Tag Archives: orbit

Crowdsource the launch of a nano-satellite into space – Kickstarter

We are developing a nano-satellite, and mobile apps to go with it, as the focus for a global education and public outreach campaign. The satellite, called SkyCube, is a 10x10x10 cm “1U” CubeSat intended for launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2013. Orbiting more than 300 miles up, on a path highly inclined to the Earth’s equator, SkyCube will pass over most of the world’s inhabited regions.

SkyCube will take low-resolution pictures of the Earth and broadcast simple messages uploaded by sponsors. After 90 days, it will use an 8-gram CO2 cartridge to inflate a 10-foot (3-meter) diameter balloon coated with highly reflective titanium dioxide powder. SkyCube’s balloon will make the satellite as bright as the Hubble Space Telescope or a first-magnitude star. You’ll be able to see it with your own eyes, sailing across the sky. But SkyCube’s balloon isn’t just for visibility. It will – within 3 weeks – bring SkyCube down from orbit due to atmospheric drag, ending the mission cleanly in a fiery “grand finale” that avoids any buildup of space debris.

 

PLEDGES

$1 - Sponsors 10 seconds of the mission. You can broadcast one (1) 120-character message from the satellite.

$6 - Sponsors 1 minute of the mission. You can broadcast six (6) 120-character messages from space, and request one (1) image from the satellite.

$100 - Sponsors 15 minutes of the mission. An ideal family pack – we’ll send you two (2) SkyCube mission T-shirts! And you can broadcast one hundred (100) 120-character messages from the satellite, and request twenty (20) images from the satellite at any time during the mission.

$1,000 – Sponsors 2 hours of the mission – a great high school or university classroom sponsorship package. We’ll send you a radio receiver which you can use to detect transmissions from SkyCube and other satellites already in orbit! You’ll also get a flying SpaceX Falcon 9 model rocket, and twenty (20) SkyCube mission T-shirts. You can broadcast one thousand (1000) 120-character messages from space, and request up to two hundred (200) images from the satellite.

 

Learn more, join the project - SkyCube: The First Satellite Launched by You!

 

 

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Prison inmates at San Quentin get contract to build satellite parts for NASA

The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise.

Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount tiny satellites called cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit.

Worden got the idea for the partnership with San Quentin while he was at a party, talking to the spouse of a NASA employee who happened to work as a guard on the prison’s death row. When the guard mentioned the prison’s critical need to establish innovative education and training programs, Worden, a former University of Arizona professor, said, “How about building small satellites?”

 

Keep reading: Space.com - San Quentin Prison Inmates Build Tiny Satellite Parts for NASA

 

 

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Hubble discovers another moon orbiting Pluto – that’s two in the last year

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.

The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

“The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls,” said team lead Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

The discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five.

The Pluto team is intrigued that such a small planet can have such a complex collection of satellites. The new discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved. The favored theory is that all the moons are relics of a collision between Pluto and another large Kuiper belt object billions of years ago.

The new detection will help scientists navigate NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft through the Pluto system in 2015, when it makes an historic and long-awaited high-speed flyby of the distant world.

More on thisNASA: Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

 

 

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NASA’s master plan – to create the next space airlines

The Commercial Crew Program is responsible for helping companies develop vehicles that can ferry astronauts, and maybe civilians, to space. Could this lead to a ‘spaceline’ industry, a la the airlines?

An interview with Ed Mango, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program:

 

What’s the goal of the Commercial Crew Program?

We still have Americans in space. But we don’t have a way to get there. So the motivation for this small team I have is that we are the next organization within NASA that’s going to get American systems back into low Earth orbit.

Why is NASA relying on private companies instead of operating the flights itself?

It fits with what has happened in the past. Look at how the airlines got started: Air Mail was run by the government, totally. Then eventually, the government didn’t want to be the ones to own airplanes, own airfields, employ the pilots — all that kind of stuff. So they said, “We’re going to contract this out.”

That became cargo capability. And as time went on, companies said, “We can transport people, not just cargo.” Thus, the birth of the airlines.

 

Keep readingNASA encouraging spaceflight to go commercial

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All 786 known planets, to scale

All 786 known planets, to scale.

“This” (tiny gray box) is our solar system. The rest of these orbit other stars and were only discovered recently. Most of them are huge because these are the kind we learned to detect first, but now we’re finding that small ones are actually more common.

We know nothing about what’s on any of them. With better telescopes that would change.

This is an exciting time.

 

 

Find the original graphic on XKCD.

China launches it’s first female ‘taikonaut’ into space

Saturday’s launch of a piloted space capsule known as Shenzhou-9 marks China’s breakthrough into the exclusive club once made up only of the United States and Russia.

One of the three astronauts in the capsule is a woman, 33-year-old Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman in space.

Shenzhou-9 was launched at 6:37 p.m (local time) against a vivid blue sky from the Jiuquan space station at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Televised nationally, the launch prompted a round of applause in the command center as the capsule separated from its carrier rocket and entered orbit.

The trickiest part of the mission will come when the capsule docks with the Tiangong 1 space module, a prototype of a space station about the size of a school bus, which is orbiting about 213 miles above Earth.

Learn more, including how the U.S. Congress has banned China from the International Space Station…so they’re building their own:

L.A. Times: China launches rocket carrying its first female astronaut

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MESSENGER sends first data back to Earth – uncovers ice on Mercury

For several years scientists have been begging to test their theories about Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. You see, the radar signals come back showing ice exists on the planet, but how could ice exist on a planet so incredibly hot?

NASA sent the spacecraft MESSENGER to orbit the planet and figure the mystery out (among other things). It turns out that ice exists at the planet north and south poles and possibly underneath some “dirt-shielding”.

All of this was uncovered by Professor David Paige, who has previous experience with Mars and the Moon, as he explains in his own words:

 

“I was able to use the Mercury laser altimeter in conjunction with a three-dimensional ray-tracing thermal model that I built to study ice on the moon, Paige said. “Using these models, I calculated the average temperature on the surface of the planet and concluded that the surface temperatures were too warm to permit the long-term stability of ice. The only possibility was some sort of thin layer of cover that allowed the ice to survive.”

This thin, dark layer is called a regolith and is probably made of organic substances like the Earth’s soil, rich in hydrocarbon compounds that may have come from the comets and meteorites that struck the planet over time. The comets and meteorites may have also contributed the water that seeped under the soil cover to form the icy patches.

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MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Its goal is to collect better data about the composition and atmosphere of the planet, and it just completed its first year of information gathering.

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While the mix of water and organic compounds on another planet may raise the possibility of extraterrestrial life for some scientists, this is not what excites Paige. For him, the discovery of ice on Mercury is the triumph of science.

“We’re getting a good agreement between models and observations,” Paige said. “What we thought was true is true. The most exciting part of this? We may not know lot of things, but on Mercury we have things under control.”

via UCLA Today

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The highest resolution single-shot of Earth ever taken

Mesmerizing timelapse of the Earth is the highest resolution single-shot imagery ever taken of our planet from space.

The video and images were snapped by the Russian weather satellite Elektro-L during its orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator. The images are in 121 megapixels; That’s 1 km per pixel. In the video shown above here, the images are in true color, but if you really want to see the vegetation pop out, watch it in the infrared– the vegetation will instead appear orange (video below).

Also unlike most NASA photos of the Earth from space, these images were snapped in a single shot. By contrast, NASA’s photos are usually composites of several photographs.

Not since The Blue Marble– the famous photograph snapped by Apollo 17 astronauts on their way to the Moon in 1972– has there been such a spectacular and moving single-shot view of the Earth.

via - Mother Nature Network

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Biggest full moon of the year – this Saturday night!

The largest full moon of 2012 happens this Saturday, but it’s OK if you don’t really notice. The moon doesn’t really get bigger, it just gets closer to Earth.

At 8:40 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, according to the Griffith Observatory Sky Report, the moon will be at its closest point in its orbit to the Earth this year. (Accounting for the time zone difference, European moon-watchers will see it Sunday.) To be precise, Earth and moon will be just 221,801 miles apart — more than 17,000 miles closer than average.

NASA’s Science News calculates the moon’s appearance Saturday will be “as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons of 2012.”

Some call what’s known as a perigee full moon a “supermoon.”

via LA Times

 

“Folklore holds that all kinds of wacky things happen under the light of a full moon. Lunacy (modern word for insanity) comes from the Latin word for Moon.”

How close does an object have to be to earth to be pulled by gravity?

Pulled from Quora, here is one of the best, and most popular, answers to a question. Written by Mark Eichenlaub, a graduate student in physics.

How close does an object have to be to earth to be pulled by gravity?

This question doesn’t have a direct answer because, for lack of a less-direct way of saying it, that’s not the way it works. If there were no atmosphere, you could have the ISS be just above the surface of the Earth, high enough only to clear the mountains. On the other hand, you could have something as far out as the moon, and if it weren’t going fast enough and in the right direction, it would still fall back down. The ISS doesn’t stay up because of how high it is, but because of a combination of that and how fast it’s going.

One of the most difficult things to learn about physics is the concept of force. A force in a given direction does not make things go straight in that direction. Instead, it influences the motion to be a bit more in the direction of the force than it was before.

For example, if you roll a bowling ball straight down a lane, then run up beside it and kick it towards the gutter, you apply a force towards the gutter, but the ball doesn’t go straight into the gutter. Instead it keeps going down the lane, but picks up a little bit of diagonal motion as well.

Now we can talk about an very early thought experiment in physics. Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a cliff 100m tall. If you drop a rock off, it will fall straight down. If you throw the rock out horizontally, it will fall down, but it will keep moving out horizontally as it does so, and falls at an angle. (The angle isn’t constant – the shape is a curve called a parabola, but that’s relatively unimportant here.)

The the force is straight down, but that force doesn’t stop the rock from moving horizontally. If you throw the rock horizontally harder, it goes further, and falls at a shallower angle. The force on it is the same, but the original velocity was much bigger and so the deflection is less.

Now imagine throwing the rock so hard it travels one kilometer horizontally before it hits the ground. If you do that, something slightly new happens. The rock still falls, but it has to fall more than just 100m before it hits the ground. The reason is that the Earth is curved, and so as the rock traveled out that kilometer, the Earth was actually curving away underneath of it. In one kilometer, it turns out the Earth curves away by about 10 centimeters – a small difference, but a real one.

As you throw the rock even harder than that, the curving away of the Earth underneath becomes more significant. If you could throw the rock 10 kilometers, the Earth would now curve away by 10 meters, and for a 100 km throw the Earth curves away by an entire kilometer. Now the stone has to fall a very long way down compared to the 100m cliff it was dropped from. Continue reading