After a Voyage of More than 3 Billion Miles, NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft is Ready to Begin Exploring PlutoPosted: January 23, 2015
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft is entering the first of several approach phases that culminate July 14 with the first close-up flyby of the dwarf planet, 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.
“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring.”
– Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado
“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”
The fastest spacecraft when it was launched, New Horizons lifted off in January 2006. It awoke from its final hibernation period last month after a voyage of more than 3 billion miles, and will soon pass close to Pluto, inside the orbits of its five known moons.
“NASA first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system. The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”
– Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division
In preparation for the close encounter, the mission’s science, engineering and spacecraft operations teams configured the piano-sized probe for distant observations of the Pluto system that start Sunday, Jan. 25 with a long-range photo shoot.
The images captured by New Horizons’ telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) will give mission scientists a continually improving look at the dynamics of Pluto’s moons. The images also will play a critical role in navigating the spacecraft as it covers the remaining 135 million miles (220 million kilometers) to Pluto.
“We’ve completed the longest journey any spacecraft has flown from Earth to reach its primary target, and we are ready to begin exploring,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Read the rest of this entry »
The system, referred to as Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, uses Aegis radar, and airborne sensor and SM-6 missile to find, track and destroy approaching threats such as cruise missiles at ranges well beyond the typical radar horizon, Navy officials said.
Alongside Aegis radar and an SM-6 missile, NIFC-CA uses an E-2D Hawkeye aircraft as an airborne sensor to help relay threat information to the ship from beyond its normal radar range.
“We are looking at alternative airborne sensors,” the executive said.
The idea with a demonstration, sources indicate, would be to use the F-35 as an airborne relay node or sensor in place of the E-2D Hawkeye. This could allow NIFC-CA to operate against an increasingly complex set of targets such as stealthy targets, the Lockheed executive explained. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian Air Force SU-27 Cockpit Detail
Photo: Vitaly Kuzmin
Dave Scott (left) and Neil Armstrong breathe the fresh air of Earth as the hatches of Gemini VIII are opened after splashdown. Photo Credit: NASA
Ben Evans writes: Gemini VIII astronauts Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott accomplished a key goal in America’s bid to land a man on the Moon by successfully rendezvousing and docking with an unmanned Agena target vehicle in Earth orbit. As noted in part 1 AmericaSpace article, it was the first time that a manned vehicle had achieved physical contact with another target in space. However, the situation aboard Gemini VIII was far from perfect. A distinct lack of available tracking stations across the flight path had already resulted in decidedly “spotty” communications with the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in Houston, Texas.
“We have serious problems here. We’re tumbling, end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.”
– Dave Scott
In fact, only two ship-based stations were supporting the flight, the Rose Knot Victor and the Coastal Sentry Quebec, together with a land site in Hawaii. Shortly before one loss of contact, at around 6:35 p.m. EST on 16 March 1966, Capcom Jim Lovell radioed the Gemini VIII crew. If problems arose, he told them, they should immediately deactivate the Agena with Command 400 and assume manual control with the Gemini. It was a standard call. Lovell could hardly have imagined that a potential disaster would soon engulf the mission.
Half an hour after docking with the Agena, Dave Scott instructed the target to roll them 90 degrees, and Neil Armstrong, in the commander’s seat, told Lovell that it had “gone quite well.” The call came a few seconds before Gemini VIII passed out of radio contact with the ground. Alone, the astronauts electronically activated the Agena’s tape recorder. Shortly thereafter, their attitude indicator showed that they were in an unexpected, and almost imperceptible, roll of about 30 degrees.
“Neil,” called Scott, “we’re in a bank.” Were the Agena’s attitude controls misbehaving? Or was it a problem with the target vehicle’s software? Certainly, Gemini VIII’s own thrusters were now switched off and the assumption could safely be made that the Agena was at fault. What they did not know was that one of their thrusters—the No. 8 thruster—had short-circuited and stuck into its “on” position. Unaware, Scott cut off the Agena’s thrusters, whilst Armstrong reactivated the Gemini’s thrusters in an attempt to stop the roll and bring the combination under control.
For a few minutes, his effort succeeded.
Gradually, the craft stabilized. Then, as Armstrong started to reorient them into their correct position, the unwanted motions resumed … albeit much faster than before and along all three axes. Perplexed, the men jiggled the Agena’s control switches, then those of the Gemini, on and off, in a fruitless attempt to isolate the problem. Glancing at his instrument panel, Scott noticed that their craft’s attitude propellant had dropped to just 30 percent. At this stage, it dawned on the astronauts that the fault was with their craft. “We had to disengage from the Agena,” Scott later wrote in his memoir, Two Sides of the Moon, “and quickly.”
“Television stations began interrupting their programmes—Batman and, ironically, Lost in Space—to provide live coverage. Original plans had called for Gemini VIII to splash down in the Atlantic and be recovered by the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Boxer, but the emergency guided them instead to a point in the western Pacific, 500 miles east of Okinawa.“
This posed its own problems, since both craft were rapidly rotating and could hit each other. Quickly, Scott set the Agena’s recording devices to allow flight controllers to remotely command it; a crucial step, since, after undocking, the target would otherwise be dead. “No one would ever know what the problem had been or how to fix it,” he wrote. His prompt action saved the Agena and preserved it not only for subsequent investigations, but also for a remarkable “double rendezvous” on the Gemini X mission in July. Read the rest of this entry »
Ashlee Vance reports: Because he doesn’t have enough going on, Elon Musk—he of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCity, and the Hyperloop—is launching another project. Musk wants to build a second Internet in space and one day use it to connect people on Mars to the Web.
Musk is tonight hosting a SpaceX event in Seattle, where the company is opening a new office. The talk will mostly be about SpaceX’s plans for hiring aerospace and software engineers in the Pacific Northwest to boost the company’s rocket-building efforts. But he’ll also use the talk to announce his newest idea, which would launch a vast network of communication satellites to orbit earth. The network would do two things: speed up the general flow of data on the Internet and deliver high-speed, low-cost Internet services to the three billion-plus people who still have poor access to the Web. “Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.
“In Musk’s vision, Internet data packets going from, say, Los Angeles to Johannesburg would no longer have to go through dozens of routers and terrestrial networks. Instead, the packets would go to space, bouncing from satellite to satellite until they reach the one nearest their destination, then return to an antenna on earth.”
The Space Internet venture, to which Musk hasn’t yet given a name, would be hugely ambitious. Hundreds of satellites would orbit about 750 miles above earth, much closer than traditional communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit at altitudes of up to 22,000 miles. The lower satellites would make for a speedier Internet service, with less distance for electromagnetic signals to travel. The lag in current satellite systems makes applications such as Skype, online gaming, and other cloud-based services tough to use. Musk’s service would, in theory, rival fiber optic cables on land while also making the Internet available to remote and poor regions that don’t have access. Read the rest of this entry »
On the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti gets a haircut from colleague NASA astronaut Terry Virts while cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov assists with the vacuum cleaner, making sure that no hair cuttings float off.
Ted Cruz now oversees NASA, and that’s a very good thing
At The Corner, Josh Gelernter writes: With the GOP in charge of the Senate, Ted Cruz has taken charge of the Science, Space, and Competitiveness subcommittee. Which means Ted Cruz now oversees NASA. On Wednesday, Cruz issued a statement saying that “Our space program marks the frontier of future technologies for defense, communications, transportation and more, and our mindset should be focused on NASA’s primary mission: exploring space and developing the wealth of new technologies that stem from its exploration…We must refocus our investment on the hard sciences, on getting men and women into space, on exploring low-Earth orbit and beyond . . . I am excited to raise these issues in our subcommittee and look forward to producing legislation that confirms our shared commitment to this vital mission.”
It’s not surprising that Cruz has taken an interest in NASA — whatever you think of his policies, there’s no question that he has a powerful intellect. And as a bonus, NASA’s Houston establishment is in the Texan senator’s constituency. So Cruz can be counted on to take this seriously….(read more)
Life, January 17, 1949
Divers retrieved one of the black boxes Monday from the AirAsia plane that plummeted more than two weeks ago into the Java Sea, a major breakthrough in the slow-moving hunt to recover bodies and wreckage.
Divers began zeroing in on the site a day earlier after three Indonesian ships picked up intense pings from the area, but they were unable to see it due to strong currents and poor visibility, said Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, operation coordinator at the national search and rescue agency.
He earlier said the black box was lodged in debris at a depth of about 30 meters (100 feet), but Soelistyo did not provide additional details on the discovery. Read the rest of this entry »
Melody Petersen reports: Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent a cargo capsule loaded with International Space Station supplies into orbit Saturday morning, but the company’s unprecedented attempt to set down the craft’s first-stage rocket on an ocean barge was rocky and damaged the booster.
“Rocket made it to the drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”
– Elon Musk
Within minutes, the cargo-filled capsule separated from the first-stage booster rocket and continued on its way to orbit and rendezvous with the space station.
That was when SpaceX attempted what had never been done: flying the 13-story booster back to Earth and landing it upright on an ocean barge.
The booster made it to the barge, but Musk tweeted that some of the vessel’s equipment was damaged by the impact. “Ship itself is fine,” he wrote. “Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced.”
“Didn’t get good landing/impact video,” he tweeted. “Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from telemetry and … actual pieces.”
Hawthorne-based SpaceX hopes to one day be able to reuse the first stage, which includes the expensive and powerful engines needed to blast the capsule to orbit. The planned landing and recovery of the first stage is part of Musk’s goal to eventually be able to refly the same spacecraft many times, greatly lowering the cost of space flight. Read the rest of this entry »
— Robert Holguin (@ABC7Robert) January 9, 2015
Music : StoneOcean Power within.
“Soldiers of the Sky” photographed by Nickolas Muray for Vogue, 1940 (via)
AirAsia Plane Carrying About 160 Passengers, Crew; Flight Lost Contact After Departing Surabaya
(CNN) — The search is on for AirAsia Flight 8501, which lost contact with air traffic control in Indonesia, the airline said Sunday.
“At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available.”
AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact at 07:24hrs this morning http://t.co/WomRQuzcPO
— AirAsia (@AirAsia) December 28, 2014
– AirAsia Indonesia, in a statement
[PHOTO] International Space Station Decorated with Christmas Stockings: ESA Astronaut Samantha CristoforettiPosted: December 25, 2014
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is in the holiday spirit as the International Space Station is decorated with stockings for each crew member and a tree.