NASA will roll its Artemis 1 moon rocket off the launch pad early next week, if all goes according to plan.
The Artemis 1 stack — a giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket topped by an Orion crew capsule — rolled out to Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on March 17 for a crucial series of prelaunch tests known as a “wet dress rehearsal.”
The wet dress began on April 1 and was supposed to wrap up about 48 hours later, with the procedure including loading the SLS with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants and performing several simulated launch countdowns.
But a couple of technical issues, and the April 8 launch of the private Ax-1 astronaut mission from KSC’s Pad 39A, pushed things back considerably. And on Saturday (April 16), mission team members announced a decision that will delay the wet dress even more: They plan to roll the SLS and Orion back into KSC’s giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to address the issues (namely, a faulty valve in the Artemis 1 stack’s mobile launch tower and a hydrogen leak in one of the “umbilical” lines connecting the tower to the rocket).
The rollback will also allow a vendor that supplies KSC with gaseous nitrogen to upgrade its systems, a change that will ultimately benefit the Artemis 1 wet dress and other activities at the center, mission team members said.
Saturday’s announcement didn’t include any proposed timelines, but we got one today (April 18): Although the Artemis 1 team is still analyzing data and mapping out next steps, the plan is to roll back to the VAB early next week.
“We’ll set a time for the roll as we get closer and we get through some of this work based on the weather and some other things, just seeing how the schedule lays out,” Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director with the NASA Exploration Ground Systems program at KSC, said during a call with reporters today. “But currently, Tuesday [April 26] is the timeframe.”
It will likely take the rocket about 12 hours to get back to the VAB, if last month’s rollout from the cavernous facility is any guide. It’s unclear how long the Artemis 1 stack will stay in the building, because the mission team isn’t yet sure how much work they plan to do in there.
For example, they may decide to limit their activities to the minimum required to get the wet dress done, Blackwell-Thompson said. Or the team may end up doing more work, making modifications that will help Artemis 1’s SLS and Orion get ready for their actual launch, which will send the capsule on an uncrewed trip around the moon.
But the team will definitely finish what they started on April 1.
“We’ll absolutely go back out [to the pad]; we’re absolutely going to do a wet dress rehearsal,” Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development at NASA headquarters in Washington, said during today’s call. “It’s just a matter of what’s the right time, what’s the right way to do that.”
NASA had been aiming to launch Artemis 1 as early as mid-June. But that window will be hard to hit given the coming rollback, agency officials said today; we’re unlikely to see a liftoff before July.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.
Scientists Unearth the Mystery of Mirror World to Solve the Hubble Constant Problem – AZoQuantum
According to a new study, an unseen ‘mirror world’ of particles that interacts with the universe solely through gravity might be the key to solving a crucial cosmological issue—the Hubble constant problem.
The Hubble constant is the current rate of cosmic expansion, but the rate predicted by cosmology’s standard model is far slower than the rate discovered by the most accurate local observations. Many cosmologists have attempted to resolve this difference by altering the present cosmological paradigm.
The objective is to do so without jeopardizing the consistency of standard model predictions with many other cosmological phenomena, such as cosmic microwave background.
The issue that scholars like Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico, Fei Ge, and Lloyd Knox at the University of California, Davis, have been seeking to answer is if such a cosmic scenario exists.
Cosmology, according to NASA, is the scientific study of the universe’s large-scale characteristics. Cosmologists investigate topics such as dark matter and dark energy, as well as whether there is only one universe or a multiverse. Cosmology encompasses the entire cosmos, from conception to death, and is full of mysteries and intrigue.
Cyr-Racine, Ge, and Knox have now identified a previously overlooked mathematical characteristic of cosmological models that, in theory, might allow for a quicker expansion rate without affecting the mainstream cosmology model’s most accurately proven other predictions.
Most dimensionless cosmic observables are substantially invariant when gravitational free-fall rates and photon-electron scattering rates are scaled uniformly.
Basically, we point out that a lot of the observations we do in cosmology have an inherent symmetry under rescaling the universe as a whole. This might provide a way to understand why there appears to be a discrepancy between different measurements of the Universe’s expansion rate.
Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of New Mexico
The study was published in Physical Review Letters.
This finding suggests a new way to reconcile measurements of the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure with high Hubble constant H0 values by discovering a cosmological model in which the scaling transformation can be demonstrated without violating any measurements of values not protected by symmetry.
This effort has paved the way for a novel approach to tackling a difficult challenge. Additional model development might provide uniformity to the two remaining constraints: the inferred primordial deuterium and helium abundances.
Researchers are driven to an incredibly fascinating conclusion if the universe is somehow leveraging this symmetry: there is a mirror universe that is remarkably identical to ours but unseen, except through the gravitational influence on this world.
The “mirror world” dark sector would lead to efficient scaling of gravitational free-fall speeds while maintaining the accurately calculated mean photon density now reported.
“In practice, this scaling symmetry could only be realized by including a mirror world in the model—a parallel universe with new particles that are all copies of known particles. The mirror world idea first arose in the 1990s but has not previously been recognized as a potential solution to the Hubble constant problem”, stated Cyr-Racine.
He further explained, “This might seem crazy at face value, but such mirror worlds have a large physics literature in a completely different context since they can help solve important problem in particle physics. Our work allows us to link, for the first time, this large literature to an important problem in cosmology.”
Researchers are also asking if the Hubble constant gap could be caused in part by measurement mistakes, in addition to looking for missing elements in the present cosmological model.
While this is still a possibility, it is worth noting that the disparity has grown in importance as higher-quality data has been included in the analysis, suggesting that the data is not to be blamed.
According to Cyr-Racine, “It went from two and a half Sigma, to three, and three and a half to four Sigma. By now, we are pretty much at the five-Sigma level. That is the key number which makes this a real problem because you have two measurements of the same thing, which if you have a consistent picture of the universe should just be completely consistent with each other, but they differ by a very statistically significant amount.”
He concluded, “That is the premise here and we have been thinking about what could be causing that and why are these measurements discrepant? So that is a big problem for cosmology. We just don’t seem to understand what the universe is doing today.”
Cyr-Racine, F., et al. (2022) Symmetry of Cosmological Observables, a Mirror World Dark Sector, and the Hubble Constant. Physical Review Letters. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.201301.
NASA Voyager 1 Space Probe From the '70s Afflicted by Mysterious Glitch – CNET
NASA’s 45-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft is a marvel. It’s cruising along outside our solar system and still staying in touch with Earth. But it’s presented its team with what NASA is calling a “mystery.” It’s operating normally but sending back some odd telemetry data.
The issue likely traces to Voyager 1’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS), which handles its orientation in space, including the task of keeping its antenna pointed at Earth
“All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid. For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab said in a statement Wednesday.
The data isn’t making sense, but Voyager 1 is maintaining a clear line of communication with home and the problem hasn’t triggered a protective “safe mode.”
The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 andlaunched in the 1970s and have long outlasted their expected lifespans. They’re both in interstellar space, which Voyager 1 and 2 project manager Suzanne Dodd describes as a “high-radiation environment that no spacecraft have flown in before.”
Voyager 1 is roughly 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) away from home. It takes a couple days to send a signal and then hear back, which adds to the challenge of understanding what’s going on. This leaves NASA with a whole lot of unknowns. Is the AACS the culprit or is another system experiencing a glitch? Will Voyager 1 be able to continue its science mission?
There are ways forward from this glitch. Voyager 1 may just live with it. Or a software fix or a switch to backup hardware could be the solution. NASA hopes both Voyagers will continue to send back science data beyond 2025.
Said Dodd, “A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission.”
Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over – Phys.org
With only a test dummy aboard, Boeing’s astronaut capsule pulled up and parked at the International Space Station for the first time Friday, a huge achievement for the company after years of false starts.
With Starliner’s arrival, NASA finally realizes its longtime effort to have crew capsules from competing U.S. companies flying to the space station.
SpaceX already has a running start. Elon Musk’s company pulled off the same test three years ago and has since launched 18 astronauts to the space station, as well as tourists.
“Today marks a great milestone,” NASA astronaut Bob Hines radioed from the orbiting complex. “Starliner is looking beautiful on the front of the station,” he added.
The only other time Boeing’s Starliner flew in space, it never got anywhere near the station, ending up in the wrong orbit.
This time, the overhauled spacecraft made it to the right spot following Thursday’s launch and docked at the station 25 hours later. The automated rendezvous went off without a major hitch, despite the failure of a handful of thrusters.
If the rest of Starliner’s mission goes well, Boeing could be ready to launch its first crew by the end of this year. The astronauts likely to serve on the first Starliner crew joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston as the action unfolded nearly 270 miles (435 kilometers) up.
NASA wants redundancy when it comes to the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s long road with Starliner underscores the importance of having two types of crew capsules. U.S. astronauts were stuck riding Russian rockets once the shuttle program ended, until SpaceX’s first crew flight in 2020.
Boeing’s first Starliner test flight in 2019 was plagued by software errors that cut the mission short and could have doomed the spacecraft. Those were corrected, but when the new capsule awaited liftoff last summer, corroded valves halted the countdown. More repairs followed, as Boeing chalked up nearly $600 million in do-over costs.
Before letting Starliner get close to the space station Friday, Boeing ground controllers practiced maneuvering the capsule and tested its robotic vision system. Everything checked out well, Boeing said, except for a cooling loop and four failed thrusters. The capsule held a steady temperature, however, and had plenty of other thrusters for steering.
Once Starliner was within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of the space station, Boeing flight controllers in Houston could see the space station through the capsule’s cameras. “We’re waving. Can you see us?” joked Hines.
There was only silence from Starliner. The commander’s seat was occupied once again by the mannequin dubbed Rosie the Rocketeer, a space-age version of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter.
The gleaming white-with-blue-trim capsule hovered 33 feet (10 meters) from the station for close to two hours—considerably longer than planned—as flight controllers adjusted its docking ring and ensured everything else was in order. When the green light finally came, Starliner closed the gap in four minutes, eliciting cheers in Boeing’s control center. Applause erupted once the latches were tightly secured.
“These last 48 hours have just been a barnstorm, so it’s going to be very good to sleep tonight,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and director of Boeing’s commercial crew program.
It was a double celebration for NASA’s commercial crew program director Steve Stich, who turned 57 Friday. “What an incredible birthday it was,” he told reporters.
The space station‘s seven astronauts will unload groceries and gear from Starliner and pack it up with experiments. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that splashes down off the Florida coast, Starliner will aim for a landing in New Mexico next Wednesday.
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