. Scientific Frontline: Spacecrafts
Showing posts with label Spacecrafts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spacecrafts. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2024

SwRI to build the spacecraft bus for in-space refueler servicer program

The spacecraft, called the Astroscale Prototype Servicer for Refueling (APS-R), will be able to refuel other vehicles while in geostationary orbit. Image Credit: Courtesy of Astroscale U.S.

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will build, integrate and test a small demonstration spacecraft as part of a $25.5 million Space Mobility and Logistics (SML) prototyping project funded by the U.S. Space Force and led by prime contractor Astroscale U.S. The spacecraft, called the Astroscale Prototype Servicer for Refueling (APS-R), will refuel other compatible vehicles while in geostationary orbit.

“Running low on fuel is a common issue for spacecraft in Earth orbit,” said SwRI Staff Engineer Steve Thompson, the SwRI project systems engineer. “When they have expended all of their fuel, their mission ends — even though the vehicle may be in otherwise excellent health. A refueling vehicle can extend those missions, and we can get additional lifetime out of spacecraft that are already in orbit.”

The APS-R will operate in geostationary orbit around the Earth, meaning it will follow a circular orbit in sync with the Earth’s rotational period of 24 hours. The spacecraft will carry hydrazine propellant from a depot, also in geostationary orbit, to the spacecraft in need of fuel. The APS-R can service any spacecraft fitted with a compatible refueling port.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Nanosatellite to Test Novel AI Technologies

Image Credit: Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

A new Würzburg space mission is on the home straight: The SONATE-2 nanosatellite will test novel artificial intelligence hardware and software technologies in orbit.

After more than two years of development, the nanosatellite SONATE-2 is about to be launched. The lift-off into orbit by a rocket is expected in March 2024. The satellite was designed and built by a team led by aerospace engineer Professor Hakan Kayal from Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany.

JMU has been developing small satellite missions for around 20 years. SONATE-2 now marks another high point.

The satellite will test novel artificial intelligence (AI) hardware and software technologies in near-Earth space. The goal is to use it to automatically detect anomalies on planets or asteroids in the future. The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs is funding the project with 2.6 million euros.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Removal of magnetic spacecraft contamination within extraterrestrial samples easily carried out

PhD student Ji-In Jung, left, and Assistant Professor Sonia Tikoo examine a collection of lunar samples.
 Photo Credit: Harry Gregory

By demonstrating that spaceflight doesn’t adversely affect the magnetism of moon rocks, Stanford researchers underscore the exciting potential of studying the magnetic histories stored in these samples.

For decades, scientists have pondered the mystery of the moon’s ancient magnetism. Based on analyses of lunar samples, its now-deceased magnetic field may have been active for more than 1.5 billion years – give or take a billion years. Scientists believe it was generated like the Earth’s via a dynamo process, whereby the spinning and churning of conductive liquid metal within a rocky planet’s core generates a magnetic field. However, researchers have grappled with how such a small planetary body could have sustained a long-lived magnetic field. Some have even questioned the legitimacy of return samples that point to the existence of an ancient dynamo, suggesting magnetism may have been acquired via exposure to strong magnetic fields onboard spacecraft during the return mission or from plasmas produced by massive impacts on the moon.

Stanford University scientists have now demonstrated that the magnetism in lunar samples is not adversely altered by the spacecraft journey back to Earth or certain laboratory procedures, disproving one of the two major oppositions to the ancient dynamo theory. The findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters Oct. 11, bode well for research stemming from other sample-return missions from space, since any magnetic contamination acquired during flight or on Earth can likely be easily removed.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Study suggests large mound structures on Kuiper belt object Arrokoth may have common origin

The large mound structures that dominate one of the lobes of the Kuiper belt object Arrokoth are similar enough to suggest a common origin, according to a new study led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Planetary Scientist and Associate Vice President Dr. Alan Stern.
Graphic Credit: Courtesy of SwRI

A new study led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Planetary Scientist and Associate Vice President Dr. Alan Stern posits that the large, approximately 5-kilometer-long mounds that dominate the appearance of the larger lobe of the pristine Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth are similar enough to suggest a common origin. The SwRI study suggests that these “building blocks” could guide further work on planetesimal formational models. Stern presented these findings this week at the American Astronomical Society’s 55th Annual Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting in San Antonio. These results are now also published in the peer-reviewed Planetary Science Journal.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a close flyby of Arrokoth in 2019. From those data, Stern and his coauthors identified 12 mounds on Arrokoth’s larger lobe, Wenu, which are almost the same shape, size, color and reflectivity. They also tentatively identified three more mounds on the object’s smaller lobe, Weeyo..

Monday, October 2, 2023

SwRI scientists use Webb, Sofia telescopes to observe metallic asteroid

Southwest Research Institute scientists are using telescopes to observe the Psyche asteroid in the infrared, providing context for the upcoming NASA spacecraft mission.
Illustration Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Southwest Research Institute scientists are using telescopes to observe the asteroid Psyche in the infrared, providing context for NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission. Dr. Stephanie Jarmak is using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to look for water signatures on the metallic surface of Psyche, while Dr. Anicia Arredondo is using some of the last data collected by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, to study differences in Psyche’s composition at different points on its surface. 

At about 140 miles in diameter, Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the main asteroid belt orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Previous observations indicate that Psyche is a dense, largely metallic object thought to be the leftover core from a failed planet. On October 5, NASA is scheduled to launch the Psyche spacecraft, which will travel 2.2 billion miles and arrive at the asteroid in August 2029.

“Using telescopes at different infrared wavelengths of light, the SwRI-led research will provide different but complementary information to what the Psyche spacecraft is designed to study,” said Dr. Tracy Becker, a group leader in SwRI’s Space Science Division.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Parker Solar Probe flies into the fast solar wind and finds its source

Artist’s concept of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. Launched in 2018, the probe is increasing our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.
Illustration Credit: NASA

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has flown close enough to the sun to detect the fine structure of the solar wind close to where it is generated at the sun’s surface, revealing details that are lost as the wind exits the corona as a uniform blast of charged particles.

It’s like seeing jets of water emanating from a showerhead through the blast of water hitting you in the face.

In a paper to be published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Stuart D. Bale, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and James Drake of the University of Maryland-College Park, report that the Parker Solar Probe has detected streams of high-energy particles that match the supergranulation flows within coronal holes, which suggests that these are the regions where the so-called “fast” solar wind originates.

Coronal holes are areas where magnetic field lines emerge from the surface without looping back inward, thus forming open field lines that expand outward and fill most of the space around the sun. These holes are usually at the poles during the sun’s quiet periods, so the fast solar wind they generate doesn’t hit Earth. But when the sun becomes active every 11 years as its magnetic field flips, these holes appear all over the surface, generating bursts of solar wind aimed directly at Earth.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

SwRI selected for phase a study to develop next-generation NOAA coronagraph

SwRI used internal funding to develop SwSCOR three-stage lens system mounted behind a single-pylon external occulter to minimize distortion across the field of view. A polarizer wheel is placed in front of the first lens. The current Phase A study will study options for the external occulter.
Illustration Credit: Courtesy of SwRI

NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute for a Phase A study to develop SwRI’s Space Weather Solar Coronagraph (SwSCOR) on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s Space Weather Next Program is charged with providing critical data for its space weather prediction center. SwRI is one of five organizations developing a definition-phase study to produce the next-generation NOAA L1 Series COR instrument to detect and characterize Earth-directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

CMEs are huge bursts of coronal plasma threaded with intense magnetic fields ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours. CMEs arriving at Earth can generate geomagnetic storms, which can cause anomalies in and disruptions to modern conveniences such as electronic grids and GPS systems. Coronagraphs are instruments that block out light emitted by the Sun’s surface so that its outer atmosphere, or corona, can be observed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Improving the Performance of Satellites in Low Earth Orbit

On-chip distributed radiation sensors and current-sharing techniques can be used to reduce the impact of radiation on the radio and power consumption of small satellites, respectively, as shown by scientists from Tokyo Tech. Their findings can be used to make small satellites more robust, which can increase the connectivity of networks across the globe.

A database updated in 2022 reported around 4,852 active satellites orbiting the earth. These satellites serve many different purposes in space, from GPS and weather tracking to military reconnaissance and early warning systems. Given the wide array of uses for satellites, especially in low Earth orbit (LEO), researchers are constantly trying to develop better ones. In this regard, small satellites have a lot of potential. They can reduce launch costs and increase the number of satellites in orbit, providing a better network with wider coverage. However, due to their smaller size, these satellites have lesser radiation shield. They also have a deployable membrane attached to the main body for a large phased-array transceiver, which causes non-uniform radiation degradation across the transceiver. This affects the performance of the satellite’s radio due to the variation in the strength of signal they can sense—also known as gain variation. Thus, there is a need to mitigate radiation degradation to make small satellites more viable.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Tracking ocean microplastics from space

Video Credit: University of Michigan

Microplastic pollution can be spotted from space because its traveling companion alters the roughness of the ocean’s surface

New information about an emerging technique that could track microplastics from space has been uncovered by researchers at the University of Michigan. It turns out that satellites are best at spotting soapy or oily residue, and microplastics appear to tag along with that residue.

Microplastics—tiny flecks that can ride ocean currents hundreds or thousands of miles from their point of entry—can harm sea life and marine ecosystems, and they’re extremely difficult to track and clean up. However, a 2021 discovery raised the hope that satellites could offer day-by-day timelines of where microplastics enter the water, how they move and where they tend to collect, for prevention and clean-up efforts.

The team noticed that data recorded by the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), showed less surface roughness—that is, fewer and smaller waves—in areas of the ocean that contain microplastics, compared to clean areas.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Lockheed Martin’s First LM 400 Multi-Mission Spacecraft Completed, Ready For Final Testing

Lockheed Martin’s first LM 400 mid-sized, multi-mission spacecraft will launch in 2023 as a technology demonstrator.
Resized Image using AI by SFLORG
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin Corporation

The first Lockheed Martin LM 400, a flexible, mid-sized satellite customizable for military, civil or commercial users, rolled off the company’s digital factory production line and is advancing toward its planned 2023 launch.

The agile LM 400 spacecraft bus design enables one platform to support multiple missions, including remote sensing, communications, imaging, radar and persistent surveillance. Lockheed Martin invested in common satellite designs to support demand for more proliferated systems, high-rate production and affordable solutions. The LM 400 is scalable and versatile starting at the size of the average home refrigerator, with capability to grow for higher power and larger payloads and packaged to enable multiple satellites per launch.

The LM 400 bus can operate in low, medium or geosynchronous earth orbits, providing greater flexibility than other buses in this class. The LM 400 space vehicle is compatible with a wide range of launch vehicles in a single, ride-share or multi-launch configuration.

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