Space Systems Loral asked by NASA's Tipping Point program to develop in-space satellite factory
NASA is getting serious about the idea of satellite factories in space, and has tapped Space Systems Loral to develop a ground based proof of concept for the idea. This will be part of NASA's Tipping Point program, and builds on SSL's DARPA funded Dragonfly study, which established the theoretical feasibility of the idea.
"NASA's Tipping Point program enables SSL to qualify new technologies for the commercial market while at the same time providing advances for future NASA missions," said John Celli, president of SSL. "Satellites assembled on-orbit using our integrated robotics capability will be capable of higher performance than satellites that can be launched today. An added benefit will be antennas that can be moved and changed during a satellite's mission life for flexibility and to accommodate changing market requirements."
SSL has experience building robotics for the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and the Mars landers and rovers.
|Above: An artists impression of a communications satellite in orbit. courtesy of ...|
Student experiment discovers vast ring of dust filling our solar system
The Student Dust Experiment is a unique take on the idea of a student experiment - unique because it's currently bolted to the 'front' of NASA's New Horizons space probe, quite an achievement for a student run experiment. It's an impact detector, meaning that it picks up dust by registering when it smashes into the detector. As of late 2010, when it passed a distance of 18 AU (1.7 billion miles or 2.7 billion kilometers), SDC became the farthest reaching dust impact detector in history! As SDC plunges through our dust disk, they’ve been able to measure and characterise the dust density distribution from Earth to Pluto, and beyond. The majority of the particles are thought to be from Kuiper belt object. With this information, not only can we better understand our solar system, but also help unravel the mysteries of countless other solar systems throughout the observable universe.
|Above: A simulation of the Solar Systems dust disk, based on the SDC results.|
Teeny star has Jupiter-like storm
"The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter's Great Red Spot," said John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark. "We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer." Gizis is the lead author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal, which describes how the tiny L-dwarf has been found to have the storm near one pole.
Above: An animation of the storm. Courtesy of University of Delaware.
This, and other images (follow the link) have been released in poster size to support International Polar Year. Based on data from the AMSR-E satellite, and courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, it's worth having a look on zoom, trust me!