Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program.
The agency’s board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.
As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money.
Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello said a customer is lined up to use the hangars that NASA no longer needs.
“This is a project which involves the relocation of personnel and equipment from another state to Florida to conduct operations that are in support of Department of Defense activities,” he said. “This is activity which really represents next-generation systems work.”
DiBello indicated the project, known as Coyote, could also make use of Kennedy’s former shuttle runway.
That would support speculation about a space plane that could not only be processed and launched here but return for landing.
The first two X-37B missions landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A third flight, reusing a previously flown vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral last December and remains in orbit.
An Air Force spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday.
The spacecraft are built by The Boeing Co., which under a separate deal plans to lease a third shuttle hangar from the state for assembly of the CST-100 crew capsule, which is being developed to fly NASA and private astronauts.
Space Florida said it recently began the first phase of renovations to the other two hangars, a process that will include demolition of shuttle-specific infrastructure like access platforms.
The second phase, for which funding was approved Wednesday, would modernize the facilities for the new tenant to use for “spacecraft assembly, refurbishment and testing,” according to a meeting agenda.
The new tenant will match half the refurbishment project’s cost.
In other business Wednesday, the board approved accepting state appropriations totaling $19.5 million for the budget year that began in July.
Those include $10 million for operations and another $7 million to help finance new business initiatives that could attract jobs.
Figure 1: The FastSound project's 3D map of the large-scale structure of a region in the Universe about 4.7 billion years after the Big Bang. This area covers 2.5 times 3 degrees of the sky, with a radial distance spanning 12-14.5 billion light years in comoving distance or 8-9.6 billion light years in light travel distance (Note 3). The colors of the galaxies indicate their star formation rate, i.e., the total mass of stars produced in a galaxy every year. The gradation in background color represents the number density of galaxies; the underlying mass distribution (which is dominated by invisible so-called "dark matter" that accounts for about 30% of the total energy in the Universe) would look like this if we could see it. The lower part of the figure shows the relative locations of the FastSound and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) regions, indicating that the FastSound project is mapping a more distant Universe than SDSS's 3D map of the nearby Universe. (Credit: NAOJ, SDSS, CFHT)
An international team led by astronomers from Kyoto University, the University of Tokyo and the University of Oxford has released its first version of a 3D map of the Universe from its FastSound project (Note 1), which is surveying galaxies in the Universe over nine billion light years away. Using the Subaru Telescope's new Fiber Multi-Object Spectrograph (FMOS, Note 2), the team's 3D map includes 1,100 galaxies and shows the large-scale structure of the Universe nine billion years ago (Figure 1).
The FastSound project, one of Subaru Telescope's Strategic Programs, began its observations in March 2012 and will continue them into the spring of 2014. Although surveys with 3D maps of the Universe have been conducted on the nearby Universe (e.g., the Sloan Digital Sky Survey with coverage up to five billion light years away), the FastSound project distinguishes itself by developing a 3D map of the far-distant Universe, covering the largest volume of the Universe farther than ten billion light years away (in comoving distance, Note 3). Subaru Telescope's FMOS facilitates the project's goal of surveying a large portion of the sky. FMOS is a powerful wide-field spectroscopy system that enables near-infrared spectroscopy of over 100 objects at a time; the spectrograph's location at prime focus allows an exceptionally wide field of view when combined with the light colleting power of the 8.2 m primary mirror of the telescope.
The current 3D map of 1,100 galaxies shows the large-scale structure of the Universe nine billion years ago, spanning 600 million light years along the angular direction and two billion light years in the radial direction. The team will eventually survey a region totaling about 30 square degrees in the sky and then measure precise distances to about 5000 galaxies that are more than ten billion light years away. Although the clustering of galaxies is not as strong as that of the present-day Universe, gravitational interaction will eventually result in clustering that grows to the current level.
The final 3D map of the distant Universe will serve a primary scientific goal of the project: to precisely measure the motion of galaxies and then measure the rate of growth of the large-scale structure as a test of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Although scientists know that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, they do not know why; it is one of the biggest questions in contemporary physics and astronomy. An unknown form of energy, so-called "dark energy", appears to uniformly fill the Universe, accounting for about 70% of its mass-energy content and apparently causing its acceleration. Alternatively, a fundamental theory of gravity on cosmological scales may differ from that of general relativity, which reigns as the dominant theory of gravitation and spacetime. A comparison of the 3D map of the young Universe with the predictions of general relativity could eventually reveal the mechanism for the mysterious acceleration of the Universe.
CAPE CANAVERAL – A Delta IV rocket is being readied for launch this week at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with an advanced military communications satellite.The 217-foot-tall United Launch Alliance rocket is scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:29 p.m. Wednesday. The launch window that night will extend through 9:18 p.m.
Air Force meteorologists are expecting favorable weather. A forecast issued today calls for an 80 percent chance that conditions will be acceptable for launch. The prime concern is a chance of coastal showers that could push low-level cumulus clouds into the area during the 49-minute launch window.
The rocket will haul up the sixth in a series of Wideband Global SATCOM satellites. Made by Boeing, the spacecraft designed to provide the U.S. Department of Defense, the White House and U.S. and allied troops around the world with secure, high-bandwidth communications.
A single WGS spacecraft is capable of providing more bandwidth capability than an entire constellation of predecessor Defense Satellite Communications System (DCSC) spacecraft.
A Delta IV rocket was launched by United Launch Alliance on Wednesday night, prior to successfully deploying the WGS-6 satellite for the US Air Force. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was on schedule at 20:29 EDT (00:29 UTC on Thursday).
A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying the latest in an international fleet of military communications satellites -- this one paid for by Australia -- climbed into orbit Wednesday after a picture-perfect launch from Cape Canaveral.
The 21-story-tall Delta 4, equipped with four solid-fuel strap-on boosters for extra liftoff power, roared to life on time at 8:29 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) and quickly climbed away from launch complex 37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.Trailing a thick cloud of churning exhaust and a torrent of fire from its strap-on boosters, the rocket put on a dramatic show for area residents and tourists as it rose into sunlight and accelerated away high above the Atlantic Ocean.
The strap-ons burned out and were jettioned in pairs about one minute and 40 seconds after liftoff. The hydrogen-fueled RS-68 first stage engine shut own two-and-a-half minutes later, the spent stage fell away and the second stage RL10B-2 engine ignited to continue the push to space.
The second stage engine burned for 16 minutes, putting the rocket into a preliminary elliptical orbit. A second three-minute firing completed the launch phase of the flight and the payload -- the sixth Wideband Global SATCOM, or WGS -- satellite was released to fly on its own 40 minutes after liftoff, at 9:09 p.m.
Built by Boeing, the 13,200-pound WGS-6 satellite will join a globe-spanning military communications network shared by the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
At least 10 satellites are planned. Australia is paying some $700 million for the WGS-6 satellite, the ULA Delta 4 rocket and support services through the life of the program. WGS-9 is being financed by the other five partner nations while the U.S. Air Force is responsible for the rest of the fleet.
Dave Madden, director of the U.S. Air Force Military Satellite Communications Systems Directorate, or MILSATCOM, said sharing resources "is very consistent with what the Department of Defense wants to do to form stronger coalitions with our allied partners."
"When budgets get tight, it actually forces people to think more and work harder together," he said. "I think the reductions in the budgets are going to enable us to form some very strong partnerships with a lot of our allied partners that will significantly bring down our operating costs of system and create better interoperability between our forces when we deploy together."
Designed to replace earlier Defense Satellite Communications System spacecraft, the WGS relay stations have 10 times the capacity of the satellites they are replacing and will provide enhanced communications and expanded coverage for the United States and its six international partners.
Each satellite features high-speed X-band and Ka-band communications and realtime spacecraft-based "cross-banding" to enhance compatibility.
"Where that really comes into play is the key capability of interoperability between various terminals and war fighters," Madden said. "For example, a Navy ship can be operating X-band and go up to WGS system and be able to communicate with somebody else operating with a Ka terminal and vice-versa.
"It allows us more flexibility on the ground, the satellite does that conversion for them and we can cross-talk across the services."
Capable of data rates up to 3.6 gigabytes per second, WGS satellite can handle "large amounts of data, video type information, two commanders trying to talk to each other over video teleconference, share information, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data, large files that have to move through the system," Madden said.
WGS-6 was released into a so-called super-synchronous transfer orbit with an apogee, or high point, of slightly more than 41,500 miles and a perigee, or low point, of 274 miles.
Over the next three months, on-board thrusters will circularize the orbit at 22,300 miles above the equator where satellites take 24 hours to complete one orbit and thus appear stationary in the sky. After a month or so of testing and checkout, Boeing will turn the satellite over to Air Force controllers for operational use.
This was the 23rd launch of a Delta 4 since 2002, the 19th launched from Cape Canaveral, and the 16th Delta mission managed by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Next up for ULA is a heavy-lift Delta 4 flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Aug. 28 to loft a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit.
Update: 8.08.2013 / 23.20 MESZ
---weitere Aufnahmen von Start;
Kids watch the Delta IV rocket launch from Palm Bay. (PHOTO/ Debbie Franqui)
Delta IV rocket launch as seen from Port Orange. (PHOTO/ Dawn Horres)
The Delta IV rocket launch, taken from Indialantic. (PHOTO/ Kenneth Castoro)
Want to do your own space experiment? From next week, you will be able to run science projects on the world's first open-source satellites. And it won't break the bank.
ArduSat-1 and ArduSat-X were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on 3 August aboard a Japanese resupply vehicle (which is also carrying fresh food, supplies and a talking humanoid robot).
Known as CubeSats, each mini satellite packs an array of devices – including cameras, spectrometers and a Geiger counter – into a cube just 10 centimetres to a side.
The cargo ship carrying the CubeSats should arrive at the ISS on 9 August, and the satellites will then be deployed using a robotic-arm technique tested last year. The method can put several small satellites into orbit around Earth, eliminating the need for dedicated launch vehicles and making citizen-science missions like ArduSat more affordable.
"No one has given people access to satellites in the same way that we're doing with ArduSat," says Chris Wake of NanoSatisfi, the San Francisco company that builds and operates the satellites.
The maiden launch was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, with backers buying some of the satellites' time slots to run experiments. If there are enough extra time slots, paying customers will also be able to program controls on the satellites and run experiments for three days for $125, or for a week for $250.
The satellites run Arduino, an open-source platform popular with hobbyists, which will let anyone write code for an app, game or research project that uses the on-board instruments. Projects that will run on the first two Ardusats are yet to be announced, but a list of ideas from the developers includes tracking meteorites and making a 3D model of Earth's magnetosphere.
Sara Seager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is not on the Ardusat team, but her students design and build CubeSats for planetary science. "This definitely is helping open up space both to all people and all nations," Seager says of the Ardusat launch.
The first two satellites will orbit for three to seven months before burning up as they fall to Earth. NanoSatisfi hopes to send fleets of them into space on future launches. "We're focused on launching a number of these over the next few years," says Wake. "Five years out, we'd love to see 100, 150 of these up in the air, reaching half a million students."
Quasars are active black holes – primarily from the early universe. Using a special method where you observe light that has been bent by gravity on its way through the universe, a group of physics students from the Niels Bohr Institute have observed a quasar whose light has been deflected and reflected in six separate images. This is the first time a quasar has been observed with so many light reflections. The results are published in the scientific journal, Astrophysical Journal.
A group of 3rd year astrophysics students at the Niels Bohr Institute went on a weeklong course to make observations at the Nordic Optical Telescope, NOT, on La Palma in Spain. Four of the students wanted to do a project together and they discovered a new and exciting observation that the Norwegian astronomer Håkon Dahle had recorded, but had not yet made a further study of.
“Just like ‘ordinary’ researchers, they then had to make an application for observation time at the Nordic Optical Telescope,” explains Professor Johan Fynbo, who was their supervisor at the summer course.
The students were granted observation time and already the first night there was exciting news in the telescope.“We had three hours to observe and already after one hour we had the first spectrum. It was a new experience for us, but we could see immediately that it was a quasar. A typical characteristic of a quasar is that the light has broad emission lines from gas close to the black hole. We were very excited and moved on to the other ‘candidates’ from observation and later that night we found yet another light reflection of the quasar,” explains Thejs Brinckmann, one of the astrophysics students working on the project. The other students in the group were Mikkel Kristensen, Mikkel Lindholmer and Anders Nielsen.
Due to the special gravitational lens effect where light is bent as it passes heavy objects, such as galaxy clusters, a group of physics students at the Niels Bohr Institute observed a quasar whose light was reproduced six times. This has never been seen before.
(Håkon Dahle, Nordiske Optiske Teleskop)
The light they observed came from a quasar, which is an active, super massive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy. Such active, super massive black holes swallow gas from its surroundings. Due to the tremendous gravitational pull, the gases are pulled from the surrounding region into the black hole with incredible speed and gases near the black hole are heated to millions of degrees. This extremely hot gas emits radiation, which then heats the enormous dense clouds of dust and gas that circulate at a slightly greater distance from the black hole. The heat causes the gas to light up with incredibly powerful emission of light – stronger than the light from many galaxies.
Quasars are thus extremely luminous and can be observed across the entire universe. But light does not always move in a straight line. Light is affected by the gravity of objects it encounters in its path.
“The light from this quasar has been travelling for more than 11 billion years en route to Earth. Between the quasar and Earth is a collection of hundreds of galaxies – a galaxy cluster. This galaxy cluster has so much gravity that it pulls the light from the quasar. So instead of radiating in straight lines from the quasar, the light is deflected in an arc around the galaxy cluster. In this way, one can observe not just one, but several images of the same quasar. This is called the gravitational lens effect,” explains Johan Fynbo.
During the allotted observation time over three nights, the four students took spectra of four different images that could stem from the same quasar.
“We analysed the spectra and we could see that three of the spectra stemmed from the quasar,” explains Thejs Brinckmann.
When the Norwegian astronomer Håkon Dahle, who had originally discovered the sources of the quasar, heard about the students’ observations, he thought they were so exciting that he decided to study the field further. When he went to NOT a month later, he observed three other so-called ‘candidates’ for the quasar and they all proved to be from the same quasar.
“This is the first time that a quasar has observed whose light has been reflected or ‘lensed’ in six separate image,” explains Johan Fynbo. ‘Lensed’ quasars are rare and you typically see two or three light-reflections. Six images of the same quasar have never been observed before.
In addition to the quasar itself, you also get other interesting information. A quasar varies in brightness and you can measure that there is a different arrival time for the light from the different observations, because the light paths are not of equal length. In this way you can calculate the geometric model of the light’s path. You can also calculate the mass of the galaxy cluster and you can calculate what is called the Hubble parameter, which tells us about the expansion of the universe.
It has been an incredible experience for the students. “It is amazing to be allowed to participate in something that is relevant to research so early in our education,” says Thejs Brinckmann, whose appetite for a future as a researcher has been whetted even more.
Quelle: Niels Bohr Institute
This image was taken with the visible imaging spectrometer on May 22, 2013 in H-alpha line center by the New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), CA. The lawn-shaped pattern shows ultrafine magnetic loops rooted on the photosphere. The telescope is currently being upgraded to include the only solar multi-conjugate adaptive optics system to correct atmospheric distortion over a wide field of view, as well as the only fully cryogenic solar spectrograph for probing the Sun in the near infrared. Other instruments have been brought on-line since 2009, to enable the NST to probe the Sun with its full scientific capabilities for measuring magnetic fields and dynamic events using visible and infrared light.
Researchers at NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in Big Bear, CA have obtained new and remarkably detailed photos of the Sun with the New Solar Telescope (NST). The photographs reveal never-before-seen details of solar magnetism revealed in photospheric and chromospheric features.
“With our new generation visible imaging spectrometer (VIS),” said Wenda Cao, NJIT Associate Professor of Physics and BBSO Associate Director, “the solar atmosphere from the photosphere to the chromosphere, can be monitored in a near real time. One image was taken with VIS on May 22, 2013 in H-alpha line center. The lawn-shaped pattern illustrates ultrafine magnetic loops rooted in the photosphere below.”
The other photospheric photograph is the most precise sunspot image ever taken: A textbook sunspot that looks like a daisy with many petals. The dark core of the spot is the umbra and the petals are the penumbra. “With the unprecedented resolution of BBSO’s NST, many previously unknown small-scale sunspot features can now be perceived,” said Cao. In particular, there are the twisting flows along the penumbra’s less dark filaments, the complicated dynamic motion in the light bridge vertically spanning the umbra’s darkest part and the dark cores of the small bright points or umbra dots.
BBSO has been under NJIT’s management since 1997 when NJIT took over the facility from California Institute of Technology. The founder and executive director has been NJIT Distinguished Professor Philip R. Goode, a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union.
Goode led the project, which was completed in 2009, to build the world’s most capable solar telescope at BBSO. The new1.6 meter clear aperture, off-axis instrument is the world’s largest solar aperture telescope.
The telescope is currently being upgraded to include the only solar multi-conjugate adaptive optics system with the goal being to fully correct atmospheric distortion over a wide field of view, as well as the only fully cryogenic solar spectrograph for probing the Sun in the near infrared. Other instruments have been brought on-line since 2009, to enable the NST to probe the Sun with its full scientific capability for measuring magnetic fields and dynamic events using visible and infrared light.
Cao has been the lead scientist for the development of the NST scientific instrumentation. The NST is the first facility-class solar telescope built in the U.S. in a generation, which was built and operated by BBSO/NJIT. Cao's research interests involve the design, development, implementation, and operation of facility-class astronomical instrumentation performing high-spatial resolution solar spectroscopy and spectropolarimetry to perform solar physics research in visible and infrared light.
Cao has successfully led a number of scientific instrument projects for the NST, including leading the installation of VIS, the infrared imaging magnetograph, the broad-band filter imager, the near infrared imaging spectro-polarimeter and upgrading AO-76. Success in these projects has brought unprecedented high-resolution data, which are now online and have enabled cutting-edge research. He is also co-PI on the AO-308, the cryogenic infrared spectrograph and the multi-conjugate adaptive optics projects.
Cao is the recipient of an NSF Early Career Development Award, which has allowed him and his research group to further explore the techniques of magnetic field measurement of the photosphere and chromospheres employing the infrared spectral lines. The hope is to eventually uncover the mystery of solar coronal heating.
In recent years, industry, government and scientists have begun placing increasing attention upon space weather to learn more about which solar magnetic storms can have deleterious effects on satellites, the terrestrial power grid and telecommunications.
The NASA Lake Lander robots lands on Titan’s lake in an artist’s imagining. Illustration courtesy NASA/JPL
Where do you get a robot ready to visit a lake a billion miles away?
The glacier-fed Laguna Negra (map) in the Chilean Andes, where NASA and SETI Institute scientists have been testing a floating robot whose successors may eventually parachute into a sea on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
It’s not filled with liquid methane, nor is it -297 degrees Fahrenheit (-182 degrees Celsius), but otherwise Laguna Negra does a passable impression of an alien sea. That’s because it’s surrounded by a barren environment with a thin atmosphere and is vulnerable to storms, avalanches, and possibly volcanoes.
Due to global warming, the glacial lake is also rapidly changing, ideal circumstances for a robot being taught to recognize shifts in a fluid environment.
Titan has the distinction of being the only other body in our solar system known to have stable liquid on its surface. That liquid is mostly made of the gases methane and ethane, but the fact that the moon has seas, lakes, rain, and glaciers make it closer to Earth than anything else in our solar system. (Related: “Saturn Moon Has Tropical ‘Great Salt Lake,’ Methane Marshes.”)
The lander’s science team, led by SETI astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol, first launched the Planetary Lake Lander in Laguna Negra in 2011. The prototype robot has spent the last two years exploring its surroundings, determining the lake’s size and depth, measuring its pH, and observing all meteorological phenomena.
It’s not ready yet: The lander’s instruments are designed for a terrestrial environment, and the current version is far too heavy to be sent into space. But those evolutions will come, said Cabrol.
“Right now we’re at the same place we were 10 or 15 years ago, when we were starting to test Mars rovers in the desert,” she said.
Through this winter, the Lake Lander is exploring Laguna Negra unsupervised, but the SETI team is preparing for another field visit in a few months, when they will refine the most ambitious part of the project: investing the robot with intelligence. (Related: “Teaching Robots to Anticipate Human Actions.”)
Until now, extraplanetary robotic explorers have been micromanaged from Earth.
But communication between Earth and Titan would take hours each direction, so the robot must be built with some decision-making and problem-solving capacity. Also, since rain and other weather phenomena occur on Titan, an exploration robot would need to know when something unusual is happening so it can stop what it’s doing and pay attention.
To do this, the robot will have to become familiar with its “normal” environment, and detect when something abnormal happens. For example, if the robot floats near shore, it will be able to recognize that and begin taking photographs and a series of scientific measurements.
This scientific autonomy is an evolution that is likely to take hold in all future extraplanetary robots, not just those that go to Titan, Cabrol said. (Read “Robot Revolution? Scientists Teach Robots to Learn.”)
“We’re not only building a robot, but a new generation of robots,” she said. “The new generation will not just be sitting around waiting for us to tell them what to do.”
Life on Saturn Moon?
The world’s space agencies have already sent one probe to Titan.
In January 2005, NASA and the European Space Agency dispatched the UFO-shaped Huygens Probe parachuting through Titan’s thick brown atmosphere. It landed on a patch of squishy hydrocarbon mud, then transmitted data for more than 90 minutes before its battery died and it went silent.
Since then, several missions to Titan have been proposed, including a nautical robot to explore a sea near Titan’s North Pole. However, that proposal lost to a 2016 Mars mission in the last round of NASA exploration funding.
Saturn’s largest moon also holds special interest for science because of the possibility that life in some form exists there, or has in the past. (See “Is Saturn Moon’s Haze Old Enough for Life?”)
The lander project’s lead engineer, Trey Smith, noted that because of Titan’s hydrocarbon atmosphere and lakes, there is likely “some interesting organic chemistry going on there.”
“No living thing we know of on Earth could survive on Titan,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some other exotic form of life there.”
Don’t be fooled by the title; the mysterious, almost mystical bright light emerging from these thick, ominous clouds is actually a telltale sign of forming stars.
Here, a very young star is being born in the guts of the dark cloud LDN 43 – a massive blob of gas, dust and ices, gathered 520 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Ophiuchus, The Serpent Bearer.
Stars are born from cosmic dust and gas, which float freely in space until gravity forces it to bind together. The newborn star, RNO 91, is hidden in this image, revealed only by light reflected onto the plumes of the dark cloud. It is what astronomers call a pre-main sequence star, meaning that it has not yet started burning hydrogen in its core.
The energy that allows RNO 91 to shine comes from gravitational contraction – the star is being compressed by its own weight. Once a critical mass is reached, hydrogen, its main component, will begin to fuse together, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process. This will mark the beginning of adulthood for the star.
But even before this happens the adolescent star is bright enough to shine and generate powerful stellar winds, emitting intense X-ray and radio emission.
RNO 91 is a variable star around half the mass of the Sun. Astronomers have already seen a dusty, icy disc surrounding it, stretching out to over 1700 times the distance from Earth to the Sun. It is believed that this disc may host planet embryos, and that it will eventually evolve into a fully-fledged planetary system.
Ein dickes Dankeschön für die vielen Blog-Aufrufe meiner Besucher, welche ein Ansporn für die Zukunft sind!
Grasped by the station’s Canadarm2, the Exposed Pallet is transferred back to the HTV-3 Kounotori resupply craft in August 2012. The versatility of the HTV has been demonstrated on three previous missions. Photo Credit: NASA
Almost all references to cargo-carrying white storks in recent days have revolved inevitably around the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the arrival of their new son. Yet this weekend (3/4 August), a white stork of a different kind will roar into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center on Japan’s Tanegashima Island, as the fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) begins a month-long voyage to supply the International Space Station. In deference to Japanese tradition of avoiding personal names for their spacecraft, the HTVs are nicknamed “Kounotori,” which is translatable to “Oriental Stork” or “White Stork.” According to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the name arose because—just like William and Kate—the white stork traditionally brings joy and good news and thus precisely matched the HTV’s mandate of ferrying essential supplies to the multi-national outpost.
First flown in September 2009, the HTV measures over 30 feet long and 14 feet in diameter, weighs about 21,000 pounds, and can carry 13,000 pounds of payload to the space station. Its pressurized segment can house up to eight refrigerator-sized International Standard Payload Racks (ISPRs), which are transferred in a shirt-sleeve environment by the ISS crew, whilst an unpressurized segment enables external payloads to be robotically removed and installed onto the porch-like Exposed Facility of Japan’s Kibo laboratory. Like SpaceX’s Dragon, the HTV approaches the ISS and is captured and berthed to the Harmony node by means of the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Unlike Dragon, the Japanese craft burns up in the atmosphere at the end of each mission, although JAXA has advanced plans for a HTV-R variant, with a “return” capsule to transport around 3,200 pounds of payload back to Earth. The first flight of the HTV-R is tentatively scheduled for 2018. Since its maiden voyage, a HTV mission has flown approximately every 12-18 months, delivering a wide range of payloads and experiments to the ISS, including the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) instrument, a high-tech aquarium capable of supporting several generations of fish for up to three months, a Gradient Heating Furnace, and a number of small CubeSats.
Preparations for Saturday’s launch have entered high gear at the Tanegashima Space Center in recent weeks, and the spacecraft was loaded with propellants for its maneuvering thrusters through late June and into the first week of July. On 11 July, HTV-4 was mated with its payload attach fitting, prior to encapsulation within the rocket payload fairing and transfer from the Second Spacecraft and Fairing Assembly Building (SFA2) to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) for integration with its H-IIB launch vehicle. This will be the fourth mission by the H-IIB, which previously delivered HTV-1 into orbit in September 2009, followed by HTV-2 in January 2011 and HTV-3 in July 2012.
The two-stage rocket stands 185 feet tall and represents a marriage of both liquid and solid propellants. The first stage is powered by two LE-7A cryogenic oxygen/hydrogen engines and supplemented by four solid-fueled (polybutadiene) boosters. With two minutes remaining before launch, the rocket will transfer to internal power, with all liquid propellants verified at flight pressures. Liftoff from Launch Pad 2 is scheduled for 4:48 a.m. local time Sunday (3:48 p.m. EDT Saturday), with the dazzling plumes of the first-stage engines and the solids promising to turn night into day across southeast Tanegashima Island’s Pacific coastline.
The solids will burn out and separate from the vehicle at T+114 seconds, after which the payload fairing will be jettisoned two minutes later to expose HTV-4 to the near-vacuum environment of space for the first time. Meanwhile, the twin LE-7A engines will continue to power on upwards, finally shutting down at T+352 seconds and establishing the proper conditions for separation of the first stage and ignition of the H-IIB’s second stage. By now, the vehicle will have attained an altitude of about 125 miles. A single, liquid-fueled LE-5A engine will pick up the baton, firing for a little more than eight minutes to complete the delivery of HTV-4 into low-Earth orbit. By 15 minutes after launch, the gold-colored “Kounotori” will separate from the second stage and begin the checkout and deployment of its solar arrays, antennas, and other appendages.
HTV-4 will then be primed for a five-day orbital rendezvous profile, leading to a scheduled capture by Expedition 36 astronauts Chris Cassidy, Karen Nyberg, and Luca Parmitano at 9:29 a.m. EDT on 9 August. The robotic spacecraft will begin its final automated sequence, approaching to within 33 feet of the space station, from where it will be grappled by Canadarm2 and moved to a “ready-to-latch” position over the nadir (or Earth-facing) port of the Harmony node. Four latches will engage to hold HTV-4 in place, after which 16 bolts will be driven to achieve a “hard mate.”
This will begin a four-week period of operations with the Japanese craft, during which time about 11,900 pounds of payloads will be transferred. These include the newly-developed Freezer-Refrigerator of Stirling Cycle (FROST) for the pressurized Kibo module, which will cool experimental samples to below -70 degrees Celsius, even in the case of power outages. The ISS Cryogenic Experiment Storage Box (ICEBox) will keep a container cool without electrical power, whilst a Re-entry Data Recorder (known as the “i-Ball”) will measure velocities, accelerations, temperatures, and imaging data during HTV-4’s fiery re-entry. The spacecraft’s unpressurized segment will house a replacement Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU), a Utility Transfer Assembly (UTA), and NASA’s Space Test Program-Houston4 (STP-H4). Four small CubeSats will also be aboard.
On a more basic level of necessity, clothes, dried food, snacks, and beverages for the ISS crew, including 480 liters of water, will be aboard. Additionally, the Advanced Technology On-Orbit Test Instrument for Space Environment-mini (ATOTIE-mini) will fly for the first time to evaluate changes in surface potential of the HTV before and after berthing at the space station and if this potential affects spacewalkers. The spacecraft will be loaded with trash at the end of its mission and is expected to be unberthed on 5 September and deorbited two days later.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) would like to announce that we have set the launch time of the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 4 with the H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI4" (HTV4) onboard at 4:48:46 a.m. on August 4, 2013 (JST.)
Update: 23.15 MESZ
FRAMS von HTV-4-Start von Jaxachanell
Tomotaka Takahashi with his creation 'Giant leap'
Japan has launched the world's first talking robot into space to serve as companion to astronaut Kochi Wakata who will begin his mission in November.
The android took off from the island of Tanegashima in an unmanned rocket also carrying supplies for crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Measuring 34cm (13 inches), Kirobo is due to arrive at the ISS on 9 August.
It is part of a study to see how machines can lend emotional support to people isolated over long periods.
The launch of the H-2B rocket was broadcast online by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).
The unmanned rocket is also carrying drinking water, food, clothing and work supplies to the six permanent crew members based at the ISS.
Kirobo's name derives from the Japanese words for "hope" and "robot".
The small android weighs about 1kg (2.2 pounds) and has a wide range of physical motion. Its design was inspired by the legendary animation character Astro Boy.
Kirobo has been programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Mr Wakata who will take over as commander of the ISS later this year.
In addition, it is expected to relay messages from the control room to the astronaut.
"Kirobo will remember Mr Wakata's face so it can recognise him when they reunite up in space," the robot's developer, Tomotaka Takahashi said.
"I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between a person and machine, or a person and the Internet, and sometimes even between people."
The biggest challenge was to make the android compatible with space, Mr Takahashi added.
Dozens of tests were carried out over nine months to ensure Kirobo's reliability.
Kirobo has a twin robot on Earth called Mirata, which will monitor any problems its electronic counterpart may experience in space.
"It's one small step for me, a giant leap for robots," Mirata said of the mission last month.
The endeavour is a joint project between Mr Takahashi, car producer Toyota and advertising company Dentsu.