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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's InSight spacecraft touches down on 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.

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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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NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space

The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space. Flickr

NASA has pinpointed the exact landing location of its newly launched InSight lander, using a powerful camera onboard another of the agency’s spacecraft, hovering around the Red Planet.

On November 26, InSight landed within a 130 km ellipse at Elysium Planitia on Mars. However, there was no way to determine exactly where it touched down within this region.

The HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted Martian landscape and ground around the lander on Thursday, NASA said in a statement.

It released three new features on the Martian landscape, which appear to be teal. However, it is not their actual colour, but light reflected off their surfaces caused the colour to be saturated.

“The ground around the lander appears dark, having been blasted by its retro-rockets during descent. Look carefully for a butterfly shape, and you can make out the lander’s solar panels on either side,” NASA said.

HiRISE also spotted the lander’s heat shield and parachute, on December 6 and again on December 11, NASA said.

InSight, Mars, NASA, Martian Wind
InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. VOA

They are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight’s landing location.

Meanwhile, the InSight lander also took a first selfie using the spacecraft’s robotic arm on December 6.

It snapped a mosaic made up of 11 images, which includes the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna.

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The lander also sent another set of mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, showcasing the “workspace” — the approximately 14-by-7-foot (4-by-2-metre) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft, NASA noted.

InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars.

The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020. (IANS)