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Sunita Williams Among Nine Astronauts Named by NASA For New Human Space Programme

The crew for Boeing's Crew Flight Test and SpaceX's Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems

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Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS, the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019. (IANS)
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Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

The astronauts will fly on spacecarft developed by SpaceX and Boeing as part of the the US space agency’s Commercial Crew programme to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS) on private US spacecraft.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS, the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019.

“For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said while announcing the names of the astronauts.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station, The Washington Post reported.

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

SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon’s first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year. The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, on the other hand, will likely perform two crucial test flights next year, instead of this year as planned.

Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.

Also Read: NASA’s SLS Rocket Gets Major Hardware Boost

The crew for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test and SpaceX’s Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify the systems meet the agency’s safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the US space agency said. (IANS)

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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.

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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)