Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have commanded the 20-foot (6-meter) reflector antenna on NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory to begin spinning for the first time. The partial spin-up is a key step in commissioning the satellite in preparation for science operations.
Last week, mission controllers sent commands to release the locking mechanism that prevented the observatory’s spun instrument assembly — the part that spins — from rotating during launch and deployment of the reflector. The spun instrument assembly includes the spin control electronics, radiometer instrument and reflector antenna.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Fresh off the recent successful deployment of its 20-foot (6-meter) reflector antenna and associated boom arm, NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has successfully completed a two-day test of its science instruments.
The observatory’s radar and radiometer instruments were successfully operated for the first time with SMAP’s antenna in a non-spinning mode on February 27th and 28th.
The test was a key step in preparation for the planned spin-up of SMAP’s antenna to approximately 15 revolutions per minute in late March.
Written by Rob Gutro
Greenbelt, MD – Some of the coldest air of the 2014-2015 winter season was settling over the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. on February 13th, 2015. That Arctic air mass brought wind chills from below zero to the single numbers from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic.
Despite the cold on the surface, infrared NASA satellite imagery revealed even colder temperatures in cloud tops associated with the air mass.
NOAA’s GOES-East satellite provided a visible and infrared picture of the clouds associated with the Arctic air mass, as they stretched from the eastern Dakotas to the Mid-Atlantic region.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – There’s a fascinating spot some 932,000 miles away from Earth where the gravity between the sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. This spot captures the attention of orbital engineers because a satellite can orbit this spot, called Lagrange 1 just as they can orbit a planet.
But the spot tantalizes scientists as well: Lagrange 1 lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment, a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, as they pass by.
In early February, the United States Air Force will launch a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite called Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into orbit around this spot.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.
The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22am PST (9:22am EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – A new NASA satellite that will peer into the topmost layer of Earth’s soils to measure the hidden waters that influence our weather and climate is in final preparations for a January 29th dawn launch from California.
The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will take the pulse of a key measure of our water planet: how freshwater cycles over Earth’s land surfaces in the form of soil moisture.
The mission will produce the most accurate, highest-resolution global maps ever obtained from space of the moisture present in the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of Earth’s soils.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Pasadena, CA – A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas.
The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion — more than is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia and other northern regions, called boreal forests.
Written by David Weaver
Washington, D.C. – In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.
“We continued to make great progress on our journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development; and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next deep space spacecraft in which our astronauts will travel,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We moved forward on our work to create quieter, greener airplanes and develop technologies to make air travel more efficient; and we advanced our study of our changing home planet, Earth, while increasing our understanding of others in our solar system and beyond.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory CubeSat program provides big satellite performance in a small package
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Any way you slice it, space exploration — done right — requires an inordinate range of technical expertise.
From designing the spacecraft, the mission proposal and the circuit boards to testing the flight software and putting together budgets, sending something, anything, into the cosmos depends on good people who know their job.
“Although significantly smaller in size, CubeSats contain analogous payloads and subsystems to larger satellites and require similar technical knowledge and resources to traditional flight projects,” said Shannon Statham, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The training and experience gained by working on CubeSats are directly applicable to larger missions.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – There are no garbage trucks equipped to leave the atmosphere and pick up debris floating around the Earth. But what if we could send a robot to do the job?
Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working on adhesive gripping tools that could grapple objects such as orbital debris or defunct satellites that would otherwise be hard to handle.
The gecko gripper project was selected for a test flight through the Flight Opportunities Program of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. As a test, researchers used the grippers in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA’s C-9B parabolic flight aircraft in August.
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