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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MAVEN To Enter Orbit

The MAVEN spacecraft will enter a Martian orbit on 21 September. After a six-week period of fine tuning the orbit and scientific instruments the spacecraft will begin to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

NOTE: The SpaceX launch has changed the launch date and time – see the previous post.

MAVEN website

Video

NASA Update

Rosetta has been eclipsing most of the news lately, as it should. NASA is also staying busy as always and the first data is coming in from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.

Part of the update is about the Cygnus spacecraft leaving the ISS laden with trash. The Cygnus is about to re-enter the atmosphere and will burn up. This should occur at 13:11 UTC / 0911 EDT, today (Sunday). The atmospheric interface will occur between New Zealand and South America and is timed so the ISS crew can observe the fiery demise of the spacecraft.

Tsunami Hits Voyager

An artists concept Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. Interstellar space is dominated by plasma, ionized gas (shown here as brownish haze), that was thrown off by giant stars millions of years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artists concept Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. Interstellar space is dominated by plasma, ionized gas (shown here as brownish haze), that was thrown off by giant stars millions of years ago. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Voyager 1 spacecraft now has felt another “tsunami wave”, a pressure wave generated by a coronal mass ejection from the sun. The “tsunami wave” takes about a year to reach Voyager and they can tell because of the way the thin plasma around the spacecraft acts.

The weird thing is this plasma is denser than what Voyager was flying through previously.  All of this points to more evidence the Voyagers have entered the area of interstellar space outside our solar bubble.  Yeah that’s way out – Go Voyagers!

More dense? Confused? I was too, read the explanation from the NASA JPL site below:

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a new “tsunami wave” from the sun as it sails through interstellar space. Such waves are what led scientists to the conclusion, in the fall of 2013, that Voyager had indeed left our sun’s bubble, entering a new frontier.

“Normally, interstellar space is like a quiet lake,” said Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, the mission’s project scientist since 1972. “But when our sun has a burst, it sends a shock wave outward that reaches Voyager about a year later. The wave causes the plasma surrounding the spacecraft to sing.”

Data from this newest tsunami wave generated by our sun confirm that Voyager is in interstellar space — a region between the stars filled with a thin soup of charged particles, also known as plasma. The mission has not left the solar system — it has yet to reach a final halo of comets surrounding our sun — but it broke through the wind-blown bubble, or heliosphere, encasing our sun. Voyager is the farthest human-made probe from Earth, and the first to enter the vast sea between stars.
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NASA LDSD Test Success

The test complete, the NASA LDSD is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vehicle.  Image via SpaceRef

The test complete, the NASA LDSD is lifted aboard the Kahana recovery vehicle. Image via SpaceRef

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) launched yesterday by balloon from the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.

The balloon was launched at 08:45 local HST and by 11:05 HST the test vehicle was released at an altitude of 120,000 feet or 36.6 km. The decent took a half hour and the est vehicle hardware, black box data recorder and parachute were all recovered later in the day.

This first of three test planned tests designed to determine the flying ability of the vehicle and it also deployed two new landing technologies as a bonus.

The test apparently went very well:

“Because our vehicle flew so well, we had the chance to earn ‘extra credit’ points with the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator [SIAD],” said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at JPL. “All indications are that the SIAD deployed flawlessly, and because of that, we got the opportunity to test the second technology, the enormous supersonic parachute, which is almost a year ahead of schedule.”

Here are a couple of links to video of the test / flight:

LDSD Test Flight part 1

LDSD Test Flight part 2

LDSD Ready for Flight

The LDSD test flight. Click for a larger image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The LDSD test flight. Click for a larger image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Today the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator or LDSD was to take its voyage today, however, it appears the Hawaiian winds are not going to co-operate today.

I’ve said things like this before just to find out I was wrong and I’ve not heard for sure that things have been called off. The news I have is from last evening.  Yes canceled for today – 11 June is the target.

You can see by the cartoon depiction of the test flight why the winds could influence the flight.

The LDSD is going to be lifted by balloon (so cool) to an altitude of 36,600 meters (120,000 feet). That part of the trip is supposed to be about three hours.

After the LDSD is cut loose from the balloon it will be “spun up” by small rocket motors. The spin is for stability during the test. The the main onboard rocket will boost the craft to an altitude of 54,900 meters (180,000 feet) which is the upper stratosphere.

About the time the LDSD reaches the maximum altitude it will be traveling nearly Mach 4. Now comes the deployment of the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator or SAID for short resulting in a slowing of the LDSD to Mach 2.5. Once the vehicle is slowed the Supersonic Disk Sail Parachute, a giant parachute will bring the LDSD to nice safe and controlled landing in the ocean where everything can be picked up.

Once the test vehicle is released from the balloon time to touchdown will be about 40 minutes.

If the flight does not take place today and I’ll update this post one way or the other, there are plenty of alternate dates starting with Wednesday, 11 June.

Project Morpheus Test

Yesterday we showed the animation of the Dragon Version 2, today we have a test of the Morpheus prototype lander.

The night time test was to demonstrate the ability of the lander to land on “rugged” terrain with Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology.

Project Morpheus

The 98-second test began at 10:02 p.m. EDT, with the Morpheus lander launching from the ground over a flame trench and ascending more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at Kennedy Space Center using only ALHAT’s Hazard Detection System for guidance. The Hazard Detection System, assisted by three light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, located obstacles — such as rocks and craters — and safely landed on the lunar-like hazard field a quarter mile away from the NASA Center. Project Morpheus tests NASA’s ALHAT and an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, which are green propellants.

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