Category Archives: NASA

RS-25 Engine Test

The RS-25 engine was tested on 11 June 2015 when it was fired for 500 seconds at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

Four of these engines will be combined to power the new rocket, the Space Launch System by NASA. Eventually the engines will send astronauts to Mars or at least that’s the current plan.

This engine will have to go four more tests in this phased of development. No word on how this test went.


LDSD Flight Replay

Here is the video of the LDSD flight last Monday (08 June).

I enjoy balloon launches as much as rocket launches. The video gives a great view of that too. The balloon took the saucer-like LDSD to an altitude of 36.5 km / 120,000 ft when a rocket propelled it to Mach 4 an altitude of 54.9 km / 180,000 feet so the tests could be made in the thin atmosphere where it would be similar to that of Mars.

The two technologies tested were the donut-shaped airbag and a parachute that can be deployed while the vehicle is traveling at several times the speed of sound. So far it sounds like the aribag worked pretty well but the parachute only partially opened and you can see that in the video.


Lunar Evolution

The moon is pretty bright in the sky and will be full in just a couple of days.

The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is helping us understand more about the moon’s history.

Video from NASA Goddard

Mission to Europa

Tuesday there was a press conference to announce which of the 33 proposed for science instruments to fly aboard the Europa mission.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Jim Green, director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters
Curt Niebur, Europa program scientist, NASA Headquarters


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.

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?


LADEE Crater

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.

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).