Part of the LADEE mission is the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD). This involves of communicating with the LADEE spacecraft currently in orbit around the moon from a ground station by laser beam! I am amazed at the exquisite aiming and tracking accuracy necessary to pull it off successfully in record setting fashion.
The record download rate was 622 Mbps and an error free upload rate of 20 Mbps from the New Mexico ground station. This is the first step down a long road and who knows where it might lead:
“LLCD is the first step on our roadmap toward building the next generation of space communication capability,” said Badri Younes, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation (SCaN) in Washington. “We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon.”
On Oct. 9, Juno flew by Earth using the home planet’s gravity to get a boost needed to reach Jupiter. The JunoCam caught this image of Earth, and other instruments were tested to ensure they work as designed during a close planetary encounter.
The Juno spacecraft was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 5, 2011. Juno’s rocket, the Atlas 551, was only capable of giving Juno enough energy or speed to reach the asteroid belt, at which point the Sun’s gravity pulled Juno back toward the inner solar system. The Earth flyby gravity assist increases the spacecraft’s speed to put it on course for arrival at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
The Juno spacecraft will make a very close flyby of Earth tomorrow as it gains a gravitational boost in speed along its way to Jupiter.
There will be a lot of data collected including images from the JunoCam observations of the Moon and Earth. The closest part of the flyby will bring the spacecraft to just 559 km / 347 miles at 19:25 UTC. Will we ever see the data? Eventually, it’s a question of how long we will have to wait.
On March 3, 1915 the American government formed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The mission of the new agency was to undertake, promote and organize aeronautical research.
Hugh Dryden a NACA director established the Special Committee on Space Technology on November 21, 1957. The committee was ostensibly created to coordinate various branches of the government, universities and private companies to develop a space program.
Then came Sputnik and that changed everything. On January 14, 1958, Dryden published “A National Research Program for Space Technology,” which stated:
It is of great urgency and importance to our country both from consideration of our prestige as a nation as well as military necessity that this challenge (Sputnik) be met by an energetic program of research and development for the conquest of space….
It is accordingly proposed that the scientific research be the responsibility of a national civilian agency working in close cooperation with the applied research and development groups required for weapon systems development by the military. The pattern to be followed is that already developed by the NACA and the military services….
The NACA is capable, by rapid extension and expansion of its effort, of providing leadership in space technology.
Shortly after the publication President Eisenhower established NASA with a civilian orientation to encourage peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958.
The NACA was dissolved and NASA because officially operational on October 1, 1958, 55 years ago today.
Here is an image of PGC 10922. The ESA caption is below but for some other particulars that makes this Hubble view even more outstanding:
The galaxy is located at RA 02h 53m 35.9s and DEC -83d 08m 32s and it’s about 67.92 Mpc away (about 221 million light-years). It shines at a magnitude 13.7 and is small at around one (1) arc minute +/-.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image of PGC 10922, an example of a lenticular galaxy — a galaxy type that lies on the border between ellipticals and spirals.
Seen face-on, the image shows the disk and tightly-wound spiral structures of dark dust encircling the bright center of the galaxy. There is also a remarkable outer halo of faint wide arcs or shells extending outwards, covering much of the picture. These are likely to have been formed by a gravitational encounter or even a merger with another galaxy. Some dust also appears to have escaped from the central structure and has spread out across the inner shells. An extraordinarily rich background of more remote galaxies can also be seen in the image.
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.
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.
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