Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

SpaceX rocket explosion could create delays in the company’s ambitious plans   Leave a comment


line

BBC

spacex

The way it is supposed to work.

line

A rocket operated by the aerospace company SpaceX has exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral last week where it was being test-fired ahead of a launch.

The force of the blast shook buildings several miles away.

SpaceX said “an anomaly” had occurred while the rocket was being loaded with fuel. No-one was injured, it said.

The rocket’s payload, an Israeli-built communications satellite for Facebook due to launch on Saturday, was also destroyed, it added.

Facebook, in partnership with Eutelsat Communications, had been due to use the Amos-6 satellite to deliver broadband internet coverage for swathes of sub-Saharan Africa as part of its Internet.org initiative.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is currently visiting Africa, said he was “deeply disappointed” to hear that the satellite had been destroyed.

“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

A leading Israeli space official said the loss of the Amos-6 satellite, valued at more than $200m (£150m) and owned by Spacecom, was a major blow to the industry.

“As far as the Israeli communications satellite industry is concerned, this is a very severe blow which could place the future of the industry in doubt if it is not dragged out of the mud,” said the chairman of the Israel Space Agency, Isaac Ben-Israel.

line

The way you don’t want it to turn out.

 

spacex-rocket-explosion-amos-6

line

spacex-rocket-explodes-launch-pad1

line

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station said a “significant” explosion had happened just after 09:00 (14:00 GMT) at Launch Complex 40, which is leased by SpaceX.

SpaceX said in a statement: “The anomaly originated around the upper stage oxygen tanks and occurred during propellant loading of the vehicle.

“As per standard operating procedure, all personnel were clear of the pad and no-one was injured. We are continuing to review the data to identify the root cause.”

SpaceX is aiming to create a new era of reusable rockets and affordable private space travel and has used its Falcon-9 rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

line

spacex z

line

In December last year, the California-based company successfully landed a Falcon-9 back on Earth after a mission to launch orbiting satellites – a first in rocketry.

SpaceX is run out of Hawthorne near Los Angeles by Elon Musk, who made his fortune with internet companies.

As well as being the rocket company’s CEO, he also heads up the Tesla electric car company.

Grey line

Analysis: David Shukman, Science Editor, BBC News

Whatever the details of what went wrong at the launch-pad, this is bad news for one of the most ambitious-ever space programmes.

SpaceX has big dreams for cheap, frequent and distant space travel. This test-firing was meant to be routine, part of an accelerating series of launches.

Beyond it, SpaceX is looking to make history by re-using one of the massive first stages that was returned to Earth intact. The company is also preparing to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

Most exotic of all, the company’s boss, Elon Musk, is due later this month to unveil his plans for a Mars colony, and how that would take effect.

There had been talk of the first SpaceX unmanned mission to the Red Planet in a couple of years’ time. All its timetables will now be in jeopardy.

line

line

Posted September 5, 2016 by markosun in Space

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter   Leave a comment


The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA’s future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.

The probe has made a 3-D map of the Moon’s surface and has provided high resolution images of Apollo landing sites. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA’s Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, LRO was the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years. LRO and LCROSS were launched as part of the United States’s Vision for Space Exploration program.

Artist’s illustration of the LRO

earth Lunar_Reconnaissance_Orbiter_001

earth LRO_Tycho_Central_Peak

Tycho Central Peak

Far side of the Moon

 

eart Moon_Farside_LRO

Near side of the Moon

 

earth LRO_WAC_Nearside_Mosaic

North Pole

 

earth LRO_WAC_North_Pole_Mosaic_(PIA14024)

South Pole

 

earth LRO_WAC_South_Pole_Mosaic

Earthrise over Compton Crater

 

Earthrise_over_Compton_crater_-LRO_full_res

Apollo 11 landing site

 

Apollo11-LRO-March2012

Apollo 17 landing site

 

Apollo_17_LM_Challenger_LRO

.

Posted July 30, 2016 by markosun in Space

Hubble Captures Amazing Auroras over Jupiter   Leave a comment


line

Jupiter-Aurora

line

A month-long observation of Jupiter by the Hubble Telescope has produced some breathtaking images of the massive auroras over the planet’s poles.

Incredibly, the auroras are double the size of Jupiter’s famed ‘red spot,’ meaning that they are a jaw-dropping four times the size of Earth!

And, unlike their Earthly counterparts, the auroras of Jupiter are not a fleeting phenomenon, but are actually a constant presence on the planet.

The images are the first in what promise to be a bevy of new insights about Jupiter’s auroras as NASA’s Juno probe is expected to arrive at the planet next week to study the phenomenon.

The $1 billion dollar spacecraft has spent the last five years traveling to the planet and will be only the second manmade probe sent to Jupiter.

With such an amazing natural fireworks display at the planet’s poles, it’s only fitting that Juno’s planned date for arrival is July 4th.

Posted June 30, 2016 by markosun in Space

Stunning Photos Of Saturday’s Mysterious Rocket Launch   Leave a comment


Popsci.com

adelta

Delta IV Heavy Awaits Launch

Rockets spend most of their lives waiting. Here, the Delta IV Heavy that carried the National Reconnaissance Office’s mysterious payload into space on June 11 basks in a sunset.

line

Last weekend, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket hurtled a mysterious payload into orbit. The classified cargo, delivered on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office, is possibly a spy satellite, though we may not know for years or more what it actually was. What we can do is bask in the beauty of a rocket hurtling an enigma into orbit.

line

adelta1

Waiting In Daylight

“The Delta IV Heavy is capable of placing a payload of 6,750 kilograms (14,900 lb) directly into geosynchronous orbit,” says NASA, “or upwards of 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.”

line

adelta2

Blastoff

This is what 2,950 kilonewtons of thrust looks like.

line

adelta3

In Air

Casual reminder that putting stuff on rockets and hurtling them into space is something humans do regularly now.

line

adelta4

Posted June 17, 2016 by markosun in Space

Virtual Tour of The International Space Station   Leave a comment


line

ab4ISS_Aug2005

Posted June 16, 2016 by markosun in Space

China Unveils World’s Largest Radio Telescope   Leave a comment


line

radio

line

BBC

Nestling in a vast natural crater, China’s giant is about to come alive.

A colossal, steeply curved dish glints in the sunlight, surrounded by jagged mountains that cut into the sky. Construction workers, busy putting the finishing touches to this structure, look tiny against the huge backdrop. This is the largest radio telescope ever built, measuring 500m (1,640ft) across.

“In China, in astronomy, we’re far behind the world,” says Prof Peng Bo, the deputy project manager of the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope – or Fast for short.

We used to have to go abroad, to use telescopes outside China. I think it’s time for us to build something in China.”

Situated in Guizhou Province, in the south-west of the country, Fast dwarfs all other radio telescopes.

The former record-holder was the Aricebo Observatory, in Puerto Rico, with a diameter of 305m (1,000ft).

The Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank in the north of England measures 76m (249ft) across.

This isn’t simply one-upmanship – bigger really is better when it comes to radio astronomy.

line

radio1

line

While some telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, use light to see the visible Universe, a radio telescope is more like a giant ear “listening” for radio waves emitted by objects in deepest space.

Like light, radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation – but they have extremely long wavelengths, ranging from about a millimetre to more than 100km in length.

And because these cosmic signals have travelled for great distances in space they are also incredibly weak.

This is why radio telescopes need to be big – the larger the dish, the more signals it can collect.

China’s new telescope is so large that the team hopes it will pick up radio waves from the far reaches of the cosmos.

The telescope will be searching for ancient signals of hydrogen – one of the building blocks of the early Universe – to try to understand how the cosmos evolved.

It will also be hunting for new stars – in particular a rapidly rotating and extremely dense type of star called a pulsar – and it will even join the hunt for extraterrestrial life.

“The search for extraterrestrial life is a very hot topic for every telescope – and also for the public. I think Fast can make a contribution,” Peng says.

It took 10 years of trawling through satellite images of the Chinese countryside to find a natural depression big enough to fit the telescope inside.

But construction has taken place in record time – just over five years, and it’s nearly complete.

line

radio2

line

Posted May 24, 2016 by markosun in Science, Space

NASA’s high flying telescope   Leave a comment


The Americans never cease to amaze when it comes to undertaking incredible projects.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to construct and maintain an airborne observatory. NASA awarded the contract for the development of the aircraft, operation of the observatory and management of the American part of the project to the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in 1996. The DSI (Deutsches SOFIA Institut) manages the German parts of the project which are primarily science and telescope related. SOFIA’s telescope saw first light on May 26, 2010. SOFIA is the successor to the Kuiper Airborne Observatory.

aanasa

SOFIA is based on a Boeing 747SP wide-body aircraft that has been modified to include a large door in the aft fuselage that can be opened in flight to allow a 2.5 m (8.2 ft) diameter reflecting telescope access to the sky. This telescope is designed for infrared astronomy observations in the stratosphere at altitudes of about 12 kilometres (41,000 ft). SOFIA’s flight capability allows it to rise above almost all of the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks some infrared wavelengths from reaching the ground. At the aircraft’s cruising altitude, 85% of the full infrared range will be available. The aircraft can also travel to almost any point on the Earth’s surface, allowing observation from the northern and southern hemispheres.

Once ready for use, observing flights were expected to be flown 3 or 4 nights a week. Originally scheduled to be operational for 20 years, in its tentative budget for the fiscal year 2015 NASA announced that unless Germany’s aerospace center would contribute significantly more than previously agreed upon, the observatory would be grounded by 2015. The SOFIA Observatory is based at NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at LA/Palmdale Regional Airport, California, while the SOFIA Science Center is based out of NASA Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, California.

aanasa1

SOFIA uses a 2.5 m (8.2 ft) reflector telescope, which has an oversized, 2.7 m (8.9 ft) diameter primary mirror, as is common with most large infrared telescopes. The optical system uses a Cassegrain reflector design with a parabolic primary mirror and a remotely configurable hyperbolic secondary. In order to fit the telescope into the fuselage, the primary is shaped to an f-number as low as 1.3, while the resulting optical layout has an f-number of 19.7. A flat, tertiary, dichroic mirror is used to deflect the infrared part of the beam to the Nasmyth focus where it can be analyzed. An optical mirror located behind the tertiary mirror is used for a camera guidance system.

The telescope looks out of a large door in the port side of the fuselage near the airplane’s tail, and initially carried nine instruments for infrared astronomy at wavelengths from 1–655 micrometres (μm) and high-speed optical astronomy at wavelengths from 0.3–1.1 μm. The main instruments are the FLITECAM, a near infrared camera covering 1–5 μm; FORCAST, covering the mid-infrared range of 5–40 μm, and HAWC, which spans the far infrared in the range 42–210 μm. The other four instruments include an optical photometer and infrared spectrometers with various spectral ranges. SOFIA’s telescope is by far the largest ever to be placed in an aircraft. For each mission one interchangeable science instrument will be attached to the telescope. Two groups of general purpose instruments are available. In addition an investigator can also design and build a special purpose instrument. On April 17, 2012, two upgrades to HAWC were selected by NASA to increase the field of view with new detector arrays and to add the capability of measuring the polarization of dust emission from celestial sources.

The open cavity housing the telescope will be exposed to high-speed turbulent winds. In addition, the vibrations and motions of the aircraft introduce observing difficulties. The telescope was designed to be very lightweight, with a honeycomb shape milled into the back of the mirror and polymer composite material used for the telescope assembly. The mount includes a system of bearings in pressurized oil to isolate the instrument from vibration. Tracking is achieved through a system of gyroscopes, high speed cameras, and magnetic torque motors to compensate for motion, including vibrations from airflow and the aircraft engines. The telescope cabin must be cooled prior to aircraft takeoff to ensure the telescope matches the external temperature to prevent thermally induced shape changes. Prior to landing the compartment is flooded with nitrogen gas to prevent condensation of moisture on the chilled optics and instruments.

DLR is responsible for the entire telescope assembly and design along with two of the nine scientific instruments used with the telescope, NASA is responsible for the aircraft. The manufacturing of the telescope was subcontracted to European industry. The telescope is German; the primary mirror was cast by Schott AG in Mainz, Germany with lightweight improvements, with grinding and polishing completed by the French company SAGEM-REOSC. The secondary silicon carbide based mirror mechanism was manufactured by Swiss CSEM. A reflective surface was applied to the mirror at a facility in Louisiana but the consortium now maintains a mirror coating facility in Moffett Field, allowing for fast recoating of the primary mirror, a process that is expected to be required 1-2 times per year.

 

aanasa2

The primary science objectives of SOFIA are to study the composition of planetary atmospheres and surfaces; to investigate the structure, evolution and composition of comets; to determine the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium; and to explore the formation of stars and other stellar objects. While SOFIA aircraft operations are managed by NASA Dryden, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, is home to the SOFIA Science Center which will manage mission planning for the program. On 29 June 2015, the dwarf planet Pluto passed between a distant star and the Earth producing a shadow on the Earth near New Zealand that allowed SOFIA to study the atmosphere of Pluto.

F/A-18 mission support aircraft shadows SOFIA during a functional check flight.

 

aanasa3

Wikipedia

Posted May 20, 2016 by markosun in Aircraft, Aviation, Space

Russia’s New Vostochny Cosmodrome   Leave a comment


aaline

The Vostochny Cosmodrome is a Russian spaceport currently under construction on the 51st parallel north in the Amur Oblast, in the Russian Far East. When completed in 2018, it is intended to reduce Russia’s dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located in Kazakhstan. The first launch was expected to take place on April 28, 2016 at 02:01 UTC.

aaline

cosmo

aaline

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has made several statements emphasizing the importance of the new cosmodrome. In August 2010, he said “The creation of a new space center … is one of modern Russia’s biggest and most ambitious projects”. In January 2011, he ordered the government to complete the paperwork as soon as possible so that construction can start on schedule.

Construction of the cosmodrome began in January 2011 and, as of 2011, was expected to be completed in 2018.

Vostochny (which means “eastern” in Russian) is be located in the Svobodny and Shimanovsk districts of Amur Oblast in the Russian Far East, on the watershed of the Zeya and Bolshaya Pyora rivers, approximately 600–800 km (370–500 mi) from the Pacific Ocean, depending on launch azimuth. The planned total area is 551.5 km2, being a region approximately 30 km in diameter centred on

The nearby train station is Ledyanaya and the nearest city is Tsiolkovsky. The cosmodrome’s geographic location at 51 degrees north means that, to a given orbit, rockets will be able to carry almost the same amount of payload as they can when launched from Baikonur. Other arguments for choosing this location include the ability to use sparsely populated areas and bodies of water for the rocket launch routes; proximity to major transportation networks such as the Baikal–Amur Mainline, the Chita–Khabarovsk Highway; abundance of electricity production resources in the area; and the presence of the infrastructure of the former Svobodny Cosmodrome, on which the new spaceport will be based.[3] The site’s location in the Russian far eastern region will allow for easier transport of materials to the site, and will allow rockets to jettison their lower stages over the ocean. It was expanded as part of the plan of modernization of the supporting infrastructure. Putin said that among places offered was an area on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, near Vladivostok, but that experts recommended not to locate it there since the closeness to the ocean can create problems and delays in launches, and as a result the current place was chosen.
cosmo4
cosmo3

However the first scheduled launch for today was scrubbed, and President Putin was not pleased.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged space officials to fix “hitches” after flying thousands of miles to see the first rocket launch from a new cosmodrome, only for it to be delayed.

The Soyuz launch from the Vostochny space port, about 5,500km (3,500 miles) east of Moscow, was called off just minutes before the planned lift-off.

Officials blamed a mechanical failure, and the launch was rescheduled for Thursday.

Mr Putin will stay on until then.

“The fact is there is a large number of hitches,” the president said at a meeting with the country’s top space officials on Wednesday.

“That is bad. There should be an appropriate reaction.”
cosmo1
cosmo2

The second launch attempt is now expected at 05:01 Moscow time (02:01 GMT) on Thursday.

At the meeting, Mr Putin also stressed that the launch delay was related to the rocket itself – not the cosmodrome.

It was Mr Putin’s personal idea to build a new space port in Russia to avoid any potential political risks of using the old Soviet launch centre at Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

But construction of the vast complex in Russia’s Far East has been hit by delays and dogged by corruption scandals.

Four people have already been arrested.

“If their guilt is proven, they will have to change their warm beds at home for plank-beds in prison,” the president warned.

cosmo5

cosmo6

Posted April 27, 2016 by markosun in Space

The Soviet Lunar Lander that Never Landed on the Moon   Leave a comment


line

lunar1

line

The Soviet lunar program was covered up, forgotten after failing to put a man on the moon.

Soviet scientists were well ahead of their American counterparts in moon exploration before President John F. Kennedy pronounced the U.S. would put a man there first. The Soviets had already landed the probe Luna 2 on the surface of the moon in 1959 and had an orbiting satellite in 1966.

The Soviets developed a similar multi-step approach to NASA, involving a module used to orbit the moon and one for landing. Their version was decidedly less complex and lighter to account for inferior rockets. This photo show the LK “Lunar Craft” lander, which has a similar pod-over-landing gear structure but numerous key differences.

line

lunar-craft-2-russo_0

line

All the activities done by two astronauts is done by one. To make the craft lighter, the LK only fits the one cosmonaut, who was supposed to peer through a tiny window on the side of the craft to land it. After landing the vehicle the pod separates from the landing gear, as with the Apollo Lunar Module, but uses the same engine for landing as it does for take off as another weight savings.

The L2 Lunar Orbit Module designed to transport the LK into orbit around the moon was similarly stripped down. There’s no internal connection between the two craft so the cosmonaut had to space walk outside to get into the LK and head towards the surface. When the LK rejoined the L2 for the return trip home, the now likely exhausted cosmonaut would then climb back out into the abyss of space. The LK would then be thrown away.

line

Soviet Lunar Orbiter

 

lunar2

line

Soviet Lunar Lander (LK)

 

lunar3

line

There were numerous political, scientific and financial reasons why the Soviets didn’t make it to the moon first, including a space agency with split priorities and therefore not single-mindedly dedicated to this goal. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon first on July 20, 1969, besting the Russians, who were still planning to visit the moon in the upcoming years.

They had the equipment, but they didn’t have the rockets.

Getting to the moon requires launching a command module and a lander. Both are heavy objects and require massive amounts of thrust to get into orbit. The Soviet’s planned to use their N-1 rocket, but two failed launches in 1971 and 1972 destroyed dummy landing and control modules, as well as the rockets themselves, and led to the program being shelved for lack of a proper launch vehicle.

The LK was sent into space for numerous test missions. The first two unmanned flights were successful tests of the vehicle through a simulated orbit. The third flight ended when the N-1 rocket crashed. The fourth test in 1971 was a success, but years later the decaying test module started to return to Earth with a trajectory that would put it over the skies of Australia.

NASA explains in a report on the Soviet space program how they had to convince the Australians it wasn’t a nuclear satellite:

To allay fears of a nuclear catastrophe, representatives of the Soviet Foreign Ministry in Australia admitted that Cosmos 434 was an “experiment unit of a lunar cabin,” or lunar lander

Eventually, the program was deemed too expensive and unnecessary in light of the NASA success. The Soviets moved onto building space labs, successfully, and the remaining parts of the lunar program were destroyed or dispersed, including this amazing collection of parts hidden in the back of the Moscow Aviation Institute.

line

lunar5

American Lunar Orbiter top, Soviet Orbiter bottom

line

Soviet Lander ascending from the surface of the Moon, artist graphic.

line

lunar4

line

LK Lander and Apollo LM (drawn to scale). Manned Moon landers

 

lunar6

space1

Soviet left, American right

.

.

 

Posted April 18, 2016 by markosun in Space

SpaceX Succeeds with Historic Sea Landing   Leave a comment


After failing in its four previous attempts, private spaceflight company SpaceX finally achieved their longstanding goal of landing their Falcon 9 rocket booster on a barge at sea off the Florida coast.

Although the company had successfully brought the rocket back to Earth in one piece via a land arrival back in December, the preferred marine return has eluded them over the past year.

The company had previously lost four rockets which attempted the marine landing, but failed due to a variety of engineering and atmospheric miscues.

However, with Friday’s successful sea landing, SpaceX looks to continue refining their reusable rocket technology, which experts believe will ultimately revolutionize space travel by drastically reducing expenses.

Incredibly, should the reusable rocket concept prove to be sustainable, a SpaceX official expressed hope that the company could be launching into space every two weeks by the end of the year.

Beyond the historic landing at sea, Friday’s mission also set the stage for another first due to a unique portion of its payload: the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, an innovative habitat which will be attached to the ISS and could be a glimpse of how future humans will live in space.

So while we may not be walking on Mars just yet, the history-making events of this week serve as testament to the old adage that sometimes the journey is just as thrilling as the destination.

.

000x

.

000xa

.

000xb

.

000xc

.

000xd

.

000xe

.

000xf

.

000xg

.

.

Posted April 10, 2016 by markosun in Space, Technology