Samstag, 23. August 2014 - 23:41 Uhr

Astronomie - Im Focus von Cassini : Saturn


Ring King
Saturn reigns supreme, encircled by its retinue of rings.
Although all four giant planets have ring systems, Saturn's is by far the most massive and impressive. Scientists are trying to understand why by studying how the rings have formed and how they have evolved over time.
Also seen in this image is Saturn's famous north polar vortex and hexagon.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 37 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 4, 2014 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2 million miles (3 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 110 miles (180 kilometers) per pixel.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.
Quelle: NASA


Samstag, 23. August 2014 - 14:57 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Flug-Anomalie bei Experimentelle SpaceX Rakete Flugtest löst Selbstzerstörung aus


A SpaceX F9R PROTOTYPE rocket exploded during a flight test in the skies over Texas on Friday, August 22 when an anomaly was detected in-flight. Photo CREDIT: Amanda Spence


By definition, flight tests are expected to validate a vehicle’s ability to fly as designed and reveal any issues, whether good or bad, as doing so provides the data needed to support further development of a safe and effective flight system, and Friday afternoon spectators in Texas were present to witness one such example when the company’s prototype Falcon-9 Reusable Development Vehicle (F9R Dev for short) exploded in-flight.
The flight test was the latest in a series of launches over the last couple years carried out by the Hawthorne, Calif – based company at their 900-acre McGregor, Texas rocket development test site. SpaceX founder & CEO Elon Musk sells his rocket company’s launch services on its affordability, a fact that is heavily dependent on the future reusability of the Falcon-9 launch system. If SpaceX wants to provide the market with a truly reusable, and consequently much cheaper rocket, then the company needs to design and develop it all from the ground up. SpaceX isn’t just focused on F9′s reusability either, they want to go a big step further and return their rockets to the launch site under the vehicle’s own power minutes after liftoff, which would (in theory) allow for a rapid turnaround between FLIGHTS.
“With RESEARCH and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program,” said SpaceX in a statement released Friday evening. “Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test. As is our practice, the company will be reviewing the flight record details to learn more about the performance of the vehicle prior to our next test.”
Quelle: AS


Samstag, 23. August 2014 - 14:29 Uhr

Astronomie - Voyager Detail-Karte von merkwürdigen Neptun Mond Triton


The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Triton, a moon of Neptune, in the summer of 1989. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute


NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" and used to construct the best-ever global color map of that strange moon. The map, produced by Paul Schenk, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, has also been used to make a movie recreating that historic Voyager encounter, which took place 25 years ago, on August 25, 1989.
The new Triton map has a resolution of 1,970 feet (600 meters) per pixel. The colors have been enhanced to bring out contrast but are a close approximation to Triton's natural colors. Voyager's "eyes" saw in colors slightly different from human eyes, and this map was produced using orange, green and blue filter images.
In 1989, most of the northern hemisphere was in darkness and unseen by Voyager. Because of the speed of Voyager's visit and the slow rotation of Triton, only one hemisphere was seen clearly at close distance. The rest of the surface was either in darkness or seen as blurry markings.
The production of the new Triton map was inspired by anticipation of NASA's New Horizons encounter with Pluto, coming up a little under a year from now. Among the improvements on the map are updates to the accuracy of feature locations, sharpening of feature details by removing some of the blurring effects of the camera, and improved color processing.
Although Triton is a moon of a planet and Pluto is a dwarf planet, Triton serves as a preview of sorts for the upcoming Pluto encounter. Although both bodies originated in the outer solar system, Triton was captured by Neptune and has undergone a radically different thermal history than Pluto. Tidal heating has likely melted the interior of Triton, producing the volcanoes, fractures and other geological features that Voyager saw on that bitterly cold, icy surface.
Pluto is unlikely to be a copy of Triton, but some of the same types of features may be present. Triton is slightly larger than Pluto, has a very similar internal density and bulk composition, and has the same low-temperature volatiles frozen on its surface. The surface composition of both bodies includes carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen ices.
Voyager also discovered atmospheric plumes on Triton, making it one of the known active bodies in the outer solar system, along with objects such as Jupiter's moon Io and Saturn's moon Enceladus. Scientists will be looking at Pluto next year to see if it will join this list. They will also be looking to see how Pluto and Triton compare and contrast, and how their different histories have shaped the surfaces we see.
Although a fast flyby, New Horizons' Pluto encounter on July 14, 2015, will not be a replay of Voyager but more of a sequel and a reboot, with a new and more technologically advanced spacecraft and, more importantly, a new cast of characters. Those characters are Pluto and its family of five known moons, all of which will be seen up close for the first time next summer.
Triton may not be a perfect preview of coming attractions, but it serves as a prequel to the cosmic blockbuster expected when New Horizons arrives at Pluto next year.
Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 22. August 2014 - 08:55 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Von der Schweiz aus, mit Swiss Spaceflight S3 ins All starten











Update: 8.10.2013


Spaceport Colorado lands agreement with Swiss space company
Spaceport Colorado will serve as Swiss Space Systems' North American headquarters, marking the first foreign-based company to commit to the regional enterprise and helping to validate the effort.
The Switzerland-based company, known as S3, signed a memorandum of understanding with representatives from the Colorado coalition after meeting with the team last month.
Spaceport Colorado is a statewide initiative to create an aerospace hub at Front Range Airport in Adams County that is designed to attract high-tech research, commercial space development and eventually the creation of a horizontal launch pad for space transport.
But the enterprise is currently undergoing feasibility and environmental studies and still must gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration when it submits its license application by the end of the year.
"It validates what we are trying to do. A private company has evaluated options around the country and has decided Spaceport Colorado is going to be their headquarters," said Barry Gore, president and CEO of Adams County Economic Development.
S3 is developing a flight system similar to what Virgin Galactic is developing with SpaceShipTwo in California and New Mexico. Instead of offering space tourism, however, the company will use its suborbital spaceplane — called SOAR — to deploy small satellites on a suborbital trajectory.
"Colorado is one of the key states in aerospace, and we were happy with the speed of negotiations and the collaboration already," said Grégoire Loretan, S3's head of communications.
According to Loretan, the company's first phase of operations in Colorado will focus on courting contacts within the small satellite sector and collaborating with the state's universities on microgravity research.
Ken Lawson, the interim director of aviation at Front Range Airport, said S3 plans to lease space at the airport.
"I think it establishes that Colorado is a player in the spaceport industry," Lawson said.
S3 hopes to achieve horizontal launch with its small satellites deployment system by 2018. However, Front Range Airport must improve its runway in length, strength and width if it wants to accommodate the company's proposed flight system.
S3's system requires an Airbus A300 to take off from the runway with an unmanned space plane on its back, which it would then release more than 10 kilometers above Earth. The Airbus would return to the airport while the space plane boosts itself to above 80 kilometers, at which time it would catapult a satellite, weighing no more than 250 kilograms, into orbit 700 kilometers above the planet.
The unmanned space plane would land back on the runway and be reused for another mission.
S3 says this system offers satellite deployment services at a quarter of the current market cost because it is reusable and relies on cheaper fuel than vertical launch systems. S3 estimates it would charge about $11 million for a 250 kilogram satellite.
Loretan expects customers from a diverse range of interests, including scientific research institutions, medical companies and weather monitoring organizations.
Quelle: The Denver Post


Update: 13.10.2013


Spaceport Colorado and S3 Sign Memorandum of Understanding

Denver (Watkins), CO - October 8, 2013 - Spaceport Colorado today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with S3, an aerospace company that designs and engineers suborbital launch systems, formalizing a collaborative relationship and advancing the spaceport’s long-term development and licensing plans.

S3 is a Swiss-headquartered company now developing its presence in the United States to serve the North American market. By designating Colorado as a location for S3’s transformative expansion within the United States, the state is positioned to remain a global aerospace competitor. According to the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), the aerospace industry contributes roughly $8.7 billion to the state economy.


“We believe Spaceport Coloradowill make an ideal hub for our U.S. expansion and will complete what we are doing elsewhere in the country and globally,” said Pascal Jaussi, CEO and founder of S3. “The dynamic aerospace industry, pro-business climate and innovative spirit will foster the growth of our technologies and operations within the United States.”


Spaceport Colorado is designed to serve as an aerospace and technology-driven economic engine for the state and the nation. “In collaborating with S3, we’re adding a new asset to what already exists,” said Ken Lawson, Interim Director of Aviation. “S3’s profoundly important decision to bring operations to Spaceport Colorado paves the way for additional innovative aerospace companies to relocate to Adams County and Colorado.”


After a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is signed later this year, S3 intends to deploy a business model that focuses on small satellites and research-oriented micro-gravity operations, and eventually offer satellite deployment and commercial space activities. S3 will work closely with Colorado’s leading universities, as well as providing support and integration with new space companies.


“We believe S3 and its long-term sustainable growth model would be a strong asset for Colorado’s aerospace industry,” said Ken Lund, Executive Director of OEDIT. “With the nation’s second-largest aerospace economy and a wealth of commercial, civil, and military space assets, Colorado has been and remains to be a strategic location for the space industry.”


Spaceport Colorado has cleared all initial hurdles in the licensing process and is currently conducting preliminary planning and feasibility studies with HDR for validation. A spaceport license is expected to be awarded in 2014.


“We are extremely pleased that S3 has decided to initiate aerospace activities in the US, and that they have chosen Spaceport Colorado as one of their bases of operations,” said Michael Miller, HDR Project Director. “We feel very fortunate that our team was able to facilitate discussions between the State of Colorado, S3, and the Spaceport, which resulted in a signed memorandum with S3.”

Swiss company Spacepharma SA signs a contract with S3 which plans the launch of 28 satellites, together

The aerospace company S3 and the Spacepharma SA enterprise, specialised in solutions for medical experiments in microgravity, announce today the signature of a contract relating to the launch of four small satellites in 2018, followed by a monthly launch over two years, making a total of 28 planned launches.

This is an important step for S3, who is also in advanced discussions in relation to other launches. Spacepharma intends to become a world leader in the market for researches into microgravity for the life science industries. In S3, the company has found a partner which will permit it to place its satellites in orbit thanks to its system, which is efficient, flexible, reliable, and economical.

With the Research & Development phase of its satellite launch system well advanced, S3 announces today the signature of a significant launch contract with Spacepharma SA, the Swiss company specialised in laboratory solutions in microgravity for the life science industries. This contract relates to putting four small satellites into orbit in 2018, followed by one satellite per month for a period of two years. It is a major agreement which demonstrates the significance of the largely reusable launch system developed by S3, which has won over the management of Spacepharma.

Satellites placed in orbit for medical experiments in microgravity

The satellites placed in orbit by S3 for Spacepharma will have a weight of 5 kg; they are based on Cubesats, which are being increasingly used in the industry, with later developments up to 50 kg. They will be destined for experiments in exomedicine. This booming scientific discipline consists of studying and exploring medical solutions in a zero-gravity spatial environment, in order to then apply them on earth, notably in the form of new medications. This unique environment in fact allows research to be advanced with results which cannot be achieved in any other environment. The aim of Spacepharma SA is to become a world leader in this domain, and in order to this, it offers a complete service (requirements definition, design, prototype, development, and operations on the ground and in space). The company, based in Delémont, in what is known as the "Bio Valley" of Basel, has a subsidiary based in Israel which is dedicated to Research & Development. The collaboration between S3 and Spacepharma will also apply to the engineering for the ground stations for the future space laboratories going into orbit from 2018.

A partnership between two innovative companies which are both Swiss and international

This partnership with S3 is intended to help Spacepharma SA to achieve this ambitious objective, as the company's founder Yossi Yamin underlines: "Just like us, S3 is an ambitious, innovative Swiss organisation with an international dimension. We are delighted to see S3 put our satellites into orbit using its launch system which is efficient, flexible, and reliable, and allows lasting and more economical access to space."

S3 is also very pleased to have a customer who is a cutting edge company in an area of medicine which is growing significantly. As Pascal Jaussi, founder and CEO of S3, puts it: "The aim of our company is to make space more accessible, especially for innovative companies who are developing new satellite applications, and who are looking for an affordable launch. This partnership is a call to others to enter the market of zero-gravity medicine to the growth of which S3 is making a huge contribution."


Quelle: Swiss Space Systems - S3


Update: 19.02.2014


S3 SOAR wird mit russischen Raketentriebwerk starten


Swiss Space Systems (S3) becomes 1st private European company to be able to use Russian rocket engines Sochi (Russia) — February 19th, 2014. Swiss Space Systems (S3), the aerospace company, announced today the signature of new partnerships with Russian companies specializing in space propulsion systems. This constitutes a key milestone towards the realization of S3’s project.


JSC Kuznetsov will provide the rocket engine used for the suborbital shuttle developed by S3, while RKK Energia will study the conception of the upper stage destined to place satellites in low earth orbit. This is the first time that a European company collaborates with Russian companies specializing in the development and manufacturing of propulsion systems. This agreement with the creators of the world’s best rocket engines constitutes a decisive milestone achieved by the Swiss aerospace company.


Swiss Space Systems (S3) is progessing rapidly in the development of its satellite launch system based on an Airbus aircraft and a reusable suborbital shuttle, the SOAR, with first commercial missions beginning in 2018. To successfully conduct this innovative project at the cutting-edge of aviation and space, the Swiss company has been able to assemble a high-quality international network of partners, industries, research centers and universities. Pascal Jaussi, Founder and CEO of S3 outlines: « Our international community of partners is formed by well-recognized specialists in aeronautics and aerospace. Their support allows us to attain concrete results with considerably shorter timeframes and smaller required budgets compared to other similar programs. »


S3 will collaborate with two of the Russian space industry jewels


Faithful in its aim to engage the greatest aerospace specialists, Swiss Space Systems signed an agreement with the prestigious Bauman University in Moskow during last September. Only a few months later, two new Russian companies at the technological forefront will be able to join the network of S3 partners: JSC Kuznetsov and RKK Energia.


The reputation of rocket engines produced by JSC Kuznetsov is indisputable. These reliable engines have been successfully used, notably on the new Soyuz 2-1V launcher and also on the American Antares rocket. The engine built by JSC Kuznetsov consumes standard fuels, a mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen (LOX), which will permit the SOAR shuttle to attain speeds in excess of 2km/s.


The last section of the trajectory from 80km altitude to low earth orbit, where the satellites will be launched, will be enabled by an upper stage requiring a high-performance engine, utilizing the same fuels as the SOAR shuttle. The conception of such an upper stage will be studied by the RKK Energia company. As outlined by RKK Energia, the motor to be used in S3’s upper stage will be characterized by its reliability and efficiency. As with the SOAR propulsion system, it will function on kerosene and liquid oxygen. RKK Energia posesses a unique heritage in the development and manufacturing of upper stages of various sizes. The « DM » family of upper stages created by this company are successfully used in several space programs.


A successful propulsion partnership essential to S3’s development


A collaboration with the Russian manufacturers of propulsion systems constitutes a key milestone for S3, which continues growing, with a staff of 60 employees in Switzerland. Presently, S3 engineers are putting final steps on their Preliminary Design Review (PDR), the preceeding research and development step to its Critical Design Review (CDR). Following this, the construction, assembly, integration and testing phases will take place during 2016 and 2017.


There is still much work to be accomplished, but Nicolas Bideau, Swiss Ambassador and Switzerland Presence Chief is particularly pleased to see this unique collaboration: « Through the double partnership with these reputed Russian aerospace companies, S3 is an example of a Switzerland which innovates, dares and federates. This is one more step in the long history of successful collaboration between our two countries, which are celebrating 200 years of diplomatic relationships this year. We are happy to have been able to host them at the Swiss House here in Sochi. »
Quelle: Swiss Space Systems - S3    
Update: 15.03.2014

Swiss company to use Kennedy Space Center shuttle runway

State, NASA negotiating over commercial spaceport


A year-old Swiss company plans to perform zero-gravity flights at Kennedy Space Center starting next year and will consider the former shuttle runway as a future base for launches of small satellites.

Swiss Space Systems, known as S3, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Space Florida to use KSC’s three-mile Shuttle Landing Facility, which the state is in negotiations with NASA to take over and operate as a commercial spaceport, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

S3 has established a new U.S. subsidiary, S3 USA Operations, and already leases office space at the state-owned Space Life Sciences Lab just outside KSC’s gates.

S3 will perform zero-G flights of people or experiments on an Airbus A300. The aircraft is also being developed to air-launch a reusable, suborbital space plane to deploy small satellites weighing up to about 550 pounds.

The company will evaluate KSC as a primary site for satellite launches that could begin in 2018.

S3 employs about 60 people in Switzerland, Spain and the U.S.

Quelle: LOCAL 6

Update: 22.08.2014 
S3 aims to become the world leader in the small satellite launch segment, a market bound for impressive growth estimated at over $ 240 billion by 2020, with over 200 satellites expected to be launched to orbit every year.
S3 is now officially announcing ongoing and upcoming discussions with prospective financial and strategic INVESTORS to further strengthen its position of European leader in this booming market.
A Swiss company with strong global PARTNERSHIPS
Swiss Space Systems, incorporated in 2012, has a core program that aims at developing reusable suborbital space systems -the SOAR launch system- in order to launch small satellites with a maximum weight of 250kg to low Earth orbit. The objective is to carry out the first test FLIGHTS by 2017 and first commercial launches by 2018 - an ambitious timetable, but as the founder and CEO of S3, Pascal Jaussi, said:  "Our launch program benefits from the input of technologies previously developed and certified through original PARTNERSHIPS between major players in the aerospace sector, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) who validated its technical feasibility, Dassault Aviation, Thales Alenia Space, JSC Kuznetsov and RKK Energia". The S3 program is the privatization of the Hermès and NASA’s X-38 programs, whose technological heritage allows S3 to save time that would otherwise be spent on research and development, thereby enabling the company to reach the 2017 target and reduce production costs at the same time, with a budget substantially lower than its peers: US$275 million (250 million CHF) up to the first satellite launch.  S3’s engineering team, supported by its industrial and academic partners, is steadily progressing on the research & development phase of the launching system, as planned. 
An integrated business model with distinct business units
The company is currently operating two distinct business units as part of its plan: S3 suborbital systems for satellite deliveries, and S3 ZeroG. While predominantly focusing on small satellites, the ZeroG (zero gravity FLIGHT) service is the result of a structured & monetized rollout approach by S3’s management team to build its business on near-term revenue-generating phases. S3 has designed its product and service around an Airbus aircraft to be the first stage of its space launch system. Therefore, before carrying the SOAR shuttle on its back for its first satellite delivery mission in 2018, the aircraft will be utilized to offer passengers and researchers zero gravity flight experiences beginning in early 2015, generating substantial early revenues for S3 during its first three years of operation.
The company is organizing a first world tour with over 100 FLIGHTS in some 20 destinations for 2015. According to Richard Joye, VP of Business Development: “S3 has an integrated business model for which ZeroG is a first step. By operating our Airbus internationally for ZeroG FLIGHTS, we demonstrate that we can master the first stage of our space flight system. It is also the best ambassador of S3 in the markets we will target with our launcher of small satellites.”
Jean-Daniel Sciboz, Senior VP at S3 points out: “it is without any doubt that we are building a multi-billion dollar company with yearly revenue potential in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We are disrupting the aerospace industry with our aim of offering safe, affordable, recurrent and responsive space access for all”.
Introducing new concepts and enabling new MARKETS
Swiss Space Systems has based its airborne launch system on a fully reusable suborbital shuttle, the SOAR, introducing a new concept in the space industry: the ongoing maintenance of space systems. Reusability of the launch system guarantees affordability, with target prices never seen before for this class of payload, offering sub-$10 million for a 250kg launch, more than four times less than current MARKET prices. In addition to affordability, it offers flexible and recurrent access to space. The small satellite market is fueled by a fast-growing demand from end-users and manufacturers, looking at launching constellations of satellites with limited lifetime, built around the idea that space is the next frontier that will foster a positive environment for the emergence of new business models. These customers will need to launch a multitude of satellites where competitive pricing is key, but the ability to get a low-cost ride to space and to frequently replace satellites and upgrade elements of a constellation will be a determining factor for continuous future success. S3 is positioning itself to address those needs. INVESTORS have already understood that the space industry is currently at a turning point for accelerated growth.
The wake-up call again comes from the Silicon Valley, which sets the tone by INVESTINGhundreds of millions of dollars into low-cost launch systems, small satellite technologies and associated services, such as low cost imaging, affordable communication services, oil and gas solutions, earth monitoring, post natural disaster services, among others. Google recently announced the acquisition of SkyBox Imaging for $500 million, aiming at launching a constellation of over 160 satellites. Venture Capitalists are seeding NewSpace companies and innovative ventures that are truly disrupting this industry, which has historically relied on public FUNDING.
Visionary INVESTORS recognize the next potential investment frontier: Space
S3 is the only private commercial space company announcing such an ambitious but realistic project outside of the USA. By pioneering the next European space age, S3 is creating a precedent that is attracting industrial leaders, governments and investors. As a result, many opportunities are presented to S3, as it looks to capture the most promising ones for rapid growth. S3 ZeroG was born from the willingness to optimize and monetize an asset for actual MARKET demand, and S3 is now looking to aggressively materialize such opportunities, by penetrating new markets to ensure its leadership, by securing access to key technologies through acquisitions, or by further developing proprietary solutions with the objective of realizing higher profits.
As such, S3 is talking to INVESTORS around the globe looking to deploy capital alongside or to directly invest in key technologies or related growth projects. S3’s key people have been running road shows in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, where visionary companies and investors recognize the potential of the active commercialization of space. Discussions with strategic PARTNERS for a direct investment into the S3 group of companies in the $33-55 million range are being held.
While the S3 Group has not announced any specific binding agreement yet, it welcomes discussions about opening the equity of underlying companies of S3 in order to build a quicker access to market and strengthen its market position internationally.
S3 aims to bring alongside the company a stronger consortium of partners to dominate the growing small SATELLITE segment, and offering a more integrated end-to-end solution to the market. 
As part of this international road show, an S3 Swiss INVESTOR Pitch Day reserved to high net worth individuals, family offices, PENSION fund companies and other wealth management professionals will be held on September 12th in S3’s headquarters in Payerne (Switzerland).
Quelle: S3-SWISS


Tags: Swiss Spaceflight S3 A-300 System S3 


Donnerstag, 21. August 2014 - 08:58 Uhr

Astronomie - NASA studiert ultraviolette Sonne


Spacecraft record solar activity as a binary code, 1s and 0s, which computer programs can translate into black and white. Scientists colorize the images for realism, and then zoom in on areas of interest.


You cannot look at the sun without special filters, and the naked eye cannot perceive certain wavelengths of sunlight. Solar physicists must consequently rely on spacecraft that can observe this invisible light before the atmosphere absorbs it.
“Certain wavelengths either do not make it through Earth’s atmosphere or cannot be seen by our eyes, so we cannot use normal optical telescopes to look at the spectrum,” said Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Several spacecraft can observe these invisible light wavelengths. SDO for example has four telescopes that image the sun in the ultraviolet spectrum. As beams of ultraviolet light pass into the telescope, a mirror with special coatings filters and amplifies the ultraviolet light’s otherwise poor reflection. The incoming photons are then recorded as pixels and converted into electrical signals, similar to how your cell phone camera sees visible light.
“It’s exactly the same process, whether it’s ultraviolet light, infrared light, visible light, or radio,” said Joseph Gurman, project scientist for both the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory at Goddard. “In this case we’re trying to understand how the sun changes and how those changes affect life here on Earth.”
Ultraviolet light causes molecular radiation damage to our skin, seen as sunburns that can lead to cancer. Its cousin, extreme ultraviolet radiation, and the associated solar storms have the potential to disrupt communications and spacecraft navigation. “These are very damaging, energetic photons, and we want to understand what chain of events produces these photons,” Pesnell said.
Thankfully our planet’s atmosphere absorbs much of this solar radiation, making life on Earth possible. However, this means that to study extreme ultraviolet light, instruments must do it from the vacuum of space.
“Ultraviolet light from the sun can show us the origins of solar storms that can lead to power outages, cell phone disruptions, and delays in shipping packages due to the rerouting of planes from over the pole,” Gurman said.
By understanding what occurs in the sun’s atmosphere, scientists hope to predict when powerful solar events such as coronal mass ejections and solar flares may occur.
“You really want to know what’s happening on the sun as soon as you can,” said Jack Ireland, a solar visualization specialist at Goddard. “We can then use computer models to estimate how solar events will affect Earth’s space environment.”
The information can then be used by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, in Boulder, Co. to alert power companies and airlines to take the necessary precautions, thus avoiding power outages and keeping airplane passengers safe.
Four of the telescopes on the Solar Dynamics Observatory observe extreme ultraviolet light activity on the sun that is invisible to the naked eye.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory observed a solar flare (upper left) and a coronal mass ejection (right) erupting from the sun’s limb in extreme ultraviolet light on August 6, 2010.
Quelle: NASA

Tags: Astronomie 


Donnerstag, 21. August 2014 - 08:28 Uhr

Planet Erde - Forscher finden Mikroben unterm Eis der Antarktis


Nahaufnahme. Diese Aufnahme wurde mit einem Elektronenmikroskop gemacht, sie zeigt einen Mikroorganismus aus dem Lake Whillans.
800 Meter unter dem antarktischen Eisschild liegt Lake Whillans. Darin leben fast 4000 verschiedene Bakterien. Sie leben in völliger Dunkelheit und "fressen Gestein".
Unter dem Eis der Antarktis wurden bisher mehr als 400 Seen aufgespürt. Seit langem vermuten Wissenschaftler, dass es in diesen „subglazialen“ Tümpeln Leben gibt. Den Beweis dafür präsentieren jetzt Brent Christner von der Universität von Louisiana und Kollegen – vorausgesetzt sie haben wirklich sauber gearbeitet. Es wäre nicht das erste Mal, dass es bei einer Bohrung im Eis zu Verunreinigungen kommt.
Ihre Lebensweise ähnelt der von Tiefseeorganismen
Das Team versichert, die strengen Vorschriften eingehalten und eine tadellose Wasserprobe aus dem 800 Meter tief gelegenen Lake Whillans in der Westantarktis geholt zu haben.Wie sie im Fachblatt „Nature“ berichten, fanden sie darin eine ganze Fülle verschiedener Bakterien und Archaeen („Urbakterien“). Die Analyse von Erbgutbruchstücken in der Wasserprobe verwies auf mindestens 3931 verschiedene Arten. Auch die chemischen Messwerte zeigten, dass in der Tiefe ein Ökosystem existiert.
Bei ihrem Stoffwechsel müssen die Mikroben ohne Sonnenlicht auskommen, das an der Oberfläche eine wichtige Rolle spielt. Stattdessen ähnelt ihre Lebensweise eher der von Tiefseeorganismen, erläutert Martyn Tranter von der Universität Bristol in einem begleitenden Artikel. Als Energiequelle dienen den Mikroben vermutlich verschiedene Eisen-, Schwefel-, Phosphor- und Stickstoffverbindungen, die im Wasser des subglazialen Sees sowie im Sediment am Boden enthalten sind. Indem sie aktiv dazu beitragen, bestimmte Minerale zu zersetzen, könne man sie auch als „Gesteinsfresser“ bezeichnen, schreibt Tranter. Nicht zuletzt verwerten sie auch abgestorbene Organismen.
Nicht alle Forschungsbohrungen führten zum Erfolg
Nach Ansicht des Forschers ist die Studie nicht nur ein Meilenstein für die Polarforschung, die sich seit langem mit Leben unter Extrembedingungen befasst. Sie werfe auch die Frage auf, ob es auf anderen Himmelskörpern wie dem Mars ebenfalls primitive Organismen gibt, die unter einer Eisschicht leben und sich von Steinen ernähren.
Der Lake Whillans, aus dem im Januar 2013 besagte Proben entnommen wurden, ist nicht der einzige See, der angebohrt wurde. Russische Forscher hatten 2012 den vier Kilometer tief gelegenen Wostoksee erreicht. Das Wasser des Sees drang ins Bohrloch ein und gefror, Proben konnten erst Monate später geborgen werden. Die Sensation, eine neue Bakterienart in dieser Tiefe entdeckt zu haben, musste aber revidiert werden. Es handelte sich um Kontaminationen. Der Versuch von britischen Forschern, Lake Ellsworth anzubohren, musste wegen technischer Probleme abgebrochen werden.
Quelle: Der Tagesspiegel


Mittwoch, 20. August 2014 - 22:52 Uhr

Astronomie - Spektakuläre Sternentstehungsregionen in der südlichen Milchstraße


Das vorliegende Bild, welches von der Wide Field Imager-Kamera am La Silla-Observatorium der ESO aufgenommen wurde, zeigt zwei spektakuläre Sternentstehungsregionen in der südlichen Milchstraße. Die erste Region, im Bild auf der linken Seite zu sehen, wird vom offenen Sternhaufen NGC 3603 dominiert. Er befindet sich in einer Entfernung von etwa 20.000 Lichtjahren im Carina-Sagittarius Spiralarm unserer Milchstraße. Die zweite Region, im Bild auf der rechten Seite, ist eine Ansammlung von leutenden Gaswolken, bekannt als NGC 3576. Sie ist etwa 9000 Lichtjahre von der Erde entfernt.
NGC 3603 ist ein sehr heller Sternhaufen, der dafür bekannt ist, dass er die größte Konzentration an schweren Sternen enthält, die bisher in einem Sternhaufen gefunden wurden. Im Zentrum liegt ein Wolf-Rayet-Mehrfachsternsystem mit der Bezeichnung HD 97950. Wolf-Rayet Sterne befinden sich in einem fortgeschrittenen Stadium der Sternentwicklung, ihre Einzelsterne besitzen mehr als 20 Sonnenmassen. Wolf-Rayet Sterne verlieren große Mengen an Materie über starke Sternwinde, welche das Material an der Sternoberfläche mit mehreren Millionen Kilometern pro Stunde in den Weltraum transportieren. Es ist eine Art extreme „Stern-Diät“ in kosmischen Dimensionen.
NGC 3603 ist ein Gebiet sehr intensiver Sternentstehung. Sterne werden in dunklen und staubigen Regionen des Alls geboren, die weitgehend dem direkten Blick entzogen sind. Wenn die jungen Sterne dann langsam beginnen zu leuchten, entfernen sie selbst das sie umgebende Material und werden sichtbar. Sie erzeugen auf diese Art jene leuchtenden Gaswolken, die als H II-Regionen bekannt sind. H II-Regionen leuchten aufgrund der Wechselwirkung zwischen ultravioletter Strahlung, welche von den jungen und heißen Sternen abgegeben wird, und dem Wasserstoffgas in den sie umgebenden Wolken. H II-Regionen können Durchmesser von mehreren hundert Lichtjahren besitzen. Die Region, welche NGC 3603 umgibt, hat die Besonderheit, dass sie jene mit der größten Masse in unserer Galaxis ist.
Der Sternhaufen wurde zum ersten Mal von John Herschel am 14. März 1834 beobachtet. Er führte eine dreijährige Expedition zur systematischen Untersuchung des südlichen Sternenhimmels durch, und beobachtet in der Nähe von Kapstadt in Südafrika. Er beschrieb den Haufen als ein bemerkenswertes Objekt und dachte, dass es ein Kugelsternhaufen sein könnte. Spätere Studien zeigten jedoch, dass es kein alter kugelförmiger Sternhaufen, sondern ein junger, offener und sehr sternreicher Haufen ist.
NGC 3576, auf der rechten Seite im Bild zu sehen, liegt ebenfalls im Carina-Sagittarius-Spiralarm unserer Milchstraße. Er befindet sich nur etwa 9.000 Lichtjahre von der Erde entfernt und ist daher viel näher als NGC 3603, obwohl er im Bild als sein Nachbar erscheint.
NGC 3576 ist aufgrund zweier großer Objekte bemerkenswert, die den gekrümmten Hörnern eines Schafbocks ähneln. Diese seltsamen Filamente sind das Ergebnis stellarer Winde, die von den heißen und junge Sternen in der Zentralregion des Nebels ausgehen. Sie haben Staub und Gas über hunderte Lichtjahre nach außen transportiert. Im obernen Bereich des Nebels sind zwei dunkle Silhouetten zu erkennen, sogenannte Bok-Globulen. Es sind Bereiche, in denen in Zukunft neue Sterne entstehen können.
NGC 3576 wurde ebenfalls im Jahr 1834 von John Herschel entdeckt. Es war eines der produktivsten und erfolgreichsten Jahre des englischen Astronomen.
Diese Aufsuchkarte zeigt das Sternbild Carina (der Schiffskiel) und beinhaltet alle Sterne, die unter guten Bedingungen mit bloßem Auge sichtbar sind. Dieser Teil des Himmels beherbergt einige der hellsten Sternentstehungsgebiete der Milchstraße. Die Position des fernen, aber sehr hellen und dichten offenen Sternhaufens NGC 3603 ist markiert. Dieses Objekt erscheint durch kleine Teleskope nicht gerade spektakulär, sondern nur als dichter Klumpen von Sternen, die von einem schwachen Nebel umgeben sind. 
Diese Weitwinkelaufnahme, basierend auf Daten des Digitized Sky Survey 2, zeigt die gesamte Region um die kosmische Sternfabrik NGC 3603, die sich ungefähr 20.000 Lichtjahre von der Erde entfernt befindet. Diese Region beinhaltet viele Sternentstehungsgebiete mit riesigen leuchtenden Gaswolken.
Quelle: ESO


Mittwoch, 20. August 2014 - 08:57 Uhr

Astronomie - Leben auf dem Mars? Auswirkungen einer neu entdeckten mineralreichen Struktur


New Rochelle, August 19, 2014—A new ovoid structure discovered in the Nakhla Martian meteorite is made of nanocrystalline iron-rich clay, contains a variety of minerals, and shows evidence of undergoing a past shock event from impact, with resulting melting of the permafrost and mixing of surface and subsurface fluids. Based on the results of a broad range of analytical studies to determine the origin of this new structure, scientists present the competing hypotheses for how this ovoid formed, point to the most likely conclusion, and discuss how these findings impact the field of astrobiology in a fascinating article published in Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available Open Access on the Astrobiology website.
In the article, "A Conspicuous Clay Ovoid in Nakhla: Evidence for Subsurface Hydrothermal Alteration on Mars with Implications for Astrobiology," Elias Chatzitheodoridis, National Technical University of Athens, Greece, and Sarah Haigh and Ian Lyon, the University of Manchester, UK, describe the use of tools including electron microscopy, x-ray, and spectroscopy to analyze the ovoid structure. While the authors do not believe the formation of this structure involved biological materials, that is a possible hypothesis, and they note that evidence exists supporting the presence of niche environments in the Martian subsurface that could support life.
"This study illustrates the importance of correlating different types of datasets when attempting to discern whether something in rock is a biosignature indicative of life," says Sherry L. Cady, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Astrobiology and Chief Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Though the authors couldn't prove definitively that the object of focus was evidence of life, their research strategy revealed a significant amount of information about the potential for life to inhabit the subsurface of Mars."
Mehr darüber in der PDF:
Quelle: Astrobiology


Mittwoch, 20. August 2014 - 08:40 Uhr

Raumfahrt - USAF´s neues XS-1 Experimentelles Raumgleiter Projekt



Artist's concept of DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1), a proposed unmanned, hypersonic vehicle that the agency hopes will lower satellite launch costs substantially. Officials are targeting Mach 10 for the suborbital vehicle.

USAF New Experimental Space Plane

The United States military is kick-starting a suborbital hypersonic vehicle program that also aims to launch payloads into orbit on the cheap.
The new program, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is called Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1. It follows in the footsteps of previous DARPA hypersonic projects, such as the HTV-2 aircraft that reached 20 times the speed of sound in an August 2011 test flight.
Officials want the reusable, unmanned XS-1 to take advantage of capabilities to be showcased under another DARPA initiative, the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which aims to launch small spacecraft (up to 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms) in the 2015-2016 time period for just $1 million per liftoff, including range costs.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) is sponsoring a Proposers’ Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the XS-1 program, in advance of a planned Phase I Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The Proposers’ Day will be held on Monday, October 7, 2013 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph Street Arlington, VA 22203-2114, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Advance registration is required.
The objective of the XS-1 program is to design, build, and demonstrate a reusable Mach 10 aircraft capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage that inserts 3,000– 5,000 lb. payloads into low earth orbit (LEO) at a target cost of less than $5M per launch (at a flight rate of more than 10 flights/year). Technologies derived from the XS-1 program will enable routine space launch capabilities with aircraft-like cost, operability and reliability. The long-term intent is for XS-1 technologies to be transitioned to support not only next-generation launch for Government and commercial customers, but also global reach hypersonic and space access aircraft. Key technical challenges that will be addressed by the XS-1 program include:
• A reusable first stage vehicle designed for aircraft-like operations
• Robust airframe composition leveraging state-of-the-art materials, manufacturing processes, and analysis capabilities
• Durable, low-maintenance thermal protection systems that provide protection from temperatures and heating rates ranging from orbital vacuum to atmospheric re-entry and hypersonic flight
• Reusable, long-life, high thrust-to-weight, and affordable propulsion systems
• Streamlined “clean pad” operations dramatically reducing infrastructure and manpower requirements while enabling flight from a wide range of locations
Additional goals for the XS-1 demonstration program are to:
• Fly ten times in ten days
• Fly to Mach 10 at least once
• Launch a representative payload to orbit at least once
It is anticipated that the program will be divided into three phases:
• Phase I: Initial Design and Risk Reduction
• Phase II: Final Design, Fabrication, and Integration Assembly and Test
• Phase III: Flight Test Campaign
The goals of this meeting are: 1) to familiarize participants with DARPA’s interest in XS-1, and 2) to promote discussion of synergistic capabilities among potential program participants. It is our desire to facilitate the formation of strong teams and business relationships in order to develop comprehensive, quality responses to any potential DARPA solicitation.
Quelle: DARPA
Update: 2.12.2013

Darpa Targets Lower Launch Costs With XS-1 Spaceplane

Never deterred by past failures, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa) once again wants to develop a reusable-spaceplane launch vehicle to reduce dramatically the cost and time required to orbit satellites.
This time, the agency's goal with its new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program is to demonstrate a reusable capability that can transition to industry for low-cost military and commercial satellite launches as well as hypersonic technology testing.
The agency usually hands off successful programs to one of the U.S. armed services, but “Darpa's XS-1 transition partner is you—industry,” program manager Jess Sponable told attendees at a proposers' day briefing last month. In addition to enabling lower-cost, more responsive launches of U.S. government satellites, Darpa sees the reusable first-stage technology to be demonstrated under the XS-1 program as key to recapturing a commercial launch market lost to foreign competitors.
The program goal is to fly an X-plane reusable first-stage to demonstrate technology for an operational system capable of launching 3,000-5,000-lb. payloads to low Earth orbit for less than $5 million per flight at a launch rate of 10 or more flights a year. This compares with around $55 million to launch that class of payload on the Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur IV expendable booster, which operates at a flight rate of around one a year, according Darpa.
Invoking the original designation of the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, the Bell X-1, the XS-1 would be a companion to Darpa's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (Alasa) program to demonstrate an aircraft-based launch system capable of placing 100-lb. payloads into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million per flight, including range costs. Preliminary design contracts for Alasa were awarded to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in 2012.
Previous attempts to develop a reusable launch vehicle have failed, the agency acknowledges, arguing that the late-1980s X-30 and late-1990s X-33 VentureStar never flew because the designs were technically unachievable with the technology available at the time. Darpa's last attempt at a reusable launcher was the Rascal (Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch) program of the early 2000s, aimed at placing 300-lb. payloads into orbit for less than $750,000.
Under development by Space Launch Corp. and Scaled Composites, Rascal was a specially designed Lockheed SR-71-size supersonic aircraft powered by four existing turbojet engines modified to high-Mach, high-altitude operation. After takeoff, the manned Rascal was intended to zoom-climb to 180,000 ft. and release an expendable upper stage, then return to a runway landing. Flight demonstrations were planned for 2006, but the program was canceled in 2005.
Technology advances that should make the reusable-spaceplane launch-vehicle concept feasible this time, Darpa believes, include lower-weight, lower-cost composite airframe and tank structures; durable thermal protection; available propulsion that is reusable and affordable, and health management systems that enable aircraft-like operations. Since the previous reusable launch-vehicle programs were canceled, Boeing's X-37 reusable orbital spaceplane has flown three times, and Boeing says it plans to apply the experience gained to its XS-1 proposal.
Budget permitting, Darpa plans to award three or four $3-4 million XS-1 Phase 1 preliminary design contracts in the first quarter of 2014, followed a year later by a single design-to-cost contract worth up to $140 million to build and fly the X-plane demonstrator. If the program proceeds into Phases 2 and 3, first flight is scheduled for the third quarter of 2017, leading to an orbital flight demonstration a year later.
The program has some of the challenge characteristics of the Ansari X-Prize, won by Scaled Composites with the SpaceShipOne. The technical objectives are to fly the XS-1 10 times in 10 days, fly to Mach 10-plus at least once and launch a demonstration payload into orbit. The 10 flights in 10 days are intended to demonstrate reusability and expand the flight envelope. There is no velocity requirement for the flights, but the vehicle must take off and land each time.
Flying to Mach 10 or beyond will demonstrate the unmanned XS-1 can reach a staging speed that minimizes the size of the expendable upper stage, for which a target cost of $1-2 million has been set. There are no dynamic-pressure or load-factor requirements, but designing for Mach 10-plus will require the demonstrator to have the aero-thermal capability for space access and hypersonic testing. Similarly, there is no payload mass requirement for the launch to orbit, the objective being to demonstrate the potential for orbital flight in an operational version of the vehicle, Darpa says.
There are several possible configurations, propulsion systems and launch-and-recovery methods that could be proposed for the XS-1, but Darpa's reference X-plane is an F-15-sized, vertical-takeoff/horizontal-landing, winged spaceplane powered by two SpaceX Merlin 1D rocket motors.
Gross lift-off weight for the reference vehicle is almost 224,000 lb., compared with 190,000 lb. for a Minotaur IV carrying a 4,000-lb. payload. The expendable upper stage would weigh 15,000 lb. including payload. The design could be scaled up using Aerojet AJ26 (Russian NK33) engines, air launch or two stages, says Darpa.
The stated objective of the XS-1 program is to “break the cycle of escalating space system costs,” says the agency, pointing out that each GPS III spacecraft will cost $500 million for the satellite and $300 million for the launch, compared with $43 million and $55 million, respectively, for the first GPS in 1978.
The U.S. averages only 3-5 5,000-lb.-payload-class launches a year, Darpa says, well below the annual rate on which the XS-1's cost target of $5 million per flight is based. The agency believes a lower launch cost will grow the market, both to orbit smaller “disaggregated” satellites for the U.S. Air Force and by recapturing commercial business. But the ability of lower launch costs to stimulate demand remains to be proved.
Quelle: Aviation Week
Update: 12.02.2014

New US Military Space Plane Aims for 2017 Liftoff

The United States military is making progress toward developing a newunmanned space plane, which it aims to begin flight-testing in 2017.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year.
DARPA has high expectations for the XS-1 program, which it hopes can eventually launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight — and to do it at least 10 times per year.
"The vision here is to break the cycle of escalating space system costs, enable routine space access and hypersonic vehicles," XS-1 program manager Jess Sponable said Feb. 5 during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. (Hypersonic flight is generally defined as anything greater than five times the speed of sound.)
"We're interested not just in launch, but also in seeing if we can find a way to enable more affordable, more routine, simpler hypersonic vessels," he added.
Changing the cost equation
DARPA first announced the ambitious XS-1 program last September. It's viewed as complementary to another agency effort known as ALASA (Airborne Launch Assist Space Access), which seeks to launch 100-lb (45 kg) satellites to orbit for less than $1 million apiece using traditional airplanes outfitted with expendable upper stages.
DARPA officials laid out their broad vision of the robotic XS-1 vehicle in a press release issued in September:
"XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude," they wrote. "At that point, one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into low-Earth orbit. The reusable hypersonic aircraft would then return to earth, land and be prepared for the next flight."
But DARPA is leaving the specifics of the XS-1 system — which aims to provide routine, aircraft-like access to space — up its potential builders, Sponable said.
"We don't care if it's vertical take-off, horizontal land, vertical-vertical, which brings in a lot of the entrepreneurs," he said in the FISO presentation. "We don't care if they air-launch it, air-tow it, whatever. So we've left all those wide open."
The XS-1 program has enough money for one design contractor, which it plans to choose in 2015 after assessing the work done by the first-round awardees. However, Sponable holds out some hope that more than one vehicle could make it to the flight-test stage.
"I would love for somebody from NASA or the Air Force out there to step forward and say, 'Hey, there's obviously more than one of these things that we want to go flight-test; let's fly more than one," he said.
Other applications
The vehicle developed in the XS-1 program could eventually transition to the commercial market, greatly reducing launch costs for many customers around the world, Sponable said. And the space plane could have many other applications as well.
For example, the XS-1 could serve as a reconnaissance satellite or a hypersonic-vehicle testbed, he said. The space plane could also help advance research into superfast point-to-point transportation around the world.
The XS-1 program represents a return to the bold aerospace projects of decades past, when engineers from various government agencies came together to push the spaceflight envelope, Sponable said.
"We stopped when we flew the X-15 back in the '60s; we didn’t do anything else," he said. "Well, that was a mistake — we should have continued pushing the technology, because we would not be in the dire situation with respect to space access that we're in today had we done so."
Quelle: spacecom
Update: 16.07.2014
Boeing to Design XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane
DARPA program seeks to lower satellite launch costs
Boeing to Design XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., July 15, 2014 – Boeing plans to design an autonomous reusable launch vehicle, shown here in an artist’s concept, to lower satellite launch costs under a new contract for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane program. The spaceplane booster would be designed to carry and deploy an upper stage to launch small satellites and payloads into low-Earth orbit and then return to Earth, where it could be quickly prepared for its next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to those of modern aircraft. DARPA plans to hold a competition in 2015 for a follow-on production order to build the vehicle and conduct demonstration flights.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., July 15, 2014 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] plans to  design a reusable launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce satellite launch costs.  DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane is conceived as a reusable, unmanned booster with costs, operation and reliability similar to modern aircraft.
“Developing a vehicle that launches small payloads more affordably is a priority for future U.S. Defense Department operations,” said Steve Johnston, director of Boeing’s Phantom Works Advanced Space Exploration division. “Boeing brings a combination of proven experience in developing launch systems and reusable space vehicles, along with unparalleled expertise in the development and fielding of highly operable and cost-effective transportation systems.” 
Under the $4 million preliminary design contract, Boeing plans to work on a reusable first stage launch vehicle capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage to launch small satellite payloads of 3,000 to 5,000 pounds (1,361 kg to 2,268 kg) into low-Earth orbit.
“Our design would allow the autonomous booster to carry the second stage and payload to high altitude and deploy them into space. The booster would then return to Earth, where it could be quickly prepared for the next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft.” said Will Hampton, Boeing XS-1 program manager. “Drawing on our other innovative technologies, Boeing intends to provide a concept that uses efficient, streamlined ground infrastructure and improves the turnaround time  to relaunch this spacecraft for subsequent missions.”
DARPA plans to hold a Phase II competition next year for the follow-on production order to build the vehicle and conduct demonstration flights. 
A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $33 billion business with 56,000 employees worldwide.
Quelle: Boeing

Experimental Space Plane Designs Wanted by US Military

The U.S. military is moving ahead in its plan to develop a robotic space plane capable of launching payloads to orbit cheaply and efficiently.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded initial design contracts for its Experimental Spaceplane project, known as XS-1, to three different companies: Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman, DARPA officials announced today (July 15).
"We chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations, while making XS-1 as reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective as possible," DARPA program manager Jess Sponable said in a statement. "We're eager to see how their initial designs envision making spaceflight commonplace — with all the potential military, civilian and commercial benefits that capability would provide."
A rocket upper stage carrying a satellite payload launches into orbit in this artist's concept of the U.S. military's XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane, a project overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Credit: DARPA
All three awardees are partnering with other aerospace firms during this stage of the XS-1 space plane project, which is known as Phase 1. Boeing is teaming up with Blue Origin, Masten is working with XCOR Aerospace and Northrop Grumman is working with the company Virgin Galactic, which is building its own private suborbital spaceliner for space tourist trips, DARPA officials said.
Boeing already provides one robotic space plane to the U.S. military; the company builds a vehicle called the X-37B for the Air Force. One X-37B spacecraft has been circling Earth on a secret military mission since December 2012.
Boeing representatives said that the company's preliminary XS-1 contract is worth $4 million.
DARPA hopes the XS-1 program, which was first announced last September, can help make spaceflight much more affordable and routine. Officials want the unmanned vehicle to launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb. (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight, and to be able to blast off at least 10 times in a 10-day span.
The vehicle will likely employ a reusable first stage and one or more expendable upper stages, DARPA officials said. The first stage will fly to suborbital space at hypersonic speeds, and then return to Earth to be used again; the upper stage will separate and deploy the payload into low-Earth orbit.
During Phase 1, each of the awardees will develop a demonstration vehicle and come up with a plan to build and flight-test XS-1 spacecraft systems, DARPA officials said. The agency is expected to hold a Phase 2 competition next year, to assess the Phase 1 work and see who makes it to the flight-test stage.
DARPA only has enough money for one contractor in the end, but officials are holding out some hope that more than one vehicle could perform flight tests.
"I would love for somebody from NASA or the Air Force out there to step forward and say, 'Hey, there's obviously more than one of these things that we want to go flight-test; let's fly more than one," Sponable said in February during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.
Current plans call for flight tests to begin in 2017 and the first orbital mission to take place in 2018, Sponable said during the FISO talk.
Quelle: SC
Update: 24.07.2014

Masten Space Systems selected by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for XS-1 Program

Mojave, CA (July 23, 2014) — Masten Space Systems, Inc. (Masten) announced today that the company has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of Phase 1 of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to develop a reusable launch vehicle. Over the last decade, Masten has built three highly operable, vertical takeoff/vertical landing, reusable rockets which are flown by small teams of five to seven people. Masten’s experience with vertical takeoff/vertical landing rockets has shown that the company’s flight vehicles can offer greater flexibility than reusable launch vehicles that require runways to land. Masten has logged well over 300 flights to date with its Xoie, Xombie and Xaero reusable rockets.
The goals of the XS-1 program include designing and building a rocket capable of flying 10 times in 10 days, lifting payloads greater than 3,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, and dramatically lowering the cost of launch. Masten’s team intends to utilize the first year of the XS-1 program to demonstrate critical technologies and refine the preliminary design of its “Xephyr” launch vehicle.
Phase 1 of the XS-1 program is scheduled to last 13 months, with vehicle construction and flight demonstration envisioned for subsequent phases. In Phase 2, DARPA plans to select one of its XS-1 partners to build its launch vehicle for eventual transition to future commercial or military operations.
“XS-1 comes at the right time for the industry and the right time for Masten,” said Masten CEO Sean Mahoney. “The tide is turning and space access is opening up. We’re thrilled to lead a team to tackle the hard problems DARPA has put in front of us.”
Company founder and CTO David Masten said, “It’s time. Our team is ready. We’ve been working towards this for years. XS-1 is a great program to join with our vertical landing technology.”
“The vision here is to break the cycle of escalating space system costs and enable routine space access and hypersonic vehicles,” said Dennis Poulos, Masten’s XS-1 program manager. “The XS-1 program represents a return to the bold aerospace projects of decades past, when engineers from various government agencies came together to push the spaceflight envelope.”
The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to make the pivotal early technology investments that create or prevent decisive surprise for U.S. national security. By investing in new technology-driven ideas for next-generation capabilities, DARPA creates options for a better, more secure future. Since its establishment in 1958 as part of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), DARPA has demonstrated time and again how thinking well beyond the borders of what is deemed possible can yield extraordinary results.
Masten Space Systems designs, builds and operates reusable vertical takeoff and landing rockets to help lower the barriers to space access. With over 300 flights successfully completed since May 2009, Masten continues to push the boundaries of reusable launch vehicle development and autonomous precision landing. Built on the foundation of reusability and small operations teams, the XPRIZE-winning company offers rockets-as-a-service for Entry Descent and Landing development, sub-orbital, and orbital flights.
Quelle: MASTEN
Update: 20.08.2014

Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Design for DARPA

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Aug. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.

XS-1has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft.
The company is defining its concept for XS-1 under a 13-month, phase one contract valued at $3.9 million. In addition to low-cost launch, the XS-1 would serve as a test-bed for a new generation of hypersonic aircraft.
A key program goal is to fly 10 times in 10 days using a minimal ground crew and infrastructure. Reusable aircraft-like operations would help reduce military and commercial light spacecraft launch costs by a factor of 10 from current launch costs in this payload class.
To complement its aircraft, spacecraft and autonomous systems capabilities, Northrop Grumman has teamed with Scaled Composites of Mojave, which will lead fabrication and assembly, and Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded spaceline, which will head commercial spaceplane operations and transition.
"Our team is uniquely qualified to meet DARPA's XS-1operational system goals, having built and transitioned many developmental systems to operational use, including our current work on the world's only commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo," said Doug Young, vice president, missile defense and advanced missions, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
"We plan to bundle proven technologies into our concept that we developed during related projects for DARPA, NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, giving the government maximum return on those investments," Young added.
The design would be built around operability and affordability, emphasizing aircraft-like operations including:
Clean pad launch using a transporter erector launcher, minimal infrastructure and ground crew;
Highly autonomous flight operations that leverage Northrop Grumman's unmanned aircraft systems experience; and
Aircraft-like horizontal landing and recovery on standard runways.
Quelle: Northrop Grumman Corporation

Tags: hypersonic vehicle DARPAs Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) 


Dienstag, 19. August 2014 - 23:24 Uhr

Astronomie - Staub verrät alten Ursprung der Ringe von Saturn


Data from the Cassini spacecraft suggest rings formed 4.4 billion years ago.


Saturn’s spectacular ring system may date back some 4.4 billion years to the time when the planet itself formed, new findings suggest. The work could help to resolve a long-running debate about whether the rings are ancient or formed much more recently, on the order of hundreds of millions of years ago.

For the first time, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has measured the rate at which dust from outside the Saturn system is falling on the rings and polluting them. That rate turns out to be about 40 times lower than previously thought, which eliminates a major argument against the ‘old rings’ theory: that if the rings had been around for billions of years, they should have gotten coated with a dark spray of other particles and look a lot dirtier than they do.
"The rings can be three to ten times older than we used to think," says Larry Esposito, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Rare dusting
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, but only now has its cosmic-dust instrument managed to gather enough examples of dust particles that have entered the Saturn system and fallen on its rings. Sascha Kempf, a space physicist also at the University of Colorado, presented the latest (and long-anticipated) data during a workshop at the university on 15 August.
Over the course of seven years, Kempf and his colleagues detected just 140 particles whose trajectories show that they must have come from elsewhere in the Solar System, and which were large enough to have dirtied the rings.
Researchers had expected to see a lot more than just 20 of these particles per year, but that is because they were estimating dust flux using data from the inner Solar System, Kempf says. The Cassini data show that there is a lot less dust out by Saturn, and the particles all seem to come from the distant region of space known as the Kuiper belt, where icy bodies such as Pluto exist. “We’re seeing very, very different stuff,” Kempf says.
The lower rate of particle flux suggests that Saturn’s rings could be ancient after all. “If the pollution problem is not as severe, then the rings could last a lot longer before they turn black,” says Phillip Nicholson, a planetary scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
There are still other arguments for why Saturn’s rings could be young, such as the possibility that the rings formed later from the remains of moons that were gravitationally ripped apart. “But I’m more inclined to believe the old-rings model now than before,” says Jeff Cuzzi, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Other factors might also have reshaped the ring system over time. Cuzzi notes that there could have been more dust in the early days of the Solar System than there is today. The rings might also undergo some kind of constant recycling that keeps them looking relatively fresh, says Esposito.
Cassini mission planners have still not heard the results of a NASA ‘senior review’ that will determine funding for planetary missions beyond September. But they are expecting to fly the craft until 2017, when Cassini will perform a series of spectacular loops between the ring system and the planet itself. In its final months, the spacecraft will measure the mass of the rings directly for the first time, before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere in a grand finale.
Quelle: nature



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