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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Photos of the Day: A Brief Visit to Mexico...

Walking towards the resort at Costa Maya, Mexico, on March 21, 2018.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took one month ago today...when the ship I traveled on during an 11-day cruise, the Norwegian Jade, made a 7 to 8-hour stop at Costa Maya on the eastern coast of Mexico. I took these images before and after I visited the Mayan ruins in Chacchoben on the same day (you can see the photos in the link below). Costa Maya was the sixth and final port that the Norwegian Jade docked at before we returned to Miami on March 23. As you can see, this is a beautiful locale... Cancun is a 4 to 5-hour trip from this resort. (I have no intention of going to Cancun.) Hope y'all are having a great weekend!

PS: Six of these ten photos were taken with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera. Guess which ones?

LINK: Additional photos I took on my cruise to Central America

A snapshot of the resort at Costa Maya, Mexico, on March 21, 2018.

Walking through the resort at Costa Maya, Mexico, on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of the pristine water off the shore of Costa Maya, Mexico, on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of the Norwegian Jade (at left) and her sister ship, the Norwegian Dawn, from the shore of Costa Maya, Mexico, on March 21, 2018.

Posing with the Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Dawn behind me on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of the Costa Maya shoreline as I walked back to the Norwegian Jade, on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of the Norwegian Dawn and Costa Maya resort from Deck 12 of the Norwegian Jade, on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of the Costa Maya resort from inside the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 13 of the Norwegian Jade, on March 21, 2018.

A snapshot of Costa Maya's coastline and Norwegian Jade's bow from inside the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 13 of the ship, on March 21, 2018.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

InSight Update: The Mars Lander's Two Rideshare Partners Will Soon Be Ready for Launch...

An artist's concept of the two MarCO CubeSats flying through deep space.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA Engineers Dream Big with Small Spacecraft (News Release)

Many of NASA's most iconic spacecraft towered over the engineers who built them: think Voyagers 1 and 2, Cassini or Galileo -- all large machines that could measure up to a school bus.

But in the past two decades, mini-satellites called CubeSats have made space accessible to a new generation. These briefcase-sized boxes are more focused in their abilities and have a fraction of the mass -- and cost -- of some past titans of space.

In May, engineers will be watching closely as NASA launches its first pair of CubeSats designed for deep space. The twin spacecraft are called Mars Cube One, or MarCO, and were built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Both MarCO spacecraft will be hitching a ride on the same rocket launching InSight, NASA's next robotic lander headed for Mars. The MarCOs are intended to follow InSight on its cruise through space; if they survive the journey, each is equipped with a folding high-gain antenna to relay data about InSight as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands.

The MarCOs won't produce any science of their own, and aren't required for InSight to send its data back home (the lander will rely on NASA's Mars orbiters for that, in addition to communicating directly with antennas on Earth). But the twins will be a crucial first test of CubeSat technology beyond Earth orbit, demonstrating how they could be used to further explore the solar system.

"These are our scouts," said Andy Klesh of JPL, MarCO's chief engineer. "CubeSats haven't had to survive the intense radiation of a trip to deep space before, or use propulsion to point their way towards Mars. We hope to blaze that trail."

The official names of these two scouts are "MarCO-A" and "MarCO-B." But to the team that built them, they're "Wall-E" and "Eva" -- nicknames based on Pixar characters. Both MarCOs use a compressed gas commonly found in fire extinguishers to push themselves through space, the same way Wall-E did in his 2008 film.

Survival is far from guaranteed. As the saying goes: space is hard. The first challenge will be switching on. The MarCO batteries were last checked in March by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems of Irvine, California, which inserted each CubeSat into a special dispenser that will propel it into space. Those batteries will be used to deploy each CubeSat's solar arrays, with the hope that enough power will be left over to turn on their radios. If power is too low, the MarCO team may hear silence until each spacecraft is more fully charged.

If both MarCOs make the journey, they'll test a method of communications relay that could act as a "black box" for future Mars landings, helping engineers understand the difficult process of getting spacecraft to safely touch down on the Red Planet. Mars landings are notoriously hard to stick.

The MarCOs could also prove that CubeSats are ready to go beyond Earth. CubeSats were first developed to teach university students about satellites. Today, they're a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes.

NASA scientists are eager to explore the solar system using CubeSats. JPL even has its own CubeSat clean room, where several flight projects have been built, including the MarCOs. For young engineers, the thrill is building something that could potentially reach Mars in just a matter of years rather than a decade.

"We're a small team, so everyone gets experience working on multiple parts of the spacecraft," Klesh said. "You learn everything about building, testing and flying along the way. We're inventing every day at this point."

The MarCOs were built by JPL, which manages InSight and MarCO for NASA. They were funded by both JPL and NASA's Science Mission Directorate. A number of commercial suppliers provided unique technologies for the MarCOs.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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NASA engineer Joel Steinkraus uses sunlight to test the solar arrays on one of the MarCO spacecraft at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

TESS Begins Its Historic Quest to Search for Thousands of New Alien Worlds Beyond Our Solar System...

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on April 18, 2018.
SpaceX

NASA Planet Hunter on Its Way to Orbit (Press Release)

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life.

TESS, which is expected to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.

“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.”

Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.

“One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit,” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. “Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That’s one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before.”

For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.

TESS will be watching for phenomena called transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer’s perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness. More than 78 percent of the approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using transits.

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft found more than 2,600 exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars between 300 and 3,000 light-years from Earth, using this same method of watching for transits. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets.

The brightness of these target stars will allow researchers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet’s mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets’ capacity to harbor life.

“The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”

Through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, the worldwide scientific community will be able to conduct research beyond TESS’s core mission in areas ranging from exoplanet characterization to stellar astrophysics, distant galaxies and solar system science.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT and managed by Goddard. George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, serves as principal investigator for the mission. TESS’s four wide-field cameras were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

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Landing legs are deployed on the Falcon 9's first stage booster after returning to Earth following the launch of NASA's TESS spacecraft on April 18, 2018...in this footage taken by an onboard camera.
SpaceX

A camera aboard the Falcon 9's second stage motor captures this footage of NASA's TESS spacecraft separating from the booster about an hour after launch...on April 18, 2018.
SpaceX

A snapshot of a memory card that carries the exoplanet drawings of 1,300 people (including Yours Truly) who submitted them online last year...prior to it being attached to NASA's TESS spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

A snapshot of the memory card carrying the exoplanet drawings of 1,300 people (including Yours Truly) who submitted them online last year...after it was attached to NASA's TESS spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

A snapshot of the 11 illustrations I created last year that are on the memory card now orbiting the Earth aboard NASA's TESS spacecraft.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Launch of TESS Has Been Delayed...

Initially targeted to lift off at 6:32 PM, EDT (3:32 PM, PDT) today, NASA's TESS satellite is now set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this Wednesday (April 18), at 6:51 PM, EDT (3:51 PM, PDT).
SpaceX

Today's initial launch attempt for NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida has been called off due to SpaceX requesting additional time to analyze data for the Falcon 9 rocket's guidance, navigation and control systems. The next launch attempt is targeted for this Wednesday, April 18, at 6:51 PM, Eastern Daylight Time (3:51 PM, Pacific Daylight Time). It's all good.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

TESS Update: T-Minus 1 Day Till Launch!

An artist's concept of an exoplanet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512...in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail).
ESO / M. Kornmesser

NASA's TESS Mission Hopes to Find Exoplanets Beyond Our Solar System (News Release - April 13)

The worlds orbiting other stars are called “exoplanets,” and they come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big around as Earth or Mars. This artist’s impression shows an exoplanet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail).

This rocky super-Earth is an illustration of the type of planets future telescopes, like NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and James Webb, hope to find outside our solar system. TESS, slated to launch on April 16, 2018, is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, including those that could support life. The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for transiting exoplanets.

Source: NASA.Gov

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SpaceX's Falcon 9 payload fairing that will enshroud NASA's TESS satellite is moved into the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (where TESS awaits the new arrival) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 3, 2018.
NASA / Frankie Martin

NASA's TESS satellite is about to be encapsulated by the payload fairing for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 9, 2018.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

NASA's TESS satellite is about to be encapsulated by the payload fairing for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 9, 2018.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Engineers prepare to encapsulate NASA's TESS satellite with the payload fairing for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 9, 2018.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

NASA's TESS satellite is now encapsulated within the payload fairing of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on April 9, 2018.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Major Developmental Milestone Has Been Achieved for the Joint Strike Fighter...

An F-35C Lightning II aircraft, designated 'CF-2', conducts the final test flight for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the F-35 program...on April 11, 2018.
Lockheed Martin

F-35 Completes Most Comprehensive Flight Test Program in Aviation History (Press Release - April 12)

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. -- The F-35 program has accomplished the final developmental test flight of the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the program.

"Completing F-35 SDD flight test is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication from the joint government and industry team," said Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer. "Since the first flight of AA-1 in 2006, the developmental flight test program has operated for more than 11 years mishap-free, conducting more than 9,200 sorties, accumulating over 17,000 flight hours, and executing more than 65,000 test points to verify the design, durability, software, sensors, weapons capability and performance for all three F-35 variants. Congratulations to our F-35 Test Team and the broader F-35 Enterprise for delivering this new powerful and decisive capability to the warfighter."

The final SDD flight occurred April 11 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland., when Navy test aircraft CF-2 completed a mission to collect loads data while carrying external 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.

From flight sciences to mission systems testing, the critical work completed by F-35 test teams cleared the way for the Block 3F capability to be delivered to the operational warfighter. More than 1,000 SDD flight test engineers, maintainers, pilots and support personnel took the three variants of the F-35 to their full flight envelope to test aircraft performance and flying qualities. The test team conducted six at-sea detachments and performed more than 1,500 vertical landing tests on the F-35B variant. The developmental flight test team completed 183 Weapon Separation Tests; 46 Weapons Delivery Accuracy tests; 33 Mission Effectiveness tests, which included numerous multi-ship missions of up to eight F-35s against advanced threats.

"The F-35 flight test program represents the most comprehensive, rigorous and the safest developmental flight test program in aviation history," said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin's vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. "The joint government and industry team demonstrated exceptional collaboration and expertise, and the results have given the men and women who fly the F-35 great confidence in its transformational capability."

Developmental flight test is a key component of the F-35 program's SDD phase, which will formally be completed following an Operational Test and Evaluation and a Department of Defense decision to go into full-rate aircraft production.

While SDD required flight test is now complete, F-35 flight testing continues in support of phased capability improvements and modernization of the F-35 air system. This effort is part of the Joint Program Office's Continuous Capability Development and Delivery (C2D2) framework, which will provide timely, affordable incremental warfighting capability improvements to maintain joint air dominance against evolving threats to the United States and its allies.

With stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft ever built. More than a fighter jet, the F-35's ability to collect, analyze and share data is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace and enables men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safe.

Source: Lockheed Martin

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The F-35C CF-2 aircraft completes the final test flight for the SDD phase of the F-35 program...on April 11, 2018.
Lockheed Martin

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Photos of the Day: Bidding Adieu to Miami...

A snapshot of Miami as seen from aboard the Norwegian Jade on March 12, 2018.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took when I departed from Miami on an 11-day cruise to Central America one month ago today. These images were taken with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera as the Norwegian Jade—the passenger ship I sailed on for this voyage—made her way from the Port of Miami's cruise terminal to the open sea on March 12. Needless to say, Miami is one great-looking city! Of course, when I go back to Florida (either late next year or in early 2020 to hopefully see NASA's Space Launch System out on its pad at Kennedy Space Center, prepping for its maiden flight on Exploration Mission-1), knock on wood, it will once again be Orlando (the city I flew to from Los Angeles when I last visited Cape Canaveral in early 2009) that I venture to in the Sunshine State to begin my trip. Again, knock on wood... Anyways, that's all I have to say for now. Happy Thursday!

LINK: Additional photos I took on my cruise to Central America

Another snapshot of Miami as seen from aboard the Norwegian Jade on March 12, 2018.

A third snapshot of Miami—and another Norwegian Cruise Line ship—as seen from aboard the Norwegian Jade on March 12, 2018.

An armed U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat escorts the Norwegian Jade as she heads out to the open sea on March 12, 2018.

Another snapshot of Miami as seen from aboard the Norwegian Jade on March 12, 2018.

An overexposed snapshot of me posing with the Miami skyline as the Norwegian Jade departs for Central America...on March 12, 2018.

Friday, April 06, 2018

SOLAR PROBE PLUS Arrives on the Space Coast for Launch Preparation...

In Titusville, Florida, NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft—formerly known as Solar Probe Plus—is unloaded from a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft before being transported to Astrotech Space Operations for launch preparation...on April 3, 2018.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

NASA’s Mission to Touch the Sun Arrives in the Sunshine State (News Release)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Sun, scheduled for July 31, 2018.

In the middle of the night on April 2, the spacecraft was driven from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to nearby Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. From there, it was flown by the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing to Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, where it arrived at 10:40 a.m. EDT. It was then transported a short distance to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, where it will continue testing, and eventually undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun. After launch, it will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth.

“Parker Solar Probe and the team received a smooth ride from the Air Force C-17 crew from the 436th,” said Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “This is the second most important flight Parker Solar Probe will make, and we’re excited to be safely in Florida and continuing pre-launch work on the spacecraft.”

At Astrotech, Parker Solar Probe was taken to a clean room and removed from its protective shipping container on Wednesday, April 4. The spacecraft then began a series of tests to verify that it had safely made the journey to Florida. For the next several months, the spacecraft will undergo comprehensive testing; just prior to being fueled, one of the most critical elements of the spacecraft, the thermal protection system (TPS), or heat shield, will be installed. The TPS is the breakthrough technology that will allow Parker Solar Probe to survive the temperatures in the Sun’s corona, just 3.8 million miles from the surface of our star.

“There are many milestones to come for Parker Solar Probe and the amazing team of men and women who have worked so diligently to make this mission a reality,” said Driesman. “The installation of the TPS will be our final major step before encapsulation and integration onto the launch vehicle.”

Parker Solar Probe will be launched from Launch Complex-37 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The two-hour launch window opens at approximately 4 a.m. EDT on July 31, 2018, and is repeated each day (at slightly earlier times) through August 19.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will explore the Sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars. Its data will also be useful in improving forecasts of major eruptions on the Sun and the subsequent space weather events that impact technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space. The mission is named for University of Chicago Professor Emeritus Eugene N. Parker, whose profound insights into solar physics and processes have guided the discipline. It is the first NASA mission named for a living individual.


Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living With a Star Program to explore aspects of the connected Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. Living With a Star is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Johns Hopkins APL designed, built, and manages the mission for NASA. Instrument teams are led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.; Princeton University in New Jersey; and the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is the provider of the Delta IV launch service for Parker Solar Probe. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, manages the agency’s efforts to commercially provide rockets for specific missions. LSP also directs the overall launch effort including overseeing development and integration of the rocket with the spacecraft.

Source: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

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After arriving in Titusville, Florida on April 3, 2018, NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft is brought to Astrotech Space Operations to undergo preparations for its July 31 launch to the Sun.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Send Your Name to Mercury!

An artist's concept of JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter studying the planet Mercury.
JAXA

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is currently holding a PR campaign where not only can you submit a name that might be chosen as the official moniker of its Mercury-bound spacecraft, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), but you can also send your own name and a personal message that will be placed on a memory card aboard the space probe before it launches to the barren world six months from now. Click on the link below to take part in this exciting project:

Send your name and a message to the planet Mercury

The MMO is Japan's contribution to the European Space Agency's BepiColombo mission. Along with Europe's Mercury Planetary Orbiter, the MMO will launch to Mercury via an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana this October...and arrive at the closest planet to our Sun in December 2025. The deadline to submit an official name for MMO (I chose Larunda from Roman mythology as my submission) and provide your own name and message is this Monday, April 9 at 10:00 AM, Japan Time (which would be Sunday, April 8 at 6 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, here in California).

So hurry up and click on the link above (or the images above and below) to leave your own mark on Japan's Mercury-bound spacecraft! And while you're at it, click on this link to send your name towards the Sun itself as well...courtesy of NASA's Parker Solar Probe (which launches in July). That is all.

An image of JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, and a red circle denoting where the memory card containing your name and personal message will be installed on the spacecraft.
JAXA

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

NASA Selects a Contractor to Build Its Next Generation X-Plane...

An artist's concept of NASA's QueSST X-plane soaring high in the sky.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

NASA Awards Contract to Build Quieter Supersonic Aircraft (Press Release)

NASA has taken another step toward re-introducing supersonic flight with the award Tuesday of a contract for the design, building and testing of a supersonic aircraft that reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company of Palmdale, California, was selected for the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration contract, a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract valued at $247.5 million. Work under the contract began April 2 and runs through Dec. 31, 2021.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will complete the design and fabrication of an experimental aircraft, known as an X-plane, which will cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 mph and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, 75 Perceived Level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom.

Once NASA accepts the aircraft from the contractor in late 2021, the agency will perform additional flight tests to prove the quiet supersonic technology works as designed, aircraft performance is robust, and it’s safe to operate in the National Airspace System.

Beginning in mid-2022, NASA will fly the X-plane over select U.S. cities and collect data about community responses to the flights. This data set will be provided to U.S. and international regulators for their use in considering new sound-based rules regarding supersonic flight over land, which could enable new commercial cargo and passenger markets in faster-than-sound air travel.

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A snapshot I took of a small replica of the QueSST X-plane...on display during a NASA Social event at Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, on May 31, 2016.

Monday, April 02, 2018

TESS Update: T-Minus 14 Days Till Launch!

An artist's concept of NASA's TESS satellite searching for exoplanets in deep space.
NASA GSFC

Just thought I'd share these awesome pics below showing engineers inspecting the four cameras that NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will use to monitor up to 200,000 stars for potential exoplanets during its two-year mission. The TESS spacecraft is undergoing final launch preparations inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida...prior to being transported to the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to be mated with TESS's launch vehicle, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff time is set for 6:32 - 6:33 PM, Eastern Daylight Time (3:32 - 3:33 PM, Pacific Daylight Time) on April 16, which is two weeks from today. 60 days after launch, TESS will begin scouring the first 13 of 26 sectors of the sky for alien worlds...eventually ending its two-year primary mission with the mapping of around 85 percent of the entire sky for planets beyond our solar system. TESS is continuing where NASA's Kepler spacecraft is leaving off as this latter mission prepares to come to an end.

It's only fitting that TESS is Kepler's successor; we have to wait till at least May of 2020 for Hubble's replacement (the James Webb Space Telescope) to launch and conduct follow-up investigations on the many discoveries that TESS will hopefully make by summer of 2020! Happy Monday.

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers inspect the four cameras NASA's TESS satellite will use to scour 85 percent of the entire sky for exoplanets.
NASA

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers inspect two of the four cameras NASA's TESS satellite will use to scour 85 percent of the entire sky for exoplanets.
NASA

A snapshot of the four cameras NASA's TESS satellite will use to scour 85 percent of the entire sky for exoplanets.
NASA