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Sonntag, 10. August 2014 - 12:15 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - UFO-Absturz bei Roswell 1947 ? Teil-26

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The 1950 version of Roswell?
The story begins on March 28th, 1950 about 4:30 PM when a Concord, Pennsylvania farmer saw a bright shiny object descend onto his field. The farmer thought it might be a “flying disc” because of the way it appeared in the sky. Uncertain as to what it was, he gave the device to the principal of a nearby school. They had no idea what the device was and contacted the newspapers.
The newspaper began to ask about the device and, over the phone, described the object to several groups.1 The responses were:
1. The Army signal corps at Fort Monmouth was certain it was not theirs and the description did not fit anything they were familiar with.
2. Henry Adams, head of the Philadelphia weather bureau, could not identify the object and it resembled no known object used by meteorologists.
3. Professor Jean Picard was not sure but suggested it might be one of his experimental devices that he sent aloft.
4. An ex-soldier, who saw the object, suggested it was a radar tracking device.
The paper knew the object had been suspended by a balloon, it was four feet across, and was constructed of white and silver paper
on a wooden frame.
Comparisons
By now, you can surmise that what was found was a radar reflector of the ML-307 variety. This is exactly what was shown in the paper on the 29th (see below). By the 30th, once the visual image was released, many people quickly identified the object for what it was.
The30tharticlealsorevealedhowthedevicemadeittotheprincipal’soffice. AccordingtotheMarch30thedition,the“farmer”was an ex-navy commander by the name of Robert Ramage.2 Not surprisingly, the principal’s name was Oleta Ramage. They were prob- ably married or siblings. One has to wonder how a man , who rose to the rank of Commander in the navy, could be mistaken about something like this after seeing it. Wouldn’t he have been exposed to radar reflectors during his tours in the Navy? It appears that , like Jesse Marcel, rank and experience does not guarantee one the ability to identify everything that they find.
A more compelling question is why couldn’t the Army signal corps and Philadelphia weather bureau identify the target based on a verbal description? In the Roswell story, we see the same kind of confusion. The FBI telex stated that Wright field, based on tele- phone conversations, did not think it was a radar target. It was not until the target arrived at Fort Worth was the positive identification made. In this case, the reflector was intact and not fragmented, like the Roswell event, making it
easier to describe but it still could not be identified over the phone.
Is there a conspiracy angle here?
If I were a Roswell conspiracist, I would state that this was all staged to deflect attention away from the Guy Hottel memo or that this was part of the massive debunking effort to convince everyone that Roswell was still just a radar reflec- tor. If you can convince yourself this was the case, you can convince others as long as they are willing to believe it.
Lessons not learned?
The lesson learned is that, three years after Roswell, people still confused ra- dar reflectors for flying discs. The other lesson learned is that people have difficulty identifying such an object based on a verbal description. These fac- tors played a critical role in the Roswell story and one wonders why the crash- ologists attempt to ignore or downplay them.
Notes and references
1. Evans, Orrin C. “Mysterious object from sky has Concord area excited; Flying disc rumors spread”. Chester Times. Chester, Pennsylvannia. March 29, 1950. Page 1-2.
2. “Concord’s “flying disk” subject of much speculation.” Chester Times. Chester, Pennsylvania. March 30, 1950. Page 1-2.
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2013

Tags: UFO-Forschung 

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Sonntag, 10. August 2014 - 12:00 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - UFO-Absturz bei Roswell 1947 ? Teil-25

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The Roswell Corner
Rumor has it.........
Anthony Bragalia contacted me shortly after the release of SUNlite 5-5 complaining that I was doing nothing but spreading ru- mors that were not true. I would later be referred to as a “gossip girl”. I found this all quite humorous since many of the stories that Bragalia writes about are based on second hand testimony, rumors and speculation. TherumorsheisupsetaboutaretheonesbeingstatedbyRichReynolds,whichIhadcommentedoninrecentissues. Iwasskeptical about the rumors mentioned by Reynolds and felt that I had expressed this in my writings as I offered my opinions. In my opinion, there is a difference between this and blindly repeating these rumors as if they are facts. I allow Roswell proponents to do that sort of thing since they seem to be perfectly willing to blindly accept and repeat the rumors spread in books like “Witness to Roswell”.
I pointed out to Mr. Bragalia that all he needed to do was to publicly renounce what Reynolds was saying in order to put these sto- ries to rest. Bragalia said that he was too close to Reynolds to publicly denounce him and had no problem with him reporting what he “heard”. This seems hypocritical in my opinion. He is offended by me discussing Reynold’s rumors but it was OK for Reynolds to spread those rumors and make all sorts of statements that were, supposedly, not accurate.
Bragalia also scolded me for not checking with him before commenting in SUNlite! SUNlite is my publication and not Bragalia’s so I am not sure why I would need to check with him about any story. Did Bragalia have inside knowledge about the “evidence”? Since Bragalia contacted me about these rumors, I felt I would take him up on his offer about verifying if the story was true. I asked him for a public position on these questions:
1. Are there any photographs being examined or discovered by the “dream team” that supposedly show alien bodies or a military recovery operation from 1947?
2. If so, have these photographs been “shopped” around to television producers or other media outlets by any member of the “dream team” or the owner of the photographs?
3. Have any of the members of the “dream team” been involved in leaking this information to Reynolds?
4. In the case of question 3, if the answer is no, can you explain how Mr. Reynolds is receiving this information since there is a bit
of truth to it?
The first three only required a Yes or No answer. The fourth was to elaborate on the apparent leak in the dream team’s ship. My questions were designed to clear up the rumors he was so concerned about and end the shenanigans that had being played over at the UFO iconoclast(s)’ blog. Bragalia refused to comment publicly stating I was blackmailing him even though I made no effort to contact Bragalia prior to this. I was only offering him a chance to clear the air about these rumors. His negative response indicated that even if I contacted him before commenting in SUNlite, as he stated I should have done, I would have been no closer to the truth of the matter. The articles would have been essentially the same.
This “rumor” that Bragalia wanted me to believe was not true exploded into a full fire storm just a few weeks after this e-mail ex- change when Rich Reynolds let the “genie out of the bottle” on his blog.
Fire storm leads to a blog war of words
Afew weeks after Bragalia’s e-mails, an anonymous writer would publicly announce what the “new evidence” apparently was on Rich Reynold’s blog. In a rather bizarre story, some Kodachrome slides were found by a woman, who was handling the estate of a Bernard Ray’s widow. According to Reynold’s source, Bernard Ray worked with Silas Newton and he took these photographs in thesummerof1947nearRoswell. Tosummarize,thewomanapparentlyrecognizedtheimportanceoftheslidesandgavethemto her brother, who gave them to Tom Carey. At some point, according to this writer, somebody attempted to get CNN involved but they dismissed them because of their proponent status.
Many would comment about the information speculating on what it all meant. Among my concerns was the chain of custody is- sue. Why did the source go directly to a Roswell proponent when they could have gone elsewhere? Is it possible the bodies in the images are simply bodies from a car or airplane crash that were burned? Without more details it was hard to make an assessment of the evidence. It turned out that the slides themselves became secondary as the dream team began a form of damage control in order to stop the rumors.
Anthony Bragalia would jump into the public fray and declare the story, as told, was not true. He pretty much repeated what he told me in his e-mails. Paul Kimball, who had some inside information on this, would publicly respond that it was time for the “dream team” to come clean on all of this and tell everyone the truth about the slides. Bragalia responded that he would not publicly com- ment about any on-going research.
What broke everything open was Jack Brewer asking Kevin Randle directly about the slides. Randle would respond that he was not involved in investigating any slides. When Brewer published his article, Paul Kimball would state this was not true and prompted him to write his own article. That article included a private e-mail from Randle to Kimball, where he clearly states he was aware of the slides and the issues associated with them. Technically speaking, Randle did not lie to Brewer. He stated he was not involved in any investigation of slides and had not seen any slides. However, his failure to reveal that he was aware of the slides and that they 
did exist makes him guilty of withholding information. Kimball revealing the private e-mail got all sorts of comments from Randle and Bragalia. Bragalia ended up referring to Kimball as a “double-crosser” and “squealer”. For a person who blindly accepts the testimony of anybody “squealing” about an alien spaceship crash, I find his labeling of Kimball hypocritical.
Nick Redfern would also write an article describing his knowledge of the slides. He confirmed that there was an anonymous indi- vidual, who seemed to be interested in finding how much the photographs were worth. This confirms the rumor that there was some interest in obtaining monetary gain from these slides. One has to wonder how this individual learned about the slides. Was he the same person that had contacted Schmitt/Carey?
This brings us back to Anthony Bragalia, who would respond with an article where he decided to finally tell the “truth” about the slides. He quickly pointed the blame towards “skeptics” and “mean-spirited” individuals for trying to derail the “dream team”. Bra- galia also mentioned people were trying to “extort” him for information. He repeated the party line that “they” were trying to get all their information straight before releasing anything. Billy Cox would later state that Bragalia has personally seen the slides and that they showed an alien body up close and in color. I guess Bragalia felt it was OK to speak about the slides on the record to Cox but chose to evade discussing them when people started to ask more difficult questions. Bragalia made the incredible claim that the slides will never be revealed because of all of this. If that is the case, there must be something about the slides that makes people suspect they are fake or show something that is not really an alien. Bragalia received some negative criticism for his article simply because his original comments for Reynolds’ story stated the story was not true. In reality, a good portion of the story WAS true (at least as far as we know it). They may have been no direct link to Aztec but the existence of the slides, how they were discovered, and that there was interest in their value, which is at the core of all of this, was pretty accurate. Several of the comments began to question Bragalia’s already suspect credibility.
Kevin Randle would eventually publish a response that blamed Paul Kimball for creating discourse between he and the rest of the “dream team” by publishing their private e-mail exchanges. Kimball would respond with another blog posting stating that Randle had the ethical compass of a kumquat . Kimball received a lot of negative comments from UFO proponents (among them were Bragalia) and, shortly after this, Kimball would shut down his blog. This little blog war really did not resolve anything about the “evidence”. All we really discovered is that Randle was skeptical of the slides and what they supposedly showed. As best I can tell the following is the case regarding the slides themselves:
1. There are two slides that show a body (or bodies) in, what appears to be, a morgue/hospital. The body (bodies) appears to be alien in nature
2. The slides were shot on Kodachrome film.
3. The slides may or may not have been tested to determine if they were from 1947 film stock. I question that it was possible to
specifically date the film because it appears that only motion picture film stock has date coding of this type. The slide mounts themselves may indicate when the film was developed but it is possible that somebody can mount modern film in old mounts. The most important thing is that any testing that will be presented has to be aboveboard and independent of the UFO com- munity. Based on their track record, I am concerned that certain members of the “dream team” will try to avoid releasing all information associated with any tests.
Even if the film can be identified as being from a 1947 lot, one has to wonder what the chances are that a fresh batch of Kodak film would have reached the photographer’s local distributor by July of 1947. In 1947, I am not sure that the distribution of film was as rapid as it is today. It seems reasonable to conclude that while New York City would have fresh lots of film, more remote locations (like Roswell) would probably have pre-1947 film populating the shelves. Of course, just because the film was manufactured in 1947, does not mean the slides were actually shot in 1947! The date of film’s manufacture probably is not going to resolve anything.
The two members of the “dream team” , who are publicly commenting want to assign blame for all of this on people like Kimball and “skeptics/debunkers”. In my opinion, the “dream team” should look itself in the mirror and blame themselves. Somebody could not control themselves about the slides and allowed the information about them to leak out. Who that individual is does not re- ally matter. What matters is that the information became public knowledge through various channels and no amount of damage control could plug the leak. Instead of being elusive and misleading, they should have cleared the air right away once the story had appeared. They could have simply confirmed the details and stated the slides were still being examined.
I think the lesson learned in all of this is that keeping secrets of such information is not as easy as the crashologists claim it to be. In this instance, a very small group of people were aware of the slides but, somehow, the information quickly circulated. How is it that the “dream team” can’t keep a secret between a few people but the US government was able to keep Roswell a secret for decades even though hundreds/thousands of people knew the truth?
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2013

Tags: UFO-Forschung 

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Samstag, 9. August 2014 - 17:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erfolgreicher Start von Long March-4C-Trägerrakete mit Yaogan XX Fernerkundungssatellit

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A Long March-4C carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan XX remote-sensing satellite blasts off from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Aug. 9, 2014. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land SURVEYS, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)
JIUQUAN, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- China on Saturday sent a remote-sensing SATELLITE into scheduled orbit.
The Yaogan XX satellite blasted off at 1:45 p.m. on the back of a Long March 4C carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country's northwestern gobi desert, according to the center's statement.
The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land SURVEYS, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters, the center said.
The launch marked the 190th mission for the nation's Long March rocket family.
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A Long March-4C carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan XX remote-sensing satellite blasts off from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, Aug. 9, 2014. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land SURVEYS, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters.
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Quelle: ChinaNews

2236 Views

Samstag, 9. August 2014 - 12:45 Uhr

Astronomie - Heftige Sonnensystem Geschichte bei Australien Meteoriten entdeckt

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Violent solar system history uncovered by WA meteorite
MEDIA RELEASE
Friday 8 August 2014
Curtin University planetary scientists have shed some light on the bombardment history of our SOLAR SYSTEM by studying a unique volcanic meteorite recovered in Western Australia.
Captured on camera seven years ago falling on the WA side of the Nullarbor Plain, the Bunburra Rockhole Meterorite has unique characteristics that suggest it came from a large asteroid that has never before been identified.
Associate Professor Fred Jourdan, along with colleagues Professor Phil Bland and Dr Gretchen Benedix from Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology, believe the meteorite is evidence that a series of collisions of asteroids occurred more than 3.4 billion years ago.
“This meteorite is definitely one-of-a-kind,” Dr Jourdan said.
“Nearly all meteorites we locate come from Vesta, the second largest asteroid in the SOLAR SYSTEM. But after studying the meteorite’s composition and orbit, it appears it derived from a large, unidentified asteroid that was split apart during the collisions.”
The research team dated the meteorite with the argon-argon technique, a well-known method for DATING impact crater events, to offer a glimpse of the asteroid’s impact history.
They obtained three series of ages indicating that the meteorite recorded three impact events between 3.6 billion and 3.4 billion years ago.
“These ages are pretty old by terrestrial standards, but quite young for a meteorite since most are dated at 4.57 billion years old, when the SOLAR SYSTEM began,” Dr Jourdan said.
“Interestingly, the results also showed that not a SINGLE impact occurred on this meteorite after 3.4 billion years ago until it fell to Earth in 2007.
“The same impact history has also been OBSERVED from meteorites originating from Vesta with any impact activity stopping after 3.4 billion years ago.
“Obtaining similar information from two large, yet distinct asteroids is an exciting discovery as it confirms some of the bombardment history of our SOLAR SYSTEM.”
Dr Jourdan said the reason for impacts stopping after 3.4 billion years ago could have been from the asteroids being too small in size to be a target for collisions, or protected by regolith, a thick blanket of cushiony powder usually found at the surface of asteroids.
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The Bunburra Rockhole meteorite is a brecciated anomalous basaltic achondrite containing coarse-, medium- and fine-grained lithologies. Petrographic OBSERVATIONS constrain the limited shock pressure to between ca. 10 GPa and 20 GPa. In this study, we carried out nine 40Ar/39Ar step-heating experiments on distinct single-grain fragments extracted from the coarse and fine lithologies. We obtained six plateau ages and three mini-plateau ages. These ages fall into two internally concordant populations with mean ages of 3640 ± 21 Ma (n = 7; P = 0.53) and 3544 ± 26 Ma (n = 2; P = 0.54), respectively. Based on these results, additional 40Ar/39Ar data of fusion crust fragments, argon diffusion modelling, and petrographic observations, we conclude that the principal components of the Bunburra Rockhole basaltic achondrite are from a melt rock formed at ∼3.64 Ga by a medium to large impact event. The data imply that this impact generated high enough ENERGY to completely melt the basaltic target rock and reset the Ar systematics, but only partially reset the Pb–Pb age. We also conclude that a complete 40Ar∗ resetting of pyroxene and plagioclase at this time could not have been achieved at solid-state conditions. Comparison with a terrestrial analog (Lonar crater) shows that the time–temperature conditions required to melt basaltic target rocks upon impact are relatively easy to achieve. Ar data also suggest that a second medium-size impact event occurred on a neighbouring part of the same target rock at ∼3.54 Ga. Concordant low-temperature step ages of the nine aliquots suggest that, at ∼3.42 Ga, a third smaller impact excavated parts of the ∼3.64 Ga and ∼3.54 Ga melt rocks and brought the fragments together. The lack of significant impact activity after 3.5 Ga, as recorded by the Bunburra Rockhole suggests that (1) either the meteorite was ejected in a small secondary parent body where it resided untouched by large impacts, or (2) it was covered by a porous heat-absorbing regolith blanket which, when combined with the diminishing frequency of large impacts in the SOLAR SYSTEM, protected Bunburra from subsequent major heating events. Finally we note that the total (K/Ar) resetting impact event history recorded by some of the brecciated eucrites (peak at 3.8–3.5 Ga) is similar to the large impact history recorded by the Bunburra Rockhole parent body (ca. 3.64–3.54 Ga; this study) and could indicate a similar position in the asteroid belt at that time.
Quelle: Curtin University

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Samstag, 9. August 2014 - 10:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - NASA lässt Flying Saucer bei Hawaii (Low Density Supersonic Decelerator ( LDSD )) landen - Update

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10.04.2014

It comes in peace (Image: NASA)
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NASA 'flying saucer' for Mars to land in Hawaii
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In June, while beachgoers in Hawaii sit blissfully unaware, a flying saucer will descend over the island of Kauai. This is not a trailer for an alien invasion movie – NASA is gearing up to conduct the first test flight of a disc-shaped spacecraft designed to safely land heavy loads and one day people on the surface of Mars.
The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will be lofted into the stratosphere from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai. The inflatable technology is intended to help slow down vehicles after they enter the thin Martian atmosphere at supersonic speeds.
"It may seem obvious, but the difference between landing and crashing is stopping," says Allen Chen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who oversaw the successful landing of the one-tonne Curiosity rover in 2012. "We really only have two options for stopping at Mars: rockets and aerodynamic drag."
Inflatable spacecraft
Until recently, NASA had used parachutes and airbags for most robotic landings on Mars, starting with the Viking mission in 1976. But the heavier the load, the harder it is to come in softly. For the car-sized Curiosity, NASA invented an ambitious system called the sky crane, which combined parachutes with landing gear powered by retro-rockets that could lower the rover to the surface on tethers.
However, Curiosity pushed the weight limits of that technology, and future human missions could require 40 to 100 metric tonnes per mission. Such weight can't be adequately slowed by parachutes in the Martian air, which is just 1 per cent as dense as Earth's. Unfortunately, rocket-powered landings are out of the question, too, as the atmosphere is still just thick enough to buffet incoming spacecraft with more turbulence than thrusters can accommodate.
The LDSD design solves this quandary using a balloon-like decelerator and a giant parachute twice the size of Curiosity's. The decelerator would attach to the outer rim of a capsule-like entry vehicle. When the capsule is travelling at about Mach 3.5, the device would rapidly inflate like a Hawaiian pufferfish to increase surface area. The added air resistance would slow the capsule down to Mach 2, at which point the 33.5-metre parachute could safely deploy.
Bridge to Mars
To simulate Mars's thin atmosphere on Earth, the team in Hawaii will first lift a test vehicle fitted with the LDSD system to about 37 kilometres above the Pacific Ocean using a high-altitude balloon. The craft will detach and fire a small rocket to reach a height of 55 kilometres, about halfway to the edge of space. As it falls back to Earth, the system will inflate and moments later the parachute will fire. The saucer should gently splash down in open water.
NASA has three more test flights in Hawaii planned for the LDSD, and mission managers will review the results before deciding on next steps. In addition to landing human missions on Mars, the system could help robotic craft safely land in Martian mountains or highlands. These areas have even less air available for slowing down a spacecraft via drag and so have been inaccessible with current technology.
"Personally, I think it's a game-changer. You could take a mass to the surface equal to something like 1 to 10 Curiosities," says Robert Braun at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "Think about it like a bridge for humans to Mars. This is the next step in a sequence of technologies that would need to be developed."
Quelle: NewScientist
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NASA's Latest High Tech Exploration Tool Before Testing
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NASA workers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room "bunny suits," prepare the LDSD test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii. LDSD will help land bigger space payloads on Mars or return them back to Earth.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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On April 9 reporters got a chance to don "bunny suits" (protective apparel that sometimes makes people look like large rabbits) and enter a NASA clean room at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In the room is NASA's latest technology for landing large payloads on planets like Mars or Earth, being processed for shipping prior to testing next June.
NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project will be flying a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space this June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD crosscutting demonstration mission will test breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars, or other planetary bodies with atmospheres, including Earth. These new technologies will not only enable landing of larger payloads on Mars, but also allow access to much more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher altitude sites.
The LDSD is one of several crosscutting technologies NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate is developing to create the new knowledge and capabilities necessary to enable our future missions to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. The directorate is committed to developing the critical technologies required to enable future exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.
NASA continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in a myriad of important technology thrust areas.
These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep-space exploration. In fact, NASA's space tech team will launch seven major technology demonstrations in next 24 months.
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Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD)

"The future comes slowly."
-- Johann Friedrich von Schiller, 18th-century German historian
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As NASA plans ambitious new robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, the spacecraft needed to land safely on the red planet's surface necessarily becomes increasingly massive, hauling larger payloads to accommodate extended stays on the Martian surface.
Current technology for decelerating from the high speed of atmospheric entry to the final stages of landing on Mars dates back to NASA's Viking Program, which put two landers on Mars in 1976. The basic Viking parachute design has been used ever since -- and was successfully used again in 2012 to deliver the Curiosity rover to Mars.
NASA seeks to use atmospheric drag as a solution, saving rocket engines and fuel for final maneuvers and landing procedures. The heavier planetary landers of tomorrow, however, will require much larger drag devices than any now in use to slow them down -- and those next-generation drag devices will need to be deployed at higher supersonic speeds to safely land vehicle, crew and cargo. NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) Technology Demonstration Mission, led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will conduct full-scale, stratospheric tests of these breakthrough technologies high above Earth to prove their value for future missions to Mars.
Three devices are in development. The first two are supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators -- very large, durable, balloon-like pressure vessels that inflate around the entry vehicle and slow it from Mach 3.5 or greater to Mach 2 or lower. These decelerators are being developed in 6-meter-diameter and 8-meter-diameter configurations. Also in development is a 30.5-meter-diameter parachute that will further slow the entry vehicle from Mach 1.5 or Mach 2 to subsonic speeds. All three devices will be the largest of their kind ever flown at speeds several times greater than the speed of sound.
Together, these new drag devices can increase payload delivery to the surface of Mars from our current capability of 1.5 metric tons to 2 to 3 metric tons, depending on which inflatable decelerator is used in combination with the parachute. They will increase available landing altitudes by 2-3 kilometers, increasing the accessible surface area we can explore. They also will improve landing accuracy from a margin of 10 kilometers to just 3 kilometers. All these factors will increase the capabilities and robustness of robotic and human explorers on Mars.
To thoroughly test the system, the LDSD team will fly the drag devices several times -- at full scale and at supersonic speeds -- high in Earth’s stratosphere, simulating entry into the atmosphere of Mars. The investigators are conducting design verification tests of parachutes and supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerators through 2013. Supersonic flight tests will be conducted in 2014 and 2015 from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Hi.
Once tested, the devices will enable missions that maximize the capability of current launch vehicles, and could be used in Mars missions launching as early as 2018.
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Quelle: NASA
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Update: 11.04.2014
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NASA Tests Supersonic Flying Saucer for Future Mars Missions
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Eat your heart out, Marvin the Martian: NASA is building its own flying saucer as part of a project to get bigger payloads to Mars. The disk-shaped object is called a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, and it's due to fly for the first time this June.
Journalists got an advance peek at the saucer this week at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where it's being readied for the test flight. The saucer will be taken to Hawaii and then lofted up to an altitude of 120,000 feet (37 kilometers) on a high-altitude balloon. It'll fire a rocket engine to rise even higher, to 180,000 feet (55 kilometers). And then it'll start falling.
During its Mach 3.5 descent, it will inflate like a pufferfish to increase atmospheric drag, slowing its speed to about twice the speed of sound. That will trigger the deployment of a super-strong 100-foot-wide (33.5-meter-wide) parachute, which should slow down the test vehicle enough for a gentle splashdown.
Why go to all that trouble? NASA had to use a complex, rocket-powered sky crane to get its 1-ton Curiosity rover safely down to the surface of Mars in 2012, but the payloads required for human missions to Mars are expected to weigh significantly more — as much as 100 tons. The sky-crane system can't handle payloads that heavy. That's why NASA says it'll need the supersonic decelerator to send astronauts to Mars.
Let's just hope those astronauts don't face the Q-36 explosive space modulator when they get there.
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Journalists are dressed in special suits inside a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as they get a look at the saucer-shaped test vehicle for the agency's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project on Wednesday.
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The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator is designed to inflate balloon-like pressure vessels during its descent, to increase atmospheric drag and slow the vehicle down from Mach 3.5 to Mach 2.
Quelle: NBC
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Update: 19.05.2014
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NASA's Saucer-Shaped Craft Preps for Flight Test
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A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.
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NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project, a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle, has completed final assembly at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
This experimental flight test is designed to investigate breakthrough technologies that will benefit future Mars missions, including those involving human exploration. Three weeks of testing, simulations and rehearsals are planned before the first launch opportunity on the morning of June 3. LDSD was built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and shipped to Kauai for final assembly and preparations.
"Our Supersonic Flight Dynamics Test Vehicle number 1 arrived at the Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on April 17," said Mark Adler, project manager of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project from JPL. "Since then, we have been preparing it for flight. One of the last big assemblies occurred on April 30, when we mated the vehicle with its Star-48 booster rocket."
During the June experimental flight test, a balloon will carry the test vehicle from the Hawaii Navy facility to an altitude of about 120,000 feet. There, it will be dropped and its booster rocket will quickly kick in and carry it to 180,000 feet, accelerating to Mach 4. Once in the very rarified air high above the Pacific, the saucer will begin a series of automated tests of two breakthrough technologies.
In order to get larger payloads to Mars, and to pave the way for future human explorers, cutting-edge technologies like LDSD are critical. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.
The upper layers of Earth’s stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission developed this test method to ensure the best prospects for effective testing of the new and improved technologies here on Earth.
Anyone with Internet access will be able to watch live as video from the June test is relayed from the vehicle to the ground. The low-resolution images from the saucer are expected to show the vehicle dropping away from its high-altitude balloon mothership and then rocketing up to the very edge of the stratosphere. The test vehicle will then deploy an inflatable Kevlar tube around itself, called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD). After the SIAD inflates, the test vehicle will deploy a mammoth parachute called the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute.
While people watching at home may be fascinated by how these two new technologies operate, the NASA flight team will actually be concentrating on a more fundamental question – "Will the test vehicle work as planned?"
"This first test is a true experimental flight test," said Ian Clark, the LDSD principal investigator from JPL. "Our goal is to get this first-of-its-kind test vehicle to operate correctly at very high speeds and very high altitudes. "
Although there is no guarantee that this first test will be successful, regardless of the outcome, the LDSD team expects to learn a great deal from the test. NASA has two more saucer-shaped test vehicles in the pipeline, with plans to test them from Hawaii in summer of 2015.
"We are pushing the envelope on what we know," said Clark. "We are accepting higher risk with these test flights than we would with a space mission, such as the Mars Science Laboratory. We will learn a great deal even if these tests, conducted here in Earth's atmosphere at relatively low cost, fail to meet some of the mission objectives."
As NASA plans increasingly ambitious robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, the spacecraft needed to land safely on the Red Planet's surface will become larger and heavier. This new technology will enable those important missions.
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In this picture, NASA’s saucer-shaped experimental flight vehicle is prepared for a Range Compatibility Test at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.
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An engineer works on the Parachute Deployment Device of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle in this image taken at the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.
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Quelle: NASA
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Update: 1.06.2014
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LDSD Testing for Large Payloads to Mars
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What will it take to land heavier spacecraft on Mars? How will engineers slow large payloads traveling at supersonic speeds in a thin Martian atmosphere? Can this be done?

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is playing an integral role in potentially answering those questions with the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator mission, or LDSD.

To conduct advanced exploration missions in the future and safely land heavier spacecraft on Mars, NASA must advance the technology of decelerating large payloads traveling at supersonic speeds in thin atmospheres to a new level of performance. The current technology for decelerating payloads dates back to NASA’s Viking Program, which placed two landers on Mars in 1976. That same technology is still being used and most recently delivered the Curiosity rover to Mars in 2012.

Future robotic missions to Mars and even future human exploration will require more massive payloads than previously sent to the surface of the Red Planet. To accomplish these goals, NASA is developing new systems to deliver this important cargo to the surface of Mars.

NASA scientists and engineers borrowed a technique used by the ‘o’opu hue, also known as the Hawaiian pufferfish. The technique? Rapid inflation. For the pufferfish, it is simply a defense mechanism. For NASA, it is potentially the element that links to the future of space exploration.

Set for a test launch in early June from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii, LDSD will use a 20-foot diameter, solid rocket-powered balloon-like vessel called a Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) to test these capabilities.

To duplicate many of the most important aspects of Mars’ thin atmosphere, NASA plans to use the very thin air found high in Earth’s stratosphere as a test bed for the LDSD mission.

To reach the desired altitude of 120,000 feet, the LDSD project will use a helium-filled scientific balloon provided by NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. When fully deployed, the balloon itself is over 34 million cubic feet. At that size alone, one could fit a professional football stadium inside it. The material that makes the balloon, a very thin film called polyethylene that is similar thickness to that of sandwich wrap, will lift the massive test article to 120,000 feet.

At that altitude, the test article will be detached from the balloon and a solid rocket motor will be employed to boost the test article on a trajectory to reach supersonic speeds (Mach 4) needed to test the SIAD.

Once at supersonic speeds, the deployment and function of the inflatable decelerators will be tested to slow the test article to a speed where it becomes safe to deploy a supersonic parachute. The balloon and test article will all be recovered from the ocean.

Two recovery vessels, Kahana and Konua, will recover the test article and balloon respectively. Before the articles can be recovered, a G-2 and a C-26 aircraft will focus on determining positioning of the articles for recovery. Wallops, with extensive experience vehicle recovery, will oversee the recovery operations for the LDSD mission.

In addition to the balloon operations and oversight of recovery, Wallops is the range services coordinator, has provided the core electronics for the test article and electrical ground support equipment.

NASA has identified six potential launch dates for the balloon carrying LDSD: June 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 14. The June 3 launch window extends from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. HST, or 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT. The test can be viewed live on NASA TV beginning at 7:45 a.m. HST (1:45 p.m. EDT).

Quelle: NASA

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Update: 3.06.2014 

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NASA's 'Flying Saucer' Readies for First Test Flight
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NASA's flying saucer-shaped test vehicle is ready to take to the skies from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, for its first engineering shakeout flight.
The first launch opportunity for the test vehicle is June 3, when the launch window opens at 8:30 a.m. HST. The test will be carried live on NASA TV and streamed on the Web. The Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will gather data about landing heavy payloads on Mars and other planetary surfaces.
"The agency is moving forward and getting ready for Mars as part of NASA's Evolvable Mars campaign," said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We fly, we learn, we fly again. We have two more vehicles in the works for next year."
As NASA plans increasingly ambitious robotic missions to Mars, laying the groundwork for even more complex human science expeditions to come, accommodating extended stays for explorers on the Martian surface will require larger and heavier spacecraft.
The objective of the LDSD project is to see if the cutting-edge, rocket-powered test vehicle operates as it was designed -- in near-space at high Mach numbers.
"After years of imagination, engineering and hard work, we soon will get to see our Keiki o ka honua, our 'boy from Earth,' show us its stuff," said Mark Adler, project manager for the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "The success of this experimental test flight will be measured by the success of the test vehicle to launch and fly its flight profile as advertised. If our flying saucer hits its speed and altitude targets, it will be a great day."
The way NASA's saucer climbs to test altitude is almost as distinctive as the test vehicle itself.
"We use a helium balloon -- that, when fully inflated, would fit snugly into Pasadena's Rose Bowl -- to lift our vehicle to 120,000 feet," said Adler. "From there we drop it for about one and a half seconds. After that, it's all about going higher and faster -- and then it's about putting on the brakes."
A fraction of a second after dropping from the balloon, and a few feet below it, four small rocket motors will fire to spin up and gyroscopically stabilize the saucer. A half second later, a Star 48B long-nozzle, solid-fueled rocket engine will kick in with 17,500 pounds of thrust, sending the test vehicle to the edge of the stratosphere.
"Our goal is to get to an altitude and velocity which simulates the kind of environment one of our vehicles would encounter when it would fly in the Martian atmosphere," said Ian Clark, principal investigator of the LDSD project at JPL. "We top out at about 180,000 feet and Mach 4. Then, as we slow down to Mach 3.8, we deploy the first of two new atmospheric braking systems."
The project management team decided also to fly the two supersonic decelerator technologies that will be thoroughly tested during two LDSD flight tests next year.
If this year's test vehicle flies as expected, the LDSD team may get a treasure-trove of data on how the 6-meter supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (SIAD-R) and the supersonic parachute operate a full year ahead of schedule.
The SIAD-R, essentially an inflatable doughnut that increases the vehicle's size and, as a result, its drag, is deployed at about Mach 3.8. It will quickly slow the vehicle to Mach 2.5 where the parachute, the largest supersonic parachute ever flown, first hits the supersonic flow. About 45 minutes later, the saucer is expected to make a controlled landing onto the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 7.06.2014
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NASA's Flying Saucer Cools Its Jets in Hawaiian Hangar

Technically speaking, NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator has a single 17,500-pound-thrust, solid-fueled rocket engine — and figuratively speaking, the saucer-shaped test vehicle is cooling its jets at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, waiting for favorable winds.

NASA spokesman David Steitz told NBC News the winds are a no-go for a Saturday launch attempt, and that means Monday is the next opportunity to loft the 15-foot-wide saucer up to 120,000 feet at the end of a helium balloon. Once that happens, the LDSD can light its engine, rocket up to 180,000 feet and open up its inflatable, doughnut-shaped drag shield to slow its supersonic descent to the Pacific Ocean.

 
The point of the uncrewed flight isn't to spark a wave of UFO sightings, but to test technologies that could be used to land bigger payloads on Mars.

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Quelle: NBC

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Update: 9.06.2014

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It's an Anomaly! Winds Keep NASA's Flying Saucer Grounded

Sorry, flying-saucer fans: Unfavorable winds have forced NASA to call off the launch of its saucer-shaped Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator for the fourth time in a week.

The prototype vehlcle, and the team behind it, will have to wait until Wednesday at the earliest to send the LDSD on a mission aimed at testing technologies that could be used for future landings on Mars.

 

The experiment at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, was originally scheduled for June 3, then for the 5th, then the 7th, and then Monday. Each time, NASA has had to stand down.

"Wind conditions have been the prevailing factor in the launch delays," NASA spokeswoman Shannon Ridinger said in an email on Sunday.

The 15-foot-wide LDSD is supposed to be launched by a helium balloon to a height of 120,000 feet, and then blasted up to 180,000 feet by a solid-fueled rocket engine. As it descends at supersonic speeds, it would inflate an "inner tube" device to increase its diameter to 20 feet. The resulting atmospheric drag should slow the descent enough for the deployment of a super-strong parachute.

A more advanced version of the device could be used to help land multi-ton payloads on Mars. But for this test, NASA wants the LDSD prototype to fall into the Pacific Ocean — and that means upper-level winds have to blowing out to sea rather than inland. So far, the winds have been blowing in the wrong direction.

 

NASA spokesman David Steitz told NBC News that the current wind pattern appears to be anomalous.

"The LDSD team examined the weather records of PMRF [the Pacific Missile Range Facility] during the past two years, day-by-day, to pick the optimal time of year for cooperative atmosphere and winds," he wrote in an email. "This year, however, Mother Nature appears to have new plans for the winds over Hawaii."

After Wednesday, the team has one more opportunity on the schedule, on June 14. For additional background on NASA's flying saucer, take a look at last week's preview. And to find out which way the winds are blowing.
Quelle: NBC

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Update: 25.06.2014

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Flight Test for Next-Generation Mars Supersonic Decelerator Prototype Rescheduled for June 28

Anyone even remotely familiar with landing spacecraft and payloads on other worlds can respect how difficult such a feat really is, and it only gets more difficult as the spacecraft get larger and heavier. Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, each roughly the size of a golf cart, had to parachute in and land while cocooned inside a set of very sophisticated airbags, bouncing along the surface until coming to a stop. The rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in August 2012, is the size of a SUV and carried out what is arguably the riskiest landing attempt of any spacecraft to date, touching down via a “sky-crane” which hovered thanks to rockets to lower the rover onto the surface.
Thing is, with the current landing technology available Curiosity is about as big a payload as we can land on Mars, and if mankind ever wants to land larger payloads, such as larger vehicles with crews or large amounts of supplies, then new technologies need to be developed to get the job done.
The space agency is also currently very restricted on where they can land, because the Martian atmosphere is so thin that current deceleration technologies do not allow for the time needed to slow down enough to land at higher elevations. NASA needs a new approach to make future missions to land on Mars possible, and the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) will open up many more options for future locations by enabling landings at regions that cannot be currently accessed.
The first flight test of the LDSD was scheduled to take place earlier this month from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range in Kauai, Hawaii, but mother nature did not want to cooperate, despite two years of research showing that the Kauai area had the proper wind conditions to carry the balloon out over the ocean for LDSD to launch. All six days of launch attempts were called off for unfavorable weather conditions.
“We needed the mid-level winds between 15,000 and 60,000 feet to take the balloon away from the island,” said Mark Adler, LDSD Project Manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “While there were a few days that were very close, none of the days had the proper wind conditions.”
Now, after working with the Pacific Missile Range Facility and looking at weather conditions predicted for later in the month, NASA and the U.S. Navy are aiming to try again to fly the LDSD test article on June 28. If the LDSD cannot fly on June 28 then backup launch attempts are scheduled for June 29, June 30, July 1, and July 3.
“What folks may not realize is the variability of the weather in Kauai,” said Jody Davis, NASA Langley LDSD lead. “The island has many different types of terrain and is very mountainous, so there’s a lot of localized rain and storms. This test is very dependent on the wind direction and rain is bad for the test vehicle, so we can only launch the balloon in certain conditions.”
 - Landing Bigger on Mars
“If we’re going to explore an asteroid and eventually put people on the surface of Mars then we need sustained and significant investment in new space technologies. Without those investments we won’t be able to take people in any sustained way beyond low-Earth orbit,” said Jeff Sheehy, Senior Technical Officer of Space Technology Mission Directorate from NASA Headquarters. “Assume we can land something twice as big as Curiosity, what could we do with that? Where could we explore? How much MORE could we explore? How much more could we learn? We’re looking forward to sample returns from Mars and putting enough cargo on Mars to support human exploration, and the LDSD project aims at providing the technologies for entry, descent, and landing, which is one of the major challenges for sustained exploration of Mars.”
The current technology used for decelerating from a high speed atmospheric entry to the final stages of landing on Mars dates back to NASA’s Viking Program in 1976, and the same basic parachute design has been used ever since. LDSD brings a much needed upgrade; the heavier landers of the future will instead use atmospheric drag as a solution, which will save rocket engines and fuel for final maneuvers and landing procedures. LDSD will also give NASA the capability to land payloads of up to 3 tons, twice what can currently be landed, while also improving landing accuracy from the current margin of 10 kilometers to a mere three kilometers.
“We have been using the same Viking parachute design and the same supersonic Viking parachute test data from 1972 to qualify and validate the operation of our parachutes on all of our Mars missions,” said Adler. “We’ve been pushing the limits of what we can squeeze out of that data, and we’re pretty much there, we’re at the limit. That would be fine if that’s all we wanted to do, but we want to go bigger, we keep getting bigger, we went from Sojourner to MER to Curiosity but that’s not good enough, we want to land bigger things, and we want to land them at higher altitudes and land more accurately.”
“The fundamental problem we have is things start going faster and faster through the Mars atmosphere as they get larger, and so we have to slow them down at higher altitudes and higher speeds,” added Adler. “Today we slow things down at about Mach 2, we’re going to have to go up to Mach 3 or Mach 4 and higher to start slowing bigger things down and that’s what this project is all about, developing new supersonic decelerators to slow things down at higher speeds.”
The LDSD project team has already completed three successful rocket sled tests of the “SIAD-R,” one of two Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerators that make up the three innovative deceleration systems now in development under the LDSD project (two SIADs of different sizes and an advanced parachute system). The tests on the balloon-like pressure vessel, which is designed to inflate around a vehicle and slow its entry, went well, despite the fact the test team put the SIAD-R through aerodynamic loads 25 percent greater than it will face during atmospheric entry at Mars.
“We inflated the SIAD-R on a rocket sled going about 250 mph to show that it could take the loads at Mars, so we simulated the loads this thing will actually experience when it actually lands at Mars,” said Adler. “We had to show that it would survive, that it inflated properly and wouldn’t rip off and show that it had the right characteristics that we would expect in a Mars flight. That all worked out great.”
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Timeline of Events for LDSD Flight Test. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
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 - The Flight Test
Once mother nature decides to cooperate the LDSD will launch from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. A 34-million-cubic-foot helium balloon will lift the solid-rocket powered LDSD test vehicle to an altitude of 120,000 feet, at which point the vehicle will fire a large Star-48 rocket motor to accelerate to supersonic speeds and reach 180,000 feet, where the atmosphere of Mars can be simulated.
“We get to the altitudes of Mars in terms of density that we would be at when we conduct our flights there, then we fly horizontally at Mach 4. At about Mach 3.75 we will deploy the SIAD, which is where it has to deploy at Mars to start slowing us down at higher speeds,” said Adler. “Shortly after that we will deploy the parachute deployment device at Mach 2.75, then the parachute will come out at about Mach 2.5, then the whole thing comes down. So the whole test occurs in this horizontal phase at high altitude and we get all our data. We have tons of cameras, GPS, temperature sensors, pressure sensors, load cells and so on to give us information about these articles in flight so we can measure the dynamics, their performance, and so on to prove to ourselves that it will work at Mars if we did this there.”
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Two SIADs, which were inspired by a puffer fish’s ability to change its size rapidly without changing its mass, are being developed to serve two different purposes. A 20-foot-diameter (6-meter) SIAD will serve for landing smaller robotic payloads, and a 26-foot-diameter (8-meter) SIAD is being developed for landing larger payloads, including crews. The 100-foot-diameter parachute is also new; it’s twice as big as the parachute Curiosity used to land on Mars. It’s so big that it can’t even be tested in the world’s largest wind tunnel at AMES Research Center, instead the LDSD team had to conduct scale model tests to design the parachute for the actual flights. All three devices will be the largest of their kind ever flown at speeds several times greater than the speed of sound.
A series of flight tests are scheduled to take place in Hawaii through 2015, and the technology that comes from the LDSD project will be ready to support the missions it is designed for as soon as 2018. However, it may have to wait several more years before NASA has a reason to use it, because the space agency won’t be launching anyone anywhere until at least 2021, when the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft are scheduled to conduct the first crewed “deep-space” mission beyond low-Earth orbit. And if Congress continues to under-fund NASA, then it could be even longer before the missions that will need LDSD come to reality.
Quelle: AS

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Update: 28.06.2014

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Nasa launches 'flying saucer' tech

The LDSD climbs into the sky underneath the balloon

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The US space agency (Nasa) has launched an atmospheric test vehicle that looks every inch like a flying saucer.

 

In reality, the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) is a demonstrator for the type of technologies humans will need to land on Mars.

 

The LDSD has been sent into the stratosphere via a balloon off Hawaii.

 

It will trial a new type of parachute and an inflatable Kevlar ring that can help slow down a spacecraft as it approaches the Red Planet's surface.

 

Nasa says it is trying to raise the current maximum mass that can be put on Mars from 1.5 tonnes to something nearer the 20-30 tonnes a human mission might require.

 

Ian Clark, the LDSD's principal investigator told BBC News: "We're testing technologies that will enable us to land bigger payloads, much heavier payloads, at higher altitude and with more accuracy than we've ever been able to do before."
The experiment was launched from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
A helium balloon lifted the LDSD clear of the ground at 08:47 local time (18:47 GMT). It was due to take a couple of hours to raise the vehicle to about 35km (120,000ft) before releasing it.
Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD)
A rocket motor should then kick the vehicle on up to about 55km (180,000ft) and a velocity of about Mach 4 (four times the speed of sound).
As the LDSD begins to slow, it will deploy its two new atmospheric braking systems.
The first to come out will be the 6m (20ft) inflatable "donut". This will increase the vehicle's size and also, as a result, its drag.
Once the velocity has dropped to about Mach 2.5, the parachute will come out.
“The supersonic parachute we’re testing is enormous,” says Ian Clark.
“It’s 100ft (30m) in diameter; it generates two-and-a-half times the drag of any previous parachute we’ve sent to Mars. We’re going to use it at a velocity that’s faster than we’ve used a parachute at Mars.
“We’re really going to push it to the edge where the materials themselves, the nylons and Kevlars that the parachute is made of, may start melting.
“We don’t know; that’s why we do this testing.”
Assuming the structures all stay intact, the parachute should drop the LDSD in the ocean after about 45 minutes.
Nasa's plan is to return next year with a larger ring and parachute to test.
The Curiosity rover, at one tonne, is the biggest object landed on Mars to date.
There is a recognition that this payload capability will have to be increased substantially if astronauts on the planet are to receive all the food supplies and equipment they need to survive.
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Controllers have to wait a couple of hours until the balloon reaches the right altitude to begin the experiment
Quelle: BBC
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NASA launches 'flying saucer" for tests of Mars entry technology

A huge high-altitude balloon took off from Hawaii Saturday, gracefully lifting a 3.5-ton flying saucer-shaped research vehicle on a ride to the edge of space for a dramatic rocket-powered test of an inflatable doughnut-like braking system and a huge supersonic parachute needed for future missions to Mars.
Flying at four times the speed of sound in the thin air of the extreme upper atmosphere, the test vehicle was expected to experience conditions similar to what a spacecraft would find plunging into the atmosphere of the red planet.
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The heaviest spacecraft ever sent to the surface of Mars -- NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity rover -- tipped the scales at about one ton. To get heavier robots to the surface, and eventual crewed spacecraft that could weigh 20 tons or more, NASA must develop better atmospheric braking systems.
Enter the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, the first of three test vehicles to fly in a $200 million research program aimed at developing new technologies for future Mars missions.
The first test vehicle's high-altitude balloon, loaded with 34 million cubic feet of helium, lifted off from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, at 2:40 p.m. EDT (GMT-4). Initial attempts to launch the craft earlier this month were blocked by the weather, but conditions were acceptable Saturday and the balloon was cleared for flight.
A live television feed showed the giant balloon climbing away, pulling the LDSD from its support cradle and up into the sky for an hours-long flight to an altitude of 120,000 feet.
"Landing on Mars is an extremely challenging thing to do," Ian Clark, LDSD principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said during a preflight briefing "The atmosphere is extremely thin, it's about 1 percent the density of Earth's atmosphere. That means you need very large devices to react against the atmosphere to create the drag that we use to slow the vehicles down as they enter the atmosphere.
"If you want to land things that are even heavier than the Mars Science Laboratory, if you want to land several tons -- and as you cast your eyes to the horizon and you think about landing humans on the surface of Mars, missions that will be 10 to 15 tons, 20 tons or more -- you're going to need extremely large drag devices to slow those vehicles down. We don't have those currently, and that's what LDSD is developing."
The test vehicle features two new technologies. The first is an inflatable torus around a traditional heat shield known as the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or SIAD, that gives the test vehicle the general shape of a flying saucer. The second new technology is a huge parachute, the largest ever designed to deploy at more than twice the speed of sound.
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A huge balloon loaded with 34 million cubic feet of helium billows as it climbs away from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The LDSD test vehicle is visible to the left, still attached to its support cradle. (Credit: NASA)
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After reaching an altitude of 120,000 feet, or about 23 miles, the LDSD was to be released. After small rocket motors fire to spin the vehicle up for stability, an ATK Star 48 solid-fuel rocket motor was programmed to fire to accelerate the test article and boost it an additional 11 miles to some 180,000 feet, or 34 miles.
Flying at more than four times the speed of sound, the flight plan called for the heavily instrumented SIAD torus to inflate, expanding the diameter of the entry vehicle from about 15.4 feet to 19.7 feet. After slowing to about 2.5 times the speed of sound, the parachute was expected to unfurl to a diameter of 110 feet, quickly slowing the craft even more.
"What we're trying to do is replicate the environment in which these technologies would be used," Clark said. "That means replicating the atmosphere, in particular the density of the atmosphere, which at Mars is extremely thin. To find (those conditions) we have to go halfway to the edge of space, or about 180,000 feet here on Earth, to test these devices. And we have to go several times the speed of sound."
Four Go-Pro video cameras were on board to provide realtime coverage of the SIAD inflation and parachute deploy. Video from higher resolution cameras will be stored on board and recovered after the test vehicle splashes down in the Pacific Ocean at the end of its flight.
Mission duration, from balloon launch to splashdown, was expected to be about three hours.
"This is our first experimental test flight of this vehicle that is designed to carry the SIAD and the parachute to the proper conditions very high in Earth's atmosphere and very fast so that it looks like, to these articles, that they're flying at Mars," said Mark Adler, LDSD project manager at JPL. "So we test them in those conditions at full scale to make sure they're going to work at Mars."
The SIAD torus initially was tested at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, Calif., using a rocket sled to accelerate the device to several hundred miles per hour. To test the parachute, a long cable was connected, fed through a pulley system and attached to a rocket sled. The parachute then was released from a helicopter, the rocket sled was fired up and the parachute was pulled toward the ground with a force equivalent to about 100,000 pounds of drag.
"Our objectives for this first flight are to launch it from here, get the balloon off and out over the water, to get it up to altitude where we can drop the vehicle and conduct this powered flight and get the data back from it to see how it works," said Adler.
He stressed the test flight was just that, a test flight, and any number of things could go wrong. But "if we fire that motor and we get data back from it, that is a great day. That way we can learn exactly what happened and understand what to do for our next flights."
Two more LDSD vehicles are being built for "flights of record" next summer.
"We've been there before, eight successful landings on the surface of Mars, the United States leads in this area," said Mike Gazarik, director of space technology development at NASA Headquarters. "It's one of the more difficult challenges.
"When we look at the Curiosity rover, which landed two years ago, it's about a metric ton on the surface of Mars. We know that for exploration, for future robotic exploration, for future human exploration, we need more than that. ... And so for us, it's the challenges of Mars -- how do we get there, how do we land there, how do we live there, how do we leave there?"
The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator "focuses on that very difficult challenge of landing there."
"We need to test and we need to learn," Gazarik said. "And we need to do it quickly and efficiently. ... It's about more mass, going to more elevations on the surface of Mars and landing more accurately."
Quelle: CBS
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The test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator rides on a balloon to high altitudes above Hawaii.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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LDSD
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Quelle: NASA
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Update: 29.06.2014
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Media Telecon: NASA Supersonic Test Flight Completed
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A screen shot shows the LDSD test vehicle after it dropped from the balloon that lifted it to high altitudes and fired its rocket. The picture was taken by a low-resolution camera onboard the vehicle. Earth is the blue-green orb in the background.
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A news teleconference has been scheduled for tomorrow, June 29, at 7 a.m. HST (10 a.m. PDT, 1 p.m. EDT) to discuss the near-space test flight of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), which occurred today above the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
The balloon launch occurred at 8:45 a.m. HST (11:45 a.m. PDT/2:45 p.m. EDT) from the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. At 11:05 a.m. HST (2:05 p.m. PDT/5:05 p.m. EDT), the test vehicle dropped away from the balloon (as planned), and powered flight began. The balloon and test vehicle were about 120,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean at the time of the drop. The vehicle splashed down in the ocean at approximately 11:35 a.m. HST (2:35 p.m. PDT/5:35 p.m. EDT), after the engineering test flight concluded.
This test was the first of three planned for the LDSD project, developed to evaluate new landing technologies for future Mars missions. While this initial test was designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle, it also deployed two new landing technologies as a bonus. Those landing technologies will be officially tested in the next two flights, involving clones of the saucer-shaped vehicle.
Initial indications are that the vehicle successfully flew its flight test profile as planned, and deployed the two landing technologies. The first is a doughnut-shaped tube called the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD), with early indications that it deployed as expected. The second is an enormous parachute (the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute). Imagery downlinked in real-time from the test vehicle indicates that the parachute did not deploy as expected.
In order to get larger payloads to Mars, and to pave the way for future human explorers, cutting-edge technologies like LDSD are critical. Among other applications, this new space technology will enable delivery of the supplies and materials needed for long-duration missions to the Red Planet.
The upper layers of Earth's stratosphere are the most similar environment available to match the properties of the thin atmosphere of Mars. The LDSD mission developed this test method to ensure the best prospects for effective testing of the new and improved technologies.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 9.08.2014
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Ride Shotgun With NASA Saucer As It Flies to Near Space
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NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped, design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.
Carried as payload during the shakeout flight were two cutting-edge technologies scheduled to be tested next year aboard this same type of test vehicle. The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is a large, doughnut-shaped air brake that deployed during the flight, helping slow the vehicle from 3.8 to 2 times the speed of sound. The second, the Supersonic Disksail Parachute, is the largest supersonic parachute ever flown. It has more than double the area of the parachute which was used for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission that carried the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars.
"A good test is one where there are no surprises but a great test is one where you are able to learn new things, and that is certainly what we have in this case." said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Our test vehicle performed as advertised. The SIAD and ballute, which extracted the parachute, also performed beyond expectations. We also got significant insight into the fundamental physics of parachute inflation. We are literally re-writing the books on high-speed parachute operations, and we are doing it a year ahead of schedule."
Hitching a ride aboard the 7,000-pound saucer were several high-definition video cameras. The arresting imagery is providing the engineers and scientists on the LDSD project with never before seen insights into the dynamics involved with flying such a vehicle at high altitudes and Mach numbers.
"As far as I am concerned, whenever you get to ride shotgun on a rocket-powered flying saucer, it is a good day," said Clark.  "We hope the video will show everyone how beautiful and awesome the test was, and to just to give folks an insight into what experimental flight test is all about."
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Moments into its powered flight, the LDSD test vehicle captured this image of the balloon which carried it to high altitudes. The image was taken by one of the saucer-shaped test vehicle's high-resolution cameras.
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The test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is seen here before and after the balloon that helped carry it to near-space was deflated.
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Moments into its powered flight, the LDSD test vehicle captured this image of the balloon which carried it to high altitudes. The image was taken by one of the saucer-shaped test vehicle's high-resolution cameras.
Quelle: NASA

Tags: Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) 

2789 Views

Freitag, 8. August 2014 - 21:54 Uhr

Astronomie - Weiße Zwerge Kollision mit Neutronensterne erklären einsame Supernovae......

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A research team led by astronomers and astrophysicists at the University of Warwick have found that some of the Universe’s loneliest supernovae are likely created by the collisions of white dwarf stars into neutron stars.
Dr Joseph Lyman from the University of Warwick is the lead researcher on the paper, The progenitors of calcium-rich transients are not formed in situ, published today by the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (and can be read here).
“Our paper examines so-called `calcium-rich' transients” says Dr Lyman. “These are LUMINOUSexplosions that last on the timescales of weeks, however, they're not as bright and don't last as long as traditional supernovae, which makes them difficult to discover and study in detail”.
Previous studies had shown that calcium comprised up to half of the material thrown off in such explosions compared to only a tiny fraction in normal supernovae. This means that these curious EVENTS may actually be the dominant producers of calcium in our universe.
“One of the weirdest aspects is that they seem to explode in unusual places. For example, if you look at a galaxy, you expect any explosions to roughly be in line with the underlying light you see from that galaxy, since that is where the stars are” comments Dr Lyman. “However, a large fraction of these are exploding at huge distances from their galaxies, where the number of STELLAR systems is miniscule.
“What we address in the paper is whether there are any systems underneath where these transients have exploded, for example there could be very faint dwarf galaxies there, explaining the weird locations. We present observations, going just about as faint as you can go, to show there is in fact nothing at the location of these transients - so the question becomes, how did they get there?”
Calcium-rich transients observed TO DATE can be seen tens of thousands of parsecs away from any potential host galaxy, with a third of these events at least 65 thousand light years from a potential host galaxy.
The researchers used the Very Large TELESCOPE in Chile and Hubble Space Telescope observations of the nearest examples of these calcium rich transients to attempt to detect anything left behind or in the surrounding area of the explosion.
The deep observations taken allowed them to rule out the presence of faint dwarf galaxies or globular star clusters at the locations of these nearest examples. Furthermore, an explanation for core-collapse supernovae, which calcium-rich transients resemble, although fainter, is the collapse of a massive star in a BINARY system where material is stripped from the massive star undergoing collapse. The researchers found no evidence for a surviving binary companion or other massive stars in the vicinity, allowing them to reject massive stars as the progenitors of calcium rich transients.
Professor Andrew Levan from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics and a researcher on the paper said:
“It was increasingly looking like hypervelocity massive stars could not explain the locations of these supernovae. They must be lower mass longer lived stars, but still in some sort of BINARY systems as there is no known way that a single low mass star can go supernova by itself, or create an event that would look like a supernova.”
The researchers then compared their data to what is known about short-duration gamma ray bursts (SGRBs). These are also often seen to explode in remote locations with no coincident galaxy detected. SGRBs are understood to occur when two neutron stars collide, or when a neutron star merges with a black hole – this has been BACKED UP by the detection of a 'kilonova' accompanying a SGRB thanks to work led by Professor Nial Tanvir, a collaborator on this study. Although neutron star and black hole mergers would not explain these brighter calcium rich transients, the research team considered that if the collision was instead between a white dwarf star and neutron star, it would fit their observations and analysis as it:
· Would provide enough energy to generate the luminosity of CALCIUM rich transients.
· The presence of a white dwarf would provide a mechanism to produce calcium rich material.
· The presence of the Neutron star could explain why this BINARY star system was found so far from a host galaxy.
Dr Lyman said:
“What we therefore propose is these are systems that have been ejected from their galaxy. A good candidate in this scenario is a white dwarf and a neutron star in a binary system. The neutron star is formed when a massive star goes supernova. The mechanism of the supernova explosion causes the neutron star to be `kicked' to very high velocities (100s of km/s). This high velocity system can then escape its galaxy, and if the binary system survives the kick, the white dwarf and neutron star will merge causing the explosive transient.”
The researchers note that such merging systems of white dwarfs and neutron stars are postulated to produce high energy gamma-ray bursts, motivating further observations of any new examples of calcium rich transients to confirm this. Additionally, such merging systems will contribute significant sources of gravitational waves, potentially detectable by upcoming experiments that will shed further light on the nature of these exotic systems.
R.P. Church and M.B. Davies of the Lund University Observatory, Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics and N.R.Tanvir of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester made significant contributions to the work in addition to the University of Warwick researchers.
Quelle:The University of Warwick 

2248 Views

Freitag, 8. August 2014 - 08:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Raumschiff ORION Update-2

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Orion Space Capsule gears up for tests at NASA Langley

Test for Orion are taking place at NASA Langley. (March 17, 2014)

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Hampton, Va. – NASA scientists are working to get humans back in space.  But before an astronaut can be sent on a mission, a lot of testing has to be performed on a spacecraft to make sure the vehicle is safe.
A mock-up of NASA’s Orion spacecraft recently made a trip from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton.  In the coming months, scientists will test the Orion’s crew module, which will give engineers insight into how the capsule performs under ocean and landing conditions.
“The Orion Project is our next big spacecraft that will be able to take us to deep space,” said Carrie Rhoades, SPLASH Chief Engineer at NASA Langley.
Although the full-sized test version crew module at NASA Langley will not be traveling to space, the testing done to the module will help researchers develop a safe spacecraft similar to it, that will one day in the future take astronauts to destinations never explored before.
“We want to make sure we put people up and bring them back safely,” said Rhoades.
NASA researchers will conduct static and water impact loads evaluations on the module at NASA Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility.  The tests will simulate water landing scenarios for different velocities, parachute deployments, wave heights and wind conditions – conditions the spacecraft may encounter when it lands in the Pacific Ocean after a space mission.
“This is a huge deal to be able to test something this important to the space program because if we go out to Mars and everything, it would just be terrible to have a failure on the end as we’re coming back landing,” said Richard Boitnott, test engineer for the Orion Project.
The Orion is scheduled to go on its first test flight this September, traveling 3,600 miles above the Earth, reentering the atmosphere at 20,000 mph, with temperatures close to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although no humans will be on board the test flight, the capsule – the size of an SUV – can hold four astronauts on a real mission.
“People don’t even realize that certain things they use daily come from the space program, and we’re continually developing new things that get used out in the regular world,” said Rhoades.
If the Orion test flight goes well, the first full-scaled non-human flight is slated for 2017 – the next generation spacecraft that could take astronauts to Mars in the future.
Quelle: NewsChannel3
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Update: 18.03.2014
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Orion test launch slips to December

NASA today showed off recently arrived boosters that will help launch its Orion crew exploration capsule into space for the first time, hopefully before the end of this year.
The planned launch of an uncrewed Orion atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy has slipped from September to December, allowing an Air Force satellite to precede the Orion mission, also on a Delta IV rocket.
"I assure you that Orion is going to be ready to go on time," said KSC Director Bob Cabana in the horizontal integration facility near Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Behind Cabana were the first two of the Delta IV Heavy's three core boosters that will be used for the mission called Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1.
The mission will send Orion on two orbits reaching as far as 3,600 miles above Earth to set up a high-speed reentry through the atmosphere — about 85 percent of a lunar return's velocity -- and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Quelle: Florida Today
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Orion spacecraft on schedule for 2014 test flight

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Channel 9 was given an up-close look at NASA's Orion spacecraft, which will make its first trip to space in December.
The next-generation spacecraft will have its first unmanned test flight by the end of 2014. Brevard County reporter Melonie Holt got a first look at the powerful rocket boosters that will carry Orion into space.
"We're excited about this mission. We talk about the stepping stones to getting to Mars and for us this EFT mission is so important to us," NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said.
The boosters are being held in the Horizontal Integration Facility.
"There's a lot of thrust needed to support this very important mission," Tony Taliancich, with United Launch Alliance, said.
An exploration test flight was pushed back to December to accommodate a pair of Air Force launches earlier in the year. But Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said Orion will be ready by its original September launch window.
"It's going to be complete on time. These guys are working seven days a week. That vehicle is going to roll out of there a complete spacecraft," Cabana said.
During the test flight, Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space and orbit the Earth twice. The capsule will re-enter Earth's atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 miles per hour, generating temperatures as high as 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
"Crews are going to fly in this capsule in 2017. It's just an exciting time for us at the agency," Cabana said.
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Quelle: WFTV
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NASA delays Orion space capsule's first test

Crews roll out NASA's Orion space capsule in this undated photo. The space agency announced March 14 they were delaying the capsule's first test until December. (PHOTO/NASA, File)

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CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION -- 
A test of NASA's next generation spacecraft, designed to take humans to an asteroid or Mars, is being delayed.
The space agency announced that it’s delaying the first test of the Orion space capsule until December.
The U.S. Air Force is bumping Orion’s September launch, so that it can send two national priority payloads to space first.
“We support our customers’ requirements,” said Tony Taliancich, with United Launch Alliance, the maker of the Delta IV rocket. “We provide a lot of options, those options for this particular situation were provided to both the Air Force and NASA and this is the order they chose.”
Two of the three boosters arrived earlier this month at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where United Launch Alliance will assemble the Delta IV rocket.
Nearby, teams at Kennedy Space Center are working 7 days a week to get Orion ready for launch.
Orion and the Delta IV rocket will now launch for Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) in December.
The Orion capsule will be launched 3,600 miles into space, traveling 15 times father than the International Space Station.
This first mission will be unmanned, but it will test Orion’s electronic systems, the heat shield and its parachute before splashing down in the Pacific.
“We’re excited about this mission,” said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “You know, we talk about the stepping stones getting to Mars that we’re trying to do here as an agency, and for us this EFT-1 test is so important for us.”
 
Orion is expected to be launched on NASA’s new heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, in 2017.
The first manned Orion mission won’t happen until 2021, when NASA wants to send humans to an asteroid.
NASA is hoping a Mars mission will happen in the 2030s.
Quelle: NEWS13
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Update: 8.04.2014
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Orion Avionics System Ready for First Test Flight
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DENVER, Apr. 7, 2014 – Testing of the Orion spacecraft’s avionics system has concluded at the Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] Operations & Checkout facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After powering on and sending commands to more than 20 different critical systems installed on the spacecraft’s crew module, NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers have verified the avionics for Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) are ready to support a successful flight and re-entry of the spacecraft.
Following the initial power on of the Vehicle Main Computer in October, engineers have since methodically installed additional harnessing, wiring and electronics onto the crew module—completing the avionics system that serves as the eyes, ears and brains of the spacecraft. During these tests, engineers one-by-one activated and sent commands to the pyrotechnics, batteries, thermal control, cameras, guidance and navigation, propulsion, and environmental control life support systems, all while evaluating signal quality, on-board system responses, and data production.
“Each and every one of these systems is critical to mission success and they must perform flawlessly to ensure the safety of future crews,” said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin Orion program manager. “Now that we’ve finished functional testing, the team will conduct performance testing and turn on all the systems at once, simulating the spacecraft’s operations during EFT-1.”
During Orion’s test flight, the uncrewed spacecraft will launch on the Delta IV Heavy and will travel 3,600 miles beyond low Earth orbit. That same day, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. EFT-1 will provide engineers with critical data about Orion's heat shield, flight systems, and capabilities to validate designs of the spacecraft before it begins carrying humans to new destinations in deep space.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 115,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.
Quelle: Lockheed-Martin
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Update:  24.04.2014
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NASA Tests Orion’s Parachute Performance over Arizona while Work Progresses in Florida
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The team designing the parachute system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft has demonstrated almost every parachute failure they could imagine. But on April 23, they tested how the system would perform if the failure wasn’t in the parachutes.
Orion is the safest spacecraft ever built to carry humans, and its Launch Abort System can take a good deal of the credit for that distinction. In an emergency on the launch pad or during the early stages of ascent, it can activate in milliseconds to pull the crew to safety. Once it has pulled the crew away from the emergency, it’s up to the parachutes to bring them down for a safe landing.
“We hope we never have to use the parachutes this way,” said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. “We want to see them deploy after a successful mission every time. But we need to know they can perform in an emergency, too.”
In a pad abort or a low altitude launch abort, Orion’s three main parachutes would be called on to lower the crew module to the ground without the help of the two drogues that normally precede them. The parachute system won’t have as long to do the job since the spacecraft will be at much lower altitude than for a nominal reentry mission, and with the vehicle going slower, they won’t deploy as quickly. And on top of all of these factors, the crew module will be flying sideways when the parachutes deploy, instead of falling straight down as it does during reentry.
To simulate those conditions, a test version of Orion was dropped from a C-17 at 13,000 feet above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, with the main parachutes deploying soon after leaving the plane, before the capsule had a chance to straighten out. All the elements worked together and the parachutes reached a fully open state setting up a soft landing as expected. But the real value of the test will come with the data the engineers were able to gather from it.
“We wanted to record how long it took to inflate the parachutes in a launch pad abort scenario and collect data on how the different conditions affected the quality of the parachute deployment,” Johnson said. “With this test successfully completed, our next step is to dig into that information and use it to fine tune the launch abort trajectories for flight.”
In addition to the new test conditions, this was also the first time that the steel risers connecting the parachute lines to Orion were replaced with the textile risers that will be incorporated into future Orion spacecraft after Orion’s first flight this year. The new risers are lighter and more flexible – two qualities that will come in particularly handy when Orion is ready to carry humans into space.
While engineers continue to test Orion's parachutes for future missions, engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida continue to make progress on the Orion spacecraft being prepared for its December trip to space. Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay, the crew module is positioned on a special portable test chamber for multi-point random vibration testing. Accelerometers and strain gauges have been attached to Orion in various locations. During a series of tests, each lasting only 30 seconds, Orion is being subjected to gradually increasing levels of vibrations that simulate levels the vehicle will experience during launch, orbit and descent. The data will be reviewed to assess the health of the crew module. 
Orion’s first flight will launch an uncrewed capsule 3,600 miles into space for a four-hour mission to test several of its most critical systems, including its parachutes. After making two orbits, Orion will return to Earth at almost 20,000 miles per hour and endure temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before its parachutes slow it down for a landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 21.05.2014
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NASA MAY BRING ORION'S TEST FLIGHT FORWARD

Sen—The maiden flight of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft could be brought forward to September, Administrator Charles Bolden has told Sen in an exclusive interview.
The unmanned mission, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), is currently scheduled for December this year.
It was put back three months from the original target date to make way for the launch of military surveilance satellites for the US Air Force.
But speaking exclusively to Sen blogger Ken Kremer, former astronaut Bolden revealed that the original launch slot could be reinstated and NASA was keeping all options open.
The team of engineers and scientists are working to have the spacecraft in place to launch in September, whatever date is finally picked. “The vehicle will be ready to fly in September,” Bolden told Sen.
The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle will be blasted into space on its test flight atop America’s most powerful rocket, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy.
It will fly further from Earth than any spacecraft designed for humans since the end of the Apollo programme, reaching a distance of 5,800 km (3,600 miles). An important part of the mission will be to test Orion’s heat shield when the capsule re-enters the atmosphere at a speed of around 32,000 kilometres per hour (20,000 mph).
Ken talked with Bolden, who flew four times on the space shuttle, including the mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Read the full interview in Ken’s blog for Sen.: 
http://www.sen.com/ken-kremer/orion-team-keeps-options-open-for-september-launch-interview-with-nasa-administrator-bolden
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Update: 22.05.2014
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Orion In Final Assembly At Kennedy Space Center
The Orion crew module is placed in a lift fixture to prepare for the heat shield installation.
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Team Progressing Toward Exploration Flight Test-1
DENVER, May 21, 2014 –Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] and NASA engineers have started the process of installing the largest heat shield ever built onto the Orion spacecraft’s crew module. The heat shield installation marks one of the final steps in the spacecraft’s assembly leading up to its first test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), later this year.
EFT-1 will provide engineers data about the heat shield’s ability to protect the crew module from the extreme 4000-degree heat of reentry and an ocean splashdown following Orion’s 20,000 mph reentry from space. In addition, key systems such as avionics, separation events, attitude control and guidance, parachute deployment, and ground operations will be evaluated. Comprehensive data from the test flight will influence design decisions most critical to crew safety to lower risks and safely carry humans on future missions to deep space.
The team remains on schedule to complete the following milestones for the Dec. 4, 2014 launch date:
The crew module and service module will mate together and will undergo functional testing
The backshell tiles and forward bay cover will be installed onto the crew module
The crew module and service module will mate to the Delta IV Heavy second stage adapter
The spacecraft will be fueled and serviced at the Kennedy Space Center Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility
The launch abort system will be stacked on top of the spacecraft
The spacecraft will be prepped and transported to Launch Pad 37 where Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance will perform pad integration and launch operations
“This team has done a great job keeping us on track for Orion’s first test flight,” said Cleon Lacefield, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager. “That’s no easy task when you’re designing and building a unique vehicle for human exploration of deep space.”
Quelle: Lockheed Martin
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Update: 6.06.2014
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NASA's Orion Spacecraft is Ready to Feel the Heat
Engineers completed installing the heat shield on NASA’s Orion spacecraft ahead of its first trip to space in December. The flight test will send an uncrewed Orion 3,600 miles into space before returning it to Earth for the splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The heat shield will help protect the Orion crew vehicle from temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit during its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
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NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers have installed the largest heat shield ever constructed on the crew module of the agency's Orion spacecraft. The work marks a major milestone on the path toward the spacecraft's first launch in December.
"It is extremely exciting to see the heat shield in place, ready to do its job," said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The heat shield is such a critical piece, not just for this mission, but for our plans to send humans into deep space."
The heat shield is made of a coating called Avcoat, which burns away as it heats up in a process called ablation to prevent the transfer of extreme temperatures to the crew module. The Avcoat is covered with a silver reflective tape that protects the material from the extreme cold temperatures of space.
Orion’s flight test, or Exploration Flight Test-1, will provide engineers with data about the heat shield's ability to protect Orion and its future crews from the 4,000-degree heat of reentry and an ocean splashdown following the spacecraft’s 20,000-mph reentry from space.
Data gathered during the flight will inform decisions about design improvements on the heat shield and other Orion systems, and authenticate existing computer models and new approaches to space systems design and development. This process is critical to reducing overall risks and costs of future Orion missions -- missions that will include exploring an asteroid and Mars.
Orion's flight test also will provide important data for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ocean recovery of Orion. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have built an advanced adapter to connect Orion to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft during the December test. The adapter also will be used during future SLS missions. NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will recover the Orion crew module with the U.S. Navy after its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
The heat shield was manufactured at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver. Construction was completed at Textron Defense Systems near Boston before the heat shield was shipped to the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy, where Orion is being assembled.
In the coming months, the Orion crew and service modules will be joined and put through functional tests before the spacecraft is transported to Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for fueling. The spacecraft then will be transferred to the Launch Abort System (LAS) Facility to be connected to the LAS before making the journey to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 for pad integration and launch operations.
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NASA's Orion spacecraft boasts the world's largest heat shield at 16.5 feet (5 meters) in diameter. Image uploaded June 5, 2014.
Quelle: NASA
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10.06.2014
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Boeing shows off crew capsule at KSC

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Six months ago, Kennedy Space Center's former shuttle engine shop looked to Chris Ferguson like an abandoned New York City subway station.
Today, the floors and walls gleamed white and newly installed air conditioning pumped through the bays where shuttle main engines were serviced through the final mission, which Ferguson led three years ago next month.
He said his recent tweet of a photo of the refurbished site, where Boeing hopes to assemble CST-100 commercial crew capsules, received and enthusiastic and telling response.
"America wants their space program back," said Ferguson, director of crew and mission systems for Boeing's CST-100 program. "We're beginning to see the first vestiges of that, and it's good for the American public, it's good for the Florida economy."
Inside the production facility today, Boeing displayed a mockup of the capsule that the company hopes will end the gap in human spaceflight missions launched from Florida.
Coming less than two weeks after SpaceX unveiled a Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts, the event was the latest building momentum towards NASA's selection of the companies that could fly astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017.
NASA's Commercial Crew Program plans to award one or more contracts in August or September.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday he expects NASA to select multiple winners if funding next year holds close to the $805 million the Senate has proposed.
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"That's enough money for NASA to do the competition for at least two (companies), and maybe more," he said. "That of course is up to NASA as they evaluate all the proposals."
In addition to Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon, the competition includes Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser mini-shuttle.
NASA has contributed about $1.5 billion to the development of commercial crew vehicles since 2010. Boeing's roughly $600 million is the most received by any one company.
Nelson was the first to climb into one of the CST-100's five black, reclined seats, alongside two mock astronauts in orange pressure suits. Then a member of the House, Nelson flew on shuttle Columbia in January 1986.
The capsule featured an overhead panel of digital displays and switches and Samsung tablets for the crew, blue interior lighting and room to tuck small cargo bags.
"It's not going to be the space shuttle," said Ferguson. "It doesn't have the capability for 50,000 pounds of cargo. But what it brings to the table is a very safe ride to low Earth orbit for up to five American astronauts."
Boeing's formal presentation contrasted with the party-like atmosphere when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently unveiled Dragon Version 2 to a cheering crowd at the company's Southern California headquarters, shown via Webcast.
And unlike SpaceX, Boeing takes pride in the CST-100's use of proven rather than new technologies. Whereas the Dragon plans to use a futuristic precision powered landing system, the CST-100 will land on airbags.
Starting with an uncrewed test flight in January 2017, Boeing's CST-100 missions would launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.
ULA officials on Monday showed off a model of the nearly 200-foot tall access tower that would support crewed missions from Launch Complex 41. Its completion is targeted for September 2016.
Although Boeing would only fly one or two missions a year for NASA, up to six CST-100 service modules could be processed simultaneously in the former engine shop. Crew modules would be assembled in an adjacent former shuttle hangar called Orbiter Processing Facility-3, where construction continued Monday.
The facilities, also including a nearby office building, are being renovated with the help of $20 million from the state of Florida.
Boeing has not decided how to proceed if it does not win a commercial crew contract, but Space Florida is confident another company would use the facilities if Boeing does not.
If it does, Boeing has said the program could create up to 550 local jobs that would start ramping up this fall as components for a test capsule arrived.
"I have a tremendous respect for the disciplined culture, the hard working people here at the Space Coast," said John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration.
NASA once hoped to launch commercial crew missions in 2015, but funding has pushed that goal to late 2017. Russia's Soyuz spacecraft will offer the only crew access to the station until then.
Nelson encouraged NASA to try for missions sooner, but few believe the program can be accelerated at this point.
"I wish you'd target to 2016, because there is a whole bunch of us here, everyone in this audience, that wants to see Americans on American rockets, rocketing back into orbit," he said. "That can't come soon enough."
Quelle: Florida Today
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Update: 11.06.2014
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NASA's Orion Spacecraft Stacks Up for First Flight
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The Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test-1 is shown in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell, positioned over the service module just prior to mating the two sections together. The FAST cell is where the integrated crew and service modules are put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with its rocket. Technicians are in position to assist with the final alignment steps once the crew module is nearly in contact with the service module. In December, Orion will launch 3,600 miles into space in a four-hour flight to test the systems that will be critical for survival in future human missions to deep space.
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With just six months until its first trip to space, NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues taking shape at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Engineers began stacking the crew module on top of the completed service module Monday, the first step in moving the three primary Orion elements –crew module, service module and launch abort system – into the correct configuration for launch.
"Now that we're getting so close to launch, the spacecraft completion work is visible every day," said Mark Geyer, NASA's Orion Program manager. "Orion's flight test will provide us with important data that will help us test out systems and further refine the design so we can safely send humans far into the solar system to uncover new scientific discoveries on future missions."
With the crew module now in place, the engineers will secure it and make the necessary power connections between to the service module over the course of the week. Once the bolts and fluid connector between the modules are in place, the stacked spacecraft will undergo electrical, avionic and radio frequency tests.
The modules are being put together in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell in the Operations and Checkout Facility at Kennedy. Here, the integrated modules will be put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the facility for integration with the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will send it on its mission.
Orion is being prepared for its first launch later this year, an uncrewed flight that will take it 3,600 miles above Earth, in a 4.5 hour mission to test the systems critical for future human missions to deep space. After two orbits, Orion will reenter Earth’s atmosphere at almost 20,000 miles per hour before its parachute system deploys to slow the spacecraft for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Orion's flight test also will provide important data for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ocean recovery of Orion. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have built an advanced adapter to connect Orion to the Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft during the December test. The adapter also will be used during future SLS missions. NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, based at Kennedy, will recover the Orion crew module with the U.S. Navy after its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 14.06.2014
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Kennedy Space Center director says Orion capsule will launch Dec. 6, defends NASA's exploration plan

Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana speaking at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., on June 12, 2014. 
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NASA will launch its Orion capsule the first time Dec. 6, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana said in Huntsville Thursday. That's the scheduled launch date, which could slip a few days, but NASA wants to test the capsule this year to keep its Space Launch System program on track.
Cabana said the capsule will be ready for the test earlier, but NASA has given up an earlier launch date to a national security mission. In the December flight, an uncrewed Orion will lift off atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Ala., orbit the globe twice and splash down in the Pacific. NASA will be testing the capsule's control systems, heat shields and a new parachute system.
Cabana gave the timeline while delivering one of a series of "Pass the Torch" lectures on the American space program at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Thursday. NASA has mastered near-Earth missions, he said, but it needs months in the more-distant "proving zone" of deep space to develop the systems needed for the trip to Mars. Some argue for a return to the moon, but Cabana pointed to the fiscal reality.
"If you look at NASA's budget, it increases by 1 percent for the next five years," Cabana said. "That's essentially a flat budget. We have be very cool and lay out a plan that's going to eventually get us to Mars."
The proposed asteroid redirect mission, where NASA would move part or all of an asteroid to a lunar orbit where astronauts could explore for months, is that plan, Cabana said. It has been criticized as uninspiring, but Cabana said it fits the budget and will help NASA develop the skills to go farther.
Cabana indirectly acknowledged critics who say NASA's decision to build the big rocket called the Space Launch System first takes too much discretionary income in that flat budget leaving too little for everything else needed to explore. He said, "We still have to build a habitability module and a lander and so on to eventually get to Mars in the 2030s."
But Cabana said the rocket will be what gets NASA anywhere in deep space. "Some folks call it the rocket to nowhere," Cabana said. "Well, man, that's the rocket to everywhere."
Quelle: AL
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Update: 19.06.2014
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Five Things We’ll Learn from Orion’s First Flight Test

All the superlatives associated with Orion's first mission this year – farthest a spacecraft for humans has gone in 40 years, largest heat shield, safest vehicle ever built – can be dazzling, no doubt. But the reason engineers are chomping at the bit for Orion's first mission is the promise of crucial flight test data that can be applied to the design for future missions.  Orion only has two flight test opportunities before astronauts climb aboard for the first crewed mission in 2021 – so gleaning the maximum information possible from Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 in December (and later, Exploration Mission-1 in 2017) is of the highest priority. Here are the top five things the engineers will be paying attention to:
1. Launch Abort System Separation – The launch abort system (LAS) is a key reason that Orion is intended to become the safest spacecraft ever built. In an emergency it could activate to pull the crew module and the astronauts it will carry away from the launch pad and the rocket in milliseconds. Hopefully it’s never needed, and since no crew will fly on EFT-1 the rescue system won’t be active.
But even when a launch goes perfectly, the 904-pound LAS jettison motor has to perform flawlessly. If it doesn’t get rid of the LAS 6 minutes and 20 seconds into the mission, there will be no landing – the LAS protects the crew module during ascent, but to do so, it blocks the parachutes that allow Orion to safely splashdown.
The Launch Abort System separation is just the first of 17 separations or jettisons that have to happen exactly as planned for the mission to be successful.
2. Parachute Deployment – For EFT-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth so that when it performs its deorbit burn, it will come screaming back into the Earth’s atmosphere at almost 20,000 miles per hour. Before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, it needs to slow down to 1/1000th of its entry speed – a relatively gentle 20 miles per hour.
Earth’s atmosphere does its part to put on the brakes, but to make landing survivable, Orion relies on its parachute system – primarily two drogue parachutes and three massive mains that together would cover almost an entire football field. They’ve been tested on Earth; test versions of Orion have been dropped from airplanes with a multitude of failure scenarios programmed into the parachute deployment sequence in an effort to make sure that every possibly problem is accounted for.
But the sheer number of possible problems to be tested indicates how complicated the system is – each parachute must deploy at the exact right time, open to the exact right percentages in the exact right stages, and be cut away exactly as planned. And no test on Earth can exactly simulate what the spacecraft will really experience on its return from space.
3. Heat Shield Protection – Before the parachutes even get a chance to deploy, Orion has to make it safely through Earth’s atmosphere. The reason that Orion is traveling so far and coming back in so fast is to give the heat shield a good workout – the idea is to get as close as possible to the temperatures Orion would experience during a return from Mars. At the speed it will be traveling, the temperature should reach almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At that same temperature, a nuclear reactor would melt down.
Standing between the crew module and all that heat is no more than 1.6 inches of Avcoat, a material that’s designed to burn away rather than transfer the temperatures back to Orion. Some 20 percent of the Avcoat will erode during the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth, and although it’s not the first time the materials has been used for this purpose, at 16.5 feet wide, Orion’s heat shield is the largest ever built. Technicians filled with Avcoat each of the 320,000 honeycomb cells that make up the shield’s structure by hand, then machined them to the precise fractions of inches called for by the design. Getting it exactly right is all that will get Orion through one of the most dynamic periods of its mission.
4. Radiation Levels – Traveling 15 times farther into space than the International Space Station will take Orion beyond the radiation protection offered by Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. In fact, the majority of EFT-1 will take place inside the Van Allen Belts, clouds of heavy radiation that surround Earth. No spacecraft built for humans has passed through the Van Allen Belts since the Apollo missions, and even those only passed through the belts – they didn’t linger.
Future crews don’t plan to spend more time than necessary inside the Van Allen Belts, either, but long missions to deep space will expose them to more radiation than astronauts have ever dealt with before. EFT-1’s extended stay in the Van Allen Belts offers a unique opportunity to see how Orion’s shielding will hold up to it. Sensors will record the peak radiation seen during the flight, as well as radiation levels throughout the flight, which can be mapped back to geographic hot spots.
5. Computer Function – Orion’s computer is the first of its kind to be flown in space. It can process 480 million instructions per second. That’s 25 times faster than the International Space Station’s computers, 400 times faster than the space shuttle’s computers and 4,000 times faster than Apollo’s.
But to operate in space, it has to be able to handle extreme heat and cold, heavy radiation and the intense vibrations of launches, aborts and landings. And it has to operate through all of that without a single mistake. Just restarting the computer would take 15 seconds; and while that might sound lightning fast compared to your PC, you can cover a lot of ground in 15 seconds when you’re strapped to a rocket.
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The three panels or fairings encapsulating a stand-in for Orion’s service module successfully detach and fall into the Fairing Catch System during a test Nov. 6, 2013 at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
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Quelle: NASA
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Update: 25.06.2014
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Parachutes for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Hit No Snags in Most Difficult Test
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A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft descends under its three main parachutes above the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Arizona in the agency’s most difficult test of the parachutes system’s performance. NASA is preparing Orion for its first trip to space in December, a two-hour, four-orbit flight that will send an uncrewed spacecraft more than 3,600 miles into space before returning it to Earth to test the performance of many of the spacecraft’s critical systems needed to carry crew to deep space destinations in the future.
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NASA completed the most complex and flight-like test of the parachute system for the agency's Orion spacecraft on Wednesday.
A test version of Orion touched down safely in the Arizona desert after being pulled out of a C-17 aircraft, 35,000 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground. It was the first time some parachutes in the system had been tested at such a high altitude. Engineers also put additional stresses on the parachutes by allowing the test version of Orion to free fall for 10 seconds, which increased the vehicle's speed and aerodynamic pressure.
"We've put the parachutes through their paces in ground and airdrop testing in just about every conceivable way before we begin sending them into space on Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 before the year's done," said Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer. "The series of tests has proven the system and will help ensure crew and mission safety for our astronauts in the future."
After Orion's free fall, its forward bay cover parachutes deployed, pulling away the spacecraft's forward bay cover, which is critical to the rest of the system performing as needed. The forward bay cover is a protective shell that stays on the spacecraft until it has reentered Earth's atmosphere. The parachutes that slow Orion to a safe landing speed are located under the cover, so the cover must be jettisoned before they can be unfurled.
Engineers also rigged one of the main parachutes to skip the second phase of a three-phase process of unfurling each parachute, called reefing. This tested whether one of the main parachutes could go directly from opening a little to being fully open without an intermediary step, proving the system can tolerate potential failures.
The test also marked the last time the entire parachute sequence will be tested before Orion launches into space in December on its first space flight test, EFT-1. During the flight, an uncrewed Orion will travel 3,600 miles into space, farther than any spacecraft built to carry humans has been in more than 40 years. Orion will travel at the speed necessary to test many of the systems critical to NASA's ability to bring astronauts home safely from missions to deep space, including an asteroid and eventually Mars.
During its return to Earth, Orion will reach a speed of up to 20,000 mph and experience temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once Orion has made it through the atmosphere, the parachute system, with two drogue parachutes and three massive main parachutes that together cover almost an entire football field will be responsible for slowing it down to just 20 mph for a safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Orion's next parachute test is set for August and will test the combined failure of one drogue parachute and one main parachute, as well as new parachute design features. It is one of three remaining tests needed to demonstrate the system's capability for human missions, but does not need to be completed before Orion's first flight later this year.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 2.08.2014
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NASA Prepares for Second Orion Underway Recovery Test
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At the U.S. Naval Base San Diego in California, the Orion boilerplate test vehicle and support hardware are secured in the well deck of the USS Anchorage on July 29, 2014 for Underway Recovery Test 2. NASA, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy will conduct tests in the Pacific Ocean to prepare for recovery of the Orion crew module, forward bay cover and parachutes on its return from a deep space mission. The second underway recovery test will allow the teams to demonstrate and evaluate the recovery processes, procedures, new hardware and personnel in open waters. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program is conducting the underway recovery tests.
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For NASA’s new Orion spacecraft, part of getting ready for its first launch is getting ready for its first splashdown.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
After traveling 3,600 miles into space in December on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour and endure temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit before landing in the Pacific Ocean. For the team tasked with recovering it, that is where the work begins.
NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin are teaming up with the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense's Human Space Flight Support Detachment 3 to test techniques for recovering Orion from the water during Underway Recovery Test (URT) 2, Aug. 1-4, off the coast of San Diego, California.
URT 2 will pick up where URT 1 left off. During that first underway recovery test in February, dynamic conditions caused activities to conclude before all of the test objectives were met. Since then, the team has been working on concepts that would allow them to safely recover Orion despite such conditions.
"During this test, the team will investigate alternative procedures and recovery methods," said Mike Generale, Orion Recovery Operations manager and Recovery Test director at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "One of the goals of the test is to have a primary and alternate means of recovering the Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test-1 later this year."
The data gathered during Exploration Flight Test-1 will influence design decisions, validate existing computer models and innovative new approaches to space systems development, and reduce overall mission risks and costs for later Orion flights. The recovery of the vehicle is one of the things the flight will test, and the underway recovery tests prepare the combined NASA, Lockheed, and U.S. Navy team for the task.
For URT 2, the Orion test vehicle will be loaded into the well deck of the USS Anchorage (LPD 23), and the team will head out to sea, off the coast of San Diego, in search of sea conditions to support test needs. New support equipment developed for URT 2 will accompany the test vehicle.    
New hardware includes an air bag system for the Crew Module Recovery Cradle and a load-distributing collar for placement around the crew module. The Prototype Laboratory at Kennedy designed a new device called the Line Load Attenuation Mechanical Assembly (LLAMA) that limits the tending-line forces for the Navy line handlers as Orion is guided into the ship's well deck.
Tending line snubbers, a kind of commercially available rubber shock absorbers sailors use for tending lines, also will be tested. In case the seas are too rough to secure the crew module in the recovery cradle and a contingency recovery is needed, a set of rubber bumpers were developed to provide a mat on the deck of the recovery ship for use. A lifting sling will be on hand for recovery by crane.
"Each of the new pieces of hardware will be evaluated for its relative merits, and the best solutions will be tested during URT 3 in September to discover the limits of their capabilities and suitability for Orion's Exploration Flight Test-1 in December," Generale said.
All of this testing ensures NASA can retrieve the Orion capsule safely because it helps the team understand how to adjust for various water conditions and contingency scenarios.
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At the U.S. Naval Base San Diego in California, the Orion boilerplate test vehicle and support hardware are loaded in the well deck of the USS Anchorage on July 29, 2014 for Underway Recovery Test 2.
All the superlatives associated with Orion's first mission this year – farthest a spacecraft for humans has gone in 40 years, largest heat shield, safest vehicle ever built – can be dazzling, no doubt. But the reason engineers are chomping at the bit for Orion's first mission is the promise of crucial flight test data that can be applied to the design for future missions.  Orion only has two flight test opportunities before astronauts climb aboard for the first crewed mission in 2021 – so gleaning the maximum information possible from Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 in December (and later, Exploration Mission-1 in 2017) is of the highest priority. Here are the top five things the engineers will be paying attention to:
1. Launch Abort System Separation – The launch abort system (LAS) is a key reason that Orion is intended to become the safest spacecraft ever built. In an emergency it could activate to pull the crew module and the astronauts it will carry away from the launch pad and the rocket in milliseconds. Hopefully it’s never needed, and since no crew will fly on EFT-1 the rescue system won’t be active.
But even when a launch goes perfectly, the 904-pound LAS jettison motor has to perform flawlessly. If it doesn’t get rid of the LAS 6 minutes and 20 seconds into the mission, there will be no landing – the LAS protects the crew module during ascent, but to do so, it blocks the parachutes that allow Orion to safely splashdown.
The Launch Abort System separation is just the first of 17 separations or jettisons that have to happen exactly as planned for the mission to be successful.
2. Parachute Deployment – For EFT-1, Orion will travel 3,600 miles above the Earth so that when it performs its deorbit burn, it will come screaming back into the Earth’s atmosphere at almost 20,000 miles per hour. Before it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, it needs to slow down to 1/1000th of its entry speed – a relatively gentle 20 miles per hour.
Earth’s atmosphere does its part to put on the brakes, but to make landing survivable, Orion relies on its parachute system – primarily two drogue parachutes and three massive mains that together would cover almost an entire football field. They’ve been tested on Earth; test versions of Orion have been dropped from airplanes with a multitude of failure scenarios programmed into the parachute deployment sequence in an effort to make sure that every possibly problem is accounted for.
But the sheer number of possible problems to be tested indicates how complicated the system is – each parachute must deploy at the exact right time, open to the exact right percentages in the exact right stages, and be cut away exactly as planned. And no test on Earth can exactly simulate what the spacecraft will really experience on its return from space.
3. Heat Shield Protection – Before the parachutes even get a chance to deploy, Orion has to make it safely through Earth’s atmosphere. The reason that Orion is traveling so far and coming back in so fast is to give the heat shield a good workout – the idea is to get as close as possible to the temperatures Orion would experience during a return from Mars. At the speed it will be traveling, the temperature should reach almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At that same temperature, a nuclear reactor would melt down.
Standing between the crew module and all that heat is no more than 1.6 inches of Avcoat, a material that’s designed to burn away rather than transfer the temperatures back to Orion. Some 20 percent of the Avcoat will erode during the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth, and although it’s not the first time the materials has been used for this purpose, at 16.5 feet wide, Orion’s heat shield is the largest ever built. Technicians filled with Avcoat each of the 320,000 honeycomb cells that make up the shield’s structure by hand, then machined them to the precise fractions of inches called for by the design. Getting it exactly right is all that will get Orion through one of the most dynamic periods of its mission.
4. Radiation Levels – Traveling 15 times farther into space than the International Space Station will take Orion beyond the radiation protection offered by Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. In fact, the majority of EFT-1 will take place inside the Van Allen Belts, clouds of heavy radiation that surround Earth. No spacecraft built for humans has passed through the Van Allen Belts since the Apollo missions, and even those only passed through the belts – they didn’t linger.
Future crews don’t plan to spend more time than necessary inside the Van Allen Belts, either, but long missions to deep space will expose them to more radiation than astronauts have ever dealt with before. EFT-1’s extended stay in the Van Allen Belts offers a unique opportunity to see how Orion’s shielding will hold up to it. Sensors will record the peak radiation seen during the flight, as well as radiation levels throughout the flight, which can be mapped back to geographic hot spots.
5. Computer Function – Orion’s computer is the first of its kind to be flown in space. It can process 480 million instructions per second. That’s 25 times faster than the International Space Station’s computers, 400 times faster than the space shuttle’s computers and 4,000 times faster than Apollo’s.
But to operate in space, it has to be able to handle extreme heat and cold, heavy radiation and the intense vibrations of launches, aborts and landings. And it has to operate through all of that without a single mistake. Just restarting the computer would take 15 seconds; and while that might sound lightning fast compared to your PC, you can cover a lot of ground in 15 seconds when you’re strapped to a rocket.
Quelle: NASA
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Update: 8.08.2014
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NASA, Navy Prepare for Orion Spacecraft to Make a Splash
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U.S. Navy personnel use a rigid hull inflatable boat to approach the Orion boilerplate test article during an evolution of the Underway Recovery Test 2 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego, California on Aug. 2, 2014.
Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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A team of technicians, engineers, sailors and divers just wrapped up a successful week of testing and preparing for various scenarios that could play out when NASA's new Orion spacecraft splashes into the Pacific Ocean following its first space flight test in December.
After enduring the extreme environment of space, Orion will blaze back through Earth's atmosphere at speeds near 20,000 mph and temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its inaugural journey will end in the Pacific, off the Southern California coast, where a U.S. Navy ship will be waiting to retrieve it and return it to shore.
"We learned a lot about our hardware, gathered good data, and the test objectives were achieved,” said Mike Generale, NASA recovery operations manager in the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program. “We were able to put Orion out to sea and safely bring it back multiple times. We are ready to move on to the next step of our testing with a full dress rehearsal landing simulation on the next test."
NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin teamed up with the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department's Human Space Flight Support Detachment 3 to try different techniques for recovering the 20,500-pound spacecraft safely during this second "underway recovery test." To address some of the lessons learned from the first recovery test in February, the team brought new hardware to test and tested a secondary recovery method that employs an onboard crane to recover Orion, as an alt

Tags: SLS Orion-Raumschiff 

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Donnerstag, 7. August 2014 - 13:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ESA-Sonde Rosetta Ankunft bei Komet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko - Update2

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1.08.2014

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Rosetta-Kamera sieht immer mehr von Ziel-Kometen

On course for an historic rendezvous next week, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is revealing new details of the oddball comet the probe has pursued for more than a decade.
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The nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimernko as seen from a distance of 1,950 kilometers on July 29, 2014. One pixel corresponds to approximately 37 meters. The bright neck region between the comet's head and body is becoming more and more distinct.
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New images released by scientists Thursday show the coma surrounding comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, revealing the CLOUD of dust and gas around the tiny unexplored world.
The images from Rosetta's OSIRIS camera system also provide a sharper view of the comet's nucleus, which appears to be formed of two distinct lobes merged along a brightly colored saddle.
Scientists programmed Rosetta's wide-angle camera to image the comet's coma with a 330-second exposure, bringing out subtle sunlight reflected from the minuscule particles of dust and gas stretching hundreds of kilometers from the nucleus.
"Even though it sounds like a contradiction, imaging the comet's coma from nearby is more difficult than from far away," said Holger Sierks, the OSIRIS camera's lead scientist from the Max Planck Institute for SOLAR SYSTEMResearch in Germany.
Rosetta detected the comet -- known by the abbreviated name 67P/C-G -- putting off dust this spring. The coma will become more pronounced as the comet comes closer to the sun, with its closest approach expected in August 2015.
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The coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen with OSIRIS covers an area of 150 kilometers across. This image was taken on July 25, 2014, with an exposure time of 330 seconds. The hazy circular structure on the right and the center of the coma are artifacts due to overexposure of the nucleus.
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Rosetta will arrive within 100 kilometers, or about 62 miles, of the comet Aug. 6. A minor rocket burn will put the probe in an unstable orbit around 67P/C-G, making Rosetta the first spacecraft to ever accomplish a controlled low-speed rendezvous with a comet.
As of Thursday, officials said Rosetta was less than 900 miles from the comet.
Imagery from Rosetta indicates the comet spins around once every 12.4 hours, according to scientists.
ESA plans to release the first close-up view the comet during a special event to celebrate the Aug. 6 rendezvous at Rosetta's control center in Darmstadt, Germany.
By September, scientists hope to identify a prime landing site for Philae, a small craft riding piggyback on Rosetta that will descend to the comet's surface in November.
Quelle: SN
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Komet Churyumov-Gerasimenkos Oberfläche - zu heiß für Eis

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Was auf der Erde für Kälterekorde steht, ist für einen Kometen aus Staub und Eis noch längst nicht der Tiefpunkt: Gerade einmal minus 70 Grad Celsius haben die Wissenschaftler des Instruments VIRTIS als durchschnittliche Temperatur für den Kometen Churymov-Gerasimenko gemessen, auf dem im November 2014 das Landegerät Philae unter Leitung des Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) aufsetzen soll. "Bei dieser Temperatur ist die Oberfläche des Kometen nicht vollständig mit einer Eisschicht bedeckt, sondern mit einem dunklen, staubigen Material", sagt DLR-Planetenforscherin Dr. Gabriele Arnold, die die deutschen wissenschaftlichen Beiträge zu diesem Experiment leitet. Gemessen wurde die Temperatur von der ESA-Sonde Rosetta aus, die am 6. August 2014 am Kometen ankommt.
Die Untersuchungen des Kometenkerns mit dem visuell-INFRAROTEN Spektrometer VIRTIS fingen im Juli dieses Jahres an. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt waren Sonde und Instrument noch zwischen 14.000 und 5000 Kilometer vom Zielkometen entfernt und so füllt der Komet nur wenige Pixel des Bildes aus. "Die Temperatur repräsentiert deshalb einen Mittelwert über die sichtbare Kometenoberfläche." Einzelne Regionen werden dabei nicht im Detail erfasst und können durchaus mit Eis bedeckt sein. Mit dem Durchschnittswert von minus 70 Grad Celsius liegt die Temperatur 20 bis 30 Grad über dem Wert, bei dem ein Komet komplett mit Eis bedeckt wäre. Die Wissenschaftler des VIRTIS-Teams gehen deshalb davon aus, dass die Oberfläche zum großen Teil mit einer Kruste aus dunklem, Staub bedeckt ist, die vom Sonnenlicht erwärmt wird und diese Energie im infraroten Wellenlängenbereich wieder abstrahlt. DLR-Kometenforscher Dr. Ekkehard Kührt, der ebenfalls an VIRTIS beteiligt ist, schlussfolgert aus ersten Modellrechnungen: "Die relativ hohen Temperaturen legen nahe, dass die staubige Oberfläche sehr rau sein muss".
Informationen für die Auswahl des Landeplatzes
"Mit der weiteren Annäherung der Rosetta-Sonde an den Kometen werden von nun an kontinuierlich räumlich immer höher aufgelöste Bilder und die entsprechenden Spektren aufgezeichnet", erläutert Dr. Gabriele Arnold. Dies wird es den Wissenschaftlern ermöglichen, die Feinstruktur der Oberfläche des Kerns, seine Zusammensetzung sowie physikalische Parameter wie Temperatur und thermische Trägheit des Oberflächenmaterials zu untersuchen. Spannend wird es dann vor ALLEM, wenn Rosetta mit dem Instrument VIRTIS an Bord den Kometen auf seinem Weg zur Sonne begleitet - noch ist der Komet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 543 Millionen Kilometer von der Sonne entfernt. Dann soll VIRTIS die Zusammensetzung des Kerns und die täglichen Veränderungen der Oberflächentemperatur in ausgewählten Regionen messen, um den Kometen und seinen Aufbau besser zu verstehen. VIRTIS wird Informationen über die thermalen Bedingungen und die stoffliche Struktur geeigneter Landeplätze liefern und gemeinsam mit anderen Instrumenten helfen, den besten Landeplatz auszuwählen.
Die Mission
ROSETTA ist eine Mission der ESA mit Beiträgen von ihren Mitgliedsstaaten und der der NASA. Rosettas Lander Philae wird von einem Konsortium unter der Leitung von DLR, MPS, CNES und ASI beigesteuert.
VIRTIS (Visible, InfraRed and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) ist das visuell-infrarote Spektrometer an Bord der ESA-Sonde Rosetta. Es wird Informationen zur Zusammensetzung des Kometenkerns liefern und die Verteilung des Materials an der Oberfläche sowie der Gase und Moleküle in der Koma kartieren. VIRTIS wurde von einem Konsortium unter der wissenschaftlichen Leitung des Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali of INAF in Rom (Italien) gebaut, das auch den wissenschaftlichen Betrieb leitet. Zum Konsortium gehören das Laboratoire d’Études Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique of the Observatoire in Paris (Frankreich) und das Institut für Planetenforschung des DLR (Deutschland). Die Entwicklung des Instruments wurde gefördert und koordiniert durch die nationalen Raumfahrtagenturen: Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI, Italien), Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES, Frankreich) und des Deutschen Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, Deutschland).
Quelle: DLR
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Update: 2.08.2014
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Rosetta Closing in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after Decade Long Chase
ESA’s Rosetta Spacecraft nears final approach to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in late July 2014. This collage of imagery from Rosetta combines Navcam camera images at right taken nearing final approach from July 25 to July 31, 2014, with OSIRIS wide angle camera image at left of comet’s coma on July 25 from a distance of around 3000 km. On July 31 Rosetta had approached to within 1327 km. Images to scale and contrast enhanced to show further detail. CREDIT: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM/OSIRIS/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Collage/Processing: Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer
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The European Space Agency’s (ESA) ROSETTA spacecraft is at last rapidly closing in on its target destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after a decade long chase of 6.4 billion kilometers through interplanetary space. See imagery above and below.
As of today, Friday, August 1, ESA REPORTS that Rosetta has approached the ‘rubber ducky looking’ comet to within a distance of less than 1153 kilometers. That distance narrows with each passing moment as the speeding robotic probe moves closer and closer to the comet while looping around the sun at about 55,000 kilometers per hour (kph).
Rosetta is now just 5 days away from becoming Earth’s first probe ever to rendezvous and enter ORBIT around a comet.
See above our IMAGE collage of Rosetta nearing final approach with the spacecrafts most recent daily Navcam camera images, all taken within the past week starting on July 25 and including up to the most recently release image snapped on July 31. The navcam images are all to scale to give the sense of the spacecraft approaching the comet and revealing ever greater detail as it grows in apparent size in the cameras field of view.
The highest resolution navcam image yet of the two lobed comet – merged at a bright band – was taken on July 31 from a distance of 1327 kilometers and published within the past few hours by ESA today, Aug 1. It shows the best view yet of the surface features of the mysterious bright necked wanderer composed of primordial ice, rock, dust and more.
The Navcam collage is combined with an OSIRIS (OPTICAL, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) wide angle camera view of the comet and its asymmetric coma of ice and dust snapped on July 25 from a distance of around 3000 km, and with an exposure time of 300 seconds. The OSIRIS image covers an area of about 150 x 150 km (90 mi x 90 mi). The images have been contrast enhanced to bring out more detail.
Scientists speculate that the comets bright neck region could be caused by differences in material or grain size or topological effects.
Rosetta’s history making orbital feat is slated for Aug. 6 following the final short duration ORBIT insertion burns on Aug. 3 and Aug. 6 to place Rosetta into orbit at an altitude of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) where it will study and map the 4 kilometer wide comet for some 17 months.
The comet rotates around once every 12.7 hours.
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“If any glitches in space or on ground had delayed the most recent burns, orbital mechanics dictate that we’d only have had a matter of a few days to fix the problem, re-plan the burn and carry it out, otherwise we run the risk of missing the comet,” says Trevor Morley, a flight dynamics specialist at ESOC.
In November 2014 the Rosetta mothership will deploy the Philae science lander for the first ever attempt to land on a comet’s nucleus using harpoons to anchor itself to the surface.
As Rosetta edges closer on its final lap, engineers at mission control at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany have commanded the probes navigation camera (navcam) to capture daily images while the other science instruments also collect measurements analyzing the comets physical characteristics and chemical composition in detail.
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The probe has already discovered that the comet’s surface temperature is surprisingly warm at –70ºC, which is some 20–30ºC warmer than predicted. This indicates the surface is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust, says ESA.
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a short period comet some 555 million kilometres from the Sun at this time, about three times further away than Earth and located between the ORBITS of Jupiter and Mars.
You can watch the Aug. 6 orbital arrival live via a livestream TRANSMISSION from ESA’s spacecraft operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
While you were reading this the gap between the comet and ROSETTA closed to less than 1000 kilometers!
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Quelle: UT
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Update: 3.08.2014
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COMET AT 1000 KM
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ROSETTA sees the comet just five days before arrival.
This image was acquired 1 August at 04:48 CEST (02:48 UTC) by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera on board ESA's Rosetta spacecraft. The distance was approximately 1000 km. Note that the dark spot is an artefact from the onboard CCD.
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OSIRIS narrow angle camera view of 67P/C-G from a distance of 1000 km on 1 August 2014.
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If this IMAGE is rotated approximately 150 degrees, the orientation of the comet is pretty close to that of the 1 August NAVCAM image (distance 1026 km), and thus the two images from the two cameras can be directly compared. NOTE that, similar to the dark spot artefact in this OSIRIS image, the 1 August NAVCAM image displays white/black artefact spots.
A nice update on a hot Saturday just four days before arrival – time to really get excited!
Quelle: ESA
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Here's comet #67P from a distance of about 500 km with my NAVCAM yesterday
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Crop from the 2 August processed image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. CREDITS: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM
Quelle: ESA

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Update: 4.08.2014
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WHAT’S HAPPENING IN ROSETTA MISSION CONTROL TODAY
Yesterday’s ORBIT correction manoeuvre (OCM) – dubbed CATP for ‘Close Approach Trajectory – pre-Insertion’ – went off without problems, delivering the desired 3.2 m/s of speed decrease.
We now have just one final burn of around 1 m/s that will slow Rosetta and kick it onto the first of the comet orbit arcs (see video below). This will take place on Wednesday, which will also be celebrated as the official ‘arrival day’ at ESOC with a formal programme and media briefing (you can follow via webcast).
The Rosetta FLIGHT Control Team (FCT) are very busy, as today marks the first day in a new weekly work cycle that will see thruster burns taking place on Wed/Sun well into 2015.
Rosetta will, follow, at least for now, a three-legged triangular orbit that requires a small thruster burn at each APEX. The legs are about 100 km long and it will take Rosetta between three and four days to complete each one.
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Under the new cycle, for the Wednesday burn, Mondays will be the planning day (for Sunday burns, it will be Thursday). Planning day means an intense round of activity not only for the FCT, but also for the FLIGHT dynamics teams.
Late in the day, by 20:00CEST, flight dynamics will deliver all their PRODUCTS required for the coming cycle (based on their analysis of the resulting orbit and the preceding burns) to the FCT, who will merge this with other products (including instrument activities coming from the Rosetta Science Operations Centre at ESAC – see comment at end), make sure all activities are conflict free and generate the stack of commands that must be uploaded to carry it all out.
The FCT are also busy generating plans and data related to the ground stations and other systems used to control Rosetta. This involves a great deal of checking, cross-checking and time-line updating, as WELL as resolving any conflicts that are found.
To get an idea of how TIGHT the schedule is, note that the set of commands on board Rosetta now expire at 12:00 CEST Tuesday, 5 August. In other words, if nothing else is done, Rosetta would run out of instructions tomorrow at lunch time!
So, the next set of commands, including the Wednesday burn commands, must be readied and then uploaded tonight overnight.
This next set will cover the timeframe 12:00 CEST Tuesday to 12:00 CEST Friday. The CYCLE then repeats for the Sunday burn.
And this very brief description relates only to the FCT activities; in parallel, the ROSETTA Science Operations Centre at ESAC must also generate a complex set of instructions for the instruments, which also must be planned and uploaded on a very tight schedule.
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Quelle: ESA
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Update: 18.00 MESZ
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COMETWATCH – 3 AUGUST
ROSETTA navigation camera (NAVCAM) image taken on 3 August 2014 at about 300 km from comet 67P/C-G. The Sun is towards the bottom of the image in the depicted orientation. 
The window size for today's sub-image is 400 x 400 pixels and the FACTOR for scaling up and interpolation is 2. The contrast adjustment is no longer applied since the shadows provide enough contrast now.
Like yesterday, we also show today for comparison both the crop of the interpolated and non-interpolated versions.
This view certainly shows off yet more of the comet's interesting surface!
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Full-frame NAVCAM image taken on 3 August 2014 from a distance of about 300 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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Crop from the 3 August processed image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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Crop from the 3 August image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Quelle: ESA

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Update: 5.08.2014
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COMETWATCH – 4 AUGUST
Rosetta navigation camera (NAVCAM) image taken on 4 August 2014 at about 234 km from comet 67P/C-G.
As you can see, the comet is not centred in the full-frame image. This is a result of the rendezvous burn conducted the previous day, which adjusted Rosetta's trajectory towards the comet. This effect is corrected for in the commands sent to the spacecraft after the new orbit has been determined.
The window size for today's sub-image is 400 x 400 pixels and the factor for scaling up and interpolation is 2 (like yesterday). 
From tomorrow the nucleus should be large enough to provide the full-frame image only!
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Full-frame NAVCAM image taken on 4 August 2014 from a distance of about 234 km from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Crop from the 4 August processed image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Quelle: ESA
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Update: 21.40 MESZ
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Orbit entry timeline

A timeline of the most crucial steps leading to ROSETTA’s arrival at its target comet on Wednesday. Mission operations and science teams at ESA and scientists from multiple countries will be following progress closely.

After completing a complex series of nine ORBITAL manoeuvres since the end of hibernation on 20 January, Rosetta is finally in position to rendezvous with the comet.

Orbit entry will take place on 6 August, and will be triggered by a small but crucial thruster firing lasting just 6 min 26 sec, starting at 09:00 GMT (11:00 CEST). The commands were uploaded during the night of 4 August.

This burn will tip Rosetta into the first leg of a series of three-legged triangular paths about the comet. The legs will be about 100 km long and it will take Rosetta between three and four days to complete each one.

Orbit entry timeline

5 August

 
GMT/CEST EVENT Details
08:04/10:04 BoT New Norcia tracking station ESA 35 m station, Australia
19:41/21:41 EoT New Norcia tracking station  
20:00/22:00 BoT DSS-63 tracking station NASA 70 m station Madrid

 

6 August

 
GMT/CEST Event Details
00:05/02:05 EoT DSS-63  
00:10/02:10 BoT Malargüe tracking station ESA 35 m station, Argentina
02:41/04:41 EoT Malargüe  
02:50/04:50 BoT DSS-15 NASA 34 m station, Goldstone, USA
07:35/09:35 EoT DSS-15   
08:00/10:00 BoT New Norcia tracking station
AoS telemetry DATA flow (see below)
 
  ROSETTA slews into position for thruster burn
09:00:01/11:00:01 Start: Comet Approach Trajectory – insertion thruster burn Start of ORBIT entry manoeuvre. Must wait 1-way light time for confirmation on ground
09:06:27/11:06:27 End: thruster burn Rosetta now on first LEG of cometary orbit
  Rosetta slews back to comet-pointing mode 
09:22:30/11:22:30 Start of thruster burn confirmed on ground  
09:28:56/11:28:56 End of thruster burn confirmed on ground   
19:43/21:43 EoT New Norcia  
19:48/21:48 BoT Malargüe tracking station  
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Update: 6.08.2014
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Rosetta vor Kometen-Orbit
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Quelle: ESA
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Update: 23.00 MESZ
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“Hello, Comet!”
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Last but definitely not least, the programme switched back to Sylvain Lodiot and to Andrea Accomazzo, ESA Rosetta Flight Director, who both explained more details about today's manoeuvre and the rendezvous.
Finally, at 09:02:29 UTC on board Rosetta, the final burn ended, meaning that Rosetta has arrived at her destination. "We are at the comet," announced a jubilant Sylvain Lodiot to the delight of the large crowd following the EVENT at ESOC, around 11:29 CEST.
Arriving at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is an historic moment for this remarkable mission. The morning programme closed with remarks of accomplishment and excitement by Mark McCaughrean, Senior Scientific Advisor, ESA Directorate of Space and Robotic Exploration, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Álvaro Giménez, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
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POSTCARDS FROM ROSETTA
The images confirm it: Rosetta has now really arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko! Holger Sierks from the OSIRIS team just presented two new views of the comet in stunning close up detail at the afternoon session of the Rosetta arrival event at ESOC, in Darmstadt.
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Close-up detail of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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This image, focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/C-G, was taken by ROSETTA’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded today, 6 August 2014.
The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs. It was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel.
Another close-up detail shows the comet’s ‘head’ at the left of the frame, which is CASTINGshadow onto the ‘neck’ and ‘body’ to the right. This image was taken from a distance of 120 km and the image resolution is 2.2 metres per pixel.
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Another close-up view of the comet. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
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Comet activity on 2.08.2014
QUELLE: ESA
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Update: 7.08.2014
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Rosetta comet rendezvous is a triumph for the European Space Agency

Rosetta has arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the most audacious space missions in decades, it is designed to reveal clues to the origins of the solar system, our home planet and life itself

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Holger Sierks, lead scientist for Rosetta's imaging system, reveals fresh imagery of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko to media and VIPs
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Holger Sierks, lead scientist for Rosetta's imaging system, reveals fresh imagery of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Holger Sierks, lead scientist for Rosetta's imaging system, reveals fresh imagery of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Holger Sierks, lead scientist for Rosetta's imaging system, reveals fresh imagery of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
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Potential landing areas for Rosetta's Philae lander are shown in green. The other colors represent brightness, with the red areas being the brightest.
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A view of outgassing from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko super-imposed on an image from Rosetta's OSIRIS camera. This is a photo taken of the image displayed on a television screen.
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This morning, a thruster burn brought Rosetta into “orbit” around its target comet, signalling the start of its main science phase. The spacecraft will now track comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for a year, following it through its closest approach to the sun to monitor how the extra heating affects the icy surface.
Nothing about this mission is ordinary, and these are no ordinary orbits. The weirdly shaped comet, which some have likened to the shape of a rubber duck, does not produce enough gravity to fully hold the spacecraft. Instead, the flight team will “drive” the spacecraft in triangular-shaped orbits, gradually lowering the altitude from today’s 100km to around 30km.
One of the most audacious space missions in decades, it is designed to reveal secrets about the origin of the solar system, the origin of our home planet and even the origin of life.
From a PR point of view, today’s triumphant rendezvous stands in stark contrast to the last time the European Space Agency mounted a comet mission. That was back in 1986. The mission was called Giotto and the comet was the famous one named after Edmond Halley, the 18th century astronomer who predicted its return.
Back then, the venerable TV astronomer Patrick Moore and James Burke conducted a live programme to bring the first pictures of the comet to the British public as they were received. Moore was in Darmstadt, Germany, where Esa’s mission control is located, and Burke was in London.
Viewers were promised the first ever view of the nucleus of a comet – the mountainous iceberg that evaporates to give the ghostly tails for which comets are famous.
The snag was that when the pictures arrived they were incomprehensible. They were garishly colour-coded, and not even the experts could interpret them. No one knew at the time the beauty of the comet that would be revealed by subsequent analysis.
Then, just around the time of closest approach, the signal from the spacecraft disappeared. The guests were left with no recourse but to speculate about whether Giotto could have been destroyed by the dust and debris coming off the nucleus. It makes uncomfortable, embarrassing watching even today.
But, if the stories are true, the damage was much worse than a few red faces. It is now a piece of space folklore that UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher was watching. She was so appalled by what she perceived to be a total waste of money that she began a severe tightening of the UK’s purse strings where Esa and space research were concerned.
That has now turned around completely with the UK being a committed investor in the space sector. The other thing that has turned around is the way science is communicated to the public.
This morning there were no red faces; just fantastic images, fantastic data and the promise of more fantastic science to come. Read the official statement from Esa here.
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After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA’s Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour.
The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.
Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive,in situstudy of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.
The journey to the comet was not straightforward, however. Since its launch in 2004, Rosetta had to make three gravity-assist flybys of Earth and one of Mars to help it on course to its rendezvous with the comet. This complex course also allowed Rosetta to pass by asteroids Šteins and Lutetia, obtaining unprecedented views and scientific data on these two objects.
“After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.
“Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start.”
Today saw the last of a series of ten rendezvous manoeuvres that began in May to adjust Rosetta’s speed and trajectory gradually to match those of the comet. If any of these manoeuvres had failed, the mission would have been lost, and the spacecraft would simply have flown by the comet.
“Today’s achievement is a result of a huge international endeavour spanning several decades,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
“We have come an extraordinarily long way since the mission concept was first discussed in the late 1970s and approved in 1993, and now we are ready to open a treasure chest of scientific discovery that is destined to rewrite the textbooks on comets for even more decades to come.”
The comet began to reveal its personality while ROSETTA was on its approach. Images taken by the OSIRIS camera between late April and early June showed that its activity was variable. The comet’s ‘coma’ – an extended envelope of gas and dust – became rapidly brighter and then died down again over the course of those six weeks.
In the same period, first measurements from the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter, MIRO, suggested that the comet was emitting water vapour into space at about 300 millilitres per second.
Meanwhile, the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, VIRTIS, measured the comet’s average temperature to be about –70ºC, indicating that the surface is predominantly dark and dusty rather than clean and icy.
Then, stunning images taken from a distance of about 12 000 km began to reveal that the nucleus comprises two distinct segments joined by a ‘neck’, giving it a duck-like appearance. Subsequent images showed more and more detail – the most recent, highest-resolution image was downloaded from the spacecraft earlier today and will be available this afternoon.
“Our first clear views of the comet have given us plenty to think about,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.
“Is this double-lobed structure built from two separate comets that came together in the SOLARSystem’s history, or is it one comet that has eroded dramatically and asymmetrically over time? Rosetta, by design, is in the best place to study one of these unique objects.”
Today, ROSETTA is just 100 km from the comet’s surface, but it will edge closer still. Over the next six weeks, it will describe two triangular-shaped trajectories in front of the comet, first at a distance of 100 km and then at 50 km.
At the same time, more of the suite of instruments will provide a detailed scientific study of the comet, scrutinising the surface for a TARGETsite for the Philae lander.
Eventually, Rosetta will attempt a close, near-circular ORBIT at 30 km and, depending on the activity of the comet, perhaps come even closer.
“Arriving at the comet is really only just the beginning of an even bigger adventure, with greater challenges still to come as we learn how to operate in this unchartered environment, start to orbit and, eventually, land,” says Sylvain Lodiot, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft operations manager.
As many as five possible landing sites will be identified by late August, before the primary site is identified in mid-September. The final timeline for the sequence of EVENTS for deploying Philae – currently expected for 11 November – will be confirmed by the middle of October.
“Over the next few months, in addition to characterising the comet nucleus and setting the bar for the rest of the mission, we will begin final preparations for another space history first: landing on a comet,” says Matt.
“After landing, Rosetta will continue to accompany the comet until its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 and beyond, watching its behaviour from close quarters to give us a unique insight and realtime experience of how a comet works as it hurtles around the Sun.”
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Now that ROSETTA has reached comet 67P/C-G, it's time to unlock this icy treasure chest. Comets hold many secrets about the birth and evolution of the SOLAR SYSTEM, but also about the origin and history of many molecules that are fundamental for life on Earth – to name just one, water.
The broad range of instruments on board Rosetta will now investigate the surface and environment of 67P/C-G's nucleus in unprecedented detail. Some have already started to do so from afar, producing scientific results that were presented during this afternoon's session at the Rosetta Rendezvous event in ESOC, Darmstadt.
Getting to know the comet in greater detail is a necessary step to get any closer to it, which is in turn key to achieve a global mapping of the comet's nucleus. Frank Budnik, FLIGHT Dynamics expert at ESA, described the manoeuvres entailed in this initial characterisation phase.
While Rosetta flies through the first two “triangles”, the flight dynamics engineers at ESA will gather information to improve their estimate of the comet's mass. Knowing the mass is necessary to plan further steps and get into orbit around the comet.
The following phase is the global mapping, during which the team plans to map at least 80 per cent of the comet's surface. Eventually, ROSETTA will go even closer – between 10 and 30 km – for the close observation phase, to start identifying landing sites.
A brief overview of what's coming next from the Science Ground Segment was provided by Laurence O'Rourke from the Rosetta Science Operations team at ESA. Centralised planning is a must to coordinate the operations of the 11 instruments on board Rosetta and to maximise the science they will perform.
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A simulated view of Rosetta and where it's pointing, with the different fields of view of various instruments highlighted. From L. O'Rourke's presentation.
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Stefan Ulamec showing a colour-coded shape model of the comet.
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As the latest images from OSIRIS make clear, choosing a landing site for Philae will not be easy. In the afternoon session of the ROSETTArendezvous event at ESOC today, Stefan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager from DLR, talked about some of the challenges that will be facing the team.
One challenge will be landing in low gravity. This was tested at the Max Planck Institute in Katlenburg-Lindau before launch.
Later, tests were carried out at the Landing and MOBILITY Test Facility (LAMA) of DLR in Bremen, where landing in sandy conditions and on different slopes could be assessed using the qualification model of the Philae lander.
Another fear when the lander was being designed was that it would rebound from the surface – but this was when they still thought the surface would be very hard. Indications now are that surface appears to be soft so Ulamec thinks that rebounding won't be such an issue. We’ll soon find out what the surface is made of, but in any case, the lander is equipped with a harpoon system and ice screws to secure it to the surface. In addition, the touchdown will be at a speed of just 1 m/s - Ulamec described: “this is like walking and bouncing against a wall; it hurts but it won't kill you!”
But what about the surprising comet shape? Not the standard ‘potato’ that everyone was expecting – more like two potatoes stuck together, or even a duck. Already, there has been a very preliminary analysis carried out at CNES showing some potentially interesting sites based on the illumination conditions and FLIGHT dynamic restrictions.
But now it's time to start the process for real: the landing site selection group will meet for their first full meeting 22-24 August, at which stage they will select a maximum of 5 candidate landing sites.
Quelle: ESA

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Donnerstag, 7. August 2014 - 10:28 Uhr

Astronomie - VST-Schnappschuss der Dreiecksgalaxie (Galaxie Messier 33)

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Dem VLT SURVEY Telescope (VST) am Paranal-Observatorium der ESO in Chile ist es gelungen, ein wunderbar detailliertes Bild der Galaxie Messier 33 zu erstellen. Diese nahgelegene Spiralgalaxie - die zweitnächste Nachbargalaxie unserer Milchstraße - ist mit hellen Sternhaufen und Gas- und Staubwolken durchsetzt. Das neue Bild ist eine der detailliertesten Weitfeldaufnahmen dieses Objekts, die jemals gemacht wurden, und zeigt die zahlreichen leuchtenden roten Gaswolken in den Spiralarmen besonders deutlich.
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Dem VLT SURVEY Telescope (VST) am Paranal-Observatorium der ESO in Chile ist es gelungen, ein wunderbar detailliertes Bild der Galaxie Messier 33 zu erstellen. Diese nahgelegene Spiralgalaxie - die zweitnächste Nachbargalaxie unserer Milchstraße - ist mit hellen Sternhaufen und Gas- und Staubwolken durchsetzt. Das neue Bild ist eine der detailliertesten Weitfeldaufnahmen dieses Objekts, die jemals gemacht wurden, und zeigt die zahlreichen leuchtenden roten Gaswolken in den Spiralarmen besonders deutlich.
Messier 33, die auch die Bezeichnung NGC 598 trägt, befindet sich etwa drei Millionen Lichtjahre von uns entfernt im Sternbild Triangulum (das Dreieck). Das daher auch als Dreiecksnebel oder genauer als Dreiecksgalaxie bekannte Objekt wurde vom französischen Kometenjäger Charles Messier im August 1764 beobachtet, der es als Nummer 33 in seine berühmte Liste markanter Nebel und Sternhaufen aufnahm. Er war  jedoch nicht der Erste, der diese Spiralgalaxie schriftlich festhielt, wahrscheinlich wurde sie vom sizilianischen Astronomen Giovanni Battista Hodierna etwa 100 Jahre zuvor bereits dokumentiert. 
Obwohl sich die Dreiecksgalaxie am Nordhimmel befindet, ist sie vom südlichen Aussichtspunkt des Paranal-Observatoriums der ESO in Chile gerade noch sichtbar. Sie steht jedoch nicht sehr hoch am Himmel. Dieses Bild wurde mit dem VLT SURVEY Telescope (VST) gemacht, einem modernen Durchmusterungsteleskop mit 2,6 Metern Spiegeldurchmesser und einem Gesichtsfeld von der zweifachen Ausdehnung des Vollmondes. Das Bild wurde aus vielen einzelnen Aufnahmen erstellt, einschließlich einiger Aufnahmen mit Filtern, die nur das Licht keuchtenden Wasserstoffs passieren lassen. Dies führt dazu, dass die roten Gaswolken in den Spiralarmen der Galaxie ganz besonders hervorstechen.
Unter den zahlreichen Sternentstehungsgebieten in den Spiralarmen von Messier 33 fällt besonders der Nebel NGC 604 auf: Mit einem Durchmesser von fast 1500 Lichtjahren ist er einer der größten bekannten Emissionsnebel. Er erstreckt sich über eine Fläche, die 40 Mal so groß ist wie der sichtbare Teil des berühmten und viel nähergelegenen Orionnebels.
Die Dreiecksgalaxie ist das drittgrößte Mitglied der Lokalen Galaxiengruppe, zu der die Milchstraße, die Andromedagalaxie und etwa 50 weitere kleinere Galaxien zählen. An besonders sternklaren, dunklen Nächten ist diese Galaxie gerade eben noch mit dem bloßen Auge sichtbar und damit eines der am weitesten entfernten Himmelsobjekte, die noch ohne optische Hilfsmittel zu sehen sind. Die Beobachtungsbedingungen können sich für die ganz Geduldigen auf lange ZEIT gesehen nur noch verbessern: Die Galaxie steuert mit etwa 100.000 Kilometern pro Stunde auf unsere Milchstraße zu.
Ein näherer Blick auf dieses beeindruckende neue Bild erlaubt nicht nur eine detaillierte Untersuchung der sternbildenden Spiralarme der Galaxie, sondern macht auch eine reichhaltige Landschaft weiter entfernter Galaxien sichtbar, die hinter Myriaden von Sternen verstreut sind. Hinzu kommen die leuchtenden Wolken von NGC 598.
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Diese Weitfeldaufnahme der Himmelsregion um die nahe Galaxie Messier 33 wurde aus Aufnahmen erstellt, die Teil des Digitized Sky SURVEY 2 sind. Die ursprünglichen Bilder wurden über eine Zeitspanne von über 40 Jahren aufgenommen, von 1949 bis in die frühen 1990er. Daher haben sich einige der nahen Sterne, wegen ihrer merklichen Eigengeschwindigkeit auf dem Bild bewegt. Diese erscheinen als gedoppelte Punkte – einer rot und einer blau. Die riesige Galaxie in der Mitte des Bildes ist mehrere Hunderttausend Mal weiter weg als diese nahen Sterne.
Quelle: ESO

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Donnerstag, 7. August 2014 - 10:15 Uhr

Astronomie - Traumhaft Falsch: Warum der Kerl, der Uranus entdeckte, dachte, es hat Leben auf der Sonne

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You can’t live on the sun. Well, you can try if you want. I’m not your mother.  NASA
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There are a whole lot of places in the universe that aren’t exactly conducive to the proliferation of life: the vacuum of space, for instance, or the poisonous, boiling atmosphere of Venus, or anywhere Chuck NORRIS goes. But surely the most brutal are the unimaginably hot surfaces of stars like our sun, furnaces so powerful that they fling energy billions of miles.
Sure, we know that now. But in 1795, prominent astronomer William Herschel, who had discovered Uranus 14 years previous, took the opposite view. In the essay “On the Nature and Construction of the Sun and Fixed Stars,” he argued that the sun is simply an enormous planet, and because all other planets in our SOLAR SYSTEM contain life (a popular opinion in his day), so too must our star. It sounds mad, but he put forth sophisticated arguments to bolster his theory.
But first, a bit of background on the years leading up to Herschel’s bold claim. The telescope was invented in the early 1600s, and was first turned skyward not by its inventors, who were concerned with more terrestrial APPLICATIONS (“seeing faraway things as though nearby,” as one patent application read), but by Galileo. Observations of the sun began almost immediately, and what followed was a sort of stargazing gold rush, as inventors developed ever more powerful devices, while of course remaining cautious not to burn their eyeballs out of their heads.
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William Herschel, the discoverer of Uranus, believer of life on the sun, disapprover of paragraphs above and to the left of his person.
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By the 1700s, astronomers observing sunspots hit upon an idea: The sun was a regular old terrestrial planet like ours that just happened to be covered with a luminous atmosphere. One Englishman figured that such sunspots were volcanoes BELCHING smoke through glowing gas, while another reckoned they were towering mountains peeking through, according to Steven Kawaler and J. Veverka in their essay “The Habitable Sun: One of William Herschel’s Stranger Ideas.” Another figured the bright, hot matter wasn’t an atmosphere but an ocean, and that sunspots were instead mountains exposed by ebbing tides.
In reality, sunspots are areas where the star’s magnetic field becomes highly concentrated, inhibiting convective motion and therefore the transport of heat, dropping the temperature inside to thousands of degrees cooler than the rest of the surface. It’s still quite bright (if you could pull one out of the sun it’d glow brighter than a full moon), but in contrast to the surrounding hotter areas it appears dark. And that apparent ebbing tide exposing and enveloping mountains? It’s actually the sun’s shifting magnetic field opening up and closing new spots willy-nilly.
Anyway, along comes Herschel, who subscribes to the idea that sunspots can be either openings in the atmosphere exposing land or mountains rising above the luminosity. Scaling up the potential size of mountains on the sun using a mountain on Earth with a height of 3 miles, he gets a potential height of 334 miles, adding that “there can be no doubt but that a mountain much higher would stand very firmly”—unlike his theory as a whole, appropriately enough.
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Sunspots utilize the time-tested buddy system, opening up in pairs as the sun’s magnetic field comes out of one and dives back into another.  NASA
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As to how the atmosphere formed in the first place, Herschel invokes the formation of clouds on Earth, “but with this difference, that the continual and very extensive decompositions of the elastic fluids of the sun, are of a phosphoric nature, and attended with lucid appearances, by giving out light.” But why hasn’t the sun exhausted its supply of “elastic fluids” that throw so much energy into space? Just as clouds rain water back down to Earth, “in decomposition of phosphoric fluids every other ingredient but light may also return to the body of the sun.” I mean, could you imagine it raining light? That’d just be silly.
According to Kawaler and Veverka in their essay, “it is clear that what especially attracted Herschel to this model of the sun were its philosophical implications,” since it brought the sun in league with other planetary bodies. “Clearly,” they add, “it is a product of Herschel’s prejudice that all planets are inhabited.”
It’s Getting Hot in Here, So Take Off All Your Preconceived Notions of Where Life Can Potentially Exist
It was prejudice that of course came with problems, both scientifically and existentially. While Herschel believed the sun to be inhabited “by beings whose organs are adapted to the peculiar circumstances of that vast globe,” at the same time he pointed out that “angry moralists” thought the star to be “a fit place for the punishment of the wicked,” while “fanciful poets” reckoned it was home to blessed spirits. Clearly not all parties could inhabit the same world without stepping on each other’s toes.
And then there was the question of how the luminous atmosphere wouldn’t simply cook any life on the sun. Herschel argued that “heat is produced by the sun’s rays only when they act upon a calorific medium.” Substances that can be heated, you see, contain the “matter of fire,” as a flint can ignite gunpowder that already contains such fire. If light alone could cause heat, he reasoned, then you’d expect the top of our highest mountains, where light’s course is the least interrupted, to be quite hot indeed, when in fact they’re frigid. And because the sun emits such an incredible amount of light, it stands to reason that little of it is acting upon such a “calorific medium” to produce heat on the surface. There must be something chemically different about the surface and atmosphere of the sun.
According to Kawaler and Veverka, six years after he proposed this theory, Herschel returned with another reasoning of how life on the sun would keep from bursting into flames. The sun must have not just a luminous atmosphere, but an underlying layer of clouds so opaque that they bounce the light into space, protecting the inhabitants below.
The scientific community, however, wasn’t buying it. The polymath Thomas Young reckoned that not only would the CLOUD layer be totally worthless at reflecting heat, no matter how dense it was, but there also was the rather glaring problem of gravity. Living beings on such a large body would be flattened like Wile E. Coyote beneath an anvil—my words, not his. And in 1821, David Brewster, also a polymath (Europe was lousy with them back then), instead attacked the very core of Herschel’s reasoning: He’d based his theory on the assumption that the sun was like any other planet and would therefore harbor life, when the sun was in fact unique in our SOLAR SYSTEM.
And in 1801, the collapse of a building in Germany led humanity to see the sun in a totally new light. Joseph von Fraunhofer, an orphan and decidedly not a polymath, was trapped when the mirror and glass shop he apprenticed in crumbled. The crowd that gathered to witness the ensuing rescue included Prince Elector Maximilian Joseph IV, who took pity on von Fraunhofer, providing him cash and books to further his studies. Von Fraunhofer eventually made huge advances in lens-making and, more importantly for astronomy, invented the spectroscope, which was later used to determine the chemical MAKEUP of the sun by analyzing its light.
What we then began to understand is that instead of featuring a surface for life to amble around upon, the sun is in fact comprised of HYDROGEN and helium gas. And later on in the early 20th century, scientists finally solved the mystery of the sun’s power: It is, as They Might Be Giants noted, a gigantic nuclear furnace. Specifically, it’s a nuclear FUSION furnace, in which hydrogen atoms collide to produce not only helium, but astounding amounts of energy and sunburns on Earth.
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Joseph von Fraunhofer shows off his fancy spectroscope to—if you can believe it—old white men.
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So our sun never has been and never will be home to life. But Herschel’s rather far-fetched theorizing ignited a debate that furthered our understanding of the star. And his kind of thinking—imagining what it would take for beings to proliferate on other worlds—echoes today in our quest to find life elsewhere in our SOLAR SYSTEM and beyond. While not as fanciful as Herschel’s thinking, scientists have proposed, for instance, that methane-based life could find a home on a planetary body like Saturn’s moon Titan.
There’s also vast clouds of alcohol in space, by the way. Could life be floating around drunk in there? We’ll never know until someone foots the bill for putting me in a rocket to go and investigate. So please. Please someone put me in a rocket so I can go investigate.
References:
Herschel, W. (1795) On the Nature and Construction of the Sun and Fixed Stars. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of LONDON. 1795-01-01. 85:46–72
Kawaler, S. and Veverka, J. (1981) The Habitable Sun: One of William Herschel’s Stranger Ideas. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Vol. 75, P. 46
Quelle: WIRED

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