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SpaceX to Launch Twin NASA Water Cycle Tracker Satellites

The satellites are scheduled to launch at 3.47 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California

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NASA on Thursday confirmed a delay in the first piloted flights of Boeing and SpaceX.
NASA on Thursday confirmed a delay in the first piloted flights of Boeing and SpaceX. Pixabay
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On its way to deploy five Iridium Next communications satellites on Tuesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will also launch twin NASA satellites that will monitor Earth’s water cycle, marking a unique rideshare arrangement.

The satellites are scheduled to launch at 3.47 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. (This corresponds to 1.17 a.m. Wednesday India time), NASA said.

The two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On mission (GRACE-FO) spacecraft will follow each other in orbit around Earth, separated by about 220 km.

On liftoff, the Falcon 9 first-stage engines will burn for approximately two minutes and 45 seconds before shutting down at main engine cutoff (MECO).

The Falcon 9’s first and second stages will separate seconds later. Then, the second-stage engine will ignite for the first time (SES1) and burn until the vehicle reaches the altitude of the injection orbit, 490 km.

NASA
Representational Image, VOA

While this burn is going on, the payload fairing — the launch vehicle’s nose cone — will separate into two halves like a clamshell and fall away.

When the rocket’s second stage has completed its ascent to the injection orbit altitude, it will pitch down (its nose points down) 30 degrees and roll so that one of the twin GRACE-FO satellites is facing down, toward Earth, and the other is facing up, toward space.

Then the second stage engine will cut off (SECO).

About 10 minutes after liftoff, a separation system on the second stage will deploy the GRACE-FO satellites.

Separation will occur over the Pacific Ocean at about 17.5 degrees North latitude, 122.6 degrees West longitude.

The first opportunity to receive data from the spacecraft will occur at NASA’s tracking station at McMurdo, Antarctica, about 23 minutes after separation, NASA said.

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After the GRACE-FO satellites are deployed, the Falcon 9 second stage will coast for half an orbit before reigniting its engine (SES2) to take the Iridium Next satellites to a higher orbit for deployment.

GRACE-FO, a collaborative mission of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), continues the work of the original GRACE mission in observing the movement of water and other mass around our planet by tracking the changing pull of gravity very precisely. (IANS)

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InSight Spacecraft of NASA Reaches Halfway to Mars

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November

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NASA's InSight spacecraft crosses halfway mark to Mars. Pixabay

NASA’s InSight spacecraft that is en route to Mars, has passed the halfway mark to its destination and all its instruments are working well, the US space agency said.

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The spacecraft, which crossed the halfway mark on August 6 is expected to land on Mars on November 26 to study the Red Planet’s deep interior, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

The spacecraft has now covered 277 million km since its launch 107 days ago and in another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million km and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region.

Earlier the lander’s launch and landing were scheduled around Mars’ closest approach to Earth that occurred on July 31.

However, it was delayed by the Martian storm that has engulfed the Planet and has cut off communication with another NASA robot, the Mars rover Opportunity.

NASA
InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. (IANS)

NASA engineers used this long travel time to plan, activate and check spacecraft subsystems vital to cruise, landing and surface operations, including the highly sensitive science instruments, the statement said.

The instruments aboard the spacecraft include a seismometer, which will be used to detect quakes on Mars, and a self-hammering probe that will measure the amount of heat escaping from the planet’s interior.

It also has cameras to take a “selfie” of the mission’s equipment.

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“If you are an engineer on InSight, that first glimpse of the heat shield blanket, harness tie-downs and cover bolts is a very reassuring sight as it tells us our Instrument Context Camera is operating perfectly. The next picture we plan to take with this camera will be of the surface of Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight Project Manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The camera will take the first image of Elysium Planitia minutes after InSight touches down on Mars in November. (IANS)