Saturday, July 23, 2016

Japan’s H-3 Rocket to Be More Powerful and Cost-Effective than Its Predecessor

Artist’s rendering of the H-3 rocket. Image Credit: JAXA

Japan is working on its newest launch vehicle, known as H-3, that will be more powerful and cost-efficient than the H-2A (H-IIA) booster currently in service. On Wednesday, July 20, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it has completed the basic design of the rocket scheduled to be ready for its maiden flight in 2020.

NASA Appoints New Safety and Mission Assurance Director at Marshall Space Flight Center

Rick Burt. Photo Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

NASA announced on Thursday, July 21, that it has named Rick Burt new director of its Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Burt, a veteran NASA employee, serving the agency for 26 years, will take its new position July 31.

Friday, July 22, 2016

ASL Acquisition of Arianespace Gets Green Light

Logo of Arianespace seen on a payload fairing during encapsulation of a satellite. Photo Credit: Arianespace

One of the biggest takeovers in the European space industry has just got approved. On July 20, the European Commission (EC) informed that it has cleared the way for the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), after both companies agreed to conditions imposed by the European Union’s executive body.

A New Key to Understanding Molecular Evolution in Space

Ortho-to-para conversion of molecular hydrogen on an extremely low temperature ice surface. Ortho-hydrogen converts to para-hydrogen by releasing energy to the ice surface. The conversion rate differed depending on the ice temperature. Credit: Hokkaido University

Scientists at Hokkaido University have revealed temperature-dependent energy-state conversion of molecular hydrogen on ice surfaces, suggesting the need for a reconsideration of molecular evolution theory. Molecular hydrogen, the most abundant element in space, is created when two hydrogen atoms bond on minute floating ice particles. It has two energy states: ortho and para, depending on the direction of proton spins. Ortho-hydrogen converts to para-hydrogen on extremely low temperature ice particles, though its mechanism remained unclear.

Quasar to Guide ExoMars Landing

ESA's deep space tracking station in Argentina with, inset, Quasar P1514-24 on the guidance map. Credit: Estrack image: ESA/D. Pazos – Quasar P1514-24 inset image: Rami Rekola, Univerity of Turku, 2001

In order to precisely deliver the Schiaparelli landing demonstrator module to the martian surface and then insert ExoMars/TGO into orbit around the Red Planet, it’s necessary to pin down the spacecraft’s location to within just a few hundred meters at a distance of more than 150 million km. To achieve this amazing level of accuracy, ESA experts are making use of ‘quasars’ – the most luminous objects in the Universe – as ‘calibrators’ in a technique known as Delta-Differential One-Way Ranging, or delta-DOR.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Curiosity Rover’s Laser Can Now Target Rocks All By Itself

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover autonomously selects some targets for the laser and telescopic camera of its ChemCam instrument. For example, on-board software analyzed the Navcam image at left, chose the target indicated with a yellow dot, and pointed ChemCam for laser shots and the image at right. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGNantes/CNRS/IAS

New software is enabling ChemCam, the laser spectrometer on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, to select rock targets autonomously—the first time autonomous target selection is available for an instrument of this kind on any robotic planetary mission. Developed jointly at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, the ChemCam (chemistry and camera) instrument aboard Curiosity “zaps” rocks on Mars and analyzes their chemical make-up. While most ChemCam targets are still selected by scientists, the rover itself now chooses multiple targets per week.

World’s Most Sensitive Dark Matter Detector Completes Search

The detector's location a mile underground helps shield it from the background radiation that might interfere with a dark matter signal. C. H. Faham

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment, which operates beneath a mile of rock at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has completed its silent search for the missing matter of the universe. Today at an international dark matter conference (IDM 2016) in Sheffield, UK, LUX scientific collaborators presented the results from the detector’s final 20-month run from October 2014 to May 2016.