Category Archives: NASA

Will the Parker Solar Probe Melt?

Since the Parker Solar Probe will only be 3.8 million miles from the Sun temperatures in the operating area are estimated to be 1,377 degrees C (2,500 F). Yes the spacecraft could in theory melt. Unless of course you have a very robust solution and as it happens the spacecraft will be protected by an 11.4 cm / 4.5 inch carbon composite heat shield.

A demonstration:

What About TESS?

What is going on with the newest exoplanet detecting spacecraft – TESS? By all accounts we are moving closer to the start of observations.

I tend to be amused by the mission as I get the feeling TESS already has more work than it can do. Oh it’s a great position to be in but the “poor” mission team has to decide the observational priorities. I’d like to be a fly on the wall during some of those meetings!

NASA: After a successful launch on April 18, 2018, NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is currently undergoing a series of commissioning tests before it begins searching for planets. The TESS team has reported that the spacecraft and cameras are in good health, and the spacecraft has successfully reached its final science orbit. The team continues to conduct tests in order to optimize spacecraft performance with a goal of beginning science at the end of July.

Every new mission goes through a commissioning period of testing and adjustments before beginning science operations. This serves to test how the spacecraft and its instruments are performing and determines whether any changes need to be made before the mission starts observations.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

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.