Tag Archives: space science

RBSP Finally On Its Way

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP), after one delay and two scrubbed attempts to launch, lifted off of Space Launch Complex 41 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 4:05am this morning, right at the opening of its launch window. The two spacecraft, RBSP-A and RBSP-B, were stacked one on top of another, in the nose cone faring of an Atlas V rocket with a Centaur second stage booster to lift the two spacecraft into their final orbits.

It is RBSP’s mission to explore the trapped radiation belts, also known as the Van Allen Belts named after James Van Allen, an early pioneer in space science and exploration from the University of Iowa. Dr. Van Allen first predicted the existence of bands of trapped solar wind particles within Earth’s magnetosphere and his prediction was verified with our first mission to space, Explorer 1, for which Dr. Van Allen was the Principle Investigator.

You can find out more about the Van Allen Belts and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes at http://rbsp.jhuapl.edu/.

Watch Party for the Launch of RBSP

NASA’S Radiation Belt Storm Probes

LIVE from Cape Canaveral – via NASA TV


Thursday, August 23, 3:08 A.M.

(yes, in the MORNING)


 HOBBS, 700 Massachusetts St.

Join us on the street in front of Hobbs at 700 Massachusetts St. to watch as NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) twin spacecraft take off aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral.

Part of NASA’s Living with a Star program, the two-year mission will investigate one of the most hostile regions of Earth’s space environment: the radiation belts. Especially in extreme conditions, space weather can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS services.

RBSP’s instruments – the most advanced ever flown into the radiation belts – will let scientists solve the mysteries of how the belts change due to space weather. Fundamental Technologies, LLC, a Lawrence small business, is the Science Operations Center (SOC) for the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment (RBSPICE), one of four instrument suites on the spacecraft.

Dr. Ramona Kessel, Deputy Program Scientist for NASA’s initiative called “Living With a Star” (LWS), received her BS in Physics from Baker University in 1978, followed by MS and PhD degrees in Physics from KU in 1984 and 1986, respectively.

FREE DONUTS to the first 100 people – in honor of the donut-shaped radiation belts!

For more information, contact Heather Mull, Fundamental Technologies, 785-840-0800, heather.mull@ftecs.com.

Brought to you by Fundamental Technologies, LLC and Hobbs, Inc.

Mystery of the Lunar Ionosphere

If you take an introductory course in Astronomy, such as the ASTR 120 or ASTR 122 courses here at JCCC, you’ll learn that the Moon is airless, that it has no atmosphere. As with most things in astronomy, and science in general, that statement is more or less correct, but when you examine the Moon more closely, there are a lot of complications that arise. The Moon doesn’t really have an atmosphere in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of a shroud of gas. Recently, more information has been discovered about the Moon’s ionosphere, something that shouldn’t exist for an airless world. Check out this video from Science@NASA for the details.

Ulysses Update

The Ulysses spacecraft is slowly dying, but its not quite finished yet! Its demise was slated for July 1, 2008, but even without its primary X-Band transmitter whose heatsink doubles as the heater for the fuel lines, its been surviving. Here’s the latest update on the health of the only spacecraft ever to explore the polar regions of the Sun.

Dear Ulysses colleagues,

Yesterday was mission day 6712 and we surpassed 400 days of S-band mission operations. Given that we thought the spacecraft would only survive a few months after the X-band transmitter failure on 15 January 2008, that’s pretty good going! The last month or so has seen a dramatic increase in data return. This is due in part to a request by NASA HQ for additional DSN coverage and also due to the fact that we can record and play back data again on board the spacecraft. That’s possible because the spacecraft-Earth distance is low enough to support a 1024 bps telemetry data rate at the moment (this situation will last until sometime in mid-March). I’ve attached a plot of our weekly data return percentages which clearly shows the recent improvements.

As far as the hydrazine is concerned, it’s obviously not frozen yet, but there can’t be very much left. Our estimate is that we have almost no fuel left even using our best-case estimates. However, it’s very difficult to get an exact figure of fuel usage over the mission given that we have had about 3 years of closed-loop conscan operations to control nutation when the spacecraft fired the thruster autonomously. During those periods, we had to estimate the number of pulses fired by monitoring the increase in catalyst bed temperature after each period of thruster activity which is not the easiest thing
to do. So the bad news is that we don’t have an exact estimate of how much fuel is left but the good news is that it’s still above zero! We hope that the data returned is continuing to excite you as the solar activity slowly begins to increase.

Best regards,