Sonntag, 6. April 2014 - 13:30 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - Der Beginn der belgischen UFO-Welle 1989 - Teil-2


The March 31, 1990 Ramilles UFO observation


Editor’s note: Roger sent me this piece and it was loosely translated into English. I attempted to clean it up without damaging his article too much. My goal was to improve the grammar, syntax, and flow of the story. What Roger presents is a very interesting analysis of one of those UFO events that populated the Belgian UFO “wave” of 1989-1990.
This UFO event occurred only one day after two Belgian Air Force F-16s were chasing UFOs over the skies of Belgium. It involved a multiple witness sighting with photographs. It was considered to be such a good case that it made into the SOBEPS report, Vague d’OVNI sur la Belgique (VOB).
The UFO observation
At 0105 on the 31st of March, the witnesses reported seeing something they considered unusual. A yellowish light that was different than plane lights, rose into the sky and slowly became bigger. It divided into two parts and then divided again so that they saw four white lights. At this moment, one of the witnesses, who was a photographer, took two pictures but they were underexposed. The observers report that they saw the front of the object behind the lights for 15 seconds. It was described to be a dark shape with bright lights and some white areas, (which may have been a reflection or other light emission).At this point the photographer took a third picture. According to the photographer, the object occupied about one third of the viewfinder’s field of view (FOV). The object at the time was at an elevation angle of 45° and the three witnesses estimated the altitude of the object as being 300 meter and the size being that of a 747 airliner (about 60 to 70 m). The witnesses added that heard a whistling noise typical of a plane but concluded it was not a plane because it was too weak for the low height of the object.
The witnesses (Patrick Ferryn, photographer, Lucien Clérebaut, and José Fernandez) were located near Ramillies at the crossroads of N91 and N29, which happens to be situated under an important airway and they were looking towards the SSE. In VOB1, P. Ferryn stated he used a NIKON camera with a KOMURA 300 mm telephoto lens with an aperture of F5 set at infinite and mounted on a tripod. He used ISO 1600 speed film and shot at ashutter speed of 1/125s. Ferryn stated that he took pictures of planes for comparison.

The next day, the photographer developed the film and discovered that the emulsion didn’t show any trace of the object they saw. In one negative, all he found were four very small points of light with a magnifying glass. This picture is edited in VOB1 under the number 7.18c.

Analysis of the negative
Professor A. Meessen from UCL, created the hypothesis that the picture was erased by an infrared light emitted by the object. This effect is called “Herschel effect” and requires that the Infrared (IR) light be emitted simultaneously with the normal light on the emulsion. (See VOB1 p 423-435).This effect is weak. For this to exist in the laboratory, it requires 150W at 30 cm without the lens. What power would be necessary if the source is at 1000 m or more with the lens attached?
More over the human skin feels heat from 150 W at 30 cm but the witnesses didn’t feel anything. This experiment proves only the existence of the Herschel effect but the effect is weak and doesn’t allow for anyone to conclude the picture was erased by this effect. Moreover, there are four points on this picture that were not erased.
The Herschel effect hypothesis is not very probable and is inconsistent with the data. It makes some unverifiable assumptions:
The UFO had very advanced technology.
The UFO knew it was being observed by these people.
The UFO knew it had a camera point ed at it.
The UFO can emit in a time shorter than 1/125 s an IR light in the direction of the camera or maybe it was emitting continuously IR.However, if it did this, how can it be explained that earth satellites never detected it? The sensitivity of the military satellites in IR is so great they can detect meteorites entering the earth atmosphere.
Finally, why can we find four points in the picture that were not erased when IR was supposed to erase the entire frame?
This appears to be an ad hoc hypothesis to justify why the UFO was not photographed.
NOTE: In the Petit-Rechain picture, there is no IR but another ad hoc hypothesis, UV light is used to explain an apparent move. UV light could not reach the film layer (Acheroy report).
A more likely hypothesis is that the film was underexposed is ignored and should have been the first thing that to be considered. With the photographer stating he used a film speed of 1600 and maximum aperture of F5, the most important parameter was the exposure time.
The French photographic review “Chasseur d’Images”, n°322, April 2010, p 100, contained the article, “Contraintes de la prise de vue en basse lumière” (free translation: “Obliged data for filming in low light”), which stated:
“Tout cliché est un compromis entre trois paramètres, vitesse d’obturation, diaphragme de l’objectif et sensibilité du support sur lequel est enregistrée l’image”
“Each picture is a compromise between three parameters: speed, aperture and sensitivity of the emulsion on which the picture is registered.”
Since two of the parameters are fixed (film sensitivity and aperture) there is only the third parameter (exposure time) that can be changed to obtain correct exposure. Evaluating the testimony
This omission of other hypotheses indicates the witnesses were biased towards interpreting this as an extraterrestrial/exotic object (thereby invoking the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis - ETH). Moreover, the three witnesses were all in the same place and agreed to give the same descriptions of altitude dimension, noise. This agreement on the data means their descriptions must be considered as “ONE UNIQUE testimony” and were not independent of each other.
The low noise level reported by the witnesses can also have a plausible explanation. The noise was weak because the object was at a greater distance.
What does the data reveal?
The first thing to note is that there is missing or unused data from the evaluation of the case. This data should have been examined prior to suggesting an ETH interpretation of the event.
Data missing: the FOV of the telephoto lens. For a 300 mm lens there are three FOVs: 8.1 ° for the diagonal, 7° for the large side of 36 mm, and 5° for the height of 24 mm. The FOV from the telephoto lens is an intrinsic data of the apparatus. This intrinsic data was omitted or ignored by the witnesses and SOBEPS.
Unused data: The angular size of the object through the telephoto lens. Assuming the witness was accurate, the object occupied one third of the FOV according to the witness, which would be 12 mm on The lights of this plane (25 cm in size) would only produce microscopic points. Isn’t this what the witness reported in his picture: “four non erased microscopic points”?
On the side of the picture in VOB1 they describe the picture as a flat trapezoid. The picture really does not permit this assertion because there are no visible elements of the three dimensional object.The assertion that this is a “Flat trapezoid” is an imaginative interpretation.
Assuming it was a plane that was photographed, the laws of geometric optics demonstrate that there could not be anything on the film other than these microscopic points, which would be the light of the beacons. At a distance of 1500 m, the image of a beacon on the film would only be 0.04 mm. The actual shape of the plane would not be recorded in a short exposure time. There is no need to speak of an image erased by the Herschel effect.
The witnesses reported seeing first one light, then two and finally four. It is exactly what you can see when a 747 is approaching. When the plane is far away (15 to 20 km) the four lights are too close together to resolve with the naked eye. The angular separation is too small. A moment later, you see two lights and finally, when the plane comes closer, you see four lights.
The explanation is simple: when we look at distant objects we cannot see details because our eyes cannot resolve the two neighbour points if the angle of separation is lower than about one arc minute (1/60th of a degree). The multiple lights appear as one to the observer.
During a correspondence I had with P. Ferryn in 2008, I wrote:
In my 50 years of photographic experience, I know that, by night, even with very high sensitivity film, it is impossible to obtain more than the point images of these beacons. With the focal length of 300 mm and a speed of 1/125s, the image of the beacon is very small and can only be seen with microscope or scanner.
In his answer, he insisted that the distance between the points on the film had a single frame of 35 mm film.
Analysis of the data
According to the witness, the object was about 60 m wide at a distance of 300 m. With these data, one can calculate the angular size:
Tangent of the angle = 60/300 = 0.2.
This computes to an angle of 11.3°. This information was available to the witnesses and SOBEPS but it was ignored.
The maximum FOV for the telephoto lens was 8.1° and the object was reported to have occupied one third of that FOV . So the angular size of the object through the telephoto lens would be (8.1°)/3 = 2.7°. Compare this to the estimated size and distance given by the witnesses. At that size and distance, it would have been larger than the maximum FOV for the camera system. This value is also about four times (4.19) smaller than the computed angular size of 11.3°. Assuming the estimated size of 60m was accurate, we can conclude the object was at a distance over four times greater then estimated (about 1250m).
Now if we use the formulas for lenses we discover that the an object of 60 m situated at 1250 m produces an image on the film of 12 mm. It is important to also note that an object of 12 m size situated at 250 m would also give the same 12 mm size on the film.
Nevertheless we must consider other hypotheses based on the estimate of angular size in the camera’ s view finder. For distances between 250 and 1250 m the dimensions of the object would range between 12 and 60 m respectively.
P. Ferryn said he had photographed planes at high altitude for comparison. These photographs are missing from the report. Also missing are the first two pictures of the UFO. One has to wonder why?
The plane hypothesis
It must be pointed out that a plane of 60 m size at a distance of 10000 m would only be 1.95mm in size on the 35mm frame when using a 300 mm lens.

to be 12 mm apart, which is what he saw through the viewfinder. So, we can deduce the distance between the points of the film was shorter. I requested that he provide the positions of the points in a rectangle of 24x36 because in VOB1 the picture is cropped. I never received this data.
He added: “the dimension of the subject seen on the viewfinder must inevitably be found on the film”. I answered that he was mistaken and that the image on the film is affected by the exposure time because the film sensitivity is fixed and the diaphragm is open at its maximum. If the exposure time is too short the film may not have been exposed and there would be nothing to see. As a professional photographer he should have known the damaging effects of underexposure, principally in the works of amateurs.
Examining the drawing made by the witnesses and reconstructing the different moments of the event (reconstruction can be found in VOB1 fig 7.18a - see page 24) we notice the following facts:
The description of the observation of one point (A on the picture) that divides in two (B on the picture) and then in four is identical to what you can see when a big plane (like a 747) is approaching. The drawing at point C shows a curved shape, which is a pure mental interpretation (pareidolia) that occurs when an observer mentally links points of light that are separate in a dark sky. Moreover, no shape is seen in picture 7.18c in VOB1. Additionally, picture 7.18c doesn’t show double lights as represented in the reconstruction 7.18a. How can this be explained? Double lights were described by the witnesses and they should have been recorded in the picture. This is not the case.
The yellowish light seen initially probably was due to atmospheric refraction because after that, the witnesses referred to it as a white light.
For comparison I filmed a plane coming in my direction with a camera. I extracted from this film five pictures and I made a photomontage. The lights are seen on the bottom. This picture shows an elapsed time of four minutes. You can see that the shape of the airplane is not visible. Butthe front shape of the lights appears to be curved. It is very interesting to compare my montage and the drawing 7.18a. You can see the final shape on my picture corresponds very closely with the shape drawn by the witnesses. The illusion of a curved shape is very revealing and can explain the drawing of the witnesses.
Some might object that you can’t find the double points of light in my picture. But this is also the case with the picture 7.18c from SOBEPS that differs completely from the drawing.

We discover again in this observation and during the interpretation that the same line of thinking was influenced by the ETH. This case puts together all the elements, methodological mistakes, and unproven assertions/postulates that can create a misinterpretation.
The investigators determined the witnesses and their estimates of distance and height were beyond reproach without performing calculations based on those estimates. These investigators, in the excitement of the moment, immediately adopted an ETH interpretation and neglected important data. The photographer, who was a professional, didn’t know the FOV for his telephoto lens and the method to calculate the angular size of an object. As demonstrated here, the resultant calculation didn’t match what he saw in the viewfinder bringing into question the estimates given.
The witnesses stated they saw a shape behind the lights and thought the picture would show what they had seen. However, the eye is more sensitive than film and they did not consider the likely possibility of underexposure (see the picture at the upper right taken by the editor of an airplane at night using the camera settings described by the witness). Instead, they concluded that the image must have been erased. They also ignored the possibility that the faint noise heard was of a plane’s engines situated farther away than what they had estimated.
When examining the two proposed hypotheses for this event, Occam’s razor indicates the airplane explanation, which does not require any complex assumptions, is more likely.

Vague d’ovnis sur la Belgique: un dossier exceptional : VOB1
Vague d’ovnis sur la Belgique : Une énigme non résolue : VOB2
Inforespace 100, 2000, p 5-40
Analyse et implications physiques de deux photos de la vague belge, web site A. Meessen
Vague Belge : les cas solides Ramillies by FBE on
Canon interchangeable lens guide, 1968
Roger Paquay Roger was born in Waremme, Belgium, on 21 October 1941. Entered the Liège Univerity in 1960 in Physical Sciences. Graduated as “LICENCIE EN SCIENCES PHYSIQUES” (Physics) in 1964. Teacher for Physics and mathematics in a secondary school for 15 to 18 year-old students. become Principal of the school in 1986. Retired 1 November 2001. Hobbies include Photography; lectures, walking and travel.

Quelle: SUNlite 6/2010 - by Roger Paquay


Sonntag, 6. April 2014 - 10:45 Uhr

Astronomie - Die verräterische Strahlung von metallischen Asteroiden


Fragment eines metallreichen Asteroiden


Tausende von Datensätzen des NASA-Weltraumteleskops WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) haben die Planetenforscher des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) ausgewertet - und kamen dabei den metallischen Asteroiden auf die Spur: Die Schwergewichte unter den Asteroiden bleiben erstaunlich kühl und geben anscheinend weniger Wärmestrahlung als die Gesteinsasteroiden ab, wenn man sie mit einem Infrarot-Teleskop beobachtet. "Das war für mich eine große Überraschung", betont Prof. Alan Harris. "Unsere Ergebnisse deuten auf eine höhere Anzahl von metallischen Objekten im Sonnensystem hin, als wir bisher vermutet haben." Das Aufspüren von metallreichen Asteroiden ist aus mehreren Gründen wichtig: Sie sind besonders gefährlich, wenn sie auf die Erde einschlagen würden, und sind zugleich potenzielle Rohstofflieferanten für die Industrie in der Zukunft. Die Forschungsarbeit ist in der aktuellen Ausgabe der Zeitschrift "Astrophysical Journal Letters" erschienen.

Metall leitet Wärme besser als Gestein. Dieses Prinzip der unterschiedlichen thermischen Leitfähigkeit machten sich die Wissenschaftler Prof. Alan Harris und Line Drube vom DLR-Institut für Planetenforschung zunutze. Die Sonnenenergie dringt in die Oberfläche eines metallreichen Asteroiden tiefer ein und wird dort absorbiert. Bei Infrarotbeobachtungen erscheinen die Oberflächen dieser Asteroiden deshalb dann als kühler als die der steinartigen Asteroiden. Belegt werden konnte dies durch den Vergleich von Reflexionsmessungen im Radar und Messungen der infraroten Wärmestrahlung von bekannten metallischen Asteroiden. Bisher gibt es nur etwa 40 Asteroiden, die als metallreich identifiziert werden konnten; mit der neuen Infrarot-Methode der DLR-Wissenschaftler wird diese Zahl um einiges steigen. "Im Katalog der WISE-Beobachtungen weisen noch viele Asteroiden Anzeichen von einem hohen Metallgehalt auf", betont Alan Harris.  

Gefahr für die Erde

Der Asteroidenforscher leitet das internationale Projekt NEOShield, in dem unter anderem die Eigenschaften von Asteroiden, aber auch die Verhinderung von Asteroideneinschlägen auf der Erde untersucht werden. Seit Januar 2012 untersuchen Wissenschaftler die Eigenschaften der "Near Earth Objects", die erdnahen Objekte, die bei einem Einschlag große Zerstörung anrichten könnten. "Metallreiche Asteroiden haben eine höhere Dichte, eine höhere Masse - und sind besonders gefährlich, wenn sie die Erde erreichen würden."

Der etwa 20 Meter große Asteroid, der im Februar 2013 in 20 bis 30 Kilometern Höhe über Russland nahe der Stadt Tscheljabinsk mit der Wucht von 500 Kilotonnen TNT zerbarst, war ein steinartiges Objekt. Ein Asteroid derselben Größenklasse aus Metall wäre bei seinem Flug durch die Lufthülle der Erde vermutlich viel widerstandsfähiger gewesen und hätte tiefer in die Atmosphäre eindringen könnten. Die Schäden wären dadurch noch erheblich schlimmer ausgefallen. Die von der Europäischen Union geförderte Forschungsarbeit im Rahmen des NEOShield-Projekts hilft den Asteroidenforschern bei der Einschätzung solcher Gefahren: "Es ist wichtig, die Zusammensetzung potenziell gefährlicher Asteroiden möglichst früh festzustellen." Nur wenn man den Aufbau eines Asteroiden kennt, kann man ihn beispielsweise effektiv mit einem Einschlag von seiner Flugbahn in Richtung Erde ablenken.

Quelle für wertvolle Rohstoffe

Eine Katalogisierung von metallreichen Asteroiden könnte aber in Zukunft noch einen weiteren Nutzen bringen: für den Abbau von wertvollen Rohstoffen für die Hi-Tech-Industrie wie Osmium, Irdium, Platin oder Palladium. "Das betrifft zwar frühestens die nächste oder übernächste Generation, ist mittlerweile aber nicht mehr komplett unrealistisch", schätzt Harris. "Amerikanische Privatfirmen arbeiten ernsthaft an der Möglichkeit, Asteroiden als Rohstoffquellen zu erschließen. Und die NASA plant, einen etwa sechs Meter großen Asteroiden einzufangen, ihn in eine Umlaufbahn um den Mond zu bringen und dort zu erforschen." Eines der Probleme derzeit ist es aber noch, geeignete Objekte unter den Asteroiden dafür zu finden. Harris‘ und Drubes Methode der Infrarot-Beobachtung bietet eine neue Möglichkeit, metallreiche Kandidaten unter den erdnahen Objekten herauszufiltern.

Letztendlich ist die Erforschung metallreicher Asteroiden aber vor allem eines: ein Blick zurück auf die Entstehungsprozesse von Planeten. Die meisten Asteroiden im heutigen Sonnensystem sind die Überbleibsel von gewaltigen Kollisionen im Weltall vor 4,6 Milliarden Jahren. Über ihre Eigenschaften im Allgemeinen weiß man aber noch zu wenig. "Deshalb forschen wir im NEOShield-Projekt zurzeit gemeinsam mit zwölf Partnern aus Forschung und Industrie und bündeln unser Wissen", sagt Asteroidenforscher Prof. Alan Harris. Neben der nun entdeckten Methode, mit der metallreiche Asteroiden identifiziert werden können, liegen nun auch bereits erste Ergebnisse für Computer-Modellierungen und Messdaten für Einschlagsszenarien auf einem Asteroiden vor.

Einschlagskrater eines metallreichen Asteroiden: Barringer-Krater in den USA


Quelle: DLR


Samstag, 5. April 2014 - 22:58 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Wenn irdische (fast vergessene)Politik die Wissenschaft im All boykotiert......


Nachfolgend ein paar Stimmen zu den letzten Entwicklungen:


U.S. vs. Russia: Why the Space Station Will Survive the Storm

In the U.S.-Russian confrontation over Moscow's annexation of Crimea, there's been a lot of gnashing of American teeth over U.S. dependence on the Russians for astronaut access to the International Space Station and for rocket engines used in American space boosters.

That dependence is a big reason why space station operations were exempted from this week's suspension of contacts between NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency.


But recent events in Russia's own program are a reminder that dependence is a two-way street — and that Russia, not the United States, is far more seriously challenged by cutoff of access to Western space technology.

Just days ago, Russian space officials admitted to another serious outage in Russia's only geosynchronous weather satellite, Elektro-L. Launched three years ago, it is still undergoing testing due to sensor and control issues, and Russian national weather forecasters must still purchase cloud-cover images of their own country from foreign satellite operators.

Also this week, Russia's navigation satellite system, GLONASS, suffered an embarrassing 12-hour service outage due to "operator error" in the ground control center. And last week, a U.S.-Russian crew had to abort a fast-track approach to the space station after an onboard autopilot glitch. They fell back on a time-tested but time-consuming two-day approach profile, and docked successfully.

Years of lagging behind

These hiccups — and even bigger failures — have dogged the Russian program for many years. But the only result has been the periodic firing of the space program head and his replacement with a new military general tasked with imposing stricter discipline. The latest sacking occurred only a few months ago. Each time, there is also a bureaucratic shuffle of the Russian space industry's facilities.

Most seriously, Russian industry has proven incapable of producing electronics components of sufficient quality for space vehicles, both civilian and military. Upwards of 80 percent of all such components in Russian satellites are foreign-made. It's a similar story for the components that go into simple items such as GLONASS' ground user handsets, which rely on computer chips from India and elsewhere.

As a result, farsighted Russian space strategists lament that in the global market for space services, which amounts to perhaps $200 billion, Russia is a contender only in launch services — which makes up just 3 percent of the total market. And even in that category, Russia has only a third of the world market share.


Co-dependence on the station

On the International Space Station, the reluctant co-dependence of Russia and the United States is stabilizingly symmetric. While the U.S. must temporarily rely on Russian vehicles to send astronauts to space, the Russians must rely on the U.S. for anywhere useful to go to once the astronauts get there.

U.S. hardware provides critical communications and electrical power to the Russian segment's modules, and both segments back each other up on essential life support systems. This has been a valuable contributor to the robustness of the station design against random failures — but it's not a critical requirement.

The station's Russian components were critical during early stages of assembly, 15 years ago. They still provide several sole-source capabilities such as orbital boost against air drag, or occasional debris-dodging rocket burns such as the one performed on Thursday. But the Russians have suffered delay after delay in their quest to deploy space hardware that matches U.S. capabilities.

Who would be hurt more?


In the nearly inconceivable worst-case scenario, where Russia would move to detach their modules and fly off into a new orbit, they would face far more challenges than the U.S. would.

For NASA, it'd be merely a question of accelerating the commercial crew vehicles now in final development, and deploying a propulsion system module or even an already-designed electromagnetic tether "orbital motor" for raising the station's orbit.

But for Russia, it would require delivery of the years-delayed Luch space-to-space communications network and the Nauka scientific module in order to attain even minimal operational levels, on what would be a house-trailer-sized outpost with equipment that's almost two decades old.

Against all reason, such scenarios are now marginally conceivable, and NASA ought to have a small team brainstorming the priority of possible responses. But the smart money still says that the International Space Station will weather the political storms down on Earth, just like the fictional U.S.-Soviet spaceship in the movie "2010." Outer space is a severe punisher of foolishness and pretense and posturing, and people who operate there all understand this.

Quelle: NBC-James Oberg


How Does NASA's Ban on Russian Contact Affect Curiosity?

On Wednesday, the political crisis in Crimea spilled into the space program, as NASA circulated an internal memo stating that it was breaking off most contact with Russia. The only activities specifically exempted from this ban related to the International Space Station, which raised questions about other NASA-Roscosmos collaborations, particularly the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment on the Curiosity rover, which was provided by Roscosmos and is led by a team of Russian scientists.

Yesterday, I received confirmation from Bob Jacobs, NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications, that science operations on Curiosity would continue as normal with participation of the DAN team.

"The limitation is in regards to NASA interaction with members of the Russian Federation—official government employees," said Jacobs. "We don't believe the science from Curiosity will be impacted by this guidance."

"The guidance is specific about bilateral meetings and even then it has to involve official members of the Russian government before it's a problem," he added.

Russian scientists have also contributed a similar experiment on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND), which should also be unaffected by the ban.

On Thursday, the White House provided some clarification of the original memo. According to Marcia Smith of Space Policy Online:

The directive applies to all government agencies, not just NASA; each agency will determine what activities are exempted or not on a case-by-case basis; and it is an evolving situation. The unambiguous message is that operations of the ISS are not impacted.

You can read the full memo, NASA's official statement, and further analysis about NASA's ban on Russian collaboration at Space Policy Online.


Quelle: The Planetary Society


If NASA Has a Plan to Get Its Astronauts Home without Russia, It's Not Saying

NASA just cut off all of its non-International Space Station communication and collaboration with Russia because of the country’s aggression in Ukraine. That raises the question: What happens if Russia decides to cut all ties with NASA?

The relationship between NASA and Russia’s Rescosmos space agency, when it comes to the International Space Station, is a symbiotic one—much of the technology in the space station is controlled by NASA, so if Russia decides it doesn’t want to shuttle American astronauts back and forth, the agency has some options for recourse. But the Russians are certainly in a pretty powerful position when you consider that NASA has no other way to get humans to space. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Vladimir Putin could decide that Americans are no longer welcome aboard Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA won’t say whether it has any contingency plans to get the two Americans (Rick Mastracchio, who has been there for roughly five months and Steve Swanson, who just got there two weeks ago) back to Earth should that happen. But the situation highlights why it’s so important for NASA to work with SpaceX or some other commercial operator to get manned missions to the ISS lifting off from America again.

NASA said as much in a statement about why they’re going to stop working with Russia on everything except for ISS-specific missions.

“Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation,” the agency said. “NASA is laser-focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space.  This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches—and the jobs they support—back to the United States next year.  With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017.”

That's a not-too-subtle jab at lawmakers (who love cutting NASA's budget), but, that aside, what happens if things devolve and America’s astronauts can’t wait until 2017? Publicly, the agency says that it just isn't going to happen: “The space station partnership is strong. We’ll continue to proceed with space station operations as they are currently,” a NASA spokesperson told me.

But if push comes to shove, SpaceX could likely quickly modify its Dragon capsule, which has been flying resupply missions to the ISS for more than a year now, to hold human passengers. They’d likely be required to install a life support system, a process that could be done within a couple months, but a few oxygen tanks and rudimentary seats might do the trick for a single emergency mission. 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hasn’t kept secret his disdain for NASA’s current system of shelling out $70 million per seat to the Russians—he says he could sell tickets to NASA for just $20 million a head. Neither have lawmakers, who are none-too-pleased that America is writing massive checks to a country that the US is actively sanctioning. 

But even if NASA wanted to tell Russia to take their Soyuz and shove it, they probably couldn’t: A year ago, NASA signed a $424 million contract with Rescosmos that ensures (barring some sort of international incident) that American astronauts will ride the Soyuz through at least 2017. 

As Musk recently told Bloomberg TV, “being at Putin’s mercy is not a good place to be.” NASA knows this. Even if they won’t say it publicly, behind the scenes, they must be making some sort of plan in case things in Crimea get worse. 

“Engineering is engineering,” Kelly Humphries, a spokesperson for NASA, told me when I asked him if the agency had asked SpaceX to speed up its crewed mission capabilities. “We’re working with commercial companies to make sure everything is done properly so the spacecraft will interact properly with the International Space Station. You’ve got to do things the right way to make sure things are safe for people.”

I can think of few things less safe than being stuck 230 miles from the Earth’s surface with no ride home.

Quelle: Motherboard


Russia regrets NASA halting cooperation, experts warn of impact on intl space work

Russia has expressed its regrets over NASA’s decision to halt cooperation with its Russian counterpart. However, experts agree that the measure will affect NASA and mutual international work, but will not significantly harm Russia.

“Well, this is a US decision,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday, commenting on NASA’s decision to suspend “the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation.”

The statement by the space agency, publicly released on Wednesday, cited the “ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity” by Russia as a reason for the measure.

For now, the suspension will not affect NASA and Roscosmos joint work “to maintain the safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station.”

Three Russians, two Americans, and one Japanese astronaut are onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

But NASA is eager to focus on returning human spaceflight launches to America, so as not to rely on Russia. Since the US space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, Russia’s Soyuz rocket remains the only way to carry supplies to the ISS and launch humans into space.

“We regret that the US administration and those who make such decisions are unable to conduct obvious situational analyses and separate US long-term interests from some ongoing short-term goals,” Ryabkov said.

However, the ISS is not the only sphere of cooperation between NASA and Russia. NASA actively collaborates with the Russian Space Research Institute (IKI RAN). So, it is yet to be seen how the halt in relations will affect other areas of mutual work.

"It is still unclear how this will impinge on IKI," Aleksandr Koptev, a NASA representative with the Russian Mission Control Centre, said as cited by Itar-Tass. “But by making such a decision they only harm themselves,” he added.

There is no doubt that Washington's freeze on cooperation will hurt the global space partnership and have a "rather significant" impact on space exploration projects worldwide, Ivan Moiseyev, scientific head of Russia’s Space Policy Institute predicted.

"Modern space science is a global phenomenon that benefits all countries," Moiseyev told RIA Novosti news agency. "It means that many large-scale projects require an international effort. A freeze on cooperation will spur a serious backlash against the international space program."

This view was echoed by a retired Soviet cosmonaut, Georgy Grechko.

“Work in space, involving such difficult missions and experiments, is always international, such as with a mission to Mars. There won’t be Russian, European, American and Chinese spacecraft flying separately to Mars; this will be an international project,” Grechko told RT.

However, Grechko, who has 3 space flights and a spacewalk on his resume, said he was not surprised by NASA’s decision.

“I'm not surprised by this: once again, politics is destructively interfering with scientific-technical work,” he said. “Of course, they gave in to political pressure. That is sad. I am 82 and I can say that it has always been the case that politics spoils scientific-technical programs.”

Grechko assumed that NASA itself understands nothing about how the decision on Crimea was made, and it just had to obey the government.

“Because the money still comes from the government,” he said. “This is a loss for everyone. Space should be about all countries working together and so this is a loss not just for Russia, but for all countries.”

At the same time, NASA’s decision is unlikely to have any catastrophic impacts on the Russian space exploration industry. It will simply have to adjust its projects to the new reality, Moiseyev said.

Quelle: RT


Russia, US will continue joint space projects despite NASA decision - Russian official

“Neither the Americans nor we intend to stop high-tech and mutually beneficial cooperation,” the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medical and Biological Problems spokesman says

MOSCOW, The US space agency’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia has no impact on bilateral projects in medicine and biology, A Russian expert has said.

“The Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP) is doing much to work out joint programms,” the IMBP’s spokesman, Mark Belakovsky told ITAR-TASS on Thursday.

“I believe that joint programms in medicine and biology have not been delayed. Cooperation is mutually advantageous. Other countries such as Japan, Canada and European states, are taking part in it,” he said.

“Neither the Americans nor we intend to stop high-tech and mutually beneficial cooperation,” Belakovsky said.

“Even in the Cold War times there were always links that united states. Over more than 40 years we have maintained cooperation in space medicine and biology,” he said.

“We developed mutually advantageous projects such as Mir-NASA and Mir-Shuttle. Russian and U. astronauts jointly work at the International Space Station (ISS),” he said.

“This year Russia is planning to launch several spacecraft under the federal and commercial programms. We hope to cope with the tasks,” an official of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre told ITAR-TASS.

The center is taking part in Russia-US International Launch Services to promote Russia’s Proton rockets on the world market, he said.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is suspending most of its cooperation with Russia, the ISS excepted, due to the current situation in Ukraine.





Samstag, 5. April 2014 - 22:25 Uhr

Astronomie - Das Schicksal einer Gaswolke würde Informationen auf das Wachstum von supermassiven Schwarzen Löchern geben


A simulation of the gas cloud G2’s encounter with the supermassive black hole Sgr A*. The blue lines mark the orbits of the so-called “S” stars that are in close orbits around the black hole. (Image by ESO/MPE/Marc Schartmann)

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Right now a doomed gas cloud is edging ever closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. These black holes feed on gas and dust all the time, but astronomers rarely get to see mealtime in action.

Northwestern University’s Daryl Haggard has been closely watching the little cloud, called G2, and the black hole, called Sgr A*, as part of a study that should eventually help solve one of the outstanding questions surrounding black holes: How exactly do they achieve such supermassive proportions?

She will discuss her latest data at a press briefing, “Advances in Astrophysics,” to be held at 11 a.m. EDT Sunday, April 6, in Gwinnett Room of the Savannah International Convention Center. The briefing is part of the American Physical Society (APS) April Meeting in Savannah, Ga.

The closest approach between the black hole and gas cloud is predicted to occur any day now. Haggard has been using two world-class observatories, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Very Large Array, to gather data on this potentially spectacular encounter.

“Our most recent Chandra observation does not show enhanced emission in the X-rays,” Haggard said. “From the X-ray perspective, the gas cloud is late to the party, but it remains to be seen whether G2 is fashionably late or a no show.”

At the APS meeting, she also will make a presentation, “Hot News from the Milky Way’s Central Black Hole,” as part of the session “Hot Topics in Astrophysics” from 3:30 to 5:18 p.m. EDT Sunday, April 6, in Chatham Ballroom C of the convention center.

“This work is fascinating because it will teach us about the growth and feeding of supermassive black holes,” said Haggard, a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). “We know they are big, and we know they are out there -- in vast numbers -- but we aren’t sure in detail how they get their mass.

“Do they grow rapidly when they are young, like our kids do, or do they grow in fits and starts, whenever fuel becomes available? In watching the encounter between Sgr A* and

G2 we may catch a massive black hole in the act of snatching its next meal,” she said.

In her presentation, Haggard will show recent data from Chandra (X-rays) and the VLA (radio waves), including the largest flare ever seen from Sgr A*.

“Sgr A* and the newly discovered magnetic neutron star, SGR J1745-29, which appears to be in orbit around the black hole, are dishing out lots of interesting science,” Haggard said. “We’ve detected the brightest X-ray flare yet observed from Sgr A* and gathered data that are causing us to overhaul of our understanding of the neutron star population in the galactic center.”

Quelle: Northwestern University 633 Clark Street, Evanston, IL 60208


Samstag, 5. April 2014 - 17:55 Uhr

Astronomie - NASA bestätigt Ozean innerhalb Saturn-Mond Enceladus / Enceladus im Focus von Cassini



Gravity measurements by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and Deep Space Network suggest that Saturn's moon Enceladus, which has jets of water vapor and ice gushing from its south pole, also harbors a large interior ocean beneath an ice shell, as this illustration depicts.


NASA's Cassini spacecraft and Deep Space Network have uncovered evidence Saturn's moon Enceladus harbors a large underground ocean of liquid water, furthering scientific interest in the moon as a potential home to extraterrestrial microbes.
Researchers theorized the presence of an interior reservoir of water in 2005 when Cassini discovered water vapor and ice spewing from vents near the moon's south pole. The new data provide the first geophysical measurements of the internal structure of Enceladus, consistent with the existence of a hidden ocean inside the moon. Findings from the gravity measurements are in the Friday April 4 edition of the journal Science.
"The way we deduce gravity variations is a concept in physics called the Doppler Effect, the same principle used with a speed-measuring radar gun," said Sami Asmar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., a coauthor of the paper. "As the spacecraft flies by Enceladus, its velocity is perturbed by an amount that depends on variations in the gravity field that we're trying to measure. We see the change in velocity as a change in radio frequency, received at our ground stations here all the way across the solar system."
The gravity measurements suggest a large, possibly regional, ocean about 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep, beneath an ice shell about 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) thick. The subsurface ocean evidence supports the inclusion of Enceladus among the most likely places in our solar system to host microbial life. Before Cassini reached Saturn in July 2004, no version of that short list included this icy moon, barely 300 miles (500 kilometers) in diameter.
"This then provides one possible story to explain why water is gushing out of these fractures we see at the south pole," said David Stevenson of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, one of the paper's co-authors.
Cassini has flown near Enceladus 19 times. Three flybys, from 2010 to 2012, yielded precise trajectory measurements. The gravitational tug of a planetary body, such as Enceladus, alters a spacecraft's flight path. Variations in the gravity field, such as those caused by mountains on the surface or differences in underground composition, can be detected as changes in the spacecraft's velocity, measured from Earth.
The technique of analyzing a radio signal between Cassini and the Deep Space Network can detect changes in velocity as small as less than one foot per hour (90 microns per second). With this precision, the flyby data yielded evidence of a zone inside the southern end of the moon with higher density than other portions of the interior.
The south pole area has a surface depression that causes a dip in the local tug of gravity. However, the magnitude of the dip is less than expected given the size of the depression, leading researchers to conclude the depression's effect is partially offset by a high-density feature in the region, beneath the surface.
"The Cassini gravity measurements show a negative gravity anomaly at the south pole that however is not as large as expected from the deep depression detected by the onboard camera," said the paper's lead author, Luciano Iess of Sapienza University of Rome. "Hence the conclusion that there must be a denser material at depth that compensates the missing mass: very likely liquid water, which is seven percent denser than ice. The magnitude of the anomaly gave us the size of the water reservoir."
There is no certainty the subsurface ocean supplies the water plume spraying out of surface fractures near the south pole of Enceladus, however, scientists reason it is a real possibility. The fractures may lead down to a part of the moon that is tidally heated by the moon's repeated flexing, as it follows an eccentric orbit around Saturn.
Much of the excitement about the Cassini mission's discovery of the Enceladus water plume stems from the possibility that it originates from a wet environment that could be a favorable environment for microbial life.
"Material from Enceladus’ south polar jets contains salty water and organic molecules, the basic chemical ingredients for life," said Linda Spilker, Cassini's project scientist at JPL. "Their discovery expanded our view of the 'habitable zone' within our solar system and in planetary systems of other stars. This new validation that an ocean of water underlies the jets furthers understanding about this intriguing environment."  
Quelle: NASA
Update: 5.04.2014
Foto-Galerie von Saturn Mond Enceladus

Before Saturn's Limb

Jets of water ice particles spew from Saturn's moon Enceladus in this image obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Aug. 13, 2010. A crescent of the moon appears dimly illuminated in front of the bright limb of Saturn. This view looks toward the night side of Saturn, which occupies the lower half of the image. Enceladus, in the center of the image, is closer to the spacecraft than the planet is in this view. Sunlight scatters through the planet's atmosphere and forms the bright diagonal line running from the left to right of the image. Lit terrain seen on Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across) is on the leading hemisphere of the moon. North on Enceladus is up. The jets erupting from the south polar region appear faint here, but can be seen at the bottom of the crescent of the moon. See PIA11688 to learn more.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 61,000 kilometers (38,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 155 degrees. Image scale is 4 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Looming Enceladus

Small water ice particles fly from fissures in the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this image taken during the Aug. 13, 2010, flyby of the moon by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. This view looks toward the night side of Saturn, which is in the lower left of the image. Enceladus, in the top right, is closer to the spacecraft than the planet is in this view. Sunlight scatters through the planet's atmosphere and forms the bright diagonal line running from the left to bottom right of the image. The atmosphere appears layered here. Scientists think the different layers on the limb are real and not an artifact of the camera's exposure. The famous jets, imaged by Cassini's cameras for the first time in 2005, are faintly seen here erupting from the fractures that cross the south polar region of the moon.

Illuminated terrain seen on Enceladus is on the leading hemisphere of the moon, or the side facing forward in the moon's orbit around Saturn. North on Enceladus (504 kilometers, 313 miles across) is up. The jets appear faint here, but can be seen near the center of the image. See PIA11688 to learn more. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 59,000 kilometers (37,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 155 degrees. Image scale on Enceladus is 353 meters (1,157 feet) per pixel.

Jet Blue

Cassini imaging scientists used views like this one to help them identify the source locations for individual jets spurting ice particles, water vapor and trace organic compounds from the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus.
Their study -- published in the Oct. 11, 2007, issue of the journal Nature -- identifies eight source locations, all on the prominent tiger stripe fractures, or sulci, in the moon's south polar region. Some of the sources occur in regions not yet observed by Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer, and the researchers predict that future Cassini observations of those locations will find elevated temperatures. This false-color view was created by combining three clear filter images taken at nearly the same time as Fountains of Enceladus - Image 2. This image product was then specially processed to enhance the individual jets that compose the plume. (Fountains of Enceladus - Image 2 was instead processed to reveal subtleties in the brightness of the overall plume that comprises the jets.) Some artifacts due to the processing are present in the image. The final product was colored as blue for dramatic effect. The images were acquired with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 27, 2005 at a distance of approximately 148,000 kilometers (92,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 161 degrees. Scale in the original images is about 880 meters (0.5 mile) per pixel. This view has been magnified by a factor of two from the original images.

Enceladus the Storyteller

A masterpiece of deep time and wrenching gravity, the tortured surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus and its fascinating ongoing geologic activity tell the story of the ancient and present struggles of one tiny world. This is a story that is recounted by imaging scientists in a paper published in the journal Science on March 10, 2006. The enhanced color view of Enceladus seen here is largely of the southern hemisphere and includes the south polar terrain at the bottom of the image.
Ancient craters remain somewhat pristine in some locales, but have clearly relaxed in others. Northward-trending fractures, likely caused by a change in the moon's rate of rotation and the consequent flattening of the moon's shape, rip across the southern hemisphere. The south polar terrain is marked by a striking set of `blue' fractures and encircled by a conspicuous and continuous chain of folds and ridges, testament to the forces within Enceladus that have yet to be silenced.
The mosaic was created from 21 false-color frames taken during the Cassini spacecraft's close approaches to Enceladus on March 9 and July 14, 2005. Images taken using filters sensitive to ultraviolet, visible and infrared light (spanning wavelengths from 338 to 930 nanometers) were combined to create the individual frames.
The mosaic is an orthographic projection centered at 46.8 degrees south latitude, 188 degrees west longitude, and has an image scale of 67 meters (220 feet) per pixel. The original images ranged in resolution from 67 meters per pixel to 350 meters (1,150 feet) per pixel and were taken at distances ranging from 11,100 to 61,300 kilometers (6,900 to miles) from Enceladus.

Highlighting Plumes

At least four distinct plumes of water ice spew out from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus in this dramatically illuminated image.

Light reflected off Saturn is illuminating the surface of the moon while the sun, almost directly behind Enceladus, is backlighting the plumes. See PIA11688 to learn more about Enceladus and its plumes.
This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Enceladus (504 kilometers, or 313 miles across). North is up.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 25, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 617,000 kilometers (383,000 miles) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 174 degrees. Image scale is 4 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel.

Tiger Stripe Split Ends

This image shows a high-resolution heat intensity map of part of the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus, made from data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The map reveals never-before-seen details of warm fractures that branch off like split ends from the ends of the main trenches of two "tiger stripes." The features nicknamed "tiger stripes" are long fissures that spray water vapor and icy particles. These two fissures, Cairo Sulcus (left) and Alexandria Sulcus (right), extend to the lower right, off the bottom of the image. The map also shows an intriguing isolated warm spot, shown in purple-red in the upper left of the image, that is separated from other active fissures.

The thermal data came from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer during an Aug. 13, 2010, flyby of Enceladus. Scientists overlaid the data on a background map of that region made from Cassini images taken in July 2005. The intensity of thermal radiation, measured at wavelengths from 12 to 16 microns, is color-coded, with dark blue, purple, red and orange denoting progressively more intense radiation, due to higher temperatures and/or larger expanses of warm material. The pale blue color indicates regions that were mapped but that were too cold to emit significant radiation. Alignment of the thermal map with the underlying base map is approximate. The map shows a region approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) across.

These data were obtained as winter darkness began to engulf the south polar region of Enceladus. Away from the warm tiger stripes, which reach temperatures up to 190 Kelvin (minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit), Cassini measured surface temperatures near Enceladus' south pole as low as 52 Kelvin (minus 365 degrees Fahrenheit), and still colder temperatures are expected as winter advances. Scientists are still analyzing the data to calculate a temperature for the cross-cutting fractures and the isolated warm spot.

Hot and Narrow Tiger Stripe

Data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have enabled scientists to make the highest-resolution heat intensity maps yet for the hottest part of a "tiger stripe" fissure on Saturn's moon Enceladus. The moon's south polar region features several of these long fissures that spray water and icy particles, and the one in this image is called Damascus Sulcus.

The thermal infrared data, shown in color, come from Cassini's composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS). The grayscale background image, which is illuminated by light reflected from Saturn rather than by direct sunlight, is from Cassini's high-resolution imaging camera (ISS). The CIRS scan gives scientists confidence that the peak temperature along Damascus Sulcus, the most active tiger stripe, was about 190 Kelvin (minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature is slightly higher than the previous maximum temperatures measured by CIRS at Damascus, which were around 170 Kelvin (minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit).

The intensity of heat radiation, measured by CIRS at wavelengths from 7 to 9 microns, is color-coded, with blue, purple, red, orange and yellow denoting progressively more intense radiation, due to higher temperatures and/or larger expanses of warm material. The image is centered near 80 degrees south latitude and 315 degrees west longitude, and covers a region about 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide. The smallest details seen in the CIRS overlay are about 800 meters (0.5 miles) in size.

The region of peak temperature is sharply bounded by the sides of the trench. Thanks to its high resolution, the CIRS map also shows for the first time that the regions on either side of the central trench are also radiating heat (shown as blue strips flanking the central multicolored strip in this image). CIRS measured temperatures of about 120 Kelvin (minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit) in the flanking regions about 400 to 1,200 meters (a quarter to three-quarters of a mile) away from the central trench.

These data were obtained on Aug. 13, 2010 as the south pole of Enceladus began to go into winter darkness.

Enceladus Flyby - Nov. 6, 2011

This raw, unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 6, 2011 and received on Earth November 07, 2011.

The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 108,044 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters.

Dark Moon, Bright Spray

This raw image of Saturn's moon Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Dec. 20, 2010. The spacecraft was approximately 158,000 kilometers (98,000 miles) away from Enceladus.

Brilliant Enceladus

The Cassini spacecraft looks at a brightly illuminated Enceladus and examines the surface of the leading hemisphere of this Saturnian moon.

See PIA11685 to learn more about the surface of Enceladus. See PIA11688 to learn about the jets of water ice emanating from the moon's south polar region. North on Enceladus (313 miles across, or 504 kilometers) is up and rotated 21 degrees to the right.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 6, 2011. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 67,700 miles (109,000 kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 21 degrees. Image scale is 2,130 feet (649 meters) per pixel.

Rings and Enceladus

A crescent Enceladus appears with Saturn's rings in this Cassini spacecraft view of the moon.
The famed jets of water ice emanating from the south polar region of the moon are faintly visible here. They appear as a small white blur below the dark south pole, down and to the right of the illuminated part of the moon's surface in the image. The image’s contrast was enhanced to increase the visibility of the jets. See PIA11688 to learn more about the jets.
Lit terrain seen here is on the trailing hemisphere of Enceladus (313 miles, 504 kilometers across). North on Enceladus is up.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Jan. 4, 2012. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 181,000 miles (291,000 kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 136 degrees. Image scale is 1 mile (2 kilometers) per pixel.

Dark Moon, Dramatic Plume

Below a darkened Enceladus, a plume of water ice is backlit in this view of one of Saturn's most dramatic moons.
See PIA11688 and PIA08386 to learn more about the jets of water ice emanating from the south polar region of Enceladus. Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemisphere of Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across). North is up. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 20, 2012. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 83,000 miles (134,000 kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 165 degrees. Image scale is 2,628 feet (801 meters) per pixel.


Samstag, 5. April 2014 - 14:10 Uhr

Raumfahrt - All-Tag auf der ISS



Station Conducts Debris Avoidance Maneuver


On Thursday, flight controllers conducted a Debris Avoidance Maneuver to steer the International Space Station clear of orbital debris. Aboard the orbiting complex, the Expedition 39 crew prepared for the departure of a cargo craft Thursday and tackled a variety of experiments, including the checkout of device that incorporates electrical impulses to keep muscles fit in the absence of gravity.

Playing it conservatively, flight controllers conducted a Pre-Determined Debris Avoidance Maneuver (PDAM) Thursday to raise the altitude of the International Space Station by a half-mile and provide an extra margin of clearance from the orbital path of a spent payload deployment mechanism from an old European Ariane 5 rocket.

NASA and Russian flight controllers tracked the Sylda Adapter for the past few days before jointly deciding to perform the maneuver, which used the ISS Progress 53 thrusters at the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module for a 3 minute, 40 second firing at 4:42 p.m. EDT that provided a reboost for the orbital laboratory.

The Ariane 5 payload deployment mechanism was forecast to pass less than 2/10 of a mile of the station at 7:02 p.m. EDT had no action been taken. The six-man Expedition 39 crew was informed of the maneuver, was never in any danger and did not have to take shelter in their respective Soyuz return vehicles. The maneuver will have no impact on the upcoming launch of a new Russian Progress resupply vehicle on April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to bring almost three tons of supplies to the outpost, or the pending launch of the SpaceX/Dragon commercial launch vehicle later this month from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. to the station.

Space Debris and Human Spacecraft

More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth. They all travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft.

The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station, space shuttles and other spacecraft with humans aboard.

NASA takes the threat of collisions with space debris seriously and has a long-standing set of guidelines on how to deal with each potential collision threat. These guidelines, part of a larger body of decision-making aids known as flight rules, specify when the expected proximity of a piece of debris increases the probability of a collision enough that evasive action or other precautions to ensure the safety of the crew are needed.

Orbital Debris

Space debris encompasses both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles. Meteoroids are in orbit about the sun, while most artificial debris is in orbit about the Earth. Hence, the latter is more commonly referred to as orbital debris.

Orbital debris is any man-made object in orbit about the Earth which no longer serves a useful function. Such debris includes nonfunctional spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris.

There are more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth. They travel at speeds up to 17,500 mph, fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. There are 500,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger. There are many millions of pieces of debris that are so small they can’t be tracked.

Even tiny paint flecks can damage a spacecraft when traveling at these velocities. In fact a number of space shuttle windows have been replaced because of damage caused by material that was analyzed and shown to be paint flecks.

“The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris,” said Nicholas Johnson, NASA chief scientist for orbital debris.

With so much orbital debris, there have been surprisingly few disastrous collisions.

In 1996, a French satellite was hit and damaged by debris from a French rocket that had exploded a decade earlier.

On Feb. 10, 2009, a defunct Russian satellite collided with and destroyed a functioning U.S. Iridium commercial satellite. The collision added more than 2,000 pieces of trackable debris to the inventory of space junk.

China's 2007 anti-satellite test, which used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite, added more than 3,000 pieces to the debris problem.

Tracking Debris

The Department of Defense maintains a highly accurate satellite catalog on objects in Earth orbit that are larger than a softball.

NASA and the DoD cooperate and share responsibilities for characterizing the satellite (including orbital debris) environment. DoD’s Space Surveillance Network tracks discrete objects as small as 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter in low Earth orbit and about 1 yard (1 meter) in geosynchronous orbit. Currently, about 15,000 officially cataloged objects are still in orbit. The total number of tracked objects exceeds 21,000. Using special ground-based sensors and inspections of returned satellite surfaces, NASA statistically determines the extent of the population for objects less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) in diameter.

Collision risks are divided into three categories depending upon size of threat. For objects 4 inches (10 centimeters) and larger, conjunction assessments and collision avoidance maneuvers are effective in countering objects which can be tracked by the Space Surveillance Network. Objects smaller than this usually are too small to track and too large to shield against. Debris shields can be effective in withstanding impacts of particles smaller than half an inch (1 centimeter).

Planning for and Reacting to Debris

NASA has a set of long-standing guidelines that are used to assess whether the threat of such a close pass is sufficient to warrant evasive action or other precautions to ensure the safety of the crew.

These guidelines essentially draw an imaginary box, known as the “pizza box" because of its flat, rectangular shape, around the space vehicle. This box is about a mile deep by 30 miles across by 30 miles long (1.5 x 50 x 50 kilometers), with the vehicle in the center. When predictions indicate that the debris will pass close enough for concern and the quality of the tracking data is deemed sufficiently accurate, Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow work together to develop a prudent course of action.

Sometimes these encounters are known well in advance and there is time to move the station slightly, known as a “debris avoidance maneuver” to keep the debris outside of the box. Other times, the tracking data isn’t precise enough to warrant such a maneuver or the close pass isn’t identified in time to make the maneuver. In those cases, the control centers may agree that the best course of action is to move the crew into the Soyuz spacecraft that are used to transport humans to and from the station. This allows enough time to isolate those spaceships from the station by closing hatches in the event of a damaging collision. The crew would be able to leave the station if the collision caused a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module or damaged critical components. The Soyuz act as lifeboats for crew members in the event of an emergency.

Mission Control also has the option of taking additional precautions, such as closing hatches between some of the station’s modules, if the likelihood of a collision is great enough.

Maneuvering Spacecraft to Avoid Orbital Debris

NASA has a set of long-standing guidelines that are used to assess whether the threat of a close approach of orbital debris to a spacecraft is sufficient to warrant evasive action or precautions to ensure the safety of the crew.

Debris avoidance maneuvers are planned when the probability of collision from a conjunction reaches limits set in the space shuttle and space station flight rules. If the probability of collision is greater than 1 in 100,000, a maneuver will be conducted if it will not result in significant impact to mission objectives. If it is greater than 1 in 10,000, a maneuver will be conducted unless it will result in additional risk to the crew.

Debris avoidance maneuvers are usually small and occur from one to several hours before the time of the conjunction. Debris avoidance maneuvers with the shuttle can be planned and executed in a matter of hours. Such maneuvers with the space station require about 30 hours to plan and execute mainly due to the need to use the station’s Russian thrusters, or the propulsion systems on one of the docked Russian or European spacecraft.

Several collision avoidance maneuvers with the shuttle and the station have been conducted during the past 10 years.

NASA implemented the conjunction assessment and collision avoidance process for human spaceflight beginning with shuttle mission STS-26 in 1988. Before launch of the first element of the International Space Station in 1998, NASA and DoD jointly developed and implemented a more sophisticated and higher fidelity conjunction assessment process for human spaceflight missions.

In 2005, NASA implemented a similar process for selected robotic assets such as the Earth Observation System satellites in low Earth orbit and Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System in geosynchronous orbit.

In 2007, NASA extended the conjunction assessment process to all NASA maneuverable satellites within low Earth orbit and within 124 miles (200 kilometers) of geosynchronous orbit.

DoD’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) is responsible for performing conjunction assessments for all designated NASA space assets in accordance with an established schedule (every eight hours for human spaceflight vehicles and daily Monday through Friday for robotic vehicles). JSpOC notifies NASA (Johnson Space Center for human spaceflight and Goddard Space Flight Center for robotic missions) of conjunctions which meet established criteria.

JSpOC tasks the Space Surveillance Network to collect additional tracking data on a threat object to improve conjunction assessment accuracy. NASA computes the probability of collision, based upon miss distance and uncertainty provided by JSpOC.

Based upon specific flight rules and detailed risk analysis, NASA decides if a collision avoidance maneuver is necessary.

If a maneuver is required, NASA provides planned post-maneuver orbital data to JSpOC for screening of near-term conjunctions. This process can be repeated if the planned new orbit puts the NASA vehicle at risk of future collision with the same or another space object.


Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata seems very elated that three new members of the crew have brought up food and supplies, especially fresh fruit, as depicted in this photo.
Image Credit: 
Following the crew’s normal 2 a.m. EDT wakeup and a daily planning conference with flight control teams around the world, Commander Koichi Wakata began the workday with the Hybrid Training experiment. This Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency study takes a look the health benefits of applying electric stimulation to a muscle opposing the voluntary contraction of an active muscle. Crew members currently exercise two hours every day to combat the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during long-duration spaceflight. Wakata will test the Hybrid Training approach on one arm for four weeks and compare it to his other arm. In addition to providing a backup to the traditional exercise devices aboard the station, Hybrid Training may be useful in keeping astronauts fit as they travel beyond low Earth orbit aboard smaller spacecraft.
Afterward, Wakata moved into the station’s cupola and spoke with TV Tokyo as the station flew over Japan.
Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio meanwhile set up and performed the Interior Corner Flow test for Capillary Flow Experiment, which takes a close look at how fluids flow across surfaces with complex geometries in a weightless environment. Results from this experiment will improve computer models used to design fluid transfer systems and fuel tanks on future spacecraft. These systems are crucial as NASA develops technologies that will take astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

After a break for lunch, Mastracchio discussed station systems and experiment facilities with Flight Engineer Steve Swanson, who arrived aboard the station on March 27 along with Soyuz TMA-12M crewmates Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. As the Expedition 39 crew’s newest flight engineers, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev also had time set aside on their own throughout the day for crew orientation to become accustomed to living and working aboard the station during their first two weeks on orbit.

As part of the routine maintenance to keep the U.S. spacesuits ready to support a contingency spacewalk, Wakata wrapped up the recharge of a spacesuit battery and stowed equipment in the Quest airlock.

Wakata rounded out the day replacing a manifold bottle in the Combustion Integrated Rack. This facility, which includes an optics bench, combustion chamber, fuel and oxidizer control and five different cameras, allows a variety of combustion experiments to be performed safely aboard the station. Experiments performed in this facility could lead to improvements in spacecraft materials selection and strategies for putting out accidental fires aboard spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems here on Earth.


Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio conducts a session with the Capillary Flow Experiment (CFE-2) in the Harmony node of the International Space Station.
Image Credit: 
On the Russian side of the complex, Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin continued getting the ISS Progress 54 cargo craft ready for its departure from the station on Monday. The veteran cosmonaut packed additional trash into the craft and installed the docking mechanism, while the Russian ground team commanded the vehicle to purge its propellant lines. Progress 54 will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Monday at 9:58 a.m. to begin 11 days of engineering tests before it is sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on April 18.

The departure of Progress 54 will clear the way for ISS Progress 55, which is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 9 at 11:26 a.m. (9:26 p.m., Kazakh time) and dock with Pirs at 5:16 p.m. the same day.

Skvortsov and Artemyev conducted a test of the video downlink to provide flight controllers a view of the departure of Progress.

Skvortsov also performed routine maintenance on the life-support system in the Zvezda service module, and Tyurin and Artemyev worked with the Elektron oxygen generator.


Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev enjoys the view from the International Space Station's cupola.


Quelle: NASA


Tags: All-Tag auf der ISS 


Samstag, 5. April 2014 - 09:35 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISRO startet erfolgreich PSLV C-24-Rakete mit IRNSS 1-B-Satelliten


CHENNAI:India’s latest navigational satellite IRNSS 1-B would be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, some 100 km from here, on April 4.
“The launch of IRNSS 1-B from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on board PSLV C-24 rocket is scheduled at 5.14 pm on April 4,” ISRO sources said.
While a 52-hour countdown for the launch on April 4 would commence on April 2, a rehearsal for the launch would be held on March 29, they said.
IRNSS 1-B is the second of seven satellites planned for Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS), whose applications include terrestrial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management.
ISRO had launched IRNSS 1-A, the first in the series, on July 1 last year onboard its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-22.
Quelle: BL
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is getting ready for its 26th flight from the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro's) Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR at Sriharikota, near Chennai.
This time the vehicle, PSLV-C24, will carry IRNSS-1B, the second satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
The vehicle is expected to take off from the first launch pad on April 4, 2014 from Sriharikota space station and will use 'XL' version of PSLV on April 4, 2014. IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system, which is developed by India.
The satellite is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending upto 1500 kms from its boundary.
Application of IRNSS includes terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers, visual and navigation for drivers, said Isro sources.
The vehicle will carry IRNSS-1B, which is the second navigation satellite of the seven satellites constituting the IRNSS space segment. In July 2013, IRNSS-1A was launched by PSLV-C22 both the vehicles got similar configuration. The satellite has been realised in less than seven months after the launch of its predecessor.
IRNSS will provide two types of services, including Standard Positioning Service (SPS), which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users. The System is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 m in the primary service area.
The satellite system also comprises of a space segment and a ground segment. While the space segment consists of seven satellites, with three satellites in geostationary orbit and four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit. IRNSS-1A, the first Satellite of the IRNSS constellation, has already started functioning from its designated orbital slot after extensive on orbit test and evaluation to confirm its satisfactory performance, said Isro.
IRNSS ground segement is responsible for navigation parameter generation and transmission, satellite controls, ranging and integrity monitoring and time keeping.
This will be the sixth time XL configuration is being flown, while the previous five include PSLV-C11 for Chandrayaan-1, PSLV-C17/GSAT-12, PSLV C19/ RISAT-1, PSLV-C22/IRNSS-1A and PSLV-C25 Mars Orbiter Spacecraft missions. The mission life would be around ten years for IRNSS-1B.
Quelle: BS
Update: 31.03.2014
Start Testlauf von PSLV-C24 ohne Probleme
The IRNSS-1B will be useful in terrestrial, aerial and sea navigation
The campaign for the lift-off of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C24) is gathering momentum. The rocket will blast off at 5.14 p.m. on April 4 from Sriharikota and put into orbit a 1,432-kg navigation satellite, called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS-1B).
Engineers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have stacked up the vehicle’s four stages in the first launch pad. The satellite, sheathed in the heat-shield, has been mated with the vehicle. The launch rehearsal was completed without hitch on Saturday.
“Everything is ready,” said ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan. “On Thursday, we completed the final checks on the vehicle… The countdown, lasting 58 hours and a half, will begin at 6.44 a.m. on April 2.”
M.C. Dathan, Director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu, said the launch rehearsal “went off without any issues.” ISRO engineers checked the vehicle’s telemetry, tele-command and power systems.
The IRNSS-1B is the second in a series of seven satellites. The IRNSS-1A was put into orbit on July 1, 2013. The PSLV will launch two more such satellites before the end of 2014.
The IRNSS-1B will be useful in terrestrial, aerial and sea navigation. It will beam back accurate information on the position of trucks, cars, battle tanks, aircraft, missiles, ships and submarines with precise timing reference. Truck and car drivers, pilots of civilian or combat aircraft and ship captains can properly plan their route using the IRNSS satellites which will guide them towards their destination with the help of a receiver. The satellites will way-point the missiles to their targets.
Quelle: The Hindu
Update: 3.04.2014
SRO set to launch its navigational sat IRNSS 1B on April 4 
CHENNAI: As part of its aspirations to build a regional navigational system equivalent to Global Positioning System of the US, ISRO is set to send its second satellite from Sriharikota tomorrow, which would help put in place the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System. The second of the seven planned satellites for the system, IRNSS 1B would be launched at 5.14 PM from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, where the countdown for the launch was presently proceeding smoothly, ISRO officials said. 
The 1,432 kg weighing satellite is being sent on board an XL version of ISRO's workhorse PSLV, as it was done during the IRNSS 1A launch. This is the sixth time, ISRO is using the XL version of the 44.4 metre-tall PSLV. 
IRNSS 1B has a mission life of 10 years from the date of launch. 
ISRO needs to launch at least four of the seven satellites to start the operations of the IRNSS. The national space agency already launched IRNSS 1A, its first satellite on July 1 last year and it is presently in orbit. 
Being developed by India, IRNSS is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in the country as well as the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area. IRNSS' applications include terrestrial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management. IRNSS is similar to US' Global Positioning System, Russia's Glonass and Europe's Galileo. China and Japan too have similar systems named Beidou and Japanese Quasi Zenith Satellite System respectively, ISRO officials said.
Quelle: The Economic Times
Update: 5.04.2014
PSLV-C24 Successfully Launches India's Second Dedicated Navigation Satellite IRNSS-1B
ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C24, successfully launched IRNSS-1B, the second satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), today evening (April 04, 2014) at 1714 hours IST from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the twenty fifth consecutively successful mission of PSLV. The 'XL' configuration of PSLV was used for this mission. Previously, the same configuration of the vehicle was used five times to launch Chandrayaan-1, GSAT-12, RISAT-1, IRNSS-1A and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft.

After the lift-off with the ignition of the first stage, the important flight events, namely, stage and strap-on ignitions, heat-shield separation, stage and strap-on separations and satellite injection took place exactly as planned. After a flight of about 19 minutes, IRNSS-1B Satellite, weighing 1432 kg, was injected to an elliptical orbit of 283 km X 20,630 km, which is very close to the intended orbit.

After injection, the solar panels of IRNSS-1B were deployed automatically. ISRO's Master Control Facility (at Hassan, Karnataka) assumed the control of the satellite. In the coming days, five orbit manoeuvres will be conducted from Master Control Facility to position the satellite in its Geosynchronous Circular Orbit at 55 deg East longitude. .

IRNSS-1B is the second of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System. IRNSS-1A, the first satellite of the constellation, was successfully launched by PSLV on July 02, 2013. IRNSS-1A is functioning satisfactorily from its designated geosynchronous orbital position.

IRNSS is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland. IRNSS would provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Services (SPS) - provided to all users - and Restricted Services (RS), provided only to authorised users. . .

A number of ground stations responsible for the generation and transmission of navigation parameters, satellite control, satellite ranging and monitoring, etc., have been established in as many as 15 locations across the country.

Two more satellites of this constellation, namely, IRNSS-1C and IRNSS-1D, are planned to be launched in the second half of 2014. The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2015-16.
Quelle: ISRO

PSLV puts navigation satellite in orbit

India marched towards establishing its own navigation system on Friday when its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C24) put into precise orbit the country’s second navigation satellite, Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS-1B). The 1,432-kg IRNSS-1B will form part of a constellation of seven navigation satellites.


It was the 25th success in a row for the PSLV, after it majestically lifted off from the first launch pad at Sriharikota at 5.14 p.m. After 19 minutes of flight, IRNSS-1B was put into a perfect orbit.


K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said two more IRNSS satellites would be put into orbit before 2014-end and three more before mid-2015.


Mission Director P. Kunhikrishnan, said the mission accuracy was such that the satellite achieved a perigee of 283 km against the target of 284 km and an apogee of 20,630 km against the targeted 20,650 km.


“The satellite is doing extremely well in orbit,” said M. Nageswara Rao, Project Director, IRNSS. Its solar panels were deployed. Dr. Rao was confident that the satellite’s life would be longer than the targeted 10 years.


The IRNSS satellites will be useful for land, sea and air navigation. They have civil and defence applications.

Called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-1B, the payload lifted successfully on PSLV-C24 rocket from Sriharikota at 5.14pm. Less than a minute later the satellite was in orbit.

Quelle: The Hindu



Tags: PSLV-C24 launch PSLV-C24 IRNSS-1B 


Freitag, 4. April 2014 - 12:25 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erfolgreicher Start von Atlas-V mit USAF - Wettersatelliten DMSP-19


Quelle: ULA

A blast from the past Military weather satellite finally set to launch
A $518 million military weather satellite that has been waiting 15 years to shine will be launched into orbit Thursday atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the western spaceport in California.
Liftoff of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 spacecraft is planned for 7:46 a.m. local time (10:46 a.m. EDT; 1446 GMT) at the opening of a 10-minute launch window at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Outfitted with a suite of seven sensors, DMSP provides the military with visible and infrared cloud pictures, measures precipitation, surface temperatures and soil moisture, and collects space weather data.
But as past satellites were flown and ended up exceeding their design lives in orbit, the launch date for Flight 19 slipped -- and slipped.
Until now, when the Lockheed Martin-built satellite is finally needed in space.
"The program was supposed to have flown out years ago. Success, though, believe it or not, was the cause of the delay. This last block of satellites have lasted significantly longer than anyone projected. So when this satellite was originally built the plan was for it to be launched shortly after it was finished," said Lt. Col. James Bodnar, 4th Space Launch Squadron commander at Vandenberg.
Bodnar tells the story:
"This satellite was built in the mid 90s. There's components that were made as early as 1993. It was turned over to the Air Force as finished in 1998 and put into long-term storage for 10 years.
"The satellite itself was originally built in (East Windsor,) New Jersey. When it was finished it was shipped to California and put into storage in Sunnyvale. In 2008, it was brought out of storage."
Along the way it underwent two lifetime extension efforts to boost the in-space life expectancy, upgraded with star trackers and a digital gyroscope for navigation and replacement of materials and lubricants that had degraded over time. And there has been testing -- lots of testing -- on Flight 19.
"We have had to go through and make sure the satellite and sensors all work as they were intended. We did go through a testing regime to make sure the results that we got several years ago when the satellite was delivered to the Air Force still worked," said Col. Scott Larrimore, the Air Force weather program director.
"It was shipped to Vandenberg on Aug. 1, 2013 by C-17 aircraft and went to our historic payload processing facility that was built around processing DMSP satellites, Building 1559," Bodnar said.
Final sensor installations, more testing and encapsulation of the 2,700-pound satellite occurred at Vandenberg before the craft took a 6-mile, 8-hour journey to the launch pad on March 19. There, it was hoisted into the gantry and mated to its booster rocket at long last.
"I've been in this business a while and this is a rare and blessed problem to have in that the satellites (in space) have continued capabilities significantly longer than originally designed, saving the government large amounts of money and time in the form of development follow-on blocks of satellites," Bodnar said.
"I think we need to highlight the reason behind that and that's been the fantastic longevity of each of the satellites that have been launched over the precious years."
One satellite, for instance, was launched in 1995 and remains alive today. Flight 19 will be 7th satellite in the operating DMSP constellation.
"The satellite we are launching could provide weather data as late as 2020," Bodnar said.
DMSP 19 is the fifth satellite of its particular breed to launch and is part of Lockheed Martin's legacy that has produced nearly 50 satellites throughout the program's 52-year history.
"The DMSP program is the longest running satellite production program in the world. There's been no other satellite program that has lasted as long as the DMSP program," Bodnar said.
"We look forward to another successful launch in extending this mission into the next decade," Larrimore said.
Quelle: SN
Quelle: USAF

Atlas 5, satellite, set to launch at 7:46 a.m.

An Atlas 5 rocket and its military weather satellite were declared ready for liftoff following final reviews this week at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Blastoff is planned for 7:46 a.m. today from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base. The team has 10 minutes each day for the rocket to launch or the mission will have to be postponed so the spacecraft can be placed where its needs to be in space.
Weather is expected to accommodate today’s launch attempt with just a 10 percent likelihood conditions will force a delay. The concern centers on thick clouds.
Conditions reportedly worsen if the launch is postponed until Friday, with a 60 percent possibility that cloud conditions would prevent liftoff.
The United Launch Alliance rocket will carry the 19th craft for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, or DMSP, for a mission estimated to cost $518 million.
The craft operate as a two-satellite constellation to provide weather data used to forecast regional and global patterns. Additionally, the craft collects space weather information.
“For more than five decades, DMSP has been providing reliable, timely and dependable environmental information essential to the warfighter. DMSP-19 will extend this proud tradition well into the next decade,” said Col.
Scott Larrimore, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Defense Weather Systems Directorate. “Through the continued dedication, detailed preparation and hard work of our combined government-contractor team, DMSP-19 is ready to launch.”
Due to the planned launch, Jalama Beach, Miguelito Park, and Ocean Beach Park will be closed. Campers and visitors at the beaches will be cleared from the sites between 6 and 9 a.m., county officials said.
Additionally, access to Surf Beach is expected to be blocked off due to the proximity to the launch facility.
The Atlas 5 launch site is visible from several spots around the Lompoc area, including the peak of Harris Grade Road, the southwestern edge of Vandenberg Village and Ocean Avenue west of Lompoc.
Among those expected to gather at the base for the launch are nearly 80 eighth-grade students from Tommie Kunst Junior High School in Santa Maria.
The students take math classes taught by Laurie John.
On Wednesday, the students received a pre-launch briefing from personnel from the Joint Functional Component Command for Space at Vandenberg.
The 19th U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program payload sits atop an Atlas 5 rocket at Space Launch Complex-3 awaiting launch day.
Erfolgreicher Start von Atlas-V

Update: 4.04.2014 
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 Launch

Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs

4/3/2014 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- The U.S. Air Force successfully launched the 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft at 7:46 a.m. PDT, April 3, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The satellite was carried aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle.

DMSP is the primary provider of terrestrial and space weather information for the U.S. military. DMSP satellites carry sensors vital to weather prediction and space weather forecasting. DMSP sensors provide visible, infrared, microwave and space weather data to enhance information available to the warfighter. The Air Force, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), works to continually improve the developing science of weather forecasting. DMSP satellites produce global coverage to provide the military with timely, accurate and continuous weather information.

"The launch of DMSP-19 continues the vital weather support to operational commanders for another decade," stated Colonel Scott Larrimore, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center's Defense Weather Systems Directorate. "Congratulations to a great team, which included the 30th Space Wing, ULA, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman."

The Lockheed Martin-built DMSP-19 satellite will orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 847 km, in a near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite hosts two primary sensors, the Operational Linescan System (OLS) and the Special Sensor Microwave Imager Sounder (SSMIS), built by Northrop Grumman. The OLS provides visible and infrared cloud data with each scan covering an area 1800 miles wide. The instrument is able to cover the entire Earth in about 12 hours. The SSMIS detects precipitation, surface temperature and soil moisture as well as provides all-weather capability for worldwide tactical operations and is particularly useful in typing and forecasting severe storm activity. The spacecraft also carries a suite of additional sensors, which collect a broad range of meteorological and space environmental data for forecasting and analysis. DMSP-19 will join the DMSP constellation providing world class space-based terrestrial and space weather data to support U.S. Forces and its allies around the globe.

The Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes GPS, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.
Quelle: USAF 


Freitag, 4. April 2014 - 09:03 Uhr

Astronomie - NASA Hubble Team findet Monster "El Gordo" Galaxy Cluster in unvorstellbarer Größe


This is a Hubble image of the most massive cluster of galaxies ever seen to exist when the universe was just half its current age of 13.8 billion years. The cluster contains several hundred galaxies


NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has weighed the largest known galaxy cluster in the distant universe, catalogued as ACT-CL J0102-4915, and found it definitely lives up to its nickname -- El Gordo (Spanish for "the fat one").
By measuring how much the cluster's gravity warps images of galaxies in the distant background, a team of astronomers has calculated the cluster's mass to be as much as 3 million billion times the mass of our sun. Hubble data show the galaxy cluster, which is 9.7 billion light-years away from Earth, is roughly 43 percent more massive than earlier estimates.
The team used Hubble to measure how strongly the mass of the cluster warped space. Hubble's high resolution allowed measurements of so-called "weak lensing," where the cluster's immense gravity subtly distorts space like a funhouse mirror and warps images of background galaxies. The greater the warping, the more mass is locked up in the cluster.
"What I did is basically look at the shapes of the background galaxies that are farther away than the cluster itself," explained lead author James Jee of the University of California at Davis. "It's given us an even stronger probability that this is really an amazing system very early in the universe."
A fraction of this mass is locked up in several hundred galaxies that inhabit the cluster and a larger fraction is in hot gas that fills the entire volume of the cluster. The rest is tied up in dark matter, an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of the mass of the universe.
Though equally massive galaxy clusters are found in the nearby part of the universe, such as the Bullet cluster, nothing like this has ever been discovered to exist so far back in time, when the universe was roughly half its current estimated age of 13.8 billion years. The team suspects such monster galaxy clusters are rare in the early universe, based on current cosmological models.
The immense size of El Gordo was first reported in January 2012. Astronomers estimated its mass based on observations made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and galaxy velocities measured by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope array in Paranal, Chile. They were able to put together estimates of the cluster's mass based on the motions of the galaxies moving inside the cluster and the temperatures of the hot gas between those galaxies.
The challenge was that El Gordo looked as if it might have been the result of a titanic collision between a pair of galaxy clusters -- an event researchers describe as two cosmic cannonballs hitting each other.
"We wondered what happens when you catch a cluster in the midst of a major merger and how the merger process influences both the X-ray gas and the motion of the galaxies," explained John Hughes of Rutgers University. "So, the bottom line is because of the complicated merger state, it left some questions about the reliability of the mass estimates we were making."
That is where the Hubble data came in, according to Felipe Menanteau of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
"We were in dire need for an independent and more robust mass estimate given how extreme this cluster is and how rare its existence is in the current cosmological model. There was all this kinematic energy that was unaccounted for and could potentially suggest that we were actually underestimating the mass," Menanteau said. 
The expectation of "unaccounted energy" comes from the fact the merger of galaxy clusters is occurring tangentially to the observers' line-of-sight. This means they are potentially missing a good fraction of the kinetic energy of the merger because their spectroscopic measurements only track the radial speeds of the galaxies.
The team's next step with Hubble will be to compile an image of the cluster. Because El Gordo does not fit into Hubble's field of view, the team will capture images of sections of the galaxy cluster and piece them together into a mosaic.
Researchers say it is like observing a giant from the side.
"We can tell it's a pretty big El Gordo, but we don't know what kind of legs he has, so we need to have a larger field of view to get the complete picture of the giant," said Menanteau.
Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 4. April 2014 - 08:49 Uhr

Astronomie - Mars Opposition: Close Encounter mit dem Roten Planeten


Over the past few months, I have been engrossed in capturing images for my latest astronomy book and this has generally meant targeting faint deep sky objects like galaxies and nebulae.

While looking for these deep space objects, I have felt somewhat comforted as, every night without fail, I get to see the beautiful sight of a red star-like object rising in the east to greet me. This is the planet Mars and on the April 8 it will rise just as the sun sets and be visible all night.

"Opposition" is the official name that astronomers give this event and it comes from the fact that Mars and the sun are located at opposite points in the sky. These oppositions of Mars occur every two years, so this month is a great time to observe the red planet. So, dust off your telescope and let's take a closer look.

It is easy to find Mars at the moment, in the hours that follow sunset take a look low in the east and you will be able to easily spot it next to the bright blue/white star Spica in the constellation Virgo.
Spica is 261 light-years away, which means it took light from Spica 261 years to travel through interstellar space to reach us. By contrast, the reflected light we'll see from Mars on April 8 will be just 5.16 minutes old because it is so much closer -- only 93 million kilometers away, or 5.16 light-minutes from Earth.
The distances between Mars and Earth during opposition vary; in 2012 it was a little more distant at 100.7 million kilometers, but in 2018 it will be offering us views that we have not seen since 2003 when it will be just 57.6 million kilometers away.
While Mars is easily visible to the naked eye about 7 degrees to the north of Spica, to really get a good view you will need a telescope. Magnifications need to be at least 200x to be able to see some of the surface details of the planet and that means ideally you will need a telescope that has an aperture (diameter of main mirror or lens) of at least 10 centimeters.
With a setup like that, you will be able to see the polar caps of Mars that are made up primarily of carbon dioxide ice. You may also be able to glimpse the region in the southern hemisphere of the planet known as Syrtis Major, a large area of dark subsurface rock that is poking up above the red dusty surface material of the planet.
Just north of the equator is the large shield volcano known as Olympus Mons and, while it is a challenging object to spot, it is easier to detect clouds that often form around its summit.
To maximize your chances of getting a good view, set up your telescope during the afternoon so it can cool down; thermal currents in the tube can significantly affect what you can see. Also aim to observe the planet when it is nice and high in the sky, which will mean you are looking at it through less atmosphere.
It is worth investing in a set of filters for your eyepieces, too, as this can markedly improve your view although the choice of filter is very much one of personal preference. Filters are usually described by their Wratten Number (named after their inventor) and their color. My preference is to use a #82A Light Blue filter to enhance detail in the polar caps; a #12 Yellow filter to help to detect clouds; and a #23A Light Red to enhance surface detail. But do not be afraid to experiment with others.
If your telescope is smaller than about 20 cm (or 8”) then steer clear of the darker filters, otherwise the view of your red planet close encounter will be too dark to enjoy.
Mars - During the month of march showing the increase of its size as it gets closer to opposition (April 8th Sun, April 14th Earth). All with the same equipment set-up. (LX200ACF 12 in. OTA, CGE mount, Flea3 Ccd, TeleVue 3x barlows, Astronomik RGB filter set.)
Quelle: Spaceweather


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