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NASA’s super rocket to Mars clears critical review

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An artist's concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.

Washington: For the first time in almost 40 years, NASA has completed all steps needed to clear a critical design review (CDR) for the most powerful rocket ever built that will take humans to deeper space missions, including Mars.

The agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) is the first vehicle designed to meet the challenges of the journey to Mars and the first exploration class rocket since the Saturn V.

SLS will launch America into a new era of exploration to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit.

“We have successfully completed the first round of testing of the rocket’s engines and boosters and all the major components for the first flight are now in production,” explained Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Division.

“This review gives us confidence that we are on the right track for the first flight of SLS and using it to extend permanent human presence into deep space,” he added.

This review is the last of four reviews that examine concepts and designs.

The next step for the programme is design certification, which will take place in 2017 after manufacturing, integration and testing is complete.

The design certification will compare the actual final product to the rocket’s design.

The final review, the flight readiness review, will take place just prior to the 2018 flight readiness date.

“This is a major step in the design and readiness of SLS,” added John Honeycutt, SLS programme manager.

The core stage of SLS, towering more than 200 feet tall and with a diameter of 27.6 feet, will carry cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel for the rocket’s four RS-25 engines.

NASA recently completed the first developmental test series on the RS-25 engines.

(IANS)

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NASA Probe Makes New Discoveries on Asteroid Bennu

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has observed particle plumes erupting from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which began orbiting Bennu on December 31, first discovered the particle plumes on January 6, followed by additional particle plumes over the last two months.

While some of the particles were slow-moving, the others were found orbiting Bennu, like small satellites.

Bennu’s entire surface was also found to be rough and dense with boulders, contrary to the Earth-based observations, which showed a smooth surface with a few large boulders.

This means that the sample collection part of the mission will have to be adjusted to make sure that OSIRIS-REx can touch down and collect a sample, said NASA while presenting the discoveries at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

NASA
This artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

“And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” Lauretta added.

Further, the team observed a change in the spin rate of Bennu as a result of what is known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect.

The uneven heating and cooling of Bennu as it rotates in sunlight is causing the asteroid to increase its rotation speed.

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As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The findings will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. (IANS)