NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN, “established a lock on the STEREO-B

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

NASA re-established contact with a wayward sun-watching science satellite Sunday nearly two years after the spacecraft suddenly dropped off line during a test, the agency said in a statement Monday.

NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN, “established a lock on the STEREO-B (spacecraft’s) downlink carrier at 6:27 p.m. EDT,” NASA said in a statement. “The downlink signal was monitored by the Mission Operations team over several hours to characterize the attitude of the spacecraft and then transmitter high voltage was powered down to save battery power.

“The STEREO Missions Operations team plans further recovery processes to assess observatory health, re-establish attitude control and evaluate all subsystems and instruments.”

The complete article courtesy of SpaceFlight Now:

NuSTAR Principal Investigator Honored for Research


Artists Concept of the NuSTAR Satellite

Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission, has been selected to receive the 2016 Massey Award, given by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

The Massey Award honors “outstanding contributions to the development of space research in which a leadership role is of particular importance” and honors the memory of Sir Harrie Massey.

“It has been great to work with such a strong and talented team on NuSTAR,” said Harrison, a professor of astronomy at Caltech. “The whole team deserves credit in NuSTAR’s success.”

NuSTAR launched in June 2012, opening a new window to the universe as the first focusing telescope to operate in a high-frequency band of X-rays called hard X-rays.

Read the complete article: courtesy of Elizabeth Landau, Jet Propulsion Lab

NASA’s getting ready to plunge a spacecraft deeper into the sun than ever before


NASA is one step closer in its mission to “touch” the sun. Last week, it announced that the Solar Probe Plus mission had passed a huge milestone, keeping it on track for a 2018 launch.

The Solar Probe Plus mission will start with the launch of a spaceship that will complete 24 orbits of the sun. Then, after completing seven flybys of Venus to get closer and closer, the spacecraft will dive into the corona, or the outer atmosphere of the sun.

The three closest orbits will be just under 4 million miles from the Sun’s surface — that’s seven times closer than any spacecraft has ever come to our neighborhood fireball.

The complete article, courtesy of Ali Sundermier, provided by Business Insider

MAVEN begins Deep Dip campaign #6

The MAVEN navigation team executed maneuvers on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week that provided a total delta-V (∆V) of 4.0 m/sec. to the spacecraft and lowered the periapsis (lowest altitude) by a total of 24.5 km to 120.5 km above the ‪#‎Martian‬ surface.

This Deep Dip campaign—the 6th of the mission to-date—is located in shadow near midnight on the red planet, and spans both sides of ‪#‎Mars‬’ equator.

(Video credit: NASA/GSFC)

MAVEN Status and Extended-Mission Planning thru 2018


MAVEN at Mars

The MAVEN mission to Mars completed its one-Earth-year primary mission in November 2015, is in the middle of its first (relatively short) extended mission that runs through September 2016, and was just approved for a two-year extended mission that runs through September 2018. Now is a good time to take stock of we’ve learned so far and to describe our plans for the extended mission.

‪#‎MAVEN‬ principal investigator Bruce Jakosky has written a very nice summary of the mission results to-date and offers unique insight into what new observations to expect during the two-year extended mission that runs through September 2018.

The article appears as a “guest blog” on The Planetary Society web site:

Space Tsunami Causes Third Van Allen Belt


Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth’s magnetic field, protects our planet from the harsh battering of the solar wind. Like a protective shield, the magnetosphere absorbs and deflects plasma from the solar wind which originates from the Sun. When conditions are right, beautiful dancing auroral displays are generated. But when the solar wind is most violent, extreme space weather storms can create intense radiation in the Van Allen belts and drive electrical currents which can damage terrestrial electrical power grids. Earth could then be at risk for up to trillions of dollars of damage.

Announced today in Nature Physics, a new discovery led by researchers at the University of Alberta shows for the first time how the puzzling third Van Allen radiation belt is created by a “space tsunami.” Intense so-called ultra-low frequency (ULF) plasma waves, which are excited on the scale of the whole magnetosphere, transport the outer part of the belt radiation harmlessly into interplanetary space and create the previously unexplained feature of the third belt. “Remarkably, we observed huge plasma waves,” says Ian Mann, physics professor at the University of Alberta, lead author on the study and former Canada Research Chair in Space Physics. “Rather like a space tsunami, they slosh the radiation belts around and very rapidly wash away the outer part of the belt, explaining the structure of the enigmatic third radiation belt.”

The complete article courtesy of Ross Lockwood, University of Alberta, here.

MAVEN Deep Dip #5 Has Begun

Photo Courtesy of NASA's MAVEN Mission to Mars

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

#MAVEN began its fifth “deep dip” campaign of the mission this week. Three maneuvers were successfully carried out to lower the periapsis (or lowest) altitude of the spacecraft by approximately 29 km, placing MAVEN into the targeted density corridor, where the average density of Mars’ atmosphere is 3.0 kg/km³.

The fifth deep dip for MAVEN is uniquely located over the solar terminator (the boundary between dayside and nightside), close to the ecliptic plane, and at a #Martian latitude of 35ºN.

The three maneuvers—carried out on June 7 & 8—required a total ∆V of 4.6 m/s and resulted in a periapsis altitude of ~119 km (74 miles).

The purpose of the MAVEN deep dip campaigns is to sample a full range of altitudes within the upper atmosphere of Mars, providing complete coverage. At 119 km, MAVEN reaches the Martian homopause, which is the lower, well-mixed region of Mars’ upper atmosphere, where the density is about thirty times greater than at periapsis during a typical science orbit.

NASA Goddard
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Lockheed Martin
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

COSI Super Pressure Balloon Circles Globe in 14 Days

After 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes of flight, NASA's super pressure balloon completed its first circumnavigation.

After 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes of flight, NASA’s super pressure balloon completed its first circumnavigation.

NASA’s 18.8 million-cubic-foot super pressure balloon hit another milestone at 9:17 a.m. EDT Tuesday, May 31, crossing the 169.24 east longitude line, officially completing its first circumnavigation of the globe.

The balloon, flying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) payload, achieved the milestone 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes after launching from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand. At the moment the balloon crossed the meridian, it was flying at an altitude of 110,170 feet heading northeast at 53.85 knots.

The COSI science team continues to collect and transmit data back to the payload’s control center at the University of California, Berkeley. On May 30, the COSI team had a significant breakthrough in detecting and localizing their first gamma ray burst, GRB 160530A (recorded in Gamma-ray Coordinates Network Circular 19473). Gamma ray bursts are comprised of the most energetic form of light and can last anywhere from milliseconds to several minutes. The phenomenon is associated with many types of deep space astrophysical sources, such as supernovas and the formation of black holes. The COSI gamma ray telescope observed the burst for nearly 10 seconds.

The complete article courtesy of NASA is here: