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Featured B "Space and Stuff"

  1. Oct 10, 2016 #61
    In the SpaceX and stuff department, here is some of what they are currently up to. :smile:
    This is rather ambitious.

    The Raptor is a very impressive piece of "rocket science"

    We might be getting closer to some answers regarding the latest "anomaly"...
    Potential causes of the COPV failure could include weakening of the structural integrity of the COPV due to the thermal difference between the metal liner on the inside subjected to the warm helium and the carbon fiber overwrap material on the outside in contact with the cold oxidizer. Acoustic phenomena resulting from the high-pressure helium being forced into the tank at a critical time during the LOX loading sequence are also on the table as possible scenarios that may have transpired.

    The previous iteration of the Falcon 9 used Liquid Oxygen at boiling point temperature and began loading its tanks over three hours ahead of launch - permitting the COPVs to be fully chilled prior to applying high pressures. Falcon 9 FT enters LOX load on the second stage with just 19.5 minutes on the countdown clock followed by Helium load just over 13 minutes prior to launch - an aggressive tanking sequence unprecedented in the space launch business.

    It is also understood that SpaceX was testing modifications to the countdown sequence on the Static Fire Test for the previous Falcon 9 mission with JCSat-16 to introduce window management capabilities for the FT version of Falcon 9 that initially had to launch very shortly after propellant loading finished in order to avoid the chilled propellants warming up inside the tanks. These modified countdown steps include adjustments to engine chilldown as well as the propellant and pressurant loading sequence.

    It is possible that, with these seemingly minor adjustments to the sequencing of events, SpaceX has inadvertently designed a chain of events that overstressed the Helium bottles.

    To gather data on the potential scenarios that can lead to a COPV failure, SpaceX has taken to its McGregor test site where, according to Shotwell, a lot of tests were being run on the COPVs. These tests, in all likelihood, are running different propellant and helium loading modes on highly instrumented tanks to learn about the critical chain of events in both loading sequences that overstress the COPVs.

    Observant SpaceX fans passing by McGregor noted experimentation involving LOX tankers and helium supplies was underway in an open area of the facility.

    Matching data from an instrumented, destructive test to the telemetry from the rocket gathered in the 93 milliseconds from the onset of the anomaly to loss of data can tell SpaceX whether their modified tanking sequence is indeed to blame for the unfortunate accident.

    Identifying an operational deficiency as the root cause beyond any reasonable doubt would be the best case scenario for SpaceX, allowing them to return to flight relatively quickly compared to a design flaw requiring re-work of all existing and future Falcon 9 stages.

    On the flip side, a purely ‘business-process’ related flaw can tell a lot about the ‘NewSpace’ culture ongoing at SpaceX - raising questions about other shortcuts taken to save money, cut processing time or increase launch-on-time probability and, as a result, taking hardware to or beyond design limits.

    Whether SpaceX can return Falcon 9 to flight before the end of the year depends on the speed of the investigation as well as the status of the company’s launch facilities.

    Shotwell said that while all plausible possibilities have to be considered in order to uncover the real reason for the explosion she felt that "the more than likely - the overwhelmingly likely - explanation is that we did something to that rocket. And we’re going to find it and we’re going to fix it." Shotwell added that the possibility of the sabotage scenario being the correct one was "absolutely not high on my list of thoughts."
  2. Oct 11, 2016 #62
  3. Oct 12, 2016 #63
    If this, (or any other sufficiently high powered method of quantum computing), is achievable then it would be perfectly suited to a future mission similar to Kepler.
    That is, repeatedly scanning the same objects and trying to spot anomalies within a huge set of data.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016
  4. Oct 13, 2016 #64
    I'm still thinking this thing has the potential to win a Nobel or two.

    The compact, atom-chip based instrument will be capable of trapping such elements like Rubidium and Potassium and of producing degenerate gases of each species, after a few seconds of collection and cooling. It will allow the scientists to create a state of matter called a Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC). This state can be achieved by cooling a gas of extremely low density, about one-hundred-thousandth the density of normal air, to ultra-low temperatures - lower than those that are created in laboratories on Earth.

    "CAL is a multi-user facility to study ultra-cold atoms - below a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. Microgravity allows scientists to observe cold atoms floating unconfined for long periods of time allowing highly precise measurements of very weak forces," Rob Thompson, CAL Project Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told Astrowatch.net.

    The main goal of CAL is to study ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment. The instrument will investigate Rubidium and Potassium isotopes and interactions between mixtures of these isotopes. The facility is designed for use by multiple scientific investigators and to be upgradable and also maintainable on orbit. CAL is also perceived as a pathfinder experiment for future quantum sensors based on laser cooled atoms.

    "CAL will be making several exciting Principal Investigator-Led (PI-led) specific investigations, in such areas as tests of general relativity, the physics of few-body collisions, and studies of novel spherical quantum bubble geometry condensates," Thompson revealed.

    "In addition, CAL will serve as a pathfinder for future experiments with cold atoms, which have great promise for both practical and research applications, such as tests of fundamental physics, searches for gravitational waves, better atomic clocks, space navigation, and monitoring effects of climate change," he added.

    CAL’s initial mission is expected to last one year, with a possible extension for further five years. Upgrades to the facility are also being considered. Additional features could include new laser modules, new electronic components, or a new physics package.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
  5. Oct 13, 2016 #65
    The article is open access http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016GL069790/epdf
    Was Venus the first habitable world of our solar system?
  6. Oct 13, 2016 #66
  7. Oct 14, 2016 #67
    With Exo-Mars in the home stretch, the main focus will initially be on Schiaparelli's Entry and hopefully successful landing, although long term the TGO's findings should be of great interest regarding the Martian atmosphere as well.

    ESA’s Schiaparelli Entry, Descent & Landing Demonstration Module (EDM) sets out to become Europe’s first craft to make a successful landing on Planet Mars, joining only NASA in achieving this feat.

    The primary objective of EDM is - as its name days - a demonstration of a Mars Entry, Descent and Landing vehicle for the ExoMars 2020 mission that is hoped to deliver Europe’s first rover to the surface to the Red Planet.

    To satisfy its mission objectives, Schiaparelli has to conduct a successful entry into the Martian atmosphere, parachute-assisted descent and propulsive landing - in the process employing a sophisticated suite of sensors to gather data on the re-entry environment and the performance of the various systems.

    Landing in Meridiani Planum - close to NASA’s Opportunity rover that has been on Mars since 2004 - EDM will survive only four Martian Days using every last bit of power stored in its chemical batteries to capture measurements with an environmental monitoring system, gathering data on meteorological and other parameters.

    Only outfitted with its landing propulsion system, EDM relies on TGO to deliver it to the correct trajectory to the precisely calculated entry location. The entry angle is set at 1.1 degrees and has to be met with high precision given Schiaparelli would burn up in case of a steep entry or skip off the atmosphere if the angle is too shallow.

    In case the separation of the lander fails for some reason, a backup opportunity is available 32 hours after the first slot to provide some time for teams to troubleshoot. The orbiter can not achieve orbit around Mars with the EDM still attached, therefore - if both attempts are unsuccessful, an emergency jettisoning of Schiaparelli would be performed. The additional mass of the 600-Kilogram EDM would not allow TGO to achieve the necessary change in velocity to enter a stable orbit around Mars.

    In case Schiaparelli can not be separated after three attempts, the mission would move into a contingency scenario where TGO maneuvers to a flyby trajectory to fly past Mars at close distance and continue in a heliocentric orbit for another attempt at orbital insertion two years later which would be possible with the lander still attached to the orbiter.
  8. Oct 15, 2016 #68
    Building on post #17 the last paragraph here seems to indicate quantum networking between Earth and LEO as well as deep space will becoming a reality sooner than I was expecting, this could be very useful transferring data between deep space craft and Earth.
    From, http://www.nature.com/nphoton/journal/v10/n10/full/nphoton.2016.180.html

    A paper published in Nature Photonics and co-authored by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, details the first experiments with quantum teleportation in a metropolitan fiber cable network. For the first time, the phenomenon has been witnessed over long distances in actual city infrastructure. In Canada, University of Calgary researchers teleported the quantum state of a photon more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) in "dark" (unused) cables under the city of Calgary. That’s a new record for the longest distance of quantum teleportation in an actual metropolitan network.

    "By using advanced superconducting detectors, we can use individual photons to efficiently communicate both classical and quantum information from space to the ground," Shaw said. "We are planning to use more advanced versions of these detectors for demonstrations of optical communication from deep space and of quantum teleportation from the International Space Station."
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  9. Oct 15, 2016 #69
    I considered mentioning China's upcoming launch in passing, then after reading Jason-Davis's article from Planetary.org I realized there is much more to it than just another launch. This starts out as launch information then quickly shifts to a very good piece on the political zeitgeist of space exploration, any thoughts ? :smile:

    Under a shroud of secrecy, China is completing final steps towards the launch of its Shenzhou-11 spacecraft with two taikonauts on board. On Monday, Oct. 10, the country has rolled out the Long March 2F rocket that will be used to send the crewed mission into space.

    Although China has not yet disclosed the exact date of the liftoff, it is predicted that the rocket will launch around 7:30 a.m. local time on Monday, Oct. 17 (23:30 GMT; 7:30 p.m. EDT on Oct. 16), from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert.

    Shenzhou-11 is China’s sixth manned space mission. The longly anticipated flight ends the country’s three-year period of absence in human spaceflight, as the last crewed vehicle - Shenzhou-10 - was launched from the Chinese soil in June 2013.

    However, although the mission is of high importance for China, the officials are very reluctant to reveal details about the upcoming flight. To this date, only a handful of information has been disclosed about the crew of Shenzhou-11. It was earlier announced that two male taikonauts will fly aboard the craft; however, their names are kept under wraps and could be announced even hours before liftoff.

    The duo of taikonauts will enter the Tiangong-2 module and stay inside for 30 days, testing advanced life support systems and conducting various science experiments. It will be China’s longest stay in space to date. The two-person crew will probably return to Earth on Nov. 14.

    China indeed hopes that Shenzhou-11, together with Tiangong-2, will bring the nation closer towards building its own permanent space station, as they will enable testing key technologies before sending a larger module into orbit. The station is expected to be built sometime between 2018 and 2022.

    This Sunday, two Chinese astronauts are expected to launch into space. Their Shenzhou 11 spacecraft will blast off from the Gobi desert and spend a couple days chasing down Tiangong-2, the country's new 10-meter-long, 3-meter-wide prototype space station. After docking, the crew is expected to remain aboard for about a month, carrying out various science experiments and technology demonstrations.

    Next year, in April, a Chinese cargo freighter will autonomously dock with Tiangong-2 and refuel it, similar to the way Russian Progress spacecraft are used to top off the tanks at the International Space Station.

    These will arguably be China's most ambitious human spaceflight missions to date. Yet when compared with the long history of similar achievements by the United States and Russia, they are modest.

    In the space community, we are prone to think that the pursuit of science and exploration rises above borders and politics. But in reality, China and the United States have a complicated relationship. Considering that, how should America feel about China's space ambitions?

    That was the subject of a recent House of Representatives space subcommittee hearing titled "Are We Losing the Space Race to China?" The title of the hearing implies the goals of the two programs are similar enough that we can even call it a race at all.

    What, exactly, are China's space goals? Is there really a race? And if the United States loses, is that anything to worry about?

    The station would be fully operational around 2020, and be paired with a souped-up space telescope larger than Hubble that would float nearby, giving astronauts easy access for repairs and maintenance.

    Since launching its first astronaut in 2003, China has made steady human spaceflight progress. The country's first small space station, Tiangong-1, was launched in 2011 and visited by a crew of astronauts in 2012.

    Both Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 are testbeds meant to pave the way for a more ambitious, three-module station. The first piece of that orbital complex is scheduled to be launched in 2018 atop a new rocket, the Long March 5.

    The station would be fully operational around 2020, and be paired with a souped-up space telescope larger than Hubble that would float nearby, giving astronauts easy access for repairs and maintenance.

    As for sending humans anywhere else, China's plans are vague, but reports have begun coalescing around a possible 2030 lunar landing.

    China's robotic spaceflight program is making even more ambitious strides.

    Next year, the country plans to return a sample from the far side of the moon, which would be a first for any nation. In 2018 or 2019, a lander and rover might also be sent to the far side, which would be another first, and require the country to deploy a communications relay satellite.

    In 2020, China hopes to send a probe and rover to Mars, which coincides with NASA's plan to send a successor to the Curiosity rover there. That rover, currently dubbed Mars 2020, will collect and cache samples for a future return mission.

    NASA has yet to finalize how it will retrieve those samples and get them back to Earth. China, meanwhile, is making plans of its own to launch a Mars sample return mission in 2030.

    China's mission would use a yet-to-be-built, super heavy lift rocket named the Long March 9. The rocket could be capable of lifting around 130 metric tons to low-Earth orbit, which would put it on par with the enhanced version of NASA's Space Launch System. (The 70-ton SLS variant is expected to debut in 2018.)

    For many U.S. lawmakers, not participating in a space race may be as bad as losing one.

    Rep. Brian Babin, the Texas republican who chairs the House space subcommittee, opened last month's "Are We Losing the Space Race to China?" hearing with a tirade on the Obama administration, and its decision to cancel NASA's return-to-the-moon Constellation program in 2010.

    "This vacuum of leadership... facilitated the ascendance of China as a leading space-faring nation," Babin said. "China has capitalized on this administration's weakness by offering partnerships with other nations, like a return to the moon, which the U.S. chose to walk away from."

    In the hearing - as well as in an email to The Planetary Society in response to our Horizon Goal series - Babin pointed out the Obama administration slashed Constellation funding in 2009 prior to an independent review that deemed the program, among other things, underfunded. (The review report addresses this charge on page 59 by pointing out that while the first Obama budget indeed cut Constellation dollars, the program was already falling short of original funding projections.)

    For Babin and others, then, the rise of China's space program is coupled tightly with perceived policy missteps by the Obama administration.

    But China's current spaceflight aspirations, including the goal of a permanent space station, have been around much longer. And that was when the possibility of bilateral cooperation with the United States still existed; since 2011, the House of Representatives has inserted language in NASA funding bills prohibiting such a possibility. Right now, as far as the United States is concerned, China has to go it alone.

    Tensions between the U.S. and China certainly exist. And China continues to be make worldwide watch lists for human rights violations.

    But the narrative that the two countries are engaged in a space race akin to that of the U.S. and former Soviet Union does not entirely fit. Why, then, do some American lawmakers consider China's space ambitions such a threat?

    According to Cheng, the real answer might lie in the fact that for almost half a century, the U.S. has stood alone in being able to claim the most prestigious feat of all time: landing people on another world and returning them safely to Earth.

    "The reality is, the day the Chinese are able to [land humans on the moon] is the day that American uniqueness will be openly challenged," Cheng said. "And Chinese prestige will be placed on the same level as that of the United States."
  10. Oct 16, 2016 #70
    Following up on post #69, this looks promising to me.
    From, http://spaceflight101.com/videos-shenzhou-11-pre-launch-press-conferences/

    China lifted a veil of secrecy on the country’s upcoming Shenzhou-11 mission with less than 24 hours to launch, releasing details on the mission’s flight plan and crew in a pair of press conferences held on Sunday.

    Here's an update on the ExoMars progress.


    ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars Lander and Trace Gas Orbiter parted ways on Sunday after traveling nearly 500 million Kilometers together on their mission to Mars.

    The separation maneuver was not without some nail-biting, though, caused by a an unexpected, but temporary loss of data from the orbiter immediately after the lander was sent on its way.

    Now on separate paths after a seven-month flight, the two are approaching the culmination of their mission on Wednesday when Schiaparelli could become the first European craft to master a successful landing on Mars and the Trace Gas Orbiter swings into orbit to mark the start of a five-year mission tracking atmospheric gases relevant to life.

    Separation occurred right on time at 14:42 UTC - exactly three days before Schiaparelli encounters the Martian Atmosphere. A three-point separation system was designed to push the Schiaparelli lander away at a relative velocity of 0.37 meters per second and, in the process, spin it up to 2.75 rotations per minute for passive orientation stabilization until the atmospheric encounter.

    The overnight Mars Avoidance Maneuver was a critical step in TGO’s approach to move away from a collision course with the planet and place itself on a flyby trajectory to set up for orbital insertion. Slewing to the proper orientation for the maneuver, TGO arrived in its burn attitude at 2:12 UTC with half an hour to spare.

    Now on two very different trajectories, one intercepting the Martian Atmosphere, the other leading past the planet, TGO and Schiaparelli are set for another two and a half days of approach. For Schiaparelli, no major events will occur until its fast-paced Entry, Descent & Landing Sequence on Wednesday, spending most of its free flight in battery-saving hibernation.

    The sequence of events on Wednesday will be relatively fast paced in the twofold adventure at Mars, 175 million Kilometers from Earth. No intervention from Mission Control will be possible as the one-way signal travel time will be 9 minutes and 46 seconds.

    Schiaparelli will hit the Martian Atmosphere at 14:42 UTC at a speed of 5.8 Kilometers per second, enduring temperatures up to 1,750°C before ejecting its parachute and slowing down prior to a half-minute rocket-powered descent that is designed to bring the Surface Platform to a two-meter free fall to its landing site in Meridiani Planum. The entire sequence from atmospheric entry to touchdown is expected to last just under six minutes.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
  11. Oct 17, 2016 #71
    Obital ATK launches to ISS


    Orbital ATK's Cygnus spacecraft lifted off at 7:45 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on the company’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, Oct. 23. Expedition 49 astronauts Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus, about 6 a.m.

    This is the first flight on the upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle, and the first launch from Wallops since an Antares rocket and its Cygnus spacecraft were lost in October 2014. It’s also the third flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft featuring a greater payload capacity, supported by new fuel tanks and UltraFlex solar arrays.
  12. Oct 20, 2016 #72
    The Schiaparelli lander appears to be having problems, waiting on ESA to release a statement after they review data transmissions. :frown:


    ESA’s ExoMars 2016 mission reached a dramatic culmination on Wednesday when the Trace Gas Orbiter successfully inserted itself into orbit around Mars while the Schiaparelli lander attempted a daring landing maneuver to become Europe’s first craft to achieve the feat of mastering a landing on Mars.

    Unfortunately - per all indications received by late Wednesday - Schiaparelli could not conquer the rigors of landing on the Red Planet, though the final verdict on the lander’s status is not expected until Thursday morning when a final data set will have been analyzed.

    Data captured by a ground-based recording campaign and a fleet of orbiters positioned over the landing site showed the 577-Kilogram lander survived its hot re-entry and deployed its parachute but there are very strong indications that it ran into trouble after cutting itself loose from the chute at which point a rocket-powered descent was planned to deliver the lander to the surface.

    Mars has proven time and time again over the past five decades that achieving a successful landing on the planet’s dusty red surface is a tremendously difficult feat to accomplish - illustrated by an overall success rate of under 50% for the various missions that attempted a landing to date.

    However, there may be a silver lining for Schiaparelli because the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) was listening in on the data stream transmitted in real time during descent. This data - to be radioed to Earth Wednesday night - may hold the clues needed to piece together what went wrong in the final stages of the descent and also provide a full data set from atmospheric entry, holding information on how the lander’s heat shield fared plus some data on atmospheric properties at Mars.


    TGO’s safe arrival promises that the main science mission can proceed, and it will begin an aerobraking phase to change the shape of its orbit to a circular, science one in January. Once fully settled in, it will also become a relay point for NASA landers, fulfilling two of the three main objectives of ExoMars 2016.

    The third objective was to demonstrate that Europe can land on Mars. On that front, the news is less positive. Both the data from Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in Pune, India, and the data from Mars Express indicate a loss of signal at the same stage of the descent of the lander.

    "That’s the bad news," says Paolo Ferri, head of mission operations at ESA, "The fact that Pune and Mars Express lose the signal at the same time before the predicted time of touchdown."

    "We will hear if there is some information from MRO [Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter] -but frankly I consider it unlikely that we get data from MRO. If we lost the signal before the landing, at least with the communications, why should MRO be able to communicate automatically?"

    With no information coming from the lander, the key question is whether the lander itself is lost, or whether it’s just not able to communicate. There is more information about Schiaparelli’s fate on the way, with raw data expected around midnight Darmstadt time.

    "TGO has been recording telemetry - it has recorded more than 20MB of data," says Ferri." TGO was doing a more important job, which was to get in orbit. So it was in a mode that doesn’t allow it to dump data."

    Switching into that mode, and sending back the data will take several hours.

    "The estimation is that by midnight we should have the data here. Then these data have to be processed. It takes some time - it is a sampling of the radio signal. I’m pretty confident that this data - this telemetry - will tell us what action was interrupted when we lost the communication. I think, I am quite optimistic, that tomorrow morning with this data, we will know what happened," Ferri says.

    "It may mean we have some hope and some strategies to re-establish communication - I’m just speculating now. But we have very good chances to know tomorrow morning either to know that the lander is lost or to know the strategy to try to recover communication."

    If the lander is lost, so are the descent pictures it would have sent from the surface. As would be the final objective of the mission, the science that Schiaparelli would have been able to conduct during its time there - albeit a mission that was limited by battery life. If the lander is not transmitting, its battery life may be extended slightly, but its days are still very much numbered.

    "Of course we hope we have a problem with the communications and not with the landing sequence. Certainly the problem happened very late in the sequence - there is a good chance that the parachute phase worked but at the moment we don’t know, it’s all speculation,"Ferri says.

    The test of landing technologies was key to the next part of ExoMars - the 2020 lander and rover. But ESA so far are remaining optimistic about the future of the next mission.

    "We need to learn how to land on Mars," says Ferri, "And for me, whatever we understand of what happened, of course it helps to get to that objective."

    "Whether we achieve it 100%, 95%, 90%, or 0%, but zero I think we can already exclude. The sequence was very long. But how far we have gone, I can’t say. I am pretty confident that we have enough data to do that."

    ESA Director General Jan Wörner sustained hope for the lander, and confidence in its contribution to the 2020 mission saying: "It is a big success for ESA - to fly to Mars is a very big challenge, to be in the orbit of Mars is a very big challenge.

    "This spacecraft is a marvellous feat of engineering. Of course we also look at this part [Schiaparelli] this is a test part. We don’t know all the details but this is typical of a test. We did this to learn about how - using European technology - to land on Mars."

    "Our experts will look how to manage the next landing when we will go with the rover. I don’t close my hope right now that everything is fine."

    The next communication from ESA is expected at a news conference at 1000 CEST (0800 UTC, 04:00 EDT, 01:00 PDT) on Thursday. The most talented and experienced people on the mission have a long night ahead of them following their long day.
  13. Oct 20, 2016 #73
    Something new to wonder about in the realm of Space&Stuff.

    Astronomers have found a pair of extraordinary cosmic objects that dramatically burst in X-rays. This discovery, obtained with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton observatory, may represent a new class of explosive events found in space.

    The mysterious X-ray sources flare up and become about a hundred times brighter in less than a minute, before returning to original X-ray levels after about an hour. At their peak, these objects qualify as ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs) that give off hundreds to thousands of times more X-rays than typical binary systems where a star is orbiting a black hole or neutron star.

    While the nature of these flares is unknown, the team has begun to search for answers. One idea is that the flares represent episodes when matter being pulled away from a companion star falls rapidly onto a black hole or neutron star. This could happen when the companion makes its closest approach to the compact object in an eccentric orbit. Another explanation could involve matter falling onto an intermediate-mass black hole, with a mass of about 800 times that of the Sun for one source and 80 times that of the Sun for the other.
  14. Oct 20, 2016 #74
    From what has been said so far,it sounds as if the Schiaparelli test lander failed at the last minute of descent.
    This would be the stage after the parachute separates and retro rockets ought to kick in for the final phase of slowing down.
    Still, nobody can say what happened yet, they are waiting to receive the complete data and assess it.
    As the lander was only a system test and the main science objective (the TGO orbiter) is in good shape, it's not a failed mission overall.
    Am hoping that the landing failure is down to unforeseen/unpredictable events and not a basic design flaw of the landing system.
  15. Oct 20, 2016 #75
    Here is the latest on Schiaparelli.

    20 October 2016
    Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

    Early indications from both the radio signals captured by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an experimental telescope array located near Pune, India, and from orbit by ESA’s Mars Express, suggested the module had successfully completed most steps of its 6-minute descent through the martian atmosphere. This included the deceleration through the atmosphere, and the parachute and heat shield deployment, for example.

    But the signals recorded by both Pune and Mars Express stopped shortly before the module was expected to touchdown on the surface. Discrepancies between the two data sets are being analysed by experts at ESA’s space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

    The detailed telemetry recorded by the Trace Gas Orbiter was needed to better understand the situation. At the same time as Schiaparelli’s descent, the orbiter was performing a crucial ‘Mars Orbit Insertion’ manoeuvre - which it completed successfully. These important data were recorded from Schiaparelli and beamed back to Earth in the early hours of Thursday morning.

    The data have been partially analysed and confirm that the entry and descent stages occurred as expected, with events diverging from what was expected after the ejection of the back heat shield and parachute. This ejection itself appears to have occurred earlier than expected, but analysis is not yet complete.

    The thrusters were confirmed to have been briefly activated although it seems likely that they switched off sooner than expected, at an altitude that is still to be determined.

    "Following yesterday’s events we have an impressive orbiter around Mars ready for science and for relay support for the ExoMars rover mission in 2020," said Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General.

    "Schiaparelli’s primary role was to test European landing technologies. Recording the data during the descent was part of that, and it is important we can learn what happened, in order to prepare for the future."

    "In terms of the Schiaparelli test module, we have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur," said David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

    "From the engineering standpoint, it’s what we want from a test, and we have extremely valuable data to work with. We will have an enquiry board to dig deeper into the data and we cannot speculate further at this time."


    ESA still awaits for signal from its ExoMars Schiaparelli module, that was expected to land on Mars yesterday at 10:48 a.m. EDT (14:48 GMT). Contact with the spacecraft was lost about a minute before the planned touchdown on the Martian surface.

    The Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM), known as "Schiaparelli" is part of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars 2016 mission tasked with searching for traces of life on the Red Planet. The EDM itself was designed to demonstrate the capability to perform a controlled landing on Mars.

    After a seven-month trip, Schiaparelli arrived at Mars being attached to ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). It was separated from the orbiter on Oct. 16, to begin its three day cruise ending with landing on Meridiani Planum. The controllers woke up the module from hibernation about one hour and 20 minutes before the planned touchdown.

    The lander was activated at an altitude of about 76 miles (122.5 kilometers). Initial data provided by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India and ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, indicated that the module has successfully completed most steps of its six-minute long descent through the Martian atmosphere. Schiaparelli made use of its aerodynamic heat shield during the atmospheric entry and deployed its parachute when approximately 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the surface.

    The lander’s liquid propulsion system was activated to reduce the speed to less than 4.35 mph (7 km/h) when it was about 6.5 feet (2 meters) above the ground. The engines were expected to be switched off and the module was planned to be dropped to the ground. However, the transmission sent by GMRT and Mars Express stopped shortly before the module was expected to touchdown on the surface.

    ESA revealed that important set of data about the descent of Schiaparelli was obtained by the TGO, that was being inserted into the Martian orbit at the time of the module’s landing. The detailed telemetry recorded by TGO is currently being analyzed by the mission team.

    "In terms of the Schiaparelli test module, we have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur," said David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

    Parker was addressing reporters during a press conference convened today at 4:00 a.m. EDT (8:00 GMT) to provide an update on the status of the mission. He noted that the controllers received extremely valuable data to work with and the agency will have an enquiry board to dig deeper into the available information.

    While the cause of the apparent Schiaparelli descent failure in now under assessment, ESA officials provided some hints on what could trigger the lander’s lengthening silence. They revealed that this anomaly could be due to a premature ejection of the back heat shield and parachute.

    "This ejection itself appears to have occurred earlier than expected, but analysis is not yet complete," ESA said in a press release.

    The team will keep listening for any signals from the Schiaparelli lander, using GMRT and a fleet of NASA and ESA spacecraft currently orbiting Mars. So far, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected no signal from the stranded module, but it will be employed to obtain images of the lander in the coming days.

    The Schiaparelli lander, built by Thales Alenia Space, is about 5.4 feet (1.65 meters) in diameter and 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) high and has a mass of 1,322 lbs (600 kg). It is designed to be capable of landing on a terrain with rocks as high as 1.3 feet (0.4 meters) and slopes as steep as 12.5 degrees. It was planned to be operational for up to eight Martian days after landing.

    Schiaparelli was designed to demonstrate the capability of ESA to perform a controlled landing on Mars. It was also expected to deliver a science package that will operate on the surface of the Red Planet for a short duration after landing, planned to last approximately from two to four Martian days.

    The landing of Schiaparelli is the second European attempt to land on Mars after the Beagle 2 spacecraft failed to accomplish on Dec. 25, 2003. No contact was received at the expected time of landing on Mars, and ESA declared the mission lost in February 2004.

    Meanwhile, the ExoMars’ TGO spacecraft is currently in excellent health after completing the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) maneuver at 11:24 a.m. EDT (15:24 GMT) on Oct. 19.

    "Following yesterday’s events we have an impressive orbiter around Mars ready for science and for relay support for the ExoMars rover mission in 2020," said Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General.

    Weighing about 4.3 metric tons, the car-sized TGO spacecraft has dimensions of 11.5 ft × 6.5 ft × 6.5 ft (3.5 m × 2 m × 2 m) with solar wings spanning 57.4 feet (17.5 meters) and providing up to 2,000 W of power. The TGO is equipped with four scientific instruments for the detection of trace gases: Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery (NOMAD), Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS), Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), and Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND).

    The TGO will enter a highly elliptical orbit that takes four Martian days to complete one revolution. Aerobraking maneuvers between January and November 2017 will bring the orbiter into a circular orbit at 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the surface. Science operations will begin in December 2017 and will continue for two years.

    Although TGO’s main goal is to to detect a wide range of atmospheric trace gases, it will also serve as a data relay center for sending commands to the ExoMars 2020 rover and downloading data to Earth through the ESA space communications network.

    The ExoMars 2020 mission will include an ESA carrier module as well as a Russian lander that will deploy a rover to Mars’ surface. The stack will be launched atop a Russian Proton-M booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan.
  16. Oct 21, 2016 #76


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    Schiaparelli crash site identified.
  17. Oct 21, 2016 #77
    Whatever went wrong appears to related to the retrorocket control, which ultimately is decided by the onboard computer.
    That still leaves a number of possibilities open.
  18. Oct 22, 2016 #78
    Here's ESA's latest statement.

    21 October 2016

    NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module.

    Schiaparelli entered the martian atmosphere at 14:42 GMT on 19 October for its 6-minute descent to the surface, but contact was lost shortly before expected touchdown. Data recorded by its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, are currently being analysed to understand what happened during the descent sequence.

    In the meantime, the low-resolution CTX camera on-board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took pictures of the expected touchdown site in Meridiani Planum on 20 October as part of a planned imaging campaign.

    The image released today has a resolution of 6 metres per pixel and shows two new features on the surface when compared to an image from the same camera taken in May this year.

    One of the features is bright and can be associated with the 12-m diameter parachute used in the second stage of Schiaparelli’s descent, after the initial heat shield entry. The parachute and the associated back shield were released from Schiaparelli prior to the final phase, during which its nine thrusters should have slowed it to a standstill just above the surface.

    The other new feature is a fuzzy dark patch roughly 15 x 40 metres in size and about 1 km north of the parachute. This is interpreted as arising from the impact of the Schiaparelli module itself following a much longer free fall than planned, after the thrusters were switched off prematurely.

    Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.

    A closer look at these features will be taken next week with HiRISE, the highest-resolution camera onboard MRO. These images may also reveal the location of the front heat shield, dropped at higher altitude.

    Since the module’s descent trajectory was observed from three different locations, the teams are confident that they will be able to reconstruct the chain of events with great accuracy. The exact mode of anomaly onboard Schiaparelli is still under investigation.

    The two new features are located at 353.79 degrees east longitude, 2.07 degrees south latitude on Mars. The position of the dark mark shows that Schiaparelli impacted approximately 5.4 km west of its intended landing point, well within the nominal 100 x 15 km landing ellipse.

    Meanwhile, the teams continue to decode the data extracted from the recording of Schiaparelli descent signals recorded by the ExoMars TGO in order to establish correlations with the measurements made with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an experimental telescope array located near Pune, India, and with ESA’s Mars Express from orbit.

    A substantial amount of extremely valuable Schiaparelli engineering data were relayed back to the TGO during the descent and is being analysed by engineers day and night.

    The ExoMars TGO orbiter is currently on a 101 000 km x 3691 km orbit (with respect to the centre of the planet) with a period of 4.2 days, well within the planned initial orbit. The spacecraft is working very well and will take science calibration data during two orbits in November 2016.

    It will then be ready for the planned aerobraking manoeuvres starting in March 2017 and continuing for most of the year, bringing it into a 400-km altitude circular orbit around Mars.

    The TGO will then begin its primary science mission to study the atmosphere of Mars in search of possible indications of life below the surface, and to act as a telecommunications relay station for the ExoMars 2020 rover and other landed assets.

  19. Oct 24, 2016 #79
    Working off of https://arxiv.org/abs/1209.0343
    This project, http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/research/BINGO/ may shed some light on Dark Energy.

    The BINGO experiment is a project to build a special purpose radio telescope to map redshifted neutral hydrogen emission between z = 0.13 and 0.48. It is an international project with collaborators in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Uruguay. It is the only radio telescope which aims at mapping neutral gas, as traced by the 21cm line, on large angular scales and at redshift z~0.3. We call this method HI intensity mapping. Using the Baryon Acoustic Oscillations (BAOs) as a standard ruler allows to measure the expansion of the universe as a function of redshift and so, to constrain the properties of dark energy. The telescope will have no moving parts and consist of a primary mirror of about 40 m diameter and a secondary a bit smaller. It will have around 50 "pixels". With this design, the accuracy on the measurement on the acoustic scale will be 2.4% for one year of integration time, by performing a drift scan survey of 15 deg x 200 deg, with a resolution of 40 arcmin at 1 GHz. The plan is to build the telescope in a disused open-caste gold mine in Uruguay.

    One of the main challenge of the today cosmology is to explain the late-time acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. This acceleration, which has been measured by two independant collaborations studying Supernovae Ia (Perlmutter et al. 1998, Riess et al. 1998), could be explained by a negative pressure from a new component, known as dark energy. There are different ways of trying to determine the properties of the dark energy as Baryonic Acoustic Oscillations (BAO), weak and strong gravitational lensing, cluster counts and supernova. But, BAO measurements appear to be the most powerful tool in order to contrain the properties of Dark Energy (Eisenstein et al. 1998, Eisenstein 2003). The BAOs arise because the coupling of baryons and photons by Thomson scattering in the early universe allows acoustic oscillations at early times, which leads to a feature in the distribution of matter and the anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background radiation. The distance that acoustic waves can propagate in the first million years of the universe becomes a characteristic comoving scale. This acoustic signature has been detected in different optical galaxy surveys (Cole et al. 2005, Percival et al. 2009, Blake et al. 2011, Anderson et al. 2012). HI intensity mapping is an efficient alternative to measure a large number of galaxies individually. It allows to measure the fluctuations of the HI signal and to obtain the power spectrum of these fluctuations as a function of frequency. This method is complementary to optical galaxy surveys (BOSS, WiggleZ, SDSS-II, 6dFGS) in terms of systematics. The figure on the right shows the predicted sensitivity of BINGO to the BAOs for 1-year observation for 70 horns and 15 degree FOV. The experiment will allow to measure the acoustic scale at z~0.3 with an accuracy ~2.4% and the equation of state of the dark energy with 16%, which is a level comparable with the current state-of-the-art large optical surveys. We use the Fisher Matrix code of (Bull et al. 2014) to compute the likelihoods for cosmological parameters given various cosmological data. These figures show the joint constraints for the equation-of-state of the dark energy with w0 and wa (1st time derivative of w0) given for various datasets (BINGO, CHIME and BINGO). It shows the improvement obtained with the combination of different intensity mapping experiments BINGO compared to the current constraints given by Planck + WMAP (polarisations) + highL (SPT, ACT) + BAO (BOSS, WiggleZ, 6dF).

    The guiding principle in the design of BINGO has been for all components to be as simple as possible to minimize the cost, and also to allow repetitive observations so that they are simple to model and the redundancy is optimized. The design of BINGO instrument is a 40 m transit telescope with an offset focus. To minimise the cost, the telescope will have no moving parts. The instrument will realise a drift scan on the sky during two years in order to have one year of full integration time. The telescope is designed for having a good detection of the BAO at low resolution. The angular resolution of the instrument will be 40 arcmin at 1000 MHz. The instrument will operate in the frequency range between 960 to 1260 MHz which is relatively RFI free band and corresponds to a redshift range between 0.13 and 0.48. The frequency resolution will be about 1 MHz over a bandwidth of about 300 MHz. To reach the required sky coverage, the focal plane will contain 50 dual polarisation feeds, each horn will have an aperture diameter of 2 m and a length of 6 m. With this configuation, the focal plane will be 16 m x 15 m and the instantaneous field of view will be 10 deg x 10 deg. The volume survey will be 10 deg x 200 deg. The design and the fabrication of these large feeds represent a key technical challenge for the project and different methods are explored. The receiver modules will need to present a high stability. We will use the experience of the CMB experience (WMAP, Planck) and choose the same approach in using correlation receivers. Each receiver module will produce a spectrum of the difference between the observed region of the sky and a reference signal. The reference feed will have to present the same spectrum of the science beam and no variations. It will point at a Celestial Pole.

    We will build the BINGO telescope in Uruguay because of its favourable latitude and topography. Our two reflector systems have to be positioned in a quarry which has two parallel walls and the local topography has to support the dish and feed structure. The chosen site is the Quarry Castrillon located in Minas Corrales in the north of Uruguay. This site also presents good results according to RFI measurements.

    Manchester will lead the horn design and testing and the production of a prototype receiver-unit. Brazil and Uruguay will lead the telescope construction, receiver integration and site operations while Switzerland will design and construct the digital backend. The calibration and data analysis be a joint effort. Early receiver prototypes are already being tested and working on simulations and analysis software is well underway. The project is able to start as soon as fundings are available. The construction phase is expected to start in the beginning of 2015 and last 1.25 yr. Operations will last for a further 4 years.

    Salvaging a $340,000,000 spacecraft. :woot:

    The U.S. Navy’s MUOS 5 mobile communications satellite is closing in on its operational orbit after an extended orbit-raising campaign following a failure within the satellite’s main propulsion system that required an alternate maneuvering scenario to be worked out for the $340 million satellite

    The Lockheed Martin-built MUOS 5 satellite lifted off on June 24 atop the most powerful Atlas V version currently available, enlisting the help of five Solid Rocket Boosters to get the 6,740-Kilogram satellite off the ground and on its way to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. MUOS 5 enjoyed a flawless three-hour ride, being set free into an orbit of 3,903 by 35,654 Kilometers at an inclination of 18.97 degrees.

    By July 3 when orbit-raising was already expected to be complete, satellite trackers found the satellite stranded in an orbit around halfway between the initial transfer orbit and the planned Geostationary Orbit in terms of the velocity needed to make the transition. The U.S. Navy confirmed the satellite had to stop orbit-raising and later specified that MUOS 5 encountered a problem with its Main Propulsion System.

    By early August, the satellite’s manufacturer and its contractors concluded that the Main Propulsion System had failed for good and would not be available for any subsequent maneuvers.

    Without the use of its main engine, the satellite had to rely on its monopropellant thrusters to boost it into Geostationary Orbit - at the cost of later mission lifetime due to the consumption of propellant originally planned for use in stationkeeping once in Geostationary Orbit. Typically in such a case, the satellite would vent its oxidizer tanks to rid itself of dead weight since the oxidizer, Nitrogen Tetroxide, is no longer of any use and a reduction of vehicle mass reduces the amount of fuel needed to get to GEO.
  20. Oct 26, 2016 #80
    Some interesting excerpts from.
    While the SpaceX CEO may not like the ITS name so much, he has already settled on a name for the first ship of the line that will visit the Red Planet: Heart of Gold. A nod to the vessel of the same name from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, SpaceX’s ship will precede any crewed mission and will be laden with equipment meant for constructing a propellant manufacturing plant.

    Before any ITS-class ship ever makes a journey to Mars, the company plans to send several Dragon-class missions to gather as much entry, descent, and landing data as possible to mitigate the chances of adding to the collection of craters on Mars’ surface, as well as to better understand the best process for extracting water for making the propellant.

    Ever the science fiction fan, Musk seems to take pleasure any time he can integrate something from the genre into SpaceX’s operations. ITS is no different. When asked about the number of engines in the ITS’s first stage, Musk had a quick and very Musk-esque answer:

    "It had to be 42 for important scientific and fictional reasons! The dense packing is just to max out thrust to weight, but it would be cool if there was a virtual nozzle side effect."

    The number "42" plays a notable role in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything".

    However, not all of Elon’s interactions were steeped in science fiction lore. Redditor TheVehicleDestroyer wanted to know some specifics on the performance of the sea-level Raptor engine when used in vacuum. Musk said the Raptors meant for atmospheric operation would still have quite a bit of power, pushing 290 metric tons of thrust and operating with a specific impulse of approximately 360 seconds.

    Although there is a preponderance of evidence that Mars may have been habitable in the past, it certainly is not welcoming to humans at present. Redditor Ulysius questioned Musk on plans for permanent human habitation on the Red Planet, to which the SpaceX founder replied:

    "Initially, glass panes with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunneling droids. With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space."

    One of the key announcements in Musk’s address at the IAC conference was the revealing of a large composite fuel tank. Long the goal of many in the spaceflight industry with their mass savings translating into greater payload capabilities, composite propellant tanks have proven problematic at best, and catastrophic at worst.

    Elon, however, feels SpaceX has a good handle on the manufacture of large composite tanks. Responding to redditor nalyd8991, Musk fairly gushed over the composite structure:

    "Yeah, for those that know their stuff, that was really the big news. The flight tank will actually be slightly longer than the development tank shown, but the same diameter. That was built with latest and greatest carbon fiber prepreg. In theory, it should hold cryogenic propellant without leaking and without a sealing linker. Early tests are promising. Will take it up to 2/3 of burst pressure on an ocean barge in the coming weeks."

    Testing the tank at sea, away from personnel and structures, will help to ensure the maximum level of safety should a failure occur.

    SpaceX, however, has some challenges relating to not only the propellant tanks but also to the alloys used in the Raptor’s turbopumps.

    Operating at pressures much higher than any other engine, the turbopumps will be subjected to oxygen-rich conditions which may lead to erosion in the pump, though early test firings didn’t indicate that would be a likely problem.

    However, according to Musk, "there is still room for optimization."
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