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NASA Loses Contact with Satellite to Study Distant Planets: Report

Even if contact is not regained with Asteria, scientists can still conduct experiments on CubeSat autonomy programmes using the mission testbed -- a replica of the spacecraft's internal hardware, kept on Earth for testing purposes

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FILE - Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14, 2010. VOA

NASA has lost contact with a satellite designed to study planets outside our solar system.

Mission operators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement that the last communication with the Asteria (Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) was in December and they will attempt to contact it till March.

Asteria belongs to a category of satellites called CubeSats, which vary in size but are typically smaller than a suitcase.

Deployed into the Earth orbit from the space station in 2017, the mission aimed to show that small satellites could one day be used to assist larger exoplanet missions, such as NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey (TESS), said the US space agency.

“The project achieved outstanding results during its three-month prime mission and its nearly two-year-long extended mission,” said JPL’s Lorraine Fesq, current Asteria programme manager.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid bennu
Asteria belongs to a category of satellites called CubeSats, which vary in size but are typically smaller than a suitcase. (Representational image). VOA

“Although we are disappointed that we lost contact with the spacecraft, we are thrilled with all that we have accomplished with this impressive CubeSat,” Fesq added.

Asteria observed a handful of nearby stars and successfully demonstrated that it could achieve precision measurements of the stars’ brightness.

“With that data, scientists look for dips in a star’s light that would indicate an orbiting planet passing between the satellite and the star,” said NASA.

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Mission data is still being analysed to confirm whether the satellite spotted any distant worlds.

Even if contact is not regained with Asteria, scientists can still conduct experiments on CubeSat autonomy programmes using the mission testbed — a replica of the spacecraft’s internal hardware, kept on Earth for testing purposes. (IANS)

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SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)