US Aerospace Programs

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by Sven, Oct 9, 2015.

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  1. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    *This thread is for civilian space programs and collaberations with international agencies like JAXA and ESA.

    CubeSat to Demonstrate Miniature Laser Communications in Orbit

    https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/cubesat-to-demonstrate-miniature-laser-communications-in-orbit

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    Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space.
    Credits: NASA/Ames


    NASA and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, California, have received confirmation the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) CubeSat spacecraft is in orbit and operational. OCSD launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    OCSD is the first in a new series of six NASA-managed technology demonstration missions set to launch during the coming months using CubeSats to test technologies that can enable new uses for these miniature satellites, which measure 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (about 4 inches per side). NASA, other government agencies, academia and commercial companies can incorporate these technologies, which range from high-speed communications to novel propulsion systems to technologies that enable rendezvous and docking, into future space missions.

    "Technology demonstration missions like OCSD are driving exploration," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "By improving the communication capability of small spacecraft to support data-intensive science missions, OCSD will advance the potential to become a more viable option for mission planners."

    OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. The CubeSat will evaluate the ability to point a small satellite accurately as it demonstrates data transfer by laser at rates of up to 200 Mb/s -- a factor of 100 increase over current high-end CubeSat communications systems.

    The second OCSD mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than Feb. 1, will use two CubeSats to demonstrate the ability to maneuver small spacecraft in close proximity to one another using low-cost sensors and a novel propulsion system that uses water as a propellant. This technology can enhance the ability of small spacecraft to work in coordination with other satellites to explore asteroids, planets and moons, as well as inspecting other spacecraft.

    Also aboard the Atlas V were four CubeSats selected through the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) XII mission. The satellites successfully deployed from their protective cases and are in orbit. The CubeSats' transmitters turned on, and ground stations listened for their beacons to determine the small satellites' functionality. These CubeSats will test new small satellite control and communications systems, Earth observations, amateur radio communications and an X-Band radio science transponder.

    CSLI provides innovators from non-profit organizations, educational institutions and NASA-sponsored missions with an accessible way to participate in space exploration. ELaNa missions, managed by the Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, provide a ride-share opportunity for CubeSats selected through CSLI.

    NASA's Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP) within STMD funds the OCSD project. Aerospace built and operates the OCSD spacecraft. The SSTP office at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, manages the OCSD project for STMD.

    Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA. They provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions, including planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities. CubeSats also allow an inexpensive means to engage students in all phases of satellite development, operation and exploitation through real-world, hands-on research and development experience on NASA-funded rideshare launch opportunities.

    ...

    Looks like this little beauty, testing a new form of high-speed communications, was a party to NROL-55:



    I wonder what other goodies hitched a ride?
     
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  2. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    NASA Needs Your Help Testing Its New Space Suits

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    As Matt Damon has proved beyond doubt, wandering around on Mars takes one hell of a cool space suit. NASA’s current suits—and suit-testing protocols—aren’t up to snuff, and it wants your help making something better.

    In a dryly-worded press release, NASA has said that it “is seeking proposals for test methods or procedures to assess wear/damage to candidate space suit textile materials”. In other words: NASA needs cool (and scientific!) ways to destroy space suits. Now this is my kind of crowdsourcing campaign.

    The tests will need to simulate the wear and tear of extraterrestrial (read: Martian/lunar) dirt and dust, specifically abrasion resistance, and the mode of failure: does a failing fabric do so slowly, or all in one go?

    NASA’s best current suggestion seems to be sticking scraps of material in a tumble-dryer with dirt, and seeing how long it takes to break. If you’ve got better suggestions, send ‘em in: NASA is expecting to award $5,000 to the three best ideas.
     
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  3. AMDR

    AMDR Captain Staff Member Administrator

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    NASA never fails to disappoint when it comes to PR :D

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    NASA May Fly Habitat With First Orion
    http://aviationweek.com/space/nasa-may-fly-habitat-first-orion

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    Lockheed Martin is among private companies doing early work on human deep-space habitats.

    U.S. space exploration planners say the next big piece of human hardware needed on the road to Mars is a modular habitat that could be stationed near the Moon and visited by early manned Orion capsule missions, building on ground- and space station-testing of “Mars-ready” habitation systems already in development

    In a new report, NASA says the first flight of a habitation module could come as early as the first manned flight of the Orion capsule. The agency recently committed to a 2023 launch date for that mission, saying it didn’t have sufficient confidence to endorse the 2021 date still targeted by the Orion development program.

    “Co-manifested payloads, potentially launched as early as Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2), could include pressurized modules that extend the deep-space capabilities of the Orion spacecraft and help develop a deep-space habitation capability,” the agency states in “NASA’s Journey to Mars; Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration,” a report the agency drafted to answer congressional demands for more detail on its human-exploration plans.



    Top agency managers already are discussing an early flight test of a habitation module that could be evolved and expanded to support a crew on its way to Mars. The module would be launched on the same heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) under development for eventual use in Mars exploration.

    “We want to take it on a shakedown cruise and put it around the Moon,” Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot told a Capitol Hill audience Oct. 7 that included Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Dava Newman. “And then we’ll have the systems in it that are designed for the longer-term duration, not designed for just being at the Moon, but to give us a chance to test those. We’ll do that on the backbone of the Space Launch System and Orion.”

    The report says there may be a commercial role in building the new habitat, along with work underway at the U.S. space agency and its international partners. Bigelow Aerospace already is scheduled to attach a subscale version of its expandable habitation modules to the International Space Station (ISS) for testing later this year, and Boeing,Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK are working under small NASA contracts on concepts for modifying their proposed or existing commercial cargo vehicles into hab modules.

    “NASA and its partners will also develop an initial habitation capability for short-duration missions in cislunar space in the early 2020s and evolve this capability for long-duration missions in the later 2020s,” the report states, noting that with “standardized interfaces, common structures, and modular designs, multiple pressure vessels could be aggregated, leading to a more complete habitation system to validate the full suite of capabilities needed for the journey to Mars.”

    Flying SLS with a habitat would require completion of the planned Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) to bring the SLS lift capacity from an initial 70 metric tons to 105 metric tons. “While the exact mass and volume available for co-manifested payloads have not yet been determined, payloads about the same length, twice the width, and one-third the mass of a school bus could be launched to cislunar space with Orion,” according to the report.

    The hab module would serve as a starting point for improving the life support, autonomous operations, communications and information-technology gear that would be needed to sustain a four-person crew on an 1,100-day mission to Mars.

    The report includes NASA’s planned Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which has received at best lukewarm support in Congress. It makes clear that while ARM “provides a near-term opportunity to demonstrate several capabilities important for longer-duration, deep space missions,” the high-power solar-electric propulsion (SEP) technology development it is driving will continue no matter what.

    “With several tons of xenon (Xe) propellant and solar arrays capable of generating 40 kilowatts (kW), an early SEP vehicle could efficiently position several tons of cargo throughout the Solar System,” the report states. “A more advanced SEP system with additional power and propellant could deliver landers, habitats, and supplies to Mars orbit.”

    The Mars missions would require a 10-meter fairing for the advanced SLS to accommodate the large payloads, and possibly some sort of supersonic retropropulsion for entry, descent and landing at the planet, the report states. An advanced SEP vehicle could either carry separate chemical-propulsion stages to bring crews back to Earth, or use a “hybrid” SEP/chemical design for the round trip.

    Although some members of Congress have pressed for a detailed description of NASA’s Mars plan, the new report says the agency wants to avoid “the trap of designing a rigid architecture that becomes obsolete due to unanticipated changes.

    “NASA’s strategy, with its focus on capabilities, strikes a balance among progress toward horizon goals, near-term benefits, and the flexibility to respond to technology advancement, new scientific understanding, dynamic partnerships, and political direction in the coming decades,” the document continues.

     
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  4. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Behold the Beauty of This Bouncing Blob of Liquid Loveliness on the Space Station

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    Astronauts on the International Space Station have stepped up the entertainment factor of their fluid dynamics antics. They’ve added food colouring to the already-excellent combination of zero gravity, water droplet, and antacid tablet, creating a sparkly disco ball of pure joy.

    NASA astronaut Terry Virts captured beautiful footage of an antacid tablet within a floating water droplet with the high-resolution RED Epic Dragon camera over the summer, but now Scott Kelly has an even more lovely update. But the purpose isn’t just to create something beautiful: the astronauts are also testing out the camera’s capacity to capture fine details during experiments. The details of each bubble are highlighted by the bulging droplet, fizzing into a lopsided oblate blooping around the station.



    Zero gravity + water droplet + food colouring + antacid tablet = perfection

    The only real question is if the space station is getting ready for a retrotastic light show for a raging dance party, or if this is some early prototype that will eventually evolve into Slimer from Ghostbusters.

    Top image: A water droplet with food colouring and antacid tablet bouncing around in zero gravity on the space station. Credit: NASA/Scott Kelly/Mika McKinnon
     
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  5. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    NASA Completes Successful Heat Shield Testing for Future Mars Exploration Vehicles

    As NASA missions to Mars progress with science and complex human exploration missions, spacecraft will require larger heat shields to protect against the extreme heat of entering a planet's atmosphere and decelerating at a safe altitude in the thin Martian atmosphere.

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    All Along the Fractures

    The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils. These images provide information about erosion and movement of surface material, about wind and weather patterns, even about the soil grains and grain sizes.

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  6. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    Space History Repeats Itself

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    When we see new images showing how NASA is moving ahead with their Orion Program there is often a Project Apollo feeling, because of the similarities between the two US space mission. This new photo gives us such dejà vu too.

    What can we see in the photo above? NASA explains:

    “When astronauts come back to Earth in Orion following the first crewed flight, they will have been away for long periods of time, so we want to be prepared to get them out of the spacecraft quickly in a variety of scenarios,” said Tom Walker, rescue and recovery lead for Orion. “The work we’re doing this week allows us to test out crew egress procedures using a mockup of Orion in the water.”

    The buoyancy lab, NASA’s 6.2 million gallon pool that is primarily used to train astronauts underwater for spacewalks, provides a controlled environment where recovery personnel can practice techniques to assist people getting out of a test version of the crew module. During the three-day testing, personnel are simulating arriving to a spacecraft floating in the Pacific Ocean and what it will take to assist the crew as they exit. They will also evaluate the layout of equipment inside the spacecraft that affects exit and the gear used during the recovery process.


    So this happened a few days ago:

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    (October 7, 2015) – At NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, teams are performing a series of tests Oct. 6-8 to evaluate the most efficient way for astronauts to get out of the spacecraft after weeks or months away from Earth. (Radislav Sinyak/NASA)

    And these photos were taken a few decades ago:

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    (June 1966)– Prime crew members for the first manned Apollo 1 space flight practice water egress procedures in a swimming pool at Ellington Air Force Base (EAFB), Houston, Texas. Astronaut Edward H. White II rides life raft in the foreground. Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee sits in hatch of the boilerplate model of the spacecraft. Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom, third member of the crew, waits inside the spacecraft. (NASA)

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    (August 1968) – Three astronauts participate in Apollo water egress training in a tank in Building 260 at the Manned Spacecraft Center. Already in life raft is John W. Young. Eugene A. Cernan is egressing the Apollo Command Module trainer. Inside the trainer and almost obscured is Thomas P. Stafford. (NASA)

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    (December 10, 1968)Water egress training for the Apollo 9 crew McDivitt, Scott and Schweickart in the Bldg. #260 water immersion test facility. (NASA)

    @Webmaster I noticed you set up an Aerospace Programs sub-section:

    http://www.americanmilitaryforum.com/forums/index.php?forums/aerospace-programs.5/

    Would you be willing to move this thread there? Thanks!
     
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  7. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    These Are The Earth Cars Of A Space Agency - Part 1

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    NASA is best known for its work with space-faring vehicles, including some very cool space cars. But the agency has a rich history of unique vehicles here on Earth, too, including many important contributions to the automotive industry. Here are the Earth cars of NASA.

    Astronaut Transfer Van (“Astrovan”)
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    As if flying into space wasn’t already exciting enough, many astronauts also got to ride in NASA’s famous “Astrovan.” Beginning with the STS-9 mission, this custom 1983 Airstream Excella motorhome was used to take crews of up to seven astronauts to the launchpad for launch dress rehearsals, and again on launch day. When the shuttle returned to Earth, the 28 foot-long, 9 foot-wide Astrovan would also collect the crew at the landing site.

    The Airstream Astrovan was fitted with a liquid air system to improve the astronauts’ comfort level while wearing their launch suits in notoriously-humid Florida. Astronauts would physically plug into the liquid air system, which circulated a cool breeze through their suits. And unlike many other Airstreams, the Astrovan’s interior was otherwise quite spartan, providing the astronauts as much room to move around in their bulky attire as possible.

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    During the Apollo era and the first six Space Shuttle missions, NASA used a smaller Cortez motorhome which was capable of ferrying four astronauts at a time. Both vehicles are now on display at the Kennedy Space Center.

    Mobile Quarantine Facility
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    NASA must love big shiny objects as much as I do, because the Astrovan wasn’t their only Airstream. When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned from their historic first moon landing, there were fears that they could bring back an unknown space pathogen or contaminant that might harm life on Earth. To be completely certain that our moon men hadn’t inadvertently become killer space outbreak monkeys, the astronauts went immediately into the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) aboard the USS Hornet, which was one of four custom Airstream trailers made for this reason.

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    To prevent any possible contamination from escaping, the air was filtered and the pressure inside the MQF was kept lower. And even though President Richard Nixon came to visit them shortly after splashdown, the astronauts had to remain inside the MQF for a full three weeks after their return to Earth. In the image below, the Apollo 11 astronauts are still inside the MQF as it is unloaded from a Lockheed C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, TX.

    ER-2 Mobile Chase Car
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    NASA is the lucky owner two ER-2 High Altitude Airborne Science Aircraft, which are the “white” versions of Lockheed’s venerable U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane. And just like when the Air Force recovers their U-2s with the help ofPontiac GTOs and Chevrolet Camaros, NASA uses a muscle car of their own to bring their high flyer safely back to Earth.



    The big difference between this 2010 Dodge Charger and any other police pursuit vehicle is the addition of air-to-ground radios. That’s because behind the wheel of the Charger is another ER-2 pilot, known as a mobile pilot. The mobile pilot’s job is to drive on the runway, just behind the descending ER-2 while giving their fellow ER-2 pilot last-second verbal guidance over the radio before the jet’s tires bite the runway. While the technique looks like something out of a James Bond film, it greatly mitigates the risk of a mishap on landing.

    Pad Evacuation Vehicles
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    Human spaceflight is an incredibly dangerous undertaking, and NASA has to plan for the worst-case scenario. In the event of an emergency on the launchpad, astronauts and ground support personnel would rush to an escape mechanism that is designed to whisk them away from a volatile explosion.

    In the space shuttle era, astronauts would’ve escaped in M113 armored personnel carriers (shown above). These tracked, aluminum-armored machines played a significant role in many conflicts, beginning with the Vietnam War.



    The Boeing CST-100 and other commercial space launches will forego the M113 pad evacuation vehicle of the shuttle era in favor of the larger and tougherMine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). These are the same vehicles used in combat by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, and are said to be faster than the M113’s top speed of 42 miles per hour. They’re also easier to drive and more comfortable, which could make a big difference in a highly stressful evacuation situation.

    *Continued below.
     
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  8. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    *Continued from above

    These Are The Earth Cars Of A Space Agency - Part 2

    Aerodynamic Trucks
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    NASA doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its contributions to the automotive industry. They’ve even developed a plan to deal with splattered bug guts on cars! In the 1970s and 80s, NASA scientists at the Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale, CA experimented with techniques to reduce aerodynamic drag on ground vehicles.

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    Some of the early aerodynamic truck test articles looked like they escaped from Burning Man, while others have clearly influenced modern truck design, especially the semi-boat tail (pictured below). That stuff that looks like strings are actually strips of felt that are meant to show how air is flowing over the truck’s modified surfaces.

    Crew Transport Vehicles
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    When the Space Shuttles returned to Earth, NASA used a special “mobile lounge” jetway-on-a-scissor-truck to disembark the astronauts. Officially called Crew Transport Vehicles, they were originally designed by Chrysler for airport use and still exist at Dulles International Airport (IAD) to this day.

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    At Kennedy Space Center, the Crew Transport Vehicles took astronauts directly from the orbiter to the second floor of the Baseline Data Collection Facility. The video below shows one in action.



    Modular Robotic Vehicle
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    The new Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) made a big splash when it was revealed earlier this year. With four independently-steered wheels, each powered by their own electric motor and drive-by-wire controls, this thing is just begging to be hooned Gymkhana-style.

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    The MRV can be controlled remotely or by a human driver onboard. Some of its technologies may appear in a future Mars rover, or perhaps even in future automotive applications here on Earth.

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    As we continue our focus on space this week, let’s remember the interplay between aerospace and automotive technology. This relationship will only continue to strengthen as cars on Earth become smarter. As an engine of research and technological development, we have NASA and their industry partners to thank for many incredible solutions in engineering and transportation.




     
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  9. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto

    Pluto’s Blue Sky: Pluto’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles (called tholins) that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible.
    Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


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  10. Sven

    Sven Teh Viking dood Industry Professional Ret. Military

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    This Glittery Gem is in Orbit Helping us Measure the Shape of our Planet

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    This ridiculous rhinestone-studded disco-ball is actually a high-precision laser-reflecting satellite still in orbit around the Earth. With only tiny reflectors and no active instruments, it’s provided vital data on the planet’s shape for decades.

    The Laser Geodynamics Satellite I (LAGEOS I) launched out of Marshall Space Flight Center on May 4, 1976. The 407 kilogram (900 pund), 0.6 meter (2 foot) diameter sphere is made from materials that won’t react to the Earth’s magnetic field, and is passive so has no on-board electronics or sensors.

    The aluminum-coated brass sphere is studded with 426 cube corner reflectors. As the first satellite dedicated to high-precision laser ranging, 422 reflectors were made of fused silica glass; the last four were made from germanium for infrared light.

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    The satellite also carries a plaque designed by Carl Sagan. The 10 centimeter by 18 centimeter (4 inch by 7 inch) stainless steel plate was a roadmap to Earth akin to the famous Voyager plaques. It contains:

    • Binary digits from 1 to 10;
    • Schematic of Earth in orbit around the Sun, with directional arrows; and
    • 3 maps of the Earths’ surface, marking tectonic changes from 268 million years ago, the present, and an estimate of what the surface will look like 8.4 million years from now.
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    Its primary purpose was to measure the Earth’s shape by passively reflecting laser beams from terrestrial ground stations. As an added bonus the satellite also gave NASA their first chance to look into reflectivity and satellite orientation without degradation from satellite orbits or arrays. Distance measurements from bouncing lasers of LAGEOS are used to track changes in the Earth’s surface from continental drift or in its gravitational field from earthquakes and other geophysical phenomena, and to act as a reference point to measure the Earth’s wobble around its axis. It has also been used to confirm frame dragging, the general relativity phenomena where the mass of the Earth warps spacetime.

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    The geodetic experiment is still in an incredibly stable orbit around the Earth, looping past the poles every 225 minutes. It has no attitude control, so there is no way to adjust its orbit.
     
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