samedi 15 juin 2019

Who will be the first woman on the Moon?












NASA logo.

June 15, 2019

For the return to the moon decreed by Donald Trump, NASA promised that there would be an astronaut. Several candidates are favorites.

Anne McClain, a former army helicopter pilot, is one of the favorites. Image Credit: NASA

Twelve women are astronauts at NASA. The suspense is complete, but the woman who will walk on the Moon in 2024 is probably one of them. They are between 40 and 54 years old. They are former military pilots, doctors or PhDs, recruited from thousands by the US Space Agency since the late 1990s.

The twelve astronaut women of NASA. Image Credit: NASA

Predicting which will be chosen to join Neil Armstrong in the history books is impossible, but for several former astronauts and experts, the proximity of the deadline will force NASA to select one of twelve, rather than future beginners.

"I would not be opposed to sending a rookie. But there are enough astronauts who have already flown, who already know how they react in space, "says Eileen Collins, a former astronaut, who flew and commanded the Space Shuttle in the 1990s and 2000s.

"It would be better to send people who have already made at least one flight," said Ken Bowersox, a senior Nasa official. It will be all the easier as they have never been so numerous.

In the beginning, NASA only recruited soldiers and therefore men. The twelve astronauts who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972 were all men. The first American in space was Sally Ride, in 1983. For the return to the moon decreed by Donald Trump, the program "Artemis", NASA promised that there would be an astronaut.

Anne, Christina, Jessica, Nicole

The four women of the 21st "promotion", recruited in 2013, will represent a good balance between youth and experience. Aged 40 or 41 today, they will each have made their first space stay by 2020.

Anne McClain, former helicopter pilot of the Army, is until end of June in the International Space Station (ISS). An assured look, a clear word, a slight smile: all his being expresses the ineffable "stuff of heroes", this tranquil force of character of the original recruits of NASA.

In the closed room of ISS also floats Christina Koch, engineer and passionate climbing. It will beat, with eleven months, the record of the longest female stay in space.

The duo almost made the first 100% female spacewalk, but a combination problem forced Anne McClain to give way to Nick Hague. "Christina Koch and Anne McClain are my two favorites," says Janet Ivey, host of a children's space show and board member of the National Space Society.

But their two classmates, marine biologist specialist of penguins and geese Jessica Meir and former F/A-18 test pilot  Nicole Mann, who participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be all also qualified: they are in full training to go to the ISS. In an interview in 2016, the four declared themselves to be volunteers for Mars if the opportunity arose. We can imagine them refusing the moon.

"Opaque" procedure

There is no age for space, they say to NASA. The mythical John Glenn had revolished at 77 years. Nothing therefore excludes the oldest astronaut, Sunita Williams, who is preparing his third space flight and will be 58 in 2024.

Especially since "Nasa has always appreciated the leadership qualities of the test pilots," says Kent Rominger, head of the astronaut's office from 2002 to 2006. "Suni" has flown about 30 aircraft in his military career.

Two other women, Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Kate Rubins, flew recently. Five women have not flown since at least 2010, but remain active.

Woman on the Moon (unknown source)

In the promotion recruited in 2017, there are five women, but their initial training is still not completed. They are not automatically excluded, but the schedule is unfavorable to them, especially as NASA tends to respect the order of seniority, notes Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former astronaut who spent 20 years at the agency.

In the end, the selection process "is quite opaque," he says, with experience. In Houston, the chief astronaut will be keen to compose a team whose profiles will be complementary, between ex-military and scientific, and between different personalities. The mission should have four crew members, two of whom will descend on the moon. Why not two women.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): https://www.nasa.gov/

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 14 juin 2019

Today’s Advanced Research Goes From Free-flying Robots to Anti-Gravity Pants











ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 14, 2019

Robotics, combustion and human research were the primary focus of today’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 59 crewmembers also checked out U.S. spacesuits and specialized pants designed to counteract some of the effects of living in microgravity.

Astrobee, a tiny cube-shaped free-flying robotic assistant, is being tested aboard the orbital lab for its sighting and motion abilities. Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) set up Astrobee for more mobility tests today inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. The device may support routine maintenance tasks and lab monitoring capabilities. Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter delivered Astrobee to the station April 19.


Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain checks out the new Astrobee robotics hardware earlier this year inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

The safe observation of how fuels and materials burn in microgravity takes place in the space station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). The research takes place in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module and may help engineers design more fuel-efficient spacecraft engines and safer, less flammable environments. NASA astronaut Christina Koch replaced a burner and igniter tip in the CIR to maintain continuing combustion research operations.

Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA attached cuffs to her legs and sensors to her chest for a series of blood pressure checks and ultrasound scans today. The Vascular Echo biomedical study from CSA, ongoing since March 2015, analyzes an astronaut’s cardiovascular system for conditions such as arterial stiffness.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

U.S. spacesuits continue to be serviced after a set of three spacewalks that took place earlier this year. Astronaut Nick Hague cleaned the suit’s cooling loops, cycled their pressure valves and tested water samples inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin have been training this week to use the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. The Russian suit, also known as Chibis, counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. This may alleviate the head and eye pressure reported by astronauts. An easily recognizable symptom of these fluid shifts that all crews experience is “puffy face.”

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Astrobee: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1891

Kibo laboratory module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/japan-kibo-laboratory

Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=317

U.S. Destiny laboratory module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/us-destiny-laboratory

Vascular Echo: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1664

Lower Body Negative Pressure suit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/ISS_Science_Blog/2015/06/02/rubber-vacuum-pants-that-suck/

Fluid shifts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1126

Quest airlock: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/joint-quest-airlock

Spacewalks: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/spacewalks/

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA to Partner with American Industry to Supply Artemis Moon Missions












NASA logo.

June 14, 2019

In the latest step in sending astronauts to the lunar surface within five years, NASA issued a draft solicitation June 14 to industry seeking comments for a future opportunity for American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway in lunar orbit.


Image above: Artist concept of the logistics module docked to Gateway in lunar orbit. NASA will seek solicitations from American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the lunar outpost that will support human exploration of the Moon by 2024.
Image Credit: NASA.

The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

Last fall, NASA asked American companies for ideas on how to best supply the Gateway, which will be located in an orbit around the Moon about 250,000 miles from Earth. The Gateway will be a command and service module for missions to the lunar surface and eventually, exploration farther into the solar system. Following up on that initial request for information, today NASA published a draft solicitation for industry comments on its logistics approach, which are due July 10, 2019.

“We’re asking industry to provide a spacecraft to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway. It will dock to the orbital outpost, but will be responsible for generating its own power,” said Marshall Smith, director, human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re using the Moon as a proving ground for Mars to develop the technologies and systems we need for exploration farther into the solar system, so we look forward to seeing how industry responds to our upcoming solicitation, and potentially awarding multiple contracts for this lunar service.”

This latest call is mirroring similar cargo resupply services the agency pioneered with industry closer to home. NASA led the way for commercialization of low-Earth orbit, and is now providing new opportunities for private companies in deep space.

“The Gateway, and specifically our logistics supply requirements, enables the deep space supply chain, taking the next step toward further commercialization of space,” said Mark Wiese, NASA’s Gateway logistics element manager at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “In addition to delivering cargo, science and other supplies to the Gateway with these services, there’s potential for an extension to industry to deliver other elements of our lunar architecture with this solicitation.”

Lunar Gateway. Animation Credit: NASA

A formal solicitation for a firm-fixed price contract is expected this summer. NASA anticipates the maximum contract award for all Gateway services over the course of 15 years will be valued at $7 billion.

NASA will host an industry day forum in Florida on June 26 to answer questions and explain the proposed approach for logistic deliveries. Additional details about that opportunity for industry are available online: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/NASA/KSC/OPDC20220/80KSC019R0002-DRAFT/listing.html

This announcement comes on the heels of other recent agency efforts to accelerate its Moon to Mars exploration plans. At the end of May, NASA awarded a contract to Maxar Technologies to build, launch, and demonstrate in space the power and propulsion element of the Gateway. And ahead of sending astronauts to the Moon, the agency will use a series of commercial Moon deliveries to send a suite of science instruments and technology demonstrations to the surface to continue studying Earth’s nearest neighbor. NASA is also working with 11 companies to study the proposed architecture for a new integrated human landing system, which would be staged at the Gateway for missions to the lunar surface.

Charged with returning to the Moon within five years, NASA’s lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars

Related articles and links:

Artemis: https://www.nasa.gov/subject/16957/artemis

NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis Program
https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2019/05/nasa-selects-first-commercial-moon.html

NASA Taps 11 American Companies to Advance Human Lunar Landers https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2019/05/nasa-taps-11-american-companies-to.html

Sending American Astronauts to Moon in 2024: NASA Accepts Challenge https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2019/04/sending-american-astronauts-to-moon-in.html

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Anna Heiney/KSC/Laura Aguiar.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of June 10, 2019











ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 14, 2019

Scientific investigations conducted on the International Space Station last week included work that could improve design of life support systems and help keep astronauts healthy on long missions. These types of investigations contribute valuable knowledge to NASA’s Artemis human exploration program. One of its goals is returning humans to the Moon by 2024 as a stepping stone to Mars.

Here are details on some of the scientific investigations the members of Expedition 59 conducted during the week of June 10:

Better management of fluids and gases


Image above: Hardware for the Capillary Structures investigation in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). This investigation studies using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures and water recycling and carbon dioxide removal. This work benefits efforts to design lightweight, more reliable life support systems for future space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew completed the current session for the ongoing Capillary Structures investigation, which studies using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures. Current life-support systems on the space station require special equipment to separate liquids and gases, including rotating or moving devices that could cause contamination if they break or fail. This investigation looks at using different structures for water recycling and carbon dioxide removal systems, which could contribute to design of lightweight, more reliable life support systems for future space missions.

Getting their vitamins


Image above: These specially designed storage and growth packets contain engineered microbes for the BioNutrients investigation, which demonstrates a technology for on-demand production of nutrients during long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

BioNutrients demonstrates a technology to enable on-demand production of nutrients during long-duration space missions. Engineered microbes, such as yeast, generate carotenoids to supplement potential vitamin losses from food that is stored for a long time. During the five-year investigation, crew members intermittently activate specially designed storage and growth packets then freeze them for return to Earth for analysis. Last week, the crew processed eight packets for incubation and then placed them into Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI).

Waiting to exhale

Last week, the crew conducted the final session for Airway Monitoring. This investigation analyzes exhaled air to determine the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation due to dust particles in the space station. During future crewed missions to the Moon and Mars, airway inflammation due to dust inhalation presents a risk, and this work helps in the development of countermeasures to that risk. It also supports crew member health on future longer-duration missions to the Moon and Mars by helping make these missions more self-sufficient in avoiding potential problems with dust inhalation.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The Astrobee free-flying robots test technology for assisting astronauts with routine chores and giving ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the space station: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1891

- The Photobioreactor investigation demonstrates whether the biological processes of microalgae can serve as part of a hybrid life support system. This approach would help future long-duration exploration missions reduce the amount of supplies required from Earth: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7426


Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain using the Liquid Exchange Device to fill the Photobioreactor with medium and algae to begin the experiment. This investigation examines creating a hybrid life support system with microalgae, which could help future long-duration exploration missions by reducing the amount of consumables required from Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

- The ISS Experience documents daily life aboard the space station through a virtual reality film to educate a variety of audiences about life in the orbiting lab and science conducted there: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7877

- Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562

- Veg-04 focuses on how light quality and fertilizer affect growth of a leafy crop, along with microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7896

- Probiotics examines the effects of beneficial bacteria or probiotics on the intestinal microbiota and immune function of crew members on long-duration space missions: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=2047

- FLUIDICS uses a sphere in microgravity to represent a spacecraft’s fuel tank in order to analyze slosh and wave turbulence of a fluid. Results could support development of better fuel systems for satellites and future spacecraft: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=2043

- Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program in order to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7711

Space to Ground: Open for Business: 06/14/2019

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Capillary Structures: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7329

BioNutrients: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7400

Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=56

Airway Monitoring: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1067

Artemis: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/what-is-artemis/

Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

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), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 59/60.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Space agencies come together













ESA - European Space Agency logo & JAXA - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency logo.

14 June 2019

On 14 June, President Hiroshi Yamakawa of JAXA was welcomed at the 282nd meeting of the ESA Council – the Agency’s governing body – held at ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

BepiColombo approaching Mercury

For decades, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, have worked in close collaboration to better understand our Universe.

From Earth observation missions to spacecraft exploring Martian moons, Mercury or distant asteroids, ESA and JAXA continue to show how international cooperation makes space exploration more effective and ultimately more successful.

Decades of cooperation

On his first visit to ESA mission control, President Yamakawa delivered a presentation highlighting 40 years of cooperation between ESA and JAXA, most recently illustrated by the launch of BepiColombo, the joint ESA–JAXA mission currently en route to Mercury.

“We are thrilled to welcome President Yamakawa into the heart of Europe’s mission control centre,” said Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations.

“Our agencies have achieved a great deal together so far, and we are looking forward to many more shared adventures in future.”

Eyes on Earth

The European and Japanese space agencies also recognise the huge importance of space missions to deliver better understanding of our changing planet by gathering data crucial for Earth science and for tackling climate change.

EarthCARE

The joint ESA–JAXA EarthCARE satellite will include four cutting-edge sensors, including the first Doppler radar in space, the Cloud Profiling Radar, provided by JAXA. As well as providing this critical instrument, JAXA will be responsible for a portion of the science data processing and distribution, ensuring the information can be used by scientists worldwide.

Similarly, ESA is distributing data from JAXA’s GOSAT-1 and -2 satellites across Europe, both providing critical new information on greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

A phenomenal agreement

During the ESA Council meeting in Darmstadt, ESA Director General Jan Wörner and President Yamakawa signed an agreement on XRISM – the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission – which will study extremely energetic phenomena in the Universe.

ESA and JAXA join forces to understand the hot gas plasma wind

XRISM will be launched in the early 2020s from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan, with hardware components and support for science management and planning provided by ESA. In return, ESA will be granted observation time, to be allocated to scientists affiliated to institutions in ESA Member States.

Delving into deep space

As well as XRISM, ESA and JAXA are working on a number of missions taking us from our home planet out into deep space, including the JAXA-led Martian Moons eXploration mission and the ESA-led missions JUICE, studying Jupiter’s icy moons, and SPICA, ESA’s Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics.

Io transits Jupiter

On the ground, ESA and JAXA are planning a feasibility study for a much-needed new antenna, which would increase capacity to communicate with future missions.

Deep-space communication is vital to the success of all missions. ESA ground stations supported JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, which arrived at asteroid Ryugu last year.

Protecting our planet

The two agency leaders also recognised the importance of space safety activities to protect people, the planet and global space infrastructure from hazards such as near-Earth asteroids, space weather and space debris, as well as cybersecurity threats originating on Earth.

“While competition is undeniably a driver, cooperation can be a powerful enabler. In the cooperation with JAXA, the European Space Agency demonstrates its expertise in international partnership,” concludes Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.

“Together, we travel further, explore deeper and understand the Universe and ourselves better.”

Related links:

ESA–JAXA EarthCARE: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/The_Living_Planet_Programme/Earth_Explorers/EarthCARE/ESA_s_cloud_aerosol_and_radiation_mission

JAXA’s GOSAT-1 and -2 satellites:
https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/g/gosat

https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/g/gosat-2

XRISM: http://xrism.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

JAXA-led Martian Moons eXploration: http://mmx.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

ESA's JUICE: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ESA_s_Jupiter_mission_moves_off_the_drawing_board

ESA's SPICA: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/CDF/M5_CDF_Studies

Space safety: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Safety/Space_Safety

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA): https://global.jaxa.jp/

European Space Agency (ESA): http://www.esa.int/ESA

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/P. Carril/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

How NASA's Spitzer Has Stayed Alive for So Long













NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

June 14, 2019

After nearly 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope will be switched off permanently on Jan. 30, 2020. By then, the spacecraft will have operated for more than 11 years beyond its prime mission, thanks to the Spitzer engineering team's ability to address unique challenges as the telescope slips farther and farther from Earth.

Managed and operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Spitzer is a small but transformational observatory. It captures infrared light, which is often emitted by "warm" objects that aren't quite hot enough to radiate visible light. Spitzer has lifted the veil on hidden objects in nearly every corner of the universe, from a new ring around Saturn to observations of some of the most distant galaxies known. It has spied stars in every stage of life, mapped our home galaxy, captured gorgeous images of nebulas and probed newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars.


Image above: This artist's concept shows NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in front of an infrared image of the Milky Way galaxy. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

But as Spitzer's deputy mission manager, Joseph Hunt, said, "You can have a world-class spacecraft, but it doesn't mean anything if you can't get the data back home."

Spitzer orbits the Sun on a path similar to Earth's but moves slightly slower. Today it trails about 158 million miles (254 million kilometers) behind our planet - more than 600 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. That distance, along with the curve of Spitzer's orbit, means that when the spacecraft points its fixed antenna at Earth to download data or receive commands, its solar panels tilt away from the Sun. During those periods, the spacecraft must rely on a combination of solar power and battery power to operate.

The angle at which the panels point away from the Sun has increased every year that the mission has been operating. These days, to communicate with Earth, Spitzer has to position its panels at a 53-degree angle away from the Sun (90 degrees would be fully facing away), even though the mission planners never intended for it to tilt more than 30 degrees from the Sun. Spitzer can communicate with Earth for about 2.5 hours before it has to turn its solar panels back toward the Sun to recharge its batteries. That communications window would grow shorter year after year if Spitzer continued operating, which means there is a limit to how long it would be possible to operate the spacecraft efficiently.

An Enduring Effort

Teaching the spacecraft to accept new conditions - such as the increasing angle of the solar panels during communications with Earth - isn't as simple as flipping a switch. There are multiple ways these changes could trigger safety mechanisms in the spacecraft's flight software. For instance, if the panels tilted more than 30 degrees from the Sun during the mission's early years, the software would have hit "pause," putting the spacecraft into "safe mode" until the mission team could figure out what was wrong. The changing angle of Spitzer to the Sun could also trigger safety mechanisms intended to prevent spacecraft parts from overheating.

Entering safe mode can be particularly hazardous for the spacecraft, both because of its growing distance from Earth (which makes communicating more difficult) and because the aging onboard systems might not restart once they shut off.

To deal with these challenges, the project engineers and scientists at JPL and Caltech have worked with the observatory engineering team at Lockheed Martin Space's Littleton, Colorado, facility to find a path forward. (Lockheed Martin built the Spitzer spacecraft for NASA.) Bolinda Kahr, Spitzer's mission manager, leads this multi-center team. Over the years she and her colleagues have successfully figured out how to override safety mechanisms designed for the prime mission while also making sure that such alterations don't introduce other unwanted side effects.

But as Spitzer ages and gets farther from Earth, the challenge of keeping the spacecraft operating and the risk that it will suffer a major anomaly are only increasing.

"I can genuinely say that no one involved in the mission planning thought we'd be running in 2019," said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer's project manager. "But we have an incredibly robust spacecraft and an incredible team. And we've been lucky. You have to have some luck, because you can't anticipate everything."

Keeping Cool

Most infrared detectors have to be cooled to very low temperatures, because excess infrared light from "warm" objects - including the Sun, Earth, the spacecraft and even the instruments themselves - can overwhelm the infrared sensors. This cooling is typically done with a chemical coolant.

The Spitzer planners instead came up with a passive-cooling system that included flying the spacecraft far from Earth (a major infrared heat source). They also chose materials for the spacecraft exterior that would both reflect sunlight away before it could heat the telescope and radiate absorbed heat back into space. In this configuration, coolant is required only to lower the instrument temperatures a few degrees further. Reducing the onboard coolant supply also drastically allowed the engineers to cut the total size of the spacecraft by more than 80% and helped curtail the anticipated mission budget by more than 75%.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

Although Spitzer's coolant supply ran out in 2009, rendering two of its three instruments unusable, the team was able to keep half of the remaining instrument operating. (The instrument was designed to detect four wavelengths of infrared light; in the "warm" mode, it can still detect two of them.)

Lasting more than twice as long as the primary mission, Spitzer's extended mission has yielded some of the observatory's most transformational results. In 2017, the telescope revealed the presence of seven rocky planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star. In many cases, Spitzer's exoplanet observations were combined with observations by other missions, including NASA's Kepler and Hubble space telescopes.

Spitzer's final year and a half of science operations include a number of exoplanet-related investigations. One program will investigate 15 dwarf stars (similar to the TRAPPIST-1 star) likely to host exoplanets. An additional 650 hours are dedicated to follow-up observations of planets discovered by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched just over a year ago.

Final Voyage

Every mission must end at some point. As the challenges associated with operating Spitzer continue to grow and as the risk of a mission-ending anomaly on the spacecraft rises, NASA has made the decision to close out the mission in a controlled manner.

"There have been times when the Spitzer mission could have ended in a way we didn't plan for," said Kahr. "I'm glad that in January we'll be able to retire the spacecraft deliberately, the way we want to do it."

While Spitzer's mission is ending, it has helped set the stage for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2021, which will study the universe in many of the same wavelengths observed by Spitzer. Webb's primary mirror is about 7.5 times larger than Spitzer's mirror, meaning Webb will be able to study many of the same targets in much higher resolution and objects much farther away from Earth than what Spitzer can observe.

Thirteen science programs have already been selected for Webb's first five months of operations, four of which build directly on Spitzer observations. Webb will greatly expand on the legacy begun by Spitzer and answer questions that Spitzer has only begun to investigate.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Related links:

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS):
https://www.nasa.gov/tess-transiting-exoplanet-survey-satellite

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/

For more information on Spitzer, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 13 juin 2019

SpaceX - Radarsat Constellation Mission Success













SpaceX - Falcon 9 / RADARSAT Constellation Mission patch.

June 13, 2019

Re-used SpaceX Rocket Launches 3 RADARSAT Satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on 12 June 2019, at 14:17 UTC UTC (07:17 PDT). Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (Block 5 B1051) landed on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019. The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) consists of three identical C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites.

SpaceX RCM mission: Falcon 9 launch and landing

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the RADARSAT Constellation Mission for the Canadian Space Agency and MDA.

RADARSAT Constellation

Consisting of three radar Earth observation spacecraft launching on a single rocket, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission is the next in a series of Canadian RADARSAT satellites supporting all-weather maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring for the Canadian government and international users.

RADARSAT Constellation Mission: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/satellites/radarsat/default.asp

For more information about SpaceX, visit: https://www.spacex.com/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/Orbiter,ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch