting basically as long as we can,” she added. “Those are redundant as well so you get a pair — one from each side on each ejection.”

    From liftoff to water impact, the test is expected to last less than three minutes.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    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 12:40 pm on August 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Spaceflight Insider   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “NICER and LISA could confirm or disprove predictions of general relativity” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    Two astrophysical missions, NICER and LISA, could soon change humanity’s understanding of the universe. Scientists hope both instruments will help answer fundamental questions about the universe, testing many aspects of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is already in space. It was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 3, 2017, and is mounted on one of the outpost’s external platforms. The instrument studies the densest observable objects in the universe.

    NASA/NICER

    1
    An artist’s rendering of the NICER experiment on the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

    ESA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), planned to be launched in 2034, will detect and observe gravitational waves emitted during the most powerful events in the universe. It will focus on finding gravitational radiation from astronomical sources, testing the fundamental theories of gravitation.

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Nicolas Yunes, a Montana State University (MSU) gravitational physicist, believes NICER and LISA will play a key role in improving knowledge about the universe.

    “The X-rays emitted by pulsars (rotating neutron stars) that NICER will detect and the gravitational waves emitted in the coalescence of supermassive black holes that LISA will detect will allow us to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity more stringently than ever before in a regime that has not yet been fully explored,” Yunes told Astrowatch.net

    Yunes is a founding member of the MSU eXtreme Gravity Institute, known as XGI, and an associate professor in the department of physics in MSU’s College of Letters and Science. He leads the scientific project known as Exploring Extreme Gravity: Neutron Stars, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves. Recently, this project received a $750,000 grant from NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, to continue the works aiming to answer fundamental questions about the universe.

    Backed by the funding, Yunes and his team will be able to focus on improving and developing tools to extract as much astrophysics information as possible from X-ray data obtained with NICER. They will also work to create a framework to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity using X-ray data from the space-based instrument, as well as gravitational wave data gathered by LISA. Moreover, this grant will allow him to grow his research group within the XGI.

    “The NASA award I received is crucial to expand my research endeavor and address fundamental questions about gravity with astrophysical observations,” Yunes said. “The award will allow us to grow [our] research group by hiring many more graduate students and one more postdoctoral researcher. This research group will lay the foundations of the theoretical and fundamental physics implications that could be extracted given future data from NASA missions, such as NICER and LISA.”

    Yunes said NASA funding will allow his team to develop new tools and methods to extract the most theoretical physics from future observations with NICER and LISA. This information will allow them to test many aspects of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    “These tests will confirm or disprove predictions of Einstein’s theory, such as the idea that gravitational waves move at the speed of light, that the graviton is massless, that gravity is parity invariant, and that the strong equivalence principle holds,” Yunes said. “Any deviation from Einstein’s predictions would be groundbreaking.”

    For instance, NICER will detect the X-rays emitted by hot spots on the surface of neutron stars. The X-ray pulse profile detected will depend on the properties of the star, such as its mass, radius and moment of inertia. By measuring these quantities and modeling the pulse profile, Yunes’ team expects to be able to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity at these extremes.

    When it comes to LISA, this instrument could allow the scientists to fully understand the gravitational wave universe, since ground-based detectors cannot operate at the low frequencies that LISA would operate at. The most powerful sources of gravitational waves mostly emit their radiation at very low frequencies, below 10 millihertz, or less than one oscillation every 100 seconds.

    See the full article here .

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