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Space Station to test inflatable module

NASA HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS for an addition to the International Space Station… one that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology.

NASA has awarded a US$17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.

The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015.

Following the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the BEAM to the station, astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to install the module on the aft port of the Tranquility node.

After the module is berthed to the Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurisation system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module.

Garver and Bigelow next to the Bigelow BEAM

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace Robert T. Bigelow, talk while standing next to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) during a media briefing.

A unique test bed

During the two-year test period, station crewmembers and ground-based engineers will gather performance data on the module, including its structural integrity and leak rate.

An assortment of instruments embedded within module also will provide important insights on its response to the space environment. This includes radiation and temperature changes compared with traditional aluminium modules.

“The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability. Using the station’s resources, we’ll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory.”

Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Videos – Around the globe

HERE ARE SOME MORE fantastic short videos of Earth at night, taken by cameras aboard the International Space Station. Visible in many of them are the aurora and lightning below. Enjoy!

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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VIDEO: Another trip around the Earth

HERE ARE SOME MORE fantastic short videos taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in Earth orbit. The ISS circles the globe every 92.5 minutes at a speed of about 27,745 kilometres per hour. This unique vantage points enables us to see the planet spinning below, with numerous countries, cities and landscapes passing underneath.

A couple of the videos show a point of view looking out the main window of the Station’s “Cupola“. The multi-window observation post attached to the side of the ISS gives astronauts and cosmonauts not only the ability to get great views of the Earth, but also to keep an eye on activities—such as spacewalks and spacecraft movements—outside the station.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Earth from Space – Videos of our World, Pt 2

HERE ARE SOME MORE AMAZING short videos put together from images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

This first one was made from images taken on December 4, 2011, and shows a pass from just northwest of Morocco to central Kazakhstan. The first thing that can be seen is Spain and Portugal, with Lisbon lit up brightly in the foreground near the Atlantic Ocean and Madrid in the middle of Spain.

The pass continues into France, with the English Channel in the far left and the Italian Peninsula in the far right. Further down the pass and on the left video, the Baltic Sea appears as a dark patch surrounded by light as the ISS continues to the east-northeast towards Moscow, Russia. The pass continues toward central Russia before the sunrise in the east comes up.

This next one was taken November 24, 2011 and shows a pass over the South Pacific Ocean northeast to the North Atlantic Ocean, just east of Newfoundland. The video begins over the dark Pacific Ocean as the ISS travels northeast towards the western coast of Mexico. The bright lights of Mexico City can be seen left of track, along with the lights of Honduras and Guatemala just right of track.

The pass continues over the Yucatan Peninsula, where Cozumel and Merida are visible as brighter spots on the peninsula. As the ISS tracks northeast over the Caribbean Sea, southeastern United States becomes visible, with the Florida Peninsula standing out well. The city lights of the larger cities such as Miami, Tampa, and Orlando light up the peninsula. The pass ends by tracking up the eastern coast of the United States, where Washington D.C., Baltimore, and New York City stand out.

The third video was taken November 18 to 19, 2011, and shows a pass from South Africa, west of Johannesburg, to southern Pakistan. The Russian vehicle Soyuz is shown off-centre throughout the video, just days before astronauts Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, and Sergey Volkov boarded this vehicle to come back to Earth.

Near the beginning of the video, the bright lights of Johannesburg as displayed as the ISS tracks northeast up the eastern Africa coastline. A few lightning storms can also be seen near Johannesburg. As the pass continues, the Arabian Peninsula is only briefly seen in the far right of the video before the pass ends over the Arabian Sea, just south of Pakistan.

This one was taken on November 16, 2011, on a pass over the Pacific Ocean, from just west of California to just west of Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. The camera in the cupola is facing west-southwest towards North and Central America. The pass begins looking just north of the Baja Peninsula, where Los Angeles and San Diego can carefully be seen near the coast. Continuing down the Baja Peninsula and the Gulf of California, the pass continues looking into Mexico. Finally, as the cloud cover thickens, the pass closes over Central America, looking far west at Costa Rica and Honduras.

Taken on October 15, 2011, this sequence of shots shows a pass from just west of San Francisco, California over the Pacific Ocean to the southern tip of the Hudson Bay. The video begins as the ISS is just west of San Francisco flying northeast. The coastal lights distinguish the land and water here.

The pass continues northeast toward Wyoming and North Dakota, before crossing over into Canada. From here, the Aurora Borealis is seen, with an interesting looking angle from underneath the lights. A blanket of clouds covers Manitoba and Ontario as the ISS tracks closer to the Northern Lights.

This video was taken on December 4, 2011,, on a pass from just northwest of Morocco to central Kazakhstan. The first thing that can be seen is Spain and Portugal, with Lisbon lit up brightly in the foreground near the Atlantic Ocean and Madrid in the middle of Spain.

The pass continues into France, with the English Channel in the far left and the Italian Peninsula in the far right. Further down the pass and on the left video, the Baltic Sea appears as a dark patch surrounded by light as the ISS continues to the east-northeast towards Moscow, Russia. The pass continues toward central Russia before the sunrise in the east comes up.

The next video was taken on October 20, 2011, on a descending pass from eastern China to western New Guinea, and rounds out to an ascending pass just as the video ends north of Australia. As the pass begins southeastward towards the South China Sea, the first noticeably-lit area is that of Hong Kong and Macau. The island of Taiwan can also be easily seen left of track.

The ISS passes over the South China Sea towards the Philippines, which have some cloud cover and storms. Finally, the pass ends just north of Australia, where the Yorke Peninsula can be seen as a dark, rusty colour protruding into the water.

And this final video was taken on October 22, 2011, on a pass from the North Atlantic Ocean, just west of Portugal and Spain, to northwest of Mozambique in southeastern Africa. This video begins just northwest of the United Kingdom and shows the ISS travelling southeast towards Africa. The camera points at the sky, capturing clusters of stars as they seem to fly by.

Videos courtesy NASA and the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Centre.

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Relive the Soyuz landing

THE EXPEDITION 29 CREW from the International Space Station returned to Earth today, having spent five-and-a-half months in orbit.

Sergei Volkov, Satoshi Furukawa and Mike Fossum rode the Soyuz TMA-02M capsule back to Earth, landing on the icy cold steppes of Kazakhstan.

This video shows remarkable footage of the re-entry, taken from the Space Station, plus post-landing activities as the astron/cosmonauts were removed from the capsule.

Towards the end of the video we get a good view of just how small the Soyuz is. With three people crammed inside, there’s almost no room to move.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Soyuz launches crew to the Space Station

IT WAS A COLD, SNOWY DAY at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as Expedition 29 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA Flight Engineer Dan Burbank and Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin launched on the Russian Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The trio will dock with the station on November 15, USA time, to start a five-and-a-half-month stay on the complex, joining station Commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Russian Flight Engineer Sergei Volkov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Satoshi Furukawa, who have been on the outpost since June.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Earth from Space – Videos of our World

TAKE A LOOK AT THESE VIDEOS of our amazing planet. The footage was shot from the International Space Station, orbiting hundreds of kilometres above our head.

The videos are only short, and in some cases speeded up; nevertheless they give an incredible “astronauts’ eye view” of what various parts of our planet look like from space.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy NASA.

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Astronaut’s view of Earth’s aurora

THIS VIDEO OF THE AURORA AUSTRALIS was created from a sequence of still shots taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS). The images were acquired on September 11, 2011 as the ISS orbit pass descended over eastern Australia.

The Aurora Australis is the glow produced by air molecules as charged particles from the Sun are deflected into the upper reaches of the atmosphere by Earth’s magnetic field.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Shooting star, seen from above

ISS image of a meteor

The bright streak of a Perseid meteor as it flashes into Earth's upper atmosphere. The image was snapped by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

THIS ASTRONAUT PHOTOGRAPH, taken from the International Space Station (ISS) while over China (approximately 400 kilometres to the northwest of Beijing), provides the unusual perspective of looking down on a meteor as it passed through the atmosphere.

Many people have spent time outdoors under a dark sky, watching for “shooting stars” to streak across the firmament. In some cultures, this event is an occasion to make a wish; in others it is viewed as a herald of important events, such as the birth of a future ruler.

While not actual stars, “shooting stars” do come from outer space, in the form of meteoroids entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

Meteor or meteorite?

Meteoroids are small objects moving through the Solar System that are attracted to the Earth by its gravitational pull.

These small objects—typically fragments of asteroids or comets, though they can also originate from the Moon or Mars—begin to heat and burn up as they collide with air molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, creating a bright vapour trail or streak.

At this point, the object is known as a meteor. If any remnant of the object survives to impact the Earth’s surface, it becomes known as a meteorite.

While most meteorites are natural in origin, on occasion manmade space debris can re-enter the atmosphere and also become a meteor or even a meteorite!

Comes from a comet

The image was taken on August 13, 2011, during the Perseid Meteor Shower that occurs every August. The Perseid meteors are particles that originate from Comet Swift-Tuttle; the comet’s orbit is close enough for these particles to be swept up by the Earth’s gravitational field every year—leading to one of the most dependable meteor shower displays.

Green and yellow airglow appears in thin layers above the limb of the Earth, extending from image left to the upper right. Atoms and molecules above 50 kilometres in the atmosphere are excited by sunlight during the day, and then release this energy at night, producing primarily green light that is observable from orbit.

Part of a ISS solar panel is visible at upper right; behind the panel.

Astronaut photograph provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Centre. Text adapted from information issued by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.

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Tribute to the shuttle

http://youtu.be/b9VXeqzqqss

THE SPACE SHUTTLE IS PERHAPS the most complex technological system ever built. In 30 years, it has launched 135 times and helped humankind to dispatch and partially even return many satellites and deep-space probes, to build the International Space Station and to conduct out-of-this-world science. The shuttle has transported also 24 European astronauts to Earth orbit on 25 missions.

This short video highlights the flights that had a European flavour—from STS-9 in 1983 to STS-134 in May 2011.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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