Bring The HEAT Podcast

Join Roamy, Spill and me, your host, XBrad for a discussion of space exploration, the F-35 vs. the F-16, and Cyberwarfare.

Other than for some reason the recording dropping the last 10 minutes of Roamy’s segment, it mostly went well. No animals were harmed in the making of this podcast.

You can stream the podcast here.

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You load 25 tons and what do you get…

This week is the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Boston. Some interesting tidbits here and there – if you want to follow on Twitter, try #ISSRDC or follow @ISS_CASIS and @Space_Station.

Elon Musk talked about the recent SpaceX accident. Nothing I hadn’t heard before, except that he also mentioned a new ISS IMAX movie. (Oooooh!)

Made In Space received the Innovation Award for Technology Development for their 3D printer in space.
butch wilmore

And last but not least, earlier this year the Water Recovery System on ISS passed the milestone of 50,000 lbs. of recycled water. Some of that was recovered from astronaut urine, some was recovered from condensate from the air, and some was from the Oxygen Recovery System, but that’s 25 tons that didn’t have to be brought up from Earth and that much closer to the technology for sustaining an exploration crew for long periods of time.

Vortices

NASA’s photo of the day – the Canary Islands are seen kicking up von Kármán vortices off the Atlantic coast of Africa: http://go.nasa.gov/1AUa3ww

vortices

Kennedy Space Center and Atlantis

I promise to write more about this trip later, but the dearth of posts this weekend cries out for something, anything right now.

I took my family to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center. Something of a busman’s holiday, but that was okay. I’ll admit that it was not cheap (what in Florida is?) but it was a full day of exhibits and tours, plus the fun of a collegiate robotic challenge.

What I came to see was this:
DSCN0141

I’ll admit, I cried when I first saw her, pinned like a butterfly on display when she should be soaring through space. But the exhibit for Atlantis is a good one, lots about the history of the Space Shuttle program, the accomplishments in telescopes, satellites, and assembly of ISS, remembrances of the crews we’ve lost, and spinoffs from space. And as a friend reminded me, better on display like this than a jumble of broken pieces hidden in a warehouse. She accomplished her mission, though I still think she was retired too soon.

X-37B Launch Video, and A Co-author quoted in the New York Times

Yesterday the Air Force hush-hush X-37B space plane successfully launched from Cape Canaveral.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJCEVFgswjw]

In addition to whatever the Air Force has the X-37B doing, they allowed NASA to piggy-back an experiment aboard.

NASA is also taking advantage of this X-37B flight to test how almost 100 materials react to the harsh conditions of space, like the barrage of radiation and swings of temperature the craft will experience while passing between the day and night sides of the Earth for at least 200 days.

“It’s just sitting there and letting the environment hit it,” said Miria Finckenor, a materials engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. She is the principal investigator for the experiment, which is housed in the space plane’s cargo bay.

The materials to be tested include thermal coatings to keep spacecraft components within a certain range of temperatures, clear materials under consideration for lighter windows on NASA’s Orion crew capsule and ink to make sure that markings on parts do not fade away.

NASA previously tested more than 4,000 samples outside the International Space Station, but it is difficult to carve out time during spacewalks to set up and retrieve the experiments. “This opportunity presented itself, and we just needed to take advantage of it,” Ms. Finckenor said.

I’m just a simple grunt. Would you believe that I actually know three, count ‘em, three honest to goodness rocket scientists?

SpaceBlogging

Sounds like my in-house Rocket Scientist/Super Model is busy this afternoon, so I’ll put up the space updates.

First, the mysterious X-37B is also taking along a not so hush-hush experiment. The METIS is similar to other tests such as LDF and MISSE on the reaction of various materials exposed to space for varying durations.

Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.

By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013.

“By exposing materials to space and returning the samples to Earth, we gain valuable data about how the materials hold up in the environment in which they will have to operate,” said Miria Finckenor, the co-investigator on the MISSE experiment and principal investigator for METIS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Spacecraft designers can use this information to choose the best material for specific applications, such as thermal protection or antennas or any other space hardware.”

We’re curious about something not mentioned in the release. How different is the orbit of the X-37B from the ISS, in terms of both altitude and inclination, and what effects might that have on the exposed materials?

Next up, Space-X. We’ve all enjoyed watching Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 attempt to safely land after orbital launch missions. Looks like they’ll try again in June. But the other major endeavor underway at Space-X is to crew certify a manned spacecraft. And one of the key tests for that is the pad abort. We’ve all seen the escape tower atop Mercury and Apollo capsules. Space-X uses a rather different approach with their manned variant of the Dragon spacecraft.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bhW2h08zhY]

That’s an unmanned test, but I’m thinking Space-X could make some money selling that as a carnival ride.

Roamy roundup

NASA is using its Earth-observing satellites to help Nepal recover from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit April 25.

The satellite data will be used to compile maps of ground surface deformation and to create risk models. NASA and its partners are also contributing to assessments of damage to infrastructure. They are tracking remote areas that may be a challenge for relief workers to reach, as well as areas that could be at risk for landslides, river damming, floods and avalanches…
NASA technology that can locate people trapped beneath collapsed buildings is being deployed to Nepal. A remote-sensing radar technology called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), developed by JPL in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, can locate individuals buried as deep as 30 feet (9.1 meters) in crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet (6 meters) of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet (30.5 meters) in open spaces. This technology, licensed by the private entity R4 Incorporated of Edgewood, Maryland, has been taken to Nepal to assist with recovery efforts.

The folks here at Marshall are also compressing needed data to make up for the limited bandwidth available in Nepal.

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The MESSENGER spacecraft lithobraked into Mercury sometime yesterday. The primary mission was to orbit Mercury for a year and send back data. It lasted just over 4 years in an intense thermal and radiation environment and only took the dive when it ran out of fuel. NASA Science News covered some of MESSENGER’s discoveries, such as ice at the poles, tectonic landforms, an active magnetic field, and an exosphere.
PIA16853mercury_900
Photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Mariner 10 is the only other spacecraft to visit Mercury, and that was a flyby mission. That spacecraft also ran out of nitrogen for maneuvering and went quiet in 1975.

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A Russian Progress resupply ship launched on April 28 failed to reach the International Space Station and is expected to burn up during reentry. The current rumor is that the third stage engine failed to shut down and bumped the spacecraft into a spin.

So no one here is complaining that SpaceX didn’t get the first stage landing like they wanted. The Dragon successfully docked with ISS on April 17, delivering food, water, and experiments.

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Speaking of experiments, the X-37B mini-shuttle will be launching soon. One experiment that they mentioned is a Hall thruster propulsion experiment. I helped with some ground testing of Hall thrusters a decade or so ago, so it’s nice to see it actually fly. There’s another experiment, but the press release isn’t out yet, so that will have to wait for the next Roamy roundup. 🙂