Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Second SpaceX Space Station Resupply Flight Ready to Go

Second SpaceX Space Station
The second International Space Station Commercial Resupply Services flight by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set for liftoff at 10:10 a.m. EST on March 1 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Carried by a Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon spacecraft will ferry 1,268 pounds of supplies for the space station crew and for experiments being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The Falcon 9 and Dragon were manufactured at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., and arrived at the Florida launch site by truck. The rocket, topped with the spacecraft, stands 157-feet tall.

The two-stage rocket uses nine engines to power the first stage, generating 855,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, rising to nearly 1,000,000 pounds of thrust as Falcon 9 climbs out of Earth’s atmosphere. One engine powers the second stage to complete the climb to space. The 14.4-foot-tall Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying more than 7,000 pounds of cargo split between pressurized and unpressurized sections.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monkeys in Space: A Brief Spaceflight History

f Iran has indeed launched a monkey to space, the nation is following a path similar to that taken by the United States in the early days of its space program.
Iran announced today (Jan. 28) that it had successfully launched a live monkey on a spaceflight and recovered the animal alive after landing. The move is a prelude to sending humans into space, which the Islamic Republic hopes to do by 2020, Iranian Space Agency officials said.
Iran and the United States don't see eye-to-eye on many issues, but both have viewed monkeys as good astronaut test subjects over the years. The U.S. was the first country ever to launch a primate, sending a rhesus monkey named Albert to a sub-space altitude of 39 miles (63 kilometers) aboard a V2 rocket in June 1948.

Very little was known about the physiological effects of spaceflight back in those days, with some scientists postulating that astronauts' cardiovascular systems would fail in the microgravity environment, causing near-instant death. So researchers wanted to blast some relatively large animals into space to see how they fared.
Albert died of suffocation during his flight, and a number of his simian brethren also sacrificed their lives to the cause in the ensuing years.

Another rhesus monkey named Albert II, for example, became the first primate to reach space, achieving an altitude of 83 miles (134 km) aboard another V2 in June 1949. He survived the launch but died after a parachute failure caused his capsule to slam hard into the ground.

Alberts III and IV died during their missions in late 1949, and Albert V was victimized by another parachute failure in 1951. Albert VI, also known as Yorick, survived his 1951 flight, though it topped out at an altitude of just 45 miles (72 km) — significantly below the generally accepted 62-mile (100 km) boundary demarcating outer space.

Yorick died several hours after landing, possibly from heat stress suffered as he sat inside his cramped capsule in the New Mexico sun, waiting for the recovery crew.
The United States recorded a milestone in May 1959, finally recovering two primates alive after a spaceflight. A rhesus monkey named Able and a squirrel monkey named Baker reached an altitude of 300 miles (483 km) aboard a Jupiter rocket and were retrieved unharmed. (Sadly, Able died several days later during an operation to remove an electrode from under her skin.)
As the American human spaceflight program began to build momentum, the nation started experimenting with chimpanzees, which are larger and more closely related to humans than are rhesus, squirrel or other monkeys.

The U.S. launched a chimp named Ham on a suborbital spaceflight on Jan. 31, 1961. Ham reached an altitude of 157 miles (253 km) during a 16.5-minute flight and was recovered unharmed, though a bit dehydrated. With this success in hand, Alan Shepard successfully blasted off on his suborbital flight on May 5, 1961, becoming the first American — and second human, after the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin — ever to reach space.

A chimp named Enos orbited the Earth on Nov. 29, 1961, paving the way for John Glenn's historic orbital flight of Feb. 20, 1962. (Again, the U.S. was slightly late to the party: Gagarin orbited our planet on his flight of April 12, 1961.)

After it became established that humans could indeed survive the rigors of spaceflight, monkeys and apes faded into the background. The U.S. continued to launch animals for scientific experiments but increasingly concentrated on smaller creatures such as mice and insects, which are easier to care for and take up much less space (although two squirrel monkeys did ride on the space shuttle Challenger's STS-51-B mission in April-May 1985.)

The United States' space race rival, the Soviet Union, primarily used dogs in the run-up to its first human launches, thinking that canines would prove to be less fidgety in flight than monkeys.
The Soviets launched their first dogs to space in 1951. The nation famously succeeded in lofting the first animal — a dog called Laika ("Barker") — to orbit aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft in November 1957. (Laika died during the flight.)

Despite its canine focus, the Soviet Union and its successor state Russia did launch a number of rhesus monkeys to space in the 1980s and 1990s, as part of a program called Bion. France also blasted two pig-tailed macaque monkeys to suborbital space in 1967.
Iran's recent launch was not its first attempt to send a monkey into space. A previous orbital effort in 2011 failed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

NASA Solicitation: Technical shift of the Wallops Cubesat Deployer

This is an appeal for in rank (RFI) only and does not comprise a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Goddard Space journey Center (GSFC)/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) will take procurement action in this matter. Further, neither NASA nor the Government will be responsible for any cost incurred in furnishing this information.

NASA recognizes the interest by educational institutions, science museums, and other appropriate organizations in the Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Manufacturing of the Wallops 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, Flying the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer, Marketing the Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer and 6U CubeSat Satellite Structure, and Investing in Deployer Technologies. NASA intends to enter into multiple agreements for technical transfer.

NASA Solicitation: Technical shift of the Wallops Cubesat Deployer

Please see attached Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer Fact Sheet.

The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)/Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) has a long history of suborbital class missions such as sounding rockets, balloons and aircraft, and experience with orbital payload development such as CubeSat and International Space Station. For decades the NASA suborbital programs have, and continue to be, indispensable platforms for developing and nurturing the next generation of scientists and engineers, for testing and validating new technologies and instrumentation, and for offering low-cost rapid access to space for cutting-edge science experiments. The Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer and Satellite Structure continue in the tradition of enabling low-cost rapid access to space for the nation.

The Wallops 6U Deployer development had been funded by NASA. It has been ground tested for flight. GSFC/WFF is developing improvements to the Deployer funded under GSFC Center IR&D, ground testing the improvements, flying the improved version on a sounding rocket in July 2013, and planning on flying on the Antares launch vehicle in December, 2013.

The Wallops 6U CubeSat Deployer is unique in a number of respects. It has an elegant pin and socket lateral restraint system that provides a highly reliable ride experience. It offers the greatest volume flexibility for a 6U CubeSat and the most space between the deployer and the CubeSat sides for Solar panels, deployables and other devices. It has been tested to very high safety factors with a 12 kg load allowing for greater than 12 kg in lower vibration environments and 12 kg in a high vibration environment.

RFI responses must include:

. Name of the primary point of contract for the response
. Academic faculty or business title
. Institution or organization affiliation
. Email Address
. Phone Number
. Identification of other key individuals who collaborated on the RFI response
. A brief summary (300 word limit) description of previous relevant experience

You may submit your interest via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. Prospective offerors are invited to submit written comments or questions to: Scott Schaire, Code 800, NASA/GSFC/Wallops Flight Facility, Code 800, Building F-6, Wallops Island, VA 23337, Phone: 757-824-1120, email address: When responding reference NNG1390R.

Monday, August 06, 2012

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity sends back spectacular snap shots

After its first day on Mars, NASA's rover Monday sent back to Earth stunning images of its crater landing site and the mountain it aims to climb in the hunt for signs of life.

The landing of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory and nuclear-powered robot Curiosity late Sunday opened a new chapter in the history of interplanetary exploration by touching down on the Red Planet.

Mars rover Curiosity

The one-ton mobile lab is the largest rover ever sent to Mars, and its high-speed landing was the most daring to date, using a rocket-powered sky crane to lower the six-wheeled vehicle gently to the Martian surface.

Numerous images of the car-sized rover and its alien surroundings have come back to NASA since the landing occurred at 10:32 pm Sunday on the US West Coast (0532 GMT Monday).

New images of the rover's descent, taken from the vehicle itself, were shown on NASA television, strung together in a video that depicted the spacecraft's heat shield deploying and dust kicked up before the rover landed wheels down.

Other black and white images show the rover's shadow and Mount Sharp in the distance, a mountain it aims to conquer as part of its two-year mission to explore Mars and analyze sediment layers that are up to a billion years old.

The images so far tend to be small, but high-resolution images are expected in the next couple of weeks.

"The spacecraft is oriented northwest-southeast, pointing forward toward Mount Sharp," said project scientist John Grotzinger. "This couldn't have been a better position to land in."

However, Grotzinger said it may be a year before the rover arrives at the mountain in the center of the planet's Gale Crater, as scientists first take a close look at soil and rock samples inside the crater.

"We would never want to just drive across the dunes as the shortest way to go there," he said.

According to NASA chief engineer Miguel San Martin, the rover touched down inside the planned landing ellipse that spanned 12 by four miles (20 by six kilometers) at the foot of the mountain.

Further data in the coming days will give scientists a better idea of exactly where the rover landed.

Initial checks on the instruments on board have also come back positive, NASA said.

When the landing was announced after a tense, seven-minute entry, descent and landing, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory filled with jubilation as the mission team cheered and exchanged Mars chocolate bars.

President Barack Obama described the landing as "an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."

Success had been anything but certain. NASA's more recent rover drop-offs involved smaller craft that were cushioned with the help of airbags.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

NASA's VA Hypersonic Inflatable Heat Shield Launch July 23

NASA has scheduled the launch of an inflatable heat shield technology demonstration flight from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., for Monday, July 23, 2012.

The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) is to be launched on a Black Brant XI sounding rocket and is projected to splashdown approximately 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras, NC.

NASA's VA Hypersonic Inflatable Heat Shield

The launch window on Monday for all rockets, including several to test tracking systems and gather atmospheric data, is 5 to 8 a.m. The launch window for the IRVE-3 is 7 to 7:40 a.m.
The rocket will be visible to residents in the Wallops and southern Chesapeake Bay region.
The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 4:30 a.m. on launch day for viewing the launch

Due to bad weather and rough seas off the coast of North Carolina, NASA has postponed the July 21 launch attempt.
NASA Space Technology Program researchers will attempt to launch and deploy a large inflatable heat shield aboard a rocket traveling at hypersonic speeds during a technology demonstration test from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.

NASA has four consecutive days of launch opportunities for the agency's Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3), starting July 21, with the liftoff window from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. EDT each day.

The test is designed to demonstrate lightweight, yet strong, inflatable structures that could become practical tools for exploration of other worlds or as a way to return items safely to Earth from the International Space Station. During this technology demonstration test flight, NASA's IRVE-3 payload will try to re-enter Earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds -- Mach 5, or 3,800 mph to 7,600 mph.

"As we investigate new ways to bring cargo back to Earth from the International Space Station and innovative ways to land larger payloads safely on Mars, it's clear we need to invest in new technologies that will enable these goals," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program. "IRVE-3 is precisely the sort of cross-cutting technology NASA's Space Technology Program should mature to make these future NASA and commercial space endeavors possible."

The IRVE-3 experiment will fly aboard a three-stage Black Brant XI launch vehicle for its suborbital flight. The payload and the heat shield, which looks like a large, uninflated cone of inner tubes, will be packed inside the rocket's 22-inch-diameter nose cone. About six minutes after launch, the rocket will climb to an altitude of about 280 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.

At that point, the 680-pound IRVE-3 will separate from the rocket. An inflation system similar to air tanks used by scuba divers will pump nitrogen gas into the IRVE-3 aeroshell until it becomes almost 10 feet in diameter. Instruments on board, including pressure sensors and heat flux gauges, as well as cameras, will provide data to engineers on the ground of how well the inflated heat shield performs during the force and heat of entry into Earth's atmosphere.

After its flight, IRVE-3 will fall into the Atlantic Ocean about 350 miles down range from Wallops. From launch to splash down, the flight is expected to take approximately 20 minutes.

"We originally came up with this concept because we'd like to be able to land more mass and access higher altitudes on Mars," said Neil Cheatwood, IRVE-3 principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "To do so you need more drag. We're seeking to maximize the drag area of the entry system. We want to make it as big as we can. The limitation with current technology has been the launch vehicle diameter."

Cheatwood and a team of NASA engineers and technicians have spent the last three years addressing the technical challenges of materials withstanding the heat created by atmospheric entry and preparing for the IRVE-3 flight. The team has studied designs, assessed materials in laboratories and wind tunnels, and subjected hardware to thermal and pressure loads beyond what the inflatable spacecraft technology should face during flight.

This test is a follow on to the successful IRVE-2, which showed an inflatable heat shield could survive intact after coming through Earth's atmosphere. IRVE-3 is the same size as IRVE-2, but has a heavier payload and will be subjected to a much higher reentry heat.

IRVE-3 is part of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) Project within the Game Changing Development Program, part of NASA's Space Technology Program. Langley developed and manages the IRVE-3 and HIAD projects.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Pass through of Venus trembles astronomy enthusiasts

For astronomy enthusiasts as well as laymen, Wednesday's celestial spectacle was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Transit of Venus, between the Earth and the sun right from the day-break was witnessed by many. The very appearance of Venus, as a dot on the sun, thrilled viewers.

As the day broke, it appeared on the sun emerging from the Bay of Bengal in an effulgent orange. Even as the sun turned yellow and then white in all brightness, the dot was visible.

Transit of Venus thrills astronomy

Protective gear

People used special protective gear to witness it. Not heeding the advice of experts, some viewed them through old X-ray films.

At Jalaripeta, where fishermen live, there is always hectic activity in the morning as fishermen prepare themselves to head out into the sea. Seeing the enthusiasm of those who had gathered there to witness the event, they enquired as to what was happening in the sky. At Ramakrishna Beach, the local chapter of Jana Vignana Vedika explained the importance of the rare astronomical phenomena to people and supplied them protective glasses to view it.

Social networking

For photography aficionados, it's a rare opportunity. Using it, a dentist, Suresh Gorantla, and a businessman, Sanjay Singh, shot the pictures and put them on social networking platforms to help their friends see it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Several companies court NASA for contracts

A privately built space capsule that's zipping its way to the International Space Station has also launched something else: A new for-profit space race.

The capsule called Dragon was due to arrive near the space station for tests early today and dock Friday with its load of supplies. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — run by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk — was hired by NASA to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the orbital outpost.

And the space agency is hiring others, too.

SpaceX Launch

Several firms think they can make money in space and are close enough to Musk's company to practically surf in his spaceship's rocket-fueled wake. There are now more companies looking to make money in orbit — at least eight — than major U.S. airlines still flying.

Private space companies have talked for years about ferrying goods and astronauts for NASA, but this is the first time one is actually in orbit and about to make a delivery for the space agency.

"Dragon is not the only entrant in commercial cargo," said Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace, which specializes in the also-busy suborbital marketplace. "They have competitors nipping at their heels."

Still, Dragon's launch is "the spark that will ignite a flourishing commercial spaceflight marketplace," said Michael Lopez-Alegria, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and a former astronaut.

Hiring Musk's SpaceX and other private companies is a key part of NASA's plan to shift focus. Instead of routine flights to the space station with the retired space shuttles, NASA is aiming further out to places such as asteroids and Mars. After this test flight, SpaceX has a contract with NASA for a dozen delivery runs.

The idea is to "let private industry do what it does best and let NASA tackle the challenging task of pushing the boundary further," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said last week.

NASA has given seed money and contracts to several companies to push them on their way. But eventually, space missions could launch, dock to a private space station or hotel, and return to Earth and not have anything to do with NASA or any other country's space agency.

Earlier this month, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX signed an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace of Nevada, which is designing inflatable space stations for research and maybe even tourists. SpaceX and other companies will provide the transportation — like airlines — and Bigelow the place to stay. There are already eight different licensed spaceports in the U.S. where companies can launch from and most of them have no connection to NASA.


Monday, March 26, 2012

NASA plans multi-rocket science launch

NASA says a science mission this week will briefly create a milky white cloud that may be visible along a large portion of the U.S. East Coast.

Five sounding rockets will be launched in quick succession Tuesday from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., and each will release a chemical tracer at different altitudes to create clouds allowing scientists and the public to "see" the winds in space, the space agency said Monday.

multi-rocket science launch

The Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment mission -- to gather information needed to improve understanding of the high-altitude jet stream located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of Earth -- is set to launch between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST Tuesday.

The launch will need clear skies not only at Wallops Island but also in North Carolina and New Jersey, where camera sites will record the results of the experiment, NASA said.

The latest weather forecasts appear to be favorable, with clear weather forecast along the Atlantic Seaboard, but possible gusty winds could ground the rockets for another night.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NASA delays rocket launch to study jet stream

NASA has late its organized launch of five rockets targeted at studying more about the jet stream's present at the side of space.

Nasa rocket
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Halloween Costumes

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saudi academic to be first Arab member of NASA research team

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an American space agency, has accorded its relationship to a Saudi academic Dr. Majdah Aburass, making her the first Arab woman to join its research squad of scientists. Dr. Aburas holds a doctorate degree from the University of Surrey in environmental studies and biotechnology, concentrate in oil pollutions.

Arab Member of NASA

Aburas, who is currently a faculty member at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and researcher in environmental sciences, ecology, sustainable development ─ where she lectures on different disciplines such as microbiological pollution, physiology of microorganisms, industrial microbiology and ecological pollution ─ will join the team at NASA to support and create a series of projects for the development of the Gulf region. She was also appointed as a member of the science division at NASA’s regional office.

Muhammad Ibrahim al-Rashid, president of NASA affiliate the Gulf American Foundation for Space, Technology and Environment, told Arab News that Aburas was appointed as a member of the regional research team over her national initiatives to protect the environment. “It was the result of her continuous work for the environment to solve its problems,” he said.

Aburas told Al Arabiya that she is proud of this appointment and credits her achievements to King Abdullah. She says “King Abdullah’s reign is considered as the golden era for women in Saudi; he is a true leader and a visionary. His latest verdict to allow women to participate in the Shoura Council and the municipal polls was historical and ensures equitable and effective representation of women in decision-making structures,” she added.

As for her new role, she said her appointment came as a result of a collaboration with NASA on a project that she hopes will be implemented in the near future. She said she will be based at NASA headquarters for a month in The United States. where she will have the chance to work closely with other NASA researchers.


Halloween Costumes

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NASA's SDO spacecraft captures solar eclipse in space

solar eclipse
A NASA spacecraft has detained footage of Tuesday's partial solar eclipse. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured images of the new Moon crossing part of the Sun's face in a incomplete eclipse that was visible only from space. For more information about solar eclipses, check out an online high school to find science classes that can teach you how solar eclipses happen and its significance to sun-earth interactions. reports that SDO snapped a video and photos of the solar eclipse which made the Sun look like a "huge celestial Pac-Man," from a position 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the Earth. According to SDO , "The video shows today's Lunar Eclipse in a variety of wavelengths the AIA instrument observes. Each wavelength shows us a different temperature and layer of the Sun, allowing us to study the Sun and its activities."

SDO officials tweeted a message on the mission's mascot Twitter account, @Camilla_SDO: "It's a PacMan sun! The moon is transiting between @NASA_SDO and the sun today!"
The incident, according to SDO officials, caused a dip in EVE (extreme ultraviolet) output and gave scientists opportunity to calibrate the energy emitted by the active sunspot region AR1422 that has been emitting strong ultraviolet radiation into space. The AR1422 region was blocked in the Moon's passage across the face of the Sun.

An eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. A total eclipse occurs when there is an exact alignment between the Moon and the Sun as viewed from the Earth. When the alignment is not exact, we have a partial eclipse. reports a total eclipse will take place on November 13, but will be visible only from parts of northern Australia and the South Pacific. A partial eclipse will occur on May 20 and will be visible in much of Asia, the Pacific and western North America, says NASA.


Halloween Costumes

Monday, February 06, 2012

How NASA Makes Those Incredible High-Res Images of Earth

How were these highly thorough imagery created? The satellite flies 512 miles on top of the Earth, but the images appear as if they were taken from a much higher perspective: an altitude of 1,242 for the first image and 7,918 miles for the second. This little trick was accomplished by stitching together data from several orbits, creating an image that appears to be “pulled back.”

NASA launched the 4,600-pound Suomi in October to remotely sense variations in the Earth’s oceans, continents, and atmosphere and get a better understanding of climate change. It passes directly from pole to pole 14 times a day, imaging 1,865-mile swaths of our planet with each trip.

On board Suomi, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument takes pictures in red, green, and blue wavelengths. For the whole-Earth images, those wavelengths were combined to create a natural color photograph. It is not an exact representation of what an observer sitting in space would see, because particles in the atmosphere scatter short wavelengths of light, and our planet would actually appear more blue-tinged. The photos more accurately portray how the oceans and continents appear from the ground.

Oceanographer Norman Kuring, who compiled the two pictures, said the original image, showing North and Central America, was made as a favor to project scientist James Gleason who was looking for an ocean color image to show in a presentation. Word got out of the striking picture and NASA officials released it on Jan. 25, resulting in 3 million people viewing it in one week.

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