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Breeding stock?

Hope it doesn't have the space equivalent to an MCAS system.

It is a culture adopted from McDonnell Douglas unfortunately.  $ trumps Safety  

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the story says there is organic material on an asteroid, you have to wonder where that came from. Is the asteroid belt the remains of a planet that broke up as some believe or ????

    
IRON AND ICENASA's OSIRIS-REx unlocks more secrets from Asteroid Bennu
by Brittany Enos for UA News
Tucson AZ (SPX) Oct 09, 2020

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NASA's first asteroid sample return mission now knows much more about the material it'll be collecting in just a few weeks. In a special collection of six papers published in the journals Science and Science Advances, scientists on the OSIRIS-REx mission present new findings on asteroid Bennu's surface material, geological characteristics, and dynamic history. They also suspect that the delivered sample of Bennu may be unlike anything we have in the meteorite collection on Earth.

These discoveries complete the OSIRIS-REx mission's pre-sample collection science requirements and offer insight into the sample of Bennu that scientists will study for generations to come.

One of the papers, led by Amy Simon from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that carbon-bearing, organic material is widespread on the asteroid's surface, including at the mission's primary sample site, Nightingale, where OSIRIS-REx will make its first sample collection attempt on October 20. These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material will likely be present in the collected sample.

This organic matter may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology. Scientists are planning detailed experiments on these organic molecules and expect that the returned sample will help answer complex questions about the origins of water and life on Earth.

"The abundance of carbon-bearing material is a major scientific triumph for the mission. We are now optimistic that we will collect and return a sample with organic material - a central goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Authors of the special collection have also determined that carbonate minerals make up some of the asteroid's geological features. Carbonate minerals often precipitate from hydrothermal systems that contain both water and carbon dioxide. A number of Bennu's boulders have bright veins that appear to be made of carbonate - some of which are located near the Nightingale crater, meaning that carbonates might be present in the returned sample.

The study of the carbonates found on Bennu was led by Hannah Kaplan, from Goddard. These findings have allowed scientists to theorize that Bennu's parent asteroid likely had an extensive hydrothermal system, where water interacted with and altered the rock on Bennu's parent body. Although the parent body was destroyed long ago, we're seeing evidence of what that watery asteroid once looked like here - in its remaining fragments that make up Bennu. Some of these carbonate veins in Bennu's boulders measure up to a few feet long and several inches thick, validating that an asteroid-scale hydrothermal system of water was present on Bennu's parent body.

Scientists made another striking discovery at site Nightingale: its regolith has only recently been exposed to the harsh space environment, meaning that the mission will collect and return some of the most pristine material on the asteroid. Nightingale is part of a population of young, spectrally red craters identified in a study led by Dani DellaGiustina at the University of Arizona. Bennu's "colors" (variations in the slope of the visible-wavelength spectrum) are much more diverse than originally anticipated. This diversity results from a combination of different materials inherited from Bennu's parent body and different durations of exposure to the space environment.

This paper's findings are a major milestone in an ongoing debate in the planetary science community - how primitive asteroids like Bennu change spectrally as they are exposed to "space weathering" processes, such as bombardment by cosmic rays and solar wind. While Bennu appears quite black to the naked eye, the authors illustrate the diversity of Bennu's surface by using false-color renderings of multispectral data collected by the MapCam camera.

The freshest material on Bennu, such as that found at the Nightingale site, is spectrally redder than average and thus appears red in these images. Surface material turns vivid blue when it has been exposed to space weathering for an intermediate period of time. As the surface material continues to weather over long periods of time, it ultimately brightens across all wavelengths, becoming a less intense blue - the average spectral color of Bennu.

The paper by DellaGiustina et al. also distinguishes two main types of boulders on Bennu's surface: dark and rough, and (less commonly) bright and smooth. The different types may have formed at different depths in the parent asteroid of Bennu.

Not only do the boulder types differ visually, they also have their own unique physical properties. The paper led by Ben Rozitis from The Open University in the UK shows that the dark boulders are weaker and more porous, whereas the bright boulders are stronger and less porous. The bright boulders also host the carbonates identified by Kaplan and crew, suggesting that the precipitation of carbonate minerals in cracks and pore spaces may be responsible for their increased strength.

However, both boulder types are weaker than scientists expected. Rozitis and colleagues suspect that Bennu's dark boulders (the weaker, more porous, and more common type) would not survive the journey through Earth's atmosphere. It's therefore likely that the returned samples of asteroid Bennu will provide a missing link for scientists, as this type of material is not currently represented in meteorite collections.

Bennu is a diamond-shaped pile of rubble floating in space, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Data obtained by the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) - a science instrument contributed by the Canadian Space Agency - have allowed the mission team to develop a 3D digital terrain model of the asteroid that, at 20 cm resolution, is unprecedented in detail and accuracy. I

n this paper, led by Michael Daly of York University, scientists explain how detailed analysis of the asteroid's shape revealed ridge-like mounds on Bennu that extend from pole-to-pole, but are subtle enough that they could be easily missed by the human eye. Their presence has been hinted at before, but their full pole-to-pole extents only became clear when the northern and southern hemispheres were split apart in the OLA data for comparison.

The digital terrain model also shows that Bennu's northern and southern hemispheres have different shapes. The southern hemisphere appears to be smoother and rounder, which the scientists believe is a result of loose material getting trapped by the region's numerous large boulders.

Another paper in the special collection, led by Daniel Scheeres of University of Colorado Boulder, examines the gravity field of Bennu, which has been determined by tracking the trajectories of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and the particles that are naturally ejected from Bennu's surface. The use of particles as gravity probes is fortuitous. Prior to the discovery of particle ejection on Bennu in 2019, the team was concerned about mapping the gravity field to the required precision using only spacecraft tracking data. The natural supply of dozens of mini gravity probes allowed the team to vastly exceed their requirements and gain unprecedented insight into the asteroid interior.

The reconstructed gravity field shows that the interior of Bennu is not uniform. Instead, there are pockets of higher and lower density material inside the asteroid. It's as if there is a void at its center, within which you could fit a couple of football fields. In addition, the bulge at Bennu's equator is under-dense, suggesting that Bennu's rotation is lofting this material.

All six publications in the special collection use global and local datasets collected by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Feb. through Oct. 2019. The special collection underscores that sample return missions like OSIRIS-REx are essential to fully understanding the history and evolution of our Solar System.

The mission is less than two weeks away from fulfilling its biggest goal - collecting a piece of a pristine, hydrated, carbon-rich asteroid. OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in 2021 and deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

Links to the four papers: 

Links to the four papers:

+ Research paper 1
+ Research paper 2
+ Research paper3
+ Research paper 4

https://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASAs_OSIRIS_REx_unlocks_more_secrets_from_Asteroid_Bennu_999.html

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How the US Army integrated a Marine F-35 jet into its tactical network

32 minutes ago
 
RVN3QSLTJJH33M66KORVMM5JII.jpg During Project Convergence, the U.S. Army was able to pass use AI-generated targeting data created from satellite imagery to a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B. (U.S. Marine Corps)

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — During a recent U.S. Army exercise, the service was able to link a Marine Corps F-35B into its developmental networks, enabling the jet to both receive targeting data from satellites and send it to ground-based shooters.

 

Not only did that connection show the flexibility of the Army’s evolving tactical network, but it demonstrated the success the armed services can have as they connect different platforms.

“In some cases — I’m hesitant to use the word but I’ll use it — I think in some cases it was unprecedented," said Willie Nelson, director of Army Futures Command’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team.

The connection occurred during Project Convergence, a massive Army exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, that wrapped up at the end of September. During the so-called campaign of learning, the Army put its most cutting-edge technology to the test. It connected sensors from multiple domains to various fires capabilities, fused data and cut down the sensor-to-shooter timeline from 20 minutes to 20 seconds.

The Army clearly had big plans for Project Convergence, though none of them involved F-35s.

 

But location can be everything. Over the course of the exercises, the Marine Corps offered the Army an F-35 to borrow.

“Because we’re in Yuma, right across the highway is the Marine Corps air base with many, many F-35s,” explained Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, who oversaw Project Convergence. “Due to the incredible relationships that were developed, the Marines provided F-35 time.”

“Why I was a Yuma fan and pushed for it is the opportunities that exist,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said, referencing the use of the F-35B during Project Convergence. “And they worked it out over a handshake. Once that F-35 is airborne, it’s over the target. It’s right across the street.”

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36 minutes ago, Malcolm said:

crafting false news........  

Willie Nelson's name is in the article Malcolm posted......and I think moeman was quoting that as a "funny"....🤣

 

Really slow day today but hopefully everyone had a great Thanksgiving...😉

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8 minutes ago, Kip Powick said:

Willie Nelson's name is in the article Malcolm posted......and I think moeman was quoting that as a "funny"....🤣

 

Really slow day today but hopefully everyone had a great Thanksgiving...😉

Thanks Captain Obvious.   😀👍

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NASA advances plan to commercialize International Space Station
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Oct 12, 2020

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Oct. 5, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are docked to the space station including Russia's Progress 75 and 76 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship and Northrop Grumman's Cygnus-14 resupply ship.

The planned launch of a private commercial airlock to the International Space Station in November will accelerate NASA's plan to turn the station into a hub of private industry, space agency officials said.

The commercialization plan also includes the launch of a private habitat and laboratory by 2024 and a project NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter in May in which actor Tom Cruise will film a movie in space.

The 20-year-old space station may even have a private citizen on board again for the first time in years in late 2021, according to Phil McAlister, NASA's director of commercial spaceflight. It's part of a plan to wean the space station off NASA's public funding of $3 billion to $4 billion per year.

"We expanded the scope and range of activities that can be done on ISS," McAlister said in an interview earlier this year. "We carved out resources -- power, oxygen, data -- and we know we can support a paying customer, probably twice a year for up to a month."

Detailed plans for those stints at the space station are partly proprietary, he said.

Whether private citizens return or not, NASA has increased corporate missions to the space station in recent years.

One example was Estee Lauder, which sent 10 bottles of skin cream to the space station Oct. 1 as part of a $128,000 contract with NASA, according to the company and NASA.

The agency charges $17,500 per hour for the astronauts' time, according to its fee schedule. A representative for Estee Lauder confirmed the project last week, but declined to elaborate.

Anheuser-Busch has sent barley seeds to the ISS several times, including an experiment to see how the seeds could be sprouted, known as malting, in microgravity.

"By exposing barley to microgravity, we learned how to maximize production volumes, grow higher quality crops and overall, what it might take to successfully grow and malt barley in microgravity -- ultimately furthering our understanding of agriculture both on Earth and in space," a report from the beer company said.

Freeing up resources on the existing space station for private use will only take NASA so far, and additional infrastructure is needed in space, commercial spaceflight director McAlister said.

NASA plans to install a private airlock to release science experiments and a private habitation module for more space tourism or private researchers.

Pittsburgh-based space company Nanoracks plans to launch its Bishop Airlock to the space station on the next SpaceX cargo mission, scheduled for Nov. 22, the company and NASA confirmed last week.

Having a private airlock just for science experiments and small satellites will allow more efficient use of the station's airlocks and allow for more commercial activity, McAlister said.

Nanoracks funded the construction of the airlock, which cost about $15 million, for the opportunity to have private enterprise utilize it, according to the company. NASA signed an agreement with the company for the idea.

Houston-based Axiom Space, meanwhile, plans to launch the private habitat to the space station in 2024, the same year that NASA wants to land astronauts again on the moon.

Axiom intends to send multiple modules to the space station, growing its total indoor space exponentially through 2028, according to a company spokesman Beau Holder.

At that point, the space station will be nearing the end of its planned lifespan, and Axiom plans to detach its modules and create a separate space station, eventually freeing NASA from financing the operation.

"What Axiom provides is an opportunity for NASA to free up resources to take on the next exploration challenges while maintaining ability to do on-orbit research and exploration technology demonstrations," Holder said.

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SPACE TRAVEL
Innovative solutions to more reliably recycle space station wastewater
by Janet Anderson for MSFC News
Huntsville AL (SPX) Oct 09, 2020
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Fine-tuning hardware technology to increase durability and minimize the need for replacements is a driving factor for Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) engineers supporting air and water recycling on the International Space Station.

"As we travel farther from Earth on Artemis missions to the Moon and build toward longer, crewed missions to Mars, it's inevitable we'll need more reliable hardware and a reduced requirement for spares," said Arthur Brown, deputy manager of ECLSS integration and development at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "Even from the space station, it's a long way to the nearest hardware store or machine shop."

Case in point: The newly upgraded distillation system for the space station's urine processor assembly - flown to the station in March and installed in September - challenged Marshall's ECLSS team to take a fresh look at an old problem, and apply a state-of-the-art solution.

"The distillation assembly is the heart of the Urine Processor Assembly," Brown said. "It's the core of the machinery that converts human urine into clean drinking water."

Urine is boiled in the distillation assembly and delivered to the water processor, where it undergoes a cycle of filtration and chemical purification until it is usable by the crew - reducing costs associated with launching heavy water shipments to the station from Earth.

Developed for NASA in the 1990s and refined continuously ever since the space station began to house rotating crews 20 years ago, urine and wastewater recycling technologies used on the station typically do a better job cleaning, filtering, and delivering potable water than many large commercial systems employed on Earth.

But engineers found the station's system suffered an issue common to many machines - deteriorating belts. Belt drives typically transmit motion from one internal hardware element to another, mechanically linking rotating parts to drive gears or wheels. They require tension, correct contact, and proper maintenance to function.

Even with the right upkeep, belts wear out - especially when exposed to the steam from the urine distillation assembly accelerating the process.

"Our challenge was to deliver a new design that could bypass the belt stretching issue," Brown said. "The Urine Processor Assembly team partnered with engineers in Marshall's Materials and Processes laboratory to explore 3D printing options to develop prototype design solutions and dramatically shorten design cycles."

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, uses composite materials, built up layer by layer, to create sophisticated, durable parts and hardware. NASA is pursuing the technology to provide long-term space missions with their own 3D print-on-demand "machine shops," enabling future exploration crews to build reliable parts and tools without waiting for weeks or months for shipments from Earth.

Marshall engineering teams determined they could 3D print a plastic-toothed drive pulley, and they delivered near-flight-quality prototypes in less than two weeks. From there, they expanded the system upgrades to include a variety of internal part redesigns, all to better mitigate the impact of the hardware's steam and fluid environment, extend its service life, and continue to reliably provide the crew with life-sustaining potable water.

Previously, the distillation assembly could see parts failures after approximately 1,400 hours of service. With the upgrades included in the latest iteration, engineers anticipate a service life of more than 4,300 hours without parts replacement. The distillation assembly, which helps the crew recycle 90 percent of the water they need on station, is only operated for a few hours each day, so those anticipated lifetime hours can stretch into years.

"Our first goal is always to increase reliability. If hardware doesn't break, that's a problem solved," Brown said. "But we're also working to enable on-orbit maintenance by replacing component parts - from sensors to vacuum pumps - instead of taking out whole mechanisms and flying up brand new ones. In future systems, everything internal is designed to be individually replaceable by the crew."

Building on two decades of experience and technical know-how gained at the space station, NASA's Artemis program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and prepare to extend humanity's reach farther into the solar system. To learn more about space station hardware and life support systems, visit:


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 plan to wean the space station off NASA's public funding of $3 billion to $4 billion per year.

So lets say the average cost is 3.5 B /yr , even with the "customers" up there.

Lifespan is 8 more years so the cost would be 28B

Imagine what that could do to START to  clean up the environment

Yes, I know I am urinating into the wind but it is unbelievable  what it has cost, and will cost, and the return  for humanity is so negligible.

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8 minutes ago, Kip Powick said:

 plan to wean the space station off NASA's public funding of $3 billion to $4 billion per year.

 

Yes, I know I am urinating into the wind but it is unbelievable  what it has cost, and will cost, and the return  for humanity is so negligible.

Is it?  I think that is still evolving.   https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/15_ways_iss_benefits_earth

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Canada joins U.S.-led Artemis Accords to send human explorers back to moon and beyond

Rules ban secrecy, require data sharing, and preserve historic sites

The Canadian Press · Posted: Oct 14, 2020 7:12 AM ET | Last Updated: 3 hours ago
 
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Lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin carries equipment on the surface of the moon in a 1969 NASA photo. NASA has released a set of guidelines for its Artemis moon-landing program. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP)
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Canada has signed on to the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-led effort to establish global guidelines for sending explorers back to the moon and beyond.

NASA says space agencies in Australia, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates also joined the pact. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects more countries to join the effort to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024.

 

It promises to be the largest coalition for a human spaceflight program in history, according to Bridenstine, and is expected to pave the way for eventual Mars expeditions.

The accords, which establish rules for extracting and using "space resources," commit signatories to exploring space peacefully and in the spirit of international co-operation.

Rule No. 1: Everyone must come in peace. Other rules:

  • Secrecy is banned, and all launched objects need to be identified and registered. 
  • All members agree to pitch in with astronaut emergencies.
  • Space systems must be universal so everyone's equipment is compatible, and scientific data must be shared. 
  • Historic sites must be preserved, and any resulting space junk must be properly disposed. 
  • Rovers and other spacecraft cannot have their missions jeopardized by others getting too close.

Violators could be asked to leave, according to Bridenstine. 

The coalition can say, "Look, you're in this program with the rest of us, but you're not playing by the same rules," Bridenstine said.

The U.S. is the only country to put humans on the moon: 12 men from 1969 through 1972.

Russia is still on the fence. The country's space agency chief, Dmitry Rogozin, said at an International Astronautical Congress virtual meeting Monday that the Artemis program is U.S.-centric and he would prefer a model of co-operation akin to the International Space Station. 

China, meanwhile, is out altogether. NASA is prohibited under law, at least for now, from signing any bilateral agreements with China.

The rules also call for transparency, the protection of heritage sites like the 1969 moon landing location and preventing the spread of orbital debris.

Canadian Space Agency president Lisa Campbell cheers the accords, but says more robust rules for the exploration of deep space are still a long way off.

Campbell says the agency will begin consulting with Canadians, as well as a United Nations committee that oversees space exploration.

With files from the Associated

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Russian-U.S. crew launches on fast track to the space station

Crew spent weeks in quarantine ahead of launch

The Associated Press · Posted: Oct 14, 2020 2:41 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago
 
kazakhstan-russia-space-station.jpg
In this image made from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, a Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with a Soyuz MS-17 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today. (Roscosmos Space Agency via The Associated Press)

A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track manoeuvre to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

NASA's Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

 

For the first time, they tried a two-orbit approach and docked with the space station in just a little over three hours after lift-off. Previously it took twice as long for crews to reach the station.

They will join the station's NASA commander, Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April and are scheduled to return to Earth in a week.

Speaking during Tuesday's pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, Rubins emphasized that the crew spent weeks in quarantine at the Star City training facility outside Moscow and then on Baikonur to avoid any threat from the coronavirus.

"We spent two weeks at Star City and then 17 days at Baikonur in a very strict quarantine," Rubins said. "During all communications with crew members, we were wearing masks. We made PCR tests twice and we also made three times antigen fast tests."

She said she was looking forward to scientific experiments planned for the mission.

"We're planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA," Rubins said.

Hunt for oxygen leak

Ryzhikov, who will be the station's skipper, said the crew will try to pinpoint the exact location of a leak at a station's Russian section that has slowly leaked oxygen. The small leak hasn't posed any immediate danger to the crew.

"We will take with us additional equipment which will allow us to detect the place of this leak more precisely," he told reporters. "We will also take with us additional improved hermetic material which will allow to fix the leak."

In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are set to greet NASA's SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission, bringing NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.

The Crew Dragon mission was pushed back from Oct. 31 into November, and no new date has been set yet. The delay is intended to give SpaceX more time to conduct tests and review data from an aborted Falcon 9 launch earlier this month.

Watch | 11-year-old buddies enthuse about Mars and space:

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Airbus to bring first Mars samples to Earth
by Staff Writers
Toulouse, France (SPX) Oct 14, 2020

airbus-esa-mars-sample-return-earth-return-orbiter-ero-solar-panel-marker-hg.jpg
The Mars Sample Return's Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) will be the first spacecraft to bring samples back to Earth from Mars.

Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as prime contractor for the Mars Sample Return's Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) - the first ever spacecraft to bring samples back to Earth from Mars. Mars Sample Return (MSR) is a joint ESA-NASA campaign and the next step in the exploration of Mars. ERO and the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) are the two main European elements of MSR, both are set to be designed and built by Airbus. A manipulating arm, referred to as the Sample Transfer Arm (STA), that will transfer the samples from the SFR to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), is the third European contribution to the MSR program. The value of the ERO contract is 491 million euro.

The five year mission will see the spacecraft head to Mars, act as a communication relay with the surface missions, perform a rendezvous with the orbiting samples and bring them safely back to Earth. Prior to launch from the Mars surface onboard the MAV, the Martian samples will be stored in sample tubes and collected by the SFR, for which Airbus has already commenced the study phase.

For ERO, Airbus will use its autonomous rendezvous and docking expertise built up over decades of experience in optical navigation, using technologies from the successful ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) and recent developments from JUICE, Europe's first mission to Jupiter.

"We're bringing the full force of our experience gained on Rosetta, Mars Express, Venus Express, Gaia, ATV, BepiColombo, and JUICE to ensure this mission succeeds. Bringing samples back to Earth from Mars will be an extraordinary feat, taking interplanetary science to a new level and Airbus is excited to take on this challenge as part of this joint international mission. " said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Airbus Space Systems.

To be launched on an Ariane 6 in 2026, the 6 ton, 6 m high spacecraft, equipped with 144m solar arrays with a span of over 40 m - some of the biggest ever built - will take about a year to reach Mars. It will use a mass-efficient hybrid propulsion system combining electric propulsion for the cruise and spiral down phases and chemical propulsion for Mars orbit insertion. Upon arrival, it will provide communications coverage for the NASA Perseverance Rover and Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL) missions, two essential parts of the MSR Campaign.

For the second part of its mission, ERO will have to detect, rendezvous with, and capture a basketball-size object called the Orbiting Sample (OS), which houses the sample tubes collected by SFR; all this over 50 million km away from ground control. Once captured, the OS will be bio-sealed in a secondary containment system and placed inside the Earth Entry Vehicle (EEV), effectively a third containment system, to ensure that the precious samples reach the Earth's surface intact for maximum scientific return. It will then take another year for ERO to make its way back to Earth, where it will send the EEV on a precision trajectory towards a pre-defined landing site, before itself entering into a stable orbit around the Sun.

After landing, the samples will be transferred to a specialised handling facility where they will be quarantined. Once the sample tubes are opened, initial measurements will be taken to generate a detailed catalogue, enabling specific parts of the samples to then be targeted for specialist science investigations.

Airbus will have overall responsibility for the ERO mission, developing the spacecraft in Toulouse, and conducting mission analysis in Stevenage. Thales Alenia Space Turin will also have an important role, assembling the spacecraft, developing the communication system and providing the Orbit Insertion Module. The mission enabling RIT-2X ion engines will be provided by ArianeGroup.

About Mars Sample Return
Mars Sample Return is a set of three separately launched missions, which will together achieve the objective of returning Mars samples to Earth before the end of 2031.

The NASA-led Mars 2020 rover, known as Perseverance, was launched in July 2020 to land on Mars in February 2021. Perseverance will acquire Mars samples, cache them into sample tubes, and leave the tubes in one or more depots for later collection by the SRL mission and its European Sample Fetch Rover.

The NASA-led SRL is to be launched in 2026 and comprises a surface platform with a European robotic Sample Transfer Arm (STA), the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR), and a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The surface platform will land in the near vicinity of the sample tube depot in the Jezero crater. SFR will navigate, locate and collect the sample tubes, and return to the lander platform. The STA will transfer the sample tubes into the Orbiting Sample (OS) then load the OS aboard the MAV. The MAV will launch the OS into Mars orbit, where ERO will be waiting to rendezvous and capture it.

The ESA-led Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) is also to be launched in 2026 and will have onboard the NASA-led Capture, Containment and Return System (CCRS), which will handle and bio-seal the OS as well as provide the Earth Entry Vehicle (EEV). ERO will arrive in Mars orbit on time to provide communications coverage for the SRL entry, descent and landing, surface operations, and the MAV launch placing the OS into Mars orbit. ERO will have to detect, rendezvous with, and capture the OS. The OS will then be bio-sealed and transferred to the EEV before ERO heads back to Earth.

Upon approach to Earth, ERO will release the Earth Entry System on an Earth entry trajectory. After landing in the desert of Utah, the samples are transferred to a sample receiving and curation facility.

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4 hours ago, Malcolm said:

Russian-U.S. crew launches on fast track to the space station

Crew spent weeks in quarantine ahead of launch

The Associated Press · Posted: Oct 14, 2020 2:41 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago
 
kazakhstan-russia-space-station.jpg
In this image made from video footage released by the Roscosmos Space Agency, a Soyuz-2.1a rocket booster with a Soyuz MS-17 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today. (Roscosmos Space Agency via The Associated Press)

A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track manoeuvre to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

NASA's Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

 

For the first time, they tried a two-orbit approach and docked with the space station in just a little over three hours after lift-off. Previously it took twice as long for crews to reach the station.

They will join the station's NASA commander, Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who have been aboard the complex since April and are scheduled to return to Earth in a week.

Speaking during Tuesday's pre-launch news conference at Baikonur, Rubins emphasized that the crew spent weeks in quarantine at the Star City training facility outside Moscow and then on Baikonur to avoid any threat from the coronavirus.

"We spent two weeks at Star City and then 17 days at Baikonur in a very strict quarantine," Rubins said. "During all communications with crew members, we were wearing masks. We made PCR tests twice and we also made three times antigen fast tests."

She said she was looking forward to scientific experiments planned for the mission.

"We're planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA," Rubins said.

Hunt for oxygen leak

Ryzhikov, who will be the station's skipper, said the crew will try to pinpoint the exact location of a leak at a station's Russian section that has slowly leaked oxygen. The small leak hasn't posed any immediate danger to the crew.

"We will take with us additional equipment which will allow us to detect the place of this leak more precisely," he told reporters. "We will also take with us additional improved hermetic material which will allow to fix the leak."

In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are set to greet NASA's SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission, bringing NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.

The Crew Dragon mission was pushed back from Oct. 31 into November, and no new date has been set yet. The delay is intended to give SpaceX more time to conduct tests and review data from an aborted Falcon 9 launch earlier this month.

Watch | 11-year-old buddies enthuse about Mars and space:

I thought the Americans aren’t buying any more seats on the Russians lift?

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Self-eating rocket whets appetite for development
by Staff Writers
Glasgow UK (SPX) Oct 13, 2020

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A 'self-eating' rocket engine which aims to put small payloads into orbit by burning its own structure as propellant has won financial support from the UK Government.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), part of the Ministry of Defence, has pledged 90,000 pounds for further development of the autophage engine, which is being built at the University of Glasgow's James Watt School of Engineering. The development team hope that this new rocket could create launch opportunities at the spaceports emerging across the northern regions of the UK.

Autophage engines have already been test-fired by the Glasgow team using all-solid propellant. The new funding will underwrite the research required to use a more energetic hybrid propellant: a solid tube of fuel containing a liquid oxidiser. The engine will be test-fired at Kingston University in London's new rocket laboratory in London next year.

Dr Patrick Harkness, of the James Watt School of Engineering, said: "We're thrilled to have DASA in support of the autophage programme. The new propellants will take us closer to viability, because they contain enough energy to reach orbit in a smaller launch vehicle.

"The specific payloads we are targeting include the small satellites for which Glasgow is becoming increasingly well-known. At the moment it often takes a long time to launch these, because they need to be grouped for a flight on a larger rocket, and that large rocket is often launched from sites in the USA or Kazakhstan. It can take years.

"It would be much better to use a smaller rocket, matched to our smaller payloads, and to launch from the UK. However, that's difficult because scaling down a rocket reduces the mass of the propellant more than it reduces the mass of all the other components, including the tanks that hold the propellant itself. That's why rockets today are fundamentally the same size they were in the 1950s.

"The autophage concept is simple: burn the tanks as well. That saves the excess mass, and it means that we can miniaturise the vehicle without hitting this wall.

"The body of a hybrid autophage rocket will be a tube of solid fuel, containing a liquid oxidiser. The entire assembly will be consumed, from the bottom up, by an engine which will vaporise the fuel tube, add the oxidiser, and burn the mixture to create thrust. The engine will have consumed the entire body of the rocket by the time the assembly reaches orbit, and only the payload will be left. It is a much more mass-efficient process."

The technical development of the engine is being conducted by Krzysztof Bzdyk, who recently joined the University of Glasgow from NASA.

Mr Bzdyk explained, "The engine has to run hot enough to vaporise the fuel tube, but at the same time not destroy itself in service. We will use the cold fuel tube coming into the engine as means of controlling temperature, in a process called regenerative cooling. But even so, the test article will have to be made of exotic materials, like tungsten and graphite, at least until we fully understand the temperatures inside."

Dr Peter Shaw, senior lecturer in astronautics within the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing at Kingston University, said: "We're delighted to be collaborating with DASA and the University of Glasgow to carry out the test firing of this engine at our new rocket lab at the University's Roehampton Vale campus.

"As the UK's space industry continues to grow and thrive, our investment in these facilities will provide a platform to support the next generation of emerging talent and allow us to partner with other institutions to help the country achieve its space ambitions."

Dr Harkness added: "Demand for these types of launches could reach as many as 3,000 a year by the middle of this decade - a potential global market value of 100m pounds.

"Smaller rockets like this, which could be launched from sites here in Britain, could be the key to unlocking that market. The UK has a strategic aim to secure 10% of the worldwide space industry by 2030, and we believe that our autophage engine is uniquely well-placed to help deliver on that ambition. We're looking forward to continuing our work to develop the engine and help the UK find its place in space."

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FAA Home  News  Press Releases

Press Release – U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces Historic Commercial Space Transportation Reforms

For Immediate Release

October 15, 2020
Contact: Pressoffice@faa.gov


WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced the publication of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Final Rule (PDF) for commercial space transportation launches and reentries.

“This historic, comprehensive update to commercial space launch and reentry licensing requirements facilitates greater growth in this industry and helps America to maintain our #1 position in the world,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This rule modernizes the way FAA regulates and licenses commercial space operations and allows the burgeoning aerospace industry to continue to innovate and grow, while maintaining public safety. 

Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Dr. Scott Pace said, “In meeting the President’s mandate in Space Policy Directive-2 to streamline regulations on commercial spaceflight, the Department of Transportation is strengthening the United States’ continued leadership in space commerce. I commend Secretary Chao, the Department, and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation for updating launch regulations and licensing to ensure the United States remains the flag of choice for the growing commercial space sector.”

The new rule consolidates four regulatory parts and applies a single set of licensing and safety regulations for all types of vehicle operations. It also provides flexibility for operators to meet safety requirements. The rule improves efficiency by encouraging launch and reentry operators to suggest and implement design and operational solutions to meet the regulatory standards.

“This rule paves the way for an industry that is moving at lightning speed,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “We are simplifying the licensing process and enabling industry to move forward in a safe manner.” 

The final rule’s improved application processes allow:

  • A single operator’s license that can be used to support multiple launches or reentries from potentially multiple launch site locations.
  • Early review when applicants submit portions of their license application incrementally.
  • Applicants to negotiate mutually agreeable reduced time frames for submittals and application review periods.
  • Applicants to apply for a safety element approval with a license application, instead of needing to submit a separate application.
  • Additional flexibility on how to demonstrate high consequence event protection.
  • Neighboring operations personnel to stay during launch or reentry in certain circumstances.
  • Ground safety oversight to be scoped to better fit the safety risks and reduce duplicative requirements when operating at a federal site.

This rule will become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. The FAA will initially seek public comment (for a period of 30 days) on three Advisory Circulars  (ACs) on the following topics:  High Consequence Protection (PDF), High Fidelity Flight Safety Analysis (PDF), and Computing Systems and Software (PDF). The FAA may issue updated versions of these ACs if warranted based on comments received.  Each AC will contain a feedback form with specific instructions on how to provide comments to the FAA on that AC.

Twenty-four additional ACs will be published within one year or as needed. Legacy licenses can still be used for up to five years after the rule’s effective date.

FAA is responsible for ensuring the protection of the public, property, national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. during commercial launch or reentry activities. The agency also encourages, facilitates, and promotes U.S. commercial space transportation. To date, FAA has licensed or permitted more than 380 launches and reentries.

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Coronavirus: KF Aerospace in Kelowna forced to downsize due to COVID-19

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By Kimberly Davidson Global News
Posted October 16, 2020 8:58 pm
 Updated October 17, 2020 10:45 am
Global News files

Canada’s largest commercial aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider, KF Aerospace, has been forced to reduce staff in response to the industry impacts of COVID-19.

The Kelowna-based company made the announcement on Friday.

KF Aerospace has been in operation in the Okanagan for 50 years.

“When our airline customers were grounded in mid-March, we were immediately impacted, losing nearly 50 per cent of our scheduled work as these airlines grounded their planes and cancelled maintenance,” said KF Aerospace president Tracy Medve.

KF managed to avoid layoffs for more than six months, but due to the poor long-term outlook in aviation, the company finally took action.

Through a combination of voluntary long-term leaves, resignations, retirements and layoffs, staff was reduced by about 14 per cent, or 150 people.

The company credited the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) with being instrumental in supporting the company to keep much of its staff through the pandemic so far.

It also is calling on the federal government to create an aviation sector strategy to help the industry rebound from the impacts of the pandemic.2:28C

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Air leak rate at Russia's ISS Zvezda module halves after crack sealed with tape
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Oct 19, 2020

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The air leak rate in the Russian Zvezda module of the International Space Station has halved after the crack in the intermediate compartment was sealed with tape, according to the crew's communication with Earth, broadcast by NASA.

On Friday, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin informed the Moscow-based Mission Control Centre that the pressure in the compartment had declined by 52 mm Hg to 681 mm Hg over 11.5 hours, while the leak rate had fallen to 4 mm per hour from 7-9 mm per hour.

The cosmonaut noted that the pressure continued to fall, but at a slower pace. He also suggested trying US patches to seal the crack.

Russian space agency Roscosmos earlier told Sputnik that the air leak posed no threat to the crew.

Earlier, Russian cosmonauts sealed the source of the air leak. On Thursday night, they once again closed the hatch to the "leaking" compartment to control pressure.

Source: RIA Novosti

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Spaceport America and C6 Launch Systems sign agreement
by Staff Writers
Spaceport America NM (SPX) Oct 20, 2020   https://www.c6launch.ca/

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Spaceport America

Spaceport America signed an agreement with Canadian Corporation C6 Launch Systems to provide services, resources, and access to the vertical launch sites facilities for testing operations and activities.

C6 Launch Systems plans to begin work at Spaceport America in January 2021. Over a six-week period, the Canadian rocket company will install a new vertical test stand and conduct system integration tests including several engine firings at Spaceport America. These tests will validate the avionics, engine control, ground control and communications subsystems.

"C6 Launch is a young, innovative company, part of the new frontier of commercial space developments, and a perfect fit for our site," Scott McLaughlin, Spaceport America's Interim Executive Director said, "We are glad to play an important role in their growth, and hope to be a partner for many years to come."

C6 builds rockets designed to launch small satellites. Its launch vehicle is purpose-built for a high-cadence, low-cost orbital launch program. Elementary tank architecture, pressurization, and propellant management systems simplify manufacturing and launch operations. Its time-tested engine provides a path to reliable flight performance.

"Spaceport America has been great to work with over the past few months" said Richard McCammon, President of C6 Launch Systems. "I am truly excited about our new partnership. This integration test is a major milestone for us as we continue to develop our launch vehicle."

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Oct. 20, 2020
RELEASE 20-103
 

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission readies itself to touch the surface of asteroid Bennu
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission readies itself to touch the surface of asteroid Bennu.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
 

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.

 

This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.

 

“This amazing first for NASA demonstrates how an incredible team from across the country came together and persevered through incredible challenges to expand the boundaries of knowledge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands.”

 

At 1:50 p.m. EDT, OSIRIS-REx fired its thrusters to nudge itself out of orbit around Bennu. It extended the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist of its 11-foot (3.35-meter) sampling arm, known as the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and transited across Bennu while descending about a half-mile (805 meters) toward the surface. After a four-hour descent, at an altitude of approximately 410 feet (125 meters), the spacecraft executed the “Checkpoint” burn, the first of two maneuvers to allow it to precisely target the sample collection site, known as “Nightingale.”

 

Ten minutes later, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for the second “Matchpoint” burn to slow its descent and match the asteroid’s rotation at the time of contact. It then continued a treacherous, 11-minute coast past a boulder the size of a two-story building, nicknamed “Mount Doom,” to touch down in a clear spot in a crater on Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The size of a small parking lot, the site Nightingale site is one of the few relatively clear spots on this unexpectedly boulder-covered space rock.

 

“This was an incredible feat – and today we’ve advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the solar system,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “A piece of primordial rock that has witnessed our solar system’s entire history may now be ready to come home for generations of scientific discovery, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

 

“After over a decade of planning, the team is overjoyed at the success of today’s sampling attempt,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Even though we have some work ahead of us to determine the outcome of the event – the successful contact, the TAGSAM gas firing, and back-away from Bennu are major accomplishments for the team. I look forward to analyzing the data to determine the mass of sample collected.”

 

All spacecraft telemetry data indicates the TAG event executed as expected. However, it will take about a week for the OSIRIS-REx team to confirm how much sample the spacecraft collected.

 

Real-time data indicates the TAGSAM successfully contacted the surface and fired a burst of nitrogen gas. The gas should have stirred up dust and pebbles on Bennu’s surface, some of which should have been captured in the TAGSAM sample collection head. OSIRIS-REx engineers also confirmed that shortly after the spacecraft made contact with the surface, it fired its thrusters and safely backed away from Bennu.

 

“Today’s TAG maneuver was historic,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The fact that we safely and successfully touched the surface of Bennu, in addition to all the other milestones this mission has already achieved, is a testament to the living spirit of exploration that continues to uncover the secrets of the solar system."

 

Sample collection rehersal image
Captured on Aug. 11, 2020 during the second rehearsal of the OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample collection event, this series of images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches asteroid Bennu’s surface. The rehearsal brought the spacecraft through the first three maneuvers of the sampling sequence to a point approximately 131 feet (40 meters) above the surface, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

“It’s hard to put into words how exciting it was to receive confirmation that the spacecraft successfully touched the surface and fired one of the gas bottles,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team can’t wait to receive the imagery from the TAG event late tonight and see how the surface of Bennu responded to the TAG event.”

 

The spacecraft carried out TAG autonomously, with pre-programmed instructions from engineers on Earth. Now, the OSIRIS-REx team will begin to assess whether the spacecraft grabbed any material, and, if so, how much; the goal is at least 60 grams, which is roughly equivalent to a full-size candy bar.

OSIRIS-REx engineers and scientists will use several techniques to identify and measure the sample remotely. First, they’ll compare images of the Nightingale site before and after TAG to see how much surface material moved around in response to the burst of gas.

 

“Our first indication of whether we were successful in collecting a sample will come on October 21 when we downlink the back-away movie from the spacecraft,” Moreau said. “If TAG made a significant disturbance of the surface, we likely collected a lot of material.”

 

Next, the team will try to determine the amount of sample collected. One method involves taking pictures of the TAGSAM head with a camera known as SamCam, which is devoted to documenting the sample-collection process and determining whether dust and rocks made it into the collector head. One indirect indication will be the amount of dust found around the sample collector head. OSIRIS-REx engineers also will attempt to snap photos that could, given the right lighting conditions, show the inside of the head so engineers can look for evidence of sample inside of it.

 

These images show the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) sampling head extended from the spacecraft
These images show the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) sampling head extended from the spacecraft at the end of the TAGSAM arm. The spacecraft’s SamCam camera captured the images on Nov. 14, 2018 as part of a visual checkout of the TAGSAM system, which was developed by Lockheed Martin Space to acquire a sample of asteroid material in a low-gravity environment. The imaging was a rehearsal for a series of observations that will be taken at Bennu directly after sample collection.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
 

A couple of days after the SamCam images are analyzed, the spacecraft will attempt yet another method to measure the mass of the sample collected by determining the change in the spacecraft’s “moment of inertia,” a phrase that describes how mass is distributed and how it affects the rotation of the body around a central axis. This maneuver entails extending the TAGSAM arm out to the side of the spacecraft and slowly spinning the spacecraft about an axis perpendicular to the arm. This technique is analogous to a person spinning with one arm extended while holding a string with a ball attached to the end. The person can sense the mass of the ball by the tension in the string. Having performed this maneuver before TAG, and now after, engineers can measure the change in the mass of the collection head as a result of the sample inside.

 

“We will use the combination of data from TAG and the post-TAG images and mass measurement to assess our confidence that we have collected at least 60 grams of sample,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at Goddard. “If our confidence is high, we'll make the decision to stow the sample on October 30.” 

 

To store the sample, engineers will command the robotic arm to place the sample collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), located in the body of the spacecraft. The sample arm will then retract to the side of the spacecraft for the final time, the SRC will close, and the spacecraft will prepare for its departure from Bennu in March 2021 — this is the next time Bennu will be properly aligned with Earth for the most fuel-efficient return flight.

 

This (silent) animation shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft deploying its Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to collect a sample of regolith (loose rocks and dirt) from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. The sampler head, with the regolith safely inside, is then sealed up in the spacecraft's Sample Return Capsule, which will be returned to Earth in late 2023. Scientists will study the sample for clues about the early solar system and the origins of life.
Credits: NASA/Goddard

If, however, it turns out that the spacecraft did not collect enough sample at Nightingale, it will attempt another TAG maneuver on Jan. 12, 2021. If that occurs, it will touch down at the backup site called “Osprey,” which is another relatively boulder-free area inside a crater near Bennu’s equator.

 

OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Sept. 8, 2016. It arrived at Bennu Dec. 3, 2018, and began orbiting the asteroid for the first time on Dec. 31, 2018. The spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 24, 2023, when it will parachute the SRC into Utah's west desert where scientists will be waiting to collect it.

 

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

 

For more information on OSIRIS-REx:

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The 'Caspian Sea Monster' rises from the grave

Miquel Ros

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Published Thursday, October 22, 2020 10:27AM EDT
Lun-class ekranoplan

The Lun-class ekranoplan on the Caspian Sea coast. After over 30 years in the military port, in 2020 the Caspian Flotilla presented the ekranoplan to the city of Derbent, where it will be exhibited in Patriot Park. (Musa Salgereyev/TASS/Getty Images/CNN)

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Beached on the western shores of the Caspian Sea, it looks like a colossal aquatic beast -- a bizarre creation more at home in the deep than above the waves. It certainly doesn't look like something that could ever fly.

But fly it did -- albeit a long time ago.

After lying dormant for more than three decades, the Caspian Sea Monster has been on the move again. One of the most eye-catching flying machines ever built, it's completing what could be its final journey.

In July of this year after 14 hours at sea, a flotilla of three tugs and two escort vessels maneuvered slowly along the shores of the Caspian Sea to deliver their bulky special cargo to its destination, a stretch of coast near Russia's southernmost point.

It's here, next to the ancient city of Derbent, in Russia's republic of Dagestan, that the 380-ton "Lun-class Ekranoplan" has found its new, and most likely definitive, home.

The last of its breed to sail the waters of the Caspian, "Lun" was abandoned after the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union, condemned to rust away at Kaspiysk naval base, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) up the coast from Derbent.

But before it could fade into oblivion, it's been rescued thanks to plans to make it a tourist attraction right at a time when this unusual travel concept could be poised to make a comeback.

SPEED AND STEALTH

Ground Effect Vehicles, also known as "ekranoplans," are a sort of hybrid between airplanes and ships. They move over water without actually touching it.

The International Maritime Organization classifies them as ships, but, in fact, they derive their unique high-speed capabilities from the fact that they skim the surface of the water at a height of between one and five metres (three to 16 feet).

They take advantage of an aerodynamic principle called "ground effect."

This combination of speed and stealth -- their proximity to the surface while flying makes them difficult to detect by radar -- got the attention of the Soviet military, which experimented with several variants of the concept during the Cold War.

Their deployment on the vast inland body of water between the Soviet Union and Iran led to them acquiring the nickname "Caspian Sea Monster."

The "Lun" ekranoplan was one of the last designs to come out of the Soviet ground effect vehicle program. Longer than an Airbus A380 superjumbo and almost as tall, despite its size and weight, the Lun was capable of reaching speeds of up to 550 kilometres per hour (340 mph) thanks to eight powerful turbofans located on its stubby wings.

This formidable machine was even able to take off and land in stormy conditions, with waves of up to two and a half meters. Its intended mission was to conduct lightning sea-borne attacks with the six anti-ship missiles it carried in launch tubes placed at the top of its hull.

STAR ATTRACTION

The ekranoplan that has been moved to Derbent is the only one of its class ever completed and entered service in 1987.

A second Lun, unarmed and assigned to rescue and supply missions, was at an advanced state of completion when, in the early 1990s, the whole program was canceled and the existing Lun withdrawn from service.

After 30-plus years of inaction, getting this sea beast back on the move was no easy task, requiring the assistance of rubber pontoons and a carefully coordinated choreography involving several vessels.

"Lun" will be the star of Derbent's planned Patriot Park, a military museum and theme park that will display different sorts of Soviet and Russian military equipment.

Construction of the park is expected to start later in 2020. For the time being, Lun will sit alone on the beach.

It looks set to become a new highlight for visitors to Derbent. The city claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in Russian territory. Its citadel and historical center have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

SECOND WAVE

"Lun" will add to the attractions of a region that, up until the coronavirus pandemic, had seen a number of initiatives to open it up to tourism, including the launch of cruise itineraries in the Caspian Sea.

When it opens, Derbent's Patriot Park won't be the only Russian museum exhibiting an ekranoplan. A much smaller Orlyonok-class ekranoplan can be found at the Russian Navy Museum in Moscow.

While ground effect vehicles fell out of favor in the past few decades, the concept has been experiencing a resurgence of late

Developers in Singapore, the United States, China and Russia are working on different projects that aim to bring ekranoplans back to life, although with rather more peaceful purposes.

One of them is Singapore-based Wigetworks, whose AirFish 8 prototype builds upon groundwork done by German engineers Hanno Fischer and Alexander Lippisch during the Cold War.

Wigetworks acquired the patents and intellectual property rights and have set about trying to improve and update those earlier designs to create a modern ground effect vehicle.

Also in Asia, Chinese ekranoplan Xiangzhou 1 flew for the first time in 2017, although little is known about this project.

DELIVERY DRONES

In the United States, The Flying Ship Company, a startup backed by private investors, is working on an unmanned ground effect vehicle to move cargo at high speed. Think unmanned delivery drones but over water.

The project is at its early stages, although founder and CEO Bill Peterson tells CNN his team is planning to bring this project to fruition within a seven-year timeframe.

And Russia, home of the ekranoplan, hasn't given up on the concept.

Several projects have been touted during the past few years, although none has managed to make it past the design stage yet.

Beriev, a maker of jet-powered amphibious aircraft, came up with the Be-2500 concept, and, more recently, it has been reported by Russian media that a new-generation military ekranoplan, tentatively named "Orlan," was under consideration.

Another, privately funded, project has sprung out of Nizhny Novgorod, an industrial city on the banks of the Volga River closely connected with the origins of ekranoplan technology. RDC Aqualines, which has also offices in Singapore, is developing its own line of commercial ekranoplans able to carry three, eight and 12 passengers, and might possibly expand to more.

Its designs have caught the eye of a group of entrepreneurs which aims to establish a fast link across the Gulf of Finland, connecting Helsinki to the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in about 30 minutes.

It might be that soon you won't need to visit a museum to spot an ekranoplan, after all.

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  • ekraonoplan

    The 380-ton "Lun-class Ekraonoplan" has moved for the first time in 30 years. (Musa Salgereyev/TASS/Getty Images/CNN)

 
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