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Getting supplies and other gear up to the ISS in orbit around the Earth is no longer the concern of Europe. The final European resupply vehicle reached the ISS Tuesday making the fifth trip for the ATV-5 resupply vehicle. ATV-5 stands for Automated Transfer Vehicle 5.
ATV-5 lifted off and entered orbit two weeks ago with over seven tons of cargo aboard to take to the space station. When the spacecraft neared the ISS, the robotic arm on the station grabbed the large 32-foot tall craft and inched it closer and closer to the docking port.
With this being the fifth and final resupply mission from the European Space Agency, resupplying the ISS will now be the domain of two US firms, including SpaceX, Russia, and Japan, which all have cargo vessels. The ATV-5 vehicle was the largest of the cargo ships taking supplies to the space station and the 7.2-ton final load was a record.
A company in the US will be launching a new satellite this week that will be able to take some of the most detailed satellite images of the Earth civilians have ever been able to access. The company launching the satellite is called DigitalGlobe and the satellite is known as WorldView-3.
Once in orbit, the satellite will be able to take images of objects as small as 30cm in size. Launch will be from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and once the satellite is in orbit, it will begin taking images of 680,000km of the Earth each day.
The company has a permit from the government to sell images to customers at up to 0.25m panchromatic and 1.0m multispectral ground sample distance. Images will begin being taken and sold six months after the satellite is in orbit and operational.
The National Park Service banned drones from flying over national markets because of safety issues and noise problems, and it seems a banned drone was crashed into Yellowstone National Park's Grand Prismatic Spring on August 2.
The drone hasn't been recovered and specific damage to the natural spring remains unknown, but will try to determine where the drone crashed. The spring is 300 feet across and up to 160-feet deep, making it the largest in the United States.
"We don't know what damage may have been caused when it entered the hot spring, but we also don't know what kind of damage could be caused by leaving it there or by taking it out," said Amy Bartlett, a U.S. National Park Service official, in a statement to LiveScience.
Launched by NASA in 2006 and tasked to study Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft captured unique footage of Charon revolving around Pluto, filmed from 265 million miles. Pluto has five moons, but Charon, at 750-miles across and is just 11,200 miles from Pluto.
A total of 12 photos were captured and researchers are using images to help accurately identify where Pluto is and the path it takes around the sun. Only one-third of the dwarf planet's orbit around the sun has been accurately recorded, space researchers have noted.
The New Horizons is expected to arrive at Pluto around 2015, and is finalizing its pre-Pluto annual systems instrument calibration before arriving. The spacecraft will be placed into "hibernation" mode from late August until early December, which is when it will be used for two years to conduct flyby missions while relaying information back to researchers.
When a certain type of animal is near extinction, scientists often try to prevent them from going extinct by capturing them and putting the animals into a controlled environment where they can be protected. The problem with this is that some animals won't reproduce when they are in a closed environment meaning that no little animals can be born.
SeaWorld in San Diego, California has made a scientific breakthrough that could help prevent animals from going extinct and allow baby's to be born in captivity. The breakthrough came with the first baby penguin to be born using artificial insemination. The penguin is currently only 12 weeks old and is the first penguin of any species to be reproduced this way. There is no word on if this technique might be used on other types of animals at this time.
"Artificial insemination and semen preservation allows us to maximize the genetic diversity of these populations, and that means that they remain healthy and stable into the future," said one of the researchers at the SeaWorld Reproductive Research Center, Justine O'Brien.
If you are familiar with the ISEE-3 spacecraft we have talked about a few times around here, you might like this. Google has announced that it has launched a new Chrome Experiment that is called "A spacecraft for All" that allows you to follow the incredible odyssey of the ISEE-3 using Chrome interactive WebGL graphics and video.
ISEE-3 is a spacecraft that launched in 1978 with the original mission for studying the sun; it was retasked after launch to study a comet. A group of amateur scientists established contact with the satellite to get it back on its original mission, but the spacecraft thrusters failed to get the craft back into the correct orbit. The spacecraft did recently fly past the moon for the first time in decades.
"In a new Chrome Experiment called A Spacecraft for All, you can follow the unlikely odyssey of the ISEE-3 using Chrome's interactive WebGL graphics and video. You can re-live its story, read its re-activated data instruments, learn about its current position and trajectory - and explore space along the way. It's all designed to make space science simple, fun and accessible enough for anyone eager to learn - whether you're a PhD or grade school student", says Suzanne Chambers, executive producer and space cadet, Creative Lab New York.
The Orion capsule is the spacecraft that will help American astronauts get back into space in the future. It's first flight is set for December, but preparations for other aspects of Orion operations are underway. One of those practice aspects is the recovery of the capsule after a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
This week, US Navy dive teams aboard the USS Anchorage recovery vessel successfully recovered the Orion capsule during a practice test using a cradle and winch system. This test is the last time the Navy and NASA get to practice before the Orion is sent 3600 miles above the earth.
During that unmanned test flight, Orion will land in a splashdown in the ocean where it will be recovered and used again. NASA hasn't performed an at sea recovery of a spacecraft in a real mission since 1975.
Robots that are able to do things all by themselves are nothing new. DARPA has been pushing for robots that can autonomously operate in all sorts of environments. A group of researchers from Harvard and MIT have been working together to develop a new small robot that is able to assemble itself and walk away without human help.
The robot starts out as a flat sheet of paper and polystyrene plastic that has been etched with hinges. Along with that material is a flat and flexible circuit board, a pair of motors, a microcontroller, and two batteries.
The microcontroller activates the circuits that produce heat on command and that heat is required to fold the plastic to shape. Once done the little bot can amble off. Right now, the transformation process is triggered by connecting the battery. The team wants to make the bot smarter so it will transform in response to pressure or temperature changes.
SpaceX has become a big name in the modern space race with a contract to send supplies to the ISS with NASA and the company sells its services to put satellites into orbit. SpaceX has announced that it is set to build a new launch facility in southern Texas where it will launch its Falcon 9 rockets in the future.
Texas was chosen in part because the state offered $15.3 million in incentives to a location on the gulf coast east of Brownsville. The location is near Boca Chica Beach and is only a few miles away from the US-Mexico border.
Texas plans to offer $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund and another $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure development. SpaceX plans to spend $85 million in the area and create 300 jobs. The launch site could eventually be a location where astronauts head into space and to the ISS.
Back in 2004, the European Space Agency launched a spacecraft called Rosetta that had a mission to meet up with a comet and land on its surface. The comet that was the target for the mission is called 67P/CG and after a decade of traveling through space, Rosetta has entered the gravitational pull of the comet.
Rosetta is set to land on the surface of the comet in November. When Rosetta is ready to start the next phase of the mission, it will fire an explosive harpoon into the surface of the comet to send the Philae lander down to the surface of the comet.
Mission controllers are putting the spacecraft into a series of triangular paths around the comet that will each take 3-4 days to complete. The goal is to gather all the data possible so we can learn more about comets.