terça-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2015

NASA ISS-Space to Ground: New Arrival: 12/18/2015

SpaceX consegue lançar e pousar o Falcon 9

segunda-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2015

NASA WEB ·SpaceX preps upgraded Falcon 9 for return to flight

VIDEO CHINA-Ninety-one missing after massive landslide strikes China's Shenzhen

SpaceX preps upgraded Falcon 9 for return to flight

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands poised for launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to boost 11 Orbcomm data relay satellites into orbit. 
Last Updated Dec 20, 2015 4:50 PM EST
Making its first flight since a catastrophic launch failure last June, SpaceX is readying an upgraded Falcon 9 rocket for launch Monday evening to boost 11 small Orbcomm data relay satellites into orbit. In a major space "first," the rocket's first stage will attempt a landing back at the Cape Canaveral launch site to demonstrate reusability, a key requirement for lowering commercial launch costs.
In another first, the Falcon 9 will use colder, denser-than-usual liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants, a significant upgrade allowing the booster's nine Merlin 1D first-stage engines to generate more power, increasing their combined liftoff thrust from 1.3 million pounds to 1.5 million, or 170,000 pounds of thrust per engine.
The new system, including extensive launch pad modifications, was put to the test last week when the rocket was erected at the pad and fueled for an engine test firing. Engineers ran into a variety of glitches that ultimately delayed the "static" firing for two days. But on Friday, the work paid off and the engines were briefly ignited to verify good performance.
SpaceX had planned to launch the rocket Sunday, but company founder Elon Musk ordered a 24-hour delay, to 8:33 p.m. EST (GMT-5) Monday, to improve the odds of a successful first stage landing. The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of favorable weather.
"Just reviewed mission params w SpaceX team," Musk tweeted. "Monte Carlo (statistical analysis) runs show tmrw night has a 10% higher chance of a good landing. Punting 24 hrs."
Orbcomm reported on its website the delay would allow "an additional day for more analysis and time to further chill the liquid oxygen in preparation for launch."
Increasing the Falcon 9's thrust will allow SpaceX to launch heavier payloads, a key issue in the commercial satellite industry. Perhaps more important over the long haul, Musk believes the only way to dramatically lower launch costs is to recover, refurbish and reuse spent rocket stages.
A computer graphic showing a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage attempting a powered landing. The company plans to attempt a landing at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after launch Monday evening.
Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos agrees, and his New Shepard sub-orbital rocket, intended to boost passengers to the edge of space, recently carried out a successful landing in Texas after an unpiloted test flight. But sub-orbital rockets experience far less stress and much lower velocities than boosters taking off on flights to orbit, and getting a Falcon 9 stage safely back to Earth is a daunting technological challenge.
SpaceX carried out two attempts to land a Falcon 9 first stage on an off-shore barge, demonstrating the booster's ability to autonomously slow down, re-enter the atmosphere and descend to a powered, tail-first landing.
In the first attempt, a hydraulic system failure resulted in a crash landing on the barge. In the second, the booster managed to set down on the barge but tipped over and exploded.
In both cases, the rocket's control software worked properly and left little doubt SpaceX could get a Falcon 9 first stage back to a landing target. But the Air Force, which manages the Florida launch site, had to be convinced a returning booster posed no credible threat to life or property.
Like all rockets launched from the East Coast, the Falcon 9 was equipped with a self-destruct system under the control of Air Force range safety officers.
While no details have been provided, SpaceX was cleared to attempt a touchdown at "Landing Site 1," an abandoned Atlas ICBM launch complex the company leases at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Area residents were warned they might hear a sonic boom during the booster's approach.
Playing it safe, the Air Force was expected to enforce a large buffer zone, clearing personnel from the immediate area in case the returning rocket somehow went awry. News media, which typically cover SpaceX launchings from a causeway about three miles from the pad, were relocated to Port Canaveral some 14 miles from the launch site and about eight miles from the landing zone.
But the landing attempt, however important to SpaceX's long-range plans, is a purely secondary objective. The primary goals of the flight are to test the new rocket and to deploy 11 small Orbcomm satellites, each weighing about 380 pounds, into a 400-mile-high orbit. The satellites are part of a growing constellation of Orbcomm spacecraft that provides data relay services.
The company launched six satellites on a previous SpaceX mission, although one failed after reaching orbit. Overall, Orbcomm operates a constellation of 34 spacecraft.
Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg told Spaceflight Now that his company has enjoyed a good relationship with SpaceX and that he had no qualms being the first customer on the upgraded Falcon 9.
"This is certainly an upgraded rocket," he said. "There's also, if you look at the margins and everything, there's a little bit more redundancy in this rocket as well. I'm feeling pretty good about that. Return-to-flight missions also typically have better success rates than standard missions, but you're also aware that you need your backup plans just in case, and there's a reason to buy insurance."
The upgraded Falcon 9 is five feet taller than the previous version -- 229 feet -- and features an extended "interstage" section separating the first and second stages, along with an improved stage separation system. The second stage propellant tanks were extended and its single Merlin 1D engine features a longer nozzle and can generate 210,000 pounds of thrust in vacuum.
All 10 engines burn refined kerosene fuel, known as RP-1, and liquid oxygen. Liquid oxygen has a temperature of around minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit, but during tests last week Musk tweeted the oxygen on board the upgraded rocket is cooled to minus 340 degrees. The RP-1, which normally is stored at a room temperature 70 degrees, is chilled to 20 degrees.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket breaks apart during launch June 28 when its second stage liquid oxygen tank ruptured due to a strut failure.
"One of the things we're doing for the first time, the first time I think anyone's done it, is deeply cryogenic propellant," Musk said last week at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "We're sub-cooling the propellant, particularly the liquid oxygen, close to its freezing point, which increases the density quite significantly.
"The thrust is higher, we've improved the stage separation system, we stretched the upper stage of the rocket to add more propellant to that. There are a number of other improvements in electronics. It's a significantly improved rocket from the last one."
The launching is a critical milestone for SpaceX.
Along with clearing the way for two more launches in January, a successful flight Monday also is expected to help pave the way for SpaceX to resume space station cargo delivery flights in early February under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to deliver some 44,000 pounds of cargo and supplies over 12 flights.
The company's seventh operational resupply mission ended in a spectacular failure June 28 when a defective strut inside a Falcon 9's second stage liquid oxygen tank broke away, releasing a high-pressure helium tank and triggering a catastrophic in-flight breakup.
After a lengthy failure investigation, SpaceX took action to make sure no defective struts could find their way into downstream rockets. At the same time, engineers pressed ahead with the modifications allowing the rocket to generate additional launch power through the use of densified liquid oxygen.
Given the failure in June, NASA managers told Musk the agency did not want to resume SpaceX resupply flights until after the upgraded rocket had flown at least once. Along with the Orbcomm launch Monday, SpaceX plans to launch an SES communications satellite sometime in January, along with a NASA ocean research satellite on Jan. 17.
The SES launch will use the upgraded Falcon 9 while the NASA research satellite uses the earlier version.
Assuming those flights go well, NASA is targeting Feb. 7 for the next SpaceX station resupply flight.
SpaceX is one of two companies with NASA resupply contracts. Orbital ATK holds a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to deliver some 20 tons of supplies and equipment. Like SpaceX, Orbital suffered a catastrophic launch failure Oct. 28, 2014, when a company-designed Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff.
The disaster grounded Orbital for a full year, but the company returned to flight Dec. 3 using a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket to boost a Cygnus cargo ship to the space station. Another Atlas 5/Cygnus launch is planned for March 10, following by the first flight of a redesigned Antares at the end of May.
While Orbital hopes to sell its Antares for commercial flights down the road, NASA is the rocket's only current customer. SpaceX is relying on its upgraded Falcon 9 to carry a full manifest of NASA, military and civilian satellites into orbit.

NASA WEB ·Rocks Rich in Silica Present Puzzles for Mars Rover Team

'Big Sky' and 'Greenhorn' Drilling Area on Mount Sharp
'Buckskin' Drill Hole and CheMin X-ray Diffraction
'Big Sky' and 'Greenhorn' Drill Holes and CheMin X-ray Diffraction
Silica in Opal at 'Buckskin' and 'Greenhorn' on Mount Sharp
Silicon and Titanium Correlation in Selected Rocks at Gale Crater, Mars
'Big Sky' and 'Greenhorn' Elemental Comparison
Alteration Effects at Gale and Gusev Craters
'Marias Pass,' Contact Zone of Two Martian Rock Units

Curiosity Rover's Traverse, First 1,185 Sols on Mars
Curiosity's Path During Studies of High-Silica Rocks
Area with Silica-Rich Target Near 'Marias Pass'
Full-Circle View Near 'Marias Pass' on Mars
Details on Silica-Rich 'Elk' Target near 'Marias Pass'
Discolored Fracture Zones in Martian Sandstone
Detail of Discoloration Pattern Seen by Curiosity
This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the "Marias Pass" area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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In detective stories, as the plot thickens, an unexpected clue often delivers more questions than answers. In this case, the scene is a mountain on Mars. The clue: the chemical compound silica. Lots of silica. The sleuths: a savvy band of Earthbound researchers whose agent on Mars is NASA's laser-flashing, one-armed mobile laboratory, Curiosity.
NASA's Curiosity rover has found much higher concentrations of silica at some sites it has investigated in the past seven months than anywhere else it has visited since landing on Mars 40 months ago. Silica makes up nine-tenths of the composition of some of the rocks. It is a rock-forming chemical combining the elements silicon and oxygen, commonly seen on Earth as quartz, but also in many other minerals.
"These high-silica compositions are a puzzle. You can boost the concentration of silica either by leaching away other ingredients while leaving the silica behind, or by bringing in silica from somewhere else," said Albert Yen, a Curiosity science team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Either of those processes involve water. If we can determine which happened, we'll learn more about other conditions in those ancient wet environments."
Water that is acidic would tend to carry other ingredients away and leave silica behind. Alkaline or neutral water could bring in dissolved silica that would be deposited from the solution. Apart from presenting a puzzle about the history of the region where Curiosity is working, the recent findings on Mount Sharp have intriguing threads linked to what an earlier NASA rover, Spirit, found halfway around Mars. There, signs of sulfuric acidity were observed, but Curiosity's science team is still considering both scenarios -- and others -- to explain the findings on Mount Sharp.
Adding to the puzzle, some silica at one rock Curiosity drilled, called "Buckskin," is in a mineral named tridymite, rare on Earth and never seen before on Mars. The usual origin of tridymite on Earth involves high temperatures in igneous or metamorphic rocks, but the finely layered sedimentary rocks examined by Curiosity have been interpreted as lakebed deposits. Furthermore, tridymite is found in volcanic deposits with high silica content. Rocks on Mars' surface generally have less silica, like basalts in Hawaii, though some silica-rich (silicic) rocks have been found by Mars rovers and orbiters. Magma, the molten source material of volcanoes, can evolve on Earth to become silicic. Tridymite found at Buckskin may be evidence for magmatic evolution on Mars.
Curiosity has been studying geological layers of Mount Sharp, going uphill, since 2014, after two years of productive work on the plains surrounding the mountain. The mission delivered evidence in its first year that lakes in the area billions of years ago offered favorable conditions for life, if microbes ever lived on Mars. As Curiosity reaches successively younger layers up Mount Sharp's slopes, the mission is investigating how ancient environmental conditions evolved from lakes, rivers and deltas to the harsh aridity of today's Mars.
Seven months ago, Curiosity approached "Marias Pass," where two geological layers are exposed in contact with each other. The rover's laser-firing instrument for examining compositions from a distance, Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam), detected bountiful silica in some targets the rover passed on its way to the contact zone. The rover's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons instrument simultaneously detected that the rock composition was unique in this area.
"The high silica was a surprise -- so interesting that we backtracked to investigate it with more of Curiosity's instruments," said Jens Frydenvang of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Gathering clues about silica was a major emphasis in rover operations over a span of four months and a distance of about one-third of a mile (half a kilometer).
The investigations included many more readings from ChemCam, plus elemental composition measurements by the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on the rover's arm and mineral identification of rock-powder samples by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument inside the rover.
Buckskin was the first of three rocks where drilled samples were collected during that period. The CheMin identification of tridymite prompted the team to look at possible explanations: "We could solve this by determining whether trydymite in the sediment comes from a volcanic source or has another origin," said Liz Rampe, of Aerodyne Industries at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston. "A lot of us are in our labs trying to see if there's a way to make tridymite without such a high temperature."
Beyond Marias Pass, ChemCam and APXS found a pattern of high silica in pale zones along fractures in the bedrock, linking the silica enrichment there to alteration by fluids that flowed through the fractures and permeated into bedrock. CheMin analyzed drilled material from a target called "Big Sky" in bedrock away from a fracture and from a fracture-zone target called "Greenhorn." Greenhorn indeed has much more silica, but not any in the form of tridymite. Much of it is in the form of noncrystalline opal, which can form in many types of environments, including soils, sediments, hot spring deposits and acid-leached rocks.
"What we're seeing on Mount Sharp is dramatically different from what we saw in the first two years of the mission," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. "There's so much variability within relatively short distances. The silica is one indicator of how the chemistry changed. It's such a multifaceted and curious discovery, we're going to take a while figuring it out."
For more about Curiosity, which is examining sand dunes this month, visit:

NASA WEB ·NuSTAR Finds Cosmic Clumpy Doughnut Around Black Hole

Hidden Lair at the Heart of Galaxy 1068

NuSTAR's View of Galaxy 1068
Galaxy NGC 1068 can be seen in close-up in this view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. NuSTAR's high-energy X-rays eyes were able to obtain the best view yet into the hidden lair of the galaxy's central, supermassive black hole. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The most massive black holes in the universe are often encircled by thick, doughnut-shaped disks of gas and dust. This deep-space doughnut material ultimately feeds and nourishes the growing black holes tucked inside.
Until recently, telescopes weren't able to penetrate some of these doughnuts, also known as tori.
"Originally, we thought that some black holes were hidden behind walls or screens of material that could not be seen through," said Andrea Marinucci of the Roma Tre University in Italy, lead author of a new Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society study describing results from NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space observatory.
With its X-ray vision, NuSTAR recently peered inside one of the densest of these doughnuts known to surround a supermassive black hole. This black hole lies at the center of a well-studied spiral galaxy called NGC 1068, located 47 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation.
The observations revealed a clumpy, cosmic doughnut.
"The rotating material is not a simple, rounded doughnut as originally thought, but clumpy," said Marinucci.
Doughnut-shaped disks of gas and dust around supermassive black holes were first proposed in the mid-1980s to explain why some black holes are hidden behind gas and dust, while others are not. The idea is that the orientation of the doughnut relative to Earth affects the way we perceive a black hole and its intense radiation. If the doughnut is viewed edge-on, the black hole is blocked. If the doughnut is viewed face-on, the black hole and its surrounding, blazing materials can be detected. This idea is referred to as the unified model because it neatly joins together the different black hole types, based solely upon orientation.
In the past decade, astronomers have been finding hints that these doughnuts aren't as smoothly shaped as once thought. They are more like defective, lumpy doughnuts that a doughnut shop might throw away.
The new discovery is the first time this clumpiness has been observed in an ultra-thick doughnut, and supports the idea that this phenomenon may be common. The research is important for understanding the growth and evolution of massive black holes and their host galaxies.
"We don't fully understand why some supermassive black holes are so heavily obscured, or why the surrounding material is clumpy," said co-author Poshak Gandhi of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. "This is a subject of hot research."
Both NuSTAR and XMM-Newton observed the supermassive black hole in NGC 1068 simultaneously on two occasions between 2014 to 2015. On one of those occasions, in August 2014, NuSTAR observed a spike in brightness. NuSTAR observes X-rays in a higher-energy range than XMM-Newton, and those high-energy X-rays can uniquely pierce thick clouds around the black hole. The scientists say the spike in high-energy X-rays was due to a clearing in the thickness of the material entombing the supermassive black hole.
"It's like a cloudy day, when the clouds partially move away from the sun to let more light shine through," said Marinucci.
NGC 1068 is well known to astronomers as the first black hole to give birth to the unification idea. "But it is only with NuSTAR that we now have a direct glimpse of its black hole through such clouds, albeit fleeting, allowing a better test of the unification concept," said Marinucci.
The team says that future research will address the question of what causes the unevenness in doughnuts. The answer could come in many flavors. It's possible that a black hole generates turbulence as it chomps on nearby material. Or, the energy given off by young stars could stir up turbulence, which would then percolate outward through the doughnut. Another possibility is that the clumps may come from material falling onto the doughnut. As galaxies form, material migrates toward the center, where the density and gravity is greatest. The material tends to fall in clumps, almost like a falling stream of water condensing into droplets as it hits the ground.
"We'd like to figure out if the unevenness of the material is being generated from outside the doughnut, or within it," said Gandhi.
"These coordinated observations with NuSTAR and XMM-Newton show yet again the exciting science possible when these satellites work together," said Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For more information on NuSTAR, visit: