Category Archives: NASA

InSight Landing Plans

Here’s the plan. Will it work? We don’t have too long to wait now, just over two weeks on 26 November 2018 a parachute like we saw tested in last Sunday’s video will be put to the test and InSight will touch down gently or at least gently enough in the Elysium Planitia on the Red Planet.

Let’s not forget the two CubeSats: MarCO-A and MarCO-B (nicknamed “EVE” and “Wall-E” by their engineering team). The two little satellites will demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA’s InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet.

New Views of Bennu from OSIRIS-REx

Nice algorithm to combine a rotating target! I wonder how big the file size is and what it takes to run it.

NASA – This “super-resolution” view of asteroid Bennu was created using eight images obtained by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Oct. 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 km). The spacecraft was moving as it captured the images with the PolyCam camera, and Bennu rotated 1.2 degrees during the nearly one minute that elapsed between the first and the last snapshot. The team used a super-resolution algorithm to combine the eight images and produce a higher resolution view of the asteroid. Bennu occupies about 100 pixels and is oriented with its north pole at the top of the image.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Launch Pad Water Test

Testing a newly modified Ignition Overpressure Protection and Sound Suppression water deluge system at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B. The system mitigates the energy and heat during launch.

The system “dumped” about 450,000 gallons of water over the mobile launcher and flame deflector, the spectacular fountains shot water around 33 meters / 100 feet into the air.

Perhaps in the future NASA will produce a video of the pump-side of the system – I’d like to see those pumps.

Thanks to NASA and the Kennedy Space Center

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.

Asteroid Bennu Here We Come

After a journey of 1.8 million km / 1.1 billion miles the A very exciting mission OSIRIS-REx has its target in sight – Asteroid Bennu. After a two-year journey the spacecraft is finally in the “approach phase” of the mission

OSIRIS-REx will arrive at Bennu on 03 December. There is a lot to do and learn before then.

“During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;

execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;

jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and

use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.” — NASA

SLS RS-25 Engine Test

Note: The original version of this post was supposed to publish on the 16th. I am still trying to figure out what went wrong. Here’s a second try.

What an engine!

NASA (Valerie Buckingham): Stennis Space Center showcased what it does best for new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Aug. 14, hosting the agency leader for the first in another series of RS-25 rocket engine hot fire tests in support of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program.

Operators conducted a successful test of RS-25 developmental engine No. 0525 – complete with a new flight controller unit – on the A-1 Test Stand as Bridenstine and other agency officials watched. The visit was Bridenstine’s first to the south Mississippi center since he was confirmed as administrator in April.

“I have witnessed rocket launches before, but this was a new and unique experience,” Bridenstine said following the test. “It was like watching a launch, but it never leaves the ground, and you can feel the power of the engine within your body. And what the power of this RS-25 engine represents is America’s ability to fly deeper into space than we ever did before. This was a great test.”

“It was an honor to host Administrator Bridenstine and to provide him an opportunity to see the Stennis test team work,” Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said. “It also is an honor to be part of the effort under way to help move this nation to the Moon again, then on to Mars.”

The Aug. 14 hot fire was the first RS-25 test at Stennis since February, when operators powered the engine to its highest operating level ever. It also was the first test of developmental engine No. 0525 since August 2015. It marked the first in a series of nine scheduled tests on engine No. 0525 through the rest of the year and into 2019. Each will feature an RS-25 flight controller for use on an actual SLS mission, as well as testing engine components made with innovative manufacturing designed to reduce the cost of future engines. All test objectives were met during the hot fire.

NASA is building the SLS rocket as the largest, most powerful space vehicle in history to return humans to deep space missions. The SLS rocket will launch crews of up to four astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft to explore various deep-space destinations, including the Moon and Mars.

Each SLS rocket will be powered at launch by four RS-25 engines firing simultaneously to provide a combined 2 million pounds of thrust and working in conjunction with a pair of solid rocket boosters to provide more than 8 million pounds of thrust. RS-25 engines are being built by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the SLS flights.

The initial RS-25 engines are former space shuttle main engines. For initial SLS flights, the engines will be operated at 109 percent of rated power. For subsequent SLS flights, designed to carry larger, heavier cargos and the crew vehicle to deep space, the engines have been modified to operate at 111 percent of rated power. To date, Stennis has conducted 22 tests running with engines operating just over 10,000 cumulative seconds for SLS.

A key component of latest modification is the controller, which operates as the “brain” of the engine to help it communicate with the rocket and to provide precision control of engine operation and internal health diagnostics.

Stennis tested the first RS-25 flight controller in March 2017. For the testing, flight controller units are installed on a developmental engine and fired just as during an actual launch. Once tested and certified, the controllers are removed for installation on an RS-25 flight engine.

To get the most out of each test, NASA is not only testing the flight controllers, but also is testing parts of the engine that can be made using new manufacturing techniques. When new engines are produced, components can be made with these advanced processes, and the engine production cost can be reduced by more than 30 percent. This test featured a main combustion chamber fabricated using a bonding technique called hot isostatic pressing (HIP), which saves considerable time and money over more traditional methods. The HIP process uses high pressure and heat to create bonds that can withstand extreme stress. It already has been used on main combustion chambers in two other Aerojet Rocketdyne engines.

The Aug. 14 hot fire also represented the fifth test of a 3D-printed pogo accumulator assembly, a critical component that dampens potential engine propellant pressure oscillations that can cause a rocket to become unstable in flight. Testing of the 3D-printed component also is part of the ongoing effort to use advanced manufacturing to reduce engine construction costs. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne plan to test a number of 3D-printed components for the RS-25 engine.

In addition to testing individual RS-25 engines and components, Stennis is preparing to test the core stage for the first SLS flight – Exploration Mission-1 – which will showcase the new rocket and send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft into space beyond the Moon. For that testing, the flight core stage will be installed on the B-2 Test Stand at Stennis, and all four RS-25 engines will be fired simultaneously.

The first flight will be followed by Exploration Mission-2, which will carry humans aboard the Orion spacecraft, returning astronauts to deep space for the first time in more than 40 years. This mission will also be powered by Stennis-tested engines.

RS-25 tests at Stennis are conducted by a team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Syncom Space Services engineers and operators. Aerojet Rocketdyne is the RS-25 prime contractor. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.