China on Friday celebrated 61 years of communist rule with the launch of its second lunar probe -- the next step in its ambitious program to become the second country to put a man on the moon.
A Long March 3C rocket carrying the Chang'e-2, which is due to go into orbit within 15 kilometers (nine miles) of the moon, blasted off from the launch center in Xichang in the southwestern province of Sichuan, state media said.
China Central Television briefly showed images of the rocket blasting off into the night sky -- a few seconds after lift-off -- before shifting to scenes inside the launch center and computerized models of the rocket's flight.
The unmanned probe will conduct various tests over a six-month period in preparation for the expected launch in 2013 of the Chang'e-3, which China hopes will be its first unmanned landing on the moon.
"Chang'e-2 lays a foundation for the soft-landing on the moon and the further exploration of outer space," the official Xinhua news agency quoted the chief designer of China's lunar orbiter project, Wu Weiren, as saying.
"It travels faster and closer to the moon, and it will capture clear pictures."
The probe successfully entered its trans-lunar orbit, Xinhua said. It will take five days for the Chang'e-2 to arrive at its lunar orbit.
It will first circle the moon at a distance of 100 kilometers, before hopefully dropping into orbit 15 kilometers from the moon's surface.
The control center declared the launch a success, Xinhua said, after the solar panels of the probe were unfolded and the satellite began to use solar energy for power supply.
The Chang'e program, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is seen as an effort to put China's space exploration program on a par with those of the United States and Russia.
The first lunar probe, launched in October 2007, was in orbit for 16 months.
Beijing hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission penciled in for around 2020, according to state media.
The launch day was symbolic as it is China's National Day, which marks Mao Zedong's proclamation of the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.
People arrived early to watch the take-off, an employee at the launch site's tourism department, who refused to be named, told AFP.
"A stand has been built for them, and tickets cost 800 yuan (120 dollars)," she said, adding the whole area had been sealed off.
China sees its space program as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the formerly poverty-stricken nation.
It became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently -- after the United States and Russia -- when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.
In September 2008, the Shenzhou-7, piloted by three astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.
The Americans have achieved the only manned lunar missions, making six trips from 1969 to 1972.
Beijing has other significant Asian competitors to reckon with as it vies to become the second nation to put a man on the moon.
India landed a lunar probe in 2008, and a top official said in January it was targeting a manned space mission in 2016. Japan, meanwhile, launched its first lunar satellite in June last year.
Earlier this year, China postponed the next step in its space station program -- the placement of the Tiangong-1 space module in orbit -- until 2011 for technical reasons, state media reported.
The Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace," is seen as the building block of China's maiden space station. Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, it would provide a "safe room" for astronauts to live in and conduct research in zero gravity.
After being placed in orbit, the Tiangong-1 would dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in the country's first space docking -- a feat to be controlled remotely by scientists on the ground.
Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, carrying two to three astronauts, would dock with the orbiting module in successive years, officials have said.
The International Space Station began with the launch into orbit of the first station element, a Russian-built module, in 1998. The first full-time crew arrived two years later.
Ares I-X Mission Updates - The USA's Successor to the Space Shuttle
Tue, 27 Oct 2009 05:08:16 AM EDT
Glowing in the brilliant-white xenon lights around Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the Ares I-X flight test rocket is poised for an 8 a.m. EDT Oct 27 liftoff.
You can follow the countdown live on our official launch blog at: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/ares/flighttests/aresIx/launch_blog.html, and on NASA TV, which is also streaming live at www.nasa.gov/ntv.
As of the 2 a.m. EDT Oct 27 weather update, today's forecast still remains at 60 percent "no-go" due to possible clouds and precipitation in the launch area. A new weather balloon was just released and weather updates will continue throughout the countdown today.
The launch team's "call to stations" came at 12:30 a.m., and the countdown picked up a half hour later. The team will count down to the only built-in hold in the Ares I-X countdown, coming at the T-4 minute mark. This hold will last for 20 minutes. The launch window for today extends until noon.
Launch Complex 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and xenon
lights illuminate the Ares I-X rocket awaiting liftoff of its flight
test. Image credit: NASA TV
Launch Date: Oct. 27
Launch Time: 8 a.m. EDT
Launch Pad: 39B
Launch Site: NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida
NASA's first flight test for the agency's next-generation spacecraft and launch vehicle system, called Ares I-X, will bring NASA one step closer to its exploration goals. The flight test will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove flight characteristics, hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I.
› Prelaunch Events and Countdown Details
› Ares I-X Press Kit (PDF, 3.2 MB )
› Ares I-X Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.0 MB)
› Ares I-X Mission Specifications (PDF, 8 MB)
› Status Reports
› Management Bios
› Ares I-X Integration Map (PDF, 4 MB)
› Comment on the upcoming Ares I-X launch
The Moon Impact Probe was successfully crash-landed on the lunar surface on 14 November 2008, 20:31 Indian Standard Time (15:01 UTC) near the south pole. MIP is one of the 11 other scientific instruments (payloads) on board Chandrayaan-1. India became the fourth nation to have its flag on the Moon's surface, and the first to make a controlled lunar descent since Soviet probe Luna 24 in 1976.
MIP separated from Chandrayaan-1 at 20:06 hrs IST, starting its 25 minute journey to the lunar surface. After separation it fired its spin up rockets, it then fired its retro rocket to start its descent. As it fell it kept sending information back to the mother satellite which beamed the information back to earth. The probe functioning terminated after its planned hard landing on the lunar surface.
The Moon Impact Probe (MIP) developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India's national space agency, was a lunar probe carried by Chandrayaan-1, an unmanned lunar exploration mission of the ISRO.
The spacecraft was launched along with Chandrayaan-1 by a modified version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 22 October 2008 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Chandrayaan-1 was successfully put into lunar orbit on 8th November 2008.
It was ejected when Chandrayaan-1 reached the 100 km circular polar orbit around the Moon, to impact on the Moon's surface and went into a free fall for 30 minutes. The MIP also depicted pictures of the Indian flag on its sides. With this India became the fourth nation to have an image of its flag deposited on the surface of the Moon after the Soviet Union, United States and Japan.
The probe crashed into the Moon at 8:31 PM, 14 November 2008 IST at a speed of 1.6 kilometers per second, or 5,760 kilometers per hour (3,579 mph). It is currently unknown if the Indian flag image survived the impact without much damage.
The primary objective of the mission was to demonstrate the technologies required for crash landing a probe within a specified location on the Moon, and qualify some of the technologies required for any future soft landing missions.
The MIP carried three instruments:
Yahoo, India Moon Mission]
NSSDC ID: 2008-051A
The Interstellar Boundary EXplorer (IBEX) is an Earth-orbiting mission designed to make observations beyond the solar system's termination shock using energetic neutral atoms (ENAs). The spacecraft is equipped with two large aperture imagers which detect ENAs with energies from 10 eV to 2 keV (IBEX-Lo) and 300 eV to 6 keV (IBEX-Hi). On 19 October 2008 at 17:48 UT (1:48 p.m. EDT) IBEX was launched on a Pegasus XL rocket from an L-1011 aircraft flying about 200 km north of Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific. The Pegasus was put it into a 100 km low Earth orbit. Its solid rocket motor was then put it into a highly elliptical 11 degree inclination orbit an apogee of about 320,000 km to put it beyond interference from the Earth's magnetic field. The spacecraft propulsion system raised the perigee to 7000 km and leave IBEX in an eight day orbit, spinning at 4 rpm with a sun-facing axis. The mission is planned for a 24 month operations period with the possibility of extension.
The spacecraft is built on an octagonal base, roughly 58 cm high and 95 cm across. The dry mass is 80 kg of which the instrument payload comprises 26 kg. The fully fueled mass is 107 kg, and the entire flight system launch mass, including the ATK Star 27 solid rocket motor, is 462 kg. The spacecraft itself has a hydrazine attitude control system. Power is produced by a solar array with a 116 W capability, nominal power use is 66 W (16 W for the payload). Communications are via two hemispherical antennas with a nominal downlink data rate of 320 kbps and an uplink rate of 2 kbps.
For more detailed information see the IBEX mission page at: http://ibex.swri.edu/mission/index.shtml
IBEX Mapping Solar System's Unseen Boundary
BY KULVINDER SINGH CHADHA
from ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 2009 JANUARY 19
NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission has
IBEX is an ingenious spacecraft that uses energetic neutral atom (ENA) imaging to create images of the interactions between the one million kilometre-per-hour solar wind (blown out in all directions by the Sun) and the low-density material that lies between the stars (the interstellar medium). The solar wind 'blows out' a bubble in the intersetallr medium, called the heliosphere. The boundary where the heliosphere meets the interstellar medium is considered to be the end of the Solar System environment, and the beginning of interstellar space.
The interactions at the boundary create neutral atoms, some of which rebound back towards Earth, and it is these that IBEX uses in its map-creation. They rebound from the edge with speeds between 100 kilometres and 36 million kilometres per hour. Each ENA sensor uses a charge-exchange process that converts incoming neutral atoms into charged ions, enabling them to be analyzed.
"We are seeing fabulous initial results from IBEX, but just as
IBEX's initial mapping of the boundary between the heliosphere and the interstellar medium, using the high-speed neutral atoms originating from the boundary (click for larger image). Image: Southwest Research Institute.
IBEX’s sensors look out from opposite sides of the spacecraft, perpendicular to the craft’s Sun-orientated spin axis. As IBEX spins at four revolutions per minute, the incoming ENAs fill in the pixels to gradually build a circular swath that appears as a crescent on the map. As the spacecraft's spin axis tracks the Sun, the swaths move across the sky to complete the image in the way McComas describes.
IBEX will not only enable researchers to examine the dynamics of the outer heliosphere, it will also address a serious issue facing manned exploration by studying the region that shields Earth from the Galactic cosmic rays.
"The space physics community is holding its collective breath waiting for these maps, which will provide a much deeper understanding of the Sun's interaction with the Galaxy," says McComas. "We expect the first complete image, due this summer, to tell us a great deal about the heliosphere's fundamental nature."
McComas will give a talk today at the ‘Voyagers in the
Heliosheath’ meeting, held in Kauai, Hawaii, on IBEX.
The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is a NASA satellite that will make the first map of the boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space. The mission is part of NASA's Small Explorer program. IBEX was launched on a Pegasus-XL rocket on October 19, 2008, at 17:47:23 GMT. The nominal mission baseline duration will be two years to image the entire solar system boundary.
The mission is being led by the Southwest Research Institute, with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center serving as Co-Investigator institutions responsible for the IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo sensors respectively. Orbital Sciences Corporation provided the spacecraft bus and was the location for spacecraft environmental testing.
The heliospheric boundary of the solar system will be imaged by measuring the location and magnitude of charge-exchange collisions occurring in all directions that will ultimately yield a map of the termination shock of the solar wind. The satellite's payload consists of two energetic neutral atom (ENA) imagers, IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo. Each of these sensors consists of a collimator that limits field of view, a conversion surface to convert neutral hydrogen and oxygen into ions, an electrostatic analyzer to suppress ultraviolet light and select ions of a specific energy range, and a detector to identify particle counts and the identity of each ion. IBEX-Hi will record particle counts at a higher energy band than IBEX-Lo. The payload also includes a Combined Electronics Unit (CEU) that controls the voltages on the collimator and ESA and will read and record data from the particle detectors of each sensor.
The satellite is a sun-oriented spinner in a highly-eccentric elliptical Earth orbit, ranging from 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi) at perigee to 250,000–300,000 kilometres (160,000–190,000 mi) or three-quarters the distance to the moon at apogee and allowing it to move out of the Earth's magnetosphere when performing science operations. This is critical due to the large degree of interference that would occur while imaging within the magnetosphere. When within the magnetosphere of the Earth (70,000 kilometres/43,000 miles), the satellite will perform housekeeping operations such as downlink. The spacecraft used a solid fuel rocket motor as a final boost stage to achieve this elliptical orbit.
IBEX was carried into space October 19, 2008 by a Pegasus XL rocket. The Pegasus was released from a Lockheed L-1011 aircraft that took off from Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. The drop occurred at 17:47:23 GMT which was 1:47:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time. By launching from a site closer to the equator, the Pegasus lifted as much as 35 pounds (16 kg) more mass to orbit than it would have with a launch from Kennedy Space Center.
IBEX was mated to its Pegasus XL at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and the combined vehicle was then mated to the L-1011 carrier aircraft. The L-1011 arrived at Kwajalein Atoll Sunday, Oct. 12.
JAPANESE LUNAR MISSION FAILS TO DETECT MORE WATER ON THE MOON
Written by Ian O'Neill
It's been a long-held belief that the Moon is hiding significant quantities of water ice, safe from the Sun's ablative effects inside shady craters. One such crater is called Shackleton at the lunar South Pole and previous Moon missions have indicated it might hold a large reservoir of ice for all the water needs of future Moon colonists. Alas, the Japanese lunar mission Kaguya (or the Selenological and Engineering Explorer - "SELENE") has taken a peek into the crater to find… nothing. At least, it hasn't spotted any significant quantities of surface ice. So where does this leave future lunar colonies?
NASA's 1998 Lunar Prospector also had mixed results. Using its Neutron Spectrometer (NS) instrument, the probe had detected large quantities of water, leading NASA to make the estimate that 3 billion metric tons of water ice was located at or near the surface of the Moon in its polar regions. However, when the mission ended in 1999, the Lunar Prospector was deliberately crashed into a crater in the lunar South Pole in the hope of kicking up a plume of lunar surface material and detecting water ice from Earth. Unfortunately, no water was discovered. (Out of interest, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, set for launch in April 2009, has a similar suicidal goal to put a divot in the Moon.)
Now, using the Japanese lunar mission Kaguya, scientists have taken the opportunity to have a closer look into the Shackleton crater, the most likely candidate to have a supply of water ice shaded from the Sun. As there is no atmosphere (apart from some very tenuous outgassed chemicals), sunlight cannot be scattered into the bottom of the crater to illuminate its surface. However, scientists have taken images during lunar mid-summer when enough light is scattered off the crater's upper inner wall to faintly brighten the darkness below.
Although it is very cold inside the crater (-183°C or -297°F), certainly ideal conditions to preserve ice, there is no visual evidence of any surface ice at all.
Although this isn't great news for future lunar colonists, don't pack up your Moon buggies quite yet. The Japanese team have concluded that although there is no visual brightening due to ice, water ice may be mixed in low quantities with the lunar dirt. Or there's simply no ice in Shackleton crater. Either way, I wouldn't suggest mounting a manned expedition to Shackleton any time soon…
SELENE (Ancient Greek: Σελήνη, moon), better known in Japan by its nickname Kaguya (かぐや, Kaguya?), is the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft.Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA), the spacecraft was launched September 14, 2007. Produced by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and NASDA (both organizations that are now part of the
The name stands for Selenological and Engineering Explorer; Selene was a lunar deity in Greek mythology. The orbiter's nickname, Kaguya, which was selected by the general public, derives from the name of a lunar princess in the ancient Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. After the successful release of its sub-satellites Rstar and Vstar, they were named Okina and Ouna, also from folklore.
SELENE comes as part of a renewed interest in lunar exploration, being "the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program", and following up on Japan's first lunar probe, Hagoromo, launched in 1990. China launched its Chang'e 1 lunar explorer on October 24, 2007, followed by India's 22 October 2008 launch of Chandrayaan, the United States is also planning to launch its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in late 2008. The United States, European countries (ESA), Russia, Japan, India and China are planning future manned lunar exploration missions or Lunar outpost construction on the moon between 2018 and 2025.
The main scientific objectives of the mission are:
SELENE launched at 01:31:01, September 14, 2007 UTC on an H-IIA (Model H2A2022) carrier rocket from Tanegashima Space Center into a 281.55 km (perigee) / 232960 km (apogee) geocentric parking orbit.  The total launch mass was 3020 kg.
The SELENE mission was originally scheduled to launch in 2003, but rocket failures on another mission and technical difficulties delayed the launch until 2007. Launch was planned for August 16, 2007, but was postponed due to the discovery that some electronic components were installed incorrectly.
On October 3, it reached the moon and entered an initial 101 by 11741 km polar orbit. On October 9, the relay satellite was released to an approximately 100 by 2400 km orbit, and on October 12 the VLBI satellite was released to an approximately 100 by 800 km orbit. Finally, by October 19, the orbiter moved to an approximately 100 km circular orbit. The nominal operation of the mission is one year, with extension if possible.
JAXA announced on October 31, 2007 that Kaguya deployed its Lunar Magnetometer, Lunar Radar Sounder, as well as the Earth-looking Upper Atmosphere and Plasma Imager.
JAXA announced on December 21, 2007 that the operation mode of the lunar explorer, KAGUYA, was shifted to regular operations from its initial verification on December 21, 2007 (Japan Standard Time) as they were able to acquire satisfactory verification results for all fifteen observation missions.
There are three separate units comprising the spacecraft.
The main orbiter is a rectangular box measuring about 2.1 m by 4.2 m, with a launch mass of about 2914 kg.
Okina, a small relay satellite (formerly called Rstar) and Ouna, a VLBI satellite (formerly called Vstar) are both octagonal prisms. The relay satellite relays the radio wave from the Earth to the orbiter and also the opposite direction, when the orbiter is hidden behind the moon, to measure the Doppler shift.
The Vstar (Very Long Baseline Interferometry satellite) will be used to measure the moon's gravity field, especially of the lunar limb area, where the Doppler shift method cannot be used.
SELENE carries 13 scientific instruments, including imagers, a radar sounder, a laser altimeter, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and a gamma ray spectrometer. Their objectives are "to obtain scientific data of the lunar origin and evolution and to develop the technology for the future lunar exploration", according to the official website.
Along with scientific instruments, JAXA collected names and messages to be carried on SELENE through their "Wish Upon the Moon" campaign. The 412,627 names and messages collected were printed on a sheet measuring 280 mm × 160 mm, at a size of 70 µm per character. The sheet was installed under the photovoltaic modules and the cooling panels for the instruments, beneath the multi-layered insulation.
t] External links
Wikinews has related news:
India will launch its first unmanned mission to the Moon on October 22, the country's space officials say, weather conditions permitting.
The spacecraft, named Chandrayaan-1, will orbit the Moon, surveying its surface with high-resolution equipment.
The launch had been scheduled for April, but was pushed back due to technical problems.
The project will cost $83m and has the direct involvement of six other countries, including the US and Europe.
Over the next two years, it will survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and its three-dimensional topography.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting the mission, supplying three instruments.
These will investigate the Moon's surface and near-surface composition, and the way the lunar body interacts with the fast-moving particles streaming away from the Sun.
Chandrayaan-1 will also drop a small impact probe on to the lunar surface to test its properties.
India announced its Moon mission in 2003.
It has also announced plans to send a man to the Moon in the next few years.
The government's lunar activities have not been welcomed by all, however.
Critics say it is "over ambitious" and a "waste of resources" in a country where millions still lack basic services.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), was founded in 1969, and launched its first satellite in 1975.
Since then, it has developed a number of launch vehicles as well as satellites for Earth observation, telecommunications and weather forecasting.
Together with China and Japan, it is part of a fast-developing Asian space sector.UPDATE BELOW AS OF 2008 OCTOBER 26
After a successful maneuver early today (October 26, 2008), the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has crossed the 150,000 km distance mark from Earth, officially entering deep space, on course for the moon. This was the third orbit raising maneuver of the mission. The spacecraft’s 440 Newton liquid engine was fired for about nine and a half minutes, beginning at 07:08 IST. With this, Chandrayaan-1 entered a much higher elliptical orbit around the Earth. The apogee (farthest point from Earth) of this orbit lies at 164,600 km while the perigee (nearest point from Earth) is at 348 km. In this orbit, Chandrayaan-1 takes about 73 hours to go round the Earth once. NOTE: IST STANDS FOR INDIAN STANDARD TIME
Chandrayaan mission profile. Credit: ISRO
UPDATE AS OF 2008 OCTOBER 27 FROM THE COSMIC MIRROR
The PSLV placed Chandrayaan-1 into a highly elliptical Transfer Orbit (TO) around the earth. Later, through a series of highly complex manoeuvres, the desired trajectories will be achieved. After circling the Earth in its Transfer Orbit, Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft will be taken into more elliptical 'Extended Transfer Orbits' by repeatedly firing its Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) in a pre-determined sequence. Subsequently, the LAM is again fired to make the spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of the moon. When it reaches the vicinity of the Moon and passes at a few hundred kilometers from it, its LAM is fired again so that the spacecraft slows down sufficiently to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit. Following this, the height of the spacecraft's orbit around the moon is reduced in steps to its intended 100 km height from the lunar surface. A Moon Impact Probe will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 at the earliest opportunity to hit the lunar surface in a chosen area.
Later, cameras and other scientific instruments are turned on and thoroughly tested: This leads to the operational phase of the mission. This phase lasts for about two years during which Chandrayaan-1 explores the lunar surface with its array of instruments that includes cameras, spectrometers and SAR. The Indian Deep Space Network receives the data and sends commands to the spacecraft at a power level of up to 20 kW. IDSN consists of two large parabolic antennas, one with 18 m diameter and the other 32 m diameter, at Byalalu, 35 km from Bangalore. The 18 m antenna can support the Chandrayaan-1 mission, but the 32 m antenna can support spacecraft missions well beyond the Moon. (Which will be the destination of Chandrayaan-2 in about 2010, however.) The Spacecraft Control Centre, located near the ISTRAC campus at Peenya, North of Bangalore, is the focal point of all the operational activities of Chandrayaan-1 during all the phases of the mission.
Chandrayaan-1 (Sanskrit: चंद्रयान-1, lit: Lunar Craft), is an unmanned lunar exploration mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India's national space agency. The mission includes a lunar orbiter as well as an impactor. The spacecraft was launched by a modified version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on 22 October 2008.
The remote sensing satellite weighs 1,308 kilograms (2,884 lb) (590 kilograms (1,301 lb) initial orbit mass and 504 kilograms (1,111 lb) dry mass) and carries high resolution remote sensing equipment for visible, near infrared, soft and hard X-ray frequencies. Over a two-year period, it is intended to survey the lunar surface to produce a complete map of its chemical characteristics and 3-dimensional topography. The polar regions are of special interest, as they might contain water ice.
The ISRO has nominated Mylswamy Annadurai to be the Project Chief. The spacecraft was successfully launched on 22 October 2008 at 6:22 AM Indian Standard Time (00:52 UTC). After the spacecraft reaches its lunar transfer orbit, it will take 5.5 days to reach the Moon.  They estimate the cost to be Rs. 3.86 billion (US$ 80 million).
The scientific payload has a total mass of 90 kg and contains six Indian instruments and six foreign instruments.
Launch took place October 22, 2008 at 6.22 AM Indian Standard Time from Satish Dhawan Space Centre using ISRO's PSLV launch rocket. The rocket 44.4 metre tall four-stage rocket is supposed to launch the spacecraft into orbit. Chandrayaan will take 15 days to reach the lunar orbit. ISRO's telemetry, tracking and command network (ISTRAC) at Peenya in Bangalore, will be tracking and controlling Chandrayaan-1 over the next two years of its life span.
Since its perfect launch, Chandrayaan has performed several engine burns, moving it into the designated geostationary orbit (GEO) around earth and has successfully communicated with base center.
Once in GEO Chandrayaan's on-board motor will be fired to take it to the lunar orbit with 1,019 km perigee and 386,194 km apogee from the Earth around November 8. This orbit will take the spacecraft to the vicinity of the moon.
As the spacecraft approaches the moon, its speed will be reduced to enable the gravity of the moon to capture it into an elliptical orbit. A series of engine burns will then lower its orbit to its intended 100 km circular polar orbit. Following this, the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) will be ejected from Chandrayaan-1 and all the scientific instruments/payloads are commissioned.
The ISRO is also planning a second version of Chandrayaan named: Chandrayaan II. According to ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, "The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) hopes to land a motorised rover on the Moon in 2010 or 2011, as a part of its second Chandrayaan mission. The rover will be designed to move on wheels on the lunar surface, pick up samples of soil or rocks, do in situ chemical analysis and send the data to the mother-spacecraft Chandrayaan II, which will be orbiting above. Chandrayaan II will transmit the data to Earth."
Chandrayaan II will consist of the spacecraft itself and a landing platform with the Moon rover. The platform with the rover will detach from the orbiter after the spacecraft reaches its orbit above the Moon, and land on lunar soil. Then the rover will roll out of the platform. Mylswamy Annadurai, Project Director, Chandrayaan I, said: "Chandrayaan II will carry a semi-hard or soft-landing system. A motorised rover will be released on the Moon's surface from the lander. The location for the lander will be identified using Chandrayaan I data."
The rover will weigh between 30 kg and 100 kg, depending on whether it is to do a semi-hard landing or soft landing. The rover will have an operating life-span of one month. It will run predominantly on solar power.
According to Ben Bussey, senior staff scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Chandrayaan's imagery will be used to decide the future Lunar outpost that NASA has recently announced. Bussey told SPACE.com, "India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter has a good shot at further identifying possible water ice-laden spots with a US-provided low-power imaging radar, Bussey advised--one of two US experiments on the Indian Moon probe. The idea is that we find regions of interest with Chandrayaan-1 radar. We would investigate those using all the capabilities of the radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Bussey added, a Moon probe to be launched late in 2008.". (The LRO is now scheduled for launch 2009 MAY 7). SEE UPDATE ON THE NASA PAGE AT LEFT MENU.
THE DAWN MISSION TO THE LARGEST ASTEROID CERES & BRIGHTEST ASTEROID VESTA
DISTANCES IN THE DIAGRAM BELOW ARE IN ASTRONOMICAL UNITS (AU) W HERE 1 AU = 92,955,807 MILES
UTC MEANS COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME WHICH IS 5 HOURS AHEAD OF EST AND 4 HOURS AHEAD OF EDT
FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/live_shots.asp
Dawn, launched on September 27, 2007, is a robotic spacecraft being sent by NASA on a space exploration mission to the two most massive members of the asteroid belt: the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn is scheduled to explore Vesta between 2011 and 2012, and Ceres in 2015. It will be the first spacecraft to visit either body.
Dawn is innovative in that it will be the first spacecraft to enter into orbit around a celestial body, study it, and then re-embark under powered flight to proceed to a second target. All previous multi-target study missions—such as the Voyager program—have involved rapid planetary flybys.
Dawn was scheduled to launch from pad 17-B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a Delta 7925-H rocket. On April 10, 2007, Dawn arrived at the Astrotech Space Operations subsidiary of SPACEHAB, Inc. in Titusville, Florida, where it was prepared for launch. Launch was originally scheduled for June 20, but was delayed until June 30 due to delays with part deliveries. A broken crane at the launch pad, used to raise the solid rocket boosters, delayed the launch for a week, until July 7, but on June 15 the second stage was successfully hoisted into position. A mishap at the Astrotech Space Operations facility, involving slight damage to one of the solar arrays, did not have an effect on the launch date, however bad weather caused the launch to slip to July 8. Range tracking problems then delayed the launch to July 9, and then July 15, before the launch was delayed further to avoid knock-on delays with the Phoenix mission to Mars, which was successfully launched on August 4.
Launch of Dawn was then rescheduled for September 26, 2007. However the launch was then delayed to September 27, due to bad weather delaying fuelling of the second stage, the same problem which had earlier delayed the July 7 launch attempt. The launch window extended from 7:20 a.m. - 7:49 a.m. EDT (11:20 - 11:49 GMT). During the final built-in hold at T-4 minutes, a ship entered the exclusion area offshore, the sea strip where the rocket boosters are likely to fall after separation. The ship was commanded to leave the area, then the launch had to wait for the end of a collision avoidance window with the ISS. The spacecraft finally launched at 7:34 a.m. EDT from pad 17-B on a Delta II launch vehicle.
The launch rocket propelled Dawn to 11.46 kilometers per second (25,600 miles per hour) relative to earth. Thereafter Dawn's ion thrusters took over.
After initial checkout, during which the ion thrusters accumulated more than 11 days of thrust, Dawn began long-term cruise propulsion on December 17, 2007. On October 31, 2008, Dawn completed its first thrusting phase to send it on to Mars for a gravity assist flyby in February 2009. During this first interplanetary cruise phase Dawn has spent 270 days, or 85% of this phase using its thrusters. It has expended less than 72 kilograms (158 pounds) of Xenon propellant for a total change in velocity of 1.81 kilometers per second (4050 miles per hour). On November 20, 2008, Dawn performed its first trajectory correction maneuver (TCM1), firing its #1 thruster for 2 hours, 11 minutes. Following Dawn's solar conjunction, an originally scheduled course correction maneuver in January 2009 was determined not necessary. Dawn is scheduled to make its closest approach to Mars on February 17, 2009.
The mission's goal is to characterise the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formation. Ceres and Vesta have many contrasting characteristics that are thought to have resulted from them forming in two different regions of the early solar system; Ceres is theorized to have experienced a "cool and wet" formation that may have left it with subsurface water, and Vesta is theorised to have experienced a "hot and dry" formation that resulted in a differentiated interior and surface volcanism.
Using a framing camera along with two redundant cameras, a visual and infared spectrometer, and a Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer,Dawn will take pictures and measure the chemical composition of Ceres and Vesta.
An extended mission in which Dawn explores other asteroids after Ceres is also possible, although unlikely, as greater return is expected by spending the available time at Vesta and Ceres.
The Dawn mission team is led by UCLA space scientist and Dawn Principal Investigator Christopher T. Russell. Michael Mook is the Dawn Program Manager at Orbital Sciences Corporation, which built the spacecraft. Armando Piloto is the Dawn Mission Manager at Kennedy Space Center. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided the Ion Propulsion System and management of the overall flight system development. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research provided the framing camera, the Italian Space Agency provided the mapping spectrometer, and the DOE Los Alamos National Laboratory provided the gamma ray and neutron spectrometer.
Ceres and Vesta were chosen as two contrasting protoplanets, one apparently "wet" (that is, icy) and the other "dry" (or rocky), whose accretion was terminated by the formation of Jupiter. They provide a bridge in our understanding between the formation of rocky planets and the icy bodies of our solar system, and under what conditions a rocky planet can hold water.
The IAU adopted a new definition of planet on August 24, 2006, and thus, if the IAU's definition stands and the spacecraft experiences no delays, DawnNew Horizons at Pluto. will become the first mission to study a dwarf planet, arriving at Ceres five months prior to the arrival of
Ceres is a dwarf planet whose mass comprises about one-third of the total mass of the bodies in the asteroid belt and whose spectral characteristics suggest a composition similar to that of a water-rich carbonaceous chondrite. Smaller Vesta, a water-poor achondritic asteroid, has experienced significant heating and differentiation. It shows signs of a metallic core, a Mars-like density and lunar-like basaltic flows.
Both bodies formed very early in the history of the solar system,
thereby retaining a record of events and processes from the time of the
formation of the terrestrial planets. Radionuclide
dating of pieces of meteorites thought to come from Vesta suggests that
Vesta differentiated quickly, in only three million years. Thermal
evolution studies suggest that Ceres must have formed a little later,
more than three million years after the
The status of the Dawn mission has changed several times. In December 2003, the project was first cancelled, and then reinstated in February 2004. In October 2005, work on Dawn was placed into "stand down" mode. In January 2006, Dawn's "stand down" was discussed in the press as "indefinitely postponed", even though NASA had announced no new decisions regarding the mission's status. On March 2, 2006, Dawn was publicly, but not formally cancelled by NASA headquarters.
However, the spacecraft's manufacturer Orbital Sciences Corporation appealed the decision and offered to build the spacecraft at cost, forgoing any profit in order to gain experience in a new market field. NASA then put the cancellation under review, and on March 27, 2006, it was announced that the mission would not be cancelled after all. In the last week of September 2006, the Dawn mission instrument payload integration reached a full functional status.
The Dawn spacecraft is propelled by three DS1 heritage xenon ion thrusters (firing only one at a time). They have a specific impulse of 3100 s and produce a thrust of 90 mN. The whole spacecraft, including the ion propulsion thrusters, is powered by a 10 kW triple-junction photovoltaic solar array. To get to Vesta, Dawn will use 275 kg (606 lb) Xe and another 110 kg (243 lb) to get to Ceres, out of a total of 425 kg (937 pounds) of on-board propellant. All in all, it will perform a velocity change of over 10 km/s, far more than any other spacecraft has done. Dawn is NASA’s first purely exploratory mission to use ion propulsion engines.
Onboard Dawn is a small computer microchip bearing the names of more than 360,000 space enthusiasts. The names were submitted online as part of a public outreach effort between September 2005 and November 4, 2006. The microchip (about the size of a nickel) was installed above the forward ion thruster, underneath the spacecraft's High Gain Antenna, on May 17, 2007. More than one microchip was made, with a back-up copy on
MESSENGER Returns to Mercury
MESSENGER is the first mission sent to orbit the planet closest to the sun. On Oct. 6, 2008, at roughly 4:40 a.m. ET, MESSENGER flew by Mercury for the second time this year. During the encounter, the probe swung just 125 miles (200 kilometers) above the cratered surface of Mercury, snapping hundreds of pictures and collecting a variety of other data from the planet as it gains a critical gravity assist that keeps the probe on track to become the first spacecraft ever to orbit the innermost planet beginning in March 2011.
FOR MORE ON MESSENGER go to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/index.html
HIGHEST RESOLUTION PHOTO OF MERCURY 90 MINUTES AFTER MESSENGER FLYBY AT A DISTANCE OF 27,000 KM
(NEXT AND FINAL OF THREE FLYBYS IS TO OCCUR 0N 2009 SEPTEMBER 29 - ORBITAL INSERTION IN MARCH 2011)