Category: launch

The launch of Apollo 13.

The launch of Apollo 13.

The Hunt for New Worlds Continues with TESS

We’re getting ready to start our next mission to find new worlds! The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will find thousands of planets beyond our solar system for us to study in more detail. It’s preparing to launch from our Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

image

Once it launches, TESS will look for new planets that orbit bright stars relatively close to Earth. We’re expecting to find giant planets, like Jupiter, but we’re also predicting we’ll find Earth-sized planets. Most of those planets will be within 300 light-years of Earth, which will make follow-up studies easier for other observatories.

image

TESS will find these new exoplanets by looking for their transits. A transit is a temporary dip in a star’s brightness that happens with predictable timing when a planet crosses between us and the star. The information we get from transits can tell us about the size of the planet relative to the size of its star. We’ve found nearly 3,000 planets using the transit method, many with our Kepler space telescope. That’s over 75% of all the exoplanets we’ve found so far!

image

TESS will look at nearly the entire sky (about 85%) over two years. The mission divides the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will look at 13 of them in the southern sky during its first year before scanning the northern sky the year after.

image

What makes TESS different from the other planet-hunting missions that have come before it? The Kepler mission (yellow) looked continually at one small patch of sky, spotting dim stars and their planets that are between 300 and 3,000 light-years away. TESS (blue) will look at almost the whole sky in sections, finding bright stars and their planets that are between 30 and 300 light-years away.

image

TESS will also have a brand new kind of orbit (visualized below). Once it reaches its final trajectory, TESS will finish one pass around Earth every 13.7 days (blue), which is half the time it takes for the Moon (gray) to orbit. This position maximizes the amount of time TESS can stare at each sector, and the satellite will transmit its data back to us each time its orbit takes it closest to Earth (orange).

image

Kepler’s goal was to figure out how common Earth-size planets might be. TESS’s mission is to find exoplanets around bright, nearby stars so future missions, like our James Webb Space Telescope, and ground-based observatories can learn what they’re made of and potentially even study their atmospheres. TESS will provide a catalog of thousands of new subjects for us to learn about and explore.

image

The TESS mission is led by MIT and came together with the help of many different partners. Learn more about TESS and how it will further our knowledge of exoplanets, or check out some more awesome images and videos of the spacecraft. And stay tuned for more exciting TESS news as the spacecraft launches!

Watch the Launch + More!

image

Sunday, April 15
11 a.m. EDT – NASA Social Mission Overview

Join mission experts to learn more about TESS, how it will search for worlds beyond our solar system and what scientists hope to find! Have questions? Use #askNASA to have them answered live during the broadcast.

Watch HERE


1 p.m. EDT – Prelaunch News Conference

Get an update on the spacecraft, the rocket and the liftoff operations ahead of the April 16 launch! Have questions? Use #askNASA to have them answered live during the broadcast.

Watch HERE.


3 p.m. EDT – Science News Conference

Hear from mission scientists and experts about the science behind the TESS mission. Have questions? Use #askNASA to have them answered live during the broadcast. 

Watch HERE.


4 p.m. EDT – TESS Facebook Live

This live show will dive into the science behind the TESS spacecraft, explain how we search for planets outside our solar system and will allow you to ask your questions to members of the TESS team. 

Watch HERE


Monday, April 16
10 a.m. EDT – NASA EDGE: TESS Facebook Live

This half-hour live show will discuss the TESS spacecraft, the science of searching for planets outside our solar system, and the launch from Cape Canaveral.

Watch HERE.

1 p.m. EDT – Reddit AMA

Join us live on Reddit for a Science AMA to discuss the hunt for exoplanets and the upcoming launch of TESS!

Join in HERE.


6 p.m. EDT – Launch Coverage!

TESS is slated to launch at 6:32 p.m. EDT on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from our Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Watch HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

2—Four Hundred Elephants…The Saturn V rocket stood about the height of a 36-story-tall building, and 60 feet (18 meters) taller than the Statue of Liberty. Fully fueled for liftoff, the Saturn V weighed 6.2 million pounds (2.8 million kilograms), or the weight of about 400 elephants.Rockets We Love-Saturn V

Fifty years ago, with President Kennedy’s Moon landing deadline looming, the powerful Saturn V had to perform. And perform it did—hurling 24 humans to the Moon.

image

The race to land astronauts on the Moon was getting tense 50 years ago this week. Apollo 6, the final uncrewed test flight of America’s powerful Moon rocket, launched on April 4, 1968. Several technical issues made for a less-than-perfect launch, but the test flight nonetheless convinced NASA managers that the rocket was up to the task of carrying humans. Less than two years remained to achieve President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put humans on the Moon before the decade was out, meaning the Saturn V rocket had to perform.

1—“The only chance to get to the Moon before the end of 1969.”

image

After the April 1968 Apollo 6 test flight (pictured above), the words of Deke Slayton (one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts) and intense competition with a rival team in the Soviet Union propelled a 12-member panel to unanimously vote for a Christmas 1968 crewed mission to orbit the Moon.

2—Four Hundred Elephants…

image

The Saturn V rocket stood about the height of a 36-story-tall building, and 60 feet (18 meters) taller than the Statue of Liberty. Fully fueled for liftoff, the Saturn V weighed 6.2 million pounds (2.8 million kilograms), or the weight of about 400 elephants.

3—…and Busloads of Thrust

image

Stand back, Ms. Frizzle. The Saturn V generated 7.6 million pounds (34.5 million newtons) of thrust at launch, creating more power than 85 Hoover Dams. It could launch about 130 tons (118,000 kilograms) into Earth orbit. That’s about as much weight as 10 school buses. The Saturn V could launch about 50 tons (43,500 kilograms) to the Moon. That’s about the same as four school buses.

4—Christmas at the Moon

image

On Christmas Eve 1968, the Saturn V delivered on engineers’ promises by hurling Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders into lunar orbit. The trio became the first human beings to orbit another world. The Apollo 8 crew broadcast a special holiday greeting from lunar orbit and also snapped the iconic earthrise image of our home planet rising over the lunar landscape.

5—Gumdrop and Spider

image

The crew of Apollo 9 proved that they could pull the lunar module out of the top of the Saturn V’s third stage and maneuver it in space (in this case high above Earth). The crew named their command module “Gumdrop.” The Lunar Module was named “Spider.”

6—The Whole Enchilada

image

Saturn-V AS-505 provided the ride for the second dry run to the Moon in 1969. Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young rode Command Module “Charlie Brown” to lunar orbit and then took Lunar Module “Snoopy” on a test run in lunar orbit. Apollo 10 did everything but land on the Moon, setting the stage for the main event a few months later. Young and Cernan returned to walk on the Moon aboard Apollo 16 and 17 respectively. Cernan, who died in 2017, was the last human being (so far) to set foot on the Moon.

7—The Main Event

image

The launch of Apollo 11—the first mission to land humans on the Moon—provided another iconic visual as Saturn-V AS-506 roared to life on Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Three days later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first of many bootprints in the lunar dust (supported from orbit by Michael Collins).

8—Moon Men

image

Saturn V rockets carried 24 humans to the Moon, and 12 of them walked on its surface between 1969 and 1972. Thirteen are still alive today. The youngest, all in their early 80s, are moonwalkers Charles Duke (Apollo 16) and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly (Apollo 16, and also one of the heroes who helped rescue Apollo 13). There is no single image of all the humans who have visited the Moon.

9—The Flexible Saturn V

The Saturn V’s swan song was to lay the groundwork for establishing a permanent human presence in space. Skylab, launched into Earth orbit in 1973, was America’s first space station, a precursor to the current International Space Station. Skylab’s ride to orbit was a Saturn IV-B 3rd stage, launched by a Saturn 1-C and SII Saturn V stages.

This was the last launch of a Saturn V, but you can still see the three remaining giant rockets at the visitor centers at Johnson Space Center in Texas and Kennedy Space Center in Florida and at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Alabama (near Marshall Space Flight Center, one of the birthplaces of the Saturn V).

10—The Next Generation

The Saturn V was retired in 1973. Work is now underway on a fleet of rockets. We are planning an uncrewed flight test of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to travel beyond the Moon called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). “This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known,” said Mike Sarafin, EM-1 mission manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Read the web version of this 10 Things to Know article HERE

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

A Hitchhiker’s Ride to Space

This month, we are set to launch the latest weather satellite from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, satellite will provide essential data for timely and accurate weather forecasts and for tracking environmental events such as forest fires and droughts.

image

Image Credit: Ball Aerospace

JPSS-1 is the primary satellite launching, but four tiny satellites will also be hitchhiking a ride into Earth orbit. These shoebox-sized satellites (part of our CubeSat Launch Initiative) were developed in partnership with university students and used for education, research and development. Here are 4 reasons why MiRaTA, one of the hitchhikers, is particularly interesting…

image

Miniaturized Weather Satellite Technology

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) CubeSat is set to orbit the Earth to prove that a small satellite can advance the technology necessary to reduce the cost and size of future weather satellites. At less than 10 pounds, these nanosatellites are faster and more cost-effective to build and launch since they have been constructed by Principal Investigator Kerri Cahoy’s students at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (with lots of help). There’s even a chance it could be put into operation with forecasters.

image

The Antenna? It’s a Measuring Tape

That long skinny piece coming out of the bottom right side under MiRaTA’s solar panel? That’s a measuring tape. It’s doubling as a communications antenna. MiRaTA will measure temperature, water vapor and cloud ice in Earth’s atmosphere. These measurements are used to track major storms, including hurricanes, as well as everyday weather. If this test flight is successful, the new, smaller technology will likely be incorporated into future weather satellites – part of our national infrastructure.

image

Tiny Package Packing a Punch

MiRaTA will also test a new technique using radio signals received from GPS satellites in a higher orbit. They will be used to measure the temperature of the same volume of atmosphere that the radiometer is viewing. The GPS satellite measurement can then be used for calibrating the radiometer. “In physics class, you learn that a pencil submerged in water looks like it’s broken in half because light bends differently in the water than in the air,” Principal Investigator Kerri Cahoy said. “Radio waves are like light in that they refract when they go through changing densities of air, and we can use the magnitude of the refraction to calculate the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere with near-perfect accuracy and use this to calibrate a radiometer.” 

image

What’s Next?

In the best-case scenario, three weeks after launch MiRaTA will be fully operational, and within three months the team will have obtained enough data to study if this technology concept is working. The big goal for the mission—declaring the technology demonstration a success—would be confirmed a bit farther down the road, at least half a year away, following the data analysis. If MiRaTA’s technology validation is successful, Cahoy said she envisions an eventual constellation of these CubeSats orbiting the entire Earth, taking snapshots of the atmosphere and weather every 15 minutes—frequent enough to track storms, from blizzards to hurricanes, in real time.

Learn more about MiRaTA

Watch the launch!

image

The mission is scheduled to launch this month (no sooner than Nov. 14), with JPSS-1 atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket lifting off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. You’ll be able to watch on NASA TV or at nasa.gov/live.

image

Watch the launch live HERE on Nov. 14, liftoff is scheduled for Tuesday, 4:47 a.m.! 

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Resupply Mission Brings Mealworms and Mustard Seeds to Space Station

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station on November 11, 2017 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It will be packed with cargo and scientific experiments for the six humans currently living and working on the orbiting laboratory.

image

The cargo spacecraft is named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, who is the last man to have walked on the moon.

image

Here are some of the really neat science and research experiments that will be delivered to the station: 

What’s Microgravity Got to do with Bacterial Antibiotics?

Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) will study microgravity’s effect on bacterial antibiotic resistance.

image

Results from this experiment could help us determine appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration human spaceflight and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may change as a function of stress on Earth.

Laser Beams…Not on Sharks…But on a CubeSat

Traditional laser communication systems use transmitters that are far too large for small spacecraft. The Optical Communication Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) tests the functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology.

image

Results from OCSD could lead to improved GPS and other satellite networks on Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.

This Hybrid Solar Antenna Could Make Space Communication Even Better 

As space exploration increases, so will the need for improved power and communication technologies. The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid power and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, tests the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. 

image

ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space. 

More Plants in Space!  

Ready for a mouthful…The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis…aka the Biological Nitrogen Fixation experiment, will examine how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of the Microclover legume (a plant in the pea family). Nitrogen fixation is a process where nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia. This crucial element of any ecosystem is also a natural fertilizer that is necessary for most types of plant growth.

image

This experiment could tell us about the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.

What Happens When Mealworms Live in Space?

Mealworms are high in nutrients and one of the most popular sources of alternative protein in developing countries. The Effects of Microgravity on the Life Cycle of Tenebrio Molitor (Tenebrio Molitor) investigation studies how the microgravity environment affects the mealworm life cycle.

image

In addition to alternative protein research, this investigation will provide information about animal growth under unique conditions.

Mustard Seeds in Microgravity 

The Life Cycle of Arabidopsis thaliana in Microgravity experiment studies the formation and functionality of the Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard plant with a genome that is fully mapped, in microgravity conditions.

image

The results from this investigation could contribute to an understanding of plant and crop growth in space.

Follow @ISS_Research on Twitter for more information about the science happening on space station. 

Watch the launch live HERE on Nov. 11, liftoff is scheduled for 7:37 a.m. EDT!

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

Every day, our spacecraft and people are exploring the solar system. Both the public and the private sectors are contributing to the quest. For example, here are ten things happening just this week:

1. We deliver. 

image

The commercial space company Orbital ATK is targeting Saturday, Nov. 11 for the launch of its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. Cygnus is launching on a resupply mission to the International Space Station, carrying cargo and scientific experiments to the six people currently living on the microgravity laboratory. 

2. See for yourself. 

image

Social media users are invited to register to attend another launch in person, this one of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This launch, currently targeted for no earlier than December, will be the next commercial cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The deadline to apply is Nov. 7. Apply HERE.

3. Who doesn’t like to gaze at the Moon?

image

Our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sure does—and from very close range. This robotic spacecraft has been orbiting Earth’s companion since 2009, returning views of the lunar surface that are so sharp they show the footpaths made by Apollo astronauts. Learn more about LRO and the entire history of lunar exploration at NASA’s newly-updated, expanded Moon site: moon.nasa.gov

4. Meanwhile at Mars…

image

Another sharp-eyed robotic spacecraft has just delivered a fresh batch of equally detailed images. Our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surveys the Red Planet’s surface daily, and you can see the very latest pictures of those exotic landscapes HERE. We currently operate five—count ‘em, five—active missions at Mars, with another (the InSight lander) launching next year. Track them all at: mars.nasa.gov.

5. Always curious. 

image

One of those missions is the Curiosity rover. It’s currently climbing a rocky highland dubbed Vera Rubin Ridge, turning its full array of instruments on the intriguing geology there. Using those instruments, Curiosity can see things you and I can’t.

6. A new Dawn. 

image

Our voyage to the asteroid belt has a new lease on life. The Dawn spacecraft recently received a mission extension to continue exploring the dwarf planet Ceres. This is exciting because minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting it may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Ongoing studies from Dawn could shed light on these questions.

7. There are eyes everywhere. 

When our Mars Pathfinder touched down in 1997, it had five cameras: two on a mast that popped up from the lander, and three on the rover, Sojourner. Since then, photo sensors that were improved by the space program have shrunk in size, increased in quality and are now carried in every cellphone. That same evolution has returned to space. Our Mars 2020 mission will have more “eyes” than any rover before it: a grand total of 23, to create sweeping panoramas, reveal obstacles, study the atmosphere, and assist science instruments.

8. Voyage to a hidden ocean.

One of the most intriguing destinations in the solar system is Jupiter’s moon Europa, which hides a global ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. Our Europa Clipper mission sets sail in the 2020s to take a closer look than we’ve ever had before. You can explore Europa, too: europa.nasa.gov

9. Flight of the mockingbird. 

On Nov. 10, the main belt asteroid 19482 Harperlee, named for the legendary author of To Kill a Mockingbird, makes its closest approach to Earth during the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun. Details HERE. Learn more about asteroids HERE. Meanwhile, our OSIRIS-REx mission is now cruising toward another tiny, rocky world called Bennu.

10. What else is up this month? 

For sky watchers, there will be a pre-dawn pairing of Jupiter and Venus, the Moon will shine near some star clusters, and there will be meteor activity all month long. Catch our monthly video blog for stargazers HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Photo

Turning night into day.  The launch of Apollo 17.

Turning night into day.  The launch of Apollo 17.

The moment of truth. 

The moment of truth. 

Saturn 1-B

Saturn 1-B