Sunday, February 27, 2011

Scale of solar system objects and stars

A similar graphic was posted previously, but this one ends with a nice twist.

Opportunity Pancam / MI Merges

This combines my love of microscopy with space exploration. All Mars rovers should have microscopes on them, just as all senior citizens should have life alert. Sadly, no fossils yet.

"The images on this page were made by combining MI (intensity) and Pancam (hue / saturation) information. The MI (Microscopic Imager) on the robotic arm is capable of taking detailed monochromatic images very close to a target, while the Pancam, at the top of the mast, can provide color information of the general target area. When images from both cameras are merged, the results provide the benefit of close-in detail and color in one product. These merges are shown below, so far for Opportunity only. The most recent images are at the top.

To learn more about how they were made, see the MI/Pancam Merges PDF.

Additional References

Herkenhoff, K. E. and 23 others (2006), Overview of the Microscopic Imager Investigation during Spirit's first 450 sols in Gusev Crater, J. Geophys. Res., 111, E02S04, doi:10. 1029/2005JE002574.

Herkenhoff, K.E. and 43 others (2008), Surface processes recorded by rocks and soils on Meridiani Planum, Mars: Microscopic Imager observations during Opportunity's first three extended missions, J. Geophys. Res., 113, E12S32, doi:10. 1029/2008JE003100.

Photo Credit
If you plan to use any of the MI/Pancam Merge images for academic or publication purposes, please include the following credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/USGS."

More here at Pancam

Friday, February 18, 2011

Messenger solar system portrait

NASA - Messenger

I am very impressed to see the Moon in this image, obviously looking away from the Sun has advantages, but all the same the Moon is only a bit smaller than Mercury. This reminds me of a similar portrait from far out looking inward (or rather down from above.)

NASA - Voyager 2

Read more about it at Bad Astronomy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Launching a rocket off a ramp

Probably not... but maybe?

I came across this fun clip while looking for X-20 DynaSaur videos:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What does a star shell look like up close?

Next time use a bigger charge!

PRISMA (Prototype Research Instruments and Space Mission technology Advancement)

While checking out rocketry images, I came across the above white-hot combustion chamber and nozzle. This turns out to be one small part, a thruster, from this proposed space mission:

"PRISMA is a Swedish-led technology mission to demonstrate formation flying and rendezvous technologies (in-orbit servicing), designed and developed by SSC (Swedish Space Corporation). The mission concept employs the small-satellite philosophy to demonstrate the functionality of a wide range of newly developed formation flying, proximity ranging and propulsion techniques with future use in a wide range of missions. The project is funded by the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB) with SSC as the prime contractor. Further project participants/contributors are: DLR (German Aerospace Center), the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), CNES, the French Space Agency, and Alcatel.

The main goals are to perform GNC (Guidance, Navigation and Control) demonstrations and sensor technology experiments for a family of future missions where rendezvous and formation flying are a necessary prerequisite.

• The GNC demonstrations are: 1) Autonomous formation flying, 2) homing and rendezvous, 3) proximity operations or RV (Rendezvous) tests, including final approach and recede operations.

• The sensor technology tests are: GPS-based navigation (evaluation of real-time differential GPS used for autonomous formation flying), RF metrology, and a star tracker-based vision sensor to evaluate multi-range tracking.

Mission concept: The mission consists of two spacecraft, one advanced and highly maneuverable one, called MAIN, and a smaller S/C without a maneuvering capability, called TARGET. The latter one simply follows the trajectory into which it is injected by the launch system. The MAIN spacecraft has full translational capability, and will perform a series of maneuvers around the TARGET, on both close and long range approach, using the different sensors provided. Both S/C will be delivered into the same orbit. In most cases, the MAIN will fly along-track with respect to the TARGET, such that the MAIN can "look" at the TARGET.

As of 2007, the project is in Phase C (implementation phase), having completed the Preliminary Design Review in late 2005."

This mission was to test out many technologies that will then be used on more expensive missions.

Here is an update on the mission:

"Prisma is a satellite project led by the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) which consist of two satellites that fly in formation. It was launched, along with the PICARD spacecraft, on 15 June 2010 on a Dnepr-1 launcher from Dombarovskiy Cosmodrome, near Yasny, Russia. Its primary objective is to test autonomous formation flying. On 12 August 2010, SSC reported that the two satellites, called Mango and Tango, had separated from each other for the first time."


PRISMA Main page

Saturday, February 12, 2011

First Orion Capsule

"The Lockheed Martin Orion team at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., inspects the first Orion crew module known as the Ground Test Article (GTA) prior to shipping to Lockheed Martin’s Denver facilities. In Denver, the GTA will be integrated with an encapsulating aeroshell to provide thermal protection before undergoing rigorous testing to verify it can withstand the harsh environments of a deep space mission. The aeroshell will complete the exterior of the spacecraft, as depicted in the hanging banner displayed in the upper left." Credit: NASA

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rheinmetall/Oerlikon 35-1000 Air defense Gun

"35mm caliber Swiss-german revolver cannon, it fires a sophisticated tungsten fragmentation promity fuze high explosive amunition. The rate of fire is 1050 rpm and the muzzle velocity 1170 MPS."

The global health effects of nuclear war

Published in Current Affairs Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 7, December 1982, pp. 14-26.

by Brian Martin

This is one of many articles and books on the topic of nuclear warfare and what comes after. There are nearly as many scenarios as there are theorists. It is worth considering all sides of this hypothetical argument, if only because there is a small but real chance that we will still encounter a nuclear exchange in the future. The nuclear winter scenarios of Carl Sagan may be unlikely in a limited (e.g. India vs Pakistan exchange) war, but the overly optimistic predictions of 1950s American politicians are also unlikely to be true. The fact is, nuclear war scenarios are massively complex. An understanding of both the worst and best possible outcomes is needed so that a holistic model can be created.

Black and white space drawings

Simon Atkinson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

OuR R motor project

About 13 years ago, this was the rocketry article that got me back into the hobby, and into HPR for good. It was my rebar moment. I walked into Barnes and Noble and saw a huge rocket on the front of a magazine:

Just like the RRS R motor boosted dart article, this one had comprehensive analysis and very detailed information about every stage of the project. I didn't even realize that R was the motor class at first, since the largest I had ever used was a C. Mach 3? Supersonic kevlar ribbon drogue 'chute? 5 lbs of tracking powder? And who is this Kosdon guy? High. Power. Rocketry. This article is now online:

The tides come in the tides go out

Endeavour may endeavour to keep flying

I was intially drawn in by this great image from the orbiter. But this article asks some good questions: Will NASA continue to fly two shuttles until 2017? And at what cost?
Universe Today

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Ares 1... er I mean Liberty rocket

"The bottom part of the proposed Liberty rocket would be based on the solid-fueled boosters that help get the shuttle off the ground. The top half would use the liquid-fueled core-stage technology and engine that powers the Ariane 5. The concept has been put forward by ATK from the US and Astrium from Europe. Their idea is being submitted to the US space agency (Nasa), which is seeking commercial solutions to take astronauts to and from the space station following the retirement of the shuttles later this year. There has been deep concern in the US Congress about the length of time it might take to provide commercial alternatives, leaving America reliant on Russian Soyuz vehicles until perhaps the latter part of this decade. But ATK and Astrium believe their experience means they could have the 90m-high (300ft) Liberty rocket ready to fly by 2013, and operational with astronauts on board by 2015."

Hmm looks very similar, but with a better paint job. Overall I am pleased, but only if one of these rockets actually is built. Ares 1 was fine, but this one will do also. I do think we need something like this, and soon. It will be very sad if we just give up on manned space missions for a while. Either way, there are a few key features that must be found on any rocket design in my humble (and far from expert) opinion; the crew must be in a rugged capsule that can survive all abort modes from pad to orbit, alone, and in a single configuration. The crew must ride above all rocket stages and be free of debris, and must have a launch escape system such as a LET. The first stage should use a simple solid rocket motor that is reusable. Ideally this would be unmodified SRB motors, to save time and money. However it looks like these new rockets rely on longer SRB designs. The upper stage should be a high performance liquid fueled stage that has enough potential to offer a wide range of cis-lunar orbits to support future deep space missions, which are unequivocally the future of manned space missions. I have serious doubts about the Liberty Rocket doing this; it has a 12,000 lbs lower LEO payload capability than the Ares 1. However, it looks as if it will have a similar design and will achieve all of the above suggested safety goals. The expected mass of the Orion, the capsule of choice should it be completed, is around 47,000 lbs including service module and fuel. Considering the 44,500 stats for this rocket, I am a bit worried that it is too much of a lightweight for the job. It will serve the ISS well, however.

Having said all this, I doubt that this rocket will do much to prevent a launch gap for the US space program. Frankly, given the typical slow pace of manned rocket development and the man-rating process, I would say that the gap is already upon us. Nothing done today can stop it, but only reduce the duration of the now inevitable gap. Perhaps adding a few more white-knuckle bank-account-emptying shuttle launches can prevent a gap. But at significant cost and risk. I have serious doubts about sending men on any rocket without a pad to orbit abort capability ever again. In other words, I would have considered grounding the shuttle sooner. Those billions a year would have come in handy for building proper rockets such as the Ares 1 and V. In any event, the test by 2013 and fly by 2015 dates are highly optimistic, but something is better than nothing. If no new rocket is put in the pipeline, the gap will grow to encompass most of the next decade. The Obama strategy, if it can be called that, is to basically just give up for a while and hope private industry will help us out. For manned spaceflight, it is a flop. This rocket, or any rocket really with a half-way decent design, would be a step out of this swamp.

"Liberty is a launcher concept proposed by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Astrium. The design is a combination of hardware from the defunct Ares I project (the Five-segment version of the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster for a first stage) and from the commercial Ariane 5 launcher (the Vulcain cryogenic main engine as a second stage). It would be launched from Kennedy Space Center[1]. The launcher would be 90 m tall, it is advertised at a price of $180 million per launch and it could carry a payload of 20,140 kg (44,500 lb) to Low Earth orbit. A first test launch could take place as early as 2013, and could launch astronauts by 2015."

Other sources:
ABC news
Universe Today
Wall Street Journal

Friday, February 4, 2011

Apparatus for Attaching Two Spacecraft Under Remote Control

"Toroidal bladders are inflated to grasp a rocket nozzle from the inside.

An apparatus called a "pneumatic stinger" has been developed to enable a first spacecraft, operating under remote control, to grasp a second spacecraft that is in orbit or other unpowered flight. The pneumatic stinger, which is mounted on the first spacecraft, is inserted in a rocket-engine nozzle of the second spacecraft, then actuated to grasp the nozzle from the inside, as explained below. Both NASA and the Department of Defense could use this apparatus for servicing satellites. The design of the pneumatic stinger might also be adaptable to soft-docking mechanisms or grappling mechanisms for use on Earth."

I wonder about the use of bladders in upper stage nozzles and combustion chambers to hold liquid propellant. (This is not unlike a previous post about the merging of solid rocket stages.) Cryogenics probably would not work (unless flexible aerogel powder insulation could be included) but kerosene would be OK.


Vladimir Shevchenko films Chernobyl

"This film shows the terrifying images captured by the Russian filmmaker Vladimir Shevchenko on scene at Chernobyl those dreadful days in April 1986. Shevchenko later died suffering from the radiation he exposed himself to. Although his name is not among the official casualties of the accident, this last tragic film of him keeps his name alive forever."

NGC 2023 and the Horsehead nebula

By Ken Crawford

Thursday, February 3, 2011

About 1200 possible new planets

Yet one more science problem solved with huge cameras and rocketry. But seriously, it is great news. We now know that planets are normal and common. It is only a small leap to suggest that life is also probably quite common. I am generally pessimistic about space exploration during my lifetime, largely because my generation was denied it's Mars mission. But the unmanned probes have time and again exceeded expectations. This is indeed the century of astronomy and space exploration, and it looks likely that life will be found elsewhere within the next 100 years. I would not rule out signatures of life in the atmospheres of these planets (free oxygen etc.) within the next 10 years, particularly after the JWST comes online.

The Bad Astronomy Article extrapolates the math out to the whole Galaxy: "70 million Earth-size planets, and a million in the habitable zone of their stars. A frakking million. In our galaxy alone." (Note that "frakking" is an si unit = 1.34 metric shit-loads.)

NY Times Article

Right now, I am reading "The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer's Guide to Interstellar Travel" by Matloff and Mallove. Today it feels a bit less like fantasy, and bit more like preparation for the future.

Read more about this at Centauri Dreams (the next book on the list). Also check out the abstract about one particular system, Kepler 11 from Nature. Kepler 11 has six planets, all pretty close to a Sun-like star. (All within .5 AU, one within .1!) In the image below, A is the star and it is to scale with the distances. The other objects are the planets scaled up by a factor of 50. In other words, they are 2.4 frakks close!

Source: Kepler 11 Wiki

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is heaven hotter than hell?

Physics can tell us!

Moving the Buran

From what I understand, this orbiter was on display in Gorky park for a while. Sadly, it appears as if the orbiter and an Energiya booster were both crushed in a hangar collapse in 2002:

BTW, check out the rear end of this orbiter that simply refuses to quit:

English Russia

24 million lbs. thrust Rocketdyne L-24 AH

Read more at the Unwanted Blog