Carnival of Space 361

Carnival of Space 361 is up at io9 Space

io9 – The launch of the Orbital Carbon Observatory was a cliffhanger, getting scrubbed with less than a minute left in the countdown. The problem was resolved in time to try again the next day, this time blasting the observatory into orbit.

Universe Today – ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft (and the piggybacked Philae lander) are in the home stretch to arrive at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 34 days and the comet is showing up quite nicely in Rosetta’s narrow-angle camera. The animation above, assembled from 36 NAC images acquired last week, shows 67P/C-G rotating over a total elapsed time of 12.4 hours.

Universe Today – The Mars One non-profit foundation that’s seeking settlers for a one-way trip to establish a permanent human colony on the Red Planet starting in the mid-2020’s, is now soliciting science and marketing proposals in a worldwide competition for their unmanned forerunner mission – the 2018 Mars One technology demonstration lander.

Nextbigfuture – A paper analyses the potential of the electric solar wind sail for solar system space missions. Applications studied include fly-by missions to terrestrial planets (Venus, Mars and Phobos, Mercury) and asteroids, missions based on non-Keplerian orbits (orbits that can be maintained only by applying continuous propulsive force), one-way boosting to outer solar system, off-Lagrange point space weather forecasting and low-cost impactor probes for added science value to other missions. We also discuss the generic idea of data clippers (returning large volumes of high resolution scientific data from distant targets packed in memory chips) and possible exploitation of asteroid resources. Possible orbits were estimated by orbit calculations assuming circular and coplanar orbits for planets. Some particular challenge areas requiring further research work and related to some more ambitious mission scenarios are also identified and discussed. The electric solar wind sail (E-sail) is an advanced concept for spacecraft propulsion, based on momentum transfer from the solar wind plasma stream, intercepted by long and charged tethers. The electrostatic field created by the tethers deflects trajectories of solar wind protons so that their flow-aligned momentum component decreases.

Nextbigfuture – There is a full 72 page report and presentation on NanoThor – rotating tether launching of deep space nanosatellites. The rapid development of high performance nanosatellite platforms is enabling NASA and commercial ventures to consider performing missions to the asteroids, the Moon, and Mars at lower cost and on shorter timelines than traditional large spacecraft platforms. Currently, however, opportunities to launch secondary payloads to Earth escape are rare, and using chemical rockets to propel secondary payloads from LEO rideshares to escape is problematic due to the risks posed to primary payloads. The NanoTHOR effort has explored the technical feasibility and value proposition for using a simple momentum-exchange tether system to scavenge orbital energy from an upper stage in geostationary transfer orbit in order to boost nanosatellites to Earth escape. A NanoTHOR module will accomplish rapid transfer of a nanosatellite to an escape trajectory by deploying the nanosat at the end of a long, slender, high-strength tether and then using winching in the Earth’s gravity gradient to convert orbital angular momentum into rotational angular momentum. In the Phase I effort, we developed and simulated methods for controlling tether deployment and retraction to spin up a tether system, and these simulations demonstrated the feasibility of providing delta-Vs on the order of 800 m/s with a simple, low-mass tether system. Moreover, the NanoTHOR tether can act as a reusable in-space upper stage, boosting multiple nanosatellites on a single launch and doing so with a mass requirement lower than that of conventional rocket technologies. Serving as an escape-injection stage, NanoTHOR can enable a 6U CubeSat to deliver small payloads to Mars orbit, lunar orbit, and rendezvous with at least 110 of the known near-Earth asteroids. Evaluation of the technology readiness of the component technologies required for NanoTHOR indicate that the hardware required is all mid-TRL, and the lower-TRL controls and integration components can be advanced to mid-TRL with modest investment. By scavenging orbital energy from upper stages without any stored energy or propellant requirements, NanoTHOR permits deep-space nanosat missions to launch on rideshare opportunities, enabling NASA and commercial ventures to conduct affordable and frequent missions to explore deep space destinations.

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