Orbital Satellites

NASA Announces Next SpaceX Station Resupply Launch

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida carrying the Dragon resupply spacecraft on the sixth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett.


 
 
NASA’s next commercial cargo resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida to the International Space Station will be on June 26 at approximately 11:09 a.m. local time aboard the SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.

This will be SpaceX’s seventh NASA-contracted cargo mission and its eighth visit to the station. The flight will deliver several tons of supplies, such as new science experiments and technology research, as well as the first of two International Docking Adapters. These adapters will be installed on the station to facilitate docking of commercial crew spacecraft, including the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is the first reusable spacecraft, a pivotal breakthrough according to the company. SpaceX believes that reusable rockets are needed to substantially reduce costs. SpaceX uses the commercial airliners as a model of reusability that reduces costs.

SpaceX rockets are designed to withstand reentry into Earth’s atmosphere instead of burning up like the majority of launches today and in the past. And not only does their spacecraft survive reentry, it also returns to the launch pad for vertical landing.

For more information about the SpaceX resupply mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacex.

For information about the International Space Station, its crew and research, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

NASA’s CubeSat Initiative Aids in Testing of Technology for Solar Sails in Space

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May 20, 2015 
RELEASE 15-101

With help from NASA, a small research satellite to test technology for in-space solar propulsion launched into space Wednesday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

The Atlas V sent the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane on its fourth mission, which also is carrying NASA’s Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation that will expose about 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days.

 

LightSail team members Alex Diaz and Riki Munakata prepare the spacecraft for a sail deployment test.

Credits: The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society’s LightSail satellite is a technology demonstration for using solar propulsion on CubeSats, a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. Using the momentum transferred from solar photons as they strike a large, thin, reflective sail would allow a spacecraft to accelerate continuously using only the sun’s energy. NASA is considering the use of solar sails on future exploration mission secondary payloads, and data from this mission will advance understanding of this form of propulsion.

This first LightSail mission specifically is designed to test the spacecraft’s critical systems, including the deployment sequence for the Mylar solar sail, which measures 32 square meters (344 square feet). The Planetary Society is planning a second, full solar sailing demonstration flight for 2016.

NASA selected LightSail as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which provides opportunities for small satellites to fly as auxiliary payloads on planned missions. It was assigned to a launch as part of as the 11th installment of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) mission.

The upper stage of the Atlas V included the National Reconnaissance Office’s third auxiliary mission to launch CubeSats. The Ultra Lightweight Technology and Research Auxiliary Satellite (ULTRASat) carried 10 CubeSats — including LightSail — from five organizations. It was made possible through agreements between NASA, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center and the National Reconnaissance Office to work together on CubeSat integration and launch opportunities.

The cube-shaped satellites measure about four inches on each side, have a volume of about one quart and weigh less than three pounds each. LightSail consists of three CubeSats bundled together. Individual CubeSat research projects may address science, exploration, technology development or education. During the next month, the LightSail team will receive data from the satellite in space. As part of its agreement with NASA, the Planetary Society will provide the agency a report on outcomes and scientific findings.

Since its inception in 2010, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected 110 CubeSats primarily from educational and government institutions around the United States. NASA will announce the next call for proposals in August 2015.

For more information about ELaNa, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/smallsats/elana/

For more information about LightSail and the Planetary Society, visit: http://sail.planetary.org

For additional information about NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/CubeSat_initiative

New Pages Available: NASA Apps for the Public and News Feed Links, Fact Sheets

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I have created a number of pages available that will provide you with additional information, links to news feeds, and iPad and Android Apps by NASA for a variety of missions and news.

The new pages (all pages are available when you click the three bars on the upper right hand side of the page) that have been added are:

• Mobile Apps – Connect and Collaborate With NASA Projects

A comprehensive list of both NASA’s main or featured Apps available for mobile users. Along with the featured apps, NASA also has numerous apps for everything from other facilities to current space exploration projects, live views of the Sun, ISS and Mars rover.

NASA RSS Feeds (Links)

Here this page provides the news feed (RSS) links to many of NASA’s missions, centers, science and technology, general and topical feeds. You will need to copy the links into your News or an RSS App or computer programs (Microsoft Exchange suppports RSS feeds within the mail program, for example).

NASA  Fact Sheets – NASA Centers

Each NASA center creates and updates Fact Sheets covering its mission, facilities and projects. Click on a center’s name to go its Fact Sheet index. Click on the links to veiw any fact sheet you wish to know about.

• News Feeds/Links to Other Cosmology News Sources

This page is the main page for all the RSS and XML feeds that other websites provide, such as Space.com. As we find more sites providing news stories related to Cosmology and Space Exploration, I will add it here.

As I gather more links together, I will update this message (which will stick to the top for at least seven days every time it changes) with the new links. For example, I am working on a Fact Sheet page that will provide links to every mission NASA has performed. It will at least have current missions, however, I am also going to add all missions going back to the beginning of the US space program.

George.

NASA Joins Forces to Put Satellite Eyes on Threat to U.S. Freshwater

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Toxic algal blooms like this one in Lake Erie in 2011 can cause human and animal health risks, fish kills, and degrade drinking water supplies. Image Credit: USGS/NASA Earth Observatory

NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.

Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

The new $3.6 million, multi-agency effort will use ocean color satellite data to develop an early warning indicator for toxic and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater systems and an information distribution system to aid expedient public health advisories.

“The vantage point of space not only contributes to a better understanding of our home planet, it helps improve lives around the world,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re excited to be putting NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration to work protecting public health and safety.”

Ocean color satellite data from NASA’s Aqua, the USGS-NASA Landsat, and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 and -3 are currently available to scientists, but are not routinely processed and produced in formats that help state and local environmental and water quality managers. Through this project, satellite data on harmful algal blooms developed by the partner agencies will be converted to a format that stakeholders can use through mobile devices and web portals.

“Observations from space-based instruments are an ideal way to tackle this type of public health hazard because of their global coverage and ability to provide detailed information on material in the water, including algal blooms,” said Paula Bontempi of the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NOAA and NASA pioneered the use of satellite data to monitor and forecast harmful algal blooms. Satellites allow for more frequent observations over broader areas than water sampling. The satellite data support NOAA’s existing forecasting systems in the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes.

“Observing harmful algae is critical to understanding, managing, and forecasting these blooms,” said Holly Bamford, acting NOAA assistant secretary for conservation and management and deputy administrator in Washington. “This collaboration will assure that NOAA’s efforts will assist the coastal and inland public health officials and managers across the country to distribute this information to the community in an easily understandable fashion, making them more resilient to environmental events.”

The new network builds on previous NASA ocean satellite sensor technologies created to study the global ocean’s microscopic algal communities, which play a major role in ocean ecology, the movement of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and ocean, and climate change. These sensors detect the color of the sunlit upper layer of the ocean and are used to create indicators that can help identify harmful algal blooms.

Under certain environmental conditions, algae naturally present in marine and fresh waters rapidly multiply to create a bloom. Some species of algae called cyanobacteria produce toxins that can kill wildlife and domestic animals and cause illness in humans through exposure to contaminated freshwater and the consumption of contaminated drinking water, fish or shellfish. Cyanobacteria blooms are a particular concern because of their dense biomass, toxins, taste and odor.

“EPA researchers are developing important scientific tools to help local communities respond quickly and efficiently to real-time water quality issues and protect drinking water for their residents,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Working with other federal agencies, we are leveraging our scientific expertise, technology and data to create a mobile app to help water quality managers make important decisions to reduce negative impacts related to harmful algal blooms, which have been increasingly affecting our water bodies due to climate change.”

The project also includes a research component to improve understanding of the environmental causes and health impacts of cyanobacteria and phytoplankton blooms across the United States. Blooms in lakes and estuaries are produced when aquatic plants receive excess nutrients under suitable environmental conditions. Various land uses, such as urbanization and agricultural practices, change the amount of nutrients and sediment delivered in watersheds, which can influence cyanobacterial growth.

Researchers will compare the new freshwater algal blooms data with satellite records of land cover changes over time to identify specific land-use activities that may have caused environmental changes linked to the frequency and intensity of blooms. The results will help to develop better forecasts of bloom events.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term satellite data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information on NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earth