NASA Current Affairs

TESS: NASA launches its newest planet-hunting spacecraft on SpaceX rocket

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a new planet-hunting spacecraft onboard of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Carnival, Florida, US. TESS mission is designed to carry out first spaceborne all-sky transiting exoplanet survey.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

The TESS mission is led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. It is designed to find potential planets orbiting stars close to Earth. It will identify such planets by spotting decreased brightness of stars after planet passes in front of it.

The primary mission objective of TESS is to survey brightest stars near Earth for transiting exoplanets over two-year period. It will use array of wide-field cameras to perform all-sky survey. It will create catalog of thousands of exoplanet candidates using transit photometry method.

TESS observatory weighs just 362 kilograms. It has four wide-view cameras surrounded by sun shade to monitor any dips in brightness from target stars. Repeated dips will indicate a planet passing in front of its star. TESS has no instruments capable of detecting life. Its main job is to find and characterize planets that will become main targets of future telescopes.

With help of TESS, it will be possible to study mass, size, density and orbit of large cohort of small planets, including sample of rocky worlds in habitable zones (goldilocks zone) of their host stars. This will reveal whether planets are rocky (like Earth), gas or jovian giants (like Jupiter) or something even more unusual.

Tags:

Parker Solar Probe: NASA to launch Humanity’s first flight to Sun in July 2018

NASA’s will launch humanity’s first mission Parker Solar Probe (PSP) to the Sun in July 31, 2018. It is undergoing final preparations for its scheduled launch on board of NASA’s Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. After its launch, the probe will orbit directly through solar atmosphere — the corona — closer to surface than any human-made object has ever gone.

Parker Solar Probe mission

It is NASA’s first planned robotic spacecraft to study outer corona of Sun. It has been designed and built by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is named after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, first spacecraft of NASA to be named after living person.

The spacecraft is designed to endure harsh environment near Sun, by approaching within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers) to ‘surface’ (photosphere) of Sun where incident solar intensity is approximately 520 times intensity at Earth orbit.

The probe will be fitted with thermal protection system (TPS) or heat shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite that will allow it to survive temperatures in Sun’s corona. It main systems and scientific instruments are located in central portion of shield’s shadow, where direct radiation from Sun is fully blocked.

The primary power for mission is dual system of solar panels (photovoltaic array). Secondary source consists of much smaller secondary array power that uses pumped-fluid cooling to maintain operating temperature.

Scientific goals of PSP

  • Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
  • Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar wind.
  • Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
  • Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.

In its seven-year mission, PSP will explore Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations to answer questions about physics of stars. Its data will also be useful in improving forecasts of major eruptions on Sun and subsequent space weather events that impact technology on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.

Tags:

12345...102030...76