SpaceX will launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a critical abort test Saturday morning (Jan. 18), and you can watch it live online.
The private spaceflight company will use an expendable Falcon 9 rocket to launch the uncrewed spacecraft from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT). If the test flight, known as an in-flight abort, is successful, it will prove that the Crew Dragon has what it takes to keep onboard astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during launch.
You can watch the launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at about 7:40 a.m. EST (1240 GMT). You can also watch the launch directly from SpaceX here, or from NASA here. NASA’s webcast will begin at 7:45 a.m. EST (1245 GMT).
This is SpaceX’s second launch of the year and the second in just two weeks. The mission will also mark the third time SpaceX has flown a Falcon 9 first-stage booster for the fourth time; this booster previously hoisted the first satellite for Bangladesh, an Indonesian communications satellite, and more than 60 satellites as part of a rideshare mission.
This test is the last major milestone SpaceX must complete before it can launch astronauts to the International Space Station. The company successfully launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the space station in March 2019, as part of a mission called Demo-1. That spacecraft was later destroyed during ground testing of the abort system.
SpaceX made upgrades to the spacecraft to prevent such an anomaly from happening again, and then performed subsequent tests that showed the abort system was ready to be tested in flight.
The Crew Dragon capsule is equipped with special abort engines that will pull the spacecraft away from its rocket if there’s an anomaly during flight. In October 2018, a similar abort system on a Russian Soyuz rocket carried NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to safety when their booster failed during flight.
Shortly after liftoff on Saturday, onboard software will intentionally trigger the spacecraft’s launch-abort system midflight. That system, which comprises eight SuperDraco abort engines built into the spacecraft’s hull, will pull the Crew Dragon free of its launcher before performing a parachute-aided ocean landing. A recovery vessel will be standing by to scoop up the Crew Dragon and return it to land.
SpaceX is one of two commercial companies (Boeing is the other) that NASA contracted to build private space taxis to fly astronauts to and from the space station. Boeing’s astronaut-toting spacecraft, called Starliner, recently completed its own orbital flight test. However, that spacecraft suffered a mission clock failure that prevented it from reaching the space station.
Weather conditions are predicted to be 90% favorable for the launch Saturday morning during the planned 4-hour window, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, which performs weather assessments for space launches. “The primary weather concern is flight through precipitation,” launch weather officer Mike McAleenan said during a prelaunch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Friday (Jan. 17)
Although the weather looks good for a launch, strong winds and ocean waves could potentially impede Crew Dragon’s recovery after it splashes down in the Atlantic. Those winds and waves should calm down closer to the end of the 4-hour launch window, McAleenan added.
If SpaceX cannot launch its in-flight abort test mission Saturday, the company has backup launch opportunities on both Sunday, Jan. 19 and Monday, Jan. 20 at the same time.
Visit Space.com for complete coverage of SpaceX’s in-flight abort launch.
Marsquakes caused by tectonic activity, NASA’s InSight probe confirms – BBC Focus Magazine
400 Marsquakes detected by UK sensors in one year – Famagusta Gazette
The seismicity of Mars – Phys.org
On 26 November 2018, the NASA InSight lander successfully set down on Mars in the Elysium Planitia region. Seventy Martian days later, the mission’s seismometer SEIS began recording the planet’s vibrations. A team of researchers and engineers at ETH Zurich, led by ETH Professor Domenico Giardini, had delivered the SEIS control electronics and is responsible for the Marsquake Service. The latter is in charge of the daily interpretation of the data transmitted from Mars, in collaboration with the Swiss Seismological Service at ETH Zurich. Now, the journal Nature Geoscience published a series of articles on the results of the mission in the first months of operation on Mars.
As reported in these articles, InSight recorded 174 events until the end of September 2019. Since then, the measurements have continued leading to more than 450 observed marsquakes as of today, which have not yet been analysed in detail. This accounts for one event a day on average.
The data allows researchers observing how seismic waves travel through the planet and unveiling its internal characteristics—similar to how x-rays are used in medical tomography. Before InSight landed, researchers had developed a wide range of possible models to represent the internal structure of the red planet. The recorded marsquakes, already after few months, enable refining the understanding of the structure of the planet and to reduce the uncertainties.
Interpreting marsquake data is challenging
Marsquakes are similar to the seismic events we see on Earth, although they are generally of smaller magnitude. The 174 registered marsquakes can be categorized in two families: One includes 24 low-frequency events with magnitudes between 3 and 4, as documented in the papers, with waves propagating through the Martian mantle. A second family of marsquakes comprises 150 events with smaller magnitudes, shallower hypocentral depth and high frequency waves trapped in the Martian crust.
“Marsquakes have characteristics already observed on the Moon during the Apollo era, with a long signal duration (10 to 20 minutes) due to the scattering properties of the Martian crust,” explains ETH Professor Giardini. In general, however, he says, interpreting marsquake data is very challenging and in most cases, it is only possible to identify the distance but not the direction from which the waves are arriving.
InSight landed on a thin, sandy layer
InSight opens a new era for planetary seismology. The SEIS performance exceeded so far expectations, considering the harsh conditions on Mars, characterized by temperatures ranging from minus 80 to 0 degrees Celsius every day and by strong wind oscillations. Indeed wind shakes the InSight lander and its instrumentation during the day leading to a high level of ambient noise. However, at sunset, the winds calm down allowing recording the quietest seismic data ever collected in the solar system. As a result, most seismic events detected on Mars by SEIS occurred in the quiet night hours. The challenging environment also requires to carefully distinguishing between seismic events and signals originating from movements of the lander, other instruments or atmospheric-induced perturbances.
The hammering by the HP3 instrument (another InSight experiment) and the close passage of whirlwinds (dust devils), recorded by SEIS, allow to map the physical properties of the shallow soil layers just below the station. We now know that SEIS landed on a thin, sandy layer reaching a few meters deep, in the middle of a 20 meter-wide ancient impact crater. At greater depths, the Martian crust has properties comparable to Earth’s crystalline massifs but appears to be more fractured. The propagation of the seismic waves suggest that the upper mantle has a stronger attenuation compared to the lower mantle.
Seismic activity also induced by tectonic stress
InSight landed in a rather quiet region of Mars, as no events near the station have been recorded up to now. The three biggest events were located in the Cerberus Fossae region about 1’500 km away. It is a tectonic graben system, caused by the weight of the Elysium Mons, the biggest volcano in the Elysium Planitia area. This provides strong evidence that seismic activity on Mars is not only a consequence of the cooling and therewith the shrinking of the planet but also induced by tectonic stress. The total seismic energy released on Mars lies between the one of Earth and of the Moon.
SEIS, complementary to other InSight measurements, also meaningfully contributed data to better understand the meteorological processes on Mars. The instrument’s sensitivity to both wind and atmospheric pressure allowed identifying meteorological phenomena characteristic of Mars, including the many dust devils that pass by the spacecraft every afternoon.
W. Bruce Banerdt et al. Initial results from the InSight mission on Mars, Nature Geoscience (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0544-y
D. Giardini et al. The seismicity of Mars, Nature Geoscience (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0539-8
P. Lognonné et al. Constraints on the shallow elastic and anelastic structure of Mars from InSight seismic data, Nature Geoscience (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0536-y
The seismicity of Mars (2020, February 24)
retrieved 25 February 2020
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