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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