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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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Gallery – NASA’s next spacecraft options

Artist's conception of the Dream Chaser spacecraft

Artist's conception of the Dream Chaser spacecraft under development by Sierra Nevada of Centennial, Colorado. Dream Chaser would launch vertically on an Atlas V rocket but land horizontally like the Space Shuttle. It aims to carry seven people into low-Earth orbit.

IN 2011, NASA SELECTED a number of companies to mature the design and development of a crew transportation system with the overall goal of accelerating a United States-led capability to the International Space Station.

The programme is called the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2).

According to NASA, the goal of CCP is to drive down the cost of space travel as well as open up space to more people than ever before by balancing industry’s own innovative capabilities with NASA’s 50 years of human spaceflight experience.

Seven aerospace companies are maturing launch vehicle and spacecraft designs under CCDev2, including Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK); The Boeing Co.; Excalibur Almaz Inc.; Blue Origin; Sierra Nevada; and United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Artist's conception of the Dragon capsule

Artist's conception of the Dragon capsule under development by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California. The unmanned version of the Dragon capsule has already had one successful test flight. The second test flight, due for February 2012, will see it dock with the International Space Station (ISS). After that, it will go into revenue service taking cargo to the ISS. The manned version is still some years away from flight.

Artist's conception of the New Shepard spacecraft

Artist's conception of the New Shepard spacecraft under development by Blue Origin of Kent, Washington.

Artist's conception of the CST-100

Artist's conception of the CST-100 under development by The Boeing Co. of Houston. The CST-100 will be able to take up to seven astronauts to the ISS.

Artist's conceptions of the Atlas V and Liberty Launch vehicles

Artist's conceptions of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket (left) and the Liberty Launch Vehicle (right) under development by Alliant Techsystems Inc., both of which are being considered for NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Stratolaunch – a new way to get into space!

A HIGH-POWER TEAM of space and industry experts has come together to propose a radical new way of getting into orbit. Radical in size, that is, if not in overall concept.

The Stratolaunch project would see a huge carrier aircraft twice the size of a Boeing 747, carry a large rocket slung under its mid-section. The whole “stack” would take off like a normal aircraft and climb to altitude, whereupon the rocket would drop away, ignite its engines and shoot into orbit.

The carrier aircraft will be largest aircraft ever flown.

It’s a scaled up version of the system to be used by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The Stratolaunch team is led by four famous individuals, prime among them being entrepreneur Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. There’s also Mike Griffin, former head of NASA; Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and founder of the SpaceX rocket company; and Burt Rutan, the famed aeronautical designer who designed and built SpaceShipOne and the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.

More information: Stratolaunch web site

Story by Jonathan Nally. Graphics courtesy Stratolaunch.

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NASA goes back to the future…again

NASA HAS SELECTED THE DESIGN of a new Space Launch System that will take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human space exploration efforts.

This new heavy-lift rocket-in combination with a crew capsule already under development, increased support for the commercialisation of astronaut travel to low Earth orbit, an extension of activities on the International Space Station until at least 2020, will provide a fresh focus on new technologies-is key to implementing the plan laid out by President Obama and Congress in the bipartisan 2010 NASA Authorisation Act, which the president signed last year.

The booster will be America’s most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.

Ambitious new programme

“This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.

“President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that’s exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow’s explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars.”

Destinations for NASA's new Heavy-Lift rocket—an asteroid and Mars.

Destinations for NASA's new Heavy-Lift rocket—an asteroid and Mars.

The launch vehicle decision is the culmination of a months-long, comprehensive review of potential designs to ensure the nation gets a rocket that is not only powerful but also evolvable so it can be adapted to different missions as opportunities arise and new technologies are developed.

“Having settled on a new and powerful heavy-lift launch architecture, NASA can now move ahead with building that rocket and the next-generation vehicles and technologies needed for an ambitious programme of crewed missions in deep space,” said John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology.

“I’m excited about NASA’s new path forward and about its promise for continuing American leadership in human space exploration.”

Heavy-lift capacity

The SLS will carry human crews beyond low Earth orbit in a capsule named the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The rocket will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel system, where RS-25D/E engines will provide the core propulsion and the J2X engine is planned for use in the upper stage.

There will be a competition to develop the boosters based on performance requirements.

The decision to go with the same fuel system for the core and the upper stage was based on a NASA analysis demonstrating that use of common components can reduce costs and increase flexibility.

Artist's impression of NASA's new Heavy-Lift rocket

Artist's impression of NASA's new Heavy-Lift rocket

The heavy-lift rocket’s early flights will be capable of lifting 70-100 metric tons before evolving to a lift capacity of 130 metric tons.

The early developmental flights may take advantage of existing solid boosters and other existing hardware. These flights will enable NASA to reduce developmental risk, drive innovation within the agency and private industry, and accomplish early exploration objectives.

Driving down costs

“NASA has been making steady progress toward realising the president’s goal of deep space exploration, while doing so in a more affordable way,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said.

“We have been driving down the costs on the Space Launch System and Orion contracts by adopting new ways of doing business and project hundreds of millions of dollars of savings each year.”

NASA elected to initiate a competition for the booster stage based on performance parameters rather than on the type of propellant because of the need for flexibility. The specific acquisition strategy for procuring the core stage, booster stage, and upper stage is being developed and will be announced at a later time.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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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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Shuttle is dead — long live the MPCV

AS NASA CLOSES THE CHAPTER on the space shuttle programme, a new era of exploration vehicles is beginning to take off.

Testing began this month in the new Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Centre, to certify the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for water landings.

The Orion MPCV will carry astronauts into space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure safe re-entry and landing.

Engineers have dropped a 10-tonne MPCV mock-up into the basin. The test item is similar in size and shape to MPCV, but is more rigid so that it can withstand multiple drops.

Each test has a different drop velocity to represent the MPCV’s possible entry conditions during water landings.

The last of three drop tests to verify the new facility is scheduled for the end of this month.

Testing will resume in September with a slightly modified test article that is more representative of the actual MPCV.

The new Hydro Impact Basin is 35 metres long, 27 metres wide and 6 metres deep. It is located at the west end of Langley’s historic Landing and Impact Research Facility, or Gantry, where Apollo astronauts trained for moonwalks.

Here’s an overview video of the Orion MPCV programme:

http://youtu.be/ClupWQ6NdBM?hd=1

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

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Dealing with space hazards

PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENTS rely on satellites for a growing number of crucial tasks. Any shutdown of these systems would seriously affect an enormous range of commercial and civil activities, including travel, transportation, telecommunications, information technology and broadcasting.

Europe, in particular, has no autonomous capability to watch for and warn of hazards to its vital satellites and ground infrastructure.

But in 2009, European Space Agency member states asked the Agency to embark on a new programme, known as Space Situational Awareness, or SSA. Now in its initial phase, SSA aims to develop Europe’s own scanning, detection and warning capabilities against space weather, space debris and natural near-earth objects.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Salute to the Space Shuttle

FROM THE FIRST FLIGHT IN 1981 aboard shuttle Columbia, the world has marvelled and been inspired by NASA’s space shuttle program. For more than three decades NASA and its partners such as Lockheed Martin—and tens of thousands of dedicated men and women in industry, academia, science and engineering—have made every mission and new discovery possible on the ground and in space.

Adapted from information issued by Lockheed Martin.

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Atlantis – the final launch

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS lifted off at 1:29am Sydney time, July 9, 2011 (11:29am US Eastern Time, July 8th) to begin the STS-135 mission, the last of the shuttle programme.

“With today’s final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America’s history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation’s extraordinary story of exploration,” Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Tomorrow’s destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible.”

The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 4,000 kilograms of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.

“The shuttle’s always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through,” Ferguson said shortly before lift-off. “We’re not ending the journey today—we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end.”

The mission includes flying the Robotic Refuelling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refuelling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 1:06am Sydney time on Monday, July 11 (11:06am on Sunday, July 10, US Eastern Time).

STS-135 is the 135th shuttle flight, the 33rd flight for Atlantis and the 37th shuttle mission dedicated to station assembly and maintenance.

Here are some more clips of the launch, from different angles and at different stages of the process:

Information and videos courtesy NASA.

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Life aboard the Space Station

TWO HIGH-PROFILE SPACE MISSIONS came to end in May and June. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli returned to Earth on May24, after spending almost six months aboard the International Space Station on his MagISStra mission. Then in June his countryman, ESA Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, participated in the penultimate Space Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Italian Space Agency’s DAMA mission. This video shows the highlights of these two missions with commentary by Paolo Nespoli.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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