Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Expedition 34 Crew Members Ready for Launch

New Expedition 34 Crew Members Ready for Launch
Final launch preparations are under way at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as three new Expedition 34 crew members are ready to begin a two-day journey to join their crewmates aboard the International Space Station.

Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn, Roman Romanenko and Chris Hadfield are set to launch aboard their Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft at 7:12 a.m. EST (6:12 p.m. Baikonur time) Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

The new trio will join current station residents Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin when they dock their Soyuz to the Rassvet module at 9:12 a.m. Friday.

Meanwhile aboard the orbiting laboratory, Ford, Novitskiy and Tarelkin were busy with a variety of science experiments and maintenance duties Tuesday as they await the launch and arrival of their crew mates.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reactor Makes Trash a Power Source

 NASA researchers focusing on the difficulties of traveling into deep space have identified an unusual source for fuel that astronauts will be carrying with them anyway: trash.

Scientists say there is a good chance that food wrappers, used clothing, scraps, tape, packaging and other garbage accumulated by a crew of four astronauts flying beyond low Earth orbit can be turned into valuable methane gas, oxygen and even water using processes and much smaller versions of devices that are already doing the same thing on Earth.

"We're trying to change the mindset, we don't want to just think of waste as something that occurs, we want to think of waste as a resource," said Paul Hintze, task leader of the trash-to-gas project at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Monday, December 17, 2012

A Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live and work in space? Follow astronauts on the International Space Station in a series of videos as they explain their daily routines. Learn where they sleep, and how they eat, exercise, work and spend free time. Compare life in space with life on Earth.

Educators can use this series of videos and resources to enhance K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

NASA - 'FaINT' Side of Sonic Booms

Sonic booms created by aircraft flying faster than the speed of sound certainly aren’t known for being faint, but rather for their loud, make-you-jump startle effect for those who experience them. However, sonic booms have a quieter, fainter side, too.

NASA’s Supersonics Project is embarking on its latest effort to characterize or define that fainter side of sonic booms as a NASA F/A-18 aircraft takes to the air in a project called Farfield Investigation of No Boom Threshold, or FaINT.

As the latest in a continuing progression of NASA supersonics research projects aimed at reducing sonic boom levels, FaINT is designed to enable engineers to better understand evanescent waves, an acoustic phenomenon that occurs at the very edges or just outside of the normal sonic boom envelope.

For an aircraft flying at a supersonic speed of about Mach 1.2 or less at an altitude above 35,000 feet, the shockwaves being produced typically do not reach the ground, so no sonic boom is heard. This is because shockwaves from an aircraft flying supersonically at higher altitudes are refracted, or bent upwards, as they enter warmer air closer to the ground, due to the fact that the speed of sound increases with air temperature.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

International Space Station Salutes the Sun

International Space Station Salutes the Sun

Recently the International Space Station turned itself to position the European Space Agency's SOLAR instrument for a better view of the sun. It was the first time the station changed attitude for scientific reasons alone. 

"The European scientists requested this so they could increase science and bridge over the two solar cycles," said Julie Robinson, International Space Station Program scientist. "The International Space Station Program took a look at the request and we were glad that we could change attitude to support the scientists." 

SOLAR has been monitoring our sun's output since it was installed on ESA's Columbus laboratory module in February 2008. The package will celebrate its fifth anniversary next year. 

"That is quite an achievement," says Nadia This, operations engineer at the Belgian User Support and Operations Centre, which controls SOLAR. "The instrument was designed to work for only 18 months." 

SOLAR needs to be in direct view of the sun to take measurements but the space station's normal orbit obscures the view for two weeks every month.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Station-Bound Cargo Craft Launches from Japan

H-IIB launch vehicle carrying Japan's Kounotori3 cargo craft
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV3, launched aboard an H-IIB launch vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 10:06 p.m. EDT Friday (11:06 a.m. Saturday, Japan time) to begin a weeklong journey to the International Space Station. The 16.5-ton HTV3, also known as Kounotori3, or “white stork,” is carrying almost 4 tons of supplies, food and experiment hardware for the orbital outpost. At the time of launch, the station was 255 statute miles over the south Pacific off the coast of Chile.

When Kounotori3 catches up with the station on July 27, the spacecraft will be commanded to fly within about 40 feet while Expedition 32 Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Aki Hoshide of JAXA use Canadarm2, the station's Canadian Space Agency-provided robotic arm, to grapple the vehicle and berth it to a docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. Grapple is scheduled to begin at 8:04 a.m. The installation process to berth HTV3 to the station begins at 10:45 a.m.

HTV3 is a 33-foot-long, 13-foot-diameter (10 meter by 4 meter) unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft capable of delivering both internal and external supplies and hardware to the station. Among the items being delivered to the station is a remote-controlled Earth-observing camera system called the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System, or ISERV. Once installed, the system will be directed by researchers on the ground to acquire imagery of specific areas of the world for disaster analysis and environmental studies.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Photo: Docked Space Shuttle and Station Cross the Sun

A French photographer has captured a stunning photo of the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station crossing the face of the sun.

You couldn’t just aim your digital camera at the sky and get results like this. Thierry Legault, who is known for his amazing astronomical imagery, uses specialized solar filters to capture the images.

When the shuttle docked with the ISS on July 15, the combined crews set a new record for space-vehicle occupancy. The 13 people aboard the station are the most that have been aboard the same vehicle in space. The astronauts have installed a “porch” on the space station for space-exposed experiments. The new addition effectively completes the Japanese Kibo laboratory.

Astronauts are deploying a variety of other scientific installations, too. One public-interest project, the Tomatosphere II, exposes millions of tomato seeds to space, which are then returned to Earth and distributed to classrooms across North America.

If you like Legault’s photograph, make sure to check out his other work, including his shot of the space shuttle Atlantis solo-transiting the sun.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Viewing the Transit of Venus From Space

Transit of Venus From Space
Observations of the Transit of Venus during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries allowed scientists to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun, while revealing the existence of an atmosphere around Venus. Since the previous pair of transits of Venus in 1874 and 1882, humans have developed the ability to view the phenomena from space -- both directly from low-Earth orbit and remotely from sensors on spacecraft collecting data about the Sun.

Astronaut Don Pettit, flight engineer for International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 31, was particularly keen to take photos of the event from orbit -- even bringing a solar camera filter aboard for the event. This top image, from the first half of the 2012 transit, is one of hundreds taken from the ISS Cupola, a windowed module that provides the crew with unparalleled views of both Earth and astronomical phenomena.

In fact, history will record the ISS as the first orbital, crewed spacecraft from which the Transit of Venus has been observed. In addition to the dark circle of Venus visible at image upper left, several smaller sunspots are visible at image center.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dream Chaser Flight Vehicle Scales Rocky Mountain Summits

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems' Dream Chaser flight vehicle is lifted by an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems' Dream Chaser design passed one of its most complex tests to date with a successful captive-carry test conducted near the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County, Colo., on May 29.

Just like the space shuttle before it, SNC's Dream Chaser will go through extensive testing to prove its wings will work. The company built a full-scale flight vehicle of the Dream Chaser spacecraft to carry out the evaluations.

Backdropped by skyscraping summits, an Erickson Air-Crane helicopter lifted the full-scale orbital crew vehicle to verify proper aerodynamic flight performance. Future plans call for the flight vehicle to be released to evaluate the design's handling during the landing phase of a mission.

The captive-carry test marks the completion of another milestone for the Dream Chaser Space System as part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

"This is a very positive success for the Dream Chaser team and their innovative approach. I applaud and encourage the designers and engineers to continue their efforts in meeting the objectives of the rest of their CCDev2 milestones," said Ed Mango, CCP program manager.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

NASA Celebrates Spinoff Technologies from the Space Shuttle Program

NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA)
The Space Shuttle Discovery has made its final voyage and now rests in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center just outside of Washington, D.C. Its transfer has inspired many to reflect on the historic contributions of the Space Shuttle Program to human space flight and scientific discovery.

But even while the Space Shuttle Program has officially come to a close, more than 120 technologies developed during its lifetime are continuing to benefit society as commercial products. As a part of its celebration of the retirement of the space shuttle, NASA highlighted several of these spinoffs with an exhibit on display at the unveiling of Discovery at its new permanent home. The exhibit will also appear at the upcoming unveilings of the Space Shuttles Enterprise, Endeavor, and Atlantis in New York City, Los Angeles, and Kennedy Space Center, respectively.

Among the award-winning spinoffs that have emerged from the Space Shuttle Program are life-saving medical innovations, energy-conserving insulation and design elements, and even protective - and fashionable - eyewear.

Space shuttle science has led to important, and even surprising, advances in medical technology. Inspired by experiments demonstrating the strong growth of bacteria in microgravity, NASA engineers developed a special bioreactor with rotating walls to simulate freefall conditions - essentially recreating a microgravity environment on Earth. The unique growth method encourages healthier, more natural-forming cell cultures and is currently facilitating research into treatment for cancer and diabetes.

A heart pump on display in the NASA exhibit is a great example of how innovation can come from unexpected sources - in this case flow challenges posed by the space shuttle’s fuel pumps, a problem that turned out to share similarities with challenges posed by human blood circulation. The resulting miniaturized pump, which was a result of collaboration between doctors and NASA engineers, has kept more than 450 people alive while they wait for a transplant.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SpaceX Demo Flight

SpaceX Dragon
The SpaceX Dragon demo flight brings a new American transportation vehicle onto the scene for travel to and from the International Space Station. Currently there are other ways to reach station, however only one vehicle, the Russian Soyuz, offers return capability. The SpaceX Dragon adds a welcome additional option for the transport of supplies and research equipment from the station to the ground.

The demo flight, which launched on May 22, 2012, is the first Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, vehicle to journey to the station. People from around the country may watch this flight and mission for historic significance, but select students are following along with a more personal interest. This is because Dragon carries the Student Space Flight Experiments Program, or SSEP, Mission 1 investigations to the station.

These SSEP studies come from 12 communities around the U.S. and were whittled down from 779 proposals to the final 15 manifested for this flight. Participating students designed their own experiments using flight-approved fluids and materials. These then were loaded into NanoRacks modules for power and data capabilities while operating aboard station. ' What has scientists, like those at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, excited about this flight, however, is not what went up, but what is planned to come down. The Dragon's ability to increase the capability for returning experiments and hardware from the space station to Earth will enable researchers to have more frequent travel options for their investigations.

"This is a very important mission for us," said Fred Kohl, research project manager for the International Space Station and Human Health Office at Glenn. "The most important aspect is the return delivery to Earth. In general, nowadays, launching stuff to the station is not a problem. This vehicle will ensure we can get back our supplies and experiment hardware."


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Calling Cosmonauts From Home!

Shadow-Mayak, MAI-75
Educating future generations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians is a global effort - one that includes the contributions of the Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos. One of the main objectives of activities aboard the International Space Station is the implementation of educational and outreach projects that contribute to attracting young people to study science.

These projects also help create modern high-technology equipment and increase support in society for space programs in general and the space station program in particular. Currently on board the Russian segment of the station are four space investigations that have educational components. Coulomb Crystal, Shadow-Mayak, MAI-75 and Great Start continue to demonstrate great benefits in capturing the imagination of students across the Russian region.

Coulomb Crystal is an investigation aimed at studying the dynamics of solid dispersed environments in an inhomogeneous magnetic field in microgravity. Pilot studies onboard the station explore the structural properties of Coulomb clusters -- liquid crystal phase transitions, wave processes and the physical and mechanical characteristics of its heating mechanism, to name a few. Students at all levels of schooling, including secondary school and college, have had the opportunity to prepare and conduct the experiment on the ground.

Shadow-Mayak is a VHF radio beacon that allows amateur radio enthusiasts to communicate with crew on board the station. The presence of this equipment on board the Russian segment of the station serves as a learning tool for students in the area of space communications. They study the conditions of the admission -- transfer of the radio beacon using the world amateur radio network. They also study the characteristics and spatial distribution of the intensity of the radio broadcast and rebroadcast from the onboard transceiver transmitter. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Expedition 31 Crew Launches to Station

Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:01 p.m. EDT on Monday (9:01 a.m. Tuesday, Kazakhstan time), beginning a two-day flight to the International Space Station.

Less than 10 minutes after launch their Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft reached orbit, and its antennas and solar arrays deployed.

The trio will dock to the station’s Poisk Mini-Research Module at 12:38 a.m. Thursday, bringing the Expedition 31 crew to its full six-member complement. Acaba, Revin and Padalka will join the current station residents, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, and begin a four-month tour of duty aboard the orbiting complex.

Kononenko, Pettit and Kuipers, who arrived Dec. 23 aboard their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft, will return home on July 1, marking the start of Expedition 32 under the command of Padalka. About two weeks afterward, NASA astronaut Suni Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide will arrive at the orbiting complex to round out the Expedition 32 crew.

Acaba previously visited the station in March 2009 as a mission specialist for the STS-119 crew aboard space shuttle Discovery. The crew delivered the final set of solar array wings and truss element to complete the station’s electricity-generating system. Acaba accumulated 12 hours, 57 minutes of spacewalk time during two excursions outside the station during STS-119.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

European Cargo Ship Launches to Space Station

The The European Space Agency's third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana, at 12:34 a.m. EDT Friday, beginning a six-day journey to the International Space Station.

The 13-ton "Edoardo Amaldi" spacecraft, named in honor of the 20th-century Italian physicist who is regarded as one of the fathers of European spaceflight, is delivering 7.2 tons of propellant, water and supplies to the six crew members aboard the orbital laboratory.

› Watch a video of the launch

After launch, ATV-3 separated from the Ariane rocket’s upper stage and was placed into a preliminary orbit.

More than an hour and a half after launch, ATV-3 deployed its solar arrays, which unfolded to generate power from sunlight.

Like its two predecessors that flew to the station in 2008 and 2011, the Edoardo Amaldi will conduct a slow, methodical trek to the complex under the guidance of engineers at the Automated Transfer Vehicle Control Center in Toulouse, France. It will dock automatically to the aft port of the Russian Zvezda service module at 6:32 p.m. on March 28. NASA TV coverage of the docking will begin at 5:45 p.m.

Edoardo Amaldi is expected to remain at the outpost through early September, when it will undock and be commanded to deorbit and burn up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Introducing the X-56A MUTT: Who Let the Dog Out?

X-56A MUTT aircraftNASA's Dryden Flight Research Center soon will have a new dog in the yard, and it's a real MUTT. That's short for the Multi-Use Technology Testbed, a small unmanned aircraft being developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to test technologies that will be needed for new kinds of lightweight, flexible aircraft.

MUTT is one of the Air Force's newest X-planes, designated X-56A. The 7.5-foot-long aircraft has a 28-foot wingspan and will be powered by two 52-pound thrust JetCat P200-SX turbine engines. It is being built in California under contract to Lockheed Martin Corp., which will conduct the flight experiments for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

Dryden will oversee the flights for AFRL during summer 2012, and then take ownership of the X-56A MUTT for follow-on research after the Air Force tests are finished in early autumn.

“Flexible wings and fuselages can result in significant reductions in the structural weight of aircraft,” says Gary Martin, deputy project manager for NASA's Subsonic Fixed Wing Project at Dryden.

But unlike the short, stiff wings found on most aircraft today, long, thin wings like those on the X-56A are susceptible to uncontrollable vibrations, called flutter, that result from the force of air flowing over them. Thin wings can also be stressed by bending forces from wind gusts and atmospheric turbulence.

“To maintain the long-term health of the structure and ride quality in a more flexible airplane, we need to actively alleviate gust loads on the airplane and suppress flutter, so gust load alleviation and active flutter suppression are two of the key technologies that NASA is working to advance,” Martin said.

MUTT is designed to address this problem by enabling engineers to practice suppressing flutter by adjusting software programs in the aircraft’s flight control computer. With MUTT, researchers also expect to learn how better to ease gust loads, which will make flexible airplanes safer when they experience in-flight turbulence.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Historic Shuttles to Arrive at Permanent Homes by Year's End

Space shuttle AtlantisBy the end of this year, NASA's space shuttles will be in their new homes.

Recently, the shuttles were on the move as part of the transition and retirement (T&R) activities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On Feb. 1, NASA Vehicle Manager for T&R Bart Pannullo watched as shuttle Endeavour was backed out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and towed to Orbiter Processing Facility-2 (OPF-2).

The next day, shuttle Atlantis made an appearance outside the VAB as it was towed from the VAB transfer aisle into high bay 4 for temporary storage. Atlantis is being prepared for public display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in 2013.

"It's been two beautiful days here for these operations and seeing people I haven't seen in a while," Pannullo said. "I'm not taking these events for granted."

Endeavour was moved to OPF-2 so that technicians can continue to prepare it for display. The shuttle will remain in the OPF until it is ready to be ferried to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the fall.

Once inside the facility, Endeavour was leveled and safed. Then, water and Freon from lines in the shuttle's midbody were offloaded. The orbital maneuvering system (OMS) pods and forward reaction control system (FRCS) were delivered to the Hazardous Maintenance Facility (HMF) on Feb. 6 from White Sands, N.M. The FRCS was uncrated and transported to OPF-2 on the same day and was installed on Endeavour on Feb. 8. The OMS pods remain at the HMF and are scheduled to be installed on Endeavour in March.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spacewalkers Move Crane, Install Experiment

Spacewalkers Move CraneInternational Space Station Expedition 30 Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Anton Shkaplerov wrapped up a six-hour, 15-minute spacewalk at 3:46 p.m. EST Thursday.

The two spacewalkers moved the Strela-1 crane from the Pirs docking compartment to begin preparing the Pirs for its replacement next year with a new laboratory and docking module. Kononenko and Shkaplerov used another boom, the Strela-2, to move the hand-operated crane to the Poisk module for future assembly and maintenance work. Both telescoping booms extend like fishing rods and are used to move massive components outside the station. This task was originally scheduled during an Expedition 28 spacewalk on Aug. 3, 2011, but was called off due to time constraints.

While Kononenko and Shkaplerov were on the exterior of Poisk, they also installed the Vinoslivost Materials Sample Experiment, which will investigate the influence of space on the mechanical properties of the materials.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Shuttle Fleet Left Mark in Space, Hearts

The space shuttle left its 30 years of achievements written in the sky above and in the hearts of the astronauts, American and international, who flew in them.

"Personally, looking back on it, I think the shuttle has been one of the most marvelous vehicles that has ever gone into space or done anything," said Bob Crippen, the iconic pilot on the first space shuttle mission in 1981, and commander of three more after that.

The shuttle broke boundaries of all sorts during its career, from technological successes to reflecting the evolution of American and global society. International cooperation that was commonplace as the shuttle neared the end of its work was unforeseen when the shuttle program began.

The thousands of space workers who physically readied the fleet to fly and those who worked meticulous mental problems to calculate orbits and rendezvous along with thrust and innumerable other considerations, also shared in the successes of the spacecraft that served as NASA's flagship for three decades.

"It was not like any airplane that you've ever been on or seen or been around," said Wayne Bingham of the United Space Alliance. "It was just like a big glider that you had played with as a kid, but much more impressive. You just kind of stood in awe of what the orbiter was capable of doing."

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

NuSTAR Spacecraft Arrives in California

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning after a cross-country trip by truck from the Orbital Sciences Corporation's manufacturing plant in Dulles, Va. The mission is scheduled to launch from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean on March 14.

Once the observatory is offloaded at Vandenberg, it will be moved into a processing hangar, joining the Pegasus XL rocket that is set to carry it to space. Over the weekend, technicians will remove its shipping container so that checkout and other processing activities can begin next week. Once the observatory is integrated with the rocket in mid-February, technicians will encapsulate it in the vehicle fairing, which is also scheduled to arrive at Vandenberg today.

After processing is completed, the rocket and spacecraft will be flown on Orbital's L-1011 carrier aircraft to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll for launch in March.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

'We are the Champions' on the International Space Station

In high school, there are champions of football and basketball and even music, but not many students can say they are champs on the International Space Station - but Alliance Rocket students from the United States and virtual participants Alliance CyberAvo, representing schools in Germany and Italy, have now earned that distinction.

Both teams were named the winners in the third annual NASA-sponsored Zero Robotics SPHERES Challenge competition for high school students from the United States and abroad.

NASA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge sponsored the competition, which challenged students to write software code for small satellite robots on the station.

"This competition helps to build critical engineering skills for students, such as problem solving and teamwork, and helps us to find future scientists and engineers to work in space," said Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The teams this year did not disappoint. The students were exceptional with their designs and flight programs."

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Monday, January 23, 2012

The 'Un-Flyable' Space Shuttle

The first time NASA engineer George Ware saw a model for the space shuttle, four decades ago, it had a straight wing and tail like a fighter airplane. It had elevators, a rudder and an engine.

It was un-flyable.

"It was their idea that it was going to enter the atmosphere at a 60-degree angle," said Ware, who had just joined the Vehicle Analysis Branch at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., which was tasked with testing shuttle configurations offered by the Johnson Space Center and contractors.

"At some lower speed, closer to transonic, it would pitch over and start flying like an airplane," said Ware, now retired. "It would be on a reusable booster as well."

It was supposed to fly up to 50 times a year at $10 million per trip. But that return to Earth was throwing everybody, because air flow onto the straight wing as it came into the atmosphere caused the plane to crash, at least on paper. Models of all four candidate configurations had problems, and the two boosters attached to them and tested in various combinations didn't help.

Ware still has lab books that look as though they have red-inked brushfires ignited by failed tunnel tests of shuttle and booster. Langley wind tunnels logged 59,200 hours from 1970-82, with the work spread over a dozen facilities. That included time spent with what was the eventual shuttle: a double-delta shaped craft.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

NASA Moves Shuttle Engines From Kennedy To Stennis

The relocation of the RS-25D space shuttle main engine inventory from Kennedy Space Center's Engine Shop in Cape Canaveral, Fla., is underway. The RS-25D flight engines, repurposed for NASA's Space Launch System, are being moved to NASA's Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a new heavy-lift launch vehicle that will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is leading the design and development of the SLS for NASA, including the engine testing program. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments to destinations in deep space.

"The relocation of RS-25D engine assets represents a significant cost savings to the SLS Program by consolidating SLS engine assembly and test operations at a single facility," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

The RS-25Ds - to be used for the SLS core stage - be stored at Stennis until testing begins at a future date. Testing is already under way on the J-2X engine, which is planned for use in the SLS upper stage. Using the same fuel system - hydrogen and liquid oxygen - for both core and upper stages reduces costs by leveraging the existing knowledge base, skills, infrastructure and personnel.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Cassini Testing Part of Its Radio System

Engineers with NASA's Cassini mission are conducting diagnostic testing on a part of the spacecraft's radio system after its signal was not detected on Earth during a tracking pass in late December. The spacecraft has been communicating with Earth using a backup part.

The issue occurred with the ultra-stable oscillator, which is used for one type of radio science experiment and also as a means of sending data back to Earth. The spacecraft is currently using an auxiliary oscillator, whose frequency stability is adequate for transmitting data from the spacecraft to Earth. Tests later this month will help mission managers decide whether it will be possible to bring the ultra-stable oscillator back into service.

Some of the data collected for the radio science experiment using the auxiliary oscillator will be of lesser quality than that from the ultra-stable oscillator. Signals used for occultation experiments – where scientists analyze how radio signals are affected as they travel through Saturn's rings or the atmospheres of Saturn and its moons back to Earth – will be of lesser quality. A second kind of radio science investigation using gravity measurements to probe the internal structure of Saturn or its moons will not be affected. Cassini carries 12 science experiments.

The cause is still under investigation, but age may be a factor. The spacecraft launched in 1997 and has orbited Saturn since 2004. Cassini completed its prime mission in 2008 and has had two additional mission extensions. This is the first time its ultra-stable oscillator has had an issue.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

NASA Propulsion Experiment Provides Data for More Efficient Jet Engines

Aeronautics researchers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center recently completed flight tests of a unique experimental jet engine inlet design in the Channeled Center-body Inlet Experiment, or CCIE.

The experimental inlet was checked out on NASA Dryden's F-15B aeronautics research test bed aircraft, which continues to be an innovative and cost-effective tool for flight test of advanced propulsion concepts.

The CCIE project's primary research objective was to define the airflow through the experimental jet engine inlet, then compare it to the airflow through a standard inlet. Inside, airflow around two interchangeable center bodies installed in an air inlet tube was measured. The structures are designed to direct and compress airflow internally through the engine.

One center body is channeled; the other has a conventional, smooth shape. The slots cut along the length of the channeled center body simulate a simple device that in an actual inlet would allow optimization of the amount of air flowing into the engine, resulting in improved airflow efficiency at a wide variety of speeds. This would improve fuel efficiency as well.

Six flights were flown, three with each center body installed. Flight tests were made incrementally at speeds up to Mach 1.74, or about 1.7 times the speed of sound. Flight data from the smooth center body were used to benchmark performance data for the channeled center body. Data points that NASA Dryden engineers collected during the experiment included inlet mass airflow information, internal surface pressure distribution numbers, and airflow distortion, or turbulence, data at the exit end of the device.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shuttle Model Move Shows Way for Atlantis

Moving the high fidelity model of the space shuttle Dec. 10 called for an array of planning, about 100 people and a specialized trailer. It also called for the temporary removal of 18 light poles, four traffic signals and some signs.

It took the team about five hours to make the six-mile trip from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to the Turn Basin across the street from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The group started rolling at 7:30 a.m. so they wouldn't have to worry about the dark.

"It went very well," said Gerald "Jay" Green, project manager for the move. "I felt a great sense of accomplishment when we got it done."

A similar move will be made next year when space shuttle Atlantis is taken the opposite direction to its display location at the Visitor Complex.

The model's convoy never traveled more than about 6 mph. It came to a stop many times along the way so the trailer's built-in jacks could raise or lower the wings to get past obstacles such as guard shacks and traffic lights.

"There were four or five really hard spots," Green said.

But then, moving space shuttles and full-scale model shuttles has always required extra consideration. For instance, crews moving a space shuttle through the mountains in California had to cut slots in the rock to make room for the wings.

Moving the model didn't require such an extreme action, but it took a month of planning and considerable study of potential routes. Even 3-D modeling was incorporated to find problem zones. All this was before Green and his group found out they would have to move it with the wings attached.

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