On July 19, 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will take a picture of Earth from about 898 million (1.44 billion kilometers) away, or nearly 10 times the distance between Earth and the sun. It will be the first time Earthlings have had advance notice that their picture will be taken from interplanetary distances.
This simulated view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the expected positions of Saturn and Earth on July 19, 2013, around the time Cassini will take Earth's picture. Cassini will be about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away from Earth at the time. That distance is nearly 10 times the distance from the sun to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
From its perch in the Saturn system, NASA's Cassini spacecraft took pictures of Earth from nearly 900 million miles (nearly 1.5 billion kilometers) today. To celebrate the first time the public has had advance notice that Earth's portrait was being taken from interplanetary distances, scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other Earthlings elsewhere gathered to wave at Saturn on July 19. Cassini took pictures of Earth between 2:27 and 2:42 p.m. PDT today.
The Earth images are part of a larger mosaic of the Saturn system that Cassini is taking while in Saturn's shadow. The mosaic will help scientists learn more about the fainter rings encircling Saturn.
The processing of the Earth image is expected to take a few days, and processing of the full Saturn system mosaic will likely take several weeks.
W00083229.jpg was taken on July 20, 2013 and received on Earth July 20, 2013. The camera was pointing toward SATURN-ERING at approximately 623,956 miles (1,004,160 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and GRN filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated.
NASA's communications experts have begun flight testing a prototype radio as part of the agency's contributions toward fully integrating civil and commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS).
This particular radio is one of the first steps to provide the critical communications link for UAS pilots on the ground to safely and securely operate their remotely piloted vehicles in flight even though they are many miles – if not continents or oceans – apart.
"So far the tests are going well and we're learning a lot about how this prototype radio operates under various conditions, but we still have much more testing to do on this radio and others that will come," said Jim Griner, a project engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Currently there is not a great deal of freedom for civilian uses of UAS over our nation's skies. Police and firefighters, for example, must use off-the-shelf systems and fly under special Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approvals that restrict where and when remotely piloted vehicles can fly.
"There are some pretty good limitations on those operations, but the work we're doing to develop a new command and control radio for the UAS to use will help go beyond that," Griner said.
Built under a cooperative agreement between NASA and Rockwell Collins in Iowa, the current prototype radio is a platform to test operations at certain frequencies with specific radio waveforms that are unique to its particular task – in this case command and control of a remotely piloted vehicle.
Once testing concludes on the initial prototype, lessons learned will be applied to a second generation test radio, which is now scheduled to be delivered to NASA in September. Additional testing will follow, after which a final prototype design is to be delivered and tested in the 2015-2016 timeframe.
Ultimately the FAA will define the final requirements that will lead to certification of a UAS command and control radio for use in the NAS, but by building and testing prototype units now NASA is helping move the process along.
"Usually the requirements are defined first and then we try to build equipment based on those requirements. This short-circuits a number of years off the traditional process," Griner said.
The prototype radio was delivered to NASA Glenn on Feb. 28 and successfully put through its paces on a laboratory test bench. Flight tests in a NASA S-3 Viking twin-engine jet began in May and are expected to continue in June.
Tests of the prototype radio were preceded by a number of flights of the S-3 in which NASA researchers sought to characterize the way radio frequencies behave at the specific bandwidths assigned to civil UAS operations – something that had not been done before.
The way radio waves move through the air can be affected by a number of different things, including whether the ground is covered with leafy trees or snow and ice. Mountains, oceans, weather conditions, urban sprawl, skyscrapers and more can cause a change in a radio signal, for a good or bad.
These channel characterization flights began last December with the S-3 flying over areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania while a specially outfitted trailer with a 60-foot deployable antenna mast transmitted signals from the ground below.
With the prototype radio now in hand, the channel characterization and prototype radio tests will overlap a bit as there are plans for a visit to California this month to record data over coastal feature areas that include the ocean, mountains and desert.
NASA's UAS in the NAS Project is part of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Integrated Systems Research Program.
NASA / Michelle M.
Start der Höhenforschungsrakete Mapheus-4
DLR startet Höhenforschungsrakete mit Experimenten der Materialphysik
Fast vier Minuten Schwerelosigkeit herrschten in der Höhenforschungsrakete Mapheus-4, die am 15. Juli 2013 um 7.53 Uhr vom schwedischen Raketenstartplatz Esrange startete. An Bord: zwei materialphysikalische Experimente des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR). Unter Weltraumbedingungen zeichnete erstmals eine Röntgenröhre die Diffusion von Aluminium und Nickel noch während des Flugs auf. Zudem untersuchten die Wissenschaftler des DLR-Instituts für Materialphysik im Weltraum, wie sich granulare Gase in der Schwerelosigkeit verhalten. Durchgeführt wurde der Start vom Team der Mobilen Raketenbasis (MORABA) des DLR.
Gerade einmal 83 Sekunden nach dem Start waren die richtigen Bedingungen für den Experimentstart erreicht - im Inneren der Höhenforschungsrakete konnten von nun an die Experimente MIDAS (Measuring InterDiffusion in Alloys and Semiconductors) und MEGraMA (Magnetically Excited Granular Matter) ohne die störenden Einflüsse der Gravitation ablaufen. Die Rakete flog dabei bis in eine Höhe von über 154 Kilometern.
Experimente in der Schwerelosigkeit
Bereits vor dem Start hatte ein kleiner Ofen die sechs Materialproben, die aus unterschiedlichen Anteilen von Aluminium und Nickel bestanden, auf 900 Grad Celsius vorgeheizt. Seine Premiere hatte der Ofen bereits auf der Mapheus-3-Mission im November 2012, bei dem die Wissenschaftler seinen Einsatz auf einer Höhenforschungsrakete testeten. Nach Eintritt der Schwerelosigkeit wurden unterschiedliche Metallproben durch eine Bewegung im Inneren des Ofens miteinander in Kontakt gebracht, um so die geschmolzenen Aluminium-Nickel-Proben diffundieren zu lassen. Die kompakte und vollständig gegen Strahlungsaustritt abgeschirmte Röntgenradiographieanlage nahm dabei pro Sekunde eine Aufnahme in Echtzeit auf. "Die Diffusion in metallischen Flüssigkeiten ist ein Prozess, der bis heute noch nicht zu 100 Prozent verstanden ist", sagt Dr. Florian Kargl, wissenschaftlicher Projektleiter für die Mapheus-4-Mission. Die gewonnenen Daten aus der Schwerelosigkeit werden mit Modellrechnungen und Daten aus dem irdischen Labor verglichen; diese Ergebnisse können unter anderem dazu beitragen, in der Industrie Gießprozesse beispielsweise von Turbinenschaufeln zu optimieren.
Um das Verhalten von granularen Gasen besser zu verstehen, schickten die Wissenschaftler des DLR-Instituts für Materialphysik im Weltraum kleine Metallkügelchen in die Schwerelosigkeit. Während des Fluges wurden diese von vier Magneten zur Bewegung angeregt - zwei Hochgeschwindigkeitskameras zeichneten anschließend mit zu bis 500 hochaufgelösten Bildern pro Sekunde auf, wie die Teilchen gegeneinander stießen und welchen zeitlichen Verlauf die Geschwindigkeitsverteilung nahm. Mit den Ergebnissen können die Forscher analysieren, wie granulare Gase - zum Beispiel Schüttgut wie Pillen - dichter und stabiler gepackt werden können. "Die Schwerelosigkeit beim Flug mit der Höhenforschungsrakete erlaubt es uns, diese Vorgänge zu untersuchen, ohne dass sich die Teilchen durch den Einfluss der Schwerkraft ablagern."
Bergung mit dem Hubschrauber
Nach dem insgesamt zehnminütigen Flug landete der Behälter mit den Experimenten an Bord in rund 60 Kilometern Entfernung vom Startplatz und wurde mit einem Hubschrauber geborgen. Für die Konzeption der einstufigen Trägerrakete und den Missionsbetrieb war die Abteilung Mobile Raketenbasis des DLR verantwortlich. Nach den erfolgreichen Vorgängerflügen Mapheus-1 bis Mapheus-3 hatte sie den brasilianisch-deutschen Raketenmotor S30 für Mapheus-4 adaptiert, um die Nutzlastkapazität und die Flughöhe deutlich zu steigern. "Bei einer Gesamtnutzlastmasse von 272 Kilogramm erreichte Mapheus-4 eine Flughöhe von 154 Kilometern" berichtet Frank Scheuerpflug, verantwortlich für die Mapheus-Mission bei der MORABA, nach dem Flug.
Die Wissenschaftler und Ingenieure des Mapheus-Teams können nun bereits auf die Resultate und Erfahrungen von vier ergebnisreichen Flügen zurückblicken. "Mapheus ist ein hervorragendes Beispiel für hochaktuelle Materialforschung unter Schwerelosigkeit, die von der Effizienz und Flexibilität der Forschungsraketen profitiert", betont Projektleiter Martin Siegl vom DLR-Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme. Das Mapheus-Programm wird im kommenden Jahr fortgesetzt.
China’s Long March-4C carrier rocket successfully orbited three satellites for scientific experiments on Saturday, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The launch took place at 3:37 Moscow time on Saturday [23:37 GMT on Sunday] from the launch pad in the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province.
The three satellites - Chuangxin-3, Shiyan-7 and Shijian-15 - will be used “mainly for conducting scientific experiments on space maintenance technologies,” the agency reported.
It was the 179th launch for a Long March rocket.
In what was one of the most secretive Chinese missions in recent years, a Long March 4C launched three military satellites. The launch, which occurred at 23:37 UTC from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Friday, was the subject of a state media blackout, with news leaking via social media just hours before lift-off.
Chinese media refer to the new mission as launching three technological satellites: namely the Chuang Xin-3, the Shiyan Weixing-7 and the Shijian-15.
The first Chung Xin (‘Innovation’) sats were experimental telecommunications microsatellites designed and built by the China Academy of Sciences.
Shiyan Weixing satellites are usually used to test new technologies as well as the Shijian (‘Practice’) satellites used for technological demonstration. Shijian-15 probably will test a Chinese robotic arm, a mission that has been planned and announced for some time, while Shiyan-7 will scan for orbital debris.
This was the 179th successful launch of a Chang Zheng (Long March) launch vehicle, the 42nd successful orbital launch from Taiyuan and the first from Taiyuan this year. It was also the fifth successful orbital Chinese launch in 2012.
Launch Vehicle and Launch Site:
With its main commonality matched to the Long March 4B, the first stage has a 24.65 meter length with a 3.35 meter diameter, consuming 183,340 kg of N2O4/UDMH (gross mass of first stage is 193.330 kg).
The vehicle is equipped with a YF-21B engine capable of a ground thrust of 2,971 kN and a ground specific impulse of 2,550 Ns/kg. The second stage has a 10.40 meter length with a 3.35 meter diameter and 38,326 kg, consuming 35,374 kg of N2O4/UDMH.
It includes a YF-22B main engine capable of a vacuum thrust of 742 kN and four YF-23B vernier engines with a vacuum thrust of 47.1 kN (specific impulses of 2,922 Ns/kg and 2,834 Ns/kg, respectively).
The third stage has a 4.93 meter length with a 2.9 meter diameter, consuming 12,814 kg of N2O4/UDMH. Having a gross mass of 14,560 kg, it is equipped with a YF-40 engine capable of a vacuum thrust of 100.8 kN and a specific impulse in vacuum of 2,971 Ns/kg.
Situated in the Kelan County on the northwest part of the Shanxi Province, the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) is also known by the Wuzhai designation. It is used mainly for polar launches (meteorological, Earth resources and scientific satellites).
The center is at an altitude of 1400-1900m above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains to the east, south and north, with the Yellow River to its west. The annual average temperature is 4-10 degrees C, with maximum of 28 degrees C in summer and minimum of -39 degrees C in winter.
TSLC is suitable for launching a range of satellites, especially for low earth and sun-synchronous orbit missions. The center has state-of-the-art facilities for launch vehicle and spacecraft testing, preparation, launch and in-flight tracking and safety control, as well as for orbit predictions.
The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun’s north pole on July 18, 2013, at 9:06 a.m. EDT.
The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured this image of a gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun’s north pole on July 18, 2013, at 9:06 a.m. EDT. Coronal holes are dark, low density regions of the sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona. They contain little solar material, have lower temperatures, and therefore, appear much darker than their surroundings.
Coronal holes are a typical feature on the sun, though they appear at different places and with more frequency at different times of the sun’s activity cycle. The activity cycle is currently ramping up toward what is known as solar maximum, currently predicted for late 2013. During this portion of the cycle, the number of coronal holes decreases. During solar max, the magnetic fields on the sun reverse and new coronal holes appear near the poles with the opposite magnetic alignment. The coronal holes then increase in size and number, extending further from the poles as the sun moves toward solar minimum again. At such times, coronal holes have appeared that are even larger than this one.
The holes are important to our understanding of space weather, as they are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere. While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere.
A Russian Proton-M rocket that exploded after launch on July 2was lost because its angular velocity sensors were installed upside-down, the country’s space agency said Thursday.
The mistake affected three of six yaw angular velocity sensors on the unmanned rocket, said deputy head of Roscosmos, Alexander Lopatin, citing a state commission’s investigation of the crash.
The mistake could have been the fault of either the worker who installed the sensors or the engineer who drew up the construction blueprints, Lopatin said at a press conference.
“Installing these devices is complicated and awkward work,” Lopatin said.
The wrongly installed sensors bore the trace of being forced into place, he added.
There is no provision for spotting such a mistake in current pre-launch procedures, Lopatin said. The commission is drafting a set of measures to rectify the situation, including possible filming of sensor installation procedures for pre-launch review.
The sensors were produced by the Academician Pilyugin Center and installed at the Khrunichev space center, which assembled the rocket in 2011. Both enterprises are state-owned and Moscow-based.
The Proton-M, which was carrying three satellites for the Glonass satellite navigation system – Russian answer to America's GPS – tipped over and rolled before it blew up 12 seconds after takeoff from Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.
The combined cost of the lost rocket and satellites is 4.4 billion rubles ($136 million), according to official state tender data.
Russia's Prosecutor General’s Office will look into the Roscomos investigation’s findings, as will the government, Lopatin said. The Cabinet is planning a reform of Russia’s space industry, which has been plagued by a series of failed launches in recent years, several involving Proton rockets.
A Russian Proton rocket veers out of control seconds after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: YouTube)
The US Navy’s MUOS-2 satellite was launched on Friday morning aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral was re-scheduled to 13:00 UTC (09:00 local time) after an earlier upper level winds constraints. The spacecraft is currently being delivered to its initial destination via the Centaur Upper Stage.
Atlas V Launch:
MUOS-2 is the second in a series of five planned Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellites, part of a six billion dollar program to replace the UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellites currently used by the US Navy.
The prime contractor for the MUOS program is Lockheed Martin, with the spacecraft based around the A2100M satellite bus. At a gross mass of around 6,740 kilograms (14,900 lb), MUOS are among the heaviest unclassified spacecraft ever placed into geosynchronous orbit. A BT-4 liquid rocket motor, produced by IHI Corporation of Japan, will be used to perform on-orbit maneuvers.
The satellite’s 14-metre (46-foot) reflector antennae are produced in Melbourne, Florida by Harris Corporation, while part of the communications payload is constructed by Boeing IDS. General Dynamics and Ericsson are responsible for developing the ground segment of the MUOS system.
The first MUOS satellite, MUOS-1, was launched in February 2012, also by an Atlas V. That spacecraft completed initial on-orbit testing on 17 July last year, ahead of acceptance testing by the US military.
A Navy program, MUOS is one of several series of communications satellites operated by the US military. The US Air Force operates the Wideband Global Satcom and Advanced Extremely High Frequency program, both of which are expected to see launches in the next two months.
The National Reconnaissance Office also has its own communications satellites, the Satellite Data System (SDS), and several other spacecraft, such as the mysterious PAN satellite, have been launched. The US military was also reported to have bought the AMC-14 satellite from SES after it failed to achieve geostationary orbit in 2008.
The rocket that launched MUOS-2 was an Atlas V 551, tail number AV-040. Friday’s launch marked the fourth flight of the 551 configuration, which is the most powerful version of the Atlas V, and the thirty-ninth Atlas V launch overall.
First flown in 2002, the Atlas V is, along with the Delta IV, one of two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs) developed to meet the requirements of the US military. Both the Atlas V and Delta IV are operated by United Launch Alliance, which was formed in December 2006 to take over operations of the EELV fleet and Boeing’s older Delta II rocket.
In its thirty-eight flights to date, the Atlas V has achieved a near-perfect success record, with only one partial failure – a fuel leak caused by a valve failure led to AV-009 placing the USA-194 spacecraft into a lower-than-planned orbit in 2007.
Atlas is one of the most reliable rockets flying – its last outright failure occurred over 20 years ago, when in March 1993 the UFO-1 satellite was placed into an unusable orbit after an engine failure. That launch used an Atlas I.
The Atlas V 551 was first used for the 2006 launch of the New Horizons spacecraft bound for Pluto, with subsequent launches deploying the Juno probe to Jupiter and the MUOS-1 satellite.
The first stage of the Atlas V is a Common Core Booster, powered by a single RD-180 engine burning RP-1 and liquid oxygen. Derived from the RD-170 engine developed for the Soviet Union’s Energia and Zenit rockets, the RD-180 first flew in 2000 on the maiden flight of the Atlas III, and Friday’s launch marked its 45th flight.
Ignition of the RD-180 came 2.7 seconds ahead of the scheduled launch time, allowing the engine to reach launch-ready thrust by T-0, at which point five Aerojet solid rocket motors attached to the first stage also ignited.
Liftoff occurred at T+1.1 seconds, with the rocket pitching over and performing a roll and yaw maneuver to attain its launch azimuth around 2.8 seconds later at an altitude of 26 metres (85 feet).
Forty-four seconds after liftoff, the rocket passed through the area of maximum dynamic pressure, or Max-Q. Burnout and separation of the solid rocket motors, which augment the RD-180′s thrust during the early phases of the flight, occurred around a minute later; the first two boosters separating 103.3 seconds after launch, and the remaining three followed a second and a half later.
Separation of the payload fairing came at T+191.5 seconds, with the Forward Load Reactor separating five seconds later, however the exact times were dependent on atmospheric conditions and heating.
Six different payload fairings are offered for the Atlas V; three four-meter variants and three five-meter fairings. For Friday’s launch a medium length five-metre fairing was used. This was 23.4 meters (76.8 feet) long with a diameter of 5.4 meters (17.7 feet).
The five-meter fairings encapsulate the upper stage along with the payload, with a Forward Load Reactor, attached near the top of the upper stage, used to dampen vibrations in the fairing to provide a better acoustic environment for the payload.
The upper stage of the Atlas V is a Centaur, a descendent of a stage first flown in 1962 which made its 200th flight on the last MUOS launch in 2012. For the Atlas V both single and dual-engine Centaurs are available, however only the single-engine configuration has been flown to date.
The engine used on the Atlas V Centaur is an RL10A-4-2, which is fuelled by cryogenic propellant; liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Centaur is expected to make three burns during Friday’s launch.
Following depletion of its propellant, the Common Core Booster’s engine cut off around four minutes and 21 seconds after launch. Six seconds later, the Centaur separated and begin its prestart procedure. RL10 ignition occurred 9.9 seconds after staging.
The Centaur’s first burn lasted seven minutes and 46.9 seconds, before the flight entered a seven-minute and 59-second coast phase. Following the coast, the second burn lasted five minutes and 55.7 seconds.
After the second burn, the launch entered an extended coast phase, lasting 142 minutes and 36.1 seconds. The final burn, which will follow this, is expected to last just 59.1 seconds. Three minutes and 39 seconds later, MUOS-2 will separate from its carrier rocket.
The target orbital parameters for the deployment of MUOS-2 are an apogee of 35,787 kilometers (19,323 nautical miles, 22,237 statute miles); a perigee of 3802 km (2,053 nmi, 2,362 mi); inclination of 19.1 degrees to the equator, and an argument of perigee of 179.0 degrees. MUOS-2 will then use its own propulsion system to maneuver to geostationary orbit.
AV-040 was the sixtieth rocket to launch from Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Built during the 1960s for the Titan IIIC as part of the Titan Integrate-Transfer-Launch Complex, LC-41 as it was then designated saw its first launch in December 1965 when a Titan launched the LES-3 and 4 satellites, along with Oscar-4 and OV2-3.
A Vertical Integration Building (VIB), shared with LC-40, was used to stack the rockets before they were rolled out to the launch pad for payload installation in a cleanroom atop the pad’s Mobile Service Tower (MST). The MST was demolished in 1999, while the VIB was demolished in 2006 following the end of Titan launches from SLC-40.
In total, twenty-seven Titan launches took place from SLC-41; ten Titan IIICs, seven Titan IIIEs, and ten Titan IVs – all Titan IVAs except for the final Titan to launch from the pad; a Titan IV(402)B which failed to place a DSP satellite into geosynchronous orbit. The last Titan IVA launch from the pad also failed due to a guidance problem. These two launches were part of a run of three consecutive launch failures which the Titan IV suffered during 1998-99.
The Atlas V has made 33 of its 39 launches from SLC-41, beginning with its maiden flight in 2002. A new Vertical Integration Facility, located closer to the pad than the old building, is used to assemble the rockets, including their payloads, with rollout to the pad occurring a few days before launch.
Friday’s launch was the ninth US orbital launch attempt of 2013, and the thirty-eighth or thirty-ninth overall for the world, depending on a rumored Iranian launch failure believed to have occurred around 17 February.