Masten Xombie Technology

A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, California ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port. Click to see the wider picture.  Image:  NASA/Masten

A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, California ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port. Click to see the wider picture. Image: NASA/Masten

Masten Space Systems tested a new “Xombie technology” experimental vertical-takeoff and landing rocket along collaboratively with the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to test a new algorithm for “pinpoint” landing of spacecraft on other planets.

Masten was involved with the sky crane landing of Curiosity on Mars and judging from that the term “pinpoint” isn’t just hyperbole.

The wide shot might make a nice desktop you can get a full-res version here.

The press release from JPL:

A year after NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity’s landed on Mars, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are testing a sophisticated flight-control algorithm that could allow for even more precise, pinpoint landings of future Martian spacecraft.

Flight testing of the new Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance algorithm – G-FOLD for short – for planetary pinpoint landing is being conducted jointly by JPL engineers in cooperation with Masten Space Systems in Mojave, Calif., using Masten’s XA-0.1B “Xombie” vertical-launch, vertical-landing experimental rocket.

Continue reading

Juno Halfway to Jupiter

Cartoon depiction of Juno's location enroute to Jupiter.  Click for expanded view. Credit: NASA

Cartoon depiction of Juno’s location enroute to Jupiter. Click for expanded view. Credit: NASA

Yesterday at 12:25 UTC the Juno spacecraft marked the halfway point in its journey to Jupiter. The odometer just turned 1,415,794,248 km or 92,955,807.273 miles. In easier numbers its 9.464 astronomical units. Since one astronomical unit is the mean distance from the Sun to Earth ( 149,597,870.7 km / 92,955,807.3 miles) you would think it would be a lot further away than it appears in the cartoon depiction of Juno’s flight path. In fact you could make the argument that Juno it appears, is closing in on planet Earth!

You would be correct, Juno was only 55.46 million km / 34.46 million miles away and approaching. Although the cartoon is a little dated, it was approxiamtely accurate on 8 Aug 13, just a few days ago. So what’s going on? Mission managers plotted out a circuitous route that takes advantage of an Earth gravity assist and that is coming in October when on the 9th when it will fly by at just 559 km (337 miles)! The flyby will increase the velocity of Juno by 7.3 km/sec or 1,330 mph. Two years later Juno arrives at Jupiter.

To get a nice overview of what Juno is going to be doing once it gets to Jupiter check out the NASA webpage:  Juno Mission to Jupiter: Unlocking the Secrets of a Giant Planet.

You can get map updates from Eyes on the Solar System.

ATV-4 Albert Einstein

ATV-4 Albert Einstein docked to the ISS. Credit: ESA / NASA

ATV-4 Albert Einstein docked to the ISS. Credit: ESA / NASA

I was poking around the ESA website and ran across this image of the Automated Transfer Vehicle Albert Einstein docked to Russia’s Zvezda module.

The ATV-4 delivered about 6,589 kg (14,526 lbs) of various types of cargo to the ISS was the heaviest payload ever launched by Ariane 5.

The European ferry was launched on June 5, 2013 from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

The name (ATV-4) Albert Einstein follows ATV’s 1 to 3 having the names: Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler and Edoardo Amaldi.

The image makes for a lovely desktop and you can find those at the Wallpaper link above.

Curiosity’s Travels

The MRO captures the travels of the rover Curiosity in this HiRISE image.  Click for larger. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The MRO captures the travels of the rover Curiosity in this HiRISE image. Click for larger. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter aimed it’s high resolution camera known as HiRISE (High Resolution Science Experiment)at the area where the rover Curiosity is working. I should say where it was on June 27th.

On the left you can see two dark spots called Bradbury Landing. The spots were created when the landing jets from the Curiosity lander blew away the red surface coating with the rocket jet blast.

From there going to the right you can easily see Curiosity’s tracks. To put some scale on this image, those tracks are about 3 meters (10 feet) apart. If you follow the tracks sure enough you will end up at Curiosity which shows up as a shiney object near an outcrop called Shaler located in the “Glenelg” area of Gale Crater. The rover has since moved to the southwest.

Larger versions including a full-res TIFF are availble at the JPL/Cal Tech web page with the image located here.
The MRO captures the travels of the rover Curiosity in this HiRISE image. Click for larger. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

This Week @ NASA

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY6gn-RCtA0[/youtube]

Good episode, well they all are. This one video had about four of the things I wanted to show a video of and couldn’t decide which.

One of these was the spacewalk when the helmet of Italy’s Luca Parmitano had water collecting in it during the spacewalk. Don’t worry he is fine, the walk was teminated, well you’ll see (or saw).

I got a look at what I think is one of those “Earth from Saturn” pictures. No I won’t put it up until it is released, mostly because I don’t know exactly what I am looking at in terms of “What is where”. Of course I made a guess! I’ll let you know if I was correct when the time comes. Besides, for all I know it was some sort of test image of a completely different area.

I REALLY can’t wait to see that MESSENGER image of Earth! By the way, NASA MESSENGER folks, a similar picture of Venus would be worth imaging too someday . . . . just saying.

Source

The Heliotail

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhAzMdoOe5E[/youtube]

The what?

Combining three years from imagery from the IBEX spacecraft (Interstellar Boundry EXplorer) scientists have put together a boundry map of the twisted tail from our solar system called the heliotail.

Source

GALEX Mission Ends

galexdone

Messier 94, in ultraviolet light taken by GALEX. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s been 10 years already?? The mission isn’t just over, they switched it off – done.  The image, Messier 94,is located 14 to 17 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici.  M 94 also known as NGC 4736 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 22, 1781.

Here’s the exit press release from NASA:

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA has turned off its Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) after a decade of operations in which the venerable space telescope used its ultraviolet vision to study hundreds of millions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic time.

Continue reading

Asteroid Grand Challenge

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke9Ms7Ob6vc[/youtube]

Among other topics on this episode is the Asteroid challenge, can we find all asteroid threats to Earth. There is also coverage of a memorial to Neil Armstrong.

On the asteroid topic: I get listings of newly discovered and re-discovered asteroids. I like to scan the listings looking at the semi-major axis “a”. We can quickly figure the period of the asteroid in years:

Period = The square root of the cube of the semi-major axis. Simple and quick on almost any calculator, you can even do it in Google. A period of one year means the asteroid has the same orbital period as the Earth, not necessarily the same orbit or anything like that, simple that if it is at let’s say Point X today, a year from now it will be pretty close to Point X again.

There have been some pretty good finds, a couple with orbital periods of better than 80 years. The other day I ran across one with a semi-major axis of 0.849 AU and that is an orbital period of 0.782…years or 285 days. When you see an orbital period of less than one, you know it has a period of less than a year so its orbit is contained inside of that of the Earth.

The asteroid 2010 NG1 does come by and gets kind of close to us on occasion but not terribly so. However a close approach to Venus does seem to be in the offing on 25 Feb 2014. It won’t hit or anything and I’m still trying to sort out how close but you can get an idea by looking at the JPL Orbital Diagram.

Video

America’s First Woman in Space

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B49eI_IaUlM[/youtube]

Sunday we had the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space: Valentina Tereshkova. Today we have the 30th anniversary of America’s first woman in space: Sally Ride.

Sally Ride was a mission specialist aboard the Shuttle Challenger launching 30 years ago today June 18, 1983. Ride went to space a second time in 1984 again aboard the Challenger on mission STS 41G. She logged more than 343 hours in space.

Have a look at NASA’s bio on Sally.

Sally Ride succumbed to Pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.

Source