Category Archives: NASA

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.

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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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How Many Parachutes Does it Take?

Have a look at this video of the latest version of NASA’s Orion being dropped from a C-17 at 13,000 feet / 3.96 km in a simulated launch abort scenario.

The series of parachutes was necessary to get Orion in position for the test. This is the first parachute test in the launch abort trials.


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The Tadpole

The Tadpole and the Wriggler. Click for larger. Copyright NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS

I want to see the Goldfish. Ok I spent five minutes looking for it until I re-read the press release and the bit about it being just out of view. Larger and full-res versions availble at the link below.

BTW, I LOVE the title from ESA for selfish reasons. LOL.

From ESA Spaceinimages (The Tadpole and the Wriggler):

A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed “the Tadpole”, this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.

There are actually multiple protostars within this tadpole’s ‘head’, but the glowing yellow one in this image is the most luminous and massive. When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings, it will eventually emerge as a fully-fledged young star.

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Herschel/Hubble and the Crab Nebula

The Hubble/Herschel composite of the Crab Nebula.  Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant  Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)
The Hubble/Herschel composite of the Crab Nebula Click for larger. Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)

As the NASA caption below explains this is composite image of the Crab Nebula from Hubble and Herschel. ESA has a nice explanation of the Herschel data along with links to an image and a portion of spectrum. Active Argon? Cool stuff!

From NASA (larger versions of the image available here):

This image shows a composite view of the Crab nebula, an iconic supernova remnant in our Milky Way galaxy, as viewed by the Herschel Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions, and Hubble is a NASA mission with important ESA contributions.
A wispy and filamentary cloud of gas and dust, the Crab nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054.

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Data Transmission Record

LADEE Artist concept: NASA
LADEE Artist concept: NASA

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:

From the NASA press release:

“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.”

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Earth on 9 October 2013 from Juno. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems
Earth on 9 October 2013 from the Juno spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

The Juno spacecraft  used Earth in a gravity assist on its way to Jupiter and took this image of Earth on the way by.  Little wonder it made the NASA Image of the Day.

From NASA:

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.

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Juno Flyby

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.

If you happen to be a ham radio operator you can participate.


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Happy Birthday NASA

A 1952 version of "a typical liquid propellant rocket" diagrammed by NACA the predecessor of NASA.  Credit: NASA
A 1952 version of “a typical liquid propellant rocket” diagrammed by NACA the predecessor of NASA. Credit: NASA

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.

Happy Birthday NASA.

the NASA History Series has a wonderful and complete work telling the story by John Henry et. al. Orders of Magnitude: A History of the NACA and NASA, 1915-1990.

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