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Thursday, December 26, 2013

NASA and JAXA Announce Launch Date for Global Precipitation Satellite

December 17, 2013
Artist concept of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite.
Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
RELEASE 13-376

Environmental research and weather forecasting are about to get a significant technology boost as NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) prepare to launch a new satellite in February.

NASA and JAXA selected 1:07 p.m. to 3:07 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 27 (3:07 a.m. to 5:07 a.m. JST Friday, Feb. 28) as the launch date and launch window for a Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center.

GPM is an international satellite mission that will provide advanced observations of rain and snowfall worldwide, several times a day to enhance our understanding of the water and energy cycles that drive Earth’s climate. The data provided by the Core Observatory will be used to calibrate precipitation measurements made by an international network of partner satellites to quantify when, where, and how much it rains or snows around the world.

“Launching this core observatory and establishing the Global Precipitation Measurement mission is vitally important for environmental research and weather forecasting,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Knowing rain and snow amounts accurately over the whole globe is critical to understanding how weather and climate impact agriculture, fresh water availability, and responses to natural disasters.”

With the addition of the new Core Observatory, the satellites in the GPM constellation will include the NASA-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership mission, launched in 2012; the NASA-JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), launched in 1997; and several other satellites managed by JAXA, NOAA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, the Centre National D’Etudies Spatiales of France and the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“We will use data from the GPM mission not only for Earth science research but to improve weather forecasting and respond to meteorological disasters,” said Shizuo Yamamoto, executive director of JAXA. “We would also like to aid other countries in the Asian region suffering from flood disasters by providing data for flood alert systems. Our dual-frequency precipitation radar, developed with unique Japanese technologies, plays a central role in the GPM mission.”

The GPM Core Observatory builds on the sensor technology developed for the TRMM mission, with two innovative new instruments. The GPM Microwave Imager, built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo., will observe rainfall and snowfall at 13 different frequencies. The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, developed by JAXA with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Tokyo, transmits radar frequencies that will detect ice and light rain, as well as heavier rainfall. It also will be able to measure the size and distribution of raindrops, snowflakes and ice particles.

(Learn More at Ask Kuiper)

For more information on the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/gpm

and

http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/gpm/index_e.html

Monday, December 16, 2013

The death of the universe - Renée Hlozek



Published on Dec 12, 2013

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-death-o...

The shape, contents and future of the universe are all intricately related. We know that it's mostly flat; we know that it's made up of baryonic matter (like stars and planets), but mostly dark matter and dark energy; and we know that it's expanding constantly, so that all stars will eventually burn out into a cold nothingness. Renée Hlozek expands on the beauty of this dark ending.

Lesson by Renée Hlozek, animation by Giant Animation Studios.

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Light waves, visible and invisible - Lucianne Walkowicz


Published on Sep 19, 2013

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/light-waves...

Each kind of light has a unique wavelength, but human eyes can only perceive a tiny slice of the full spectrum -- the very narrow range from red to violet. Microwaves, radio waves, x-rays and more are hiding, invisible, just beyond our perception. Lucianne Walkowicz shows us the waves we can't see.

Lesson by Lucianne Walkowicz, animation by Pew36 Animation Studios.

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Why extremophiles bode well for life beyond Earth - Louisa Preston



Published on Oct 7, 2013

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-extremo...

Life on Earth requires three things: liquid water, a source of energy within a habitable range from the sun and organic carbon-based material. But life is surprisingly resilient, and organisms called extremophiles can be found in hostile living conditions (think extreme temperatures and little access to oxygen). Louisa Preston argues why extremophiles give astrobiologists hope for life in the universe.

Lesson by Louisa Preston, animation by Emanuel Friberg.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Imagine Taking a Vacation to the Moon by 2043

By Dave Gilbert, CNN
December 9, 2013

England (CNN) -- Imagine the delight at unwrapping your Christmas present in 2043 and discovering you've been gifted a trip around the Moon.

It may seem a little far-fetched right now but it could become a reality if space companies like Virgin Galactic realize their aspirations over the next 30 years or so.

Richard Branson and his children are due to fly in his company's spaceship on its first commercial flight currently slated for 2014. But speaking to CNN outside a space conference in the UK last week, the company's CEO George Whitesides said their ambitions extended beyond sub-orbital flights for those first customers.

"If we can make significant progress on the challenge of reusable space access then I think that opens up all kinds of opportunities in the future," he said.

"One of the directions that might open up is high-speed point-to-point travel on Earth -- so that you could go from London to Singapore in an hour or go from London to Los Angeles in a couple of hours.

"We may be able to open up the opportunity for habitats in low Earth orbit, we could make it more affordable to do longer term flights -- even trips around the Moon. I think he [Branson] has high aspirations for a lot of these different activities."

Continue Learning: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/09/tech/space-tourism/

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Goddard Planetary Instruments Score a Hat Trick

Dec. 5, 2013
Three mass spectrometers built at Goddard were operating on the same day at the moon, on Mars and en route to Mars.
Image Credit: NASA

Planetary instruments from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., hit the trifecta on Dec. 4, running three experiments of the same kind at different places in space.

The instruments, all flying on NASA missions, are mass spectrometers, designed to take in atmospheric, rock or soil samples and identify particular molecules in them. The investigations lined up because of the operating schedules for the three, which must take turns with other instruments on their respective spacecraft.

“At the moon and Mars and part way in between, we had three mass spectrometers happily operating in their other-worldly environments or being checked out for the first time in space on the same day,” said Paul Mahaffy, the principal investigator for the instruments.

Goddard’s Planetary Environments Lab, headed by Mahaffy, built all three instruments. The mass spectrometers identify gases in atmospheric samples or gases that get released from rock or soil samples as they are processed. To pick out individual components in a sample, an electron beam is used to break the large molecules into smaller fragments. Then high-frequency electric fields are applied to the resulting mixture to sort the fragments by mass and electric charge, producing a fingerprint of the molecules present.

Stationed at the moon was NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, which entered an equatorial orbit on Nov. 20 and began science operations the following day. On Dec. 4, the mission’s Neutral Mass Spectrometer was checking out the moon’s thin atmosphere. The instrument will continue to collect samples over multiple orbits with the moon in different space environments.

En route to Mars was NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission. Launched on Nov. 18, the spacecraft is in the early cruise phase and is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014. The mission’s Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer was turned on for the first time on Dec. 4 and measured calibration gases in the instrument.

Upon the spacecraft’s arrival at Mars, the instrument will study the planet’s fragile upper atmosphere, examining its composition and determining how quickly some of the gases are escaping into space over time. This information will help scientists understand what the Martian atmosphere looked like billions of years ago and how most of it has been lost since then.

On the surface of Mars was NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which carries the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. SAM has been analyzing multiple samples of the atmosphere and soils and rocks to help scientists understand how habitable Mars was in the past.

“With these studies, mass spectrometry is helping us piece together the histories of the moon and Mars and offers a vision of their futures,” said Mahaffy. “It’s a perfect example of how invaluable these instruments are for space science.”

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. Goddard manages the MAVEN mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., built the Curiosity rover and manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California manages the LADEE mission.

By Elizabeth Zubritsky, NASA

(www.nasa.gov)

Related article
NASA | Alien Atmospheres (askkuiper.wordpress.com)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Laser communication mission targets 2017 launch

December 3, 2013

This is an artist rendering of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration hosted aboard a Space Systems Loral commercial communications satellite.
Credit: Space Systems/Loral
NASA's next laser communication mission recently passed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), another major milestone towards the launch of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) scheduled for 2017.

The PDR is a major agency evaluation milestone of the engineering plan to execute the build and launch of LCRD onboard a Space Systems Loral commercial satellite. "The board concluded that the LCRD review was a resounding success," said Tupper Hyde, chairperson of the PDR. "They met all review success criteria and the LCRD team is ready to proceed with mission plans to conduct this ground-breaking demonstration."

The LCRD project is NASA's first long duration optical communications mission. This demonstration will build from NASA's highly successful Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) mission. LCRD will conduct a two-year demonstration of optical relay services to determine how well the system operates and collect long-term performance data. The Goddard team leads the project with significant support from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Space Systems/Loral (SSL).

Continue Learning: http://phys.org/news/2013-12-laser-mission.html

Spacesuit of the future could power gadgetry with body heat

by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore December 3, 2013 10:33 AM PST

Researchers at Kansas State are investigating how the difference in temperature between body heat and a spacesuit's cooling garment could run the suit's electronics.

Kansas State engineering students work with a model spacesuit to explore the potential integration of wearable medical sensors.
Credit: Kansas State University
Wondering what's next in wearable electronics? Fitness trackers like the Fitbit Force and the Nike+ FuelBand SE may be fine for the earthbound, but for the astronauts among us, NASA's working on a different kind of fashionable circuitry.

At Kansas State University, researchers are just over two years into a three-year, $750,000 NASA grant to turn current spacesuits into even better readers of astronauts' vital signs -- and on top of that, make use of the inner workings of the suits themselves to power radios and other embedded electronics.

"Right now the spacesuits pretty much only measure heart rate," said William Kuhn, professor of electrical and computer engineering and part of the spacesuit team, which includes engineering professors and a dozen-plus students. "In this project we're focused on EMGs [electromyography] that can monitor muscle activity. The biggest problem that the astronauts have when they're doing their work is they get very fatigued because of the pressure in the suits, so we're focusing on being able to predict when they're going to be fatigued so we can help them reorder their tasks in space."

Continue Learning: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57613825-76/spacesuit-of-the-future-could-power-gadgetry-with-body-heat/

Monday, December 2, 2013

Spacelab: Space Shuttle Flew Europe's First Space Module 30 Years Ago

by Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com Editor | December 02, 2013 01:17pm ET

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Spacelab module is seen in the payload bay of space shuttle Columbia during the lab's first spaceflight on the STS-9 mission in 1983.
Credit: NASA/RetroSpaceImages.com
It doesn't seem out of place today, but the sight 30 years ago of a cylindrical module mounted inside the space shuttle's cargo bay was described as an "odd-appearing assemblage" in 1983.

The unusual payload was Spacelab, a $1 billion European built, NASA-operated space-borne science platform, which would not only set the stage for investigations onboard the space shuttle, but would lay the foundation for major parts of today's International Space Station.

Space shuttle Columbia launched on Nov. 28, 1983, lifting into orbit the Spacelab and six astronauts. Under the lead of commander John Young, the STS-9 crew included pilot Brewster Shaw and mission specialists Owen Garriott and Robert Parker.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23796-spacelab-space-shuttle-30-years-anniversary.html

Sunday, December 1, 2013

NASA Issues Human Exploration Rover Challenge To Students

November 30, 2013

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com
Susan Bowen for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Students, some of whom will have only recently earned their driver’s licenses, will soon have the opportunity to test drive vehicles for use on other planets, asteroids, moons and comets.

NASA has issued a new engineering design challenge for teams of high school and college students: to design, build and test vehicles on the simulated surface of another world.

Registration for the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge will be open until early in 2014 and will provide students with an authentic engineering challenge.

“We designed this engineering challenge to align with NASA’s commitment of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s,” said Rocky Lind, who manages education and outreach efforts in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The student teams will be timed, ranked and scored based on design, safety and how well they traverse the set course. The results of the competition will contribute to the design process for NASA’s future exploration goals.”

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113016275/stem-nasa-human-exploration-rover-challenge-113013/

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Russian Cargo Spacecraft Heads to Space Station with Holiday Goodies

Published on Nov 25, 2013

The Russian Progress 53 cargo craft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 25, hauling almost three tons of food, fuel, supplies and holiday gifts to the International Space Station's Expedition 38 crew. The unpiloted spacecraft will test upgraded automated rendezvous equipment at a distance of a mile from the complex on Nov. 27 before docking to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module on Nov. 29.

Magnetic field: an introduction

Published on Nov 22, 2013

An introduction to Earth's magnetic field: what it is, where it comes from and what it's used for.

This is the first of three videos:
Magnetic field: an introduction
Magnetic field: why it matters
Magnetic field: learning more with Swarm

(See More Videos)

Guide to our Galaxy




Published on Nov 21, 2013

This virtual journey shows the different components that make up our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about a hundred billion stars.

It starts at the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and with the stars that orbit around it, before zooming out through the central Galactic Bulge, which hosts about ten billion stars.

The journey continues through a younger population of stars in the stellar disc, home to most of the Milky Way's stars, and which is embedded in a slightly larger gaseous disc. Stars in the disc are arranged in a spiral arm pattern and orbit the centre of the Galaxy.

The discs and bulge are embedded in the stellar halo, a spherical structure that consists of a large number of globular clusters -- the oldest population of stars in the Galaxy -- as well as many isolated stars. An even larger halo of invisible dark matter is inferred by its gravitational effect on the motions of stars in the Galaxy.

Looking at a face-on view of the Galaxy we see the position of our Sun, located at a distance of about 26 000 light-years from the Galactic Centre.

Finally, the extent of the stellar survey conducted by ESA's Hipparcos mission is shown, which surveyed more than 100 000 stars up to 300 light-years away from the Sun. In comparison, ESA's Gaia survey will study one billion stars out to 30 000 light-years away.

(See More Videos)

3D virtual spacewalk outside the International Space Station


Published on Nov 19, 2013

Get an idea of what it feels like to see the International Space Station from the outside, as an astronaut on a spacewalk. Put your 3D glasses on to appreciate the size of humankind's orbital laboratory and watch a Soyuz spacecraft undock and a docking with ESA's supply spacecraft Automated Transfer Vehicle.

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3D virtual tour of the International Space Station

Published on Nov 19, 2013

Put your 3D glasses on for this virtual visit of the International Space Station's modules. Float through the space laboratories and connecting modules from the perspective of an astronaut.

(See More Videos)

Mars showcase (European Space Agency)


Published on Oct 28, 2013

(See more videos)
From the highest volcano to the deepest canyon, from impact craters to ancient river beds and lava flows, this showcase of images from ESA's Mars Express takes you on an unforgettable journey across the Red Planet.

Mars Express was launched on 2 June 2003 and arrived at Mars six-and-a-half months later. It has since orbited the planet nearly 12 500 times, providing scientists with unprecedented images and data collected by its suite of scientific instruments.

The data have been used to create an almost global digital topographic model of the surface, providing a unique visualisation and enabling researchers to acquire new and surprising information about the evolution of the Red Planet.

The images in this movie were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera and the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center as part of the ten years of Mars Express celebrations in June 2013. The music has been created by Stephan Elgner of DLR's Mars Express planetary cartography team. DLR developed and is operating the stereo camera.

Read the original post on DLR's website here: http://www.dlr.de/dlr/en/desktopdefau...

Credit: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

With 2 More Cubesats in Orbit, Earth-imaging Startup Planet Labs Ships Next Batch of 28 to Wallops

By Debra Werner | Nov. 26, 2013

Planet Labs is preparing for the scheduled launch Dec. 15 of its operational Earth imaging constellation of 28 satellites, dubbed Flock 1, to the international space station.
Credit: Photo by Gabriel Liendo
SAN FRANCISCO — Planet Labs, the San Francisco company planning to establish the world’s largest Earth imaging constellation, announced Nov. 26 the successful launch of two satellites and shipment to Virginia of 28 additional spacecraft in preparation for their December launch.

On Nov. 21, Planet Labs sent triple cubesats Dove 3 and Dove 4 into polar orbit on a Dnepr rocket from Russia’s Yasny launch site. “The launch was extremely successful,” said William Marshall, Planet Labs co-founder and chief executive. “They went into precisely the orbit we wanted. We have also successfully made contact.”

The latest additions to the Planet Labs fleet offer improvements in the capability provided by the firm’s first satellites launched in April, Dove 1 and Dove 2, which also were triple cubesats measuring 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 30 centimeters.

Dove 3 and Dove 4 will demonstrate the firm’s latest technology, including upgraded communications, attitude control and observation technology. “We like to iterate our satellite designs very rapidly,” Marshall said. “It’s the same compact form factor as Dove 1 and Dove 2, but we have stuck in more capability.”

Continue Learning: http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/38361with-2-more-cubesats-in-orbit-earth-imaging-startup-planet-labs-ships-next

Hi-Def Space Selfies Coming To Your Web Browser Soon

Posted by Andrew Fazekas in StarStruck on November 25, 2013

Space buffs can expect to to ogle stunning near-real-time Earth views anytime on their computers and mobile devices once new HD cameras are installed on the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA
Coming soon—take the ultimate selfie from space!

Two high-definition cameras are on their way now to the International Space Station. There, they will aim to revolutionize how we view our planet and ourselves.

A Canadian-based company named UrtheCast will offer the world’s first near-live HD video and imagery of Earth from space, using the new cameras. Launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Monday, the two eyes in the sky will be installed on the underbelly of the space station over the next few months. Expectations are that space buffs everywhere with an internet connection will see the first live streaming-video broadcast from the cameras on the company’s web portal early next year.

One of the cameras will offer sharp five-meter resolution stills of a broad 25-mile-wide (40 kilometer) swath of the globe, with pictures taken anywhere between 51°N and 51°S latitude (from England to Chile). The other camera can be pointed at 150 specific targets of interest per day. It has the capability of generating video with super-sharp Ultra-HD or 4K quality, and offers one-meter resolution.

Continue Learning: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/25/hi-def-space-selfies-coming-to-your-web-browser-soon/


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Cut-rate SpaceX poised for first commercial satellite launch

BY IRENE KLOTZ
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:40am EST

SEPTEMBER 29, 2013 PHOTO CREDIT — SPACEX
FALCON 9 CLOSE UP
(Reuters) - - An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket developed by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is poised to enter the commercial satellite market on Monday, a potential game-changer in a global industry worth nearly $190 billion a year.

Following a successful debut test fight on September 29, the privately owned firm's upgraded Falcon 9 rocket is due to lift off at 5:37 p.m. EST/2237 GMT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Perched on top of the rocket is a 6,400-pound (2,900 kg) communications satellite owned by Luxembourg-based SES S.A., which currently operates a 54-satellite fleet, the world's second-largest.

The satellite, known as SES-8 and worth about $100 million, will be positioned to provide television, cable, broadband and other services to customers in India, China, Vietnam and other markets in Asia.

"It's an extremely important satellite for us," Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer of SES, told reporters on Sunday in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

"We know that as we go forward into these very significant growth markets that it's absolutely critical that we have a cost-effective and efficient way to get to orbit. That's really what SpaceX has brought us," Halliwell said.

Previous SES satellites were launched primarily aboard Russian Proton and European Ariane rockets, which cost far more than the approximately $55 million the company paid for its ride on SpaceX's Falcon booster, Halliwell said.

He would not say exactly how much SpaceX undercut the competition, but did say SES got a bit of a discount by agreeing to fly on Falcon 9's first mission to the high altitudes that communication satellites require.

In addition to the upgraded Falcon 9's test flight in September, older versions of the rocket previously flew five times successfully, including three missions for NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, which flies about 250 miles above Earth.

Continue Learning: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/25/us-space-spacex-launch-idUSBRE9AO0NN20131125

SES-8 Satellite Launch Will Be SpaceX’s Most Challenging To Date

November 25, 2013

A September test launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: SpaceX
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

SpaceX is preparing for its next big mission this evening when it will, for the first time, attempt to launch a telecom satellite into orbit. A successful launch could prove the Elon Musk-owned company’s worth as both a private and commercial powerhouse in the space launch game.

The launch window for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 opens today at 5:37 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket will be carrying a Luxembourg-based SES-8 satellite that will serve television customers in India and parts of Southeast Asia.

The launch of a satellite is not only a first for SpaceX, but will also be its most challenging. The Falcon 9 rocket must show its capabilities in launching the SES-8 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit more than 22,000 miles over Earth’s equator.

Today’s launch of an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, known as version 1.1, also comes after a September 29 test launch of the same rocket design in California. While that test was successful, an optional restart of the rocket’s upper stage engine, which will be necessary for the latest mission, failed to activate.

SpaceX later determined that an igniter line froze and believes that added insulation will prevent a repeat of the issue.

“We’ve done everything we can possibly think of to maximize the reliability of this launch,” Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, told BBC’s Jonathan Amos in an interview

“There’s no stone that hasn’t been turned over at least twice to maximize the probability of success. Being a rocket, there’s still some chance of failure, but whatever happens we can be at peace that we’ve done everything we could think of, and SES’s technical team has looked at it and they concur,” Musk added.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113012115/spacex-launch-commercial-satellite-tonight-most-challenging-112513/

NASA Launches Technology Transfer 'Super Tool'

Nov. 25, 2013

Sarah Ramsey
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1694
sarah.ramsey@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-347

Businesses and individuals interested in using NASA research to develop new technologies and products now have access to an online tool to make the process of licensing easier.

The QuickLaunch licensing tool provides access to a select portfolio of NASA technologies for the purpose of licensing and commercial development.

The tool features pre-approved terms and conditions, including fixed, up-front and royalty pricing, a streamlined process for electronic agreements and significantly reduced response and approval times. It provides access to existing, patented NASA technologies to provide rapid and cost-effective deployment to industry.

"The QuickLaunch Licensing tool will enhance our efforts to transfer more NASA technologies to American industry and U.S. consumers in a timely manner," said Daniel Lockney, NASA's technology transfer program executive. "NASA develops hundreds of technologies each year in support of its aeronautics and space exploration missions. This new tool ensures that the American taxpayer will receive a second benefit from its investment in NASA through the creation of new products, new markets and new jobs."

More than 30 technologies currently are available for license using the QuickLaunch website. The number will increase during the coming year. Technologies range from a plant chlorophyll content meter, which detects plant stress by determining the chlorophyll content of plants, to a propulsion-controlled aircraft computer that provides a low-cost method of implementing this aircraft technology for a wide range of aircraft.

QuickLaunch users can search by NASA center or by technology category, ask questions of NASA licensing managers, and file a licensing application online.

For more information about NASA's QuickLaunch Licensing website, please visit:

https://quicklaunch.ndc.nasa.gov

For more information about NASA's Technology Transfer Portal website, visit:

http://technology.nasa.gov

NASA Delivers Precipitation Satellite to Japan for 2014 Launch

Nov. 25, 2013

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Rani Gran
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-286-2483
rani.c.gran@nasa.gov

RELEASE 13-346

A U.S. Air Force C-5 transport aircraft carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory landed at Kitakyushu Airport in Japan at approximately 10:30 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 23.
(Credit: JAXA)
An international satellite that will set a new standard for global precipitation measurements from space has completed a 7,300-mile journey from the United States to Japan, where it now will undergo launch preparations.

A U.S. Air Force C-5 transport aircraft carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory landed at Kitakyushu Airport, about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo, at approximately 10:30 p.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 23.

The spacecraft, the size of a small private jet, is the largest satellite ever built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It left Goddard inside a large shipping container Nov. 19 and began its journey across the Pacific Ocean Nov. 21 from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, with a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.

From Kitakyushu Airport, the spacecraft was loaded onto a barge heading to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan, where it will be prepared for launch in early 2014 on an H-IIA rocket.

Continue Learning...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

MAVEN is on the way on This Week @NASA


Published on Nov 22, 2013

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a 10-month journey to Mars. MAVEN will take critical measurements of the Martian upper atmosphere to investigate how loss of the atmosphere to space impacted the history of water on the planet's surface. Also, Happy anniversary, ISS!, Asteroid Ideas, LADEE in science orbit, Orion progress, Rocket autopilot test, Commercial crew, and more!

(See more videos)

2014 NASA Rover Challenge

2014 NASA Rover Challenge
NASA is introducing a new engineering design challenge that will focus on NASA’s current plans to explore planets, moons, asteroids and comets -- all members of the solar system family. The new NASA Rover Challenge (formerly NASA Great Moonbuggy Race) will be held April 10-12, 2014, at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center. The challenge will focus on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in these different environments, and it will provide valuable experiences that engage students in the technologies and concepts that will be needed in future exploration missions. Registration is OPEN!

Visit the registration section of this site for details.

Is Inspiration Enough To Launch Inspiration Mars?

NASA By Amy Shira Teitel Posted Nov. 22, 2013

An artist’s concept of Inspiration Mars Inspiration Mars
Credit: Inspiration Mars
In 2001, Dennis Tito used his millions to buy a seat on a Soyuz spacecraft for an eight-day visit to the International Space Station. On February 27 of this year, he announced his plan to foot a large portion of the bill for Inspiration Mars, a flyby mission to the red planet. On Wednesday in front of a House Committee on Space, he called for NASA to pick up the slack to see his mission fly, both financially and technologically. Inspiration Mars had some obvious problems from the start, but this latest development looks a little like it might be the first nail in the mission’s coffin.

Tito unveiled Inspiration Mars earlier this year as a philanthropic mission; technological and scientific ends were secondary to the primary goal of inspiring the nation to aspire to great things in space once again. The mission itself is fairly straightforward. A crew of two (a married, middle-aged, heterosexual couple) will launch in January of 2018, fly to Mars, and whip around the planet’s far side using gravity to boost them back to Earth. The mission isn’t designed to land on Mars of even go into orbit. It would be a 501 day flight with a very short but exciting flyby around one of our neighbours.

Continue Learning: http://www.popsci.com/blog-network/vintage-space/inspiration-enough-launch-inspiration-mars

Clock Ticking for 2018 Private Manned Mars Mission

By Mike Wall, Senior Writer | November 21, 2013 06:00am ET

An artist’s illustration of the manned spacecraft for the Inspiration Mars
mission to send two astronauts on a Mars flyby mission in 2017-2018.
Credit: Inspiration Mars
A private manned Mars mission won’t get off the ground as planned in January 2018 unless it secures the support of the federal government within the next few months, officials say.

The nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation aims to partner with NASA to send two astronauts on a flyby mission to the Red Planet in 2018. Inspiration Mars has little chance of making this launch date unless it receives assurances very soon from Congress and the White House that the mission will be a NASA priority, officials said.

“We have a just a couple of months to get some signals that would indicate that there’s serious interest developing,” Inspiration Mars founder Dennis Tito, who became the world’s first space tourist when he paid his own way to the International Space Station in 2001, told reporters during a teleconference Wednesday (Nov. 20). “So, not much time.” [Private Mission to Mars Explained (Infographic)]

Inspiration Mars’ “Mission for America” would launch a married couple on a 501-day flyby mission to the Red Planet in January 2018. The astronauts would not land on Mars, but would streak within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of its surface before beginning the long trek back to Earth.

The mission would lay the foundation for even more ambitious exploration efforts in the future and help cement the United States’ status as a global leader in science and technology by inspiring the next generation of researchers and engineers, Inspiration Mars officials say.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23678-inspiration-mars-manned-mission-deadline.html

Discovery Of Cosmic Neutrinos Signals New Era Of Astronomy

November 21, 2013

Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice.
Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Astronomers working with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica have announced that they have, for the first time, observed 28 very high-energy particle events, leading them to conclude that “the era of neutrino astronomy has begun.”

Cosmic neutrinos are nearly massless particles that stream to Earth at the speed of light from outside our solar system. This observation, published in the journal Science, will allow scientists to learn about the nature of astrophysical phenomena that occurs millions to billions of light years away from Earth.

“The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, has been a mystery for more than 100 years. Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It’s working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years,” Gregory Sullivan, who led the team from University of Maryland, said in a statement.

Between May 2010 and May 2012, the IceCube detector at the South Pole captured a total of 28 neutrinos with energies greater than 30 teraelectronvolts (TeV). Two of the neutrinos had an energy of more than 1,000 TeV, which is more than the kinetic energy of a flying bug.

“This is the first indication of very high-energy neutrinos coming from outside our solar system,” said Francis Halzen, principal investigator of IceCube and the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113010258/icecube-cosmic-neutrino-discovery-astronomy-112113/

Ukraine Keen on Working with India on Space Programmes

November 22, 2013

Image via Astrowatch.net
After co-developing semi-cryogenic engines for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch vehicles, Ukraine is now keen on working with India on other space programmes, including missions to moon. Ambassador of Ukraine to India, Oleksandr D Shevchenko, told dnaindia.com on Wednesday that the head of State Space Agency of Ukraine visited ISRO facilities in Bangalore and held meetings with its chairman K Radhakrishnan to explore areas where the two countries can work together. “The two space agencies have agreed to launch a joint working programme,” he said.

He added that Ukraine has been involved in joint manufacturing of semi-cryogenic engine for ISRO in the past.

“Now we want to identify other areas where we can cooperate. We are waiting for specialists from the Indian side to visit Ukraine so that we can start the projects by next year,” he added.

The future programmes would also include moon exploration programmes, he said. Ukraine is also interested in supplying power generation equipment to India and is keen to work on thermal and hydro power projects, he said.

Continue Learning: http://www.astrowatch.net/2013/11/ukraine-keen-on-working-with-india-on.html

NASA | How to Cook a Comet


Published on Nov 21, 2013

(See More Videos)

A comet's journey through the solar system is perilous and violent. Before it reaches Mars - at some 230 million miles away from the sun - the radiation of the sun begins to cook off the frozen water ice directly into gas. This is called sublimation. It is the first step toward breaking the comet apart. If it survives this, the intense radiation and pressure closer to the sun could destroy it altogether.

Animators at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. created this short movie showing how the sun can cook a comet.

Such a journey is currently being made by Comet ISON. It began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system and is now traveling toward the sun. The comet will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day -- Nov. 28, 2013 -- skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun's surface. If it comes around the sun without breaking up, the comet will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere with the naked eye, and from what we see now, ISON is predicted to be a particularly bright and beautiful comet.

Even if the comet does not survive, tracking its journey will help scientists understand what the comet is made of, how it reacts to its environment, and what this explains about the origins of the solar system. Closer to the sun, watching how the comet and its tail interact with the vast solar atmosphere can teach scientists more about the sun itself.

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Exploring the dark universe at the speed of petaflops

Nov 21, 2013 by Gail Pieper
This visualization, part of a 1.1-trillion-particle simulation run on Argonne’s supercomputer
Mira, shows the complexity of cosmological structure formation.
Image via Phys.org
An astonishing 95% of our universe is made of up dark energy and dark matter. Understanding the physics of this sector is the foremost challenge in cosmology today. Sophisticated simulations of the evolution of the universe play a crucial role.

The primary lens through which scientists look at the night sky is no longer only a telescope—it's also a supercomputer. The new and coming generations of supercomputers will finally be capable of modeling the universe in the detail and volume required by astronomical surveys of the sky that are now underway, or soon will be.

Scientists use large cosmological simulations to test theories about the structure of the universe and the evolution of the distribution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. State-of-the-art supercomputers let cosmologists make predictions and test them against data from powerful telescopes and space probes. Two decades of surveying the sky have culminated in the celebrated Cosmological Standard Model. Yet two of the model's key pillars—dark matter and dark energy, together accounting for 95% of the universe—remain mysterious. A research team led by Argonne is tackling this mystery, aided by some of the world's fastest supercomputers.

Continue Learning: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-exploring-dark-universe-petaflops.html

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Friday, November 22, 2013

China's 1st Moon Lander May Cause Trouble for NASA Lunar Dust Mission

by Leonard David, SPACE.com's Space Insider Columnist | November 21, 2013 06:45am ET

The Chang’e 3 lunar lander and moon rover
Credit: Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering
China’s mission to robotically land on the moon next month is sure to stir up lunar dust, but it may also cause a political dust up, too.

China is in the final stages of preparing its robotic Chang’e 3 moon lander to launch atop a Long March 3B rocket, slated for liftoff in early December. The ambitious mission is built to first orbit the moon, then propel down to a landing site, after which a small, solar-powered lunar rover will be unleashed.

Already on duty orbiting the moon is NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). The probe’s science instrument commissioning is now underway, after which the spacecraft will drop down to the lower lunar science orbit and start the full science phase of the mission. [NASA's LADEE Moon Mission in Photos]

LADEE Readies for Orbital Maneuvering Thruster Burn
Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry


LADEE is designed to study the moon’s thin exosphere and the lunar dust environment. However, there is concern that China’s ambitious Chang’e 3 mission could impact LADEE’s science goals.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23675-china-moon-lander-trouble-nasa-ladee.html
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NASA sees 'watershed' cosmic blast in unique detail

Posted: Nov 21, 2013 by Francis Reddy

In the most common type of gamma-ray burst, illustrated here, a dying massive star forms a
black hole (left), which drives a particle jet into space.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
(Phys.org) —On April 27, a blast of light from a dying star in a distant galaxy became the focus of astronomers around the world. The explosion, known as a gamma-ray burst and designated GRB 130427A, tops the charts as one of the brightest ever seen

A trio of NASA satellites, working in concert with ground-based robotic telescopes, captured never-before-seen details that challenge current theoretical understandings of how gamma-ray bursts work.

"We expect to see an event like this only once or twice a century, so we're fortunate it happened when we had the appropriate collection of sensitive space telescopes with complementary capabilities available to see it," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division in Washington.

Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions in the cosmos, thought to be triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, collapses under its own weight, and forms a black hole. The black hole then drives jets of particles that drill all the way through the collapsing star and erupt into space at nearly the speed of light.

Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of light. Hot matter surrounding a new black hole and internal shock waves produced by collisions within the jet are thought to emit gamma-rays with energies in the million-electron-volt (MeV) range, or roughly 500,000 times the energy of visible light. The most energetic emission, with billion-electron-volt (GeV) gamma rays, is thought to arise when the jet slams into its surroundings, forming an external shock wave.

The Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) aboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope captured the initial wave of gamma rays from GRB 130427A shortly after 3:47 a.m. EDT April 27. In its first three seconds alone, the "monster burst" proved brighter than almost any burst previously observed.

Continue Learning: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-nasa-watershed-cosmic-blast-unique.html
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data

Nov. 21, 2013

Artist’s concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA Ames / Dana Berry
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is ready to begin collecting science data about the moon.

On Nov. 20, the spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit around the moon's equator -- a unique position allowing the small probe to make frequent passes from lunar day to lunar night. This will provide a full scope of the changes and processes occurring within the moon's tenuous atmosphere.

LADEE now orbits the moon about every two hours at an altitude of eight to 37 miles (12-60 kilometers) above the moon's surface. For about 100 days, the spacecraft will gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.

"A thorough understanding of the characteristics of our lunar neighbor will help researchers understand other small bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets," said Sarah Noble, LADEE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Scientists also will be able to study the conditions in the atmosphere during lunar sunrise and sunset, where previous crewed and robotic missions detected a mysterious glow of rays and streamers reaching high into the lunar sky.

“This is what we've been waiting for – we are already seeing the shape of things to come,” said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-spacecraft-begins-collecting-lunar-atmosphere-data/#.Uo7JjfmKK-0

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NASA's Chandra Helps Confirm Evidence of Jet in Milky Way's Black Hole

Nov. 20, 2013

Composite image of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z. Li et al; Radio: NRAO/VLA
Astronomers have long sought strong evidence that Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is producing a jet of high-energy particles. Finally they have found it, in new results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.

Previous studies, using a variety of telescopes, suggested there was a jet, but these reports -- including the orientation of the suspected jets -- often contradicted each other and were not considered definitive.

"For decades astronomers have looked for a jet associated with the Milky Way's black hole. Our new observations make the strongest case yet for such a jet," said Zhiyuan Li of Nanjing University in China, lead author of a study appearing in an upcoming edition of The Astrophysical Journal and available online now.

Jets of high-energy particles are found throughout the universe, on large and small scales. They are produced by young stars and by black holes a thousand times larger than the Milky Way's black hole. They play important roles in transporting energy away from the central object and, on a galactic scale, in regulating the rate of formation of new stars.

"We were very eager to find a jet from Sgr A* because it tells us the direction of the black hole's spin axis. This gives us important clues about the growth history of the black hole," said Mark Morris of the University of California at Los Angeles, a co-author of the study.

The study shows the spin axis of Sgr A* is pointing in one direction, parallel to the rotation axis of the Milky Way, which indicates to astronomers that gas and dust have migrated steadily into Sgr A* over the past 10 billion years. If the Milky Way had collided with large galaxies in the recent past and their central black holes had merged with Sgr A*, the jet could point in any direction.

Continue Learning: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/news/high-energy-particles-in-milky-way.html#.Uo0-CfmKK-0

Dark Matter Reveals the Structure of the Universe

by BIG THINK EDITORS NOVEMBER 20, 2013, 12:00

Image via Bigthink.com
Physics is both deeply inspiring and deeply humbling, in a way that few other disciplines are today. On the one hand, physicists have found the elusive Higgs boson, the particle responsible for mass. On the other hand, physicists are comparatively clueless when it comes to dark matter, which makes up the vast majority of the Universe.

Comparatively clueless, that is to say, but not completely clueless.

In the video below, Joel Primack, an astrophysicist at the University of California-Santa Cruz, explains that we don’t yet know the real nature of the dark matter “beyond that it’s pretty cold.” Cold refers to the terminology that Primack coined in 1983. Dark matter is either hot, warm or cold “depending on how rapidly it’s moving in the early stages of the Big Bang,” Primack says.

Continue Learning: http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/dark-matter-reveals-the-structure-of-the-universe?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bigthink%2Fmain+(Big+Think+Main)

NASA outlines the final steps in plan for next manned spaceships

Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News
Posted: Nov. 19, 2013

Future NASA astronauts will rely on commercial transports
Image via Nbcnews.com
As promised, NASA issued the formal invitation on Tuesday for a competition leading to new types of commercial spaceships that could carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Three of the invitees have a multimillion-dollar head start.

NASA expects the final phase of the competition — known as the Commercial Crew Transport Capability program, or CCtCAP — to result in a fleet of commercial spacecraft that are certified to transport crew by 2017. The space agency would prefer to have more than one provider for those transport services, but that might depend on how much funding is available.

The timetable and resources available for commercial spaceships are key sticking points that are left unresolved in Tuesday's request for proposals. Last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called on Congress to provide the full $821 million requested for the current fiscal year "to keep us on track to begin these launches in 2017." Congress, however, has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars less.

Continue Learning: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/nasa-outlines-final-steps-plan-next-manned-spaceships-2D11624551

Martian Geology More Diverse Than Previously Thought

November 18, 2013
Image Caption: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is providing new spectral "windows" into the diversity of Martian surface materials. Here in a volcanic caldera, bright magenta outcrops have a distinctive feldspar-rich composition. Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

For years, scientists have thought of Mars as being made up of just one kind of rock – a very simplistic planet compared to the diverse geology of Earth.

However, a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience suggests there may be granite on Mars and puts forward a theory for how it could have formed there.

“We’re providing the most compelling evidence to date that Mars has granitic rocks,” said study author James Wray, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The study is based on the large deposit of feldspar, a mineral found in granite, recently found in an inactive Martian volcano. The location of the feldspar suggests protracted magmatic activity under the Martian surface could produce large-scale granite deposits, the study team said.

The Martian surface is mostly covered with basalt, the dark-colored rock commonly found throughout Hawaii. However, in the area around the Martian feldspar deposit, minerals rich in iron and magnesium and common in basalts are almost completely absent.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113006200/mars-has-granite-111813/

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Algorithm Will Help Curiosity Rover Analyze Mars Soil

November 16, 2013

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
While the instruments on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity are able to easily identify the chemical composition of rocks, measure the speed of the wind and snap amazing images from mast-mounted cameras, the process of analyzing soil images can be a somewhat daunting task, according to researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU).

After all, the university points out, many times there are several thousand images to analyze, and the soil particles are typically only five to 10 pixels wide. Now, however, a research team led by Suniti Karunatillake of the LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics has come to the rescue with a new algorithm that should make the task easier.

Karunatillake and colleagues from Rider University, Stony Brook University and the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Flagstaff, Arizona joined forces to create an image analysis and segmentation algorithm specifically to help NASA scientists complete this basic, but nonetheless challenging, part of their mission.

Continue Learning: http://www.redorbit.com/news/space/1113005274/mars-curiosity-algorithm-for-soil-images-111613/

Astrophysicists tackle the Sun and one of physics' biggest unsolved problems

Nov 18, 2013 by Beth Kwon

Picture of the sun with a coronal hole 
(the large dark region at the bottom). Credit: NASA
Daniel Wolf Savin and Michael Hahn have been fascinated by the universe since they were boys. For Savin, a senior research scientist in the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, discovering Albert Einstein at age 12 spurred the desire to "learn everything about the universe." Years later, Hahn, an associate research scientist who grew up 40 miles from Savin's home town in Connecticut, started gazing at the stars as a teenager; he eventually became president of the astronomy club at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon.

Now the two have made a big leap toward cracking one of the biggest mysteries in astrophysics—why the corona, or plasma surrounding the sun, is so much hotter than the sun's surface.

The coronal heating problem, as it is known, is important because the corona is the source of solar wind, which is responsible for the northern and southern lights and can also disrupt telecommunications and power grids. "Satellites can be slowly pushed out of their orbits if they're deflected by the solar wind so if we can better understand the cause, we can create better models for space weather," says Savin, referring to conditions beyond the atmosphere.

Continue Learning: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-astrophysicists-tackle-sun-physics-biggest.html

High-Tech VASIMR Rocket Engine Could Tackle Mars Trips, Space Junk and More

By Leonard David, SPACE.com's Space Insider Columnist | November 19, 2013 07:01am ET

Former astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz leads Ad Astra Rocket Co. and highly charged work on the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine.
Credit: Ad Astra
Scientists are making progress on an advanced space propulsion system aimed at a variety of uses, including reboosting space stations, cleaning up space junk and powering superfast journeys that could reach Mars in less than two months.

Led by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz, Ad Astra Rocket Co. is developing the versatile, high-tech engine, which is known as the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR for short.

Engine work has been underway for more than 25 years, and is based on NASA and U.S. Department of Energy research and development in plasma physics and space propulsion technology. Commercializing the VASIMR electric propulsion engine is the flagship project of Ad Astra, which has been in business for nine years and has invested $30 million to date to mature the concept.

Continue Learning: http://www.space.com/23613-advanced-space-propulsion-vasimr-engine.html

Russia starts ambitious super-heavy space rocket project

Published time: November 17, 2013 03:26


The Buran orbiter landing at the Baikonur space center.
(RIA Novosti / Alexander Mokletsov)
On the 25th anniversary of the historic flight of the Soviet space shuttle Buran, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency has formed a working group to prepare “within weeks” a roadmap for the revival of the Energia super-heavy booster rocket.

The group led by Oleg Ostapenko, the new head of Roscosmos Federal Space Agency, is set to draw up proposals on the design of a super-heavy launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 100 tonnes of payload to the baseline orbit, former Soviet minister of general machine building, Oleg Baklanov, said on Friday.

"You have assumed the responsibility and dared to head the group, which is supposed to find an answer to the question how we can regain the position we demonstrated to the world with the launch of a 100-tonne spacecraft [Buran in 1988] within a few weeks," the ex-minister told Ostapenko at the event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the flight of the Buran shuttle spacecraft.

The new carrier rocket Angara is set to become the base for the ambitious project that could bring Russia back to its heyday of space exploration. It could be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome which is now being constructed in Russia’s Far East, and will replace Kazakhstan’s Baikonur as Russia’s main launchpad.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ames to pitch NASA on value of 'new' Kepler mission

By Stephen Clark
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 16 November 2013

Artist's concept of the Kepler spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Ames
Managers in charge of the Kepler telescope have identified a way of salvaging the crippled observatory for a modified, less-sensitive cosmic survey for alien worlds, but NASA may not have the money to pay for the mission.

Since Kepler was knocked offline in May, officials at NASA's Ames Research Center in California have considered and analyzed new missions for the telescope.

And they think they have found a concept that is both feasible and scientifically intriguing.

The new mission scenario, dubbed "K2," calls for pointing Kepler across a swath of sky known as the ecliptic plane, or the plane where all the solar system's planets orbit the sun.

If approved by NASA Headquarters, the renewed Kepler campaign would be a shift from looking at stars like the sun to observing smaller, cooler stars that may harbor rocky planets close in, meaning they would be easier to detect.

"This is science that Kepler can do, and the K2 mission can do this uniquely, so this is really a selling point," said Steve Howell, Kepler's project scientist, during a Nov. 4 presentation at the second Kepler Science Conference held at Ames.

Plagued by reaction wheels and unable to adequately control its roll motion, Kepler is no longer capable of holding its gaze toward a field of more than 150,000 stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. Kepler's optical detectors kept up a near-contant stare at the star field, which was selected because it was representative of the rest of the Milky Way, allowing scientists to extend their findings predict what may lie elsewhere in the sky.

Continue Learning: http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1311/16kepler/#.UojvPvmKK-0