Monday, August 14, 2017

VIDEO: SpaceX Launches, Lands Falcon 9 Rocket At Cape Canaveral On August 14, 2017


UPDATE: SpaceX has successfully launched and landed a Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center after deploying a satellite headed for the International Space Station.

Previous story:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station is scheduled to liftoff at 12:31 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, August 14, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Last Use Of A New Dragon Capsule For CRS Missions

For the last time ever, SpaceX will launch a new Dragon capsule to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

All remaining SpaceX CRS mission launches will be reused Dragon capsules.

Attempted Ground Landing, Sonic Boom

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.

Residents in the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

Weather 70% 'GO' for Launch

According to the latest forecast by the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of acceptable weather conditions for Saturday's launch. The primary weather concerns are cumulus clouds and flight through precipitation.

CRS-12 Payload

The Dragon capsule will carry nearly 6,000 pounds of scientific experiments, food and other supplies to the crew aboard the to the International Space Station, including a veggie plant growth experiment.

Photo and video credit: SpaceX

Sunday, June 11, 2017

NASA Unveils Six-Wheeled Mars Concept Rover


KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida - It looks like something out of this world, but that’s exactly where it would work. A futuristic Mars rover concept vehicle resembling a Bat Mobile was recently unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The builders of the scientifically-themed Mars rover concept vehicle, Parker Brothers Concepts of Port Canaveral, Florida, incorporated input into its design from NASA subject matter experts. Construction of the Mars rover was commissioned by the Kennedy visitor complex without use of taxpayer dollars.

The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by the Global Positioning System. The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the Red Planet.

Following several weeks on display at Kennedy’s visitor complex, the Mars rover concept vehicle will be displayed at several locations. From July through August, it will be displayed at several locations during a tour along the East Coast.

Article source: NASA / Bob Granath
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Friday, June 2, 2017

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch Date Of CRS-11 Rescheduled For Saturday


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station has been rescheduled to liftoff at 5:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday, June 3, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida following a scrubbed launch due to lightning on Thursday.


First Reuse Of A Dragon Capsule

For the first time ever, SpaceX will launch a reused Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. The capsule was previously launched in September 2014 for the CRS-4 mission.

Attempted Ground Landing, Sonic Boom

After first stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1.

Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville, Florida, are most likely to hear a sonic boom, although what Brevard County residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

CRS-11 Payload

The Dragon capsule will carry food and supplies to the crew aboard the to the International Space Station, as well as the following scientific equipment: Neuron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) instrument, Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), and Multiple User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES).

Weather 70% 'GO' for Launch

According to the latest forecast by the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of acceptable weather conditions for Saturday's launch. The primary weather concerns are anvil clouds, cumulus clouds, and flight through precipitation

Photo credit: SpaceX

Monday, May 22, 2017

Astronauts To Make Surprise Spacewalk To Replace Failed Computer Relay


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Two U.S. astronauts will have to make a surprise spacewalk on Tuesday to replace a failed computer relay that controls cooling and power on the International Space Station.


Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA will make the spacewalk  to change out a multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay box on the S0 truss that failed on Saturday morning. So far, Space Station Program Managers have been unable to determine the cause of the MDM.

The data relay box is one of two fully redundant systems housed in the truss that control the functionality of radiators, solar arrays, cooling loops and other station hardware. The other MDM in the truss is functioning perfectly, providing uninterrupted telemetry routing to the station’s systems. The crew has never been in any danger, and the MDM failure, believed to be internal to the box itself, has had no impact on station activities.

On Sunday morning, Whitson prepared a spare data relay box and tested components installed in the replacement. She reported that the spare MDM was ready to be brought outside to replace the failed unit. Back on March 30, Whitson and Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA conducted a spacewalk to install the same MDM with upgraded software that failed Saturday.

A similar MDM replacement spacewalk was conducted in April 2014 by Expedition 39 crewmembers Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio of NASA.

Tuesday’s spacewalk will last about two hours. An additional task was added for Fischer to install a pair of wireless communications antennas on the Destiny Lab while Whitson replaces the failed data relay box. The antenna installation task was originally planned for the last spacewalk on May 12.

The contingency spacewalk will be the 201st in support of space station assembly and maintenance and the sixth conducted from the Quest airlock this year.

This will be the 10th spacewalk in Whitson’s career and the second for Fischer. Whitson will be designated as extravehicular crewmember 1 (EV 1) and will wear the suit with the red stripes. Fischer will be extravehicular crewmember 2 (EV 2) and will wear the suit with no stripes.

Tuesday’s spacewalk is expected to begin around 8 a.m. EDT, or earlier, if the crew is running ahead of schedule with its spacewalking preparations.

Photo credit: NASA

Saturday, May 13, 2017

NASA Rules Out Humans Aboard First Space Launch System Flight


NASA has ruled out placing astronauts aboard the first flight of the Space Launch System rocket following a directive from President Donald Trump in February for the space agency to look into the feasibility of putting humans aboard the initial launch.


"After weighing the data and assessing all implications, the agency will continue pursuing the original plan for the first launch, as a rigorous flight test of the integrated systems without crew," NASA concluded in a statement. "However, engineers will apply insights gained from the effort to the first flight test and the integrated systems to strengthen the long-term push to extend human presence deeper into the solar system."

NASA determined it is technically capable of launching crew on EM-1, but after evaluating cost, risk and technical factors in a project of this magnitude, it would be difficult to accommodate changes needed to add crew at this point in mission planning.

“We appreciate the opportunity to evaluate the possibility of this crewed flight,” said NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “The bi-partisan support of Congress and the President for our efforts to send astronauts deeper into the solar system than we have ever gone before is valued and does not go unnoticed. Presidential support for space has been strong.”

Image credit and source: NASA

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Survives Dive Between Saturn and Its Rings


NASA's Cassini spacecraft survived its first-ever dive through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, and is back in contact with Earth. 


Cassini is now in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage. NASA's Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California's Mojave Desert acquired Cassini's signal at 12:56 a.m. EDT on April 27 and data began flowing at 3:01 a.m. EDT.

The three images below are the first released by NASA that were beamed back from Cassini today which show features in Saturn's atmosphere from closer than ever before. The images are raw and unprocessed.

While NASA scientists were confident Cassini would pass through the gap successfully, they took extra precautions with this first dive because the region had never been explored.

The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn's atmosphere is about 1,500 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide. The best models for the region suggested that if there were ring particles in the area where Cassini crossed the ring plane, they would be tiny, on the scale of smoke particles. The spacecraft zipped through this region at speeds of about 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) relative to the planet, so small particles hitting a sensitive area could potentially have disabled the spacecraft.


As a protective measure, the spacecraft used its large, dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a shield, orienting it in the direction of oncoming ring particles. This meant that the spacecraft was out of contact with Earth during the ring-plane crossing, which took place at 5 a.m. EDT on April 26. Cassini was programmed to collect science data while close to the planet and turn toward Earth to make contact about 20 hours after the crossing.


"No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn's other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape."


As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Saturn's cloud tops (where the air pressure is 1 bar -- comparable to the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level) and within about 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

This is the first of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and its rings, ending with a fiery plunge into Saturn on September 15, 2017.  Cassini's next dive through the gap is scheduled for May 2.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cassini Takes Photo Of Earth Through Saturn's Rings Before Suicide Plunge


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA's Cassini spacecraft snapped a farewell photo of Earth through Saturn's rings as the probe begins to alter its orbit for a 'Grand Finale' suicide plunge into Saturn later this year.


Cassini captured the image on April 12, 2017 when it was 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from Earth. Although far too small to be visible in the image, the part of Earth facing toward Cassini at the time was the southern Atlantic Ocean.

This weekend, Cassini made its final close flyby of Saturn's haze-enshrouded moon Titan. The flyby marks the mission's final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon's northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Cassini's closest approach to Titan occurred at 2:08 a.m. EDT on April 22, 2017. During the encounter, Cassini passed as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan's surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

The flyby is also the gateway to Cassini's Grand Finale, which is a final set of 22 orbits that pass between the planet and its rings, ending with a fiery plunge into Saturn on September 15, 2017.  

During the close pass, Titan's gravity bent Cassini's orbit around Saturn, shrinking it slightly, so that instead of passing just outside the rings, the spacecraft will begin its finale dives which pass just inside the rings.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Giant Asteroid To Near Earth On April 19


A massive asteroid measuring over a third-of-a-mile wide and classified as a "Potentially Hazardous Asteroid" by the International Astronomical Union is expected to fly safely past Earth on April 19, 2017 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.


The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19. 

According to the latest measurements by NASA's NEOWISE mission, the asteroid is roughly 2,000 feet (650 meters) in size, and its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the moon.  It is predicted to brighten to about magnitude 11, when it could be visible in small optical telescopes for one or two nights.

NASA says that, although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.

Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size in 13 years. The next known encounter of an asteroid of comparable size will occur in 2027.

The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers working on a project for NASA's Near-Earth object (NEO) Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona.


Image and video credit: NASA

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NASA: Cassini To Make Suicide Plunge Into Saturn


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA's Cassini spacecraft will deliberately make a fiery plunge into Saturn this year, ending the scientific probe's 13-year orbit around the ringed planet.

After launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida 20 years ago, Cassini is now running low on fuel. So NASA scientists and engineers decided to end the mission with a purposeful plunge into Saturn this year in order to protect and preserve the planet's moons for future exploration - especially the potentially habitable Enceladus.


Using expertise gained over the mission's many years, Cassini engineers designed a flight plan that will maximize the scientific value of sending the spacecraft toward its fateful plunge.

On April 26, Cassini will make the first in a series of 22 dives through the 1,500-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale. 

In mid-September, the spacecraft's path will be bent so that it dives into the planet. When Cassini makes its final plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15, it will send data from several instruments - most notably, data on the atmosphere's composition - until its signal is lost.

"Based on our best models, we expect the gap to be clear of particles large enough to damage the spacecraft. But we're also being cautious by using our large antenna as a shield on the first pass, as we determine whether it's safe to expose the science instruments to that environment on future passes," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Certainly there are some unknowns, but that's one of the reasons we're doing this kind of daring exploration at the end of the mission."

NASA hopes to gain powerful insights into the planet's internal structure and the origins of the rings, obtain the first-ever sampling of Saturn's atmosphere and particles coming from the main rings, and capture the closest-ever views of Saturn's clouds and inner rings.

Watch NASA's animated simulation of Cassini's fiery death:


Image and video credit: NASA/JPL

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NASA’s New Horizons Halfway Between Pluto And Next Flyby Target


NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto to its next target in the outer reaches of our solar system. The probe reached that milestone on April 3 when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto which is the same distance from its next target, 2014 MU69.


On April 7, New Horizons will also reach the halfway point in time between its closest approach to Pluto (which occurred July 14, 2015) and MU69 with an estimated time of arrival of January 1, 2019.

Scientists say that the nearly five-day difference between the halfway point in distance and the halfway point in time is due to the gravitational tug of the sun. New Horizons is actually getting slightly slower as it pulls away from the sun’s gravity, so the spacecraft crosses the midpoint in distance a bit before it passes the midpoint in time.

Launched in January 2006 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, New Horizons is currently 3.5 billion miles (5.7 billion kilometers) from Earth. At that distance, a radio signal sent from Earth traveling at light speed needs about five hours and 20 minutes to reach the spacecraft. New Horizons will begin a new 157-day period of hibernation later this week after being “awake” for nearly two-and-a-half years.

In addition to its historic Pluto encounter and 16 subsequent months of relaying the data from that encounter back to Earth, New Horizons has made breakthrough, distant observations of a dozen Kuiper Belt objects, collected unique data on the dust and charged-particle environment of the Kuiper Belt, and studied the hydrogen gas that permeates the vast space surrounding the sun, called the heliosphere.

ABOVE IMAGE: An artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, en route to its January 2019 encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Saturday, April 1, 2017

NASA: Ancient Mars Atmosphere Lost To Space


Solar wind and radiation are responsible for stripping away the ancient Martian atmosphere, transforming Mars from a planet that could have supported life billions of years ago into the frigid Red Planet we see today, according to new results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft.

"We've determined that most of the gas ever present in the Mars atmosphere has been lost to space," said Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), University of Colorado in Boulder. "The team made this determination from the latest result, which reveals that about 65 percent of the argon that was ever in the atmosphere has been lost to space."

In 2015, MAVEN team members had previously announced results showing that atmospheric gas was being lost to space and that described the processes by which atmosphere was being stripped away. The present analysis uses measurements of today's atmosphere to give the first estimate of how much gas has been removed through time.

Liquid water, essential for life, is not stable on the Red Planet's surface today because the atmosphere is too cold and thin to support it. However, evidence such as features resembling dry riverbeds and minerals that only form in the presence of liquid water indicates the ancient Martian climate was much different - warm enough for water to flow on the surface for extended periods.

There are many ways a planet can lose some of its atmosphere. For example, chemical reactions can lock gas away in surface rocks, or an atmosphere can be eroded by radiation and a stellar wind from a planet's parent star. The new result reveals that solar wind and radiation were responsible for most of the atmospheric loss on Mars, and the depletion was enough to transform the Martian climate. The solar wind is a thin stream of electrically conducting gas constantly blowing out from the surface of the sun.


Our early Sun had far more intense ultraviolet radiation and solar wind than today, so atmospheric loss by these processes was likely much greater in Mars' history. According to the team, these processes may have been the dominant ones controlling the planet's climate and habitability. It's possible microbial life could have existed at the surface early in Mars’ history. As the planet cooled off and dried up, any life could have been driven underground or forced into rare surface oases.

ABOVE IMAGE: This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (right) - believed to contain liquid water and a thicker atmosphere - versus the cold, dry environment seen at Mars today (left). NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution is in orbit of the Red Planet to study its upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Video credit and article source: NASA

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Completes Fifth Flyby Of Jupiter



CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -  NASA's Juno spacecraft completed its fifth flyby over Jupiter's enigmatic cloud tops on Monday, March 27, at 4:52 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (8:52 UTC).

At the time of closest approach (called perijove), Juno came within 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops, traveling at a speed of about 129,000 miles per hour (57.8 kilometers per second) relative to the gas-giant planet. All of Juno's eight science instruments were collecting data during the flyby

During its mission, Juno will circle Jupiter a total of 36 times, soaring low over the planet's cloud tops. During these flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and explore the swirling clouds that form Jupiter’s colorful, trademark atmosphere.

The Juno science team continues to analyze returns from previous flybys. Scientists have discovered that Jupiter's magnetic fields are more complicated than originally thought and that the belts and zones that give the planet's cloud tops their distinctive look extend deep into their interior. Observations of the energetic particles that create the incandescent auroras suggest a complicated current system involving charged material lofted from volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.


ABOVE IMAGE: Juno acquired this JunoCam image on Feb. 2, 2017 at an altitude of 9,000 miles (14,500 kilometers) above the giant planet’s cloud tops. This publicly selected target was simply titled “Dark Spot.” In ground-based images, it was difficult to tell that it is a dark storm.


Citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko enhanced the color to bring out the rich detail in the storm and surrounding clouds.  Just south of the dark storm is a bright, oval-shaped storm with high, bright, white clouds, reminiscent of a swirling galaxy. As a final touch, he rotated the image 90 degrees, turning the picture into a work of art.



Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko

Sunday, March 26, 2017

NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Suffers Wheel Damage


The aluminum wheels on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover are showing signs of wear and tear as the rover continues its exploration of the Red Planet.

Two small breaks were discovered on the rover’s left middle wheel in the raised treads, called grousers. Testing showed that at the point when three grousers on a wheel have broken, that wheel has reached about 60 percent of its useful life. Curiosity already has driven well over that fraction of the total distance needed for reaching the key regions of scientific interest on Mars' Mount Sharp.


Each of Curiosity's six wheels is about 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide, milled out of solid aluminum. The wheels contact ground with a skin that's about half as thick as a U.S. dime, except at thicker treads. The grousers are 19 zigzag-shaped treads that extend about a quarter inch (three-fourths of a centimeter) outward from the skin of each wheel. The grousers bear much of the rover's weight and provide most of the traction and ability to traverse over uneven terrain.

"All six wheels have more than enough working lifespan remaining to get the vehicle to all destinations planned for the mission," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "While not unexpected, this damage is the first sign that the left middle wheel is nearing a wheel-wear milestone."

The monitoring of wheel damage on Curiosity, plus a program of wheel-longevity testing on Earth, was initiated after dents and holes in the wheels were seen to be accumulating faster than anticipated in 2013.

Through March 20, 2017, Curiosity has driven 9.9 miles (16.0 kilometers) since the mission's August 2012 landing on Mars. For the past four years, rover drive planners have used enhanced methods of mapping potentially hazardous terrains to reduce the pace of damage from sharp, embedded rocks along the rover's route.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Friday, March 24, 2017

Gravitational Waves Push Supermassive Black Hole Out Of Galaxy's Center


An international team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the center of the distant galaxy 3C186 by what could be the awesome power of gravitational waves.


Though several other suspected runaway black holes have been seen elsewhere, none has been confirmed so far. Astronomers think this object, detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very strong case. Weighing more than 1 billion suns, the rogue black hole is the most massive black hole ever detected to have been kicked out of its central home.

Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two hefty black holes at the center of the host galaxy.

First predicted by Albert Einstein, gravitational waves are ripples in space that are created when two massive objects collide. The ripples are similar to the concentric circles produced when a hefty rock is thrown into a pond. Last year, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) helped astronomers prove that gravitational waves exist by detecting them emanating from the union of two stellar-mass black holes, which are several times more massive than the sun.

Hubble's observations of the wayward black hole surprised the research team. "When I first saw this, I thought we were seeing something very peculiar," said team leader Marco Chiaberge of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland.

"When we combined observations from Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, it all pointed towards the same scenario. The amount of data we collected, from X-rays to ultraviolet to near-infrared light, is definitely larger than for any of the other candidate rogue black holes."

ABOVE IMAGE: The illustration shows how gravitational waves can propel a black hole from the center of a galaxy. 


1. The scenario begins in the first panel with the merger of two galaxies, each with a central black hole. 



2. In the second panel, the two black holes in the newly merged galaxy settle into the center and begin whirling around each other. This energetic action produces gravitational waves. 



3, As the two hefty objects continue to radiate away gravitational energy, they move closer to each other over time, as seen in the third panel. If the black holes do not have the same mass and rotation rate, they emit gravitational waves more strongly in one direction, as shown by the bright area at upper left. 



4. The black holes finally merge in the fourth panel, forming one giant black hole. The energy emitted by the merger propels the black hole away from the center in the opposite direction of the strongest gravitational waves.



Image Credit and article source: NASA/ESA

Saturday, March 4, 2017

NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Boosts Speed To Avoid Martian Moon


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft that has been orbiting Mars for just over two years since its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 2013, corrected its orbit to avoid a collision with the Martian moon Phobos.

On Tuesday, MAVEN carried out a rocket motor burn that boosted its velocity by 0.4 meters per second (less than 1 mile per hour). NASA scientists say that although the boost is a small velocity correction, it was enough to avoid a cosmic run-in that would otherwise have occurred with Phobos.

This is the first collision avoidance maneuver that the MAVEN spacecraft has performed at Mars to steer clear of Phobos. The orbits of both MAVEN and Phobos are known well enough to scientists that this slight timing difference ensures that the two satellites will not collide.

MAVEN, with an elliptical orbit around Mars, has an orbit that crosses those of other spacecraft and the moon Phobos many times over the course of a year.  When the orbits cross, the objects have the possibility of colliding if they arrive at that intersection at the same time. These scenarios are known well in advance and are carefully monitored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which sounded the alert regarding the possibility of a collision.

With one week’s advance notice, NASA scientists believed that MAVEN and Phobos had a good chance of hitting each other on Monday, March 6.

Above photo: Phobos. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

SpaceX Determines Cause Of September 1, 2016 Falcon 9 Explosion


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - SpaceX announced on Monday that a team of investigators have finally determined the cause of the Falcon 9 explosion that occurred on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on September 1, 2016.

The accident investigation team worked systematically through an extensive fault tree analysis and concluded that one of the three composite over-wrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank failed. Specifically, the investigation team concluded the failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner and over-wrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV.


Each stage of Falcon 9 uses COPVs to store cold helium which is used to maintain tank pressure, and each COPV consists of an aluminum inner liner with a carbon over-wrap. The recovered COPVs showed buckles in their liners. Although buckles were not shown to burst a COPV on their own, investigators concluded that super chilled LOX can pool in these buckles under the over-wrap. When pressurized, oxygen pooled in this buckle can become trapped; in turn, breaking fibers or friction can ignite the oxygen in the over-wrap, causing the COPV to fail. In addition, investigators determined that the loading temperature of the helium was cold enough to create solid oxygen (SOX), which exacerbates the possibility of oxygen becoming trapped as well as the likelihood of friction ignition.

The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super-chilled LOX or SOX in buckles under the over-wrap.

SpaceX said in a statement that its corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes. In the short term, this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration based on operations used in over 700 successful COPV loads. In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether, which will allow for faster loading operations.​

The investigation team was made up of officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with several industry experts and SpaceX personnel.

Investigators scoured more than 3,000 channels of video and telemetry data covering a very brief timeline of events - there were just 93 milliseconds from the first sign of anomalous data to the loss of the second stage, followed by loss of the vehicle. Because the failure occurred on the ground, investigators were also able to review umbilical data, ground-based video, and physical debris. To validate investigation analysis and findings, SpaceX conducted a wide range of tests at its facilities in Hawthorne, California and McGregor, Texas.

The 6-ton AMOS-6 satellite that was also destroyed in the explosion would have been the heaviest satellite that SpaceX launched into Geo Stationary Orbit using the rocket's nine Merlin engines.


Image and video credit: USLaunchReport.com via YouTube

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Weather 90% 'GO' For Atlas V Rocket Launch From Cape Canaveral


6th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:42 p.m

5th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:32 p.m

4th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:27 p.m

3rd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:22 p.m

2nd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:17 p.m

UPDATE: New launch time is 6:07 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Weather is 90% go for today's launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 configuration rocket carrying a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission has a one-hour launch window that is scheduled to open at at 5:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

A live broadcast of the launch can be seen online beginning at 4:45 p.m. at http://www.ulalaunch.com/ and https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public

GOES-R is the first of four satellites to be launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA in a new and advanced series of weather spacecraft. Once in geostationary orbit, it will be known as GOES-16.




The spacecraft will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere and space weather monitoring. Compared with today’s geostationary satellites, GOES-R will scan the Earth five times faster at four times image resolution and triple the number of channels scientists can tap into to observe global weather and climate.

In addition to weather forecasting, GOES-R carries a transponder to detect distress signals from emergency beacons on aircraft, boats/ships and carried by individuals as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system.

For more details about the GOES-R mission, visit NASA's website.

Image credit: NASA

Atlas V Rocket Launch Of GOES-R Satellite Set For November 19



6th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:42 p.m

5th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:32 p.m

4th UPDATE: New launch time is 6:27 p.m

3rd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:22 p.m

2nd UPDATE: New launch time is 6:17 p.m

UPDATE: New launch time is 6:07 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 configuration rocket carrying a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is scheduled to launch on Saturday, November 19, 2016.   The one-hour launch window opens at 5:42 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

GOES-R is the first of four satellites to be launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA in a new and advanced series of weather spacecraft. Once in geostationary orbit, it will be known as GOES-16.

The spacecraft will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere and space weather monitoring. Compared with today’s geostationary satellites, GOES-R will scan the Earth five times faster at four times image resolution and triple the number of channels scientists can tap into to observe global weather and climate.




GOES-R will support short-term forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions. The satellite also will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, improve aviation flight route planning, and provide data for long-term climate variability studies.

In addition to weather forecasting, GOES-R carries a transponder to detect distress signals from emergency beacons on aircraft, boats/ships and carried by individuals as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system.

For more details about the GOES-R mission, visit NASA's website.

Image credit: NASA

Monday, October 31, 2016

NASA Captures Sun Looking Like A Halloween Jack-o'-Lantern

Halloween jack-o-lantern face on Sun

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was able to capture an image of active regions on the sun which combined to look something like a Halloween jack-o-lantern’s face two years ago.  SDO observes the sun at all times from its orbit in outer space.


According to NASA, the active regions in this image appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy.  

They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths at 171 and 193 Ångströms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Rocket Launch Of OSIRIS-REX From Cape Canaveral


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - Watch live online the countdown and launch of NASA's  Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft from Florida to an asteroid that will bring a sample of the space rock back to Earth.

The 4,650-pound (2,110-kilogram) fully-fueled spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas V 411 configuration  rocket at 7:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, September 8, 2016, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a two-hour window for each launch opportunity.



According to the latest weather forecast from the United States Air Force 45th Weather Squadron, there is an 90% percent chance overall of acceptable weather conditions for Thursday's launch.

After a careful survey of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to characterize the asteroid and locate the most promising sample sites, OSIRIS-REx will collect between 2 and 70 ounces (about 60 to 2,000 grams) of surface material with its robotic arm and return the sample to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023.

Bennu is believed to be one of the oldest asteroids in our solar system. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

Bennu may also harbor organic material from the young solar system. Organic matter is made of molecules containing primarily carbon and hydrogen atoms and is fundamental to terrestrial life. The analysis of any organic material found on Bennu will give scientists an inventory of the materials present at the beginning of the solar system that may have had a role in the origin of life.


Photo and video credit: NASA TV