Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 21:45 Uhr

Mars-Chroniken - NASA Rover Game Released for Curiosity’s Anniversary



As Curiosity marks its fourth anniversary (in Earth years) since landing on Mars, the rover is working on collecting its 17th sample. While Curiosity explores Mars, gamers can join the fun via a new social media game, Mars Rover.


On their mobile devices, players drive a rover through rough Martian terrain, challenging themselves to navigate and balance the rover while earning points along the way. The game also illustrates how NASA's next Mars rover, in development for launch in 2020, will use radar to search for underground water.


"We're excited about a new way for people on the go to engage with Curiosity's current adventures on Mars and future exploration by NASA's Mars 2020 rover too," said Michelle Viotti, manager of Mars public engagement initiatives at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Using social networks, the user can share the fun with friends. The interest that is shared through gameplay also helps us open a door to deeper literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics." JPL collaborated with GAMEE, a network for game-players, for development of the game, called Mars Rover.


For more information about how the Mars Rover game relates to exploration by NASA's Mars rovers, visit:


Meanwhile, on Mars the real rover has driven to position for drilling into a rock target called "Marimba," to acquire rock powder for onboard laboratory analysis. The rover has begun a multi-month ascent of a mudstone geological unit as it heads toward higher and progressively younger geological evidence on Mount Sharp, including some rock types not yet explored.


The mission is examining the lower slopes of Mount Sharp, a layered mountain inside Gale Crater, to learn more about how and when ancient environmental conditions in the area evolved from freshwater settings into conditions drier and less favorable for life. Six of the mission's 13 drilled rock-samples so far, and two of its four scooped soil samples, have been collected since the third anniversary of landing. In its four years, Curiosity has returned more than 128,000 images and fired its laser more than 362,000 times. As of the fourth anniversary, Curiosity has driven 8.43 miles (13.57 kilometers).


Curiosity landed inside Mars' Gale Crater on Aug. 6, 2012, EDT (evening of Aug. 5, PDT), with a touchdown technique called the sky-crane maneuver. During the rover's first Earth year on Mars, the mission accomplished its main goal when it found and examined an ancient habitable environment. Researchers determined that a freshwater lake at the "Yellowknife Bay" site billions of years ago offered the chemical ingredients and energy favorable for supporting microbial life, if life has ever existed on Mars.


NASA's orbiters and rovers at Mars enable continued scientific discoveries and prepare the way for future astronauts to explore the Red Planet.




NASA's Curiosity Mars rover began close-up investigation of a target called "Marimba," on lower Mount Sharp, during the week preceding the fourth anniversary of the mission's Aug. 6, 2016, landing. Curiosity's Navigation Camera took this shot of the rover's arm over Marimba on Aug. 2, 2016.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
his is a shareable image about a social media game called Mars Rover. On their mobile devices, players drive a rover through rough Martian terrain, challenging themselves to navigate and balance the rover while earning points along the way.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GAMEE
Quelle: NASA





Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 21:15 Uhr

Astronomie - Was wissen wir über das rätselhafteste Phänomen im Universum: KIC 8462852


Signs For Extraterrestrial Life? What Do We Know About The Most Mysterious Phenomenon In The Universe

I’m fascinated and puzzled by a star called KIC 8462852 some of you may already know. Scientists obviously can’t wrap their heads around its mystery, but what exactly has happened? Is it an alien megastructure or a comet supercluster? Here’s all you need to know about Tabby - astronomy’s big star that’s leaving scientists in the dark.


Going dark for decades

The star is some 1,480 light-years away, which is not unusual and it’s the Kepler space telescope’s job to find faraway planets potentially supporting life anyway. But the exciting thing is, what the telescope may have detected on top of the normal data. After starring at the stars’ particular patch of sky, waiting for each star in its range to darken by an (hopefully inhabitable) exoplanet passing in front of it, the telescope came up with more than 150,000 stars behaving as expected, and the one going by KIC 8462852 doing something absolutely weird. In order to understand the magnitude of the finding, you first need to know what ‘normal science’ expects a planet to do. Anytime a planet passes in front of a star, the star dims – just for a few hours (days at the most) and on a regular basis.



KIC 8462852 does it on pretty irregular intervals, darkening by almost 20 percent and remaining dark for at least 5 and up to 80 days. That’s absolutely unusual, causing strange light fluctuations that even the most grounded researcher can only call bizarre.

paper published back in October of 2015 definitely ruled out faulty data and/or telescope jostling. Apparently there must be something that’s blocking the light and it is not a planet, no debris and it has not been caused by a recent collision.


A structure built by alien life

What then? As Penn Stat astronomer Jason Wright told The Atlantic afterwards: “this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.” So we are talking a potential Dyson sphere (maybe a swarm, too) – meaning an ‘Alien Megastructure’ that many other astronomers have postulated to exist.

As alien civilizations become highly advanced, they’ll need more and more energy to fuel their high-tech machinery. One way could be to position solar collectors directly around a star, filling the star’s orbit until some or all of its light is blocked or creating some spherical megastructures.

Ok, Astronomers do not like to go the 'Alien Megastructure’ route that easily and went on to find out what’s really happening around a star that’s 1,480 light-years away.


My Image


The multiple comets theory

So, what else could we expect this thing to be, as after all, we’re talking about ‘something’ that’s dimming a star by almost 20 percent. If you want to put that into perspective, you only need to imagine a Jupiter-sized planet (which I’d call massive) orbiting the star, but blocking only a tiny 1 percent of its light. The scientists went on in late 2015 and at the beginning of this year, listening for any kind of radio and laser communication, but they found nothing yet. Another paper has been published since then, verifying that comets circling the star can’t be the explanation either. After looking at 1,232 photographic plates from the past century, astronomer Bradley Shaefer found that the star not only dims dramatically over short periods of time, but also that the star has been growing dimmer over time, which is a very strange phenomena and probably linked to the whole ongoing behavior.

Schaefer notes that in the past century, the star’s brightness has dipped by 16.5 to 19.3 percent, a trend “completely unprecedented”, adding that “such stars should be very stable in brightness, with evolution making for changes only on time scales of many millions of years.” He also calculated how many comets would be needed to explain such a phenomena and, you guessed it, more than we’ve ever seen revolving around such a star. Shaefer calculates you’d need 648,000 comets with a diameter of 200 kilometers (that would be 124 miles) each. The largest known comet in our solar system is only 60km in diameter. The hypothetical comets around KIC 8462852 would need to have a total mass four times the mass of everything in the Kuiper belt. “I do not see how it is possible for something like 648,000 giant comets to exist around one star, nor to have their orbits orchestrated so as to all pass in front of the star within the last century,” Shaefer writes. “So I take this century-long dimming as a strong argument against the comet-family hypothesis to explain the Kepler dips.”

This second line of data though, is only further solidifying the assumption that something weird is happening a 1,480 light-years away.


Tabby’s Star

Astronomers still have no explanation what’s causing this star’s weird behavior, but at least they found a sweet name for it: Tabby’s Star. Remember, astronomer Jason Wright pointed out at the beginning that the light patterns are consistent with what we’d expect if aliens had built a Dyson swarm of solar collectors around the star, harnessing its energy. But neither Schaefer, nor Wright could prove their proposition and a new paper called Schaefer’s results into question. A study led by researchers Vanderbilt University even suggested that the centuries-long dimming may have been the direct result of differences in telescopes used to collect the data over a 90 year period. Further analysis clarifies that even the aforementioned Harvard’s plate collection underwent big changes between 1950 and 1960. The university even stopped taking many plates during that time and began anew using only one telescope. To cut a long story short Michael Lund, one of the Vanderbilt paper’s co-authors, explained that after having reviewed the light curves of KIC 8462852 and all subsequent data, only 36 giant comets could explain the star’s dimming behavior. Schaefer, though, is not confident in the Vanderbilt team’s data and countered that "they have included stars and measures that no experienced person would use”.

However, according to Tabetha Boyajian, one of the star’s discoverers and its nickname-sake, says that “even if the Harvard plates aren’t able to measure this robustly, there are a few other data sets to check out before [the long-term dimming hypothesis] is totally canned.”


A star like no other

In order to disclose the secret both amateurs and professionals have since been trained on star KIC 8462852. If comets and alien megastructure are to be ruled out, we’d first need to find definite proof that there’s no infrared energy produced.

Meanwhile a new and not yet peer-reviewed study, astronomers Ben Montet and Joshua Simon measured the light from “Tabby’s Star” that Kepler recorded during its former four-year mission. Yet again, the activity is simply strange. In its firs years, Tabby’s Star dimmed at rate of about 0.34 percent per year, only to fall off the charts by 2.5 percent in 200 days. Afterwards the original slower fade rate set in again.


My Image


Montent and Simon, 2016

After having thoroughly reviewed 500 other stars in the vicinity of Tabby’s Star, as well as 500 other stars that are similar in size and makeup to Tabby’s Star the two astronomer could say that the brightness of all the other stars remained essentially unchanged in comparison.

So none of the considered phenomena alone seems suitable enough to explain the observations and people need to combine more theories to solve the whole puzzle. Astronomers even weighed in with a theory that some sort of large and by that they mean a mega super-cloud of dust is blocking the star’s light. But a cloud also would then be responsible for extra heat energy coming from around the star, much the same as an alien structure or countless comets. Astronomers doubt there’s a new and much simpler explanation at hand, something like a stellar mechanism attributable only to this star,
The road ahead is filled with some exciting new work as scientists want to study the star while it’s in the midst of one of the major light dips, like the ones that have been witnessed back in 2011 and 2013.


A puzzle waiting to be solved

The monitoring of the star now continues using the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT). Whenever there’s any sort of unusual behavior this time, a whole network of professional and amateur astronomers will be contacted immediately to collect as much data as possible. Even the European Space Agency will provide help with its PLATO telescope that astronomers already love to call “Kepler on steroids”.

Unfortunately, we all need to wait until its launch in 2024 and in the meantime can go on speculating, what’s waiting ‘round the next bend of KIC 8462852. Suffice to say, that most of us follow the events hoping for alien life and a grand ol’ mysterious megastructure right in front of Tabby’s Star.

Quelle: NewScientist


Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 21:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISS-ALLtag: Progress-Start-Plume aus dem All gesehen



Quelle: NASA


Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 13:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Franklin Chang VASIMR Plasma Motor bereit für Schlüsseltest


Franklin Chang's VASIMR plasma engine readies for key test


The VASIMR spacecraft engine that is the brainchild of Tico physicist Franklin Chang Díaz is one step closer to reality, Chang’s company Ad Astra Rocket Company reported this week.

The VASIMR is scheduled in late October for a test aimed at bringing the former NASA astronaut’s engine to a technology readiness level 5, meaning it would be a step just before space flight.

Ad Astra expects the VASIMR engine to be the propulsion technology that will facilitate long-distance space travel as well as allow the transport of larger loads in a more efficient way.

The stage is part of the three-year contract that Chang’s Ad Astra Rocket Company has with NASA and that this week began its second year, the company reported.

Under the NASA partnership Ad Astra will demonstrate a VASIMR prototype at its 150 square-meter vacuum chamber in Texas. Chang’s company has successfully completed all milestones for the first of its three-year Next Space Technology Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) contract with NASA.

The $9 million agreement is structured as a one-year contract with two additional one-year extensions dependent upon successful completion of project milestones.

Steady progress

Ad Astra’s Chief Operations Manager Juan Ignacio del Valle said the goal for this year is to maintain a plasma firing for about one hour. That would represents a mayor milestone for the VASIMR current prototype, known as VX-200SS.

The device has only fired plasma discharges lasting a few seconds, he said. AdAstra has completed more than 10,000 firings of its prototypes since 2005.

Tests will continue in 2017 at increasingly longer pulse lengths. Ad Astra aims to demonstrate a 100-hour continuous firing of the VASIMR prototype at 100 kilowatts by mid-2018. That would represent the culmination of the design and development stages of the plasma engine technology, Del Valle said.

Since the start of its NextSTEP contract, Ad Astra completed the redesign and manufacturing of the new VX-200SS rocket core and new vacuum and thermal management systems for the laboratory.

These are needed for handling the vacuum requirements and “the unprecedented thermal load arising from the rocket’s 3 million-degree plasma exhaust,” the company reported.

The VX-200SS prototype will include a new proprietary rocket core design and will be capable of operating indefinitely in a thermally stable mode under space-like vacuum conditions, the company reported.

Del Valle noted that while the engine’s experimental stages take place only at Ad Astra’s Texas lab, various Costa Rican scientists and engineers participate in the development of some parts and protocols for the engine at the company’s facilities in Liberia, Guanacaste.

Recently, Del Valle and two more Tico experts worked on the reconditioning of the vacuum chamber in Houston, he told The Tico Times.

VASIMR’s final stage

If Ad Astra’s contract is successfully completed in 2018, the company would proceed with the “design, assembly and operation of a space-flight-ready VASIMR prototype,” Del Valle said.

That would require confirmation by NASA of its interest to proceed with a new contract to finance the construction of the engine, Del Valle noted.

The engine’s technology recently appeared on the big screen in director Ridley Scott’s latest movie “The Martian,” based on the novel by U.S. author Andy Weir.

The story portrays the VASIMR as the technology used for launching the first manned mission to Mars.

Watch a plasma firing of a VASIMR prototype




Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 10:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Machrihanish im Weltraumbahnhof Rennen



Rumoured UFO site "best for spaceport", Machrihanish backers say as they launch official bid
IT was once rumoured to be a base for top secret UFO investigations and has already served as an emergency landing site for a US space shuttle.
Now the community-owned airbase in Machrihanish in Kintyre has launched its official bid to be named the UK's first spaceport, citing the previous support of Virgin Galactic and the advantage of its 3000ft runway.
Three of the shortlisted sites are in Scotland, including Scottish Government-owned Prestwick Airport, but the agency behind its bid believe the Machrihanish is the leading candidate.
Tom Miller, chairman of Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) and director of Discover Space UK, said previous endorsements from NASA and Sir Richard Branson's pioneering space tourism outfit, Virgin Galactic, stood in its favour.
Mr Miller said: "Machrihanish has a long-history with space flight, going back to the launch of NASA's Space Shuttle in 1981.
"Machrihanish was an emergency landing site for the shuttle in Europe, with our 3,049m runway long enough to welcome the shuttle and get it airborne again aboard a Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
"Then in 2009, the last time the UK looked at establishing a spaceport, Virgin Galactic said Machrihanish was one of its preferred sites for the UK spaceport.
"That's not our only connection to the stars. Paul McCartney's Mull of Kintyre estate is just 15 minutes from the base and the airbase itself was rumoured to have been used for testing top secret aircraft - so it's only fitting that Machrihanish Airbase leads the way by becoming the UK's first spaceport."
The airbase was nicknamed 'the UK's Area 51' following rumours it was previously used by the US Airforce to test secret aircraft and investigate UFOs.
Machrihanish is the only potential spaceport site which already meets the Civil Aviation Agency's criteria for a minimum 3000ft runway length, while organisers believe its remote location on a 1000 acre stretch of land removed from densely populated areas also make it an ideal place to welcome the first wave of space tourists - likely to pay up to £200,000 per head for a sub-orbital trip.
The UK Government wants to establish the UK's first spaceport by 2018, with Stornoway Airport in Scotland also in the running along with sites in Newquay and Wales.
The preferred location is expected to be announced by the UK Government later this year.
Mr Millar added picking Machrihanish to become the UK's first spaceport would transform the area.
He said: "A spaceport would provide a significant jobs boost and would revitalise local businesses. It would also help drive tourism from all over the world, which would be a real boom for the whole of the UK."
It comes after Prestwick Airport launched its official bid to become the spaceport last week.
Prestwick Spaceport Director Stuart McIntyre said they would offer the global space industry "a highly capable facility" for polar orbit launches and research.
It has previously been said that securing spaceport status would be a "catalyst for transformational change" at the ailing hub, which was bought by the Scottish Government in 2012.
Quelle: heraldscotland
Update: 7.08.2016

Promoting Argyll as the UK’s first spaceport is council’s top priority 


Making Argyll the home of the UK’s first spaceport is a top priority for the local authority.

And next week a committee of Argyll and Bute Council will be asked to write to the UK Government to promote the former Machrihanish Airbase near Campbeltown as the best site.

It is estimated that the UK space industry could create up to 100,000 jobs by 2030.

Discover Space UK has been established as a subsidiary of the Machrihanish Airbase Community Company (MACC) to work with the council as a consortium partner with added support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The site at the former Machrihanish airbase at the southern end of the Kintyre Peninsula – with only open sea to the west – is regarded as an ideal location for a polar orbit satellite launch. It covers an area of over 1000 acres in community ownership and boasts a 1.8 mile runway.

The work to date has involved a series of highly technical studies by space industry experts to demonstrate the suitability of Machrihanish as a place to site the first UK Spaceport.

Prestwick, Stornoway, Newquay, Llanbedr in Wales and Machrihanish were the five sites still in the running to be the first spaceport.

It was announced in the recent Queen’s speech that process to identify a site will be moved to a licensed model approach.

Locations complying with the necessary requirements for a spaceport will be able to apply to be licensed. However, it is not known if there will be a limit to the number of licences granted.

In a report before the Environment Development and Infrastructure committee, which is due to meet on Thursday, Pippa Milne, executive director of development and infrastructure, says: “The development of an UK Spaceport at Campbeltown, Machrihanish, will have far reaching positive effect on the economy of Kintyre and beyond through the provision of new industries, high quality jobs, improved infrastructure and research capabilities.

“This transformational project is exactly what Kintyre and Argyll needs to grow our economy and offer a range of high value job opportunities that improve local people’s life chances. The proposal allows for full development of the site’s potential as an international hub for the UK space industry and its associated industrial supply requirements.”

Following next week’s meeting the council is expected to write to the Scottish Government calling for the Machrihanish Community Airbase to be declared an Enterprise Area for UK Spaceport and Aviation activity.

Quelle: Aberdeen Journals

Tags: Raumfahrt 


Sonntag, 7. August 2016 - 08:35 Uhr

Astronomie - Sind Schwarze Löcher Türen in eine andere Welt?



Black holes are ‘doors’ to another world, scientists say

You probably wouldn’t be able to survive the passage through the door, say the experts – likely ending up stretched out and ‘spaghettified’

Black holes are doors to other parts of the universe, according to a new study. But you wouldn’t ever get to come back.

Anyone who managed to get through one of the mysterious doors would end up “spaghettified”, and stretched out like a long strand of pasta, according to the research. They’d get squished back down to size once they reached the other side, but it’s unlikely they’d be alive to see it.

Previously, scientists have held that all matter inside of a black hole is destroyed and so there would be no way of ever actually making it through. But the new research suggests that it could act as a doorway or a tunnel – as in a sci-fi story.


Samstag, 6. August 2016 - 17:51 Uhr

Mars-Chronike - Studie findet Venen auf dem Mars welche durch Verdampfen von alten Seen gebildet wurden



The Open University and University of Leicester publish study determining the fluids once present in Martian Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater


Sulfate veins prominent at Darwin outcrop veins, observed on sol 402, NavCam NRB_432923862. Field of view 1.3 m. B) Garden City image, observed on sol 924, MastCam ML004061. White sulfate veins cut through the surrounding sediments. Scale bars are 1m

Mineral veins found in Mars’s Gale Crater were formed by the evaporation of ancient Martian lakes, a new study has shown.

The research, by Mars Science Laboratory Participating Scientists at The Open University and the University of Leicester, used the Mars Curiosity rover to explore Yellowknife Bay in Gale Crater on Mars, examining the mineralogy of veins that were paths for groundwater in mudstones.

The study suggests that the veins formed as the sediments from the ancient lake were buried, heated to about 50 degrees Celsius and corroded.

Professor John Bridges from the Department of Physics and Astronomy said: “The taste of this Martian groundwater would be rather unpleasant, with about 20 times the content of sulphate and sodium than bottled mineral water for instance!

“However as Dr Schwenzer from The Open University concludes, some microbes on Earth do like sulphur and iron rich fluids, because they can use those two elements to gain energy. Therefore, for the question of habitability at Gale Crater the taste of the water is very exciting news."

The mudstones with sulphate veins in the Gale Crater were also found to be close in composition to rocks in Watchet Bay in North Devon, highlighting a terrestrial analogue which supports the model of dissolution of a mixed silica and sulphate-rich shallow horizon

to form pure sulphate veins.

Quelle: University of Leicester


Samstag, 6. August 2016 - 17:43 Uhr

Astronomie - Forscher finden meiste vulkanische Aktivität auf Merkur vor etwa 3,5 Milliarden Jahren


Enhanced color image of Mercury. The bright, circular deposit in the upper center of the image is an enormous effusive volcanic deposit, situated within the largest impact crater on the planet, the Caloris basin. Image credit: NASA/JHU APL/CIW

New research from North Carolina State University finds that major volcanic activity on the planet Mercury most likely ended about 3.5 billion years ago. These findings add insight into the geological evolution of Mercury in particular, and what happens when rocky planets cool and contract in general.

There are two types of volcanic activity: effusive and explosive. Explosive volcanism is often a violent event that results in large ash and debris eruptions, such as the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980. Effusive volcanism refers to widespread lava flows that slowly pour out over the landscape — believed to be a key process by which planets form their crusts.

Determining the ages of effusive volcanic deposits can give researchers a handle on a planet’s geological history. For example, effusive volcanism was active a few hundred million years ago on Venus, a few million years ago on Mars, and it still takes place on Earth today. Until now, the duration of effusive volcanic activity on Mercury, made of the same materials as these other planets, had not been known.

NC State assistant professor and planetary geologist Paul Byrne and colleagues determined when the bulk of Mercury’s crust-forming volcanism ended by using photographs of the surface imaged by NASA’s MESSENGER mission. Because there are no physical samples from the planet that could be used for radiometric dating, the researchers used crater size–frequency analysis, in which the number and size of craters on the planet’s surface are placed into established mathematical models, to calculate absolute ages for effusive volcanic deposits on Mercury.

According to their results, major volcanism on Mercury stopped at around 3.5 billion years ago, in stark contrast to the volcanic ages found for Venus, Mars and Earth.

“There is a huge geological difference between Mercury and Earth, Mars or Venus,” Byrne says. “Mercury has a much smaller mantle, where radioactive decay produces heat, than those other planets, and so it lost its heat much earlier. As a result, Mercury began to contract, and the crust essentially sealed off any conduits by which magma could reach the surface.

“These new results validate 40-year-old predictions about global cooling and contraction shutting off volcanism,” Byrne continues. “Now that we can account for observations of the volcanic and tectonic properties of Mercury, we have a consistent story for its geological formation and evolution, as well as new insight into what happens when planetary bodies cool and contract.”

The research appears in Geophysical Research Letters, with co-authors from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Georgia, Southwest Research Institute and Brown University. The MESSENGER mission provided substantial funding for this work.

Quelle: NC State University



Samstag, 6. August 2016 - 11:17 Uhr

Raumfahrt - NASA Exploration konzentriert sich auf Deep Space Hab Systeme und Crew Gesundheit


no alt

As part of its comprehensive review to the NASA Advisory Council, the US space agency has presented its review of progress on the development of a Deep Space Habitat that will allow astronauts to perform multi-month and multi-year missions in deep space – all while guiding the agency towards its ambitious plan of landing humans on Mars by the end of the 2030s.

Challenges to developing a Deep Space Habitat module:

One of the primary benefits of exploration in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is that all of the currently human operated vehicles in space fly inside the sphere of protection from damaging radiation expelled from the Sun that Earth provides.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.53.01

That risk assessment changes the farther from Earth one travels – and is a primary concern for missions in cislunar space and the eventual push of humans to Mars.

Understanding the radiation risk environment is one of the primary aspects in developing habitation that can successfully shield astronauts against damaging radiation.

But radiation protection is not the only challenge in developing deep space habitation, as noted by the Habitation Module presentation of the Advanced Exploration Systems Directorate to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). 

Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), autonomous systems, fire safety, human performance, exercise, nutrition, and Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) needs for maintenance of the spacecraft are all listed as part of the challenges facing this endeavor – as well as a critical need to test these systems in situ in cislunar space.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.55.01

Adding to the challenge of deep space habitat systems is a need to greatly – in some areas – improve upon the abilities currently available aboard the ISS

In terms of life support, the Station is currently able to recover approximately 42% of its oxygen supply from carbon dioxide scrubbing, 90% of its water from onboard systems and water/urine purification, and carries less than a six-month meantime before a critical systems failure in the life-support realm would either need to have a spare brought up from Earth or result in the crew abandoning the Station.

For the Deep Space Habitat (DSH), more than 75% or more of its oxygen needs to be recovered from CO2 scrubbers, 98% or more of its water needs to be recovered from onboard systems, and the craft itself has to carry a greater than 24 month mean time before system failures would result in abandonment of the habitat.

Likewise, current environmental monitoring is limited and extremely crew-intensive aboard the Station and carries a reliance on sample return to Earth for analysis. 

For DSH, onboard analysis capability with no sample return would be mandatory as well as in situ identification and quantification of species and organisms in the air and water.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.53.41

Crew health also needs to change from the bulky fitness equipment, limited medical capabilities, and frequent food resupply currently used aboard ISS to smaller, more efficient exercise equipment, onboard medical capabilities, and long-duration food systems for a DSH.

Moreover, fire safety is a huge consideration not just for the station but for DSHS well. 

Currently aboard Station, large CO2 suppressant tanks, two cartridge masks, obsolete combustion production sensors, and depress/repress are the only avenues available for a crew should a fire break out aboard Station.

For DSH, a “unified, effective fire safety approach across small and large architecture elements” would be needed, notes the Habitation Module presentation.

DSH development – Phase 1 ends, NASA looks to Phase 2:

In all, the DSH development approach has three distinct phases, with Phase 1 including the creation of “innovative cislunar habitation concepts that leverage commercialization plans for LEO, [developing] required deliverables including concept description with concept of operations, [delivery of] Phase 3 proposals, and initial discussions with international partners.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.54.47

Phase 1 began in 2015 and is slated to wrap officially in September 2016 for the four companies selected for participation, at which point the industry-developed concepts will be delivered to NASA and decision on whether those four company’s contracts will continue into Phase 2 will be made. 

Phase 2, slated to last from 2016-2018, according to the Habitation Module presentation, will then include [continuation] of concept refinement and development of domestic ground prototype modules and … development of standards and common interfaces domestically and internationally.”

In all, the presentation to NAC notes that Phase 2 will “Develop long duration deep space habitation capabilities that lead towards a deep space transit habitat and can be flown on SLS flight(s) (or alternative launch vehicles) starting by the early to Mid 2020s.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.54.12

For this phase, contract companies will be responsible for concept description and operations as well as providing NASA with Phase 3 proposals and the delivery of the ground prototype modules.

Under this approach, the contractors selected for participation in Phase 2 will “Advance the long duration deep space habitation capability concepts and mature the design and development of the integrated system(s) to achieve a high level of fidelity [by] developing prototype deep space habitation capability options to test a full size ground prototype unit(s) by the end of Phase 2 in 2018 to support first flight opportunities in early- to mid-2020s.”

These ground prototypes will be full-scale models of each company’s proposed DSH and will be used to test standard interfaces for mechanical, power, thermal and data testing as well as layout, installation and fit access. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.55.25

The habitats will also provide the ability to conduct human mission simulations to test the habitability, mission operations, health and medical aspects, logistics and waste management operations, EVA operations, and emergency scenarios of long-duration missions, notes the Habitation Module presentation. 

For NASA’s part, phase 2 will include the “definition of reference habitat architecture based on contractor and international concepts and identified GFE (Government Furnished Equipment) in preparation for Phase 3.”

Proposals for Phase 2 concepts were due on 15 June and are currently being evaluated.  Selection of Phase 2 participants is anticipated for sometime this month, with negotiations and contract awards coming in September 2016. 

NAC presentation – current status of DSH development:

“Overall, our habitation development challenge is the systems and crew health and combining those with the overall habitation capability itself – the physical structure of where all these things are housed and how their interactions affect all of these systems,” noted Jason Crusan, Advanced Exploration Systems Director.

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 13.54.27

“We are approaching this fundamentally from the top level of trying to encourage the meeting of our goals with the overlap of needs for LEO advancement as well.”

In fact, this dual approach of meeting NASA’s needs as well as those of the commercial community is why NASA is issuing BAAs (Broad Agency Announcements) instead of RFPs (Requests For Proposals) because, as Mr. Crusan related, an RFP potentially makes a contracted company focus on NASA’s stated goals while ignoring commercial and LEO needs. 

“We’re going in a very systematic and structured way to drive affordability into our overall development strategy.”

Of particular interest to the NAC, in addition to the technical and contract overviews, was the number of flights needed to build such a habitation spacecraft in cislunar space.

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For this, Mr. Crusan noted that the answer was dependent on the overall strategy NASA chooses to employ in meeting the cubic volume requirement for a 4-person mission to Mars, which would last between 800 and 1,100 days. 

The cubic volume number could be met via an aggregate series of small modules like the ISS or one giant transit habitat.

But, as was noted, even if an aggregate structure of smaller modules were chosen, the total number of flights needed to build such a structure would in no way equal the number of flights needed to construct the ISS. 

This led to a follow-up question by the committee regarding the need for commonality in elements and parts across all systems if an aggregate structure were chosen. 


Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, addressed this question, stating, “We think that’s one of our biggest challenges. When we go to this Earth-independent region, we’re going to have to be very autonomous.  What spares we carry with us are the spares we’re stuck with.  

“We have to make some huge philosophical changes that I don’t think we’ve fully addressed.  We’re very used to ‘if a part’s not there, we’ve got a cargo flight coming up in a couple months, we’ll put it on the cargo flight and life is good.’  We’ve done well with strained supply systems [close to Earth], but it isn’t the level [we’ll need for these multi-year missions].  

Additionally, there was some interest by interim chair of NAC, Wayne Hale, regarding the use of potential artificial gravity on such long-duration transport habitats. 


Specifically, Mr. Hale was interested in how artificial gravity might help address some of the issues facing long-duration microgravity missions. 

Mr Gerstenmaier responded that NASA had no studies showing the need for artificial gravity, leading Mr. Hale to point out “you’ve got a lot of really critical things that you’re trying to investigate, and if it pans out that you can’t mitigate one of those risks” with what is currently under development, might artificial gravity be something to consider.

Mr. Gerstenmaier responded that all microgravity considerations are currently mitigatable with the systems in place or under development. 

Further, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that “you’re never gonna provide a partial gravity environment throughout the entire vehicle.

“I think the changes associated with trying to provide partial gravity are so fundamental and large … that I don’t think that’s an area that’s really a problem.  [We have] real problems that need to be addressed, and partial gravity isn’t something that we should be spending quality time on right now.”

(Images: NASA and L2 – including SLS renders from L2 artist Nathan Koga – The full gallery of Nathan’s (SpaceX Dragon to MCT, SLS, Commercial Crew and more) L2 images can be *found here*)

Quelle: NS


Samstag, 6. August 2016 - 10:58 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Startvorbereitung für Atlas 5 mit SBIRS GEO Flight 3


SBIRS GEO Flight 3 in the factory before shipment. Credit: Lockheed Martin
SBIRS GEO Flight 3 in the factory before shipment. Credit: Lockheed Martin

CAPE CANAVERAL — A highly sophisticated U.S. Air Force satellite to sound the alarm when an enemy missile launches has shipped to its Florida launch site for liftoff in October aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

The third Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite, or SBIRS GEO Flight 3, was delivered from Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale production factory in California to Cape Canaveral aboard a military C-5 transport aircraft on Aug. 2.

Its primary mission — and most dire use — would be warning the president and secretary of defense of an incoming attack on the United States homeland.

“SBIRS GEO satellites are our nation’s missile warning sentinels and are critical assets to the U.S. military’s continually evolving mission,” said David Sheridan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Overhead Persistent Infrared systems mission area.

“With GEO Flight 3’s successful testing and delivery to the launch site, we’re expanding the military’s ability to receive timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information.”

The craft will be carried into space by an Atlas 5 rocket on Oct. 3.

The launch will use the basic 401 configuration of the Atlas 5 with a four-meter nose cone and no strap-on solid rocket boosters.

SBIRS is the next-generation missile warning system for the United States that continuously watches the globe with infrared vision looking for missile launches and alerting forces of the imminent threat.

The surveillance network was born in the Cold War and modernized to face today’s adversaries. The satellites detect heat plumes, the telltale indicator of ascending missiles and boosters, and track their trajectories.

SBIRS GEO Flight 3, weighing about 10,000 pounds at launch, will be deployed into a geosynchronous transfer orbit by the Atlas 5. It then maneuvers itself in the subsequent days to a circular orbit 22,300 miles above Earth to match the planet’s rotation and appear fixed above one spot of the globe.

Which region of the world this satellite will observe has not been revealed.

An artist's concept of a SBIRS GEO satellite in orbit. Credit: Lockheed Martin
An artist’s concept of a SBIRS GEO satellite in orbit. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The first SBIRS GEO satellite was launched in May 2011 and the second went up in March 2013, both aboard Atlas 5 rockets from Cape Canaveral.

They possess upgrades from previous missile warning satellites to make quicker detections of fainter objects than ever before. They also carry an additional onboard telescope to stare at a specific spot on the globe, in addition to the wide-area scanning sensor.

Originally devised to spot intercontinental ballistic missiles launched at the U.S., the system has evolved to today’s capabilities that also cover short-range missiles and threats facing troops on the modern day battlefield.

Once the system detects a target, it determines the flight trajectory and where a hostile missile will hit, giving warfighters the necessary alert to intercept the weapon as part of the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act). 

Launches of these surveillance satellites date back to 1970 and the Defense Support Program. The last DSP satellite was launched in 2007 in the transition to SBIRS. 

SBIRS GEO Flight 3 will fly aboard AV-066, the 67th Atlas 5 rocket launch and its 26th mission for the Department of Defense. 

Quelle: SN

It will also mark the milestone 100th Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle flight between the Atlas 5 and Delta 4.


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