mercredi 24 mai 2017

NASA Moves Up Launch of Psyche Mission to a Metal Asteroid












NASA - Psyche Mission logo.

May 24, 2017

Psyche, NASA's Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 -- four years earlier than the original timeline. 

“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.”

The Discovery program announcement of opportunity had directed teams to propose missions for launch in either 2021 or 2023. The Lucy mission was selected for the first launch opportunity in 2021, and Psyche was to follow in 2023.  Shortly after selection in January, NASA gave the direction to the Psyche team to research earlier opportunities.

"The biggest advantage is the excellent trajectory, which gets us there about twice as fast and is more cost effective," said Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe. "We are all extremely excited that NASA was able to accommodate this earlier launch date. The world will see this amazing metal world so much sooner."

The revised trajectory is more efficient, as it eliminates the need for an Earth gravity assist, which ultimately shortens the cruise time. In addition, the new trajectory stays farther from the sun, reducing the amount of heat protection needed for the spacecraft. The trajectory will still include a Mars gravity assist in 2023.


Image above: Artist's Concept of Psyche Spacecraft with Five-Panel Array. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin.

"The change in plans is a great boost for the team and the mission," said Psyche Project Manager Henry Stone at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Our mission design team did a fantastic job coming up with this ideal launch opportunity."

The Psyche spacecraft is being built by Space Systems Loral (SSL), Palo Alto, California. In order to support the new mission trajectory, SSL redesigned the solar array system from a four-panel array in a straight row on either side of the spacecraft to a more powerful five-panel x-shaped design, commonly used for missions requiring more capability. Much like a sports car, by combining a relatively small spacecraft body with a very high-power solar array design, the Psyche spacecraft will speed to its destination at a faster pace than is typical for a larger spacecraft.

"By increasing the size of the solar arrays, the spacecraft will have the power it needs to support the higher velocity requirements of the updated mission," said SSL Psyche Program Manager Steve Scott.

The Psyche Mission

Psyche, an asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter, is made almost entirely of nickel-iron metal. As such, it offers a unique look into the violent collisions that created Earth and the terrestrial planets.

The Psyche Mission was selected for flight earlier this year under NASA's Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to Earth's core, and what its surface is like. The spacecraft's instrument payload will include magnetometers, multispectral imagers, and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.

For more information about NASA’s Psyche mission go to: http://www.nasa.gov/psyche

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Martin Perez/JPL/D.C. Agle/Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration/Karin Valentine.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA’s CYGNSS Satellite Constellation Begins Public Data Release

NASA - Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) logo.

May 24, 2017

On May 22, NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) began regular production of its science data products – measurements of ocean surface wind speed and roughness – with public release of these data facilitated by the NASA Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC). The production and distribution is timed to coincide with the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

CYGNSS – a constellation of eight microsatellite spacecraft launched into low inclination, low-Earth orbit over the tropics on December 15 – will make frequent measurements of ocean surface winds in the tropics, with a primary objective of monitoring the location, intensity, size, and development of tropical cyclones.


Image above: These maps show measurements of ocean surface wind speeds made by four of the eight CYGNSS spacecraft on March 6, 2017, as Tropical Cyclone Enawo approaches landfall on Madagascar. The times of the measurements are, from top to bottom: 1830, 1930, and 2030 UTC (1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. EST).

The ability of the CYGNSS constellation to track the development of surface winds in a major storm is demonstrated by preliminary measurements made during its flyover of Tropical Cyclone Enawo on March 6, as the system approached Madagascar with surface winds in excess of 100 mph.

“Successive spacecraft in the constellation observed Enawo over a period of several hours just before it made landfall on Madagascar,” explained Chris Ruf, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Michigan and CYGNSS Principal Investigator. “During the flyover, four of our eight spacecraft were operating in science mode and we managed to capture important elements of the size and structure of the storm.” According to Ruf, the other four spacecraft were still undergoing engineering commissioning activities. “Those activities are now largely complete and, as we enter the Atlantic hurricane season, we expect to have all eight of them available for science observations. This will effectively double our sampling and coverage.” 

CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) spacecraft

The CYGNSS mission is led by the University of Michigan. The Southwest Research Institute led the engineering development and manages the operation of the constellation. The University of Michigan Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering department leads the science investigation, and the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate oversees the mission.

Related link:

NASA Physical Oceanography Distributed Active Archive Center (PO.DAAC): https://podaac.jpl.nasa.gov/

For more information about  CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cygnss/

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Joe Atkinson.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Sentinel-2 captures coral bleaching of Great Barrier Reef










ESA - Sentinel-2 Mission logo.

24 May 2017

video
Sentinel-2

Scientists observed the bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef early this year using satellite images. While capturing these events from space has been difficult in the past, Sentinel-2’s frequent revisits and its resolution makes it possible.

The corals of the Great Barrier Reef have now suffered two bleaching events in successive years. Experts are very concerned about the capacity for reef survival under the increased frequency of these global warming-induced events.

Bleaching happens when algae living in the corals’ tissues, which capture the Sun’s energy and are essential to coral survival, are expelled owing to high water temperatures.

Sentinel-2 captures coral bleaching

The whitening coral may die, with subsequent effects on the reef ecosystem, and thus fisheries, regional tourism and coastal protection.

The bleached state of a coral can last up to six weeks. The corals might recover, or die and become covered by algae, in either case turning dark again, making them hard to distinguish from healthy coral in a satellite image. Such a pattern requires systematic and frequent monitoring to reliably identify a coral bleaching event from space.

Studying Sentinel-2 images captured over the reef between January and April, scientists working under ESA’s Sen2Coral project noticed areas that were likely to be coral appearing to turn bright white, then darken as time went on.

The event was confirmed by two successive images captured in February, indicating the approximate duration of the bleaching being at least 10 days.

“In general, interpreting changes is ambiguous. You can’t just jump to the conclusion brightening is bleaching because the brightness of any spot on a reef varies from image to image for many reasons due to both the water and bottom changes,” said Dr John Hedley, scientific leader of Sen2Coral.

Sentinel-2 times series over corals

Dr Chris Roelfsema of the University of Queensland’s Remote Sensing Research Centre, and lead of the Great Barrier Reef Habitat Mapping Project, conducted field campaigns in the area, collecting thousands of geo-located photos of the corals in January and again in April. These were used to confirm the satellite observations.

“Sadly, in the areas where bleaching can be seen, the abundant coral cover we observed in January was in April mostly overgrown with turf algae, with only some individual coral species surviving. The imagery and field data suggest this area has been hit badly,” he said.

Since monitoring of bleaching is typically conducted manually by airborne surveys or diving, many reefs of the world are not effectively monitored.

Bleaching is also difficult to monitor in satellite imagery because of constant variations in the overlying water and other changes in the bottom such as micro-algal blooms.

The frequent revisits of Sentinel-2 allow these variations to be removed and help the detection of bleaching events before coral recovery or algal overgrowth turns the area dark again.

Field campaign results

With both Sentinel-2 satellites now in orbit, the mission can contribute significantly to an increased understanding of pressures on coral reefs at a global scale.

“Sentinel 2 is a game-changer for coral reef remote sensing; the combination of frequent revisit and spatial resolution is enabling us to see genuinely new things,” said Dr Hedley.

“We now know bleaching can be visible in satellite imagery, but the challenge is to produce reliable software that can map or quantify that.

“It has to account for all sources of temporal variation and, importantly, the uncertainty in the methods. The methods have to be open for scientists to be able to interpret the outputs.”

Towards this aim, a set of software specifically for coral reef applications is being created by ESA’s Sen2Coral project and is expected to be available on the open-source SNAP toolbox by the end of the year.

Related links:

SNAP toolbox: http://step.esa.int/main/toolboxes/snap

Sen2Coral: http://www.sen2coral.org/

Remote Sensing Research Centre: https://www.rsrc.org.au/gbrcommon

Sentinel-2: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-2

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016–17), processed by J. Hedley; conceptual model by C. Roelfsema/C. Roelfsema, University of Queensland.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Schiaparelli landing investigation completed








ESA - ExoMars Mission logo.

24 May 2017

The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely.

Schiaparelli with parachute deployed

The Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator module separated from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, as planned on 16 October last year, and coasted towards Mars for three days.

Much of the six-minute descent on 19 October went as expected: the module entered the atmosphere correctly, with the heatshield protecting it at supersonic speeds. Sensors on the front and back shields collected useful scientific and engineering data on the atmosphere and heatshield.

Heatshield sensors

Telemetry from Schiaparelli was relayed to the main craft, which was entering orbit around the Red Planet at the same time – the first time this had been achieved in Mars exploration. This realtime transmission proved invaluable in reconstructing the unfolding chain of events.

At the same time as the orbiter recorded Schiaparelli’s transmissions, ESA’s Mars Express orbiter also monitored the lander’s carrier signal, as did the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India.

In the days and weeks afterwards, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took a number of images identifying the module, the front shield, and the parachute still connected with the backshield, on Mars, very close to the targeted landing site.

Schiaparelli impact site

The images suggested that these pieces of hardware had separated from the module as expected, although the arrival of Schiaparelli had clearly been at a high speed, with debris strewn around the impact site.

The independent external inquiry, chaired by ESA’s Inspector General, has now been completed.

It identifies the circumstances and the root causes, and makes general recommendations to avoid such defects and weaknesses in the future. The report summary can be downloaded here: http://exploration.esa.int/mars/59176-exomars-2016-schiaparelli-anomaly-inquiry

Around three minutes after atmospheric entry the parachute deployed, but the module experienced unexpected high rotation rates. This resulted in a brief ‘saturation’ – where the expected measurement range is exceeded – of the Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the lander’s rotation rate.

The saturation resulted in a large attitude estimation error by the guidance, navigation and control system software. The incorrect attitude estimate, when combined with the later radar measurements, resulted in the computer calculating that it was below ground level.

This resulted in the early release of the parachute and back-shell, a brief firing of the thrusters for only 3 sec instead of 30 sec, and the activation of the on-ground system as if Schiaparelli had landed. The surface science package returned one housekeeping data packet before the signal was lost.

In reality, the module was in free-fall from an altitude of about 3.7 km, resulting in an estimated impact speed of 540 km/h.

The Schiaparelli Inquiry Board report noted that the module was very close to landing successfully at the planned location and that a very important part of the demonstration objectives were achieved. The flight results revealed required software upgrades, and will help improve computer models of parachute behaviour.

“The realtime relay of data during the descent was crucial to provide this in-depth analysis of Schiaparelli’s fate,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

“We are extremely grateful to the teams of hard-working scientists and engineers who provided the scientific instruments and prepared the investigations on Schiaparelli, and deeply regret that the results were curtailed by the untimely end of the mission.

“There were clearly a number of areas that should have been given more attention in the preparation, validation and verification of the entry, descent and landing system.

“We will take the lessons learned with us as we continue to prepare for the ExoMars 2020 rover and surface platform mission. Landing on Mars is an unforgiving challenge but one that we must meet to achieve our ultimate goals.”

“Interestingly, had the saturation not occurred and the final stages of landing had been successful, we probably would not have identified the other weak spots that contributed to the mishap,” notes Jan Woerner, ESA's Director General. “As a direct result of this inquiry we have discovered the areas that require particular attention that will benefit the 2020 mission.”

ExoMars orbiter and rover

 ExoMars 2020 has since passed an important review confirming it is on track to meet the launch window. Having been fully briefed on the status of the project, ESA Member States at the Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programme Board reconfirmed their commitment to the mission, which includes the first Mars rover dedicated to drilling below the surface to search for evidence of life on the Red Planet.

Meanwhile the Trace Gas Orbiter has begun its year-long aerobraking in the fringes of the atmosphere that will deliver it to its science orbit in early 2018. The spacecraft has already shown its scientific instruments are ready for work in two observing opportunities in November and March.

In addition to its main goal of analysing the atmosphere for gases that may be related to biological or geological activity, the orbiter will also act as a relay for the 2020 rover and surface platform.

The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos.

Notes for Editors:

A summary of the final report is available here (PDF): http://exploration.esa.int/science-e/www/object/doc.cfm?fobjectid=59175

Related articles:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Views Schiaparelli Landing Site
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/10/mars-reconnaissance-orbiter-views.html

Detailed images of Schiaparelli and its descent hardware on Mars
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/10/detailed-images-of-schiaparelli-and-its.html

Schiaparelli descent data: decoding underway
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/10/schiaparelli-descent-data-decoding.html

Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/11/schiaparelli-impact-site-on-mars-in.html

Related links:

Robotic exploration of Mars: http://exploration.esa.int/

ExoMars Factsheet: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars/ExoMars_Factsheet

ExoMars brochure: http://www.esa.int/About_Us/ESA_Publications/ESA_Publications_Brochures/ESA_BR-327_EXOMARS_2016

Mars Express: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express

Roscosmos: http://en.federalspace.ru/

ExoMars at IKI: http://exomars.cosmos.ru/

Thales Alenia Space: https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/worldwide/space/space

NASA In 2016 ExoMars orbiter (Electra radio): http://mars.nasa.gov/programmissions/missions/future/exomarsorbiter2016/

Where on Mars?: http://whereonmars.co/

ExoMars for broadcasters: http://www.esa.int/esatv/Transmissions/2016/10/ExoMars_at_Mars_live_coverage

Images, Text, Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/ATG medialab/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

mardi 23 mai 2017

Kick-off for the 2017 LHC physics season












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

23 May 2017


Image above: An image of a proton–proton collision taken in the LHCb detector on 23 May. (Image: LHCb/CERN).

Physics at the LHC has kicked off for another season. Today, the Large Hadron Collider shifted up a gear, allowing the experiments to start taking data for the first time in 2017. Operations are starting gradually, with just a few proton bunches per beam. The operators who control the most powerful collider in the world will gradually increase the number of bunches circulating and will also reduce the size of the beams at the interaction points. In a few weeks’ time, over a billion collisions will be produced every second at the heart of the experiments.

Last year, the LHC produced an impressive amount of data, no fewer than 6.5 million billion collisions, representing an integrated luminosity over the course of the year of almost 40 inverse femtobarns. Luminosity, which corresponds to the number of potential collisions per surface unit in a given time period, is a crucial indicator of an accelerator’s performance. In 2017, the operators are hoping to produce the same number of collisions as in 2016, but over a shorter period, since the LHC has started up a month later due to the extended year-end technical stop.

“Over the first two years of operation at a collision energy of 13 TeV, we built up an excellent understanding of how the LHC works, which will allow us to optimise its operation even further in the third year,” says Frédérick Bordry, Director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN. “Our goal is to increase the peak luminosity even further and to maintain the LHC’s excellent availability, which in itself would be a great achievement.”


Image above: An image of a proton–proton collision taken in the CMS detector on 23 May. (Image: CMS/CERN).

Particle physics relies on the statistical analysis of various phenomena, so the size of the samples is crucial. In other words, the greater the number of collisions that reveal a certain phenomenon, the more reliable the result is. The experiments intend to take advantage of the large quantity of data supplied by the LHC to continue their exploration of physics at the highest energy ever obtained by an accelerator. 

“The LHC experiments are well prepared to double their statistics compared to what they obtained in 2016 at 13 TeV. Thanks to the new data, they will be able to reduce the uncertainties that surround their observations every time we enter unchartered territory,” says Eckhard Elsen, Director for Research and Computing.

The LHC physicists are working on two different broad areas: improving their knowledge of known phenomena and probing the unknown. The known phenomena constitute the Standard Model of Particles and Forces, a theory that encompasses all our current knowledge of elementary particles. The Higgs boson, discovered in 2012, plays a key role in the Standard Model. It is also a scalar particle, fundamentally different to the other elementary particles. In 2017, ATLAS and CMS will continue to work on determining the characteristics of this particle. These two large general-purpose experiments will observe its decay modes and how it interacts with other particles. Their measurements may provide indications of possible new physics beyond the Standard Model. The experiments will also carry out precise measurements of other processes of the Standard Model, in particular those involving the top quark, the elementary particle with the greatest mass.

Physicists hope to be able to identify disparities between their measurements and the Standard Model. This is one of the ways in which the unknown can be probed. Although it describes a lot of the phenomena of the infinitely small precisely, the Standard Model leaves many questions unanswered. For example, it describes only 5% of the universe; the rest is formed of dark matter and dark energy, the nature of which are as yet unknown.

Every discrepancy with regard to the theory could direct physicists towards a larger theoretical framework of new physics that might resolve the enigmas we face.


Image above: One of the early collision events with stable beams recorded by ATLAS on 23 May 2017, with a reconstructed muon candidate. The upper panes show transverse views of the detector and the muon spectrometer, while the lower panes show ATLAS in longitudinal cross-section and a view of the energy deposits in the cells of the ATLAS calorimeters. (Image: ATLAS/CERN).

ATLAS, CMS and LHCb measure processes precisely to detect anomalies. ATLAS and CMS are also looking for new particles, such as those predicted by the theory of supersymmetry, which could be the components of dark matter.

LHCb is also interested in the imbalance between matter and antimatter. Both of these would have been created in equal quantities at the time of the Big Bang, but antimatter is now practically absent from the universe. LHCb is tracking the phenomenon known as “charge-parity violation” which is thought to be at least partly responsible for this imbalance.

No lead ion collisions, which are the ALICE experiment’s specialist subject, are planned at the LHC this year. ALICE will continue its analysis of the 2016 data and will record proton-proton collisions, which will also allow it to study the strong force. On the basis of the proton-proton collisions from 2016, ALICE recently announced that it had observed a state of matter resembling quark-gluon plasma. Quark-gluon plasma is the state of matter that existed a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang.

Finally, several days of physics running with de-squeezed beams are planned for the TOTEM and ATLAS/ALFA experiments.

To find out more about physics at the LHC, you can watch our Facebook Live event is tomorrow Wednesday 24 May at 4 pm CEST: http://www.facebook.com/cern/

Note:

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC): http://home.cern/topics/large-hadron-collider

ATLAS: http://home.cern/about/experiments/atlas

CMS: http://home.cern/about/experiments/cms

LHCb: http://home.cern/about/experiments/lhcb

TOTEM: http://home.cern/about/experiments/totem

Higgs boson: http://home.cern/fr/topics/higgs-boson

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: http://home.cern/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Corinne Pralavorio.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Short Spacewalk Complete After Successful Installation Work















ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

May 23, 2017

Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 10:06 p.m. EDT. During the spacewalk, which lasted two hours and 46 minutes, the two astronauts successfully replaced a computer relay box, and installed a pair of antennas on station to enhance wireless communication for future spacewalks.


Image above: Astronaut Jack Fischer waves while attached to the Destiny laboratory during a spacewalk to replace a failed data relay box and install a pair wireless antennas. Image Credit: NASA.

Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 1,250 hours and 41 minutes working outside the station during 201 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. This was the 10th spacewalk for Whitson, who moves into third place all-time for cumulative spacewalking time, and the second for Fischer.

Related links:

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Artist’s Concept











NASA logo.

May 23, 2017


This artist's concept depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars.

The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself.

The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth.

Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020, aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will build and manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Related articles:

Scientists Shortlist Three Landing Sites for Mars 2020
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/02/scientists-shortlist-three-landing.html

NASA's Next Mars Rover Progresses Toward 2020 Launch
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/07/nasas-next-mars-rover-progresses-toward.html

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload to Explore the Red Planet as Never Before
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2014/07/nasa-announces-mars-2020-rover-payload.html

For more information about the mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 22 mai 2017

NASA TV Live Broadcasts Tuesday Spacewalk












ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch.

May 22, 2017

Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA will venture outside the International Space Station for a 2.5-hour contingency spacewalk Tuesday, May 23. The spacewalk will begin about 8 a.m. EDT, with complete coverage on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Whitson and Fischer will replace a critical computer relay box that failed on Saturday, May 20. The relay box, known as a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM), is one of two units that regulate the operation of radiators, solar arrays and cooling loops. They also will route commands to other vital station systems and install a pair of antennas to enhance wireless communication.


Image above: NASA astronauts Jack Fischer (left) and Peggy Whitson are outfitted in their U.S. spacesuits inside the U.S. Quest airlock before beginning the 200th spacewalk in support of International Space Station maintenance and assembly on May 12, 2017. Image Credit: NASA.

Because each MDM is capable of performing the critical station functions, the crew on the station was never in danger and station operations have not been affected.

The spacewalk will be the 201st in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the sixth spacewalk conducted from the Quest airlock this year, the 10th for Whitson and the second for Fischer.

Related links:

Expedition 51: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition51/index.html

NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

Nasa website coverage: http://www.nasa.gov/live

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Completes Fifth Science Pass of Jupiter












NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

May 22, 2017


Imsage above: This enhanced color view of Jupiter’s cloud tops was processed by citizen scientist Bjorn Jonsson using data from the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The image highlights a massive counterclockwise rotating storm that appears as a white oval in the gas giant’s southern hemisphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Bjorn Jonsson.

NASA's Juno mission accomplished a close flyby of Jupiter on May 19, successfully completing its fifth science orbit.

All of Juno's science instruments and the spacecraft's JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth. Juno's next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on July 11, 2017, taking it over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Juno Spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.

Related article:

Juno Scientists Prepare for Fifth Science Pass of Jupiter
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/05/juno-scientists-prepare-for-fifth.html

More information on the Juno mission is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/juno

http://missionjuno.org

The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

http://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno

http://www.twitter.com/NASAJuno

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/JPL/DC Agle.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Astronomers Confirm Orbital Details of TRAPPIST-1’s Least Understood Planet












NASA - Kepler Space Telescope patch.

May 22, 2017

video
TRAPPIST-1 Three-body Resonance

Video above: The animation shows a simulation of the planets of TRAPPIST-1 orbiting for 90 Earth-days. After 15 Earth days, the animation focuses only on the outer three planets: TRAPPIST-1f, TRAPPIST-1g, TRAPPIST-1h. The motion freezes each time two adjacent planets pass each other; an arrow appears pointing to the location of the third planet. This complex but predictable pattern, called an orbital resonance, occurs when planets exert a regular, periodic gravitational tug on each other as they orbit their star. The three-body resonance of the outer three planets causes the planets to repeat the same relative positions, and expecting such a resonance was used to predict the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h. Video Credits: Daniel Fabrycky/University of Chicago; with reference to Luger et al. 2017, Nature Astronomy.

Scientists using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star's habitable zone—the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius and is estimated to be between 3 and 8 billion years old.

Scientists announced that the system has seven Earth-sized planets at a NASA press conference on Feb. 22. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the TRAPPIST (Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope) in Chile and other ground-based telescopes were used to detect and characterize the planets. But the collaboration only had an estimate for the period of TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 system orbits. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronomers from the University of Washington have used data from the Kepler spacecraft to confirm that TRAPPIST-1h orbits its star every 19 days. At six million miles from its cool dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1h is located beyond the outer edge of the habitable zone, and is likely too cold for life as we know it. The amount of energy (per unit) planet h receives from its star is comparable to what the dwarf planet Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, gets from our sun.

“It’s incredibly exciting that we’re learning more about this planetary system elsewhere, especially about planet h, which we barely had information on until now,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “This finding is a great example of how the scientific community is unleashing the power of complementary data from our different missions to make such fascinating discoveries.”

"It really pleased me that TRAPPIST-1h was exactly where our team predicted it to be. It had me worried for a while that we were seeing what we wanted to see -- after all, things are almost never exactly what you expect them to be in this field," said Rodrigo Luger, doctoral student at UW in Seattle, and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. "Nature usually surprises us at every turn, but, in this case, theory and observation matched perfectly."

Orbital Resonance – Harmony Among Celestial Bodies

Using the prior Spitzer data, the team recognized a mathematical pattern in the frequency at which each of the six innermost planets orbits their star. This complex but predictable pattern, called an orbital resonance, occurs when planets exert a regular, periodic gravitational tug on each other as they orbit their star.

To understand the concept of resonance, consider Jupiter's moons Io, Europa and Ganymede, which is the farthest out of the three. For every time Ganymede orbits Jupiter, Europa orbits twice and Io makes four trips around the planet. This 1:2:4 resonance is considered stable and if one moon were nudged off course, it would self-correct and lock back into a stable orbit. It is this harmonious influence between the seven TRAPPIST-1 siblings that keeps the system stable.

 TRAPPIST-1 system. Image Credit: NASA

These relationships, said Luger, suggested that by studying the orbital velocities of its neighboring planets, they could predict the exact orbital velocity, and hence also orbital period, of planet h, even before the Kepler observations. The team calculated six possible resonant periods for planet h that would not disrupt the stability of the system, but only one was not ruled out by additional data. The other five possibilities could have been observed in the Spitzer and ground-based data collected by the TRAPPIST team.

“All of this”, Luger said, “indicates that these orbital relationships were forged early in the life of the TRAPPIST-1 system, during the planet formation process.”

"The resonant structure is no coincidence, and points to an interesting dynamical history in which the planets likely migrated inward in lock-step," said Luger. "This makes the system a great laboratory for planet formation and migration theories."

Worldwide Real-time Collaboration

The Kepler spacecraft stared at the patch of sky home to the TRAPPIST-1 system from Dec. 15, 2016 to March 4 collecting data on the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets as part of its second mission, K2. On March 8, the raw, uncalibrated data was released to the scientific community to begin their follow-up studies.

The work to confirm TRAPPIST-1h's orbital period immediately began and scientists from around the world took to social media to share in real-time the new information gleaned about the star's behavior and its brood of planets. Within two hours of the data release, the team confirmed their prediction of a 19-day orbital period.

"Pulling results out of data is always stimulating, but it was a rare treat to watch scientists across the world collaborate and share their progress near-real time on social media as they analyzed the data and identified the transits of TRAPPIST-1h," said Jessie Dotson, project scientist for the K2 mission at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "The creativity and expediency by which the data has been put to use has been a particular thrilling aspect of K2's community-focused approach."

Kepler Space Telescope or K2. Image Credit: NASA

TRAPPIST-1's seven-planet chain of resonances established a record among known planetary systems, the previous holders being the systems Kepler-80 and Kepler-223, each with four resonant planets.

The TRAPPIST-1 system was first discovered in 2016 by the TRAPPIST collaboration, and was thought to have just three planets at that time. Additional planets were found with Spitzer and ground-based telescopes. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is following up with atmospheric observations, and the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to probe potential atmospheres in further detail.

Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Related articles:

Ultracool Dwarf and the Seven Planets
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/02/ultracool-dwarf-and-seven-planets.html

NASA's Kepler Provides Another Peek At Ultra-cool Neighbor
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/03/nasas-kepler-provides-another-peek-at.html

Light From An Ultra-Cool Neighbor
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/03/light-from-ultra-cool-neighbor.html

For more information about the Kepler and K2 missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

For more information about the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit: http://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Michele Johnson/JPL/Elizabeth Landau.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Slim Crescent of Ice










NASA - Cassini International logo.

May 22, 2017


The low angle of sunlight along the slim crescent of Saturn's moon Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across) highlights the many fractures and furrows on its icy surface.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus, which is dimly illuminated in the image above by sunlight reflected off Saturn. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 14 degrees to the left. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 26, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 104,000 miles (168,000 kilometers) from Enceladus. Image scale is 3,303 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org and ESA website: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Cassini-Huygens

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

dimanche 21 mai 2017

Spacewalk Planned to Change Out Failed Relay Box & Station Managers Give Go for Tuesday Spacewalk












ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch.

May 21, 2017


Image above: The Soyuz MS-03 crew ship (foreground) and the Progress 66 cargo craft are pictured as the International Space Station orbits about 250 miles above Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

International Space Station Program managers met Sunday and gave approval for a contingency spacewalk no earlier than Tuesday by two Expedition 51 crewmembers to change out a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box on the S0 truss that failed on Saturday morning. The cause of the MDM failure is not known. A final decision on a firm date for the spacewalk and who will conduct the spacewalk will be made later in the day Sunday.

International Space Station Program managers have given the green light for a contingency spacewalk on Tuesday by two Expedition 51 crewmembers to change out a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box on the S0 truss that failed on Saturday morning. The cause of the MDM failure is not known. After a review of spacewalk preparations and crew readiness throughout the day Sunday, the decision was made to press ahead with the spacewalk on Tuesday. It will be conducted by Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA.

The data relay box is one of two fully redundant systems housed in the truss that control the functionality of radiators, solar arrays, cooling loops and other station hardware. The other MDM in the truss is functioning perfectly, providing uninterrupted telemetry routing to the station’s systems. The crew has never been in any danger, and the MDM failure, believed to be internal to the box itself, has had no impact on station activities.


Image above: This picture of the International Space Station was photographed from the space shuttle Atlantis as the orbiting complex and the shuttle performed their relative separation in the early hours of July 19, 2011. Image Credit: NASA.

On Sunday morning, Whitson prepared a spare data relay box and tested components installed in the replacement. She reported that the spare MDM was ready to be brought outside to replace the failed unit. Back on March 30, Whitson and Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA conducted a spacewalk to install the same MDM with upgraded software tat failed Saturday.

A similar MDM replacement spacewalk was conducted in April 2014 by Expedition 39 crewmembers Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio of NASA.

Tuesday’s spacewalk will last about two hours in duration to replace the failed box. An additional task was added for Fischer to install a pair of wireless communications antennas on the Destiny Lab while Whitson replaces the failed data relay box. The antenna installation task was originally planned for the last spacewalk on May 12.


Image above: Astronaut Peggy Whitson is pictured with the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship behind her during a spacewalk on May 12, 2017. Image Credit: NASA.

The contingency spacewalk will be the 201st in support of space station assembly and maintenance and the sixth conducted from the Quest airlock this year.

This will be the 10th spacewalk in Whitson’s career and the second for Fischer. Whitson will be designated as extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1) and will wear the suit with the red stripes. Fischer will be extravehicular crewmember 2 (EV 2) and will wear the suit with no stripes.

Tuesday’s spacewalk is expected to begin around 8 a.m. EDT, or earlier, if the crew is running ahead of schedule with its spacewalking preparations. NASA Television coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m.

Related links:

Expedition 51: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition51/index.html

NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

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

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

samedi 20 mai 2017

EPFL software at the command of satellites







EPFL - École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne logo.

May 20, 2017

Around thirty CubeSats were deployed this week from the ISS - International Space Station. Eight of them are equipped with the software developed at EPFL as part of the Swisscube project. (EPFL = École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).


Image above: The SwissCube, a satellite designed and made by students, was sent to space seven years ago. Image Credit: EPFL.

Code name: QB50. This European research program, launched in early 2016, aimed at deploying 50 miniaturized satellites - the CubeSats - into the Earth's orbit. Their mission is to observe and measure the "thermosphere", between 100 and 600 km above the earth's surface.

Research institutes from as many as 23 countries are participating in it, and since Monday, the International Space Station (ISS) has expelled the results of their work, the Federal Polytechnic said in a statement.

The controls

Seven years ago, EPFL itself sent SwissCube, the first Swiss satellite, designed and produced by students. If the school is not on the trip this time, it is, in a way, in command of eight of the 28 satellites that have joined the orbit this week.

"We have developed a control software - simply called Satellite Control System (SCS) - particularly lightweight and robust," says Muriel Richard, EPFL's Space Engineering Center (eSpace).

Computer code

This software allows you to encode the instructions you want to send to the satellite, to broadcast them when the satellite is flying over a base station, and then to receive feedback in a safe and automated way.


Image above: A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth's limb in the background, moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory module on Wednesday, May 16, 2017. The tiny shoebox-sized satellites will orbit Earth observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere and interstellar radiation left over from the Big Bang. Over a dozen CubeSats were ejected into Earth orbit this week outside the Kibo module to study Earth and space phenomena for the next one to two years. Image Credit: NASA.

Eight organizations from seven countries (Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Spain, Ukraine and China) have trusted the work of Swiss developers. They adapted according to their needs the computer code created at the EPFL and distributed in the open source mode.

Prototypes

"It's extremely positive and stimulating for our work," says Muriel Richard. The scientist points out that the software can also be used to control larger satellites.

It will be used in particular in the framework of the CleanSpace One project, a satellite that will have the task of de-orbiting Swisscube so that it does not become an additional "space debris". As for the deployment next year of the first two prototypes of a constellation of 60 nanosatellites, organized by ELSE, an EPFL start-up.

Related articles:

CubeSats Deployed Outside Station's Kibo Lab Module & Researches aboard the Station
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/05/cubesats-deployed-outside-stations-kibo.html

Cleaning up Earth's orbit: A Swiss satellite tackles space debris
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2012/02/cleaning-up-earths-orbit-swiss.html

For more information about EPFL - Swiss Space Center: http://space.epfl.ch/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ATS/EPFL/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 19 mai 2017

200th spacewalk upgrades Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer














CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo / NASA - AMS-02 Mission patch.

May 19, 2017


Image above: Astronaut Peggy Whitson during the 200th spacewalk from the International Space Station (Image credit: NASA).

The 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station (ISS) included a new installation on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) – a particle-physics detector that was assembled at CERN.

On 12 May, Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA conducted the four-hour spacewalk, while ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet stayed inside the ISS to drive the station arm that positions the two astronauts.

One of their tasks involved replacing a cable with a bus terminator – a type of connector – to carry data between AMS and the space shuttle. During the spacewalk, the AMS team stationed at CERN in the experiment’s Payload and Operations Control Centre (POCC), were able to check that the bus terminator was properly functioning. This connection will be used from 2018, when a new thermal cooling system for the AMS silicon tracker is put into place.

The AMS cooling pump system was developed by the collaboration at CERN, and a similar system is now also used by some of the LHC experiments to cool their trackers. Despite only needing one pump, AMS was flown to space with four. Now, three of the four pumps are no longer functioning and so multiple spacewalks are planned for 2018 to replace these with a new cooling system, which would extend the life of AMS in space by 12 years.

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on ISS. Image Credit: NASA

AMS was launched in 2011 on the penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle and has been collecting data during the last six years. It is a particle-physics detector looking for dark matter, antimatter and missing matter and also performs precision measurements of cosmic rays. It reached the milestone of recording 100 billion cosmic ray events on 8 May.

Note:

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related article:

200th Station Spacewalk Comes to an End
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2017/05/200th-station-spacewalk-comes-to-end.html

Related links:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS): http://home.cern/about/experiments/ams

LHC experiments: http://home.cern/about/experiments

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: http://home.cern/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Paola Catapano.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

CubeSats Deployed Outside Station's Kibo Lab Module & Researches aboard the Station












ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch.

May 19, 2017


A pair of CubeSats, with the Earth's limb in the background, moments after being ejected from a small satellite deployer outside of the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory module on Wednesday, May 16, 2017. The tiny shoebox-sized satellites will orbit Earth observing the Earth’s upper atmosphere and interstellar radiation left over from the Big Bang. Over a dozen CubeSats were ejected into Earth orbit this week outside the Kibo module to study Earth and space phenomena for the next one to two years.  Image Credit: NASA.

video
Space to Ground: A Fleet of CUBESATS: 05/19/2017

Expedition 51 is wrapping up a week of ongoing research into how living in space affects an astronaut’s brain and vision. The International Space Station also boosted its orbit ahead of crew and cargo missions coming and going in June.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer strapped himself in a device for the NeuroMapping experiment today that tests how the human brain structure and function changes in space. The study also compares brain changes, motor control and multi-tasking when an astronaut is in a free-floating state.

Doctors have noted how microgravity causes a headward fluid shift of blood and other body fluids. As a result, astronaut’s experience face-swelling and elevated head pressure.


Image above: This week, Commander Peggy Whitson evaluated Flight Engineer Jack Fischer’s calf and thigh for the Sprint study to assess spaceflight-induced changes in muscle volume. Doctors are evaluating the effectiveness of high intensity, low volume exercise to keep astronauts healthy in space. Image Credit: NASA.

The Fluid Shifts study is exploring a way to offset the upward flow using unique suit known as the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. Commander Peggy Whitson wore the suit today and underwent ultrasound scans and eye checks to help scientists determine its effectiveness against lasting changes in vision and eye damage.

The space station is orbiting a little higher above Earth this week to prepare for the departure of two crew members on June 2. The SpaceX Dragon is due to launch June 1 and arrive at the station three days later. Mission managers are working a plan dependent on an on-time Dragon launch that could see the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft depart in early June or mid-July.

Related links:

CubeSats: http://www.nasa.gov/cubesats/

Small Satellite Missions: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats

NeuroMapping: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1007.html

Fluid Shifts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1257.html

Expedition 51: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition51/index.html

SpaceX Dragon: https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

Orbital ATK Cygnus: https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk

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

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

SpaceX Dragon to Deliver Research to Space Station















ISS - International Space Station patch / SpaceX - CRS-11 Mission patch.

May 19, 2017

SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft for its eleventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station June 1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39A. Dragon will lift into orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers living aboard the station.


Image above: The explosion of a massive star blazes, or a supernova, observed by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. The bright spot at top right of the image is a stellar blast, called a supernova. The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) investigation, affixed to the exterior of the International Space Station, studies the physics of these stars, providing new insight into their nature and behavior. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A.V. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), et al.

The flight will deliver investigations and facilities that study neutron stars, osteoporosis, solar panels, tools for Earth-observation, and more. Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the orbiting laboratory:

New solar panels test concept for more efficient power source

Solar panels are an efficient way to generate power, but they can be delicate and large when used to power a spacecraft or satellites. They are often tightly stowed for launch and then must be unfolded when the spacecraft reaches orbit. The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), is a solar panel concept that is lighter and stores more compactly for launch than the rigid solar panels currently in use. ROSA has solar cells on a flexible blanket and a framework that rolls out like a tape measure.  The technology for ROSA is one of two new solar panel concepts that were developed by the Solar Electric Propulsion project, sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.


Image above: The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) is a new, more compact solar panel that will snap open in space, a favorable design over the rigid solar panels currently in use, pictured above. Image Credit: NASA.

The new solar panel concepts are intended to provide power to electric thrusters for use on NASA’s future space vehicles for operations near the Moon and for missions to Mars and beyond. They might also be used to power future satellites in Earth orbit, including more powerful commercial communications satellites. The demonstration of the deployment of ROSA on the space station is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Investigation studies composition of neutron stars
 
video
What is a Neutron Star?

Neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, are the densest objects in the universe, and contain exotic states of matter that are impossible to replicate in any ground lab. These stars are called “pulsars” because of the unique way they emit light – in a beam similar to a lighthouse beacon. As the star spins, the light sweeps past us, making it appear as if the star is pulsing. The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) payload, affixed to the exterior of the space station, studies the physics of these stars, providing new insight into their nature and behavior.


Animation above: The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) payload, affixed to the exterior of the space station, will study the physics of neutron stars, providing new insight into their nature and behavior. Image Credit: NASA.

Neutron stars emit X-ray radiation, enabling the NICER technology to observe and record information about its structure, dynamics and energetics. In addition to studying the matter within the neutron stars, the payload also includes a technology demonstration called the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT), which will help researchers to develop a pulsar-based, space navigation system. Pulsar navigation could work similarly to GPS on Earth, providing precise position for spacecraft throughout the solar system.

Investigation studies effect of new drug on osteoporosis

When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss, or osteoporosis. In-flight countermeasures, such as exercise, prevent it from getting worse, but there isn’t a therapy on Earth or in space that can restore bone that is already lost. The Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5) investigation tests a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving health for crew members.

 ISS - International Space Station. Animation Credit: NASA

Exposure to microgravity creates a rapid change in bone health, similar to what happens in certain bone-wasting diseases, during extended bed rest and during the normal aging process. The results from this ISS National Laboratory-sponsored investigation build on previous research also supported by the National Institutes for Health and could lead to new drugs for treating bone density loss in millions of people on Earth.

Research seeks to understand the heart of the matter

Exposure to reduced gravity environments can result in cardiovascular changes such as fluid shifts, changes in total blood volume, heartbeat and heart rhythm irregularities, and diminished aerobic capacity. The Fruit Fly Lab-02 study will use the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to better understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart. Flies are smaller, with a well-known genetic make-up, and very rapid aging that make them good models for studying heart function. This experiment will help to develop a microgravity heart model in the fruit fly. Such a model could significantly advance the study of spaceflight effects on the cardiovascular system and facilitate the development of countermeasures to prevent the adverse effects of space travel on astronauts.

 SpaceX Dragon heading the International Space Station. Animation Credit: NASA

Investigation shapes the way humans survive in space

Currently, the life-support systems aboard the space station require special equipment to separate liquids and gases. This technology utilizes rotating and moving parts that, if broken or otherwise compromised, could cause contamination aboard the station. The Capillary Structures investigation studies a new method of water recycling and carbon dioxide removal using structures designed in specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures. As opposed to the expensive, machine-based processes currently in use aboard the station, the Capillary Structures equipment is made up of small, 3-D printed geometric shapes of varying sizes that clip into place.

Using time lapse photography, on-ground research teams will observe how liquids evaporate from these capillary structures, testing the effectiveness of the varying parameters. Results from the investigation could lead to the development of new processes that are simple, trustworthy, and highly reliable in the case of an electrical failure or other malfunction.

Facility provides platform for Earth-observation tools

Orbiting approximately 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, the space station provides views of the Earth below like no other location can provide. The Multiple User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) facility, developed by Teledyne Brown Engineering, hosts Earth-viewing instruments such as high-resolution digital cameras, hyperspectral imagers, and provides precision pointing and other accommodations.


Image above: Hurricane Edouard, as observed by NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman during Expedition 41. The MUSES platform will host Earth-viewing instruments such as high-resolution digital cameras and provide information like disaster relief information. Image Credit: NASA.

This National Lab-sponsored investigation can produce data to be used for maritime domain awareness, agricultural awareness, food security, disaster response, air quality, oil and gas exploration and fire detection.


Image above: MUSES hosts earth-viewing tools such as high-resolution digital cameras and hyperspectral imagers and provides precision pointing and other accommodations. It hosts up to four instruments at the same time, and offers the ability to change, upgrade, and robotically service those instruments. Image Credits: Teledyne Brown Engineering.

These investigations will join many other investigations currently happening aboard the space station. Follow https://twitter.com/ISS_Research for more information about the science happening on station.

Related links:

Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2139.html

Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER): https://www.nasa.gov/nicer

Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT): https://gameon.nasa.gov/projects/deep-space-x-ray-navigation-and-communication/

Rodent Research-5: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2283.html

ISS National Laboratory: http://www.iss-casis.org/

Fruit Fly Lab-02: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1919.html

Capillary Structures: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2364.html

Commercial Resupply: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/index.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

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

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/JSC/Jenny Howard/International Space Station Program Science Office.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch