Category Archives: Space and Satellites

The Space and Satellite blog posts news about the aerospace industry, including links to industry news and articles, and announcements of continuing education for professionals who are working in the space and satellite profession.

Remote Sensing Before and After Hurricane Harvey

800px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZThe value of remote sensing is shown again with images of before and after Hurricane Harvey. Wow – Take a look!

The Ny times featured Digital Globe images of the areas of Texas that were severely hit by Hurricane Harvey. There are also street level photographs to show the local spots before and after Harvey.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/29/us/houston-before-and-after-hurricane-harvey.html?mcubz=3

If you are interested in learning more about remote sensing from satellites the Applied Technology Institute (ATIcourses) has in-depth technical training programs.

https://www.aticourses.com/Optical_Communications_Systems.htm

https://www.aticourses.com/synthetic_aperture_radar.html

https://www.aticourses.com/hyperspectral_imaging.htm

The Washington Post has great images of the the rainfall rate relative to historic averages. The claim is that some Texas areas had a rainfall rate that is a 0.1% chance flood event in a year or 1 in 1000 in a year.

“A new analysis from the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and
Engineering Center has determined that Harvey is a 1-in-1,000-year flood
event that has overwhelmed an enormous section of Southeast Texas
equivalent in size to New Jersey.”

Harvey released 40 inches to 45 inches of rain in a few days over areas of Texas or about 24.5 trillion gallons of water. Huge amount! – that is 3.5 ft in some areas.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/08/31/harvey-is-a-1000-year-flood-event-unprecedented-in-scale/

The prediction of the frequency of strong flooding is tricky. The definitions and methods matter and can be slanted to make the author’s point. See the many comments to the above article.

By some measures this is the third 500 year flood in 3 years for Houston.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/29/houston-is-experiencing-its-third-500-year-flood-in-3-years-how-is-that-possible/

Please update this post with useful articles about the analysis of the Harvey rainfall and flooding in comparison to other major US flood events.

GREAT OLD, BIG, HUGE BLACK HOLES

In 1905 Albert Einstein employed one of the most powerful brains on planet Earth to puzzle out an elusive concept called “The Special Theory of Relativity”.  Ten years later he used those same brain cells to develop his even more powerful “General Theory of Relativity”.

Figure 1 highlights his most dramatic proposal for proving – or disproving! – his General Theory of Relativity.  The test he proposed had to take place during a total eclipse of the sun.  For, according to The General Theory of Relativity, light from a more distant star would be bent by about one two-thousandths of a degree when it swept by the edge of the sun.

Four years later (in 1919) the talented British astronomer Arthur Eddington in pursuit of a total eclipse of the sun, ventured to the Crimean Peninsula to perform the test Einstein had proposed based on the idea that “starlight would swerve measurably as it passed through the heavy gravity of the sun, a dimple in the fabric of the universe.”*

A black hole comes into existence when a star converts all of its hydrogen into helium and collapses into a much smaller ball that is so dense nothing can escape from its gravitational pull, not even light.

Capture3

Figure 1:  In 1915, when he finally worked out his General Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein proposed three clever techniques for testing its validity.  Four years later, in 1919 the British astronomer, Arthur Eddington, took advantage of one of those tests during a total eclipse of the sun to demonstrate that, when a light beam passes near a massive celestial body, it is bent by the local gravitational field as predicted by Einstein’s theory.  This distinctive bending is similar to the manner a baseball headed toward home plate is bent downward by the gravitational pull of the earth.

The existence of black holes was inadvertently predicted by a mathematical relationship Sir Isaac Newton understood and employed in 1687 in developing many of his most powerful scientific predictions, including the rather weird concept of escape velocity.  As Figure 2 indicates, it is called the Vis Viva equation.

Start by solving the Vis Viva equation for the radius Re, then plug in the speed of light, C, as a value for the escape velocity, Ve.  The resulting radius Re is the so-called “event horizon”, which equals the radius at which light cannot escape from an extremely dense sphere of mass, M.  As the calculation on the right-hand side of Figure 2 indicates, if we could somehow compressed the earth down to a radius of 0.35 inches – while preserving its total mass light waves inside the sphere would be unable to escape and, therefore, could not be seen by an observer.  The radius of the event horizon associated with a spherical body of mass, M, is directly proportional to the total mass involved.

Capture4

Figure 2:  The Vis Viva equation was developed and applied repeatedly by Isaac Newton when he was evaluating various gravity-induced phenomena.  Properly applied, the Vis Viva equation predicts that sufficiently dense celestial bodies generate such strong gravitational fields that nothing – not even a beam of light – can escape their clutches.  Today’s astronomers are discovering numerous examples of this counterintuitive effect.  Black holes are one result.

As Figure 3 indicates, an enormous black hole 50 million light years from Earth has been discovered to have a mass equal to 2 billion times the mass of our sun.   It is located in the M87 Galaxy in the constellation Virgo.

Capture5

Figure 3:  In 1994 the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a huge black hole approximately 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles from planet Earth nestled among the stars of the M87 galaxy in the Virgo constellation.  Astronomers estimate that it is 2,000,000,ooo times heavier than our son.  That black hole’s event horizon has a radius of 3,700,000,000 miles or about 40 astronomical units. One astronomical unit being the distance from the earth to our sun.The graph presented in Figure 4 links the masses of various celestial bodies with their corresponding event horizons.  Notice that both the horizontal and the vertical axes range over 20 orders of magnitude!  In 1942 the Indian-born American astrophysicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, demonstrated from theoretical considerations that the smallest black hole that can result from the collapse of a main-sequence star, must have a mass that is equal to approximately 3 suns with a corresponding event horizon of 5.5 miles.  The event horizon of a black hole is the maximum radius from which no light can escape.

The graph presented in Figure 4 links the masses of various celestial bodies with their corresponding event horizons.  Notice that both the horizontal and the vertical axes range over 20 orders of magnitude!  In 1942 the Indian-born American astrophysicist, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, demonstrated from theoretical considerations that the smallest black hole that can result from the collapse of a main-sequence star, must have a mass that is equal to approximately 3 suns with a corresponding event horizon of 5.5 miles.  The event horizon of a black hole is the maximum radius from which no light can escape.

See all the ATI open-enrollment course schedule

https://www.aticourses.com/schedule.html

See all the ATI courses on 1 page.

What courses would you like to see scheduled as an open-enrollment or on-site course near your facility?

ATI is planning its schedule of technical training courses and would like your recommendations of courses

that will help your project and/or company.

These courses can also be held on-site at your facility.

http://www.aticourses.com/catalog_of_all_ATI_courses.htm

 

 

DEORBITING SPACE DEBRIS FRAGMENTS USING ONLY EQUIPMENT LOCATED ON THE GROUND

The researchers at NORAD*, which is located under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are currently tracking 20,000 objects in space as big as a softball or bigger.  Most of these orbiting objects are space debris fragments that can pose a collision hazard to other orbiting satellites such as the International Space Station.

Tracking these fragments of debris is complicated and expensive.  Preventing collisions is expensive, too.  So, too, is designing and building space vehicles that can withstand high-speed impacts.  A cheaper alternative may be to sweep some of the debris out of space to minimize its hazard to other orbit-crossing satellites.

When two orbiting objects collide with one another, the energy exchange can be large and destructive.  Two one-pound fragments impacting each other in a solid collision in low-altitude orbits intersecting at a 15-degree incidence angle can create the energy caused by exploding two pounds of TNT!!

One scientific study showed that returning substantial numbers of debris fragments to Earth with a hydrogen-fueled spaceborne tug would cost approximately $3 billion for each percent reduction in the fragment population – which has been increasing by about 12 percent per year, on average.

Fortunately, a powerful, but relatively inexpensive laser on the ground pointing vertically upward can be used to deorbit fragments of space debris traveling around the earth in low-altitude orbits.  The radial velocity increment provided by such a ground-based laser causes the object to reenter the earth’s atmosphere as shown in  the sketch in the upper left-hand corner of Figure 1.

The total required velocity increment can be added in much smaller increments a little at a time over days or weeks.  Drag with the atmosphere was neglected in the case considered in Figure 1, but, in the real world, atmospheric drag would help the object return to Earth.

Radiation pressure created by the assumed 50,000 watt laser beam is equivalent to 40 suns spread over the one square foot cross section of the object.  The total photon pressure equals 1/13th of a pound per square foot.

*  NORAD = North American Aerospace Defense (Command)

Figure1The researchers at NORAD*, which is located under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are currently tracking 20,000 objects in space as big as a softball or bigger.  Most of these orbiting objects are space debris fragments that can pose a collision hazard to other orbiting satellites such as the International Space Station.

Tracking these fragments of debris is complicated and expensive.  Preventing collisions is expensive, too.  So, too, is designing and building space vehicles that can withstand high-speed impacts.  A cheaper alternative may be to sweep some of the debris out of space to minimize its hazard to other orbit-crossing satellites.

When two orbiting objects collide with one another, the energy exchange can be large and destructive.  Two one-pound fragments impacting each other in a solid collision in low-altitude orbits intersecting at a 15-degree incidence angle can create the energy caused by exploding two pounds of TNT!!

One scientific study showed that returning substantial numbers of debris fragments to Earth with a hydrogen-fueled spaceborne tug would cost approximately $3 billion for each percent reduction in the fragment population – which has been increasing by about 12 percent per year, on average.

Fortunately, a powerful, but relatively inexpensive laser on the ground pointing vertically upward can be used to deorbit fragments of space debris traveling around the earth in low-altitude orbits.  The radial velocity increment provided by such a ground-based laser causes the object to reenter the earth’s atmosphere as shown in  the sketch in the upper left-hand corner of Figure 1.

The total required velocity increment can be added in much smaller increments a little at a time over days or weeks.  Drag with the atmosphere was neglected in the case considered in Figure 1, but, in the real world, atmospheric drag would help the object return to Earth.

Radiation pressure created by the assumed 50,000 watt laser beam is equivalent to 40 suns spread over the one square foot cross section of the object.  The total photon pressure equals 1/13th of a pound per square foot.

*  NORAD = North American Aerospace Defense (Command)

Figure2

Figure 2:  These engineering calculations show that the 20,000 space debris fragments now circling the earth in low-altitude orbits could, on average, each be deorbited with ground-based lasers for approximately $40,000 worth of electrical power.  Those same ground-based lasers could be used in a different mode to reboost valuable or dangerous payloads in low-altitude orbits or to send those payloads bound for geosynchoronous orbits onto their transfer ellipses.  (SOURCE:  Short course “Fundamentals of Space Exploration”.  Instructor: Tom Logsdon. (Seal Beach, CA)

See all the ATI open-enrollment course schedule

https://www.aticourses.com/schedule.html

See all the ATI courses on 1 page.

What courses would you like to see scheduled as an open-enrollment or on-site course near your facility?

ATI is planning its schedule of technical training courses and would like your recommendations of courses

that will help your project and/or company.

These courses can also be held on-site at your facility.

http://www.aticourses.com/catalog_of_all_ATI_courses.htm

AMERICA’S INFRARED SPITZER TELESCOPE by Tom Logsdon

ASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which launched Aug. 25, 2003, will begin the “Beyond” phase of its mission on Oct. 1, 2016. Spitzer has been operating beyond the limits that were set for it at the beginning of its mission, and making discoveries in unexpected areas of science, such as exoplanets.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which launched Aug. 25, 2003, will begin the “Beyond” phase of its mission on Oct. 1, 2016. Spitzer has been operating beyond the limits that were set for it at the beginning of its mission, and making discoveries in unexpected areas of science, such as exoplanets.

Tom Logsdon teaches a number of courses for Applied Technology Institute including:

  1. Orbital & Launch Mechanics – Fundamentals
  2. GPS Technology
  3. Strapdown and Integrated Navigation Systems
  4. Breakthrough Thinking: Creative Solutions for Professional Success

The article below was written by him could be of interest to our readers.

AMERICA’S INFRARED SPITZER TELESCOPE

“As in the soft and sweet eclipse, when soul meets soul on lover’s lips.”

 

British Lyric Poet

                                                                                                Percy Shelly

                                                                                                     Prometheus Unbound, 1820

America’s famous inventor, Thomas Edison, The Wizard of Menlo Park, had long admired the somber, romantic words penned by England’s master poet Percy Shelly.  And, like Shelly, he, too, was enchanted with the sensual experiences conjured up by the periodic eclipses that blotted out the sun and the moon.

In 1878 Edison clambered aboard the newly constructed transcontinental railroad headed from New Jersey to Wyoming where he hoped to utilize his newly constructed infrared sensor to study the total solar eclipse he knew would soon sweep across America’s western landscape.  When he arrived in Wyoming, the only building he could rent was an old chicken coop at the edge of the prairie.  And, as soon as the moon slipped in front of the sun causing the sky to darken, the chickens decided to come to roost.

Soon The Wizard of Menlo Park was so busy trying to quiet his squawking companions, he caught only a fleeting glimpse of the rare and colorful spectacle lighting up the darkened daytime sky.  His infrared sensor, unfortunately, remained untested that day.

Even if those agitated Wyoming chickens had behaved themselves with proper decorum during that unusual event, Thomas Edison’s sensor would have been entirely ineffective because most of the infrared frequencies emanating from the sun and the stars are absorbed by the atmosphere surrounding the earth.  However, sensors of similar design can, and do, handle important astronomical tasks when they are installed in cryogenically cooled telescopes launched into space by powerful and well-designed rockets.

The infrared rays streaming down to earth from distant stars and galaxies lie just beyond the bright red colors at the edge of in the electromagnetic spectrum our eyes can see.  As such, they penetrate the clouds of dust found, in such abundance, in interstellar space.  The dust that has accumulated under your bed is not particularly valuable or interesting.  But the dust found in outer space is far more beneficial – and exciting, too!

The Spitzer Space Telescope – a giant thermos bottle in space – now following along behind planet earth as it circles the sun, was an effective infrared telescope until it used up its entire supply of liquid helium coolant.  In the meantime, it has become a “warm” space-age telescope seeking out previously undiscovered exoplanets orbiting around suns trillions of miles away.  This is accomplished by observing their shadows periodically dimming the star’s visible light as the various planets coast in between the Spitzer and the celestial body being observed.

See all the ATI open-enrollment course schedule

https://www.aticourses.com/schedule.html

See all the ATI courses on 1 page.

What courses would you like to see scheduled as an open-enrollment or on-site course near your facility?

ATI is planning its schedule of technical training courses and would like your recommendations of courses

that will help your project and/or company.

These courses can also be held on-site at your facility.

http://www.aticourses.com/catalog_of_all_ATI_courses.htm

 

New Color Maps of Pluto

The Principal Investigator (PI) for the LORRI instrument is Andy Cheng, and it is operated from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) in Laurel, Maryland. Alan Stern is the PI for the MVIC and Ralph instruments, which are operated from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. And as you can plainly see, the maps are quite detailed and eye-popping!

Dr. Stern, who is also the PI of the New Horizons mission, commented on the release of the maps in a recent NASA press statement. As he stated, they are just the latest example of what the New Horizons mission accomplished during its historic mission:

“The complexity of the Pluto system — from its geology to its satellite system to its atmosphere— has been beyond our wildest imagination. Everywhere we turn are new mysteries. These new maps from the landmark exploration of Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission in 2015 will help unravel these mysteries and are for everyone to enjoy.”

 

Maps at
https://www.universetoday.com/136498/hey-map-collectors-heres-new-map-pluto/

SpaceX successfully launches third satellite in 12 days

34718447506_7ff2cfa1b2_oRApplied Technology Institute offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering.  SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite using a Falcon 9 rocket, its third flight in just 12 days.

The rocket blasted off on Wednesday evening at 7.38 p.m. (local time) from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, delivering the satellite called the Intelsat 35e to a geostationary transfer orbit, reports Xinhua news agency.

The satellite was deployed about 32 minutes after launch.

The California-based company tried to launch the satellite on Sunday and Monday, but stopped twice in the final seconds of countdown.

With a launch mass of over 6.7 tonnes, the Intelsat 35e is the heaviest satellite Falcon 9 has ever sent to orbit.

As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to recover the rocket’s first stage after launch this time, the company said.

It was lofted to provide high-performance services in both the C- and Ku-bands. Wednesday’s mission came just 10 days after SpaceX’s first-ever “doubleheader” weekend, when it launched two missions within about 50 hours.

One saw the launch of BulgariaSat-1, the first geostationary communications satellite in Bulgaria’s history, from the Kennedy Space Centre on June 23.

Another had 10 satellites launched to low-Earth orbit for the U.S. satellite phone company Iridium from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California two days later.

The Intelsat 35e also marked the tenth of SpaceX’s more than 20 launches planned this year. Last year, the company completed eight successful launches before an explosion during routine ground testing temporarily halted Falcon 9 launches.

Meanwhile, while the Intelsat 35e mission involved an expendable Falcon 9 first stage, SpaceX has recovered 11 first stages on previous missions, re-flying and re-landing two of them. The company has also started tackling the challenge of recovering and reusing the launch vehicle’s payload fairings.

 

 

NASA bets the farm on the long-term viability of space agriculture

Old MacDonald had a space farm.

Applied Technology Institute (ATI Courses) offers a variety of courses on Space, Satellite & Aerospace Engineering.

Also, our president, Jim Jenkins, is an avid gardener who grows a garden full of tomatoes, peppers, squash, peas.

Jim_Tomato

If you give an astronaut a packet of food, she’ll eat for a day. If you teach an astronaut how to farm in space, she’ll eat for a lifetime—or at least for a 6-month-long expedition on the International Space Station.

Since its earliest missions, NASA has been focused on food, something astronauts need whether they’re at home on Earth or orbiting 250-odd miles above it. Over the years, the administration has tried a series of solutions: John Glenn had pureed beef and veggie paste, other flight crews used new-age freeze drying technology. More recently, NASA’s been trying to enable its astronauts to grow their own food in orbit.

Bryan Onate, an engineer stationed at the Kennedy Space Center, is on the forefront of this technology. He helped lead the team that built Veggie, NASA’s first plant growth system, and next month he’s sending up Veggie’s new and improved brother, the Advanced Plant Habitat.

The habitat is the size of a mini-fridge. But instead of storing soda, it will carefully record every step in the growth of plants aboard the space station. This will allow researchers on the ground unprecedented insight into how plants are shaped by microgravity and other forces at work in outer space. And, Onate says, “astronauts may get to enjoy the fruit of our labor.”

Read more here.

Babylon 5 solar system bears striking resemblance to our own

 

The number of planetary systems discovered seems to grow on a daily basis, but most of them are wildly different to our own solar system. Now a team of University of Arizona researchers led by Kate Su have used NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) flying observatory to take a closer look at a system 10.5 light years away and discovered it has a familiar general structure.


 

The star in question is Epsilon Eridani (ε Eri) in the southern hemisphere of the constellation of Eridanus. Its previous claims to fame were as the setting for the sci fi television series Babylon 5 and the disputed location of Star Trek‘s planet Vulcan. It’s also been the subject of several early studies seeking extrasolar planets and was even monitored in the 1960s by Project Ozma as a possible source of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Much of the previous work on Epsilon Eridani involved the Spitzer Space Telescope, but SOFIA is over twice the size of Spitzer, has three times the resolution, and can operate in the infrared at wavelengths between 25 and 40 microns. What this meant was that SOFIA could discern much smaller details, especially from warm materials, than before, which suggested an alternative model to the one provided by Spitzer’s data.

 

NASA astronaut: Space toilet inspires ‘sheer terror’

Forget motion sickness and adjusting to microgravity. Astronaut Jack Fischer is most worried about facing the space station’s intimidating bathroom facilities.

On Thursday, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer is scheduled to embark on his first voyage to the International Space Station. He’s excited to be working on a variety of experiments, including ones dealing with plant growth and bone growth, but he’s less than thrilled about the prospect of using the loo in microgravity.

In a NASA Q&A, Fischer reveals what he expects his greatest challenge will be. He says it’s the toilet. “It’s all about suction, it’s really difficult, and I’m a bit terrified,” Fischer says.

In case you think Fischer is exaggerating his toilet trepidation, here’s NASA description of how the commode functions: “The toilet basically works like a vacuum cleaner with fans that suck air and waste into the commode.” It also requires the use of leg restraints.

“Unlike most things, you just can’t train for that on the ground,” Fischer says, “so I approach my space-toilet activities with respect, preparation and a healthy dose of sheer terror.”

 

Stunning Space Station photo of glowing auroras

Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) photographed brightly glowing auroras from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station on March 27, 2017. (ESA/NASA)
Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) photographed brightly glowing auroras from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station on March 27, 2017. (ESA/NASA)

NASA has released an amazing photo show by Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, who photographed bright auroras from the International Space Station on March 27, 2017.

“The view at night recently has been simply magnificent: few clouds, intense auroras. I can’t look away from the windows,” Pesquet wrote in a tweet that included the image.

Here’s what NASA wrote about the image:

“The dancing lights of the aurora provide stunning views, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.’

Check out more images from NASA’s Aurora Image Gallery