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After weather delay, SpaceX set for second try at first crewed launch Saturday

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SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS

SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISSSpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS

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SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS

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<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”NASA and SpaceX launched the first crewed commercial spacecraft on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”72″>NASA and SpaceX launched the first crewed commercial spacecraft on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Credit: NASA TV

After being delayed by weather earlier this week, NASA and SpaceX made history on Saturday.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, at Kennedy Space Center, at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020. This is the first time astronauts have launched from the United States in nearly nine years, and it is now the very first commercial spaceflight mission to launch humans into orbit.

“We are so proud and happy for Doug and Bob,” astronaut Nicole Mann, who is slated to fly on a future commercial launch on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, said in a NASA statement earlier this week. “It feels kind of like one of your close family members having a great lifetime achievement — and really, that’s what it is.”

<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”Watch below for a full recap of this historic space launch.” data-reactid=”76″>Watch below for a full recap of this historic space launch.

After the launch, the Falcon 9 booster completed its journey to orbit, carrying Behnken and Hurley onboard Crew Dragon, in just under 9 minutes. By the time the astronauts got to experience the weightlessness of being in orbit, the 1st stage of the Falcon 9 rocket was already setting down on the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You”, out on the Atlantic Ocean.

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<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster rocket sits on the droneship out at sea (left). Meanwhile, Behnken and Hurley continue their mission in space (right). Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”103″>The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster rocket sits on the droneship out at sea (left). Meanwhile, Behnken and Hurley continue their mission in space (right). Credit: NASA TV

Now, as Crew Dragon makes its way towards the International Space Station, set to arrive at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, May 31, this Falcon 9 booster will be brought back to shore. It will either go on to launch other missions – crewed or uncrewed – into space, or SpaceX may turn it into a monument, as they did with the first booster that they successfully landed at Cape Canaveral.

<h3 class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”WEATHER OR NOT” data-reactid=”105″>WEATHER OR NOT

<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”The final updated weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, as of Saturday afternoon, gave a 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions for the Demo-2 launch attempt. The primary weather concerns given were the potential for cumulus or anvil (cumulonimbus) clouds in the vicinity of the launch site, and the possibility of the rocket flying through precipitation. All of those conditions cleared in the area as of around 2:30 p.m. EDT, allowing the forecast team to give a “go” for weather on the launch.” data-reactid=”106″>The final updated weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, as of Saturday afternoon, gave a 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions for the Demo-2 launch attempt. The primary weather concerns given were the potential for cumulus or anvil (cumulonimbus) clouds in the vicinity of the launch site, and the possibility of the rocket flying through precipitation. All of those conditions cleared in the area as of around 2:30 p.m. EDT, allowing the forecast team to give a “go” for weather on the launch.

<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”While cumulus or cumulonimbus clouds near the launch site would indicate the presence of turbulence and possibly strong upper-level wind shear, both of which could affect a rocket’s flight, the only reason for these rules is the potential for lightning.” data-reactid=”107″>While cumulus or cumulonimbus clouds near the launch site would indicate the presence of turbulence and possibly strong upper-level wind shear, both of which could affect a rocket’s flight, the only reason for these rules is the potential for lightning.

45th Weather Wing forecasters consider a list of 10 Lightning Launch Commit Criteria (LLCC) leading up to a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center.

The conditions they were on the lookout for: cumulus clouds or lightning-producing storm clouds over or down-range of the launch site; thick stratus clouds directly above the rocket; anvil clouds (cumulonimbus) or rainy weather to the west of the launch pad; the presence of strong electric fields in the vicinity of the launch site. Any of these conditions could either produce natural lightning, or cause rocket-triggered lightning, which is potentially disastrous for the mission and crew.

The launch attempt on Wednesday, May 27, was called off with just 17 minutes to go before T-zero. The launch team scrubbed the mission due to several weather issues, including rain, cumulus clouds and what NASA called “field mills”. Field mills refers to an instrument used to detect electric field levels in the atmosphere. The presence of strong electric fields in the area is a good indication that there is the potential for lightning in the clouds around the launch site. A rocket launching in such an environment would act as a lightning rod, triggering a lightning stroke even if one was not likely to happen naturally.

The weather factors not included in the forecasters’ Probability of Violation (POV) are the presence of upper level wind shear, solar activity, and the weather and water conditions at the potential recovery locations out on the Atlantic Ocean. These conditions could potentially impact a launch, but they are considered separately from the forecast POV.

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EDT, May 27, 2020, SpaceX’s crewed Demo-2 launch stood ready for lift-off, with significant cloud visible near Launch Complex 39A. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”133″>At 12:25 p.m. EDT, May 27, 2020, SpaceX’s crewed Demo-2 launch stood ready for lift-off, with significant cloud visible near Launch Complex 39A. Credit: NASA TV

On Wednesday, when the 45th Weather Squadron forecasters gave their final “no-go” for the launch, they had said it came down to a 10-minute window. If they could have delayed the launch from 4:33 p.m. EDT to 4:43 p.m. EDT, they likely would have been able to give the go-ahead for lift-off. Since the launch window was instantaneous, however, they were forced to stand down.

This emphasizes that, sometimes, making the “go/no-go” decision for a mission to launch on time can depend on the at-the-moment weather conditions. Even if stormy weather is crossing the launch site before lift-off, they could catch a break in the active weather, or they could get unlucky, and the weather is still too sketchy to risk it.

<h3 class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”NEXT-GEN SPACEFLIGHT” data-reactid=”136″>NEXT-GEN SPACEFLIGHT

Past spacecraft that have carried astronauts into orbit were marvels of technology. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, on the other hand, looks to be something straight out of science fiction that has been made real.

Crew-Dragon-Hurley-Behnken-NASA-SpaceXCrew-Dragon-Hurley-Behnken-NASA-SpaceX

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<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken sit in the Crew Dragon capsule, which is equipped with touch-screen controls. Credit: NASA” data-reactid=”158″>NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken sit in the Crew Dragon capsule, which is equipped with touch-screen controls. Credit: NASA

Although the two astronauts appear cramped in the above photograph, the Crew Dragon is surprisingly roomy when compared to older spacecraft. Even the current Soyuz capsules are very crowded, with little room for the astronauts and cosmonauts to move around during a launch.

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<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”SpaceX’s “anthropomorphic test device” or ATD, named “Ripley”, made the trip to the ISS during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. It was certainly not crowded on this flight. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”180″>SpaceX’s “anthropomorphic test device” or ATD, named “Ripley”, made the trip to the ISS during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. It was certainly not crowded on this flight. Credit: NASA TV

<p class=”canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm” type=”text” content=”According to NASA: “As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.”” data-reactid=”181″>According to NASA: “As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.”

 

Source: Yahoo-news-canada

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Edited BY Harry Miller

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Century-old photos show effects of climate change in Rocky Mountain forests – Vancouver Sun

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The towering crags and peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains have been getting steadily greener over the past century, according to a new study.

“They are kind of becoming the needly or leafy mountains at this point,” said lead author Andrew Trant, an ecologist at the University of Waterloo.

The researchers stumbled across a collection of 120,000 historic images — mainly high-quality, glass-slide photographs — from early cartographic surveys of the Canadian Rockies, which they were able to compare with modern images of the exact same scenes taken nearly 100 years later.

“In about 90 per cent of the cases the trees are growing higher up the mountain and in greater numbers, so more individual trees,” he said.

Areas that were once covered by stands of low-lying, sideways-growing trees, gnarled and tortured by the elements, are now growing upright, they found.

“Conditions have improved enough that these same individuals have turned from a prostrate, craggly thing into an upright tree,” he said. “What’s likely is that as things are warming they are able to do something they couldn’t do before and they are starting to grow upwards.”

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NASA injects $17M into four small companies with Artemis ambitions – TechCrunch

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NASA awards millions of dollars a year to small businesses through the SBIR program, but generally it’s a lot of small awards to hundreds of companies. Breaking with precedent, today the agency announced a new multi-million-dollar funding track and its four first recipients, addressing urgent needs for the Artemis program.

The Small Business Innovation Research program has various forms throughout the federal government, but it generally provides non-dilutive funding on the order of a few hundred thousand dollars over a couple of years to nudge a nascent technology toward commercialization.

NASA has found, however, that there is a gap between the medium-size Phase II awards and Phase III, which is more like a full-on government contract; there are already “Extended” and “Pilot” programs that can provide up to an additional $1 million to promising companies. But the fact is space is expensive and time-consuming, and some need larger sums to complete the tech that NASA has already indicated confidence in or a need for.

Therefore the creation of this new tier of Phase II award: less than a full contract would amount to, but up to $5 million — nothing to sneeze at, and it comes with relatively few strings attached.

The first four companies to collect a check from this new, as yet unnamed program are all pursuing technologies that will be of particular use during the Artemis lunar missions:

  • Fibertek: Optical communications for small spacecraft that would help relay large amounts of data from lunar landers to Earth
  • Qualtech Systems: Autonomous monitoring, fault-prevention and health management systems for spacecraft like the proposed Lunar Gateway and possibly other vehicles and habitats
  • Pioneer Astronautics: Hardware to produce oxygen and steel from lunar regolith — if achieved, an incredibly useful form of high-tech alchemy
  • Protoinnovations: Traction control to improve handling of robotic and crewed rovers on lunar terrain

It’s important to note that these companies aren’t new to the game — they have a long and ongoing relationship with NASA, as SBIR grants take place over multiple years. “Each business has a track record of success with NASA, and we believe their technologies will have a direct impact on the Artemis program,” said NASA’s Jim Reuter in a news release.

The total awarded is $17 million, but NASA, citing ongoing negotiations, could not be more specific about the breakdown except that the amounts awarded fall between $2.5 million and $5 million per company.

I asked the agency for a bit more information on the new program and how companies already in the SBIR system can apply to it or otherwise take advantage of the opportunity, and will update this post if I hear back.

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Watermelon snow shows up on Italian Alps – The Weather Network

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Watermelon snow has appeared atop the Presena Glacier in the Italian Alps.

Researcher Biagio Di Mauro, of the Institute of Polar Sciences at Italy’s National Research Council, told CNN his team went to investigate the site over the weekend and encountered an “impressive bloom” — but that’s bad news for the glacier, as it can speed up melting.

Di Mauro says watermelon snow has been unusually common this year.

He plans to study it in greater detail with the help of satellite data.


File photo courtesy: USDA.

WHAT IS WATERMELON SNOW?

While it is a naturally-occurring phenomenon, watermelon snow is becoming increasingly common in the spring and summer because it requires light, higher temperatures, and water to grow.

“Watermelon snow is formed by an algal species (Chlamydomonas nivalis) containing a red pigment in addition to chlorophyll,” U.S. Geological Survey scientist Joe Giersch said in 2018 in an Instagram post of a photo of watermelon snow that he spotted at Glacier National Park.

This pigment protects the algal chloroplast from solar radiation and absorbs heat, providing the alga with liquid water as the snow melts around it. As snow melts throughout the summer, the algae are concentrated in depressions on the snow surface (which further accelerates melting), with small populations persisting in puddles through the fall.”

Watermelon snow is one of nature’s peculiarities. Scientists don’t fully understand it, or the long-term impact it could have on the environment.

Here’s one thing they do know: Watermelon may look neat but it’s not something conservationists want to see.

According to a study in Nature Communications, red algae can reduce a snow’s albedo — i.e., the ability to reflect light — by up to 13 per cent. That means the snow absorbs more of the sun’s energy and melts faster.

Couple that with a stint of above-seasonal temperatures and you’ve got a recipe for accelerated melting.

Oh, and one more thing: If you come across a patch of watermelon snow don’t eat it. You’ll make yourself sick.

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