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.