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NASA’s SLS Rocket Gets Major Hardware Boost

These are the computers that will control the rocket as it soars off the pad for Exploration Mission-1

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NASA charts roadmap for human missions to Moon, Mars. Pixabay
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Engineers have now assembled the first major piece of core stage hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket which is designed to herald a new era of exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, launching crew and cargo on deep space exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

It now is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The 212-foot-tall core stage, referred to as the “backbone” of the rocket by NASA, will contain the SLS rocket’s four RS-25 rocket engines, propellant tanks, flight computers and much more.

Though the smallest part of the core stage, the forward skirt will serve two critical roles. It will connect the upper part of the rocket to the core stage and house many of the flight computers, or avionics.

“Completion of the core stage forward skirt is a major step in NASA’s progress to the launch pad,” said Deborah Bagdigian, lead manager for the forward skirt at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

NASA
It now is ready to be joined with other hardware for Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. (IANS)

“We’re putting into practice the steps and processes needed to assemble the largest rocket stage ever built. With the forward skirt, we are improving and refining how we’ll conduct final assembly of the rest of the rocket,” Bagdigian said.

As part of forward skirt testing, the flight computers came to life for the first time as NASA engineers tested critical avionic systems that will control the rocket’s flight.

Located throughout the core stage, the avionics are the rocket’s “brains,” controlling navigation and communication during launch and flight.

It is critical that each of the avionics units is installed correctly, work as expected and communicate with each other and other components, including the Orion spacecraft and ground support systems.

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“It was amazing to see the computers come to life for the first time,” said Lisa Espy, lead test engineer for SLS core stage avionics.

“These are the computers that will control the rocket as it soars off the pad for Exploration Mission-1,” Espy added. (IANS)

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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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NASA, space, red dwarf, hubble
Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

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The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)