The latest TMRO.tv program: A new way to orient spacecraft: Reaction Spheres – Orbit 10.16 –
Emory Stagmer joins us once again to talk about his patented invention: Reaction Spheres. This is a new way to orient spacecrafts beyond using traditional reaction wheels.
Space news topics:
Next Pluto mission already in the works Ukrainian Rocket to launch from Canada Gravitational Wave testbed repurposed to find comet dust Tianzhou paves way for Chinese Space Station Peggy Whitson sets US space endurance record GLXP Update: SpaceIL Delay & New Astrobotic Project
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Elon Musk believes that greater use of tunnels would provide a major reduction in urban traffic congestion. He has formed “The Boring Company” to investigate improvements in the design of giant tunnel drilling machines that would allow them to drill several times faster than current systems. At SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California they have been experimenting with a boring machine they bought and are using it to dig a tunnel under a road between the company facility and a parking area.
The Boring Company** today posted a video of a simulation showing how an extensive tunnel network might work in a future urban setting:
* * Don’t know if this is a real company or just a fun name for a temporary working group.
A video about a miniature DNA sequencer used by NASA on the ISS:
Thanks to work on the International Space Station, sequencing DNA is simple enough to do in your car…or whatever vehicle you drive. With the next generation of DNA research ready to get underway, NASA’s Dan Huot has a carpool conversation with the researchers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston about their work and watches as they sequence DNA in a portable handheld unit.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is back in contact with Earth after its successful first-ever dive through the narrow gap between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. The spacecraft is in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage, via NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California’s Mojave Desert. The DSN acquired Cassini’s signal at 11:56 p.m. PDT on April 26, 2017 (2:56 a.m. EDT on April 27) and data began flowing at 12:01 a.m. PDT (3:01 a.m. EDT) on April 27.
“In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare,”
said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Saturn’s cloud tops (where the air pressure is 1 bar — comparable to the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level) and within about 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the innermost visible edge of the rings.
While mission managers were confident Cassini would pass through the gap successfully, they took extra precautions with this first dive, as the region had never been explored.
“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn’s other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like,” said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.”
The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere is about 1,500 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide. The best models for the region suggested that if there were ring particles in the area where Cassini crossed the ring plane, they would be tiny, on the scale of smoke particles. The spacecraft zipped through this region at speeds of about 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) relative to the planet, so small particles hitting a sensitive area could potentially have disabled the spacecraft.
As a protective measure, the spacecraft used its large, dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a shield, orienting it in the direction of oncoming ring particles. This meant that the spacecraft was out of contact with Earth during the ring-plane crossing, which took place at 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT) on April 26. Cassini was programmed to collect science data while close to the planet and turn toward Earth to make contact about 20 hours after the crossing.
Cassini’s next dive through the gap is scheduled for May 2.
Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004. Following its last close flyby of the large moon Titan on April 21 PDT (April 22 EDT), Cassini began what mission planners are calling its “Grand Finale.” During this final chapter, Cassini loops Saturn approximately once per week, making a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet. Data from this first dive will help engineers understand if and how they will need to protect the spacecraft on its future ring-plane crossings. The spacecraft is on a trajectory that will eventually plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere — and end Cassini’s mission — on Sept. 15, 2017.
More information about Cassini’s Grand Finale, including images and video, is available at:
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.