Archive for the ‘Space’ Tag

Cubesats: Miniature research satellites launched from the International Space Station   Leave a comment


A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research that usually has a volume of exactly one liter (10 cm cube), has a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms, and typically uses commercial off-the-shelf components for its electronics.

Beginning in 1999, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Stanford University developed the CubeSat specifications to help universities worldwide to perform space science and exploration.

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The CubeSat specification accomplishes several high-level goals. Simplification of the satellite’s infrastructure makes it possible to design and produce a workable satellite at low cost. Encapsulation of the launcher–payload interface takes away the prohibitive amount of managerial work that would previously be required for mating a piggyback satellite with its launcher. Unification among payloads and launchers enables quick exchanges of payloads and utilization of launch opportunities on short notice.

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Since CubeSats are all 10×10 cm (regardless of length) they can all be launched and deployed using a common deployment system. CubeSats are typically launched and deployed from a mechanism called a Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD), also developed and built by Cal Poly. P-PODs are mounted to a launch vehicle and carry CubeSats into orbit and deploy them once the proper signal is received from the launch vehicle. P-PODs have deployed over 90% of all CubeSats launched to date (including un-successful launches), and 100% of all CubeSats launched since 2006. The P-POD Mk III has capacity for three 1U CubeSats, or other 1U, 2U, or 3U CubeSats combination up to a maximum volume of 3U.

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Future projects

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QB50 is a proposed international network of 50 CubeSats for multi-point, in-situ measurements in the lower thermosphere (90–350 km) and re-entry research. QB50 is an initiative of the Von Karman Institute and is funded by the European Commission as part of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). Double-unit (2U) CubeSats (10×10×20 cm) are developed, with one unit (the ‘functional’ unit) providing the usual satellite functions and the other unit (the ‘science’ unit) accommodating a set of standardised sensors for lower thermosphere and re-entry research. 35 CubeSats are envisaged to be provided by universities in 19 European countries, 10 by universities in the US, 2 by universities in Canada, 3 by Japanese universities, 1 by an institute in Brazil, and others. Ten 2U or 3U CubeSats are foreseen to serve for in-orbit technology demonstration of new space technologies.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for the QB50 CubeSat was released on February 15, 2012. Two “precursor” QB50 satellites were launched aboard a Dnepr rocket on June 19, 2014. All 50 CubeSats were supposed to be launched together on a single Cyclone-4 launch vehicle in February 2016, but due to the unavailability of the launch vehicle, 40 satellites are now planned to be launched aboard Cygnus CRS OA-7 in March 2017 and subsequently deployed from the ISS. Eight other cubesats have been manifested on two further Dnepr flights but the availability of this launcher has been in doubt since its last flight in 2015.

2018 InSight mission: MarCO CubeSats

The May 2018 launch, of the InSight stationary lander to Mars, will include two CubeSats to flyby Mars to provide additional relay communications from InSight to Earth during entry and landing. This will be the first flight of CubeSats in deep space. The mission CubeSat technology is called Mars Cube One (MarCO), a six-unit CubeSat, 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) by 9.5 inches (24.3 centimeters) by 4.6 inches (11.8 centimeters). MarCo is an experiment, but not necessary for the InSight mission, to add relay communications to space missions in important time durations, in this landing from the time of InSight atmospheric entry and landing.

MarCO will launch in May 2018 with the InSight lander and will separate after launch and then travel in their own trajectories to Mars. After separation, MarCO will deploy two radio antennas and two solar panels. The high-gain, X-band antenna is a flat panel to direct radio waves. MarCO will navigate to Mars independently from the InSight lander, making their own course adjustments on the flight.

During InSight’s planned entry, descent and landing (EDL) in November 2018, the lander will transmit information in the UHF radio band to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) flying overhead. MRO will forward EDL information to Earth using a radio frequency in the X band, but cannot simultaneously receive information in one band if transmitting on another. Confirmation of a successful landing could be received on Earth several hours after, so MarCO would be a technology demonstration of real-time telemetry during the landing.

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InSight lander with labeled instruments

Sources: Wikipedia and National Geographic


Posted December 16, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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How small and insignificant we really are   Leave a comment


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Posted February 29, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Starship Enterprise in the shop for repairs, to voyage again later this year   Leave a comment


Washington Post

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After 50 years of imaginary intergalactic service and epic flights of science fiction, the starship Enterprise, registry number NCC-1701, lies in pieces on a table at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

X-rays of its insides hang on the walls of the conservation unit. Parts of the ship’s poplar-and-fiberglass hull are exposed. And the bridge, where fictional Starfleet Capt. James T. Kirk once sat, has been removed.

Enterprise is a venerable ship — launched in 1964 at a Burbank, Calif., prop maker’s shop for the original “Star Trek” television series.

It’s also a piece of history, along with the Wright Brothers’ “Flyer” and Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis.”

The museum is now restoring the make-believe voyager as a part of America’s real-life air and space heritage.

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Ariel O’Connor, a conservator at the museum, shows where screws were hidden under a rail on the main body of the Enterprise model.

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The lighting effect (oscillating look of movement) was achieved with blinking Christmas lights and a spinning fan mechanism.

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Paramount Studios gave the 11-foot-long Enterprise model to the Smithsonian in 1974, Malcolm Collum, the Air and Space Museum’s chief conservator, said Thursday.

The show, about the a starship’s crew of space adventurers, made its debut in 1966 and was canceled after three seasons.

“At that time, [the model] was just a discarded piece, a prop,” he said.

No more.

Star Trek, created by the late Hollywood screenwriter and World War II bomber pilot Gene Roddenberry, has become a global phenomenon, sparking several television shows and movies, books, comics — and legions of followers.

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Crude by modern standards, the Enterprise model is being handled as a classic, if evolving, work of art.

“Its appearance changed numerous times throughout the [TV] series,” Collum said.

Conservators are striving to make the Enterprise look as it did in the 1967 episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” in which the ship is infested with the furry creatures, he said.

The original model, painted battleship gray, was made by the Production Models Shop, which built models for commercials, Smithsonian conservator Ariel O’Connor said.

It went back to the shop once for the addition of lights and windows, and was altered three times in the studio.

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Collum said the model had long hung in the gift shop of the Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Now it is headed for the renovated Milestones of Flight Hall there.

“The historical relevance of the TV show, and this model, has grown,” he said. “So it’s now being brought up into the limelight, and it’s going to be in the same gallery as the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ [and] the Apollo 11 command module.”

Enterprise will go back on display this year, in time for the museum’s 40th birthday in July and the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek” in September, museum spokesman Nick Partridge said in a blog post.

But before that, deterioration of the model has to be addressed. Paint is peeling in spots. Parts of the four earlier restorations have to be corrected. And years of grime must be cleaned off, Collum said.

“But for being a model that was built by a shop that would build things for a quick TV episode and be done, it’s actually built remarkably well,” O’Connor said. “It’s very sturdy.”

It’s a half-century old, she said — a moment in star time, a small chapter in its continuing mission.

 

Posted February 8, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Space and Sky   Leave a comment


Space.com

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What appear to be tiny oases nurturing a variety of trees in a vast pink desert are not, actually. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image in April of 2008 near Mars’ North Pole. Experts believe the dark spots are wet patches of Martian sand that grew from melting carbon dioxide ice due to the spring Sun. In close up views of the image sand slides are evident from swirling clouds of dust.

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A solar corona appears over Ama Dablam, a famous Himalayan mountain peak. A corona, one of the few quantum color effects visible to the naked eye, can occur when the sun (or moon) is observed through thin clouds. The light of the sun is separated into wavelengths by water droplets in the atmosphere creating the colorful rings.

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Auroras, also known as northern lights, form when particles from the Sun enter Earth’s magnetosphere, releasing charged particles into Earth’s magnetic field. These particles strike atoms creating a colorful light show. The auroral glow takes place high in the atmosphere and clouds lie below. This image reveals clearly the respective layers in breath-taking manner.

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The Veil Nebula, in the constellation Cygnus, is one of the most massive and brilliant features in the x-ray sky. The supernova that created this spectacular cosmic scene exploded many thousands of years ago. This small section, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is in a region known as the Witch’s Broom Nebula.

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The navigation camera on Rosetta captured this image of Comet 67P\Churyumov-Gerasimenko tumbling through space with gases escaping the larger lobe with an unnatural glow.

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Dione, one of Saturn’s larger moons, orbits across the face of the planet with Saturn’s unilluminated rings crossing the planet’s middle.

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Astronaut Scott Kelly captured his daily dose of aurora from the International Space Station.

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The first planet found with the aid of a telescope, Uranus was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel. The seventh planet from the sun is so distant that it takes 84 years to complete one orbit.

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Saturn – Earth size comparison.

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Posted January 28, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Atomic Explosion Tests in Outer Space   Leave a comment


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High-altitude nuclear explosions (HANE) have historically been nuclear explosions that take place above altitudes of 30 km, still inside the Earth’s atmosphere. Such explosions have been tests of nuclear weapons, used to determine the effects of the blast and radiation in the exoatmospheric environment. The highest was at an altitude of 540 km (335.5 mi).

The only nations to detonate nuclear weapons in outer space are the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S. program began in 1958 with the Hardtack Teak and Hardtack Orange shots, both 3.8 megatons. These warheads were initially carried on Redstone rockets. Later tests were delivered by Thor missiles for Operation Fishbowl tests, and modified Lockheed X-17 missiles for the Argus tests. The purpose of the shots was to determine both feasibility of nuclear weapons as an anti-ballistic missile defense, as well as a means to defeat satellites and manned orbiting vehicles in space. High-altitude nuclear blasts produce significantly different effects. In the lower reaches of vacuous space, the resulting fireball grows much larger and faster than it does near the ground, and the radiation it emits travels much farther.

Talk about ultimate fireworks!

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atomic test The Sky After the Starfish Prime Nuclear Test

Starfish Prime Atmospheric Nuclear Test as seen from 900 miles(1,650 kms)  away.

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The strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that results has several components. In the first few tens of nanoseconds, about a tenth of a percent of the weapon yield appears as powerful gamma rays with energies of one to three mega-electron volts (MeV, a unit of energy). The gamma rays penetrate the atmosphere and collide with air molecules, depositing their energy to produce huge quantities of positive ions and recoil electrons (also known as Compton electrons). The impacts create MeV-energy Compton electrons that then accelerate and spiral along the Earth’s magnetic field lines. The resulting transient electric fields and currents that arise generate electromagnetic emissions in the radio frequency range of 15 to 250 megahertz (MHz, or one million cycles per second). This high-altitude EMP occurs between 30 and 50 kilometers (18 and 31 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The potential as an anti-satellite weapon became apparent in August 1958 during Hardtack Teak. The EMP observed at the Apia Observatory at Samoa was four times more powerful than any created by solar storms, while in July 1962 the Starfish Prime test damaged electronics in Honolulu and New Zealand (approximately 1,300 kilometers away), fused 300 street lights on Oahu (Hawaii), set off about 100 burglar alarms, and caused the failure of a microwave repeating station on Kauai, which cut off the sturdy telephone system from the other Hawaiian islands. The radius for an effective satellite kill for the various prompt radiations produced by such a nuclear weapon in space was determined to be roughly 80 km. Further testing to this end was carried out, and embodied in a Department of Defense program, Program 437.

There are problems with nuclear weapons carried over to testing and deployment scenarios, however. Because of the very large radius associated with nuclear events, it was nearly impossible to prevent indiscriminate damage to other satellites, including one’s own satellites. Starfish Prime produced an artificial radiation belt in space that soon destroyed three satellites (Ariel, TRAAC, and Transit 4B all failed after traversing the radiation belt, while Cosmos V, Injun I and Telstar 1 suffered minor degradation, due to some radiation damage to solar cells, etc.). The radiation dose rate was at least 60 rads/day at four months after Starfish for a well-shielded satellite or manned capsule in a polar circular earth orbit, which caused NASA concern with regard to its manned space exploration programs.

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  • List of high-altitude nuclear explosions

 

  • United States USAHardtack I – Johnston Atoll, Pacific Ocean
  • Yucca 28 April 1958, 1.7 kt, 26.2 km
  • Teak, 1 August 1958, 3.8 Mt, 76.8 km
  • Orange, 12 August 1958, 3.8 Mt, 43 km
  • United States USAArgus – South Atlantic Ocean
    • Argus I, 27 August 1958, 1.7 kt, 200 km
    • Argus II, 30 August 1958, 1.7 kt, 240 km
    • Argus III, 6 September 1958, 1.7 kt, 540 km (The highest known man made nuclear explosion)

    Soviet Union USSR – 1961 tests – Kapustin Yar

    • Test #88, 6 September 1961, 10.5 kt, 22.7 km
    • Test #115, 6 October 1961, 40 kt, 41.3 km
    • Test #127, 27 October 1961, 1.2 kt, 150 km
    • Test #128, 27 October 1961, 1.2. kt, 300 km

    United States USADominic I – (Operation Fishbowl) – Johnston Atoll, Pacific Ocean

    • Bluegill, 3 June 1962, failed
    • Bluegill Prime, 25 July 1962, failed
    • Bluegill Double Prime, 15 October 1962, failed
    • Bluegill Triple Prime, 26 October 1962, 410 kt, 50 km
    • Starfish, 20 June 1962, failed
    • Starfish Prime, 9 July 1962, 1.4 Mt, 400 km (The largest man made nuclear explosion in outer space)
    • Checkmate, 20 October 1962, 7 kt, 147 km
    • Kingfish, 1 November 1962, 410 kt, 97 km

    Soviet Union USSR – Soviet Project K nuclear tests – Kapustin Yar

    • Test #184, 22 October 1962, 300 kt, 290 km
    • Test #187, 28 October 1962, 300 kt, 150 km
    • Test #195, 1 November 1962, 300 kt, 59 km

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The Starfish Prime flash as seen through heavy cloud cover from Honolulu, 1,300 km away.

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Posted January 24, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Blue Origin Lands Rocket for Second Time   1 comment


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US entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has reflown his New Shepard rocket, launching once again a capsule briefly into space.

The hardware was exactly the same as that used last November, “demonstrating reuse”, the Amazon.com founder wrote on his blog.

The flight took place on Friday from Mr Bezos’ Texas test and launch facility.

As has become his practice, he gave no general public notice of the event and released only limited details afterwards, along with a glossy video (below).

November’s outing marked the first time a rocket had launched a space mission vertically from the ground and then brought all elements – booster and capsule – softly and safely back to Earth.

Although all the flights so far undertaken by Mr Bezos have been unmanned, he does eventually plan to fly passengers.

“The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse,” the businessman said.

“This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582ft (101.7km) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse.”

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One hundred kilometres is regarded as the official boundary of space. New Shepard does not achieve the velocities that would allow the system to make orbit and stay up, but Mr Bezos says his Blue Origin space company is working on a family of rockets that would make this possible.

He promises to reveal further information on that programme later in the year.

Commentators had realised early in the week that another mission was imminent when the Federal Aviation Authority published a temporary flight restriction for a region of the sky north of Van Horn in Texas – the location of the Blue Origin test site.

From social media postings, it was evident that a launch had taken place early on Friday local time, but it was many hours before Mr Bezos and Blue Origin were prepared to comment.

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Rocketry is now entering a new era, with designers trying to make reusable the systems that have traditionally been regarded only as disposable.

In December, another entrepreneur, Elon Musk, managed to land the booster stage of his Falcon rocket after launching a batch of satellites.

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Posted January 23, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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Can SpaceX land a rocket on a barge off California?   Leave a comment


LA Times

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Sunday’s effort is far more difficult. The full round trip has been compared to vaulting a pencil over the Empire State building, then getting it to come back and land on its eraser atop a floating target smaller than a shoe box, and not tip over.

The Falcon 9 two-stage rocket is slated to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at about 10:42 a.m., carrying a 1,157-pound Earth-observing satellite for U.S. and French government agencies. Its landing, off San Pedro a few minutes later, will be difficult to see with the naked eye, according to the company.

SpaceX has yet to reuse a rocket stage, a key element in bringing the cost per launch to a level where the Hawthorne-based company could dominate the market for delivering cargo and people to space.

Sunday’s launch and landing of a fresh rocket — SpaceX is saving the Dec. 21 stage for posterity — nonetheless would help burnish Musk’s corporate image with a second consecutive milestone, after a spectacular explosion of a Falcon 9 last June, said Marco Caceres, senior space analyst for Teal Group Corp., a defense and aerospace analysis company based in Fairfax, Va.

“If you have a rocket that’s now able to land on a moving barge, it shows that your control of the vehicle is excellent,” Caceres said. “The real cost benefits will be from re-using the hardware.”

Physics, politics and economics all necessitated the water landing, a highly complicated feat with a narrow margin for error. Shortening the return trip was the easiest way to balance the requirements to deliver a heavy satellite at the high speed needed to reach a distant orbit, then put on the brakes, flip the first stage around, guide it through Earth’s atmosphere, and get it to touch down gently on a barge measuring about 300 feet by 170 feet.

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In any case, the company did not receive timely clearance from federal agencies to bring it back to land.

Fortunately, one of the U.S. agencies that cares about hazards to sea life is a client: The Jason 3 satellite aboard the launch vehicle is a joint endeavor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its European counterpart, and the French space agency. It is designed to measure ocean surface topography to better understand sea level rise, currents and weather phenomena such as El Niño.

This is the first attempt to land the Falcon 9 off the coast of San Pedro. Two previous attempts off of Cape Canaveral ended in fiery crashes last year.

Almost, but not quite

Update:

SpaceX successfully launched a new satellite into orbit to map Earth’s oceans today (Jan. 17), but the spaceflight company’s bold plan to land a rocket on a robotic ship at sea after the liftoff came up just short, narrowly missing a successful touchdown.

The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket managed to reach its landing target, an “autonomous spaceport droneship” called “Just Read the Instructions,” but toppled over on the deck, company representatives said. The touchdown attempt came during the successful launch of the Jason-3 ocean-monitoring satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — the primary objective of today’s activities.

“Unfortunately, we are not standing upright on the droneship at the moment, but the good news is that the primary mission is still on track,” SpaceX lead mechanical design engineer John Federspiel said during the company’s launch webcast today.

 

 

Posted January 17, 2016 by markosun in Uncategorized

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