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NASA Delays Launch of Solar Probe

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets

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Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay
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NASA on Saturday scrubbed the scheduled launch of its historic small car-size probe to “touch the Sun” from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The agency is now targeting Sunday for the launch of the spacecraft which is designed to NASAgo all the way to the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona — closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

“This morning’s launch of @NASASun’s #ParkerSolarProbe was scrubbed. Launch teams will attempt to launch on Sunday morning,” NASA said in a tweet on Saturday.

The probe is named after Eugene Parker, a solar physicist who in 1958 first predicted the existence of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles and magnetic fields that flow continuously from the Sun.

Nestled atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy — one of the world’s most powerful rockets — with a third stage added, Parker Solar Probe will blast off toward the Sun with a whopping 55 times more energy than is required to reach Mars.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the US, said in an earlier statement issued by NASA.

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This morning’s launch of @NASASun’s #ParkerSolarProbe was scrubbed. Launch teams will attempt to launch on Sunday morning. Flickr

“And it needs to be, because it takes an immense amount of energy to get to our final orbit around the Sun,” Driesman added.

Zooming through space in a highly elliptical orbit, the Parker Solar Probe will reach speeds of up to 700,000 kms per hour, setting the record for the fastest spacecraft in history.

During its nominal mission lifetime of just under seven years, the Parker Solar Probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun — reaching within 3.8 million miles of the Sun’s surface at the closest approach.

In an orbit this close to the Sun, the real challenge is to keep the spacecraft from burning up.

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“Recent advances in materials science gave us the material to fashion a heat shield in front of the spacecraft not only to withstand the extreme heat of the Sun, but to remain cool on the backside,” said Adam Szabo, the mission scientist for the Parker Solar Probe at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

At the Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius. (IANS)

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Rocket Lab is Set To Launch 10 NASA CubeSats

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space

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Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay

In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

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Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

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They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted. (IANS)