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Put to the Test: Orion Service Module

Blasted with sound, shaken for hours and pyro detonated, the Orion Service Module Completes Ground Tests at our Glenn Research Center

We recently completed a structural integrity evaluation on the test version of the Orion service module at our Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio. Designed to ensure the module can withstand launch atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the battery of tests was conducted in stages over a 16-month period.

The 13-ton European service module will power, propel and cool Orion, while supplying vital oxygen and water to its crew during future missions.

The Powerhouse: Space Launch System and Orion

Our Space Launch System is an advanced launch vehicle that will usher in a new era of human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. SLS, with its unparalleled power and capabilities, will launch missions to explore deep-space destinations aboard our Orion spacecraft.

What is Orion? Named after one of the largest constellations in the night sky and drawing from more than 50 years of spaceflight research and development, the Orion spacecraft will be the safest, most advanced spacecraft ever built. It will be flexible and capable enough to take astronauts to a variety of deep destinations, including Mars.

Welcome to the Buckeye State

In November 2015, the full-sized test version of the Orion service module arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport aboard an Antonov AN-124. After being unloaded from one of the world’s largest transport aircraft, the module was shipped more than 50 miles by truck to Plum Brook for testing.

Spread Your Wings

The first step of the service module’s ground test journey at Plum Brook’s Space Power Facility, saw one of its 24-foot solar array wings deployed to verify operation of the power system. The test confirmed the array extended and locked into place, and all of the wing mechanisms functioned properly.

Can You Hear SLS Now?

The SLS will produce a tremendous amount of noise as it launches and climbs through our atmosphere. In fact, we’re projecting the rocket could produce up to 180 decibels, which is louder than 20 jet engines operating at the same time.

While at the Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility, the service module was hit with more than 150 decibels and 20-10,000 hertz of sound pressure. Microphones were placed inside the test environment to confirm it matched the expected acoustic environment during launch.

After being blasted by sound, it was time to rock the service module, literally.

Shake Without the Bake 

Launching atop the most powerful rocket ever built – we’re talking more than eight million pounds of thrust – will subject Orion to stresses never before experienced in spaceflight.

To ensure the launch doesn’t damage any vital equipment, the engineering team utilized the world’s most powerful vibration table to perform nearly 100 different tests, ranging from 2.5 Hz to 100 Hz, on the module in the summer of 2016. 

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

The team then moved the Orion test article from the vibration table into the high bay for pyroshock tests, which simulated the shock the service module will experience as it separates from the SLS during launch.

Following the sound, vibration and separation tests, a second solar array wing deployment was conducted to ensure the wing continued to properly unfurl and function.

Headed South for the Summer

The ground test phase was another crucial step toward the eventual launch of Exploration Mission-1, as it validated extensive design prep and computer modeling, and verified the spacecraft met our safety and flight requirements.

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ATTENTION ON DECK ! ACTION STATION SET CONDITION 1 ! MISSION LAUNCHED !!!

There it is, the teaser for my graduation film ! 

“In a distant future new worlds are calling us, it is about time we set sail.”

Music : Steel Sleeping - Chrome Sparks

Love !

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Spectacular images of the Falcon 9 launching ten next-generation Iridium satellites into orbit on SpaceX’s return to flight mission, January 14, 2017. Launch occurred at 9:54am PST from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

The first stage of the rocket made a successful landing on the droneship Just Read the Instructions, marking the first time a rocket had been recovered following a west coast launch.

This launch also marked the first time SpaceX has visibly numbered their first stages, with the number 29 appearing at the bast of each landing strut. This will help visually identify each stage following recovery and for future reflights.

P/C: SpaceX, USAF.

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NASA Saturn Mission Prepares for ‘Ring-Grazing Orbits’

First Phase in Dramatic Endgame for Long-Lived Cassini Spacecraft

A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Engineers have been pumping up the spacecraft’s orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings.

And on Nov. 30, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons. During its journey, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean within Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Titan.

Between Nov. 30 and April 22, Cassini will circle high over and under the poles of Saturn, diving every seven days – a total of 20 times – through the unexplored region at the outer edge of the main rings.

“We’re calling this phase of the mission Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits, because we’ll be skimming past the outer edge of the rings,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “In addition, we have two instruments that can sample particles and gases as we cross the ringplane, so in a sense Cassini is also 'grazing’ on the rings.”

On many of these passes, Cassini’s instruments will attempt to directly sample ring particles and molecules of faint gases that are found close to the rings. During the first two orbits, the spacecraft will pass directly through an extremely faint ring produced by tiny meteors striking the two small moons Janus and Epimetheus. Ring crossings in March and April will send the spacecraft through the dusty outer reaches of the F ring.

“Even though we’re flying closer to the F ring than we ever have, we’ll still be more than 4,850 miles (7,800 kilometers) distant. There’s very little concern over dust hazard at that range,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL.

The F ring marks the outer boundary of the main ring system; Saturn has several other, much fainter rings that lie farther from the planet. The F ring is complex and constantly changing: Cassini images have shown structures like bright streamers, wispy filaments and dark channels that appear and develop over mere hours. The ring is also quite narrow – only about 500 miles (800 kilometers) wide. At its core is a denser region about 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide.

So Many Sights to See
Cassini’s ring-grazing orbits offer unprecedented opportunities to observe the menagerie of small moons that orbit in or near the edges of the rings, including best-ever looks at the moons Pandora, Atlas, Pan and Daphnis.

Grazing the edges of the rings also will provide some of the closest-ever studies of the outer portions of Saturn’s main rings (the A, B and F rings). Some of Cassini’s views will have a level of detail not seen since the spacecraft glided just above them during its arrival in 2004. The mission will begin imaging the rings in December along their entire width, resolving details smaller than 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) per pixel and building up Cassini’s highest-quality complete scan of the rings’ intricate structure.

The mission will continue investigating small-scale features in the A ring called “propellers,” which reveal the presence of unseen moonlets. Because of their airplane propeller-like shapes, scientists have given some of the more persistent features informal names inspired by famous aviators, including “Earhart.” Observing propellers at high resolution will likely reveal new details about their origin and structure.

And in March, while coasting through Saturn’s shadow, Cassini will observe the rings backlit by the sun, in the hope of catching clouds of dust ejected by meteor impacts.

Preparing for the Finale
During these orbits, Cassini will pass as close as about 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. But even with all their exciting science, these orbits are merely a prelude to the planet-grazing passes that lie ahead. In April 2017, the spacecraft will begin its Grand Finale phase.

After nearly 20 years in space, the mission is drawing near its end because the spacecraft is running low on fuel. The Cassini team carefully designed the finale to conduct an extraordinary science investigation before sending the spacecraft into Saturn to protect its potentially habitable moons.

During its grand finale, Cassini will pass as close as 1,012 miles (1,628 kilometers) above the clouds as it dives repeatedly through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings, before making its mission-ending plunge into the planet’s atmosphere on Sept. 15. But before the spacecraft can leap over the rings to begin its finale, some preparatory work remains.

To begin with, Cassini is scheduled to perform a brief burn of its main engine during the first super-close approach to the rings on Dec. 4. This maneuver is important for fine-tuning the orbit and setting the correct course to enable the remainder of the mission.

“This will be the 183rd and last currently planned firing of our main engine. Although we could still decide to use the engine again, the plan is to complete the remaining maneuvers using thrusters,” said Maize.

To further prepare, Cassini will observe Saturn’s atmosphere during the ring-grazing phase of the mission to more precisely determine how far it extends above the planet. Scientists have observed Saturn’s outermost atmosphere to expand and contract slightly with the seasons since Cassini’s arrival. Given this variability, the forthcoming data will be important for helping mission engineers determine how close they can safely fly the spacecraft.

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For the first time in 2,044 days, a rocket is perched atop historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket arrived at the pad early this morning, February 10, ahead of an upcoming static fire test.

The former Apollo and Shuttle era launch pad last saw a space vehicle in July of 2011 when the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, launched. NASA continued to operate the pad until early 2015, when SpaceX leased it for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy operations. This historic event marks the third rocket to fly from LC-39A behind the Saturn V moon rocket and space shuttle.

SpaceX will perform a static fire test sometime Saturday to test the rocket’s systems. Once complete, the rocket will return to the Horizontal Integration Facility for mating with the Dragon spacecraft.

Falcon 9 will perform its east-coast return to flight with the CRS-10 mission to the International Space Station, slated for February 18. Following liftoff, the rocket’s first stage will return to Cape Canaveral for a landing at LZ-1, the third time the company has done so.

Below, the Falcon 9 rocket is seen prior to being erected vertical at LC-39A.(Photo credit: William Harwood/CBS.)

P/C: Elon Musk/William Harwood.

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L-64 days - OA-7 arrives at Kennedy for launch processing.

Orbital ATK’s third Cygnus mission to launch from Kennedy Space Center began launch processing earlier this week, two months to a projected March 18 launch. 

Measuring 16.5 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter, the Pressurized Cargo Module of the Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft arrived at Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout building January 9. Here it will undergo inspection before being mated to its service module early next month. The spacecraft will then be loaded with up to 7,700 pounds of cargo bound for the International Space Station.

OA-7 will be the third Cygnus mission to launch from Florida, with Orbital ATK choosing to utilize a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket over their own Antares 230. Atlas V offers increased reliability and performance, allowing Cygnus to be loaded with its maximum amount of cargo.

Orbital ATK launched the OA-4 and OA-6 missions from Florida while Antares was being redesigned, and flew the OA-5 mission from their home pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, October 17. Following the OA-7 mission, Orbital ATK will return to the Antares vehicle.

Liftoff is currently scheduled for 12:29am EDT on March 16, from SLC-41 in Florida.

P/C: NASA

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Antares Rocket Launch (NHQ201610170110) by NASA HQ PHOTO
Via Flickr:
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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One of my close friend’s first mission is launching today! He has been working on it for the past two years so it is super exciting to watch it go!

The launch is scheduled for today (1/19) 7:46 pm EDT (23:46 GMT).
BROADCAST BEGINS at 7:26 pm EDT (23:26) here. Be on the lookout for my friend Tyler; he will be interviewed before launch. :D

Solar System: What to Know This Week

Let us lead you on a journey of our solar system. Here are some things to know this week:

1. Readying OSIRIS-REx for Launch

Our OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission will launch one month from now, and engineers are getting the spacecraft and its rocket ready for action. One major step will be encasing OSIRIS-REx in its fairing, the protective shield where the spacecraft will ride into space.

Learn more about OSIRIS-REx.

2. Be a Planetary Ambassador

Our Solar System Ambassadors Program is a public outreach program for volunteers across the nation, who share the excitement of our space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries with their communities. Think you have what it takes to be a Solar System Ambassador?

Apply starting September 1

3. Cassini’s Grand Adventure

This week, Cassini prepares for the final phase of its grand adventure at Saturn, which will include orbits that take the robotic spacecraft just outside the planet’s spectacular rings. Already, Cassini’s orbital inclination is increasing, and it has sent home some striking photos taken from above the north pole.

See the latest sights.

4. Watch Peak Perseids

August’s Perseid meteor shower peaks for U.S. observers just after sunrise on Friday morning, Aug. 12. Some experts’ predictions include an outburst of up to 150 or 200 meteors per hour at the peak. Will there be an outburst, or even a second peak, as in some past years?

Watch and see

5. Eye in the Sky

Our Mars Reconnaissance Obiter continues its eagle-eye watch on the Red Planet from above. The MRO team released a massive new collection of super-high-resolution images of the Martian surface.

Take a look.

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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[VIDEO] Mission 21 Appeal in aid of The Down Syndrome Centre 

The Down Syndrome Centre is delighted to announce the launch of Mission 21 – our fantastic Celebrity Video & Radio appeal to raise vital funds for the charity, raise awareness about Down syndrome and celebrate World Down Syndrome Day.

21 well known Irish Personalities from the worlds of Acting, TV, Music and Sport feature in our short video that highlights the challenges children with Down syndrome face and the supports they need to learn, develop, flourish and overcome these challenges. 

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Source: Aileen Moon / YouTube