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Category Archives: Space Station

Wine in space? Yep, that’s a thing – Standard-Times

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 10:38 am

Gus Clemens, Special to San Angelo Standard-Times Published 7:55 a.m. CT Jan. 15, 2020

You may have missed the out-of-this-world wine news late last year when a dozen bottles of Bordeaux wine arrived at the International Space Station.

No, this was not a bon vivant venture to pair quality wine with the astronauts desiccated dinners. The bottles are stored in individual custom-designed aluminum canisters with form-fitting foam inserts and redundant O-ring seals. The canisters cannot be opened until the vino returns to Earth after a year in microgravity.

The research project is acronymed WISE (all research projects must have a clever acronym). WISE stands for Vitis Vinum in Spatium Experimentia. Try saying that three times after drinking a bottle of Bordeaux.

In this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 photo provided by Space Cargo Unlimited, researchers with Space Cargo Unlimited prepare bottles of French red wine to be flown aboard a Northrop Grumman capsule from Wallops Island, Va., to the International Space Station. The wine will age for a year up there before returning to the Luxembourg company.(Photo: AP)

Wine as a complex multi-component system is a great model for the understanding of these processes, Dr. Michael Lebert, the missions scientific manager and a cell biologist at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, told the publication Unfiltered. The exposure of life to the absence of gravity allows us to provoke an organism in a unique way, which cannot be simulated on Earth.

Twelve identical bottles are stored on Earth. When the WISE bottles return from the space station, experts will test and taste them against the earth-bound bottles to see if the next big thing will be to age your trophy wine in orbit. Yes, the 21st century is shaping up to be weird in so many ways.

Tasting notes:

Gus Clemens(Photo: San Angelo Standard-Times graphic)

Les Dauphins Ctes du Rhne Reserve Blanc 2017: People not really into wine will enjoy. Light vivacity is its major note. $10-14

Mt. Tabor Gewrztraminer, Galilee 2016: Semi-sweet wine from Israel with vivid aromaswhat you expect from gewrztraminerand exuberant fruitiness. $14-16

Lucien Albrecht Crmant dAlsace Brut Ros: Crmant delivers great value in French sparkling made in the traditional method. Do not hesitate to put this on your shopping list. $20-24

P+S Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Duoro 2017: Smooth, big, bold. Portuguese red blend with extraordinary quality-to-price ratio. $22-26

Gioacchino Garofoli Podium Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2016: Outstanding fruit with balancing acidity, minerality, and splash of saline on the lengthy finish. $26

Fort Ross Winery Sea Slopes Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2017: Silky with tasty chardonnay flavors presented without overlay of oak and butter. Nice saline notes. $27-30

Last round: Coffee gets me started in the morning, but I count on wine to carry me past the finish line in the evening.

Email: wine@cwadv.com. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine. Twitter: @gusclemens. Website: gusclemensonwine.com.

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ISRO Is About To Make India Proud Again With India’s First Orbital Space Station By 2022 – ScoopWhoop

Posted: at 10:38 am

Planned for 2022, The Indian Space Research Organisation is on its way to launch the country's first human spaceflight mission, Gaganyaan.

According to The Economic Times , ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan said that once the Gaganyaan mission has been successfully launched, the space agency plans to carry out more manned missions in the future and a space station has also been planned.

In an interview, Dr K Sivan said,

To carry a three-member crew to space, ISRO has designed an autonomous 3.7 tonnes of spacecraft, however, it is likely to have only one astronaut in its maiden human space flight.

Dr Sivan said that for this high-profile mission, four IAF pilots will head to Russia later this month to begin an intensive programme to train as astronauts. For this mission, Russia will train Indian astronauts and build the life support systems in the crew capsule.

Before sending astronauts into space, later this year, ISRO will send a humanoid into space using its most powerful rocket, Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-MkIII. To make it suitable for a human, the rocket will be fine-tuned to be safe enough with zero to minimum errors to carry a human on board. This will be the first of the two unmanned missions.

For the human space flight mission, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, India has earmarked over10,000 crores.

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AEHF satellite arrives in Florida for first of nearly 20 Space Force launches this year – Spaceflight Now

Posted: at 10:38 am

File photo of the liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5-551 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: United Launch Alliance

The sixth and final satellite in the U.S. militarys network of ultra-secure, nuclear-hardened AEHF communications relay stations has arrived in Florida for final preparations for liftoff in March on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the first of nearly 20 U.S. Space Force missions planned for launch in the first year of operations for the new military service.

A military C-5 transport plane flew the AEHF 6 satellite Saturday from Moffett Field, California near the crafts Lockheed Martin factory in Sunnyvale to the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ground crews moved the satellite safely stored inside a climate-controlled shipping container to the nearby Astrotech payload processing facility for final pre-launch testing, inspections and fueling.

The launch of the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite is scheduled for mid-March from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard the most powerful version of ULAs Atlas 5 rocket, known as the 551 configuration, with five strap-on solid rocket boosters and a 5.4-meter (17.7-foot-diameter) payload fairing.

The March launch of the AEHF 6 satellite is next in line for ULA after the scheduled Feb. 5 liftoff of an Atlas 5 rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, a joint U.S.- European science probe to study the physics of the sun.

The AEHF 6 satellite will be the first major U.S. Space Force payload to launch after the creation of the new military branch in December. It joins five previous AEHF satellites launched on Atlas 5 rockets since 2010, continuing and expanding secure communications services for U.S. military commanders and the president provided by the militarys earlier generation of Milstar spacecraft.

The Space Force is comprised of military units that previously operated under the umbrella of the now-defunct U.S. Air Force Space Command, including space wings that manage launch ranges at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The new Space Force military branch remains part of the Department of the Air Force, and also includes the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, which oversees launch and spacecraft procurement and development programs, such as AEHF, GPS and SBIRS satellites for communications, navigation and early warning missions.

Its an exciting time to be part of SMCs launch enterprise, a Space and Missile Systems Center spokesperson said. We expect eight to 10 National Security Space Launch missions and nine small launch missions in 2020.

The National Security Space Launch missions include flights with operational military and intelligence-gathering satellites on ULAs Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, and SpaceXs Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launcher family. The small launch missions planned for liftoff this year will primarily loft experimental, scientific and technology demonstration payloads on light-class launch vehicles.

Heres a list of the publicly-disclosed Space Force missions scheduled for launch in 2020:

The first of the Space Forces small launch missions scheduled for flight this year will take off on a Northrop Grumman Minotaur 4 rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. The Minotaur 4, derived from the militarys decommissioned Peacekeeper ballistic missile, will fire into orbit with a top secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which owns the U.S. governments spy satellites.

The NROL-129 mission on the Minotaur 4 rocket is scheduled for launch from Virginia in March, according to a Space Force spokesperson.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch up to three GPS navigation satellites for the Space Force this year, all from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first of the three GPS satellites is scheduled for liftoff in April, followed by another GPS mission in the August timeframe. If those two launches occur as scheduled, the Space Force says another GPS satellite could be ready for liftoff in late 2020.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the newest generation of GPS satellites broadcast positioning and timing signals to U.S. military troops, airplanes and naval ships. The GPS network is also used worldwide by civilians for road navigation, commercial air travel, search-and-rescue, and banking transactions.

The first two GPS 3-series satellites launched in December 2018 and August 2019 aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 and ULA Delta 4 rockets.

The sixth flight of the Space Forces X-37B space plane is scheduled for launch in May on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The reusable Boeing-built space plane resembles a miniature space shuttle, taking off off on top of a conventional rocket and returning to a runway landing at the end of each mission.

The May launch of the next X-37B mission is officially designated as the AFSPC-7 mission. An Atlas 5-501 rocket with a five-meter payload shroud and no solid rocket boosters will deliver one of the two X-37B space planes in the Space Forces inventory to an orbit several hundred miles above Earth for a top secret mission expected to last months or years.

The largest rocket in ULAs fleet the Delta 4-Heavy is scheduled for launch in June from pad 37 at Cape Canaveral with a classified NRO spy satellite. The purpose of the spacecraft planned for liftoff on the Delta 4-Heavys NROL-44 mission has not been disclosed, but previous large NRO spy satellites launched on Delta 4-Heavys from Cape Canaveral have been designed to intercept radio and electronic signals for U.S. government intelligence analysts.

The Air Force last year announced new contracts procured through the militarys Rapid Agile Launch Initiative, or RALI, program aimed at securing relatively low-cost launch services with new commercial small satellite launchers.

At least two of the RALI missions are scheduled for launch in 2020.

The STP-27RM mission will carry the Air Force Research Laboratorys Monolith technology demonstration microsatellite into orbit on top of a Rocket Lab Electron booster. The mission is planned for liftoff in the spring timeframe, and will mark the first Rocket Lab launch from the companys new launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginias Eastern Shore.

A rideshare launch with multiple small satellites is planned for the summer on Virgin Orbits LauncherOne booster, which is scheduled for an inaugural test flight in the coming months. The air-launched rocket will fire into orbit from a modified Boeing 747 jumbo jet after taking off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Two additional orbital RALI missions are also scheduled this year, but their launch vehicles and launch schedules have not been announced. A rideshare launch with multiple experimental small satellites for the militarys Space Test Program is also planned for liftoff this year on an unidentified rocket.

The Space Forces small launch program also plans to perform a Minotaur 1 rocket launch in late 2020 from Wallops Island, Virginia. The Minotaur 1 mission for the National Reconnaissance is designated NROL-111, and no information has been disclosed about its payload.

There are two suborbital missions on the Space Forces small launch manifest this year.

Several more Space Force missions are being readied for launches in the second half of 2020.

ULA will launch an Atlas 5 rocket in the September timeframe with a classified payload for the NRO. The launch from Cape Canaveral, codenamed NROL-101, is scheduled after the departure of NASAs Mars 2020 rover mission on an Atlas 5 flight in July.

Another Space Force mission is also on ULAs Atlas 5 manifest in late 2020, according to a military spokesperson. The AFSPC-8 mission from Cape Canaveral will carry the fifth and sixth satellites for the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, which is designed to help the military track and observe objects in geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above Earth.

The Space Forces launches on Atlas 5 rockets this year will be scheduled among several other critical Atlas 5 missions on ULAs 2020 manifest. Besides the Solar Orbiter and Mars 2020 launches for NASA, ULA is on contract with Boeing to launch the first piloted flight of the companys CST-100 Starliner commercial crew capsule with three astronauts heading for the International Space Station.

A launch date for the Starliners first crewed mission has not been announced.

Just one Space Force launch is planned this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the usual launch site for military surveillance satellites heading into polar orbit.

ULA is planning to launch a Delta 4-Heavy rocket some time between October and the end of the year from Space Launch Complex 6 at Vandenberg with the National Reconnaissance Offices NROL-82 mission.

The fourth flight of SpaceXs Falcon Heavy rocket the most powerful launcher in the world currently in operation is also scheduled before the end of 2020 with the Space Forces AFSPC-44 mission. Little is known about the purpose of the payloads on the AFSPC-44 launch, but officials have indicated the mission will loft at least two satellites into a high-altitude geosynchronous orbit.

The Falcon Heavy will lift off from pad 39A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the only SpaceX launch site configured to launch the heavy-lifter.

SpaceX is building three new boosters for the triple-body Falcon Heavy rockets AFSPC-44 mission.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Watch out for these space missions in 2020 – Livemint

Posted: at 10:38 am

When Apollo 11s lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Moon in July 1969, the world media scrambled to cover the momentous occasion. A leading Indian newspaper carried an article, courtesy The New York Times, by the then administrator of US space agency Nasa, Thomas Paine, describing how the lunar surface would accommodate domed cities in the future. It was headlined: Earth-Moon Flights May Become Common Soon".

Paine also wrote that these bases would evolve into self-sustaining communities thanks to the use of modern technology powered by solar and nuclear energy that would find a way to process lunar resources".

While humans havent visited the Moon since 1972, a return mission is now just four years away, with the Artemis programme aiming to land the first woman astronaut there in 2024. It all begins in 2020 though, with space agencies in China and Europe also working on lunar missions. This year is also big on launches for Mars, owing to the favourable alignment of the two planets (the distance between Earth and Mars reduces). Heres a closer look at some of the most exciting space missions slated to launch in 2020.

Nasa Mars 2020 rover

Launch date: July

Nasas Mars 2020 rover mission will take off on the Atlas V rocket, hoping to land in the planets Jezero crater, which was once thought to be a lake. The aim is to take the scientific goals of Nasas Mars Exploration Program to a whole new level. According to Nasa, the new rover comes with a drill that can collect rock, soil samples and store them in a cache on the planets surface. The plan is to get these samples to Earth through a future mission. Apart from studying the planets geology, the Mars 2020 rover will also try to understand if earlier environments on Mars were enough to support microbial life, seeking biosignatures in rocks that are known to preserve signs of life. In addition, the aim is to test oxygen production in the Martian atmosphereimperative to plans for establishing human colonies on the planet. The current rovers design is inspired by the Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012 and is still operational on Mars. The proposed mission has a duration of one Mars year, or around 687 Earth days.

ESA solar orbiter

Launch date: February

The European Space Agencys (ESAs) Solar Orbiterwill take off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in February and aim to perform close, high-resolution studies of the Sun and inner heliosphere. The orbiter will carry its telescopes and other scientific instruments to just one-fifth of Earths distance from the Sun. It will also provide the first images of the Suns polar regions and become only the second spacecraft to study the Sun from close proximity after the ongoing mission of the Parker Solar Probe, which was launched in 2018. The data and imagery collected from the Solar Orbiter could tell scientists more about solar winds and eruptions, and how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere. The Solar Orbiter is expected to go closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft beforeit will be exposed to sunlight 13 times more intense than what we experience on Earth. In order to protect it from the searing heat, the Orbiters Sun-facing side is protected by a sunshield. According to the ESA, the spacecraft will also be kept cool with the help of special radiators that will dissipate excess heat into space.

Indias maiden solar mission

Launch dates: To be decided

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) successfully launched its GSAT-30 communications satellite aboard the Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on 17 JanuaryIndias first launch of 2020. But it wont be its last this year. After recently announcing another lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3, and sharing big developments on the countrys first manned mission, Gaganyaan, Isro will also launch its first solar mission, Aditya-L1, to study the Suns corona. According to Isro, the Aditya-L1 mission will be inserted into a halo orbit around the L1, or the Lagrangian point of the Sun-Earth system, roughly 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. The missions primary payload is a coronagraph (a visible emission line coronagraph designed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics), which is like a telescope that can see and capture things close to the Sun. Isro also aims to conduct an orbital test flight of its small satellite launch vehicle, or SSLV, this year. The SSLV is designed to carry small satellites into low Earth orbit and can be assembled within days for quick launches. It is smaller and cheaper than bigger launch vehicles like the PSLV and GSLV.

Virgin Galactic

Launch dates: To be decided

Space tourism is all set to take flight with Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceline launched by British investor and philanthropist Richard Branson, which hopes to start commercial operations this year. Earlier this month, the company achieved a major construction milestone after assembling all the major structural elements of its second rocket spaceship, which now stands on its own landing gear at the Mojave Air & Space Port in California. According to an official statement, the spaceships assembly team will now work on connecting the vehicles integrated systems, including the flight control systems and fuselage. Virgin Galactic wants to open space travel to private astronauts and researchers. Last year, Nasa also announced that the International Space Station was open to commercial opportunities and hosting tourists.

The idea of space tourism is expected to reel in some big numbers. In 2019, Swiss investment bank UBS estimated that space tourism would become a $3 billion (around 21,000 crore now) market by 2030. The entire space sector, it added in a report, could grow to a staggering $926 billion by 2040. With private space enthusiasts willing to shell out as much as $250,000 per ticket for a seat on the Virgin Galactic spaceships, these numbers dont look far-fetched.

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How to Watch Boeing’s 1st Starliner Test Flight to the Space Station Online – Space.com

Posted: December 18, 2019 at 6:49 am

Boeing will make history this week when it sends its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, and you can keep up with the mission live online, thanks to NASA TV.

On Friday (Dec. 20), the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket and begin making its way to the ISS, where it will spend one week before returning to Earth with a soft landing at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

You can watch the entire Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission including the launch, docking and landing live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. Below is a schedule of all the events that will be livestreamed. If you miss any of the live events, we'll have the replays here on Space.com afterward.

Related: Boeing's 1st Starliner Flight Test in Photos

Boeing will hold a pre-launch news conference at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2 p.m. EST (1700 GMT), along with officials from NASA, ULA and the 45th Weather Squadron. Here's a list of attendees:

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will join future Boeing astronauts, Josh Cassada and Suni Williams, for live interviews on NASA TV's media channel, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. EST (1100-1300 GMT). Williams and Cassada are two of the four astronauts scheduled to fly on Starliner's first operational flight to the International Space Station, which is currently scheduled for 2021.

The Atlas V rocket carrying the uncrewed Starliner spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:36 a.m. EST (1136 GMT).NASA will begin broadcasting live coverage of the launch at 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT).

After the launch, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will give his remarks at a news conference that is currently planned to begin at 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT). However, the NASA TV schedule notes that this start time is subject to change. Participants in this news conference will include:

Another news conference will follow promptly at 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT), with members of the OFT launch team, including:

The Starliner will arrive at the ISS on Saturday (Dec. 21), and NASA will stream live views of the rendezvous and docking beginning at 5 a.m. EST (1000 GMT).

It will autonomously dock with the ISS without the help of astronauts steering the Canadarm2 robotic arm, which is usually the case for incoming cargo vehicles. Docking is scheduled for 8:08 a.m. EST (1308 GMT).

NASA will continue to stream live coverage until the ISS astronauts open the hatch at about 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT), when the crew on board the station will offer remarks on the historic arrival.

After spending a week docked with the space station, Starliner will begin its journey home on Dec. 27. Astronauts will close the hatch at about 8:50 a.m. EST (1350 GMT), and live coverage of the hatch closing will begin on NASA TV at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT).

Live coverage of the undocking will begin at 11:45 p.m. EST (0445 GMT on Dec. 28), and Starliner will undock on Dec. 28 at 12:44 a.m. EST (1744 GMT).

After undocking from the space station at 12:44 a.m. EST (1744 GMT), the Starliner will begin its descent back to Earth, where it will conduct a parachute-assisted landing in the desert of New Mexico.

The journey back will take about five hours, but only the last hour or so will be streamed live. After the undocking, NASA TV will return at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT) for live coverage of the deorbit burn, which is scheduled to begin at 5:01 a.m. EST (1001 GMT). The landing is scheduled for 5:47 a.m. EST (1047 GMT).

Boeing and NASA may announce additional briefings to follow the landing, though none have been announced yet. We will update this schedule of events when we learn more.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Cool New Hardware Welcomed Aboard Space Station Heres What They Got – SciTechDaily

Posted: at 6:49 am

Astronaut Christina Koch unloads new hardware for the Cold Atom Lab aboard the International Space Station the week of December 9, 2020. Credit: NASA

Astronaut Christina Koch recently gave a warm welcome to a very cool arrival to the International Space Station: a new piece of hardware for the Cold Atom Lab, an experimental physics facility that chills atoms to almost absolute zero, or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273 degrees Celsius). Thats colder than any known place in the universe.

The Cold Atom Lab has been up and running in the space stations science module since July 2018 and is operated remotely from NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Five groups of scientists on Earth are using the Cold Atom Lab to conduct a variety of experiments to help answer questions about how our world works at the smallest scales.

The new hardware includes an instrument called an atom interferometer that will allow scientists to make subtle measurements of gravity and probe fundamental theories of gravity. Further development of this technology in space could lead to improved inertial-force sensors, which could be used to design tools for enhanced spacecraft navigation, to probe the composition and topology of planets and other celestial bodies, and to study Earths climate.

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) consists of two standardized containers that will be installed on the International Space Station. The larger container is called a quad locker, and the smaller container is called a single locker. The quad locker contains CALs physics package, or the compartment where CAL will produce clouds of ultra-cold atoms. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Tyler Winn

Chilling atoms to such low temperatures slows them down significantly, enabling scientists to study them more easily. (Room-temperature atoms move faster than the speed of sound, while ultracold atoms move slower than a garden snail.) Ultracold atom physics has led to breakthroughs such as the discovery of superfluidity and superconductivity, as well as the production of a fifth state of matter, called a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC). First predicted in the 1920s, BECs allow scientists to observe quantum behaviors of atoms on a macroscopic scale.

Physicists have been using ultracold atom facilities in Earth-bound labs for more than 20 years. But CAL is the first such facility in Earth orbit, where the microgravity environment provides scientists longer observing times for individual bunches of atoms and may allow for colder temperatures than what can be achieved on the ground.

Ultracold atoms also provide a window into quantum mechanics, where particles can behave in strange ways, such as spontaneously passing through physical barriers or communicating instantaneously over long distances. The study of quantum mechanics has led to the development of such ubiquitous technologies as lasers, semiconductors and transistors. By making the leap into Earth orbit, the Cold Atom Lab may open the door for the development of quantum technologies in space.

About the size of a mini refrigerator, the Cold Atom Lab will be equipped with the newly arrived hardware in 2020. Designed and built at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Cold Atom Lab was is sponsored by the International Space Station Program at NASAs Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) Division of NASAs Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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SpaceX’s Next Space Station Delivery Includes a Stash of Cannabis – ScienceAlert

Posted: at 6:49 am

On Sunday, a SpaceX Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station hauling nearly three tons of cargo.

SpaceX's next ISS resupply mission is scheduled for March 2020, and while that trip might not include any super-buff "mighty mice", it'll be packing something equally unique: cannabis.

On Tuesday, agri-tech company Front Range Biosciences announced plans to send cannabis to the ISS.

No, it's not space-shipping weed to get astronauts high. Instead, it'll send plant cultures of hemp, the legal cannabis strain with low levels of compound THC.

The cultures will remain in an ISS incubator for 30 days while BioServe Space Technologies (a Front Range project partner) monitors them remotely from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

After their 30 days in space, the cannabis cultures go home to Earth so Front Range can see what effect, if any, microgravity and space radiation had on their gene expression.

"There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations," Front Range CEO Jonathan Vaught said in a release.

"This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications."

This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.

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NASA gives go-ahead for Starliner test flight to space station – Spaceflight Now

Posted: at 6:49 am

Boeings first space-ready Starliner capsule stands atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaverals Complex 41 launch pad. Credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA officials cleared Boeings Starliner spacecraft for flight Thursday after a thorough and comprehensive review of the crew capsules readiness, setting the stage for final pre-launch preparations at Cape Canaveral ahead of liftoff Dec. 20 on an unpiloted demonstration mission to the International Space Station.

The Starliners Orbital Flight Test will blast off on top of a 172-foot-tall (52.4-meter) United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The test flight is a prerequisite for the first Starliner launch with astronauts on-board, a milestone mission scheduled some time in 2020.

Together, NASA and Boeing are ready to demonstrate the capabilities of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft ton top of a human-rated Atlas 5 rocket, said James Morhard, NASAs deputy administrator. This is the first flight test to the International Space Station of this new crew-capable system.

During a full day of briefings and discussion Thursday at NASAs Kennedy Space Center, representatives from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance reviewed the status of flight hardware, software and the space stations readiness to receive the Starliner spacecraft.

We are go for launch for the Orbital Flight Test next Friday, Dec. 20, said Phil McAlister, director of NASAs commercial spaceflight development programs. Theres still some standard open work to complete, and a couple of technical issues we have to close out, so we could move off the 20th. But right now, the 20th is looking good.

John Mulholland, vice president and general manager of Boeings commercial crew program, said engineers continue to assess several unresolved issues, including a NASA verification of data showing the Starliner for the Orbital Flight Test matches Boeings design.

Part of our requirements was to provide that dataset to the International Space Station program, Mulholland said. They are almost complete with that review, but they are conducting a thorough review of that to make sure that theyre satisfied with the thoroughness of our build.

Mulholland said final analysis and qualification of the Starliners mission data load, which will be loaded into the capsules computer Tuesday, is also ongoing.

The launch time Dec. 20 is set for 6:36 a.m. EST (1136 GMT), roughly the moment Earths rotation brings Cape Canaverals Complex 41 launch pad under the space stations orbital plane.

The Atlas 5s Russian-made RD-180 main engine and two Aerojet Rocketdyne solid rocket boosters will power the launcher off the pad. A dual-engine Centaur upper stage will power the Starliner into space and deploy the capsule on a preliminary suborbital trajectory. The capsules own thrusters will fire about a half-hour after liftoff to reach a stable orbit and begin its pursuit of the station.

While officially getting the authority to proceed with the launch, its important to remember that the launch of the Starliner is just the beginning, Mulholland said Thursday. The spacecraft will spend about eight days in orbit, and weve got a highly skilled team who will be executing the mission.

Boeing, ULA and NASA have backup launch opportunities reserved with the U.S. Air Forces Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral for Dec. 21 and Dec. 23.

Assuming the launch occurs Dec. 20, docking of the Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Stations Harmony module is scheduled for Dec. 21 at 8:08 a.m. EST (1308 GMT).

The space station crew will open hatches and enter the Starliner spacecraft, retrieving cargo and performing inspections during the ships week-long stay.

At the conclusion of the eight-day test flight, the Starliner is scheduled to undock from the space station Dec. 28 around 2:16 a.m. EST (0716 GMT). After backing away to a safe distance, the 16.5-foot-tall (5-meter) capsule will fire its service module engines at 5:02 a.m. EST (1002 GMT) for a deorbit burn.

After slowing its speed enough to fall back into the atmosphere, the Starliner will jettison its disposable service module. The crew module will orient itself to fly belly first, exposing its heat shield to temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 degrees Celsius).

While the service module burns up in the atmosphere, the spacecrafts crew module will unfurl three main parachutes to slow down for landing. The capsule will inflate airbags to cushion its touchdown at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico on Dec. 28 at 5:48 a.m. EST (1048 GMT).

Recovery teams will be on standby at White Sands, the missions preferred landing site, to safe and retrieve the spaceship. They will transport the capsule back to Florida for refurbishment and reuse on a future crewed Starliner flight.

Mainly, the focus of this flight is to prove out the spacecrafts ability to get to the International Space Station and dock safely, transfer the cargo, and then safely return back to White Sands, Mulholland said.

The Flight Readiness Review held Thursday was a major milestone in the Starliners first launch campaign.

The Boeing team, in particular, went above and beyond in the last few months to complete the necessary testing and prepare the necessary certification products required for this review, McAlister said. Everyone is eager to see this mission fly, but the NASA team did a thorough and comprehensive job verifying all the safety products.

If someone saw something that gave them pause or required additional work, they spoke up, we talked about it, and in some cases, we developed additional data to help close the open item, McAlister said. The team worked quickly but they didnt hurry, and I think that speaks to the competence and professionalism of the team.

NASA is paying Boeing more than $4.8 billion for the Starliner program through a series of agreements and contracts since 2010. While the decade-long development of the Starliner spacecraft is nearing the finish line, the unpiloted test flight later this month is a precursor to future flights with astronauts.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, a former space shuttle commander, will fly on the Starliners first crewed test flight next year. NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann will join Ferguson on the mission to the space station, where they could stay for up to six months.

The Starliners demonstration flight this month will also test the capsules life support systems before astronauts fly next year. An instrumented test dummy named Rosie the Astronaut will ride in one of the capsules seats to collect data on the environments astronauts will see on future missions.

This uncrewed test flight is not just another contract milestone, McAlister said Thursday. Its just a phenomenal opportunity for us to learn the true performance of the spacecraft. Computer models are great, but they only go so far. Seeing how the spacecraft actually performs in the operational environment of space is a huge confidence-building measure, and its going to provide us with the critical data we need for the final certification.

McAlister cautioned that the Starliners first trip to space will be risky.

While weve done everything we think is necessary prior to flight, there will undoubtedly be some unexpected results, he said. This is a test, and testing inevitably identifies some items that were unanticipated, and some of those items may even be unwelcome, but we are going to work through all those challenges that may arise in order to get our crew members to space, and our spacecraft will be better because of it.

NASAs other commercial crew partner, SpaceX, conducted the first unpiloted test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station in March. Kathy Lueders, manager of NASAs commercial crew program, said Thursday that SpaceX could launch its first Crew Dragon flight with astronauts in the first quarter of 2020.

After the Starliner and Crew Dragon complete their first crewed missions, NASA plans to certify both vehicles for regular crew rotation flights to the space station. Each capsule will carry at least four astronauts for NASA and international partners to and from the station, ending U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz crew ferry ships.

A fifth seat on Starliner missions could be sold commercially for space tourists or private astronauts.

We have not had this capability in the United States since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, and we are looking forward to ending that gap, McAlister said.

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See what the path of Dallas’ EF-3 tornado looks like from space – The Dallas Morning News

Posted: at 6:49 am

An EF-3 tornado that struck North Texas in October created such widespread damage that its path can be seen from space.

A new image taken Dec. 6 from the International Space Station captured all of Dallas-Fort Worth, including several lakes, DFW International Airport and everything in between.

Upon zooming in, the image also shows the more than 15-mile path of the Oct. 20 tornado from northwest Dallas into Richardson.

At its widest and strongest, the tornado expanded to nearly three-quarters of a mile, with estimated wind speeds of up to 140 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The Dallas tornado topped out at EF-3 but its power ebbed and flowed during its 32-minute track. Tree damage and minor roof damage near State Highway 348 and Luna Road in northwest Dallas helped storm surveyors determine the tornados starting point.

Farther east, extensive damage to businesses and homes near Harry Hines Boulevard and Walnut Hill Lane showed signs that it had strengthened to an EF-1 and then to EF-2. More than 15 miles later, east of Arapaho and Jupiter roads in Richardson, tree damage was consistent with 70 mph winds, indicating that the tornado had weakened to an EF-0 before it dissipated.

The Insurance Council of Texas has estimated about $2 billion in insured losses as a result of 11 tornadoes across North Texas on Oct. 20, including the one in Dallas. That would mean the tornadoes are the costliest severe weather event in North Texas history, according to Camille Garcia, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Council of Texas.

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Rosie, a Bandana-Clad Test Dummy, Will Be the First to Fly on Boeing’s Starliner – Space.com

Posted: at 6:49 am

A bandana-clad flight test dummy, named after 20th century feminist icon Rosie the Riveter, will be the first to fly on Boeing's Starliner vehicle this week.

This Friday (Dec. 20), Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will make its inaugural trip to the International Space Station with its Orbital Flight Test (OFT). This will be a major step toward Starliner eventually carrying humans to space in the commercial vehicle. And to ensure the safety of these future space travelers, Boeing is sending along a special, inhuman passenger aboard Starliner with the OFT: Rosie the Astronaut, nicknamed "Rosie the Rocketeer" by some.

Now, Rosie isn't actually an astronaut, she is an Anthropomorphic Test Device (ATD), or a flight test dummy. She looks just like a mannequin in a spacesuit. But she serves an incredible purpose.

Related:In Photos: Boeing's Starliner Pad Abort Test Launch

Rosie is a brand-new ATD outfitted with a multitude of sensors that will monitor, measure and track critical data points, including the G-forces that Rosie experiences during the trip. Most of the sensors are strategically placed around the base of the skull, the neck and the base of the spine, Josh Barrett, the CST-100 Starliner Communications Specialist at Boeing, told Space.com. These sensors will provide teams back on Earth with critical data about what human astronauts might experience during their flights. This will be necessary to ensure that the future Starliner crews have safe flights to and from space.

This space-bound test "astronaut" will fly to the space station sitting in Starliner's commander seat. Though the seat will be similar to the one that astronauts will sit in for future crewed flights, the seats that human astronauts will use will have 3D-printed inserts (compared to Rosie's stock insert). Rosie's spacesuit will also be very similar to what human crewmembers will wear on Boeing's crewed flights, Barrett said.

Rosie got her name from one of the most popular icons of the 20th century, Rosie the Riveter, who became famous with the "We Can Do It" poster, which featured Rosie as a factory worker in a red polka-dot bandana, flexing her muscles. Rosie the Riveter served as a role model for working women during World War II and continues to serve as an inspiration for women around the world today.

Rosie the astronaut was named by Leanne Caret, president of Boeing's Defense, Space & Security division, who hopes that the spacefaring Rosie will encourage women to join the aerospace workforce, Barrett said.

"Rosie is a symbol of not only the women who are blazing a trail in human spaceflight history, but also of everyone who has shown grit and determination while working tirelessly to ensure the Starliner can transport astronauts safely to and from the International Space Station," Caret said in a statement. "She's flying for everyone on our team who took on the challenge of human spaceflight and said, 'We can do it.'"

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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