Another busy week in space, here is this weeks blog.
Saturn was in the news twice this week, researches have discovered the mystery of the gigantic storm circling Saturn and a image capture by Cassini shows a propeller like structure in the rings. The researchers announced there findings based on analysis of images returned by Cassini in combination with computer models, for further information check out the fall article here. The image below shows one of the propeller structures that have been observed several times in the rings, small moon-lets in the rings cause the material to clump together causing this effect. For further information on these check out the NASA page here.
This week Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin performed a 6h 34m spacewalk to prepare the station for a new Russian science module due to be delivered later this year. During the walk they replaced a fluid flow control panel on the Zarya module, installed clamps to route power cables from the US segment and retrieved several experiment from the outside of the station. This was the third spacewalk this year at the station and the 169th overall, the next planned spacewalk from the station will be conducted in July by Chris Cassidy of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.
IRIS Mission Launch
Following a one day delay due to a power outage at Vanderburg the IRIS mission was successfully launched on Thursday this week. The spacecraft will now undergo a period of tedting before the science operations begin. For more information on the IRIS mission check out it’s mission page here.
NASA Thruster Achieves World Record
This week NASA announced that their Advanced Ion Propulsion engine had successfully operated for more than 48,000 hours. During the testing the engine consumed 1,918 pounds of Xenon propellant and provided an amount of total impulse that would require more than 22,000 pounds of conventional propellant. With today’s estimated launch costs this alone offers a saving in excess of $10m USD for future missions.
You can view the NEXT ion engine in operation here.
Chinese Astronaut News
This week the three person crew completed a manual undocking and docking of there spacecraft before heading back to earth for a successful landing on Tuesday in Inner Mongolia to complete a 15 day mission in space. At the moment the Chinese and Russian’s are the only nations with the capability to launch crews into orbit, this mission further demonstrates that the Chinese are progressing with there research as they plan a large presence in space in the future. During the mission there were a total of nine people in orbit of the earth. For further information check out these stories of the Undocking and Landing.
Gliese 667 planets
This week astronomers announced that after further analysis they believe there could be as many as three habitat planets in the Gliese 667 system. They have found at least 6 planets within the system and the three that fall in the habitat zone of the star are all super-earths. The image below shows the potential Sunset from each of the planets compared with our own sunset.
For further information check out the teams paper here.
Ten thousandth NEO found
This week the ten thousandth Near Earth Object was announced, asteroid 2013 MZ5 was first detected by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope on June 18. NASA’s Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters, said that finding the 10,000 object was a significant milestone, however there are at least 10 times as many objects out there still to be discovered. For more information on the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope check out it’s page here, and for more information on the NEO programs at NASA here.
Two Soyuz Launches
This week there were two separate Soyuz launches one from Baikonur Cosmodrome and the other from Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana. Both launches successfully placed there payloads into orbit and increased the number of satellites by five. The first launch from Baikonur carried the Resurs-P Earth imaging satellite, the second from Kourou carried four 03b satellites, further information on both launches can be found here.
Next JAXA HTV
The next Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) “Kounotori” could pave the way to manned flights by JAXA, each flight gives the agency additional information about the dynamics of spaceflight, with the last one and this vehicle being fitted with an observation system called “i-Ball” to record its re-entry. The data provided by the i-Ball system will help engineers better understand the dynamics of re-entry and help design future spacecraft to survive the re-entry process. Further details can be found here.
New Type of Matter Found
A recent publication in the journal Nature Physics announced a new type of matter found only in Neutron star’s. Called “Nuclear Pasta” because of how the nuclei of atom’s arrange themselves due to the density of the stars. It is believed that these patterns are also responsible for limiting the rotation speed of the star’s, of the ones observed so far they haven’t found one that has a rotation period longer than 12 seconds. Further information can be found here.
CoRoT satellite shutdown
Further bad news this week for planet hunters around the world, the french satellite CoRoT (Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits) has been officially shutdown following a computer failure last November. The mission lasted twice as long as originally planned and so far has found 32 confirmed planets and another 100 waiting to be confirmed. The mission also allowed astronomers to study the stellar physics and the interior of stars.
More Surprises from Voyager One
Despite having been in space for 36 years and being 11.6 billion miles from Earth the Voyager One spacecraft is still sending back data and surprising us. In papers published this week in the journal Science the Voyager One team provided more clarity on the region they have named the Magnetic Highway. For more information check out the full article here.
This week NASA decommissioned it Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) after ten years of operation. The spacecraft used it’s ultraviolet vision to explore hundreds of millions of galaxies.
Highlights from the mission’s decade of sky scans include:
— Discovering a gargantuan, comet-like tail behind a speeding star called Mira.
— Catching a black hole “red-handed” as it munched on a star.
— Finding giant rings of new stars around old, dead galaxies.
— Independently confirming the nature of dark energy.
— Discovering a missing link in galaxy evolution
— the teenage galaxies transitioning from young to old.
For the full details of GALEX check out the article here.
Shuttle Atlantis exhibit opens
The new Space Shuttle Atlantus exhibit opened this week at Kennedy Space Centre and offers a view of the shuttle only seen by a few astronauts when in space. For more on the new exhibit check out it’s psge here. http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com
There is only one day left on the ARKYD Kickstarter campaign if you haven’t contributed to this yet now is your last change to be involved in this ground breaking project. Check out the project here.