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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

NASA Keeps An Eye On Some Space Junk

Posted by 3citynewswire on 06/18/2010

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (June 18, 2010)–NASA is keeping a close watch on three pieces of old Russian and Chinese satellite and rocket parts that could come uncomfortably close to the International Space Station this weekend.

Mission managers decided there was no need to move the station Friday to dodge a fourth piece of junk, but the station’s orbit continues to be reassessed.
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A Russian capsule docked Thursday carrying three new residents.

The Soyuz arrival means there are now two women living full time at the space station for the first time ever.

Shannon Walker, a physicist from Houston, joins Tracy Dyson Caldwell. Walker took Amelia Earhart’s watch into orbit.

Four men also are on board the space station.

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Space Station to Receive New Anti-Matter Detector Component

Posted by 3citynewswire on 04/28/2010

Scientist plan on replacing the liquid helium cooled magnet, in the anti-matter detector, with an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. This will increase the life span of the detector from 3 years to about 18 years.

The AMS (anti-matter spectrometer) is designed to search for anti-matter particles as well as perform other experiments. The device is equipped with over 300,000 data channels that require compression with an on-board supercomputer before the information can be transmitted to Earth.

AMS functions by sampling high-energy particles from deep space. The sensitivity of the AMS is more than 100 to 1,000 times more sensitive than previous instruments.

Samuel Ting of MIT is overseeing a 500 member global team of scientist to work on this 1.5 billion dollar project. This was made possible because US President Barack Obama has proposed to extend the space station for a minimum of 5 years beyond 2015, with an additional budget of 3 billion dollars per year.

In an interview Ting stated: “This really is the very first very, very precise particle physics detector. You enter into a totally new domain. It’s very hard to predict what you’ll find.”

The AMS (anti-matter spectrometer)

The AMS (anti-matter spectrometer)

The AMS is a prototype that flew on a 1998 space shuttle mission and was recently taken out of a clean room storage facility in Germany. By replacing the liquid helium cooled magnet with the AMS cuts the power of the magnetic field that is used bend the path of charged cosmic particles while they pass through various detectors.

Ting is optimistic that having the less powerful AMS in orbit the extra years would more than compensate for the liquid helium cooled magnet. There are also spares on hand if it ever requires replacement.

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Secret Military Space Plane Primed For Test Launch

Posted by 3citynewswire on 03/15/2010


A secretive military spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle orbiter is undergoing final processing in Florida for launch on April 19.

The Air Force confirmed the critical preflight milestone in a response to written questions on Thursday.

The 29-foot-long, 15-foot-wide Orbital Test Vehicle arrived in Cape Canaveral, Fla., last month according to the Air Force. The OTV spaceplane was built at a Boeing Phantom Works facility in Southern California.

“It is now undergoing spacecraft processing including checkout, fueling, and encapsulating in the 5-meter fairing of the Atlas 5 [rocket],” an Air Force spokesperson said.

The 11,000-pound vehicle will launch inside the nose cone of the Atlas 5 rocket. Liftoff is currently set for 10 p.m. EDT on April 19.

The reusable spacecraft is more famously known as the X-37B. The design is based on the orbital and re-entry demonstrator initially developed by NASA, then handed over to the Pentagon.

The NASA version of the X-37 featured an equipment bay 7 feet long and 4 feet in diameter for experiments and deployable payloads.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency completed a series of approach and landing tests in 2007 using the White Knight airplane from Scaled Composites as a mothership.

It is easy to track the X-37’s tumultuous history. NASA awarded the first X-37 contract to Boeing in July 1999, and the agency flew a series of visible atmopsheric tests on a scale model of the spaceplane in 2001. The X-37 began its transformation from a human spaceflight testbed to a military-run project when NASA shifted responsibility to DARPA in September 2004, a consequence of the space agency’s new focus on lunar exploration.

But specific payloads for the Air Force’s OTV program aren’t so clear. Officials have denied interview requests on the project, and the military only releases information through written responses.

The X-37B’s mission is to “demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force,” the military fact sheet says. “Objectives of the OTV program include space experimentation, risk reduction and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

At the end of its mission, the X-37B will fire its engine and drop from orbit, autonomously navigating through a fiery re-entry on the way to its 15,000-foot-long primary runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Edwards Air Force Base is the backup landing site.

The duration of the spaceplane’s first mission isn’t being announced.

“The X-37B has the requirement to be on-orbit up to 270 days,” the Air Force spokesperson said. “Actual length for the first mission will depend on the meeting the mission objectives, which consists of checkout and performance characteristics of the

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NASA: Millions of tons of ice discovered on the moon

Posted by 3citynewswire on 03/03/2010

There could be as much as 600 million metric tonnes of water ice in the dark craters near the moon’s north pole, say scientists after analysing data brought back by the Chandrayaan-1 moon mission.

“The new findings show that the moon is an even more interesting destination than people previously thought,” said Paul Spudis, principal investigator for the project and a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, US.

A tiny radar sensor, Mini-SAR, discovered the caches of frozen water.

Mini-SAR was created by the United States-based National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  The sensor weighs less than 10 kg, six times lighter than an unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. Mini-SAR arrived at the moon aboard Chandrayaan-1.

The sensor circled the lunar poles — the darkest, coldest and least explored parts of the moon’s surface — for three months in early 2009. Mini-SAR fired a series of radio pulses at the moon. Near the North Pole, the feedback from the surface — the radio waves that bounced back — suggested the presence of water ice.

“The finding will give future missions a new target to explore and exploit,” said Jason Crusan, programme executive for the Mini-RF Program for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington.

The new findings are part of a flood of recent discoveries of lunar water.  Together, the findings have revolutionized the way scientists look at the moon.

In November, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission (LCROSS) discovered water vapour near the Cabeus crater at the moon’s south pole.  The Cabeus crater lies under a deep and permanent layer of shadow.

“The moon is alive!” crowed principal investigator Anthony Colaprete, chief scientist for LCROSS, upon announcing the discovery.  Colaprete held up 95 litres of water, the amount discovered by LCROSS.

Scientists have long suspected that if there is water on the moon, it is hidden at the poles.  Astronauts who have visited the moon have brought back kilograms of samples and elaborate maps of the lunar equator, but the poles remained shrouded in mystery.

Over the past few months, scientists have been chipping away at that mystery, looking at data brought back by the 11 instruments aboard Chandrayaan-1.

In September, scientists from India and the US announced the discovery of water molecules on the moon’s surface.

It will take scientists two years to sort through all the Chandrayaan-1 data.  But the results have already gotten researchers fired up.

The Mini-SAR findings, authored by Indian and American scientists from more than 13 agencies, appeared Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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New Orion capsule heat shield a “breakthrough” for NASA

Posted by 3citynewswire on 03/02/2010

Looking like a UFO from an old science fiction movie, the new resin Orion heat shield hovers above its mold at the Lockheed Martin composite development facility in Denver. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

The Orion crew capsule as a shining example of new technology development? Well, that’s the latest word from Lockheed Martin which on Monday hailed the space capsule’s new heat shield as a  breakthrough.

“[Orion] is at the height of its development phase, which has spurred several new technologies and innovations such as a cutting edge high-temperature composite material system,” said a press release on Monday, seemingly tailoring its language to the Obama administration’s new vision for NASA.

According to the release, the 16.4 foot diameter heat shield was described as a “resin system” developed over 18 months by in partnership with TenCate Advanced Composites.

It was dreamed up in house at Lockheed in Denver as a cheaper replacement for Orion’s original titanium heat shield which would have to be made in sections and takes up to a year to put together, according to Colin Sipe, who was in charge of the team working on the project. The new composite shield takes only months to make, weighs slightly less than the titanium shield and would save lots of money.

“In addition to the technology advancement, we achieved a $10 million cost savings and improved the project schedule by 12 months through the innovative tooling, materials and fabrication processes the team put into action,” Cleon Lacefield Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager said.

The giant Frisbee-like shield is supposed to go on the bottom of the Orion “ground test article” – the first full-sized mock up of the capsule being built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La. — described as “a production pathfinder to validate the flight vehicle production processes and tools.”

The problem is that the new heat shield has not officially been accepted yet by NASA as officially be part of Orion because the titanium shield is still considered to be the baseline design. A procedure is underway to change that, Sipe said.

But it all might be too late. The Obama administration has proposed cancelling Orion and its Ares I launch vehicle as part of a major overhaul of NASA.

After five years and at least $9 billion spent on the development of the new spaceship, the president’s 2011 budget would scrap the centerpieces of the agency’s Constellation moon program because they were deemed “unsustainable.” Several government studies found Ares and Orion too expensive and behind schedule and thought their development funds could be better spent on other projects.

In their place, the White House wants to fund a “game-changing” new technology development program to discover new tools and more affordable systems that could send humans to Mars in weeks not months.

While there is no doubt among engineers and space industry analysts that Orion has developed important new technologies, many see a touch of irony and desperation in the company’s use of language about new technology development and its promotion of its cost savings at this particular point in time.

“There is no doubt that Lockheed Martin is trying to save it’s baby and is doing whatever it can to keep Orion alive,” said one aerospace industry executive, whose company competes with Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin executives are currently lobbying Congress to keep some parts of the Constellation program alive that would guarantee Orion’s survival.

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