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Instigation of Commercial Capsules; NASA Introduced Astronauts

US Space agency NASA introduced nine astronauts to run commercial flights

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Astronauts, from left, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams give a thumbs up to the crowd after NASA announced them as astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. VOA
Astronauts, from left, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Robert Behnken, Douglas Hurley, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Eric Boe, Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams give a thumbs up to the crowd after NASA announced them as astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon. VOA
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The U.S. space agency NASA on Friday introduced the nine astronauts who will ride the first commercial space capsules into orbit next year.

The move marks a significant shift in the U.S. space program, which will now combine NASA-trained astronauts with private sector space capsules. The capsules, made by SpaceX and Boeing, will ferry the astronauts and cargo back and forth to the International Space Station.

Since NASA’s space shuttle program was shut down in 2011, it has had to rely on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station.

Commercial flights to be run by 9 astronauts. Pixabay
Commercial flights to be run by 9 astronauts. Pixabay

“For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The nine astronauts — seven men and two women — waved and pumped their fists into the air as they appeared on stage to cheers from the crowd. All but three of the astronauts are space flight veterans.

In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing received contracts for $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively, to develop space capsules that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

Also Read: Sunita Williams Among Nine Astronauts Named by NASA For New Human Space Programme

The two companies are planning for a test flight of their capsules by the end of this year or early next year, with the first crews hoping to fly from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by next spring or summer.

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Chandra Observatory By NASA Back in Action

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance

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NASA's Chandra Observatory back in action. Pixabay

NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory, observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999, is back in action after suffering a glitch due to the failure of the gyroscope and going into safe mode last week.

The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode, according to the US space agency.

“The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that, in turn, led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode,” NASA said in a statement late on Monday.

The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve.

Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week, NASA said.

On October 10, Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of five years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years.

NASA
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October. Flickr

The US space agency said that it was also continuing to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope that on October 5, entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed.

Gyroscopes help spacecraft maintain proper orientation.

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Till that time, science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

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Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also almost out of fuel. Kepler has found about 70 per cent of all known alien worlds to date.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October.

The space agency’s Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity too have faced issues of late. (IANS)