Monday, June 27, 2011

SpaceShipTwo a rocket plane designed to take tourists on suborbital flights

SpaceShipTwo, a privately built rocket plane designed to take tourists on suborbital flights, continues to chalk up more flight time as it glides through the skies over the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Another successful glide of the first SpaceShip Two craft, christened VSS Enterprise, took place June 23, marking the 14th glide flight test of the vessel — an 8-minute, 55-second free fall after midair release from its mothership. The test came a week after VSS Enterprise proved it could be flown on back-to-back days.

The two-pilot SpaceShipTwo is designed to rocket six paying passengers on a suborbital trajectory to space without making a full orbit around the Earth. The ride to the edge of space will come at a per-seat price of $200,000.

Friday, June 24, 2011

UrtheCast Announces New Space Venture

Joint Canadian, Russian and UK Space Venture to Install World's First Ever High Definition Streaming Video Cameras on the International Space Station

UrtheCast is building, launching, and operating the world's first and only high definition streaming video cameras being installed on the International Space Station (ISS).

UrtheCast will supply video data and imagery of Earth collected by two HD cameras on the Russian module of the Space Station. This data and imagery will be down-linked to ground stations around the planet and then displayed in real time on the Internet and distributed directly to UrtheCast's exclusive partners and customers.

The UrtheCast web platform will allow Users to constantly track the location of the Space Station, anticipating when it will pass over a particular geographic location. Users will be able to search for videos of a particular location, type, or theme and will have the ability to interact with the HD video feed from the UrtheCast servers. They will be able to zoom in and out, virtually steer the camera from side to side, rewind, and fast forward as they check out areas and things of interest on Earth. UK based Rutherford Appleton Labs is building two high definition cameras. A medium resolution camera will provide a three colour image with a swath of 45 kilometers and a resolution of 5.5 meters. The high-resolution camera will offer a video image with a frame rate of 3.25 frames per second with a resolution that is comparable to much of Google Earth. This will allow Users to see man-made objects and groups of people.

As a result of all this unique functionality, the UrtheCast web platform will spark a great deal of awareness, creativity, and unique user events from around the world. The UrtheCast website will feel like a blend of Google Earth with the video playback and search functionality of YouTube. The UrtheCast web platform will combine a consumer centric website, mobile application for smart phones, and an open Application Program Interface (API). The API enables third party developers to create their own applications and upload them to the UrtheCast web platform.

"Users will be able to view Earth from space. It will operate seamlessly with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter," explains Scott Larson, President of UrtheCast. ISS is a low orbit, human-inhabited satellite. The station travels at 26,000 km/h, orbiting Earth sixteen times per day, at an altitude of approximately 350 km. The ISS is a collaborative project between the Russian, Canadian European, Japanese, and US space agencies. UrtheCast has signed an exclusive agreement with RSC Energia, who maintains operational control of the Russian segment on the ISS. RSC Energia will take UrtheCast's cameras, install them on the outside of the ISS, and provide the necessary maintenance and transfer of the data. The cameras are being built by UK based Rutherford Appleton Laboratories (RAL), who is a world leader in building cameras for aerospace and satellite purposes.

"Being part of a project that not only taps into the recent renewed interest in space, but also provides a connection between people and the rest of the world is what is most intriguing about this project," Richard Holdaway Director, RAL Space.

UrtheCast will officially launch this project in Calgary on June 28th at 12:00pm. Dr. Dave Williams, one of NASA's most accomplished astronauts, will be speaking at the launch at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

"The UrtheCast camera will support the ISS and continue to inspire youth to pursue advanced studies in space sciences and spark interest in science, technology, engineering and the environment," says Dr.Williams.

Dr. Williams blasted into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, and again on Shuttle Endeavour where he walked out into the great beyond. He has set records in space walking and has logged more than 687 hours in space. He will be speaking about space flight, space exploration, space science and technology, environmental stewardship and educational awareness as it relates to seeing the Earth from Space. "This unprecedented UrtheCast initiative is helping position Canada as a leading space-faring nation and driving science and innovation while actively inspiring young people across our country to take their place as members of Canada's next space generation," stated Dr. Williams.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Having a Solar Blast

The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011 from sunspot complex 1226-1227. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed the flare's peak at 1:41a.m. ET (0641 UT). SDO recorded these images (above) in extreme ultraviolet light that show a very large eruption of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material -- at temperatures less than 80,000 K. All of the solar Heliophysics System Observatory missions captured the event.

When viewed in Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's (SOHO) coronagraphs (top right), the event shows bright plasma and high-energy particles roaring from the Sun.

Also to the right are links to the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Ahead and Behind coronograph videos showing the CME expansion as viewed from each side of the sun. The STEREO Ahead satellite precedes the Earth as it circles the Sun. The STEREO Behind satellite follows behind the Earth in it's orbit of the Sun.

This not-squarely Earth-directed CME is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The CME should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the CME arrives.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

NASA Satellite Data Reveals Joplin Tornado Track

The image shows the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or ASTER, satellite data acquired on May 30, 2011, showing the damage track resulting from for the EF-5 tornado associated with the May 22, 2011, Joplin, Mo. storm. The complex pattern of ASTER data indicate variability in land use characterized by colors in this three-channel composite. Vegetated areas are shown in red and green, urban areas are aqua and the damage track from the tornado is also aqua. Clouds are white and cloud shadows are dark in color. The ASTER data here shows the tornado damage scar, aqua in color, left by the violent tornado as damage disrupts other, more typical land use patterns. The variation in width is likely correlated to tornado intensity. The tornado abruptly moved in a more southeasterly direction to the east of the city as is somewhat apparent through the clouds in the ASTER imagery.

This image was created by the NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition, or SPoRT, Center at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., using ASTER data provided courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; the United States Geological Survey Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Japan’s Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center in Tokyo, Japan; the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, along with the Japan Research Observation System Organization. Final ASTER imagery was produced using resources of the Nebula Cloud Computing Platform, tiled, and displayed within Google Earth. Storm survey information was provided by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Springfield, Mo.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Last Female Shuttle Astronaut Available For Interviews

NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus, who will fly on the last space shuttle mission next month, is available for live satellite interviews from 7 to 9 a.m. CDT on Monday, June 6. Shuttle Atlantis is targeted to launch July 8 with Magnus, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim to deliver supplies and spare equipment to the International Space Station.After her first spaceflight in 2002, Magnus became the 34th out of 47 woman to fly aboard the shuttle, which launched the first American woman into space, Sally Ride, in 1983. With the upcoming STS-135 launch, Magnus will be the last female astronaut to fly on the storied vehicle.

Magnus is a native of Belleville, Ill. She earned a bachelor's and a master's from the University of Missouri-Rolla and a doctorate from the Georgia Institute of Technology.She is a veteran of two shuttle flights and a 4.5-month stay aboard the station as a member of the Expedition 18 crew. Her first spaceflight was aboard shuttle Atlantis on the STS-112 mission in October 2002. She later flew to the station aboard shuttle Endeavour on STS-126 in November 2008 and returned to Earth aboard shuttle Discovery on STS-119 in March 2009.

To arrange an interview, news media representatives must contact Karen Svetaka at 281-483-8684, no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, June 3. Participating media must tune into NASA Television's Live Interview Media Outlet channel. The channel is a digital satellite C-band downlink by uplink provider Americom.It is on satellite AMC 3, transponder 9C, located at 87 degrees west, downlink frequency 3865.5 MHz based on a standard C-band, horizontal downlink polarity. FEC is 3/4, data rate is 6.0 Mbps, symbol rate is 4.3404 Msps, transmission DVB-S, 4:2:0. NASA TV will air the Magnus interviews live. Video b-roll of STS-135 flight preparations will air June 6 at 6:30 a.m