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SpaceX gets certification to launch NASA science missions

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falcon-9
Image Courtesy: SpaceX

By NewsGram Staff Writer

NASA has formally certified US-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket to launch the most ambitious science missions.

The Falcon 9 is now certified by NASA as a “Category 2” launch vehicle. SpaceX has successfully launched six re-supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as a part of the NASA contract.

The certification process of Falcon 9 began in 2012 by NASA and SpaceX. SpaceX won an $82 million contract to launch the Jason 3 mission — a project jointly funded by the US and France to measure sea roughness.

The scheduled mission by NASA named Jason 3 is ready to lift-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in July. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the 1,124 pound spacecraft into orbit 830 miles above the Earth.

The core objective of the mission is to deploy a satellite in earth’s orbit. The satellite will then activate a radar altimeter to bounce signals off the world’s oceans to measure wave height, sea level rise and other data that are important for weather forecasting, oceanography and climate change research.

NASA spokesperson George Diller in a statement said, “The certification now clears the Falcon 9 to launch what NASA calls ‘medium-risk’ science missions, a classification that includes most of the agency’s Earth observation satellites and many of its interplanetary probes.”

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Chandra Observatory By NASA Back in Action

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance

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NASA's Chandra Observatory back in action. Pixabay

NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory, observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999, is back in action after suffering a glitch due to the failure of the gyroscope and going into safe mode last week.

The cause of Chandra’s safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode, according to the US space agency.

“The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that, in turn, led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode,” NASA said in a statement late on Monday.

The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve.

Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week, NASA said.

On October 10, Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of five years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years.

NASA
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October. Flickr

The US space agency said that it was also continuing to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope that on October 5, entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed.

Gyroscopes help spacecraft maintain proper orientation.

Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Till that time, science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

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Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also almost out of fuel. Kepler has found about 70 per cent of all known alien worlds to date.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also nearly out of fuel and might run out as early as October.

The space agency’s Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity too have faced issues of late. (IANS)

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