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By European Space Agency
Video: 00:20:11 ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen called several ESERO establishments in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland where over 1000 students were waiting to ask questions about life in space and how science on the International Space Station can benefit life on Earth. Check it out to learn more about how water is recycled on the Space Station and what you need to be a good astronaut.
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Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
The six satellites that make up NASA’s SunRISE mission are each only about the size of a cereal box, flanked by small solar panels. This fleet of six SmallSats will work together to effectively create a much larger radio antenna in space. Space Dynamics Laboratory/Allison Bills Most NASA missions feature one spacecraft or, occasionally, a few. The agency’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) is using half a dozen. This month, mission members completed construction of the six identical cereal box-size satellites, which will now go into storage and await their final testing and ride to space. SunRISE will launch as a rideshare aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket, sponsored by the United States Space Force (USSF)’s Space Systems Command (SSC).
Once launched, these six small satellites, or SmallSats, will work together to act like one giant radio antenna in space. The mission will study the physics of explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere in order to gain insights that could someday help protect astronauts and space hardware from showers of accelerated particles.
“This is a big moment for everyone who has worked on SunRISE,” said Jim Lux, the SunRISE project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages the mission for the agency. “Challenges are expected when you’re doing something for the first time, and especially when the space vehicles are small and compact. But we have a small team that works well together, across multiple institutions and companies. I’m looking forward to the day when we receive the first images of the Sun in these radio wavelengths.”
Monitoring Solar Radio Bursts
They may be small, but the six satellites have a big job ahead of them studying solar radio bursts, or the generation of radio waves in the outer atmosphere of the Sun. These bursts result from electrons accelerated in the Sun’s atmosphere during energetic events known as coronal mass ejections and solar flares.
Particles accelerated by these events can damage spacecraft electronics – including on communications satellites in Earth orbit – and pose a health threat to astronauts. Scientists still have big questions about how solar radio bursts, coronal mass ejections, and solar flares are created and how they are linked. SunRISE may shed light on this complex question. Someday, tracking solar radio bursts and pinpointing their location could help warn humans when the energetic particles from coronal mass ejections and solar flares are likely to hit Earth.
This type of monitoring isn’t possible from the ground. Earth’s atmosphere blocks the range of radio wavelengths primarily emitted by solar radio bursts. For a space-based monitoring system, scientists need a radio telescope bigger than any previously flown in space. This is where SunRISE comes in.
To look out for solar radio events, the SmallSats will fly about 6 miles (10 kilometers) apart and each deploy four radio antennas that extend 10 feet (2.5 meters). Mission scientists and engineers will track where the satellites are relative to one another and measure with precise timing when each one observes a particular event. Then they will combine the information collected by the satellites into a single data stream from which images of the Sun will be produced for scientists to study – a technique called interferometry.
“Some missions put multiple scientific instruments on a single spacecraft, whereas we use multiple small satellites to act as a single instrument,” said JPL’s Andrew Romero-Wolf, the deputy project scientist for SunRISE.
More About the Mission
SunRISE is a Mission of Opportunity under the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Missions of Opportunity are part of the Explorers Program, managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. SunRISE is led by Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California. Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory built the SunRISE spacecraft. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, provides the mission operations center and manages the mission for NASA.
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Last Updated Nov 30, 2023 Related Terms
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NASA Scientific Balloons Ready for Flights Over Antarctica
A scientific balloon payload is being prepared for launch in McMurdo Station, Antarctica. NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility NASA kicks off its annual Antarctic Long Duration Balloon Campaign around Dec. 1, which includes three scientific balloon flights planned for launch from the long-duration balloon (LDB) Camp near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. NASA’s stadium-sized, zero-pressure balloons will support a total of five missions on the long-duration flights with one mission vying to break NASA’s heavy-lift, long-duration balloon flight record, which stands at 55 days, 1 hour, and 34 minutes.
“The annual Antarctic long-duration balloon campaign is the program’s flagship event for long-duration missions,” said Andrew Hamilton, acting chief of NASA’s Balloon Program Office (BPO). “The environment and stratospheric wind conditions provide a unique and valuable opportunity to fly missions in a near-space environment for days or weeks at a time. The BPO team is excited to provide support to all our missions this year.”
Headlining this year’s campaign is the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission. This Astrophysics mission is managed by NASA’s Explorers Program Office at Goddard Space Flight Center. The mission is led by principal investigator Christopher Walker from the University of Arizona with support from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. GUSTO will aim for 55-plus days in flight above the southernmost hemisphere’s skies to map a large part of the Milky Way galaxy, including the galactic center, and the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The GUSTO telescope is equipped with very sensitive detectors for carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen emission lines. Measuring these emission lines will give the GUSTO team deep insight into the full lifecycle of the interstellar medium, the cosmic material found between stars. GUSTO’s science observations will be performed from Antarctica to allow for enough observation time aloft, access to astronomical objects, and solar power provided by the austral summer in the polar region.
Additional missions set to fly during the Antarctic LDB campaign include:
Anti-Electron Sub-Orbital Payload (AESOP-Lite): The mission, led by a team from the University of Delaware and University of California Santa Cruz, will measure cosmic-ray electrons and positrons. These electron measurements will be compared to Voyager I and II, which reached interstellar space and have been measuring cosmic ray electrons since 2012 and 2018, respectively. AESOP-Lite will fly on a 60 million cubic feet balloon, a test flight set to qualify the balloon for reaching altitudes greater than 150,000 feet, which is higher than NASA’s current stratospheric inventory. Long durAtion evalUation solaR hand LAunch (LAURA): This engineering test flight, led by NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, will utilize solar panels to extend the science capability of the hand launch platform from a few days in flight to long-duration flights. Hand-launched balloons are about 40 times smaller in volume than the heavy-lift balloons and have limited time aloft due to the amount and weight of batteries used for powering the science and balloon instruments. Anihala (Antarctic Infrasound Hand Launch): This piggyback payload on the AESOP-Lite launch, a cooperative mission between the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Sandia National Lab, aims to measure natural background sound in the stratosphere over a continent where human-generated sound is largely absent. Zero-pressure balloons feature open ducts that allow gas to escape and prevent an increase in pressure from inside the balloon. Gas expansion occurs as it heats during the balloon’s rise above Earth’s surface or by temperature increases from a rising Sun. These balloons, which typically have a shorter flight duration due to the loss of gas from the cycle of day to night, can only fly long-duration missions during the constant daylight of summer in polar regions, where the balloon stays in constant sunlight.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia manages the agency’s scientific balloon flight program with 10 to 15 flights each year from launch sites worldwide. Peraton, which operates NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Texas, provides mission planning, engineering services, and field operations for NASA’s scientific balloon program. The CSBF team has launched more than 1,700 scientific balloons over some 40 years of operations. NASA’s balloons are fabricated by Aerostar. The NASA Scientific Balloon Program is funded by the NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division.
For mission tracking, click here. For more information on NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/scientificballoons.
Last Updated Nov 27, 2023 Editor Olivia F. Littleton Contact Olivia F. Littletonolivia.firstname.lastname@example.org Location Wallops Flight Facility Related Terms
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A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with the Psyche spacecraft onboard is seen at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Psyche mission, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will travel to a metal-rich asteroid by the same name orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter to study its composition. The spacecraft also carries the agency’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, which will test laser communications beyond the Moon.NASA/Aubrey Gemignani The spacecraft is targeting an Oct. 12 liftoff atop a Falcon Heavy rocket. Its destination, a metal-rich asteroid, may tell us more about how planets form.
In less than 24 hours, NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is slated to launch from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With its sights set on a mysterious asteroid of the same name, Psyche is NASA’s first scientific mission to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
Launch is set for 10:16 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 12, with additional opportunities identified each day through Oct. 25. Each opportunity is instantaneous, meaning there is only one exact time per day when launch can occur.
“The team has worked tirelessly to prepare the spacecraft for its journey to a one-of-a-kind asteroid,” said Henry Stone, Psyche’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “All spacecraft systems, science instruments, and software have been integrated and extensively tested, and the spacecraft is fully configured for flight. We look forward to the launch and – more importantly – to accomplishing the mission’s objectives, marking yet another historic voyage of scientific discovery.”
The orbiter’s solar arrays are folded and stowed for launch. All systems have been tested and re-tested many times, along with the payload of three science instruments. Loaded with 2,392 pounds (1,085 kilograms) of the neutral gas xenon – the propellant that will get Psyche to the asteroid belt – the spacecraft sits inside the launch vehicle’s cone-shaped payload fairing, which protects it from aerodynamic pressure and heat during launch. The spacecraft and fairing have been mated to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy, which is poised for takeoff from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A.
Integrated onto the spacecraft is a technology demonstration called Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC). DSOC will test high-data-rate laser communications – which could be used by future NASA missions – beyond the Moon for the first time. The tech demo will not relay Psyche mission data.
The rocket has two stages and two side boosters. After the side boosters separate and return to land, the core stage will be expended into the Atlantic Ocean. Then the second stage of the rocket, which will help Psyche escape Earth’s gravity, will fire its engine.
Once the rocket is out of Earth’s atmosphere, about four minutes after launch, the fairing will separate from its ride and split into two halves, which are jettisoned back to Earth. The spacecraft will then separate from the upper stage about an hour after launch. Soon after, it will deploy its twin solar arrays, one at a time, and direct them at the Sun. At this point, the spacecraft is in a planned “safe mode” (a precautionary standby status), with the Sun illuminating the deployed solar panels, and will begin to direct the low-gain antenna toward Earth for communications.
It could take up to two hours after separation from the rocket before the first signal is received.
Once stable communications have been established, mission controllers will begin to reconfigure the spacecraft into its planned operating mode. The ensuing three months of initial checkout include a commissioning phase to confirm that all hardware and software is operating as expected, including the electric thrusters. Starting about five months after launch, the thrusters will fire, one at a time, during long stretches of the trajectory to get to the asteroid.
Psyche’s efficient solar electric propulsion system works by accelerating and expelling charged atoms, or ions, of the neutral gas xenon – creating a thrust that will gently push the spacecraft on a journey of nearly six years and about 2.2 billion miles (3.6 billion kilometers) to the asteroid Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Along the way, in May 2026, the spacecraft will fly by Mars and use the Red Planet’s gravity to slingshot itself toward Psyche, saving propellant while gaining speed and changing direction.
After the spacecraft reaches the asteroid in 2029, it will spend about 26 months in orbit, gathering images and other data.
Scientists believe Psyche could be part of the core of a planetesimal – an early planetary building block – and composed of a mixture of rock and iron-nickel metal. The metal will not be mined; it will be studied to give researchers a better idea of what makes up Earth’s core and how rocky planets formed in our solar system. Humans can’t bore a path to our planet’s core – or the cores of the other rocky planets – so visiting Psyche could provide a one-of-a-kind window into the violent history of collisions and accumulation of matter that created planets like our own.
More About the Mission
Arizona State University leads the Psyche mission. A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.
JPL manages DSOC for the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Communications and Navigation program within the Space Operations Mission Directorate.
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is responsible for the insight and approval of the launch vehicle and manages the launch service for the Psyche mission. LSP certified the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for use with the agency’s most complex and highest priority missions in early 2023 at the conclusion of a 2 ½-year effort.
Psyche is the 14th mission selected as part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
For more information about NASA’s Psyche mission go to: http://www.nasa.gov/psyche
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Last Updated Oct 11, 2023 Related Terms
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