David Kirkpatrick

July 12, 2010

Tiny satellites …

… are changing astrobiology research for the better.

Just check these things out:

Small satellites such as the commonly used 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm CubeSat are easier and cheaper to put into low-Earth orbit. Credit: Weber State University

Also from the link:

The biggest advantage of nano- and pico-satellites is that they are a bargain. Most of the cost saving comes at the launch stage. Unlike conventional satellites, they don’t need a dedicated launch vehicle where they are the primary payload. “They’re so small they can hitch a ride on somebody else’s rocket,” Santos says. NASA’s nanosatellite missions cost two million a piece as opposed to the tens of millions needed for a conventional satellite.

Their affordability also comes from being built with off-the-shelf electronic circuit chips such as microprocessors and radio frequency transmitters and receivers. These are the same components that are inside smart phones, hand-held Global Positioning System units, and digital cameras.

In fact, the miniaturization of electronics has been the driving force behind small satellite technology, making it affordable, says Twiggs. “Electronics today are much more power-efficient than electronics of the past; that helps us,” he says. “Ten or fifteen years ago we couldn’t have found the components for the price that we could’ve afforded.”

June 16, 2010

Massive space storm coming in 2013 according to NASA

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:46 pm

Via Kurzweil.net — This news a little daunting. NASA isn’t typically known for hyperbolic statements. OF course if we’re wiped out by “Planet X” in 2012 it’s a moot point anyway.

Nasa warns solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation
Telegraph, June 14, 2010

In a new warning, NASA said a super storm in 2013 would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services, and national security unless precautions are taken.

According to Dr. Richard Fisher, director of NASA‘s Heliophysics division, it could damage everything from the power grid, GPS navigation systems, major satellites, emergency services systems, hospital equipment, banking systems, and air traffic control devices, to everyday items such as home computers, and iPods.

Also see: How to survive a solar storm
Read Original Article>>

February 24, 2009

NASA research sat fails

Didn’t make it to orbit and now resides in the ocean.

From the link:

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory lifted off on schedule at 1:55 a.m. Pacific time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard a four-stage Taurus XL rocket.

But three minutes later, during the burning of the third stage, the payload fairing — a clamshell nose cone that protects the satellite as it rises through the atmosphere — failed to separate as commanded.

The third and fourth stages burned properly, but because of the added weight of the nose cone, the satellite did not reach orbit.

“The fairing has considerable weight relative to the portion of the vehicle that’s flying,” said John Brunschwyler, manager of the Taurus rocket program for Orbital Sciences of Virginia, which built both the rocket and the satellite.

“So when it separates off, you get a jump in acceleration,” said Mr. Brunschwyler. “We did not have that jump in acceleration. As a direct result of carrying that extra weight, we could not make orbit.”

The satellite fell back to Earth, landing in the ocean just short of Antarctica.

August 23, 2008

ESA satellite to map Earth’s surface and core

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:21 pm

The release from the European Space Agency:

GOCE Earth explorer satellite to look at the Earth’s surface and core

22 August 2008
ESA PR 34-2008. The European Space Agency is about to launch the most sophisticated mission ever to investigate the Earth’s gravitational field and to map the reference shape of our planet – the geoid – with unprecedented resolution and accuracy.
 
The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will be placed onto a low altitude near sun-synchronous orbit by a Russian Rockot vehicle launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia, some 800 km north of Moscow. Lift-off is scheduled to take place at 16:21 CEST (14:21 UTC) on Wednesday 10 September. The launcher is operated by Eurockot Launch Services, a joint venture between EADS Astrium and the Khrunichev Space Centre (Russia).

ESA’s 1-tonne spacecraft carries a set of six state-of-the-art high-sensitivity accelerometers to measure the components of the gravity field along all three axes. The data collected will provide a high-resolution map of the geoid (the reference surface of the planet) and of gravitational anomalies. Such a map will not only greatly improve our knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s internal structure, but will also be used as a much better reference for ocean and climate studies, including sea-level changes, oceanic circulation and ice caps dynamics survey. Numerous applications are expected in climatology, oceanography and geophysics, as well as for geodetic and positioning activities.  

To make this mission possible, ESA, its industrial partners (45 European companies led by Thales Alenia Space) and the science community had to overcome an impressive technical challenge by designing a satellite that will orbit the Earth close enough to gather high-accuracy gravitational data while being able to filter out disturbances caused by the remaining traces of the atmosphere in low Earth orbit (at an altitude of only 260 km). This resulted in a slender 5-m-long arrowhead shape for aerodynamics with low power ion thrusters to compensate for the atmospheric drag.

GOCE is the first Core Mission of the Earth Explorer programme undertaken by ESA in 1999 to foster research on the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and interior, on their interactions and on the impact of human activities on these natural processes. It will be the first in a whole series of Earth Explorer missions with five launches to take place within the next two years.

Two more Core Missions, selected to address specific topics of major public concern are already under development: ADM-Aeolus for atmospheric dynamics (2010), and EarthCARE to investigate the Earth’s radiative balance (2013). Three smaller Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions are also in preparation: CryoSat-2 to measure ice sheet thickness (2009), SMOS to study soil moisture and ocean salinity (2009) and Swarm to survey the evolution of the magnetic field (2010).

On the occasion of the launch of GOCE, ESA will open a Press Centre at ESA/ESRIN in Frascati, Italy from 14:00 to 20:00, hosting a launch event from 15:30 to 18:15.

A live televised transmission of the launch will bring images from Plesetsk and from mission control at ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany to broadcasters (further details on the TV transmission at http://television.esa.int). ESA senior management and programme specialists will be on hand at ESRIN for explanations and interviews. The general public can also follow the video transmission web-streamed at: http://www.esa.int/goce.

GOCE positioned for check

GOCE positioned for alignment check