Tag Archive: nasa

  1. NASA Tests SLS Rocket by Complete Destruction

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    Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

    NASA is preparing for the 2024 Moon launches of the ongoing Artemis program, and ensuring that everything is working as expected is never a bad idea when you’re planning to send people out of help’s reach. In this context, the space agency has run a destructive test on the upper stage of the SLS rocket, and more specifically, its liquid oxygen tank.

    This is a pretty massive 70 feet tall tank with a diameter of 28 feet, featuring an 185,000-pound steel ring. NASA wanted to determine how durable the tank is, as well as where the weakest points would be located, what types of ruptures would form, and if everything would be in the range of what is to be expected.

    For this reason, the engineers used several hydraulic cylinders to apply millions of pounds of force to the tank’s shell, simulating something that is not expected to actually happen during any stage of the mission. Still, having a predictable point of failure means a lot for the engineers, and indeed the tank failed within 2% of the failure point that was pre-determined based on theoretical calculations. Of course, the engineers filled the tank with water, as using oxygen would be far too dangerous for this test. The Orion stage adapter, launch vehicle stage adapter, interim cryogenic propulsion stage, and everything else that constitutes the upper section of the rocket was also damaged as a result

    This was test number 199 for the SLS, which gives you an idea of the scale of the preparatory work that takes place for these missions. In total, NASA has accumulated a whopping 421 GB of data from tests alone, each being crucial to the development of nothing less than perfect machines.

    Destructive tests cost a lot, especially when we’re talking about aerospace equipment, but they yield a lot more data that is also way easier to interpret than non-destructive testing.

  2. “Curiosity” Rover Sets Course for its Summer Trip on Martian Territory

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    Image by skeeze from Pixabay

    After 2 896 days on Mars, NASA’s “Curiosity” rover is still beeping, and so the space exploration agency has set course for its next destination.

    The car-sized rover will travel to a sulfate-rich point in Mount Sharp, which is about a mile away from where it currently lies. At maximum speed, this travel would require around 54 hours of driving supported by the Mobility and Robotic Systems team at JPL, but Curiosity’s wheels and suspension system aren’t in a condition to allow max-velocity trips anymore.

    Remember, Curiosity’s wheels have started to show signs of material fatigue and excessive damage since 2014, and there’s a lot of ground consisting of hard bedrock with pointy protrusions to cover on the way to Mount Sharp. Thus, the rover will have to move slowly and carefully, while trying to avoid the most dangerous elements on the way. As it would be impractical to expect to ever finish this travel if it’s all done remotely from Earth-based operators (delay in communications ranges between 4 and 24 minutes), Curiosity will have to rely on its automated driving systems to figure out what’s the safest path to take.

    From a scientific perspective, the reason for the selection of the next point for experimentation is to add more pieces to the water existence puzzle on the red planet.

    The data that could be gathered by Curiosity in these clay-rich terrains may provide clues about how water evaporated, what the climate conditions were, and if there were any life prospects over the past three billion years. Curiosity has been doing this kind of workaround Mount Sharp since early 2019.

    In between the previous and the next point of interest, there’s a risky patch of sand where the otherwise tenacious rover could get stuck forever.

    Curiosity was designed for a minimum mission duration of 687 days, so we’re already well beyond what even the most optimistic could have hoped for.

    The rover’s plutonium-based radioisotope pellet that fuels its generator was designed to produce electric power for at least another five years, so hopefully, Curiosity will keep on roaming, digging, and capturing jaw-dropping panoramas from Mars.

  3. SpaceX Launched Astronauts to the Space Station in a Historic Moment

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    Crew Demo-2 Mission from Official SpaceX

    NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were launched into space inside a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, taking a trip to the International Space Station (ISS). This was a historic moment for SpaceX which became the first private entity to send people into space, and also because the last time that NASA astronauts launched from American soil was in July 2011, using NASA’s aged Space Shuttle.

    Falcon 9 ripped through the skies for 12 minutes and then dropped off the “Dragon 2” capsule in LEO (low Earth orbit). So far, the Dragon was tested and deployed only in cargo transportation scenarios, so this was the first time the capsule carried crew.

    A day later, Dragon activated its automated docking system, so it handled the delicate maneuvering and brought Bob and Doug aboard the ISS. The men had two brief manual flight demos in the Dragon, only to check that the mode was working as expected. Other than that, they had to do nothing at all, so they even slept for +-seven hours.

    All of this was a big test for upcoming crew missions to the ISS, as NASA wants to stop paying roughly $80 million to book a seat in the Russian Soyuz. In August, NASA will send three Americans and a Japanese astronaut, while Roscosmos denied sending a cosmonaut to that mission as they feel that the Dragon vehicle is not yet flight-proven.

    Still, despite the delays and one last-minute cancellation due to bad weather conditions, the Falcon carried Dragon to the outer space, and the latter managed to dock to the ISS as planned.

    Falcon 9 booster – CRS-19 Mission from Official SpaceX

    The Falcon 9 booster returned and landed successfully on the offshore pad, and now all that remains is for the Dragon to return the men home safely. This will complete the success of this “testing” mission, and considering that everything has been following an ideal trajectory so far, there are no indications or signs that there will be any issues.

  4. NASA Celebrates Hubble’s 30th Birthday With Stunning Photo of ‘Cosmic Reef’

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    Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

    Hubble space telescope is capable of seeing a firefly at a distance of 7,000 miles. This is hard to imagine but in the vacuum of space, there is no atmosphere blocking Hubble’s view as happens here on earth.

    Edwin Hubble, who worked at Mount Wilson Observatory in 1923 was the first scientist to confirm the existence of galaxies outside the Milky Way. In 1929, Hubble argued against the steady-state theory of the universe and for the Big Bang as he had evidence of galaxies moving away from one another in an expanding universe.

    Delays & Disasters Finally Overcome

    Hubble has opened up the universe and all its wonders to scientists, astronomers and the public. But the Hubble project took decades to get approval and then ran into delays.

    The journey to Hubble’s launch and deployment was marred by delays following US Congress’ allocation of funds for the project in 1977. The first was the Challenger Disaster in 1986 which grounded the space shuttle program. During the delay Hubble engineers redesigned the sensitivity of Hubble’s mirror and improved its ground control software. 

    Finally in 1990 more than a decade behind schedule, Hubble was released by Discovery into an orbit about 310 miles (500 kilometers) from Earth. Even after being deployed NASA discovered Hubble’s mirrors hadn’t been ground to specifications. It wasn’t until late 1993 when a crew of astronauts installed a fix. Soon after, Hubble was beaming astonishing images back to earth as it continues to do today.

    Hubble has gazed at more than 5,000 galaxies with the most distant begin nearly 14 billion light years away from Earth. Over the years Hubble has contributed some of its technology to challenges faced by humanity back on earth. For example, silicon chips developed for Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph are now used by medical technicians to obtain higher resolution images of women’s breasts for more accurate identification of malignant and benign tumors.

    Hubble’s First Image vs. Image from Ground Based Telescope

    The first image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on May 20, 1990, are in sharp contrast to the images Hubble is famous for today. 

    (Image: © NASA, ESA, and STScI; Ground Image: E. Persson (Las Campanas Observatory, Chile)/Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington)

    According to NASA, “on the right is part of the first image taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope’s (HST) Wide Field/Planetary Camera. It is shown with a ground-based picture from Las Campanas, Chile, Observatory of the same region of the sky.”

    Celebrating Hubble’s 30th Birthday

    NASA released an image of the  “Cosmic Reef” to celebrate Hubble telescope’s 30th year of exploring the universe from the Earth’s orbit.

    According to NASA, “thee bright ridges of interstellar gas and dust are bathed in energetic starlight. With its sea of young stars, the massive star-forming region NGC 2014 has been dubbed the Cosmic Reef:

    Cosmic Reef is “drifting just offshore, the smaller NGC 2020, is an expansive blue-hued structure erupting from a single central Wolf-Rayet star, 200,000 times brighter than the Sun. The cosmic frame spans some 600 light-years within the Large Magellanic Cloud 160,000 light-years away, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way.”

    The Future of Hubble & Space Telescopes

    According to Ken Sembach, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute says, “I think Hubble’s got a good five years left. And we’re operating the observatory in a way meant to keep it scientifically productive out to 2025. Does this mean we’ll get to 2025? No, something could go wrong tomorrow—this is the space business, after all. But, then again, maybe we could get to 2030.”

  5. Mars 2020 Rover Will be Equipped with a Stone-Crushing Laser

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    Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA already landed four rovers on Mars: Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit, and Curiosity. These vehicles taught us a lot about the Red Planet but still couldn’t uncover the truth about life on Mars. NASA’s next rover might be able to do that, thanks to state-of-the-art technology that wasn’t available before.

    The Agency plans to launch the new rover in July this year. The rover should land on the Red Planet less than a year later on February 18, 2021.

    One of the most advanced features of the new Rover will be called “Super Cam.” Nasa developed this technology to analyze rocks and minerals on Mars’s soil more successfully than with the previous “ChemCam.”

    The “Super Cam” has a high-resolution camera with artificial intelligence, trained to spot rocks that would be interesting for research. However, the most exciting part comes after the camera detects the stones.

    Then, the rover will employ a potent laser to crush the rocks literally. According to NASA, this is a much more powerful laser than the one on the “Chem Cam.” The beam from the new laser will be able to heat the rocks to 18,000 °F (10,000 °C).

    This method is called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy and is powerful enough to vaporize rocks from a distance of over 20 feet (6 meters). That is important because the laser will be positioned on the top of the rover, which is about 7 feet (2.2 meters) above the ground.

    Apart from the powerful stone-crushing laser, NASA will equip the rover with a green laser that will be used after the stones were evaporated. This laser will be able to spot minerals and carbon-based chemicals that might be a sign of a previous life on the planet.

    Finally, NASA will also equip the rover with a microphone. “The microphone serves a practical purpose by telling us something about our rock targets from a distance. But we can also use it to directly record the sound of the Martian landscape or the rover’s mast swiveling,” said Sylvestre Maurice of the Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetary Science in Toulouse, France.

  6. NASA Plans to Mine the Moon and Calls the Expert to Help Them

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    Image by Garak01 from Pixabay

    NASA wants to establish a permanent base on the Moon, and they need Caterpillar to help them with the mining operations. The two have a long record of successful collaborations, but this time we’re not talking about developing robotic drills for taking soil samples, but for the actual excavation and mining of the lunar surface. The Moon is abundant in valuable metals such as titanium ore, magnesium, silicon, aluminium, calcium, and even oxygen and water. All of these will be crucial for the development and the flourishing of a lunar base, as they can be used in 3D printers to create anything required. 

    Caterpillar is leading the autonomy revolution in the field, having presented and extensively tested autonomous excavators, hauling trucks, drills, heavy-haul trains, and other mining machines. In fact, their first R&D efforts in this area date back to 1985, when they started experimenting in Texas quarries. Today’s machines though deploy state of the art GPS, radars, LIDARs, powerful onboard computers, and an AI to bring everything together. Some of their competitors in the field like Hitachi, Volvo, and Komatsu, are also actively developing their own autonomous systems, but Caterpillar was way ahead of them already. 

    NASA wants to send Caterpillar’s remote-controlled mining equipment to the Moon in 2024, and see if their plan is really feasible. The success of the project is an absolute prerequisite in order to move forward with the plans on building a lunar base. Still, this feat will need many billions of dollars, as the equipment needed for the project is large and heavy. For this, Caterpillar and NASA are working together to see what cuts and simplifications can be made, and what the best approach to history’s first extraterrestrial mining project would be. 

  7. Nasa Uncovers 20-Year Aluminum Scheme That Caused 2 Failed Missions

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    Nasa Uncovers 20-Year Aluminum Scheme That Caused 2 Failed Missions

    Credits: NASA

    In a settlement agreement, an Oregon aluminum extrusion manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc., has agreed to pay $46 million to NASA, the Department of Defense, and others to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to a 19-year fraud scheme.

    Federal prosecutors concluded that Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as Sapa Profiles Inc. (SPI), and its corporate parent, Hydro Extrusion USA, LLC, formerly known as Sapa Extrusions Inc. (SEI), provided falsified certifications for aluminium extrusions. The falsified certificates showed that the aluminium extrusions provided possessed better tensile strength than the supplied parts.

    According to investigators, inferior quality aluminum products from SPI are directly responsible for the loss of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions. In 2009, the OCO failed to reach orbit when the payload fairing covering the satellite didn’t separate from the rocket. The Glory atmospheric science mission in 2011 also failed because the fairing did not separate causing the overweight rocket to crash into the Pacific Ocean.

    In 2015, SPI was suspended from all government contracts when the lab director, who was proven to be the mastermind behind the scheme, pled guilty and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and had to pay a restitution of over $170,000. This is a fraction of the $700 million and years of people’s scientific work lost.

    “For nearly two decades, SPI and its employees covered up substandard manufacturing processes by brazenly falsifying test results,” said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “They then provided the false test results to hundreds of customers across the country, all to increase corporate profits and obtain production-based bonuses.  This proposed resolution ensures that the victims of this conduct, including the U.S. military, can replace faulty product put into the supply chain and help recover the costs foisted on taxpayers to investigate this scheme.  I want to thank our partners at NASA-OIG, DCIS, and the FBI for their efforts in helping bring much-needed oversight and reform to these companies.”

    The positive outcome led to remedial implementations when companies obtain government contracts:

    • The implementation of state-of-the-art equipment to automate the tensile testing process
    • Company-wide audits at all U.S. tensile labs
    • Increased resources devoted to compliance and revamping internal quality controls
    • Quality audit processes revamping.
  8. NASA Developing Bug-Repellant Coating To Minimize Airline Fuel Emissions

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    NASA Langley

    NASA Langley

    NASA is looking to save airlines millions of dollars by developing a series of new technologies, with the latest being a bug-repellant coating.

    NASA researchers have determined that bugs splattered on a commercial jet can can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as six percent, essentially disturbing the airflow over the surface.

    In order to conquer the messy situation, NASA is testing a new bug-repellant coating technology that utilizes non-stick materials resulting in bugs sliding right off of a plane.

    Boeing’s specially designed 757 ecoDemonstrator is in charge of testing NASA’s six different coatings at the moment, in order to determine which coating performs best.

  9. Boeing Flies 757 EcoDemonstrator For First Time as Part Of Collaboration With NASA

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    Yesterday, March 17th, Boeing successfully completed the initial functional check flight for its brand new 757 ecoDemonstrator, part of a collaboration with NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project.

    The aircraft was specifically designed to test and evaluate new wing and tail technologies aimed at reducing drag and improving operating efficiency.

    European-based airline group TUI is also a major player involved in the project, responsible for providing the plane itself which is equipped with two wing state-of-the-art design technologies and an active flow control feature in the vertical tail.

    The wing tests will focus on the ability of a wing to maintain low-drag laminar flow by minimizing the insect strikes/residue that builds up along the leading edges.

    The active flow tests, on the other hand, will determine the best way to increase rudder effectiveness in order to enable future planes the ability to feature smaller vertical tails, lower weight, and lower drag, among other things.