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Boeing and NASA launch Starliner space capsule for a rendezvous with International Space Station – HT Tech



Boeing Co. and NASA launched the long-delayed Starliner space capsule for a planned rendezvous with the International Space Station, following two earlier failed attempts for a program that has bedeviled the company and left SpaceX as the only American option for ferrying astronauts.

Boeing Co. and NASA launched the long-delayed Starliner space capsule for a planned rendezvous with the International Space Station, following two earlier failed attempts for a program that has bedeviled the company and left SpaceX as the only American option for ferrying astronauts.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched the craft, without crew, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:54 p.m. ET Thursday for a day-long cruise to the space station.

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The CST-100 Starship is scheduled to arrive about 24 hours later on Friday and plans to test multiple docking technologies that Boeing was unable to perform during a December 2019 flight cut short by software flaws.

Boeing and NASA engineers are exploring why two of the 12 thrusters situated at the aft of the spacecraft failed during a key maneuvering burn, although flight computers quickly switched to other thrusters, NASA’s commercial crew program manager Steve Stich said in a news briefing hours after the launch. The thrust system is also used in early phases of the Starliner’s approach to the space station and when it de-orbits to commence its return to Earth.

“The system is designed to be redundant and worked as designed, and now the team is working on why we had those anomalies occur,” said Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner manager. Engineers may be able to resolve the thruster issues during the flight, Stich said.

A system that removes heat from the spacecraft interior, called a sublimator, also performed “sluggishly” during the ascent and will be probed, Stich said.

The test flight comes at a critical moment for Boeing, which is trying to overcome years of challenges with Starliner’s development. Boeing has tallied $595 million in extraordinary charges to cover Starliner delays, including $185 million last October. Moreover, Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun is under fire from customers and investors as Boeing struggles to meet deadlines and technical standards across its product lineup.

“We wouldn’t be here right now if we weren’t confident this would be a successful mission,” astronaut Butch Wilmore said Wednesday during a prelaunch news briefing with NASA officials. Wilmore was joined by astronauts Sunita Williams and Mark Fincke; the three have been working with Boeing on the development, and each is hoping to be selected for a future Starliner flight.

Second Transport

NASA is keen to gain a second transport option for its commercial crew program, a goal set eight years ago with contract awards to Boeing and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to build and operate vehicles to fly astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX has flown four astronaut rotations to the ISS, with its last launch on April 27 and the fifth planned for September.

Getting the vessel aloft has been just one of multiple challenges confronting Boeing, including delays in delivering its flagship wide-body commercial aircraft, the 787, and parts shortages that have slowed output of the best-selling 737 Max. Boeing is also involved with the ongoing work to ready a separate NASA project, the massive SLS rocket for moon missions, for a launch after years of delays and cost overruns.

If the flight test doesn’t uncover any additional large issues, the plan is to have the program ready for a flight test with astronauts by the end of 2022. Starliner’s regular ISS crew rotations would then begin in 2023, barring further glitches.

The last Starliner launch attempt, in August, was scrubbed after multiple valves on the propulsion system used in space became unresponsive shortly before the planned flight. That prompted extensive testing and led engineers to better seal the valves and prevent moisture seepage, which was believed to have contributed to a chemical reaction that prevented their operation.

The prior 2019 attempt, in which the Starliner spent 48 hours in orbit, was marred by what a NASA review panel later deemed two “critical software defects.” The Starliner suffered a problem with its mission timing software shortly after reaching space, with the craft showing an elapsed time 11 hours different from the actual mission time. That caused it to fire multiple thrusters too early, burning too much propellant to allow for the craft to continue to the space station. Five months later, Boeing said it wanted to perform a second uncrewed demonstration flight.

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Facial Recognition—Now for Seals – Hakai Magazine



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Have you ever looked at a seal and thought, Is that the same seal I saw yesterday? Well, there could soon be an app for that based on new seal facial recognition technology. Known as SealNet, this seal face-finding system was developed by a team of undergraduate students from Colgate University in New York.

Taking inspiration from other technology adapted for recognizing primates and bears, Krista Ingram, a biologist at Colgate University, led the students in developing software that uses deep learning and a convolutional neural network to tell one seal face from another. SealNet is tailored to identify the harbor seal, a species with a penchant for posing on coasts in haulouts.

The team had to train their software to identify seal faces. “I give it a photograph, it finds the face, [and] clips it to a standard size,” says Ingram. But then she and her students would manually identify the nose, the mouth, and the center of the eyes.

For the project, team members snapped more than 2,000 pictures of seals around Casco Bay, Maine, during a two-year period. They tested the software using 406 different seals and found that SealNet could correctly identify the seals’ faces 85 percent of the time. The team has since expanded its database to include around 1,500 seal faces. As the number of seals logged in the database goes up, so too should the accuracy of the identification, Ingram says.

The developers of SealNet trained a neural network to tell harbor seals apart using photos of 406 different seals. Photo courtesy of Birenbaum et al.

As with all tech, however, SealNet is not infallible. The software saw seal faces in other body parts, vegetation, and even rocks. In one case, Ingram and her students did a double take at the uncanny resemblance between a rock and a seal face. “[The rock] did look like a seal face,” Ingram says. “The darker parts were about the same distance as the eyes … so you can understand why the software found a face.” Consequently, she says it’s always best to manually check that seal faces identified by the software belong to a real seal.

Like a weary seal hauling itself onto a beach for an involuntary photo shoot, the question of why this is all necessary raises itself. Ingram believes SealNet could be a useful, noninvasive tool for researchers.

Of the world’s pinnipeds—a group that includes seals, walruses, and sea lions—harbor seals are considered the most widely dispersed. Yet knowledge gaps do exist. Other techniques to track seals, such as tagging and aerial monitoring, have their limitations and can be highly invasive or expensive.

Ingram points to site fidelity as an aspect of seal behavior that SealNet could shed more light on. The team’s trials indicated that some harbor seals return to the same haulout sites year after year. Other seals, however, such as two animals the team nicknamed Clove and Petal, appeared at two different sites together. Increasing scientists’ understanding of how seals move around could strengthen arguments for protecting specific areas, says Anders Galatius, an ecologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who was not involved in the project.

Galatius, who is responsible for monitoring Denmark’s seal populations, says the software “shows a lot of promise.” If the identification rates are improved, it could be paired with another photo identification method that identifies seals by distinctive markings on their pelage, he says.

In the future, after further testing, Ingram hopes to develop an app based on SealNet. The app, she says, could possibly allow citizen scientists to contribute to logging seal faces. The program could also be adapted for other pinnipeds and possibly even for cetaceans.

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NASA launches nanosatellite in preparation for lunar 'Gateway' station – Yahoo News Canada



The rocket carrying the Capstone satellite lifts off. (NASA)

Nasa has launched a tiny CubeSat this week to test and orbit which will soon be used by Gateway, a lunar space station.

It’s all part of the space agency’s plan to put a woman on the moon by 2025.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (Capstone) mission launched from New Zealand on Tuesday.

Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, said: “Capstone is an example of how working with commercial partners is key for Nasa’s ambitious plans to explore the moon and beyond.

“We’re thrilled with a successful start to the mission and looking forward to what Capstone will do once it arrives at the Moon.”

Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth

The satellite is currently in low-Earth orbit, and it will take the spacecraft about four months to reach its targeted lunar orbit.

Capstone is attached to Rocket Lab’s Lunar Photon, an interplanetary third stage that will send it on its way to deep space.

Over the next six days, Photon’s engine will periodically ignite to accelerate it beyond low-Earth orbit, where Photon will release the CubeSat on a trajectory to the moon.

Capstone will then use its own propulsion and the sun’s gravity to navigate the rest of the way to the Moon.

The gravity-driven track will dramatically reduce the amount of fuel the CubeSat needs to get to the Moon.

Read more: There might once have been life on the moon

Bradley Cheetham, principal investigator for CAPSTONE and chief executive officer of Advanced Space, “Our team is now preparing for separation and initial acquisition for the spacecraft in six days.

“We have already learned a tremendous amount getting to this point, and we are passionate about the importance of returning humans to the Moon, this time to stay!”

At the moon, Capstone will enter an elongated orbit called a near rectilinear halo orbit, or NRHO.

Once in the NRHO, Capstone will fly within 1,000 miles of the moon’s north pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the south pole at its farthest.

It will repeat the cycle every six-and-a-half days and maintain this orbit for at least six months to study dynamics.

“Capstone is a pathfinder in many ways, and it will demonstrate several technology capabilities during its mission timeframe while navigating a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon,” said Elwood Agasid, project manager for Capstone at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

“Capstone is laying a foundation for Artemis, Gateway, and commercial support for future lunar operations.”

Nasa estimates the cost of the whole Artemis mission at $28bn.

It would be the first time people have walked on the moon since the last Apollo moon mission in 1972.

Just 12 people have walked on the moon – all men.

Nasa flew six manned missions to the surface of the moon, beginning with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969, up to Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in December 1972.

The mission will use Nasa’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion spacecraft.

Watch: NASA launch paves way for moon orbit station

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The year’s biggest and brightest supermoon will appear in July & here’s when you’ll … – Curiocity



Summer is here and with it? Sunshine – and some serious moonshine (of the visible variety, of course). This upcoming month, look up in anticipation of the biggest and brightest event of the year, the July Buck supermoon – which will hover over North America on July 13th.

Appearing 7% larger and lower in the sky, this particular event will be one well worth keeping an eye on when it rises above the horizon.

This will be the closest we’ll get to our celestial neighbour in 2022 (357,418 km) and while North America won’t get to see it when it reaches peak illumination at 2:38 pm ETC., it’ll still look pretty dang impressive after the sunsets.

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Not sure when the moon rises in your area? Here’s the earliest that you’ll be able to see the moon in various cities across the continent according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

  • Seattle, Washington  – 9:50 pm PDT
  • Vancouver, British Columbia – 10:02 pm PDT
  • Calgary, Alberta – 10:35 pm MST
  • Edmonton, Alberta – 10:49 pm MST
  • Toronto, Ontario – 9:34 pm MST
  • Montreal, Quebec – 9:18 pm MST

Until then, cross your fingers for a clear sky, friends! It’s going to be incredible.

Happy viewing.


When: Wednesday, July 13th

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