Hubble in Safe Mode

I hate to hear this, I know there are redundancies built in but still.

NASA’s Press Release: NASA is working to resume science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode on Friday, October 5, shortly after 6:00 p.m. EDT. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed. Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation.

Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009. Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed. The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

Two of those enhanced gyros are currently running. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations. As a result, Hubble remains in safe mode. Staff at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Science operations with Hubble have been suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly. An Anomaly Review Board, including experts from the Hubble team and industry familiar with the design and performance of this type of gyro, is being formed to investigate this issue and develop the recovery plan. If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined “reduced-gyro” mode that uses only one gyro. While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities.

Image: NASA

Asteroid Ryugu

Wow, what a great look at asteroid Ryugu. If you would like to see a (much) larger version you can, thanks to and credit to DLR via ESA just click here for the hi-resolution version at ESA (193K) very much worth the click.

HAYABUSA 2 is proving to be an excellent adventure to an asteroid and back.

Original press release with links:

Asteroid Ryugu, an ancient space rock roughly 300 million km from Earth, is now home to three Earth-born inhabitants bouncing across its bouldery surface. In the early morning of 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) gently fell to the asteroid’s surface, joining its Japanese siblings, the MINERVA-II rovers1-A and 1-B.

This remarkable image was taken during MASCOT’s descent, 3.5 minutes after separation from its parentship and 20 metres from its final resting place. At the top right, MASCOT’s fuzzy shadow can be seen, standing out next to the sharp detail of Ryugu’s puckered surface.

Developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with the French space agency CNES, MASCOT was originally thought to have enough power to explore the mile-long rock for just 12 hours. However, the adventurous box delighted its team when it inspected Ryugu’s surface for more than 17 hours, making an extra bounce and sending all the data collected back to the mothership, Hayabusa2.

The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left Earth in December 2014, carrying four small rovers designed to investigate Ryugu’s surface. Each fell freely to the surface under the asteroid’s weak gravity, bouncing on arrival and immediately collecting data on their strange new world.

The spacecraft is expected to return 3 samples to Earth in December 2020 from varying parts of the ancient asteroid. With these specimens, scientists on Earth hope to learn about the composition of carbonaceous asteroids like Ryugu — a type of space rock expected to preserve some of the most pristine materials in the Solar System.

This class of asteroid also has members who at times come too close to Earth for comfort, near-Earth objects (NEOs). It is hoped that Hayabusa’s incredible mission will shed light on these marauding masses which could come in handy if we one day need to defend ourselves from them.

Undoubtedly, Hayabusa’s insights into this giant pile of space rubble will prove useful to the teams involved in ESA’s ambitious proposed mission to test asteroid deflection, Hera — in particular, understanding the low gravity environment of these unique solar system bodies.

Space X SAOCOM 1A – Launch REPLAY

SpaceX launches SAOCOM 1A satellite for Argentina.

The launch is from Vandenburg AFB in California and this also marks the first time the first-stage has returned to California – so SpaceX makes history again.

The launch is about 16 minutes into the video above from SpaceX. You can fast forward there but if you do you will miss some great information SpaceX always includes prior to launch.

Cassini’s New Saturn Science

The Grand Finale Dive by the Cassini yielded new Saturn science. An appropriate end to an epic mission. This is just a start, there will be much more to come.

Click the image above (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) for a larger illustration of some of the new findings.

Here’s the highlights (still waiting to read the papers):

  • Complex organic compounds embedded in water nanograins rain down from Saturn’s rings into its upper atmosphere. Scientists saw water and silicates, but they were surprised to see also methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The composition of the organics is different from that found on moon Enceladus — and also different from that on moon Titan, meaning there are at least three distinct reservoirs of organic molecules in the Saturn system.
  • For the first time, Cassini saw up close how rings interact with the planet and observed inner-ring particles and gases falling directly into the atmosphere. Some particles take on electric charges and spiral along magnetic-field lines, falling into Saturn at higher latitudes — a phenomenon known as “ring rain.” But scientists were surprised to see that others are dragged quickly into Saturn at the equator. And it’s all falling out of the rings faster than scientists thought — as much as 22,000 pounds (10,000 kilograms) of material per second.
  • Scientists were surprised to see what the material looks like in the gap between the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere. They knew that the particles throughout the rings ranged from large to small. But the sampling in the gap showed mostly tiny, nanometer-sized particles, like smoke, suggesting that some yet-unknown process is grinding up particles.
  • Saturn and its rings are even more interconnected than scientists thought. Cassini revealed a previously unknown electric-current system that connects the rings to the top of Saturn’s atmosphere.
  • Scientists discovered a new radiation belt around Saturn, close to the planet and composed of energetic particles. They found that while the belt actually intersects with the innermost ring, the ring is so tenuous that it doesn’t block the belt from forming.
  • Unlike every other planet with a magnetic field in our Solar System, Saturn’s magnetic field is almost completely aligned with its spin axis. The new data shows a magnetic-field tilt of less than 0.0095 degrees. (Earth’s magnetic field is tilted 11 degrees from its spin axis.) According to everything scientists know about how planetary magnetic fields are generated, Saturn should not have one. It’s a mystery that physicists will be working to solve.
  • Cassini flew above Saturn’s magnetic poles, directly sampling regions where radio emissions are generated. The findings more than doubled the number of direct measurements of radio sources from the planet, one of the few non-terrestrial locations where scientists have been able to study a radio-generation mechanism that is believed to operate throughout the universe.

Maybe an Exo-moon

Not really that much of a surprise there would be exo-moons but then our being able to find them, well now, that is pretty amazing! This could be the case in the Kepler-1625 system; the Hubble Space Telescope may have revealed a moon orbiting one of the system’s planets.

This thing is, this “moon” is pretty big, about the size of Neptune with the planet being about three Jupiter-masses. Is it a moon or is this some sort of binary planet system? I am not saying this is not a moon mind you, more of a “definitions-thing” you see. It’s all very intriguing to me.

Space.com has a great story on this and addresses the question.

October Skies – 2018

In the northern hemisphere October is typically a month of great viewing (and seeing). So far around these parts that does not seem to be the case. It’s early though so I am hoping for an improvement because November is TERRIBLE – cloudiest month of the year.

Venus Flyby #1 – Complete

The Parker Solar Probe flew past Venus at a distance of just 2414 km / 1500 miles. The 03 October encounter was of course by design and was the first of seven flybys of Venus and will use gravity assists to tighten up the orbit around the Sun as the illustration shows (credit: NASA).

Mission managers will use the flight data to plan the next six flybys which will occur over the course of the seven-year mission.

NASA’s Asteroid Encounter

NASA’s Osiris-REx is basically “on approach” to asteroid Bennu, and so far everything seems to proceeding nicely.

NASA — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed its first Asteroid Approach Maneuver (AAM-1) today putting it on course for its scheduled arrival at the asteroid Bennu in December. The spacecraft’s main engine thrusters fired in a braking maneuver designed to slow the spacecraft’s speed relative to Bennu from approximately 1,100 mph (491 m/sec) to 313 mph (140 m/sec). The mission team will continue to examine telemetry and tracking data as they become available and will have more information on the results of the maneuver over the next week.

During the next six weeks, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will continue executing the series of asteroid approach maneuvers designed to fly the spacecraft through a precise corridor during its final slow approach to Bennu. The last of these, AAM-4, scheduled for Nov. 12, will adjust the spacecraft’s trajectory to arrive at a position 12 miles (20 km) from Bennu on Dec. 3. After arrival, the spacecraft will initiate asteroid proximity operations by performing a series of fly-bys over Bennu’s poles and equator

Credits: University of Arizona

The First “A” in NASA

NASA had this on their website yesterday to mark their 60th birthday with a look back to their roots.

“A” is for aeronautics. This is a classic image from the early days, credit: NASA/Robert G.Ferguson.

Here is the original caption (Yvette Smith):

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is more than a space agency. Aeronautics, the first A of the NASA acronym, has always been a part of the agency, but against the headline exploits of rocket launches, Moon landings, space shuttle missions, and Mars rovers, aeronautics is sometimes lost in the shadows of NASA’s marquee space programs. This relative obscurity belies what has been a remarkably creative, productive and highly effective group of researchers who, at one time, even helped bring about the Space Age and invent a space agency.

Aeronautics really might be called the “other NASA,” distinct in its charge, methodologies and scale. Aeronautics research is not mission-oriented in the same way that going to the Moon or Mars is. It is interested in learning about physical phenomena, such as turbulence, and how to do something, such as quieting the noise of helicopter blades.

This is fitting, as today we celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary  — the agency came into being on Oct. 1, 1958. When it began, NASA absorbed the facilities and personnel of the NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Centers like Langley and Ames and others predate the creation of NASA, but the expertise of the scientists of the NACA were needed to create a distinct agency that encompassed aeronautics and aerospace activities.

Currently, NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate has four research programs that continue to develop advanced technologies to reduce aviation’s environmental impact and transform the way the public flies.

This image from March 1962 shows an X-15 aircraft model, as shock waves surround the small scale object in the Langley Research Center’s 4 x 4 Supersonic Pressure Tunnel.