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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

Commercial Crew and Solar Probe

Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.

H. G. Wells

On this day

  • Friday 10th 1990 – The Magellan space probe (right) reaches Venus.

  • Saturday 11th - 1969 – The Apollo 11 astronauts are released from a three-week quarantine following their liftoff from the moon

Space Legend of the Week

Happy 99th Birthday on Sunday!!!!

Eleanor Margaret Burbidge (née Peachey), FRS (born August 12, 1919 in Davenport)

Currently professor emeritus of physics at UCSD and continues to be active in research, including non-standard cosmologies such as intrinsic redshift

British-born American astrophysicist (In 1977, she became a United States citizen),

  • Director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

  • University of London Observatory,

  • Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago,

  • Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, the

  • California Institute of Technology, and, from

  • 1979 to 1988, was first director of the Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences at the University of California San Diego, where she has worked since 1962.

  • has contributed to over 370 articles on astronomical research

  • Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge (Husband), team produced a hypothesis that all chemical elements might be synthesized in stars by nuclear reaction ( stellar nucleosynthesis).

  • The resulting astrophysical theory, which was published in 1957, was called the B2FH theory after the participants who collaborated in the research (Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler, Hoyle)

  • written by those scientists before the advent of the age of computers. They used hand calculations, deep thought, physical intuition, and thorough familiarity with details of nuclear physics

  • This theory has been the basis for a substantial field of research in astrophysics

  • they received the Warner Prize in 1959.

  • In 1972 she became director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory

  • This was the first time in 300 years that that directorship was not associated with the post of the Astronomer Royal,

  • She attributed this to continued sexism in the field.

  • Burbidge left this post in 1974, fifteen months after accepting it, when controversy broke out over moving the Isaac Newton Telescope from the Observatory to a more useful location.

  • This turned Burbidge into one of the foremost and most influential personalities in the fight to end discrimination against women in astronomy.

  • Consequently, in 1972 she turned down the Annie J. Cannon Award of the American Astronomical Society because it was awarded to women only: "It is high time that discrimination in favor of, as well as against, women in professional life be removed".

  • Twelve years later the Society awarded her its highest honor, regardless of gender, the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship

  • In 1976, she became the first woman president of the American Astronomy society

  • In 1981 she was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

  • has served as vice-president and president of the American Astronomical Society.

  • In 2003, Burbidge was inducted into the Women's Museum of California Hall of Fame honoring her career and achievements.

  • later research she was one of the first to measure the masses, compositions, and rotation curves of galaxies and was one of the pioneers in the spectroscopic study of quasars

  • At UCSD she also helped develop the faint object spectrograph in 1990 for the Hubble Space Telescope, she and her team discovered that the galaxy M82 has a massive black hole at its center

Space Word of the week

Sidereal time: Time relative to the stars other than the Sun.

  • Sidereal time is a time scale that is based on Earth's rate of rotation measured relative to the fixed stars, From a given observation point, a star found at one location in the sky will be found at the same location on another night at the same sidereal time

  • More exactly, sidereal time is the angle, measured along the celestial equator, from the observer's meridian to the great circle that passes through the March equinox and both celestial poles, and is usually expressed in hours, minutes, and seconds.

  • Common time on a typical clock measures a slightly longer cycle, accounting not only for Earth's axial rotation but also for Earth's orbit around the Sun of slightly less than 1° per day (in fact to the nearest arcsecond, it takes 365.2422 days to revolve, therefore 360 degrees/365.2422 days = 0.9856° or 59′ 8″ per day, i.e., slightly less than 1 degree per day).

  • A sidereal day is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0905 SI seconds

  • The March equinox itself precesses (a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's rotational axis).a gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis of rotation in a cycle of approximately 25,772 years),

  • so the misnamed sidereal day ("sidereal" is derived from the Latin sidus meaning "star") is 0.0084 seconds shorter than Earth's period of rotation relative to the fixed stars.

  • The slightly longer "true" sidereal period is measured as the Earth Rotation Angle (ERA), formerly the stellar angle. An increase of 360° in the ERA is a full rotation of the Earth.

  • Because Earth orbits the Sun once a year, the sidereal time at any given place and time will gain about four minutes against local civil time, every 24 hours, until, after a year has passed, one additional sidereal "day" has elapsed compared to the number of solar days that have gone by

  • Although ERA is intended to replace sidereal time, there is a need to maintain definitions for sidereal time during the transition, and when working with older data and documents.

  • Similarly to mean solar time, every location on Earth has its own local sidereal time (LST), depending on the longitude of the point. Since it is not feasible to publish tables for every longitude, astronomical tables make use of Greenwich sidereal time (GST), which is sidereal time on the IERS Reference Meridian, less precisely called the Greenwich, or prime meridian.

  • Beginning in the 1970s the radio astronomy methods Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) and pulsar timing overtook optical instruments for the most precise astrometry. This led to the determination of UT1 (mean solar time at 0° longitude) using VLBI, a new measure of the rotation of the Earth named Earth Rotation Angle, and new definitions of sidereal time. These changes were put into practice on 1 January 2003.


Bad news for asteroid mining

Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company will be auctioning off hundreds of items ranging from CNC machines tools to folding chairs.

  • Planetary Resources was founded 2012,

  • Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Ross Perot Jr. and Charles Simonyi. big backers

  • Arkyd-3R (SpaceX crs-6) and Arkyd-6A isro, scouting out near-Earth asteroids for valuable resources.

NASA is awarding $44 million to six commercial partners to support “tipping-point” technologies that range from lunar landing capabilities to in-space refueling and spacecraft servicing

  • Blue Origin, the space venture that was founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and is headquartered in Kent, Wash., will receive $13 million to support its Blue Moon lunar lander program.


Commercial Crew

NASA introduced to the world on Friday the first U.S. astronauts who will fly on American-made, commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station

Boeing Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed): late 2018 / early 2019

Boeing Crew Flight Test (crewed): mid-2019

SpaceX Demo-1 (uncrewed): November 2018

  • Since accident SpaceX has worked to upgrade the COPVs composite overwrap pressure vessels, not yet flown and may not until the Demo-1 flight. NASA wants to see seven successful flights of Falcon 9 rockets with the upgraded COPVs before the first crew mission.

  • That should not be too difficult for SpaceX, which now has a cadence of roughly two launches per month, to demonstrate.

SpaceX Demo-2 (crewed): April 2019

Starliner Test Flight Astronauts

  • Eric Boe piloted space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-126 mission and Discovery on its final flight, STS-133.

  • Christopher Ferguson piloted space shuttle Atlantis for STS-115, and commanded shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 and Atlantis for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, STS-135.

  • Nicole Aunapu Mann F-18 test pilot selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be her first trip to space.

Crew Dragon Test Flight Astronauts

  • Robert Behnken flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour twice, for the STS-123 and STS-130 missions, during which he performed six spacewalks

  • Douglas Hurley piloted space shuttle Endeavor for STS-127 and Atlantis for STS-135, the final space shuttle mission.

Starliner First Mission Astronauts

  • Josh Cassada test pilot selected as an astronaut in 2013. This will be his first spaceflight

  • Sunita Williams Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks

Crew Dragon First Mission Astronauts

  • Victor Glover test pilot selected as part of the 2013 astronaut candidate class, and this will be his first spaceflight.

  • Michael Hopkins Expeditions 37/38, and conducted two spacewalks.

Rocket Lab has announced another delay to the launch of its "It's Business Time" mission, this time until November (due to occur in April 2018) the fourth flight of the Electron vehicle will occur "within weeks" of the third flight

The Perseid meteor shower will be particularly spectacular this year because the moon will be a thin crescent and set early, leaving a dark canvas for the meteors' bright streaks and fireballs.


It takes 55 times more energy to go to the Sun than it does to go to Mars.

  • The Sun contains 99.8 percent of the mass in our solar system. Its gravitational pull is what keeps everything here, even the Oort Cloud, 186 billion miles away.

  • Earth is traveling very fast — about 67,000 miles per hour — almost entirely sideways relative to the Sun. The only way to get to the Sun is to cancel that sideways motion.

Since Parker Solar Probe will skim through the Sun's atmosphere, it needs to drop 53,000 miles per hour of sideways motion to reach its destination,

  • In addition to using a powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy,

  • Parker Solar Probe will perform seven Venus gravity assists over its seven-year mission to shed sideways speed into Venus' well of orbital energy. and complete a total of 24 close approaches

  • These gravity assists will draw Parker Solar Probe's orbit closer to the Sun for a record approach of just 3.83 million miles from the Sun's visible surface on the final orbits.

  • more than seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976, and about a tenth as close as Mercury, which is, on average, about 36 million miles from the Sun.

  • Though it's shedding sideways speed to get closer to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will pick up overall speed, bolstered by Sun's extreme gravity — so it will also break the record for the fastest-ever human-made objects, clocking in at 430,000 miles per hour on its final orbits; fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.. Or to tokyo in a minute.

  • Humanity’s First Visit to a Star

  • Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. The spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles.

  • To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates. This lightweight insulation will be accompanied by a finishing touch of white ceramic paint on the sun-facing plate, to reflect as much heat as possible. Tested to withstand up to 3,000 F (1,650 C),

  • That means that while Parker Solar Probe will be traveling through a space with temperatures of several million degrees, the surface of the heat shield that faces the Sun will only get heated to about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,400 degrees Celsius). And the instruments remain at room temp. (For comparison, lava from volcano eruptions can be anywhere between 1,300 and 2,200 F (700 and 1,200 C)

four instrument suites
  • the FIELDS instrument suite captures the scale and shape of electric and magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere. FIELDS measures waves and turbulence in the inner heliosphere with high time resolution to understand the fields associated with waves, shocks and magnetic reconnection, a process by which magnetic field lines explosively realign

  • The Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe is the only imaging instrument aboard the spacecraft. WISPR looks at the large-scale structure of the corona and solar wind before the spacecraft flies through it. About the size of a shoebox, WISPR takes images from afar of structures like coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, jets and other ejecta from the Sun. These structures travel out from the Sun and eventually overtake the spacecraft, where the spacecraft’s other instruments take in-situ measurements. WISPR helps link what’s happening in the large-scale coronal structure to the detailed physical measurements being captured directly in the near-Sun environment.

  • The Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons investigation, or SWEAP, gathers observations using two complementary instruments: the Solar Probe Cup, or SPC, and the Solar Probe Analyzers, or SPAN. The instruments count the most abundant particles in the solar wind — electrons, protons and helium ions — and measure such properties as velocity, density, and temperature to improve our understanding of the solar wind and coronal plasma. Poking out over the heat shield, the Solar Probe Cup is one of two instruments on Parker Solar Probe that will not be protected by the heat shield, unique technologies had to be engineered to make sure that not only can the instrument survive, but also the electronics aboard can send back accurate readings, The cup itself is made from sheets of Titanium-Zirconium-Molybdenum,melting point of about 4,260 F (2,349 C). The grids that produce an electric field - tungsten, a metal with the highest known melting point of 6,192 F (3,422 C). Normally lasers are used to etch the gridlines in these grids—however due to the high melting point acid had to be used instead. Another challenge came in the form of the electronic wiring—most cables would melt from exposure to heat radiation at such close proximity to the Sun. To solve this problem, the team grew sapphire crystal tubes to suspend the wiring, and made the wires from niobium

  • The Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun — ISʘIS, pronounced “ee-sis” and including the symbol for the Sun in its acronym — uses two complementary instruments in one combined scientific investigation to measure particles across a wide range of energies. By measuring electrons, protons and ions, ISʘIS will understand the particles’ lifecycles — where they came from, how they became accelerated and how they move out from the Sun through interplanetary space. The two energetic particle instruments on ISʘIS are called EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi (EPI stands for Energetic Particle Instrument).

  • Orbital Period: 88 days for final orbits with closest approach

  • Mission Duration: Baseline seven-year science mission

  • Mass: The mass of the spacecraft after fueling is about 1,400pounds (635 kilograms). The heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System (TPS), weighs 160 pounds (73 kilograms).

  • Spacecraft Dimensions: The spacecraft is about 9.8 feet (3 meters) tall and about 3.3 feet (1 meter) in diameter below the cooling system. The Thermal Protection System is a little over 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick and has a diameter of about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters).

  • Solar Arrays: The two solar arrays are each about 3.7 feet (1.12 meters) long by 2.26 feet (0.69 meters) wide, for a total area of 17.2 square feet (1.6 square meters). At each approach to the Sun, the solar arrays retract behind the heat shield’s shadow, leaving only a small segment exposed to the Sun’s intense rays.

  • Power: Parker Solar Probe’s solar arrays can produce 388 watts of power, depending on configuration—about enough to run a kitchen blender.

  • Parker Solar Probe will reach its first close approach to the Sun three months after

  • launch

  • Parker Solar Probe’s observations from directly inside the corona will help scientists understand why the Sun’s atmosphere is some hundreds of times hotter than its surface.

  • The mission will provide unprecedentedly close observations of the solar wind—the constant outflow of solar material hurled from the Sun at a million miles per hour.

  • Parker Solar Probe will also study how solar eruptions accelerate particles to such energies that they can pose a hazard for astronauts and technology in space.

The Sun’s corona reaches temperatures up to several million degrees Fahrenheit, which is 200 to 500 times hotter than the solar surface below. Because the Sun produces its energy and heat in its center, scientists would typically expect that the Sun’s surface— closer to the core—would be hotter than the atmosphere above. The corona’s extremely high temperatures mean that there must be other mechanisms at work heating the solar atmosphere. We know that the energy is stored in the dynamic magnetic fields of the Sun, which constantly stir up the photosphere and release energy into the solar atmosphere. The precise details of how, when, and where that energy release occurs are still under investigation.

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