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.

For more info, visit:

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.

For more info, visit: