samedi 19 janvier 2013

Two Steps Forward for Human Space Flight











Aerospace engineering.

Jan. 19, 2013

NASA Signs Agreement for a European-Provided Orion Service Module

NASA signed an agreement in mid-December for the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide a service module for the Orion spacecraft’s Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.


Image above: As part of a new agreement between the two space agencies, the European Space Agency will provide the service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Image credit: NASA.

When the Orion spacecraft blasts off atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket in 2017, attached will be the ESA-provided service module – the powerhouse that fuels and propels the Orion spacecraft.

Orion Service Module. Image credit: NASA.

“Space has long been a frontier for international cooperation as we explore,” said Dan Dumbacher, deputy associate administrator for Exploration System Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This latest chapter builds on NASA’s excellent relationship with ESA as a partner in the International Space Station, and helps us move forward in our plans to send humans farther into space than we’ve ever been before.”

The agreement primarily maps out a plan for ESA to fulfill its share of operational costs and additional supporting services for the International Space Station by providing the Orion service module and necessary elements of its design for NASA’s Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.

video
Orion’s Exploration Mission-1 animation

There are three major components to the Orion vehicle: the crew capsule, which will carry four astronauts into space on crewed flights and bring them home for a safe landing; the launch abort system, which would pull the crew module to safety in the unlikely event of a life-threatening problem during launch; and the service module, which will house Orion’s power, thermal and propulsion systems. The service module is located directly below the crew capsule and will contain the in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control and high-altitude ascent aborts. It also will generate and store power and provide thermal control, water and air for the astronauts. It will remain connected to the crew module until just before the capsule returns to Earth.


Image above: As part of a new agreement between the two space agencies, the European Space Agency will provide the service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Image credit: ESA, D. Ducros.

“This is not a simple system” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “ESA’s contribution is going to be critical to the success of Orion’s 2017 mission."

Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 will be the first integrated flight test with both the Orion spacecraft and NASA’s new Space Launch System. It will follow the upcoming Exploration Flight Test-1 in 2014, in which an uncrewed Orion will launch atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket and fly to an altitude of 3,600 miles above Earth’s surface, farther than a human spacecraft has gone in 40 years. For the flight test, a test service module is being built by Lockheed Martin.

Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 will launch an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to demonstrate the performance of the integrated Space Launch System rocket and the spacecraft prior to a crewed flight. It will be followed by Exploration Mission-2, which will launch Orion and a crew of four astronauts into space.

“We have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with human exploration,” Dumbacher said. “NASA is thrilled to have ESA as a partner as we set out to explore our solar system.”

Related links:

ESA Workhorse to power NASA'S Orion Spacecraft: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/ESA_workhorse_to_power_NASA_s_Orion_spacecraft

View images from Orion Partnership News Conference: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/sets/72157632541988740/

View the Orion Service Module Briefing Graphics: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/images/orion_sm_011613.html

NASA to Test Bigelow Expandable Module on Space Station

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Jan. 16 a newly planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology. NASA has awarded a $17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.

Bigelow Expandable Module on Space Station

"Today we're demonstrating progress on a technology that will advance important long-duration human spaceflight goals," Garver said. "NASA's partnership with Bigelow opens a new chapter in our continuing work to bring the innovation of industry to space, heralding cutting-edge technology that can allow humans to thrive in space safely and affordably."

The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015. Following the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the BEAM to the station, astronauts will use the station's robotic arm to install the module on the aft port of the Tranquility node.

After the module is berthed to the Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurization system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module.

During the two-year test period, station crew members and ground-based engineers will gather performance data on the module, including its structural integrity and leak rate. An assortment of instruments embedded within module also will provide important insights on its response to the space environment. This includes radiation and temperature changes compared with traditional aluminum modules.

video
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module Installation Animation

"The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability. Using the station's resources, we'll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory."

Bigelow Expandable Module on Space Station (Artist's view)

Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.

The BEAM project is sponsored by NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Program, which pioneers innovative approaches to rapidly and affordably develop prototype systems for future human exploration missions. The BEAM demonstration supports an AES objective to develop a deep space habitat for human missions beyond Earth orbit.

For more information about Bigelow Aerospace, visit: http://www.bigelowaerospace.com

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: NASA / ESA, D. Ducros / Bigelow Aerospace.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 17 janvier 2013

Progress M-17M corrected the orbit of the International Space Station











ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

01/17/2013

In accordance with the International Space Station (ISS) on 17 January the correction of its orbit.

The maneuver was carried out using an engine cargo spacecraft Progress M-17M, located on the axial port service module Zvezda.

Progress docket at the module Zvezda making a ISS reboost

According to the ballistic-navigation service the Mission Control Center "FSUE TsNIImash" cargo ship engines were included in 06 hours 15 minutes Moscow time and worked for 233 seconds.

As a result of this dynamic operation ISS increment rate was 0.46 m / s. The average height of the orbit increased by 830 feet and was 411 km.

ISS with Progress docked at the module Zvezda

     After maneuvering the ISS orbital parameters were:

     - Minimum height - 401.9 km,

     - Maximum height - 432.18 km

     - Orbital period - 92.73 min.,

     - Inclination - 51,67 °.


The purpose of this operation was to maintain the working and forming the ISS before flying cargo ship Progress M-18M, the launch of which is scheduled for February 2013.

Original text in Russian: http://www.federalspace.ru/main.php?id=2&nid=19820

Images, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / ROSCOSMOS / NASA / G. De Chiara/ Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

A hidden treasure in the Large Magellanic Cloud












ESA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

17 January 2013

 LHA 120-N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Nearly 200 000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colours, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighbourhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.

Overview of the Large Magellanic Cloud (ground-based image)

The LMC is in an ideal position for astronomers to study the phenomena surrounding star formation. It lies in a fortuitous location in the sky, far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way’s centre. It is also close enough to study in detail (less than a tenth of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy), and lies almost face-on to us [1], giving us a bird’s eye view.

LHA 120-N 11 (known as N11 for short) is a particularly bright region of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. NGC 1769 (in the centre of this image) and NGC 1763 (to the right, see heic1011) are among the brightest parts.

video
 Zoom into LHA 120-N11

In the centre of this image, a dark finger of dust blots out much of the light. While nebulae are mostly made of hydrogen, the simplest and most plentiful element in the Universe, dust clouds are home to heavier and more complex elements, which go on to form rocky planets like the Earth. Much finer than household dust (it is more like smoke), this interstellar dust consists of material expelled from previous generations of stars as they died.

The data in this image were identified by Josh Lake, an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut, USA, in the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition. The competition invited members of the public to dig out unreleased scientific data from Hubble’s vast archive, and to process them into stunning images.

video
 Pan across LHA 120-N11

Josh Lake won first prize in the competition with an image contrasting the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen in N11. The image above combines the data he identified with additional exposures taken in blue, green and near infrared light.

Notes:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

[1] Although the Large Magellanic Cloud is generally classified as an irregular galaxy, it shares some features with spiral galaxies, including a clearly visible bar, and a single spiral-arm-like structure. It is thought that the LMC may be a small spiral galaxy that was pulled out of shape by the Milky Way.

Links:

Hidden Treasures: http://www.spacetelescope.org/hiddentreasures/

Josh Lake's image of N11: http://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/fitsimages/josh_lake_ngc_1763/

ESA Hubble website: http://www.spacetelescope.org/

Images, Text, Credits: NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: Josh Lake / ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin/Video: NASA, ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2 / Acknowledgement: Josh Lake.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Reull Vallis: A River Ran Through It












ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

17 January 2013

 Reull Vallis

ESA’s Mars Express imaged the striking upper part of the Reull Vallis region of Mars with its high-resolution stereo camera last year.

Reull Vallis, the river-like structure in these images, is believed to have formed when running water flowed in the distant martian past, cutting a steep-sided channel through the Promethei Terra Highlands before running on towards the floor of the vast Hellas basin.

This sinuous structure, which stretches for almost 1500 km across the martian landscape, is flanked by numerous tributaries, one of which can be clearly seen cutting in to the main valley towards the upper (north) side.

Perspective view of Reull Vallis

The new Mars Express images show a region of Reull Vallis at a point where the channel is almost 7 km wide and 300 m deep. 

Topographic view of Reull Vallis

The sides of Reull Vallis are particularly sharp and steep in these images, with parallel longitudinal features covering the floor of the channel itself. These structures are believed to be caused by the passage of loose debris and ice during the ‘Amazonian’ period (which continues to this day) due to glacial flow along the channel.

The structures were formed long after it was originally carved by liquid water during the Hesperian period, which is believed to have ended between 3.5 billion and 1.8 billion years ago.

Similar lineated structures, believed to be rich in ice, can also be found in many of the surrounding craters.

Reull Vallis in context

In the wider context image, the tributary intersecting the main channel appears to be part of a forking of the main valley into two distinct branches further upstream before merging back into a single main valley.

The right (northern) part of the main image is dominated by the Promethei Terra Highlands with their high and soft-rounded mountains shown in these images, rising around 2500 m above the surrounding flat plains.

The perspective view below shows one of these mountains with nearby sediment-filled impact craters. 

Perspective view of Reull Vallis

This region shows a striking resemblance to the morphology found in regions on Earth affected by glaciation. For example, we can see circular step-like structures on the inner walls of the sediment-filled crater in the foreground of the second perspective view. Planetary scientists think that these may represent former high water or glacial levels, before ice and water sublimated or evaporated away in stages at various times.

3D view of Reull Vallis

The morphology of Reull Vallis suggests it has experienced a diverse and complex history, with analogies seen in glacial activity on Earth. These analogies are giving planetary geologists tantalising glimpses of a past on the Red Planet not too dissimilar to events on our own world today.

Related links:

High Resolution Stereo Camera: http://berlinadmin.dlr.de/Missions/express/indexeng.shtml

Behind the lens: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express/Behind_the_lens

Frequently asked questions: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express/Frequently_asked_questions

ESA Planetary Science archive (PSA): http://www.rssd.esa.int/PSA

NASA Planetary Data System: http://pds-geosciences.wustl.edu/missions/mars_express/hrsc.htm

HRSC data viewer: http://hrscview.fu-berlin.de/

Mars Express in depth: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=9

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum) / NASA MGS MOLA Science Team.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 16 janvier 2013

Boeing 787 'Dreamliner' jets grounded in Japan after series of issues













Airbus vs Boeing.

Jan. 16, 2013

Japan's two biggest airlines grounded all their Boeing 787 aircraft for safety checks Wednesday after one was forced to make an emergency landing in the latest blow for the new jet.

All Nippon Airways said a cockpit message showed battery problems and a burning smell was detected in the cockpit and the cabin, forcing the 787 on a domestic flight to land at Takamatsu airport in western Japan.


Image above: Jan. 16, 2013: An All Nippon Airways flight sits at Takamatsu airport in Takamatsu, western Japan after it made an emergency landing. (AP/Kyodo News).

The 787, known as the Dreamliner, is Boeing's newest and most technologically advanced jet, and the company is counting heavily on its success. Since its launch, which came after delays of more than three years, the plane has been plagued by a series of problems including a battery fire and fuel leaks. Japan's ANA and Japan Airlines are major customers for the jet and among the first to fly it.

Japan's transport ministry said it got notices from ANA, which operates 17 of the jets, and Japan Airlines which has seven, that all their 787s would not be flying. The grounding was done voluntarily by the airlines.


The earliest manufactured jets of any new aircraft usually have problems and airlines run higher risks in flying them first, said Brendan Sobie, Singapore-based chief analyst at CAPA-Center for Aviation. Since about half the 787 fleet is in Japan, more problems are cropping up there.

"There are always teething problems with new aircraft and airlines often are reluctant to be the launch customer of any new airplanes," Sobie said. "We saw it with other airplane types, like the A380 but the issues with the A380 were different," he said. (ne*: problem of cracks in the wing spars).

Boeing 787 Dreamliner / Airbus A380 comparative

Japan's transport ministry categorized Wednesday's problem as a "serious incident" that could have led to an accident, and sent officials for further checks to Takamatsu airport. The airport was closed.

It was unclear how long the Dreamliners would be grounded. ANA said 14 flights were changed to other aircraft, while 31 domestic and 7 international were cancelled. JAL said eight were cancelled, while two were changed to a 777.

ANA executives apologized, bowing deeply at a hastily called news conference in Tokyo.

"We are very sorry to have caused passengers and their family members so much concern," said ANA Senior Executive Vice President Osamu Shinobe.

One male in his 60s was taken to the hospital for minor hip injuries after going down the emergency slides at the airport, the fire department said. The other 128 passengers and eight crew members of the ANA domestic flight were uninjured, according to ANA.

The grounding in Japan was the first for the 787, whose problems had been brushed off by Boeing as teething pains for a new aircraft. The transport ministry had already started a separate inspection Monday on another 787 jet, operated by Japan Airlines, which had leaked fuel at Tokyo's Narita airport after flying back from Boston, where it had also leaked fuel.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

A fire ignited Jan. 7 in the battery pack of an auxiliary power unit of a Japan Airlines 787 empty of passengers as the plane sat on the tarmac at Boston's Logan International Airport. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the blaze.

ANA cancelled a domestic flight to Tokyo on Jan. 9 after a computer wrongly indicated there was a problem with the Boeing 787's brakes. Two days later, the carrier reported two new cases of problems with the aircraft -- a minor fuel leak and a cracked windscreen in a 787 cockpit.

The 787 relies more than any other modern airliner on electrical signals to help power nearly everything the plane does. It's also the first Boeing plane to use rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which charge faster and can be molded to space-saving shapes compared to other airplane batteries. The plane is made with lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it is "monitoring a preliminary report of an incident in Japan earlier today involving a Boeing 787."

It said the incident will be included in the comprehensive review the FAA began last week of the 787 critical systems, including design, manufacture and assembly. U.S. government officials have been quick to say that the plane is safe. Nearly 50 of them are in the skies now.

GS Yuasa Corp., the Japanese company that supplies all the lithium ion batteries for the 787, had no comment as the investigation was still ongoing. Thales, which makes the battery charging system, had no immediate comment.

In Tokyo, the transport minister, Akihiro Ota, said authorities were taking the incidents seriously.

"These problems must be fully investigated," he said.

Boeing has said that various technical problems are to be expected in the early days of any aircraft model.

"Boeing is aware of the diversion of a 787 operated by ANA to Takamatsu in western Japan. We will be working with our customer and the appropriate regulatory agencies," Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is aware of Wednesday's emergency landing in Japan and is gathering information on the incident, Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the board, said.

In Wednesday's incident, a cockpit instrument showed a problem with the 787's battery and the pilot noticed an unusual smell, the airline said. The flight requested and was granted permission to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport.

Airbus A380

Aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member, said the ANA pilot made the right choice.

"They were being very prudent in making the emergency landing even though there's been no information released so far that indicates any of these issues are related," he said.

But much remains uncertain about the problems being experienced by the 787, said Masaharu Hirokane, analyst at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo.

"You need to ensure safety 100 percent, and then you also have to get people to feel that the jet is 100 percent safe," said Hirokane.

*ne: note editor.

Related link:

Airbus A380 cracks in the wing spars: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2012/02/cracks-in-wing-all-airbus-a380-will-be.html

Images, Text, Credits: Boeing / Airbus / AP / Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Light from the Darkness












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

16 January 2013

 The Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

An evocative new image from ESO shows a dark cloud where new stars are forming, along with a cluster of brilliant stars that have already emerged from their dusty stellar nursery. The new picture was taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and is the best image ever taken in visible light of this little-known object.

On the left of this new image there is a dark column resembling a cloud of smoke. To the right shines a small group of brilliant stars. At first glance these two features could not be more different, but they are in fact closely linked. The cloud contains huge amounts of cool cosmic dust and is a nursery where new stars are being born. It is likely that the Sun formed in a similar star formation region more than four billion years ago.

The Lupus 3 dark cloud in the constellation of Scorpius

This cloud is known as Lupus 3 and it lies about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). The section shown here is about five light-years across.

As the denser parts of such clouds contract under the effects of gravity they heat up and start to shine. At first this radiation is blocked by the dusty clouds and can only be seen by telescopes observing at longer wavelengths than visible light, such as the infrared. But as the stars get hotter and brighter their intense radiation and stellar winds gradually clear the clouds around them until they emerge in all their glory.

Wide-field view of the Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

The bright stars right of the centre of this new picture form a perfect example of a small group of such hot young stars. Some of their brilliant blue light is being scattered off the remaining dust around them. The two brightest stars are bright enough to be seen easily with a small telescope or binoculars. They are young stars that have not yet started to shine by nuclear fusion in their cores and are still surrounded by glowing gas [1]. They are probably less than one million years old.

Although they are less obvious at first glance than the bright blue stars, surveys have found many other very young stellar objects in this region, which is one of the closest such stellar nurseries to the Sun.

video
Zooming in on the Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

Star formation regions can be huge, such as the Tarantula Nebula (eso0650) where hundreds of massive stars are being formed. However, most of the stars in our and other galaxies are thought to have formed in much more modest regions like the one shown here, where only two bright stars are visible and no very heavy stars are formed. For this reason, the Lupus 3 region is both fascinating for astronomers and a beautiful illustration of the early stages of the life of stars.

video
Panning across the Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

Notes:

[1] These are known as Herbig Ae/Be stars after the astronomer who first identified them. The A and B refer to the spectral types of the stars, somewhat hotter than the Sun, and the “e” indicates that emission lines are present in their spectra, due to the glow from the gas around them. They shine by converting gravitational potential energy into heat as they contract.

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Links:

Research review paper: http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1303/eso1303a.pdf

Photos of the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&subject_name=mpg

Other photos taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&facility=15

Photos of La Silla: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/category/lasilla/

Images, Text, Credits: ESO / F. Comeron / IAU and Sky & Telescope / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin / Video: ESO / F. Comeron, Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), Digitized Sky Survey 2. Music: delmo "acoustic".

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

mardi 15 janvier 2013

NASA Mars Rover Preparing to Drill Into First Martian Rock













NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Jan. 15, 2013


This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers' approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The size of a car, Curiosity is inside Mars' Gale Crater investigating whether the planet ever offered an environment favorable for microbial life. Curiosity landed in the crater five months ago to begin its two-year prime mission.

"Drilling into a rock to collect a sample will be this mission's most challenging activity since the landing. It has never been done on Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory project manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The drill hardware interacts energetically with Martian material we don't control. We won't be surprised if some steps in the process don't go exactly as planned the first time through."

Curiosity first will gather powdered samples from inside the rock and use those to scrub the drill. Then the rover will drill and ingest more samples from this rock, which it will analyze for information about its mineral and chemical composition.


This image of an outcrop at the "Sheepbed" locality, taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover with its right Mast Camera (Mastcam), shows show well-defined veins filled with whitish minerals, interpreted as calcium sulfate. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The chosen rock is in an area where Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) and other cameras have revealed diverse unexpected features, including veins, nodules, cross-bedded layering, a lustrous pebble embedded in sandstone, and possibly some holes in the ground.

The rock chosen for drilling is called "John Klein" in tribute to former Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager John W. Klein, who died in 2011.

"John's leadership skill played a crucial role in making Curiosity a reality," said Cook.

The target is on flat-lying bedrock within a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay." The terrain in this area differs from that of the landing site, a dry streambed about a third of a mile (about 500 meters) to the west. Curiosity's science team decided to look there for a first drilling target because orbital observations showed fractured ground that cools more slowly each night than nearby terrain types do.

"The orbital signal drew us here, but what we found when we arrived has been a great surprise," said Mars Science Laboratory project scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "This area had a different type of wet environment than the streambed where we landed, maybe a few different types of wet environments."


This image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows inclined layering known as cross-bedding in an outcrop called "Shaler" on a scale of a few tenths of meters, or decimeters (1 decimeter is nearly 4 inches). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

One line of evidence comes from inspection of light-toned veins with Curiosity's laser-pulsing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which found elevated levels of calcium, sulfur and hydrogen.

"These veins are likely composed of hydrated calcium sulfate, such as bassinite or gypsum," said ChemCam team member Nicolas Mangold of the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes in France. "On Earth, forming veins like these requires water circulating in fractures."

Researchers have used the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to examine sedimentary rocks in the area. Some are sandstone, with grains up to about peppercorn size. One grain has an interesting gleam and bud-like shape that have brought it Internet buzz as a "Martian flower." Other rocks nearby are siltstone, with grains finer than powdered sugar. These differ significantly from pebbly conglomerate rocks in the landing area.

Mars Rover Curiosity in Artist's Concept, Close-up. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"All of these are sedimentary rocks, telling us Mars had environments actively depositing material here," said MAHLI deputy principal investigator Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz. "The different grain sizes tell us about different transport conditions."

JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

To see an image of the rock, visit: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16567 .

For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Dwayne Brown / JPL / Guy Webster.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

ILV Rokot into orbit spacecraft for the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry












ROSCOSMOS logo.

15/01/2013

January 15, 2013 at 20.24.59 Moscow time on state testing cosmodrome Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (cosmodrome Plesetsk) conducted a successful launch of Launch Vehicle (ILV) Rokot with the upper stage Briz-KM and the power satellites (CA).

Rokot rocket launch

Start to do the battle to the specialists of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and representatives of aerospace industry.

A Russian government Rockot vehicle will launch three Rodnik communications satellites for the Russian military.

The estimated time of the spacecraft, made by order of the Russian Defense Ministry in the JSC "ISS them. Academician Reshetnev "in orbit.

video

Video above: Launch vehicle Rokot launched three satellites into space. Animation made ​​with Orbiter Space Flight Simulator.

Launch vehicle light class Rokot and the upper stage Briz-KM are created at the State Research and Production Space Center. Khrunichev.

Rodnik communications satellites

Original text in Russian: http://www.federalspace.ru/main.php?id=2&nid=19814

Images, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation / Video: Orbiter Space Flight Simulator / Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA's Robotic Refueling Demo Set to Jumpstart Expanded Capabilities in Space












International Space Station (ISS) patch.

Jan. 15, 2013

In mid-January, NASA will take the next step in advancing robotic satellite-servicing technologies as it tests the Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM aboard the International Space Station. The investigation may one day substantially impact the many satellites that deliver products Americans rely upon daily, such as weather reports, cell phones and television news.

During five days of operations, controllers from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will use the space station's remotely operated Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, robot to simulate robotic refueling in space. Operating a space-based robotic arm from the ground is a feat on its own, but NASA will do more than just robotics work as controllers remotely snip wires, unscrew caps and transfer simulated fuel. The team also will demonstrate tools, technologies and techniques that could one day make satellites in space greener, more robust and more capable of delivering essential services to people on Earth.


Image above: This artist's concept shows a scene from the upcoming refueling demo aboard the International Space Station. The Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM, Multifunction Tool (right) removes a cap from the RRM module (left). (NASA).

Why Fix or Refuel a Satellite?

"Every satellite has a lifespan and eventual retirement date, determined by the reliability of its components and how much fuel it can carry," explains Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of NASA's Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, or SSCO.

Repairing and refueling satellites already in place, Reed asserts, can be far less expensive than building and launching entirely new spacecraft, potentially saving millions, even billions of dollars and many years of work.

The RRM demonstration specifically tests what it would take to repair and refuel satellites traveling the busy space highway of geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO. Located about 22,000 miles above Earth, this orbital path is home to more than 400 satellites, many of which beam communications, television and weather data to customers worldwide.


Image above: The Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM, investigation (center, on platform) uses the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 and the Canadian Dextre robot (right) to demonstrate satellite-servicing tasks. (NASA).

By developing robotic capabilities to repair and refuel GEO satellites, NASA hopes to add precious years of functional life to satellites and expand options for operators who face unexpected emergencies, tougher economic demands and aging fleets. NASA also hopes that these new technologies will help boost the commercial satellite-servicing industry that is rapidly gaining momentum.

Besides aiding the GEO satellite community, a capability to fix and relocate "ailing" satellites also could help manage the growing orbital debris problem that threatens continued space operations, ultimately making space greener and more sustainable.

How RRM Is Making a Difference

Built by SSCO in the span of 18 months, the washing-machine-sized RRM module contains the components, activity boards and tools to practice several of the tasks that would be performed in orbit during a real servicing mission. Launched to the space station on July 8, 2011, aboard the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program, RRM was the last payload an astronaut ever removed from a shuttle.

In 2012, RRM demonstrated dexterous robotic operations in space. Dextre's 12-foot arm and accompanying RRM tool successfully snipped two twisted wires -- each the thickness of two sheets of paper -- with only a few millimeters of clearance: a task essential to the satellite refueling process.

video

Video above; The RRM refueling demonstration on Jan. 14-24 will employ the Canadian-built Dextre, NASA's RRM module and four unique RRM tools to show that space robots controlled from Earth -- hundreds or even thousands of miles below -- can transfer fuel to satellites with triple-sealed valves that were never designed to be accessed.

"The RRM operations team is very excited about the upcoming refueling demonstration," says Charlie Bacon, RRM operations manager. "Over the last two years, the team has put in more than 300 hours of preparation -- reviewing procedures, running simulations, and communicating with team members from other NASA centers and our international partners. When we finally execute the namesake task of RRM, we anticipate that our work will culminate in proving that in-orbit satellite refueling is no longer future technology -- it's current technology."

Although the RRM module will never fix or refuel a satellite itself, its advanced tools and practice runs are laying the foundation for future in-orbit robotic servicing missions. Additional RRM demonstrations will continue into 2013, with a new round of servicing task boards, tools and activities slated to continue its investigations through 2015.

What's Next in Robotic Satellite Servicing?

The satellite-servicing concept that RRM is advancing is one that NASA has been developing for years. Beginning with the Solar Maximum repair mission in 1984, the servicing philosophy paved the way for five successful astronaut-based missions to upgrade and repair the Hubble Space Telescope and has been practiced more recently in spacewalks to assemble and maintain the space station.


Image above: On July 12, 2011, spacewalking astronauts Mike Fossum and Ron Garan successfully transferred the Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM, module from the Atlantis shuttle cargo bay to a temporary platform on the International Space Station’s Dextre robot. (NASA).

With the RRM on the space station and a robust technology development campaign being conducted on the ground, NASA is testing capabilities for a new robotic servicing frontier. Since 2009, the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has been aggressively advancing the robotic technologies for a free-flying servicer spacecraft that could access, repair and refuel satellites in GEO.

To this end, the SSCO team has been studying a conceptual servicing mission and building technologies to address uncharted territory such as autonomous rendezvous and docking, propellant transfer systems for zero gravity and specialized algorithms (computer commands) to orchestrate and synchronize satellite-servicing operations. A systems engineering review on this conceptual mission was recently conducted with positive responses from peer experts and external participants.

Reed and the SSCO team see many applications across NASA for these new, game-changing capabilities.

"The technologies we're building to help rescue satellites in five years could be the very same ones used to clean up space ten years in the future or save a spacecraft on the way to Mars 30 years from now," says Reed. "NASA is acting today to ensure that we have the capabilities America needs for the future. With satellite servicing technologies, we're bolstering the agency's long-term strategy as we invest in near-term tactical technology investments. RRM is just the beginning."

Related links:

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM: http://ssco.gsfc.nasa.gov/rrm_refueling_task.html

Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/iss/dextre/

NASA's Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office, or SSCO: http://ssco.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Dexterous robotic operations in space: http://ssco.gsfc.nasa.gov/rrm_gfr-task.html

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Adrienne Alessandro.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 14 janvier 2013

Hubble Views a Dwarf Galaxy












NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jan. 14, 2013


The constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear) is home to Messier 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. Messier 101 is one of the biggest and brightest spiral galaxies in the night sky. Like the Milky Way, Messier 101 is not alone, with smaller dwarf galaxies in its neighborhood.

NGC 5477, one of these dwarf galaxies in the Messier 101 group, is the subject of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Without obvious structure, but with visible signs of ongoing star birth, NGC 5477 looks much like an typical dwarf irregular galaxy. The bright nebulae that extend across much of the galaxy are clouds of glowing hydrogen gas in which new stars are forming. These glow pinkish red in real life, although the selection of green and infrared filters through which this image was taken makes them appear almost white.

The observations were taken as part of a project to measure accurate distances to a range of galaxies within about 30 million light-years from Earth, by studying the brightness of red giant stars.

In addition to NGC 5477, the image includes numerous galaxies in the background, including some that are visible right through NGC 5477. This serves as a reminder that galaxies, far from being solid, opaque objects, are actually largely made up of the empty space between their stars.

This image is a combination of exposures taken through green and infrared filters using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The field of view is approximately 3.3 by 3.3 arcminutes.

Hubble website's: http://hubblesite.org/ & http://www.spacetelescope.org/

Image, Text, Credits: ESA / Hubble & NASA.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

The Huygens Experience

ESA - Cassini Mission to Saturn logo.

14 January 2013

Eight years ago today, ESA’s Huygens bounced, slid and wobbled its way to rest on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, the first time a probe had touched down on an alien world in the outer Solar System.

The animation was created using real data recorded by Huygen’s instruments, allowing us to witness this historical moment as if we had been there.

The animation takes into account Titan’s atmospheric conditions, including the Sun and wind direction, the behaviour of the parachute (with some artistic interpretation only on the movement of the ropes after touchdown), and the dynamics of the landing itself.

Even the stones immediately facing Huygens were rendered to match the photograph of the landing site returned from the probe, which is revealed at the end of the animation.

Split into four sequences, the animation first shows a wide-angle view of the descent and landing followed by two close-ups of the touchdown from different angles, and finally a simulated view from Huygens itself – the true Huygens experience.

video
The Huygens experience

New results published last year revealed that on first contact with Titan’s surface, Huygens dug a hole 12 cm deep, before bouncing out and sliding 30–40 cm across a flat surface.

The probe then wobbled back and forth five times until coming to a standstill about 10 seconds after touchdown – this is best seen in the final two sequences.

A ‘fluffy’ dust-like material – most likely organic aerosols that are known to drizzle out of the Titan atmosphere – was thrown up and suspended for around four seconds around the probe following the impact. The dust was easily lifted, suggesting it was most likely dry and that there had not been any ‘rain’ of liquid ethane or methane for some time prior to the landing.

Huygens was released from the international Cassini spacecraft on Christmas Day 2004, arriving at Titan three weeks later. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since July 2004, and will continue operations until 2017.

The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

At Saturn and Titan: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Cassini-Huygens

Video, Text, Credit: ESA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch