Category Archives: NASA

InSight Arrives at Launch Site

InSight will be mounted atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket and launched from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Date: May 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 07:05 EDT / 11:05 UTC and remains open for two hours. Time are provided I did the conversion correctly, the time change is coming right up.

If you have been thinking there has been quite a number of launches this year we’ve had 22 so far.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin Space

About the image:

NASA — Personnel supporting NASA’s InSight mission to Mars load the crated InSight spacecraft into a C-17 cargo aircraft at Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, for shipment to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The spacecraft, built in Colorado by Lockheed Martin Space, was shipped February 28, 2018, in preparation for launch from Vandenberg in May 2018.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is the first mission dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars. Its findings will advance understanding of the early history of all rocky planets, including Earth.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Atlas V Ready for Launch

This is an image of an Atlas V being lifted into position on 31 January 2018.  Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky.

Since then the rocket has been topped with a new American weather satellite called the GOES-S and will be watching the weather in the western US. The GOES-S is another in a series, the GOES-R became the GOES-16 and watches the eastern US the GOES-S will become GOES-17. There will be two more in this series the GOES-T and U.

The launch day has arrived and at 17:02 EST / 22:02 UTC a two-hour launch window will open, during which GOES-S will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

Launch coverage will begin shortly after 20:30 UTC / 16:30 EST.

22 Years of SOHO

Here’s to many more from SOHO.

Image: SOHO (ESA & NASA)

ESA — The activity cycle of the Sun – where the number of sunspots increase and decrease – has been monitored regularly for around 250 years, but the use of space-based telescopes has given us a whole new perspective of our nearest star.

On 22 December 2017 the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) reached 22 years in space. That duration is significant because it is the average length of the complete solar magnetic cycle. Sunspot cycles are known to occur over about 11 years, but the full cycle is double this length owing to the behaviour of the magnetic fields. The Sun’s polarity gradually changes through its cycle, so that after 11 years the orientation of the field will have flipped between the northern and southern hemispheres. At the end of a 22-year cycle, the orientation of the magnetic field is the same as it was at the start.

Each image shown here is a snapshot of the Sun taken every spring with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on SOHO. Observing in the ultraviolet reveals the Sun’s corona – the extremely hot atmosphere, up to some 2 million degrees, that extends millions of kilometres into space.

When the Sun is at its most active, strong magnetic fields show up as bright spots in the ultraviolet images of the corona. Activity also becomes obvious on the photosphere, which is the surface we see in visible light.

When the Sun is active, sunspots appear on the surface. Concentrations of magnetic fields can reduce the surface temperature in some areas and this reduced temperature makes these areas appear black in visible light images. The last 11-year cycle began in 1996, and the current one started in 2008, with solar maximum occurring in 2014.

By monitoring the Sun for almost a complete 22-year cycle, SOHO has provided a wealth of data on solar variability. This has been vital for monitoring the interaction of the Sun’s activity with Earth, and improving capabilities in space weather forecasting.

SOHO has made many important discoveries with its suite of instruments, such as revealing the existence of sunquakes, detecting waves travelling through the corona and identifying the source of the ‘fast’ solar wind.

InSight A Few Final Tests

That worked well from a few feet away, hopefully it will work as well as 148.1 million km / 92,000,000 miles away.

Interior exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) or Insight is a lander rather than a rover.

The two main instruments are:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), provided by the French Space Agency (CNES) with the participation of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), the Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), Imperial College and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), provided by the German pace Agency (DLR). In addition, the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE), led by JPL, will use the spacecraft communication
system to provide precise measurements of planetary rotation. This instrumentation will be carried by the proven Phoenix Lander, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, providing low-cost, low-risk access to the surface of Mars. — InSight Fact Sheet (pdf).

Launch is scheduled for May 2018 and landing in late November 2018.

NASA – While in the landed configuration for the last time before arriving on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander was commanded to deploy its solar arrays to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of the Red Planet. During the test on Jan. 23, 2018, from the Lockheed Martin clean room in Littleton, Colorado, engineers and technicians evaluated that the solar arrays fully deployed and conducted an illumination test to confirm that the solar cells were collecting power. The fan-like solar panels are specially designed for Mars’ weak sunlight, caused by the planet’s distance from the Sun and its dusty, thin atmosphere. The panels will power InSight for at least one Martian year (two Earth years) for the first mission dedicated to studying Mars’ deep interior.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle and core. Studying Mars’ interior structure may answer key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets. InSight also will measure tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars today.

InSight is scheduled to launch in May 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin Space

We’re Going to Mars

We’re going to Mars, well in spirit anyway. If you signed up to have your name encoded on a chip that will be aboard the next Mars lander called InSight, you are now on-board.  I know I did and probably many of you did as well.

NASA – An engineer in the clean room at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, affixes a dime-size chip onto the lander deck of NASA’s InSight spacecraft.

This second microchip, contains 1.6 million names submitted by the public to ride along with InSight to Mars. The chip was installed on Jan. 23, 2018. This joins another microchip that was previously installed that included 800,000 names for a grand total of 2.4 million names going to Mars as early as May 5, 2018.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, put the names onto this tiny 0.3 square inches (8 millimeter-square) silicon wafer microchip using an electron beam to write extremely tiny letters with lines smaller than one one-thousandth the width of a human hair. The dime-size chip is affixed to the InSight lander deck and will remain on Mars forever.

Normally used to make high-precision nanometer-scale devices, this technique was also used to write millions of names that were transported on NASA Mars rovers and Orion’s first test flight.

InSight is the first Mars mission dedicated to study the deep interior of Mars. Its findings will advance understanding of the early history of all rocky planets, including Earth.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Exploration Mission 1 Insignia

Here is the design for the Exploration Mission 1 patch.  You know a design is good when I can figure it out and I had the red and blue arrows figured almost at once.

From NASA:  The Exploration Mission-1 artwork showcases the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion spacecraft and lifting off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The triangular shape represents the three main programs that comprise NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems: Orion, SLS, and Exploration Ground Systems, and is a classic shape for NASA mission emblems dating back to the shuttle era.

Several elements within the design carry symbolic meaning for this historic flight. The silver highlight surrounding this patch gives nod to the silver Orion spacecraft, including the European service module that will be voyaging 40,000 miles past the Moon in deep space. The orange rocket and flames represent the firepower of SLS. The setting is historic Launch Pad 39B, represented by the three lightning towers. The red and blue mission trajectories encompassing the white full Moon proudly emphasizes the hard work, tradition, and dedication of this American led-mission while also embracing NASA’s international partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) as both agencies forge a new future in space.

The Exploration Mission-1 emblem was designed in collaboration by the creative team working for the Deep Space Exploration Systems programs, which includes Orion, SLS, and Exploration Ground Systems, located at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and Kennedy. Because the maiden mission of SLS and Orion is uncrewed, the program teams had the rare opportunity to conceive the mission identifier. Exploration Mission-2, which will fly with crew, will have an insignia designed by NASA’s Astronaut Office with the help of the crew that will fly aboard the most capable deep space system to take flight.

Learn more about Deep Space Exploration Systems.

Learn more about Exploration Ground Systems.

Learn more about Exploration Mission-1.

Learn more about NASA enterprise and mission insignia: Emblems of Exploration.

RS-25 Power

The first test of 2018 for the RS-25 engine by NASA. The RS-25 power was used in the Shuttle missions and it going to be used in the new Space Launch System (SLS).

Thanks to Videos from Space!

Don’t forget about the launch later tonight or tomorrow depending on your time zone (see previous post).

MMS and Magnetic Reconnection

Here’s a glimpse into the realm of the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission.

The topics of magnetic reconnection and the magnetosphere get a fair amount of attention on the internet. The interest is with good reason, the more we become dependent on electronic devices and the benefits derived from them like say, the internet and access to it the more we need to learn what is really going on up there. Funny thing is, much of the interest is from the doom-mongers and conspiracy theorists playing on the risk.

So with thanks to NASA (and Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Tom Bridgman) here is a little bit on what we are learning:

First a short (12 sec) animation of just one electron in the magnetic reconnection region.

NASA — The space high above Earth may seem empty, but it’s a carnival packed with magnetic field lines and high-energy particles. This region is known as the magnetosphere and, every day, charged particles put on a show as they dart and dive through it. Like tiny tightrope walkers, the high-energy electrons follow the magnetic field lines. Sometimes, such as during an event called magnetic reconnection where the lines explosively collide, the particles are shot off their trajectories, as if they were fired from a cannon.

Since these acts can’t be seen by the naked eye, NASA uses specially designed instruments to capture the show. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS, is one such looking glass through which scientists can observe the invisible magnetic forces and pirouetting particles that can impact our technology on Earth. New research uses MMS data to improve understanding of how electrons move through this complex region — information that will help untangle how such particle acrobatics affect Earth.

Scientists with MMS have been watching the complex shows electrons put on around Earth and have noticed that electrons at the edge of the magnetosphere often move in rocking motions as they are accelerated. Finding these regions where electrons are accelerated is key to understanding one of the mysteries of the magnetosphere: How does the magnetic energy seething through the area get converted to kinetic energy — that is, the energy of particle motion. Such information is important to protect technology on Earth, since particles that have been accelerated to high energies can at their worst cause power grid outages and GPS communications dropouts.

New research, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, found a novel way to help locate regions where electrons are accelerated. Until now, scientists looked at low-energy electrons to find these accelerations zones, but a group of scientists lead by Matthew Argall of the University of New Hampshire in Durham has shown it’s possible, and in fact easier, to identify these regions by watching high-energy electrons.

This research is only possible with the unique design of MMS, which uses four spacecraft flying in a tight tetrahedral formation to give high temporal and spatial resolution measurements of the magnetic reconnection region.

“We’re able to probe very small scales and this helps us to really pinpoint how energy is being converted through magnetic reconnection,” Argall said.

The results will make it easier for scientists to identify and study these regions, helping them explore the microphysics of magnetic reconnection and better understand electrons’ effects on Earth.