Sonntag, 20. April 2014 - 22:58 Uhr

Astronomie - Spektakulärer Feuerball aus dem All zerplatzt über russischen Stadt Murmansk


A suspected meteorite explosion has been recorded by citizens of the northern Russian city of Murmansk.

Multiple drivers with dashcams out on the streets of the 300,000-people city at 2.10am on Saturday noticed a bright blue trail speed across the night sky, then explode while still in the air.

Most observers identified the object as a meteorite, though officials have neither confirmed it nor said where the fragments are likely to have landed. Others speculated that the object may have been space debris, re-entering the atmosphere.

Emergency services say there were no injuries as a result of the astral event.

While tens of tons of cosmic dust reaches the Earth’s atmosphere each day, the number of meteorites that reach the surface may be about 500 a year, though most are small, and scientists do not have a precise calculation.

The most spectacular meteorite of recent years was over the Urals city of Chelyabinsk last year, when an astral body exploded in the sky with the strength of 40 Hiroshima bombs, temporarily blinding and deafening hundreds of people below.


Quelle: Russia Today


Sonntag, 20. April 2014 - 22:46 Uhr

Astronomie - Bei Einschlag eines Asteroiden wird in geschmolzener Erde welche zu Glas wird, Pflanzenmaterial gespeichert


A snapshot of ancient environmental conditions The scorching heat produced by asteroid or comet impacts can melt tons of soil and rock, some of which forms glass as it cools. Some of that glass preserves bits of ancient plant material.
Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists exploring large fields of impact glass in Argentina suggest that what happened on Earth might well have happened on Mars millions of years ago. Martian impact glass could hold traces of organic compounds.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Asteroid and comet impacts can cause widespread ecological havoc, killing off plants and animals on regional or even global scales. But new research from Brown University shows that impacts can also preserve the signatures of ancient life at the time of an impact.

A research team led by Brown geologist Pete Schultz has found fragments of leaves and preserved organic compounds lodged inside glass created by a several ancient impacts in Argentina. The material could provide a snapshot of environmental conditions at the time of those impacts. The find also suggests that impact glasses could be a good place to look for signs of ancient life on Mars.

The work is published in the latest issue of Geology Magazine.

The scorching heat produced by asteroid or comet impacts can melt tons of soil and rock, some of which forms glass as it cools. The soil of eastern Argentina, south of Buenos Aires, is rife with impact glass created by at least seven different impacts that occurred between 6,000 and 9 million years ago, according to Schultz. One of those impacts, dated to around 3 million years ago, coincides with the disappearance of 35 animal genera, as reported in the journal Science a few years back.

“We know these were major impacts because of the shocked minerals trapped inside with plant materials,” Schultz said. “These glasses are present in different layers of sediment throughout an area about the size of Texas.”

Within glass associated with two of those impacts — one from 3 million years ago and one from 9 million years ago — Schultz and his colleagues found exquisitely preserved plant matter. “These glasses preserve plant morphology from macro features all the way down to the micron scale,” Schultz said. “It’s really remarkable.”

The glass samples contain centimeter-size leaf fragments, including intact structures like papillae, tiny bumps that line leaf surfaces. Bundles of vein-like structures found in several samples are very similar to modern pampas grass, a species common to that region of Argentina.

Chemical analysis of the samples also revealed the presence of organic hydrocarbons, the chemical signatures of living matter.

To understand how these structures and compounds could have been preserved, Schultz and his colleagues tried to replicate that preservation in the lab. They mixed pulverized impact glass with fragments of pampas grass leaves and heated the mixture at various temperatures for various amounts of time. The experiments showed that plant material was preserved when the samples were quickly heated to above 1,500 degrees Celsius.

It appears, Schultz says, that water in the exterior layers of the leaves insulates the inside layers, allowing them to stay intact. “The outside of the leaves takes it for the interior,” he said. “It’s a little like deep frying. The outside fries up quickly but the inside takes much longer to cook.”

Implications for Mars

If impact glass can preserve the signatures of life on Earth, it stands to reason that it could do the same on Mars, Schultz says. And the soil conditions in Argentina that contributed to the preservation of samples in this study are not unlike soils found on Mars.

The Pampas region of Argentina is covered with thick layers of windblown sediment called loess. Schultz believes that when an object impacts this sediment, globs of melted material roll out from the edge of the impact area like molten snowballs. As they roll, they collect material from the ground and cool quickly — the dynamics that the lab experiments showed were important for preservation. After the impact, those glasses are slowly covered over as dust continues to accumulate. That helps to preserve both the glasses and the stowaways within them for long periods — in the Argentine case, for millions of years.

Much of the surface of Mars is covered in a loess-like dust, and the same mechanism that preserved the Argentine samples could also work on Mars.

“Impact glass may be where the 4 billion-year-old signs of life are hiding,” Schultz said. “On Mars they’re probably not going to come out screaming in the form of a plant, but we may find traces of organic compounds, which would be really exciting.”

Quelle: Brown University


Sonntag, 20. April 2014 - 22:10 Uhr

Raumfahrt - SpaceX CRS-3 Cargo-Start verschoben auf 18.April - UPDATE



Monday's scheduled launch of a robotic SpaceX cargo craft to the International Space Station will proceed despite the failure of a backup electronics box for the station's truss system, NASA says.
Mission managers said they would be able to work around the problems caused by the faiure. "We're good to go," Michael Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager, said during a Sunday news conference.
Suffredini said a spacewalk to replace the box is being planned for April 22, after the SpaceX delivery.
SpaceX, a California-based company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to deliver supplies and other payloads to the space station. For the next supply mission, about 4,600 pounds (2,100 kilograms) of cargo has been packed inside a Dragon capsule for launch atop a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Liftoff is scheduled for 4:58 p.m. ET Monday, with the chances of acceptable weather set at 80 percent or better. The only concern is the potential for increasing clouds at the launch site.
Redundancy recovered
The electronics box, known as a modulator-demodulator, failed to respond to commands on Friday — and NASA determined that it had to be replaced. The box serves as the backup for another modulator-demodulator that's operating normally. Either box can be used to send commands to components on the space station's main truss, including the robotic arm's rail car system, the station's external cooling system and the movable joints for the power-generating solar arrays.
Suffredini said the main concern about going ahead with Monday's launch was to keep the station's solar arrays in the proper position while avoiding a conflict with the Dragon's arrival and berthing. Astronauts will have to use the station's robotic arm to bring the unmanned capsule in for its berthing on Wednesday, and if both boxes were out of commission, that would have affected the ability to move the arrays.
"We're able to essentially get back the redundancy we need."
NASA planners found a way to keep the arrays in a fixed position during the Dragon's visit, Suffredini said.
"We're able to essentially get back the redundancy we need because we can position the solar arrays such that we're OK," he told reporters.
The plan for the April 22 spacewalk to replace the electronics box is still being fine-tuned, Suffredini said. The operation is expected to take about two and a half hours, and it's considered one of the space station's "Big 12" routine maintenance tasks. Suffredini said replacing the box is "one of the simplest [tasks] we can do."
Critical items on Dragon
Suffredini noted that the Dragon payload included critical items — including a replacement spacesuit and other spacesuit components that would reduce the potential for water leaks like the one that almost drowned an Italian spacewalker last year.
The capsule is also bringing up supplies for the crew, scores of scientific experiments, five nanosatellites and the legs for the station's Robonaut 2 android.
After the supplies are unloaded, the station's astronauts will load it back up with about 3,600 pounds (1,650 kilograms) of cargo for return to Earth. The Dragon will then unhook from the station and descend to its splashdown and recovery from the Pacific Ocean.
This mission is particularly notable because it's the first tryout of a system that could eventually enable the Falcon 9's first stage to fly back to a landing pad. The Falcon 9 due for launch on Monday has been outfitted with deployable landing legs, and the first stage will restart its engines after separation to slow its descent toward the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX will try to recover the first stage for potential reuse, said Hans Koenigsmann, the company's vice president of mission assurance. But he cautioned reporters that the procedure was "experimental," and gauged the chances of success at 30 to 40 percent.
Quelle; NBC

SpaceX Resupply Mission 'Go' For Monday Launch

International Space Station Program officials, the international partners and representatives of SpaceX agreed Sunday to proceed with Monday’s scheduled launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon cargo craft on the company’s third commercial resupply mission to the orbital laboratory. Launch is targeted for Monday at 4:58 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Quelle: NASA
Update: 22.00 MESZ
CRS-3 Update
Today’s launch has been scrubbed due to a Helium leak on Falcon 9’s first stage. A fix will be implemented by the next launch opportunity on Friday April 18, though weather on that date isn’t ideal. Check back here for updates.
Quelle: SpaceX
Update: 16.04.2014

SpaceX on track for Friday launch try

Sen—Space Exploration Technologies will make another attempt Friday, 18 April, to launch its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on a resupply run to the International Space Station for NASA.

A launch attempt Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was canceled an hour before liftoff.

“Preflight checks detected that a helium valve in the stage separation pneumatic system was not holding the right pressure. This meant that the stage separation pistons would be reliant on a backup check valve,” SpaceX said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“No issue was detected with the backup valve and a flight would likely have been successful, but SpaceX policy is not to launch with any known anomalies,” the statement said.

The rocket has been returned to a horizontal position so technicians can replace the faulty valve.

The next launch try will be at 3:25 p.m. EDT/1925 GMT, but the weather could be a problem. Air Force meteorologists are predicting a 60 per cent chance of rain, and thunderstorms could force another delay.

The rocket will carry a Dragon capsule loaded with food, science experiments and gear for the space station, which flies about 250 miles (about 400 km) above Earth.

If the Falcon 9 launches as planned, the capsule would reach the station on Sunday.

As part of the flight, SpaceX plans to test technology it has been developing to recover and reuse its rockets.

The Falcon 9’s first stage carries extra fuel for two more burns after the upper-stage and Dragon capsule separate. The idea is to slow the rocket’s descent and position it for a soft touchdown on the ocean.

The booster also has four landing legs to help stabilize the vehicle. 

Quelle: SEN


A Falcon 9 rocket that was supposed to launch Monday has been rescheduled for Friday afternoon.

The launch is now set for 3:25 p.m. Friday after a first-stage helium leak scrubbed the first attempt.

There is a 40 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms that could violate launch constraints.

If there is a second scrub, SpaceX will attempt to launch Saturday, April 19 at 3:02 p.m.

NASA said this is an instantaneous launch time. That means it must happen for the rocket to launch and the Dragon capsule to catch up to the International Space Station within two days.

Despite a computer problem at the International Space Station last week, NASA gave the go-ahead over the weekend for SpaceX to launch its rocket later Monday.

The launch will also dictate when a contingency spacewalk will be performed to replace a failed multiplexer-demultiplexer aboard the ISS.

The rocket will deliver the Dragon capsule, with 2.4 tons of cargo for astronauts, to the space station.

Once there, astronauts there will unload the cargo, which includes research experiments, food and four high-definition cameras that will stream live video of Earth for online viewing.

The Falcon 9 rocket being used in this launch has been modified with new, 60-foot-long legs designed to help the rocket land back on Earth after launch, making the spacecraft reusable for future launches, like the space shuttles before it.

The plan is that after the Dragon capsule separates and heads for the ISS, the first stage of the rocket will make a soft splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX said it wants to test the landing legs in the ocean first to improve precision, but eventually the private company wants to land the rocket near the launch pad. The company could save millions of dollars by reusing the rocket instead of having to build a new one for each launch.

SpaceX issued the following statement Wednesday morning:

NASA and SpaceX have confirmed Friday, April 18 for the next launch attempt for the Falcon 9 rocket to send the Dragon spacecraft on the company's third commercial resupply mission and fourth visit to the space station. Launch is targeted for 3:25 p.m. ET. The launch will be webcast live at beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET.
A launch on Friday results in a rendezvous with the space station on Sunday, April 20 and a grapple at 7:14 a.m. ET.
During Monday’s launch attempt, preflight checks detected that a helium valve in the stage separation pneumatic system was not holding the right pressure. This meant that the stage separation pistons would be reliant on a backup check valve.
No issue was detected with the backup valve and a flight would likely have been successful, but SpaceX policy is not to launch with any known anomalies. We have brought the vehicle back to horizontal and are replacing the faulty valve, as well as inspecting the whole system for anything that may have contributed to the valve not working as designed.
Quelle: NEWS13
Update: 20.04.2014

SpaceX successfully launches The Dragon with supplies for International Space Station

The SpaceX company returned to orbit Friday, launching fresh supplies to the International Space Station after more than a month’s delay.

The Dragon cargo ship will reach the orbiting lab on Sunday — Easter morning. That pushes urgent spacewalking repairs to Wednesday; NASA wants a bad computer replaced before something else breaks.

This was the second launch attempt this week for SpaceX.

NASA’s commercial supplier was foiled by a leaky rocket valve Monday. The valve was replaced, and the company aimed for a Friday liftoff despite a dismal forecast. Storms cleared out of Cape Canaveral just in time for the mid-afternoon launch into overcast skies.


The unmanned cargo ship contains 2½ tons of station supplies, including material originally intended for the spacewalking repairs.

A critical backup computer failed outside the space station last Friday. The primary computer is working fine, but numerous systems would be seriously compromised if it broke, too. A double failure also would hinder visits by the Dragon and other vessels.

“It’s imperative that we maintain” backups for these external command-routing computer boxes, also called multiplexer-demultiplexers, or MDMs, said flight director Brian Smith said Friday. “Right now, we don’t have that.”


NASA decided late this week to use the gasket-like material already on board the space station for the repair, instead of waiting for the Dragon. Astronauts trimmed the thermal material Friday to fit the bottom of the replacement computer, and inserted a fresh circuit card.

Much-needed food is also aboard the Dragon, along with a new spacesuit and spacesuit replacement parts. NASA wants all these things at the space station as soon as possible.

The shipment is close to five weeks late. Initially set for mid-March, the launch was delayed by extra prepping, then damage to an Air Force radar and, finally on Monday, the rocket leak.


The space station’s six-man crew watched the launch via a live TV hookup; the outpost was soaring 260 miles above Turkey at the time of ignition. Video beamed down from Dragon showed the solar wings unfurling.

Earlier, as the countdown entered its final few hours, NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini said an investigation continues into the reason for last summer’s spacesuit failure. The helmet worn by an Italian astronaut filled with water from the suit’s cooling system, and he nearly drowned during a spacewalk.


Routine U.S. spacewalks are on hold until engineers are certain what caused the water leak. The upcoming spacewalk by the two Americans on board is considered an exception because of its urgent nature; it will include no unnecessary tasks, just the 2½-hour computer swap.

NASA is paying the California-based SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia’s Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the orbiting lab well stocked. Russia, Japan and Europe also make periodic deliveries.

Unlike the other cargo carriers, the Dragon can bring items back for analysis. Among the science samples going up on the Dragon and slated to return with it in a month: 200 fruit flies and their expected progeny, and germs collected from stadiums and sports arenas, as well as such notables as America’s Liberty Bell and Sue, the T. rex fossil skeleton at Chicago’s Field Museum.


Scientists will study the hearts of the returning flies — as many as 3,000 are expected for the trip home, if the males and females do as they should. The germ samples, once back on Earth, will be compared with duplicate cultures on the ground.

Staying up there — for as long as the space station lives — will be new legs for NASA’s humanoid, Robonaut. The indoor robot has been in orbit for three years, but only from the waist up.

Quelle: SE


Sonntag, 20. April 2014 - 21:55 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Russland startet ehrgeiziges superschweres Raketen Projekt ANGARA  



On the 25th anniversary of the historic flight of the Soviet space shuttle Buran, Russia's Roscosmos space agency has formed a working group to prepare "within weeks" a roadmap for the revival of the Energia super-heavy booster rocket.
The group led by Oleg Ostapenko, the new head of Roscosmos Federal Space Agency, is set to draw up proposals on the design of a super-heavy launch vehicle capable of delivering up to 100 tonnes of payload to the baseline orbit, former Soviet minister of general machine building, Oleg Baklanov, said on Friday.
"You have assumed the responsibility and dared to head the group, which is supposed to find an answer to the question how we can regain the position we demonstrated to the world with the launch of a 100-tonne spacecraft [Buran in 1988] within a few weeks," the ex-minister told Ostapenko at the event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the flight of the Buran shuttle spacecraft.
The new carrier rocket Angara is set to become the base for the ambitious project that could bring Russia back to its heyday of space exploration. It could be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome which is now being constructed in Russia's Far East, and will replace Kazakhstan's Baikonur as Russia's main launchpad.
The 1988 launch of the Energia super-heavy rocket carrying the Buran space shuttle proved the rocket was capable of delivering 100 tonnes into orbit. That was five times more than the Proton-M rocket with a 20-tonne payload, thus making it the most powerful Soviet/Russian booster rocket ever developed.
As the International Space Station is scheduled to be taken out of service around 2020, ex-minister Baklanov explained that such a powerful rocket would allow the construction of a new orbital station "larger in its weight and dimensions." Also, a booster similar to the Soviet Energia would be indispensable for "exploring outer space in a wise manner, working in shifts on Mars, the Moon and so on," he added.
At the same media conference, president of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation Vitaly Lopota announced that Russia will soon need super-heavy rockets to create a shield against possible future space weapons - which means deploying into orbit massive communications satellites and electronic warfare platforms.
'Nothing better has been created'
On the 25th anniversary of the Buran flight, Ostapenko acknowledged that the Soviet Union's achievements in space exploration remain an example for today's research.
"Human ingenuity created the Energia-Buran system 25 years ago," Ostapenko told the audience. "I am confident that events comparable by their scale are in store for us," he said.
In his speech, ex-minister Baklanov claimed that "nothing new has been designed" in the 25 years which have passed since the creation of the Energia-Buran system. He warned that "a point of no return is very close," and said there are only years left to recuperate the space industry to the previous level and keep the groundwork.
"We have a colossal amount of work to do," Ostapenko said, pointing out that only the experience of previous generations of scientists could ensure success.
"Our country has got huge potential; all we need to do is let the experienced professionals do their job the best way to ensure their self-actualization. I know we can do it. We've got strong support from the government, we've got thorough understanding of the tasks lying ahead," Ostapenko said.
Comparable to the US Space Shuttle, Buran completed only one unmanned spaceflight in 1988, as the Buran program was scrapped in 1993 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and lack of funding.
Soviet shuttle ahead of its time
The Soviet Union's Energia/Buran exceeded the American space shuttle program by practically all capabilities, according to a report prepared by experts of the All-Russian Research Institute of Aviation Materials. The analysis is dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Buran's only performed launch into space.
Buran could stay in orbit for 30 days, while the American shuttle had a 15-day time limit. It could deliver into orbit 30 tonnes of cargo, compared to the US shuttle's 24 tonnes of cargo. It could carry a crew of 10 cosmonauts, while the American shuttle could carry seven astronauts. Preparation for the Energia/Buran launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome only took 15 days. However, it took one month of preparations before the US shuttle was launched from Cape Canaveral.
The Energia rocket booster could be used to launch various payloads into orbit, whereas the American shuttle's booster was one-task. A year and a half before the Buran launch, Energia was launched with a full-scale mock-up of the Skif-DM orbital combat laser platform weighing 77 tonnes, measuring 37 meters long, and over four meters in diameter. Though the mock-up failed to reach the desired orbit and fell into the Pacific, the Energia booster did its job fine, delivering the huge space platform into intermediate orbit, 110 kilometers above the earth's surface.
But the most important difference from the American model was that the Soviet spaceship could perform the flight and landing in totally automatic mode, which it brilliantly demonstrated on November 15, 1988.
Buran's American counterpart used to land with switched-off engines, meaning it could make only one landing attempt. The Soviet spacecraft could take several tries if needed.
When Buran approached Baikonur Cosmodrome and started landing in 1988, its sensors registered too strong side winds and the robotic system sent the huge machine for another rectangular traffic pattern approach, successfully landing the spacecraft on a second try.
The Buran shuttle was designed to perform 100 flights to space, while its engines were ready to do 66 flights without replacement. During its flight, it lost just eight of its unique thermal-insulation tiles out of 38,800.
The Energia/Buran program, which cost 16.5 billion Soviet rubles, lasted 18 years and united over 1,200 industrial sites throughout the Soviet Union.
Thirty-nine principally new materials and around 230 absolutely new technologies were developed during Buran's creation. Most of them are actively used in Russia's aeronautical and space industries today.
But the most important difference from the American model was that the Soviet spaceship could perform the flight and landing in totally automatic mode, which it brilliantly demonstrated on November 15, 1988.
Buran's American counterpart used to land with switched-off engines, meaning it could make only one landing attempt. The Soviet spacecraft could take several tries if needed.
When Buran approached Baikonur Cosmodrome and started landing in 1988, its sensors registered too strong side winds and the robotic system sent the huge machine for another rectangular traffic pattern approach, successfully landing the spacecraft on a second try.
The Buran shuttle was designed to perform 100 flights to space, while its engines were ready to do 66 flights without replacement. During its flight, it lost just eight of its unique thermal-insulation tiles out of 38,800.
The Energia/Buran program, which cost 16.5 billion Soviet rubles, lasted 18 years and united over 1,200 industrial sites throughout the Soviet Union.
Thirty-nine principally new materials and around 230 absolutely new technologies were developed during Buran's creation. Most of them are actively used in Russia's aeronautical and space industries today.
Quelle: Voice of Russia
Update: 18.02.2014

Angara mockup installed on Plesetsk Cosmodrome’s launch pad


The Angara class of rockets comprises four types of vehicles, with payload capacities ranging between 3.7 tones (light class, intended for low orbits) and 28.5 tonnes




A mockup of Russia’s new Angara carrier rocket was taken out of the assembly shop at the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome and installed in the launch pad area, a spokesperson for the Airspace Defense Troops, Colonel Dmitry Zenin, told ITAR-TASS on Monday, February 17.


Angara is one of the priorities in the development of the Plesetsk spaceport. In November 2013, a full-scale mockup of the rocket was for the first time put up at the launch pad. It was a fully operational rocket but intended for ground testing only, not for launching.
He recalled that the Russian president signed a schedule for creating rocket complexes - light-class Angara and heavy-class Angara


Russia’s heavy-class rocket Angara carrying manned spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome, the Amur region in Russia’s Far East, in 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television channel.


“By 2018 we should be absolutely ready, we have such plans and they will be translated into reality,” he said. “We will make a manned flight on heavy-class Angara from the second launch pad of the Vostochny cosmodrome.”


He recalled that the Russian president signed a schedule for creating rocket complexes - light-class Angara and heavy-class Angara.


“Light-class carrier rocket Angara had already been delivered to the Plesetsk cosmodrome (in the Arkhangelsk region, northern Russia). It is now undergoing tests,” Rogozin said. “We plan that already next year we will make the first launch of light-class Angara. In compliance with the schedule this will be May-June 2014. By the end of next year we should launch heavy-class Angara from Plesetsk.
Creation of ground infrastructure for the new rocket and preparing an Angara launch is part of the federal program aimed at developing Russia’s cosmodromes in 2006-2015.
Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Chief Oleg Ostapenko said earlier that work on the Angara carrier rocket was proceeding as scheduled.
“We stick to the schedule. Work is now in progress to create a medium lift launch vehicle and in parallel with that we will move over to the heavy version -- Angara-5. Work is also underway to create the Soyuz-2 rocket and space system, and we plan to use the builders’ capacities for constructing the launch pad for Angara,” Ostapenko said.
A super-heavy lift launch vehicle will be able to carry a payload of 80 tonnes to low-earth orbits. In the future, its capacity can be increased to 160 tonnes and more.
The launch site for super-heavy lift vehicles will be built at Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome now under construction in the Far Eastern Amur Region.
Khrunichev Space Centre Director-General Alexander Seliverstov said that the Angara development had reached the flight test stage and the focus was on finalizing the launch site in Plesetsk.
The Angara 1.2 vehicle was shipped to Plesetsk in late May 2013 to allow adequate time for extensive testing and interface verification efforts being performed prior to the planned launch in the first half of 2014. The Angara 5 vehicle is expected to launch later in 2014, he said.
Seliverstov said that light and heavy versions of Angara rockets would be launched in 2014 and work was proceeding as scheduled.
“The first rocket is to be launched in 2014,” Seliverstov said.
A heavy version of the rocket is being assembled. “Work is proceeding as scheduled. We have to make the heavy version before the end of the year as its launch is scheduled for the end of 2014,” he said last year.
Angara will allow Russia to launch all kinds of spacecraft to any orbit. Now Russia can launch heavy satellites only aboard Proton rockets from Baikonur, which it leases from Kazakhstan for about 115 million U.S. dollars a year.
According to Khrunichev, a big advantage of the new rocket carrier is that “it is a universal space rocket system” capable of taking three types of rockets into space: light with a payload of up to 3.5 tonnes, medium with a payload of up to 14.6 tonnes, and heavy with a payload of up to 24.5 tonnes.
Medium lift and heavy lift launch vehicles can take payloads to the geostationary orbit as well.
The vehicle uses a unique engineering solution: the carrier can be assembled of the same modules. Their maximum number is five in a heavy version, three in a medium version, and one in a light version. They can all be launched form the same pad, not like now at Baikonur where each carrier requires its own launching pad.
The Angara class of rockets comprises four types of vehicles, with payload capacities ranging between 3.7 tones (light class, intended for low orbits) and 28.5 tonnes.
The rockets are based on a universal rocket module powered by the RD-191 engine using kerosene and liquid oxygen. One such module makes up the first stage of the light class Angara 1.1 and Angara 1.2 boosters. Their second stages are different. The medium and heavy class boosters Angara-3 and Angara 4 are an extension of the light class types with additional three or four universal modules. Depending on the specific tasks, the booster can be equipped with the Briz-M or KVRB accelerator units.



Update: 19.02.2014 


New Russian Rocket Mock-Up Rolls Out to Launch Pad

A full-scale mock-up of Russia’s first large post-Soviet rocket has been rolled out to a launch pad at the Plesetsk space center.
The mock-up of the Angara, built by the Khrunichev aerospace research and production center, will be used to test ground support systems ahead of the maiden launch of the vehicle scheduled for later this year.
The Angara is expected to launch both government and commercial satellites either as a single rocket or in several configurations of booster stages clustered together for heavier payloads.
The modular launcher will be able to cover a wide range of payload classes now served by rockets built by a number of Russian manufacturers, including the Proton, the country’s largest booster.
The engine developed for the Angara will burn kerosene and liquid oxygen, which is deemed by an order of magnitude more environmentally friendly than the toxic hydrazine used in the Proton.
The environmental impact of that rocket has soured relations between Russia and Kazakhstan, which leases the Baikonur space center to Russia for $115 million per year.
Russia is building a launch complex for the Angara at the country’s new Vostochny space center in the Far East to reduce dependence on Kazakhstan for space launches.
The Angara will complement the country’s venerable Soyuz manned rocket, currently the only vehicle in the world capable of launching astronauts to the International Space Station.
Last month, Oleg Ostapenko, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said that a decision would be made in the near future about building a new super-heavy rocket that would be, in its expanded form, the largest in world history.


Update: 20.04.2014


The date of the maiden launch of Russia’s new Angara rocket has been set for June 25, an official with the Russian Space Agency told RIA Novosti Friday.

“The launch is set for June 25, with the 26th as a backup date,” the official said.

He added the rocket would be fired without an orbital payload from the Plesetsk space center, located about 800 kilometers north of Moscow.

The Angara family of rockets, in development since 1995, is planned to be built in light, semi-heavy and heavy versions to lift a variety of payloads between 2 and 40 metric tons into low earth orbit.

The rocket has a liquid-oxygen and kerosene powered first stage and hydrogen-oxygen fueled second stage, so-called “green” fuels that will make the rocket both more ecologically friendly and safer for support personnel than the country’s current largest rocket, the Proton.

Angara is designed to complement the country’s venerable Soyuz rocket, currently the only vehicle in the world capable of launching astronauts to the International Space Station.

Quelle: Ria Novosti


Tags: Energia Russia ANGARA rockets 


Sonntag, 20. April 2014 - 21:13 Uhr

Astronomie - KEPLER: Haben wir Erde 2.0 gefunden ?


About 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus lives a star, which, though smaller and redder than the sun, has a planet that may look awfully familiar.

With a diameter just 10 percent bigger than Earth’s, the newly found world is the first of its size found basking in the benign temperature region around a parent star where water, if it exists, could pool in liquid form.

Scientists on the hunt for Earth's twin are focused on worlds that could support liquid surface water, which may be necessary to brew the chemistry of life.

Statistically speaking, Earth-sized planets orbiting in stars’ so-called habitable zones -- not too far away for water to freeze, not too close for it to vaporize -- should be common, recent studies show.

But observations are difficult to come by. NASA’s Kepler space telescope spent four years staring at about 150,000 target stars looking for slight and repeated dips in their light caused by orbiting planets passing by, or transiting, relative to the telescope’s line of sight.

A planet the size of Earth positioned about as far from a host, sun-like star and as far away as Earth orbits the sun would block just 80- to 100 photons of starlight out of every million -- and do so only once every 365 days, notes astronomer Thomas Barclay, with the Kepler science team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

An Earth-sized planet circling a smaller star is an easier target. The newly found world, designated Kepler-186f, obscures about 400 photons of starlight out of every million as it transits its parent star -- and repeats the cycle every 130 days.

“I wouldn’t say this is the ‘bingo’ planet, but this is really one of the major milestones on the road,” Barclay told Discovery News. “This isn’t an Earth twin, but perhaps it’s an Earth cousin.”


Astronomers have announced the groundbreaking discovery of an Earth-sized exoplanet, called Kepler-186f, orbiting a star within its habitable zone. Although this is an exciting finding — and a historic one at that — calling this world “Earth-like” is a little premature.

In fact, Kepler-186f could be completely alien.

In 2011, Discovery News ran a series of articles predicting what scientific breakthroughs were most likely to occur in 2012. In my article “Big Question for 2012: Will We Find Earth 2.0?,” I speculated that, some time in 2012, NASA’s Kepler space telescope would have had enough time to have detected its first bona fide Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star within the habitable zone — the region surrounding a star where water, on a rocky planetary surface, could exist in a liquid state. On Earth, where there's liquid water, there's life, so the quest to find liquid water on another world is key to our quest to find life elsewhere in the Universe.

Alas, although Kepler did indeed have enough time to gather orbital data for many small worlds with Earth-like dimensions around their host stars, that announcement didn’t come in 2012 (or in 2013) — although there were many near-misses.

Today, a little over two years later, exoplanetary science has caught up with the world’s expectations and finally produced a world that, from 500 light-years distant, appears to be a ripe “Earth 2.0″ candidate.

“Previously, the exoplanet most like Earth was Kepler-62f, but Kepler-186f is significantly smaller,” David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Discovery News’ Irene Klotz. “Now we can point to a star and say, ‘There lies an Earth-like planet.’”

Why is Kepler-186f so Special?

During its primary mission, Kepler had a fixed stare on one tiny portion of the sky in the direction of the constellation Cygnus, carefully watching the brightness of 150,000 sun-like stars. Should an exoplanet drift in front of one of those stars, Kepler’s sensitive optics registered it as a very slight dip in brightness, an event known as a “transit.” As these exoplanetary candidates continued to orbit their host stars, Kepler registered more and more transits, leaving astronomers in little doubt that the signal is indeed an orbiting exoplanet and not some other transient dark feature like a “starspot.”

With followup observations by ground-based telescopes, these exoplanetary candidates could then be confirmed and added to the growing tally of confirmed small worlds orbiting other stars. There is little doubt that we are in a “Golden Age” of exoplanetary studies.

To find another planet with all the orbital and physical qualities of Earth, however, is a tall order. The sheer technological precision needed to make these detections is mindboggling, but as Kepler is proving, it is absolutely possible to detect worlds smaller than Earth in orbit around stars hundreds of light-years away.

And Kepler-186f has all the attributes that makes us believe that it is a world not so dissimilar to Earth: it orbits a sun-like star (well, the star Kepler-186 is a little smaller and redder than the sun), is approximately the same physical size as our planet (just 10 percent bigger) and has an orbit of 130-days, putting it right on the outside edge of its star’s habitable zone. But it takes more than a planet’s orbit and size to make it truly “Earth-like.”

Exo-Artistic License

As you may have noticed by the vivid artistic renderings of Kepler-186f accompanying today’s announcement, the perceived life-giving potential of Kepler-186f is obvious. The view is from the planet’s surface, looking up at its host star with other planets in the multi-planetary system in tow. On the planet’s surface is an ocean lined with tree-like vegetation. There’s another rendering (pictured top) of a blue world with a thick atmosphere and white fluffy clouds.

The message is clear: ‘This is just like Earth; it’s a planet in another part of the galaxy capable of supporting life as we know it.’

But just as our solar system is a great example of possessing a life-giving world orbiting inside its habitable zone (Earth), there’s two other examples of biologically ‘dead’ planets that orbit inside the sun’s habitable zone: Venus and Mars.

Although we are currently on a quest to work out whether Mars has ever had the potential to support basic forms of life, it’s pretty clear from studies of the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere and radiation-drenched surface that it is not particularly cozy for life. As for Venus (which, coincidentally, is almost the same physical size as Earth), it has an acidic atmosphere that is undergoing a crazy greenhouse effect that literally destroys water molecules. Neither of these “habitable zone” examples are, well, particularly habitable for life as we know it.

So how do we know that Kepler-186f has white fluffy clouds and pine tree-lined coastlines? Hint: We don’t.

We currently have no means to study this fascinating world’s atmosphere, let alone understand whether it has life-giving potential.

“Being in the habitable zone does not mean we know this planet is habitable,” cautions Thomas Barclay, research scientist at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute at NASA Ames, in a NASA news release. “The temperature on the planet is strongly dependent on what kind of atmosphere the planet has.

“Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth.”

In the future, space telescopes are planned to directly image worlds orbiting other stars, potentially measuring high-resolution spectra of atmospheric compositions. Until then, we won’t know whether Kepler-186f is a barren Mars-like world or a choked Venus-like world. Perhaps it’s a completely alien place that cannot even be compered with any other solar system example.

These concerns over the “Earth-like” moniker to one side, the fact that we are even able to have a clue about an alien planet’s life giving potential is profound. Kepler-186f has just become the poster child for interstellar studies and a prime astronomical target for future observing campaigns — it will also likely be mainstream press headline fodder for some time to come. For now, it’s best to take the term “Earth-like” in the spirit and excitement that it inspires — even though it may not be scientifically accurate.

So, for me, for now, Kepler-186f is “Earth-like” enough — it just carries some huge caveats.

Quelle: D-News


Donnerstag, 17. April 2014 - 08:11 Uhr

Astronomie - Blick auf eine Wasserstoffwolke namens Gum 41


Diese neue Aufnahme vom Wide Field Image (WFI) am MPG/ESO 2,2-Meter-Teleskop am La Silla-Observatorium in Chile gibt den Blick auf eine Wasserstoffwolke namens Gum 41 und neugeborene Sterne frei. Im Zentrum des wenig bekannten Nebels geben leuchtkräftige heiße junge Sterne energiereiche Strahlung ab, die den Wasserstoff in der Umgebung dazu bringt in einem charakteristischen roten Farbton zu leuchten.


Diese neue Aufnahme vom La Silla-Observatorium in Chile gibt den Blick auf eine Wasserstoffwolke namens Gum 41 frei. In der Mitte des wenig bekannten Nebels geben leuchtkräftige heiße junge Sterne energiereiche Strahlung ab, die den Wasserstoff in der Umgebung dazu bringt in einem charakteristischen roten Farbton zu leuchten.

Diese Himmelsregion im Sternbild Centaurus (der Zentaur) beherbergt viele helle Nebel, die zu heißen neugeborenen Sternen gehören, die aus Wasserstoffgaswolken entstanden sind. Die intensive Strahlung der jungen Sterne regt den verbliebenen Wasserstoff um sie herum an und bringt so das Gas in einem bestimmten Rotton zum Leuchten, der typisch für Sternentstehungsregionen ist. Ein anderes bekanntes Beispiel dieses Phänomens ist der Lagunennebel (eso0936), eine riesige Wolke mit ähnlich hellen Rottönen.

Der Nebel in diesem Bild befindet sich etwa 7300 Lichtjahre von der Erde entfernt. Der australische Astronom Colin Gum entdeckte ihn auf einer Fotografie, die am Mount Stromlo-Observatorium in der Nähe von Canberra aufgenommen wurde und fügte sie zu seinem Katalog von 84 Emissionsnebeln hinzu, der 1955 veröffentlicht wurde. Gum 41 ist eigentlich ein kleiner Teil eines größeren Objekts mit dem Namen Lambda Centauri-Nebel, der im Englischen auch unter dem exotischeren Namen Running Chicken Nebula bekannt ist (von dem ein anderer Teil Gegenstand von eso1135 war). Gum starb im jungen Alter in einem Skiunfall in der Schweiz im Jahr 1960.

In dieser Aufnahme von Gum 41 erscheinen die Wolken ziemlich dicht und hell, was aber ein Trugschluss ist. Wenn ein hypothetischer Raumfahrer durch diesen Nebel fliegen würde, ist es wahrscheinlich, dass er ihn gar nicht bemerken würde, denn – sogar aus der Nähe – wäre er zu lichtschwach um vom menschlichen Auge wahrgenommen zu werden. Dies erklärt auch, warum dieses große Objekt bis zur Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts auf seine Entdeckung warten musste – sein Licht ist stark ausgedünnt und das rote Leuchten ist im visuellen Bereich schlecht sichtbar.

Dieses neue Portrait von Gum 41 – wahrscheinlich eines der bisher besten von diesem schwer fassbaren Objekt – wurde aus Daten des Wide Field Imager (WFI) am MPG/ESO 2,2-Meter-Teleskop am La-Silla-Observatorium in Chile erstellt. Es ist eine Kombination von Bildern, die durch einen Blau-, Rot- und Grünfilter aufgenommen wurden, zusammen mit Aufnahmen mit Hilfe eines speziellen Filters, der dafür entwickelt wurde das rote Leuchten von Wasserstoff herauszufiltern.


Diese Aufsuchkarte zeigt eine Wasserstoffwolke namens Gum 41 mit neugeborenen Sternen im Sternbild Centaurus (der Zentaur). Die Karte zeigt die meisten Sterne, die mit bloßem Auge unter guten Bedingungen sichtbar sind. Die Position des Nebels ist mit einem roten Kreis markiert. Dieses Objekt ist Teil des größeren Lambda Centauri-Nebels. Gum 41 ist sehr lichtschwach und wurde erst in der Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts fotografisch entdeckt.

Quelle: ESO

Tags: Astronomie 


Mittwoch, 16. April 2014 - 22:55 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erfolgreicher Start von Sojus-U-Rakete mit EgyptSat-2 Satelliten am 16.April


Problems may delay Egyptian satellite launch by Soyuz-U 
MOSCOW. Technical problems with the Egyptian Earth observation satellite EgyptSat-2 may delay its launch by a Soyuz-U LV from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan.
"The problems were detected in pre-launch electrical tests of the satellite," a Baikonur source told Interfax-AVN. "Hence, the launch may be delayed until a later date."
Specialists are trying to resolve the problem in the operative regime, the source added.
The satellite launch by a Soyuz-U LV was scheduled for 8:20 p.m. on April 16.
The Energia Corporation built EgyptSat-2 at the order of the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.
The high-resolution satellite will film the Earth with a one-meter resolution in the panchromatic regime and a four-meter resolution in the multispectral regime (infrared).
EgyptSat-2 weighs over a tonne. It will be deployed into an orbit of about 700 kilometers and will have a service life of at least eleven years.
Quelle: Interfax

EgyptSat-2 Ready to Launch Wednesday Atop Soyuz-U Booster

Atop its Soyuz-U booster, EgyptSat-2 is transferred to Site 31/6 at Baikonur on Monday, 14 April. Photo Credit: Roscosmos


Egypt will launch its second remote-sensing satellite into orbit tomorrow (Wednesday, 16 April) atop Russia’s Soyuz-U booster from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The EgyptSat-2 mission is currently scheduled to get underway from Site 31/6 at 10:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EDT) and, following , a nine-minute ascent, will be delivered into an operational orbit of 435 x 435 miles (700 x 700 km), inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator. Configured with a similar payload shroud to that used by Progress cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS), this is expected to be the last flight of a non-Progress Soyuz-U, before the vehicle is retired in 2015 and replaced by the new Soyuz 2-1A.
EgyptSat-2—also known as “MisrSat-2″—arrived at Baikonur aboard an An-124 transport aircraft in late February to begin final processing for a mission which has already been extensively delayed, due to the failure of its predecessor. EgyptSat-1 was launched into orbit in April 2007, atop a Dnepr rocket from Baikonur. It was equipped with an infrared sensing device and high-resolution multispectral imager, together with a store-and-forward communications payload. It was deposited successfully into a Sun-synchronous orbit, at an altitude of about 410 miles (660 km), inclined 98.1 degrees to the equator. Built jointly by Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) and Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, it was the first time that the Arab nation had opted for “technology transfer” during the satellite manufacturing process, rather than simply purchasing the product, as it had done with the NileSat series of communications satellites
Upon arrival in orbit, the 364-pound (165 kg) EgyptSat-1 was intended to operate for five years and successfully acquired around 5,000 images at ground resolutions of about 25.6 feet (7.8 meters). However, in July 2010, a failure of its S-band communications system forced a premature end to the mission. As a direct result of this failure, in 2011 it was decided to place EgyptSat-2 on hold as the investigative process got underway. At length, the second mission was tentatively scheduled for launch in 2013, but this target was postponed several times. By the time the 2,300-pound (1,050 kg) satellite finally arrived at Baikonur in February 2014, processing of the Soyuz-U were already well advanced. It was noted by NARSS Director Ayman Ad-Dosouqi that 60 percent of EgyptSat-2′s hardware was made by Egypt.
Over the following weeks, EgyptSat-2 underwent extensive testing and was integrated with its Progress-type payload shroud. On Monday, 14 April, atop the Soyuz-U, it was rolled horizontally from the assembly building to Baikonur’s Site 31/6 launch complex, where the vehicle was raised to a vertical orientation. Assuming that other pre-launch milestones are completed satisfactorily, the loading of propellants into the Soyuz-U will get underway about four hours ahead of Wednesday’s launch, when liquid oxygen and a refined form of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1″) are pumped into the four tapering strap-on boosters, the core stage and the upper stage. About 60 minutes later, the cryogenics will enter “replenishment” mode, being continually topped up to flight levels until shortly before the scheduled launch time.
According to Spaceflight101, the Soyuz-U’s guidance will be unlocked at T-1 hour, after which the vehicle’s flight software will be unloaded. About 15 minutes later, the service structure will be retracted and the last engineers and technicians will clear the launch pad. At T-6 minutes, the booster will enter its automated countdown sequence, during which time the ordnance to support the launch will be enabled, the first-stage engines will be purged with nitrogen and cryogenic will be topped-off for the final time. At T-10 seconds, the turbopumps on the central core and the four tapering boosters will awaken and the engines will steadily build up thrust to full power, producing a retraction of the fueling tower and a liftoff into the darkened Baikonur sky at 10:20 p.m. local time (12:20 p.m. EDT).
Rising rapidly, the vehicle will pass 1,100 mph (1,770 km/h) within a minute of launch and at T+118 seconds, at an altitude of 28 miles (45 km), the four strap-on boosters will exhaust their propellant and be jettisoned. This will leave the central core and its single RD-118 engine to continue the push into orbit. By two minutes into the flight, the Soyuz-U will be traveling at more than 3,350 mph (5,390 km/h). The payload shroud will be discarded shortly thereafter and, four minutes and 45 seconds after leaving Baikonur, the core stage will separate at an altitude of 105 miles (170 km). The single RD-0110 engine of the final stage will then roar to life to boost EgyptSat-2 into orbit. Due to the fact that the satellite is far lighter than Russia’s Progress cargo vehicles, it was noted by Spaceflight101 that this launch will feature a “direct ascent” into the 435-mile (700 km) planned altitude, after which the vehicle will execute a “pitch-down” maneuver for circularization.
EgyptSat-2 is a hexagonal satellite, equipped with three deployable, fixed solar arrays, together with nickel-hydrogen batteries, and is expected to remain operational for approximately 11 years. Its optical imaging payload will cover the visible and infrared spectral bands, providing a ground resolution of 13.1 feet (4 meters) for multispectral imagery and 3.3 feet (1 meter) for panchromatic imagery. Key objectives include total coverage of Egypt’s land and maritime territory and their environs for the purposes of mapping, environmental monitoring and disaster management. Data will be transmitted through an X-band communications terminal at a rate of 300-600 Mbits/sec to ground stations located near Cairo in the north of Egypt and Aswan in the south. Another satellite, DesertSat, with a spatial resolution of 8 feet (2.5 meters) and a specific focus upon desert resources, is scheduled for launch in 2017.
Quelle: AS
Update: 22.55 MESZ

Russian rocket with Egypt telecommunications satellite to be launched from Baikonur

This will be the second Egyptian telecommunications satellite equipped with advanced technologies for taking visible-range and infrared photographs
A Russian rocket Soyuz-U with Egyptian telecommunications satellite Egypt-sat is due to be launched from the 31st launching pad of spaceport Baikonur on Wednesday, a source in Russian space agency Roscosmos told ITAR-TASS.

“The launch is scheduled at 8.20pm Moscow time (4.20pm GMT) on Wednesday, the satellite is due to separate from the rocket at 8.28pm (4.28pm GMT),” the source said.

This will be the second Egyptian telecommunications satellite equipped with advanced technologies for taking visible-range and infrared photographs. The data will be used in agricultural, geological and ecological research.

The first telecommunications satellite Egypt-sat-1 was launched from spaceport Baikonur on April 17, 2007. However, the contact with it was lost in 2011. Egyptian specialists said then that this was an experimental project with an expected satellite’s service life of no more than three years. Scientists affirm that the new satellite can fulfil its tasks for more than five years.




A Russian Soyuz-U rocket was launched from Site 31/6 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday. In what is expected to the last “non Progress” launch of this variant of Soyuz, an Egyptian spacecraft – known as EgyptSat-2 – enjoyed a ride uphill on the Russian workhorse. Launch occurred on schedule at 16:20 UTC.

Frams: Roscosmos-Start-Video:

Quelle: Roscosmos


Mittwoch, 16. April 2014 - 10:37 Uhr

Raumfahrt - SpaceX Mega-Rakete hat nächstes Jahr Debüt auf Rampe 39A


NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell and Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana speak to reporters at launch pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper


SpaceX signed a 20-year lease Monday to operate and maintain one of Kennedy Space Center's historic launch pads, and the California-based company plans to debut the world's most powerful rocket at the facility next year.

The agreement turns over control of Launch Complex 39A to the commercial space transportation firm, which plans to use the launch pad for the the initial flights of the Falcon Heavy, a mega-rocket featuring 27 first stage engines generating nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
Pad 39A was the starting point for many historic Apollo and space shuttle missions, including the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 and the first and last shuttle launches in 1981 and 2011.
"We'll make great use of this pad, I promise," said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, in remarks to the media moments after signing the lease. "We've had architects and our launch site engineering [team] working for many months on the sidelines. We will launch the Falcon Heavy from here first -- from this pad -- early next year."
Shotwell said pad 39A would also host launches of astronauts aboard the crewed version of SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which is under development in a public-private partnership between the company and NASA.
SpaceX is competing with Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Corp. to win another round of government funding to continue development of their human-rated spacecraft, culminating in crewed missions by 2017.
Launch pad 39A becomes SpaceX's third launching base after an existing complex on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station a few miles to the south and a West Coast facility for flights into polar orbit at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets have flown eight times -- seven launches from Cape Canaveral and one flight from Vandenberg.
Without going into detail, Shotwell said SpaceX would make some modifications to pad 39A but leave historic elements of the complex, which has sat mostly untouched since the space shuttle Atlantis rocketed into orbit on July 8, 2011, to begin its last mission.
The turnover of pad 39A marks another milestone in the space center's transformation following the retirement of the space shuttle. Lockheed Martin Corp. set up a factory for the Orion crew exploration vehicle inside KSC's Operations and Checkout Building, and Boeing plans to concentrate construction and processing of its CST-100 commercial crew capsule and the U.S. Air Force's unmanned X-37B space plane in two former space shuttle hangars.
A view of the flame trench at launch pad 39A. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper
SpaceX will operate and maintain pad 39A at its own expense, according to a NASA press release. NASA was spending about $1 million annually on upkeep for the launch pad.
NASA officials see no need for pad 39A in its space exploration plans. Nearby Launch Complex 39B received a facelift over the last four years, which saw the demolition of its shuttle-era servicing towers, refurbishment of plumbing and propellant tanks, and modernization of its electrical and communications network.
Pad 39B will be home to NASA's Space Launch System, a government-owned heavy-lift rocket that will launch astronaut crews on deep space expeditions. NASA plans its first destination to be an asteroid repositioned by a robotic spacecraft in a stable orbit near the moon.
The first unmanned test launch of the SLS is scheduled before the end of 2017.
Shotwell said SpaceX plans to build a new hangar near launch pad 39A to assemble rockets horizontally before transferring the launchers to the pad and lifting them atop a launch platform for liftoff.
The Falcon Heavy is SpaceX's biggest booster. It is powered by three kerosene-fueled first stages and an upper stage derived from the Falcon 9 rocket.
Each Falcon 9 first stage is powered by nine Merlin 1D engines. The Falcon Heavy, which uses a combined 28 engines, will be the most powerful space launcher in the world when it first flies in 2015.
SpaceX says the Falcon Heavy can lift nearly 117,000 pounds, or 53 metric tons, into low Earth orbit and shoot 29,000 pounds of payload on a trajectory to Mars. When fueled for launch, the rocket will weigh more than 1,600 tons.
The Falcon Heavy's inaugural flight was scheduled from Vandenberg Air Force Base, but the acquisition of launch pad 39A allows SpaceX to move the mission from California to Florida.
Artist's concept of the Falcon Heavy. Photo credit: SpaceX
"Until yesterday, we didn't actually have pad 39A," said Emily Shanklin, a SpaceX spokesperson, in an email response to questions. "Once the lease was signed, it became the option that made the most sense. Our first heavy missions are out of the Cape, and 39A will feature vertical integration as well, which is required by the military."
The U.S. Air Force requires its most precious payloads to be attached to their rockets in a vertical orientation. SpaceX's current processing paradigm uses horizontal integration, where satellites are bolted to the launch vehicle inside a hangar, then the rocket rolls to the launch pad and is hoisted upright within hours of liftoff.
SpaceX is seeking to break into the market to launch pricey Defense Department and intelligence missions. United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, currently launches all of the military's large satellites on Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets.
The Air Force set aside 14 missions for competition between ULA and SpaceX -- and any other company wishing to bid -- over the next few years, but budget cuts and delays threaten to cut that number to fewer launches open for bidding.
The military's insistence that its payloads be integrated with rockets vertically, an overlooked point in recent congressional hearings and debates on the future of the U.S. launch market, has forced SpaceX to rethink its concept of operations.
Vertical integration requires the presence of a fixed or mobile tower at the launch pad, giving cranes and workers access to lift and attach satellites to the rocket.
Launch pad 39A's fixed service structure, a holdover from the space shuttle era, would fit the requirement.
NASA selected SpaceX to enter negotiations to use pad 39A in December after a protest from Blue Origin, a private rocket company owned by founder Jeff Bezos, challenging the fairness of the space agency's search for a tenant to assume control of the launch complex.
Blue Origin claimed NASA expressed a preference for the future tenant of pad 39A to support a multi-user concept, in which several different rockets could utilize the facility.
File photo of the launch of space shuttle Atlantis from pad 39A on the final shuttle mission. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tom Farrar
The Government Accountability Office in December decided NASA had expressed no preference for either a multiple-user or an exclusive agreement for the launch pad. NASA announced its selection of SpaceX the day after the GAO rendered its decision.
NASA officials say they will make launch pad 39B available to commercial users when it is not needed by the Space Launch System.
The first two SLS flights are scheduled for 2017 and 2021 -- the first crewed launch -- so NASA officials say such a long gap will create an opportunity for other rockets to use launch pad 39B.
The SLS will only stay at the launch pad for three-to-five days after rollout from KSC's massive Vehicle Assembly Building before liftoff, ensuring a minimal footprint and few scheduling conflicts for potential commercial users, officials said.
Quelle: SN
NASA Signs Agreement with SpaceX for Use of Historic Launch Pad
NASA Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39A, the site from which numerous Apollo and space shuttle missions began, is beginning a new mission as a commercial launch site.
NASA signed a property agreement with Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., on Monday for use and occupancy of the seaside complex along Florida's central east coast. It will serve as a platform for SpaceX to support their commercial launch activities.
"It's exciting that this storied NASA launch pad is opening a new chapter for space exploration and the commercial aerospace industry," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "While SpaceX will use pad 39A at Kennedy, about a mile away on pad 39B, we're preparing for our deep space missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The parallel pads at Kennedy perfectly exemplify NASA's parallel path for human spaceflight exploration -- U.S. commercial companies providing access to low-Earth orbit and NASA deep space exploration missions at the same time."
Under a 20-year agreement, SpaceX will operate and maintain the facility at its own expense.
"SpaceX is the world’s fastest growing launch services provider," said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX. "With nearly 50 missions on manifest, SpaceX will maximize the use of pad 39A to the benefit of both the commercial launch industry as well as the American taxpayer."
The reuse of pad 39A is part of NASA’s work to transform the Kennedy Space Center into a 21st century launch complex capable of supporting both government and commercial users. At the same time, NASA and Lockheed Martin are assembling the agency’s first Orion spacecraft in the Operations and Checkout building while preparing Kennedy's infrastructure for the Space Launch System rocket, which will lift off from the center's Launch Complex 39B and send American astronauts into deep space, including to an asteroid and eventually Mars.
"Kennedy Space Center is excited to welcome SpaceX to our growing list of partners," Center Director Bob Cabana said. "As we continue to reconfigure and repurpose these tremendous facilities, it is gratifying to see our plan for a multi-user spaceport shared by government and commercial partners coming to fruition."
Launch Complex 39A originally was designed to support NASA’s Apollo Program and later modified to support the Space Shuttle Program. Because of the transition from the shuttle program to NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion programs, the agency does not have a need for the complex to support future missions.
Pad 39A was first used to launch Apollo 4 on Nov. 9, 1967; it is the site where Apollo 11 lifted off from on the first manned moon landing in 1969; and the pad was last used for space shuttle Atlantis' launch to the International Space Station on July 11, 2011 for the STS-135 mission, the final shuttle flight. This agreement with SpaceX ensures the pad will be used for the purpose it was built -- launching spacecraft. 
Quelle: NASA


Mittwoch, 16. April 2014 - 09:07 Uhr

Astronomie - Sonnenflecken-Beobachtung im April


Unter Einsatz des Nebelwolken-Filtereffekt konnte ich nachfolgende Fotos der Sonnenflecken machen:





Fotos: ©-hjkc

Tags: Sonnenflecken-Beobachtung im April 


Mittwoch, 16. April 2014 - 08:58 Uhr

Astronomie - Die Wasserwelt Theorie für des Lebens Ursprung


Michael Russell and Laurie Barge of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are pictured in their Icy Worlds laboratory, where they mimic the conditions of Earth billions of years ago, attempting to answer the question of how life first arose. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet's living kingdoms. How did it all begin?
A new study from researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the Icy Worlds team at NASA's Astrobiology Institute, based at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While the scientists had already proposed this hypothesis -- called "submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life" -- the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory and theoretical research into a grand, unified picture.
According to the findings, which also can be thought of as the "water world" theory, life may have begun inside warm, gentle springs on the sea floor, at a time long ago when Earth's oceans churned across the entire planet. This idea of hydrothermal vents as possible places for life's origins was first proposed in 1980 by other researchers, who found them on the sea floor near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Called "black smokers," those vents bubble with scalding hot, acidic fluids. In contrast, the vents in the new study -- first hypothesized by scientist Michael Russell of JPL in 1989 -- are gentler, cooler and percolate with alkaline fluids. One such towering complex of these alkaline vents was found serendipitously in the North Atlantic Ocean in 2000, and dubbed the Lost City.
"Life takes advantage of unbalanced states on the planet, which may have been the case billions of years ago at the alkaline hydrothermal vents," said Russell. "Life is the process that resolves these disequilibria." Russell is lead author of the new study, published in the April issue of the journal Astrobiology.
Other theories of life's origins describe ponds, or "soups," of chemicals, pockmarking Earth's battered, rocky surface. In some of those chemical soup models, lightning or ultraviolet light is thought to have fueled life in the ponds.
The water world theory from Russell and his team says that the warm, alkaline hydrothermal vents maintained an unbalanced state with respect to the surrounding ancient, acidic ocean -- one that could have provided so-called free energy to drive the emergence of life. In fact, the vents could have created two chemical imbalances. The first was a proton gradient, where protons -- which are hydrogen ions -- were concentrated more on the outside of the vent's chimneys, also called mineral membranes. The proton gradient could have been tapped for energy -- something our own bodies do all the time in cellular structures called mitochondria.
The second imbalance could have involved an electrical gradient between the hydrothermal fluids and the ocean. Billions of years ago, when Earth was young, its oceans were rich with carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide from the ocean and fuels from the vent -- hydrogen and methane -- met across the chimney wall, electrons may have been transferred. These reactions could have produced more complex carbon-containing, or organic compounds -- essential ingredients of life as we know it. Like proton gradients, electron transfer processes occur regularly in mitochondria.
"Within these vents, we have a geological system that already does one aspect of what life does," said Laurie Barge, second author of the study at JPL. "Life lives off proton gradients and the transfer of electrons."
As is the case with all advanced life forms, enzymes are the key to making chemical reactions happen. In our ancient oceans, minerals may have acted like enzymes, interacting with chemicals swimming around and driving reactions. In the water world theory, two different types of mineral "engines" might have lined the walls of the chimney structures.
"These mineral engines may be compared to what's in modern cars," said Russell.
"They make life 'go' like the car engines by consuming fuel and expelling exhaust. DNA and RNA, on the other hand, are more like the car's computers because they guide processes rather than make them happen."
One of the tiny engines is thought to have used a mineral known as green rust, allowing it to take advantage of the proton gradient to produce a phosphate-containing molecule that stores energy. The other engine is thought to have depended on a rare metal called molybdenum. This metal also is at work in our bodies, in a variety of enzymes. It assists with the transfer of two electrons at a time rather than the usual one, which is useful in driving certain key chemical reactions.
"We call molybdenum the Douglas Adams element," said Russell, explaining that the atomic number of molybdenum is 42, which also happens to be the answer to the "ultimate question of life, the universe and everything" in Adams' popular book, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Russell joked, "Forty-two may in fact be one answer to the ultimate question of life!"
The team's origins of life theory applies not just to Earth but also to other wet, rocky worlds.
"Michael Russell's theory originated 25 years ago and, in that time, JPL space missions have found strong evidence for liquid water oceans and rocky sea floors on Europa and Enceladus," said Barge. "We have learned much about the history of water on Mars, and soon we may find Earth-like planets around faraway stars. By testing this origin-of-life hypothesis in the lab at JPL, we may explain how life might have arisen on these other places in our solar system or beyond, and also get an idea of how to look for it."
For now, the ultimate question of whether the alkaline hydrothermal vents are the hatcheries of life remains unanswered. Russell says the necessary experiments are jaw-droppingly difficult to design and carry out, but decades later, these are problems he and his team are still happy to tackle.
Quelle:The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.


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