Category Archives: NASA

LDSD Testing

LDSD being prepared for testing. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
LDSD being prepared for testing. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It has been a while since we’ve heard much news of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator or LDSD.

The image above shows the LDSD flight-test vehicle in a NASA-JPL clean room. The LDSD is sitting on a spin table that was used to spin the 4.6 meter / 15 foot and 3,175 kg / 7,000 lb test vehicle to 30 rpm to check its balance. The LDSD is about to be flown to a naval facility in Kauai, Hawaii for further testing.

The June tests will involve lifting the LDSD by balloon to 36 km / 120,000 feet over the Pacific. At altitude the LDSD will be released and a booster rocket will ignite and carry it to 55 km / 180,000 feet and accelerating it to Mach 4 in the process. At the final altitude a series of automated tests of two new technologies will begin.

The supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator also known at SAID-R, an inflatable doughnut will deploy. The result will be a larger vehicle with more drag that will slow the vehicle from about Mach 3.8 to Mach 2.5 when the worlds largest supersonic parachute ever will deploy. The parachute should enable a controlled landing in the Pacific Ocean 45 minutes later.

The new technologies tested should enable large payloads to be landed on Mars and other planets with atmoshpheres and at higher altitudes.

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The Old Ocean on Mars

All the clues lead to the idea there was water on Mars, little dispute there. How much water there was is the question. Scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA) suggest the planet was 20 percent covered with water.

The following question has to be:  was the water there long enough for life to exist?

Video

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LADEE Crater

ladeecrater
LADEE impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater. the crater was made by the 383 kg (844 lb) spacecraft. Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer also known as LADEE was launched from the Wallops Flight Facility on 06 September 2013 on a mission that would take it to the moon with four main goals:

Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the tenuous lunar exosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity;

Determine if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at tens of kilometers above the surface were sodium glow or dust;

Document the dust impactor environment (size, frequency) to help guide design engineering for the outpost and also future robotic missions;

Demonstrate two-way laser communication from lunar orbit.

The laser communication demonstration was successful and a download link of 622 megabits/sec was attained. The science data I think is still being studied.

The mission ended with a controlled interface with the lunar surface (it crashed on purpose) on 18 April 2014 at a velocity of 5,800 km/sec or 3,600 mph.

See more images at LROC’s LADEE Impact Crater site.

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Neptune and Triton

Neptune and Triton from the New Horizons spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Neptune and Triton from the New Horizons spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

A look at Neptune and one of its moons Triton from New Horizons spacecraft on 10 July 2014. When the image was taken, New Horizons had not crossed the orbit of Neptune. At the orbit crossing New Horizons was actually closer to Pluto than Neptune.

See the non-annotated version here.

Coming up very soon, on 06 December 2015 New Horizons will exit sleep mode for the last time. The spacecraft has periodically gone in and out of sleep mode so there shouldn’t be any surprises. From then on the spacecraft will be fully awake and very shortly after will start taking science data. We should get some tantalizing views of the Plutonian system from the same camera that took the one above: New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).

 

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Gravity Gradients

Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum.   Image Credit:  NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio
Gravity Gradients Frame Oceanus Procellarum. Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.

Best to let NASA explain:

Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.

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GRAIL Data

Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC
Artist concept (see text). Image Credit: NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC

The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, gathered data during their mission while orbiting the moon and they give us a little bit of an explanation of what the results show.

There hasn’t been too much coming out about the mission since this almost a year ago: NASA’s GRAIL Mission Puts a New Face on the Moon

Here’s the press release from the NASA:

A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. The gravity anomalies along the border structures are interpreted as ancient, solidified, lava-flooded rifts that are now buried beneath the surface of the dark volcanic plains, or maria, on the near side of the moon.

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