Let Space Flight Be An Accelerator For Technology (Again)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Eric Stallmer reflected on President Obama’s Speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center five years ago today. “President Obama spoke of accelerating innovation in the private sector, and five years later, we see the results of that commitment to the commercial spaceflight industry. Our industry is more robust and competitive than ever before, and President Obama and Congress’s investment in private sector pioneers has paid off in the form of thousands of new, high tech jobs around the country and continued assurance of our nation’s status as the leader in space exploration.” I am reminded of a comment…

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Adler IR Satellite

The Adler Planetarium is collaborating with Orbital Transports to build, launch, and operate a 3U CubeSat to demonstrate the ability to obtain Earth observation imagery in mid-infrared spectrum from low Earth orbit.  The primary science mission will map the global temperature of the Earth’s surface at a sufficient resolution to provide valuable data.  We plan to demonstrate the use of a cryocooled, high-definition mid-wavelength IR imaging system in a CubeSat form factor.  The Adler IR Satellite (AIRSAT) will be the focus of a public exhibit at the Adler Planetarium presenting the process and results of the mission.  Mission results will…

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Mission Profile for a Buoyant Spacecraft

For the purposes of analyzing the characteristics of buoyant spacecraft, we will develop a conceptual mission profile for a lighter-than-air vehicle designed to launch 10,000 kg of payload to low Earth orbit.  It will dock with a space station or release satellites and then return to Earth. This payload mass was chosen as a representative value for a medium lift launch vehicle capable of transporting crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Consequently the target orbit is at an altitude between 410km and 420km, included to 51.65 degrees, and an average velocity of 7.66 km/s. We assume the buoyant…

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MarsDrop flies again!

After the difficulties we had with the MarsDrop parawing guided descent experiment earlier this spring, we conducted some low altitude testing to learn the best way to pack the parawing for deployment.  Following these drop tests, we managed to fly the parawing several times to successful recoveries. Most recently, we flew the MarsDrop payload in tandem with a second payload carrying a 2-way communication experiment on a high altitude balloon.  The plan was to cut down the MarsDrop payload around 60,000′ and let the second payload continue to the top altitude, around 100,000′.  Although it was partly overcast, the launch…

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Could Buoyant Spacecraft replace rockets for ascent to orbit?

The fundamental kinematic characteristic of orbiting spacecraft is high-velocity ballistic trajectory, which can only be achieved at very high altitude where drag forces drop to near zero. Thus, the problem of launch to orbit can be decomposed into two separate issues: altitude and velocity. Rockets solve this problem all at once, using reaction force to accelerate very rapidly to high-altitude ballistic flight. Rockets must accelerate at high levels compared to gravity. Such rapid acceleration requires the rapid release of enormous amounts of energy, which is inherently dangerous. In addition, rockets are highly complex vehicles, prone to failure, and expensive to…

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Adler CubeSat mission proposals

The Adler CubeSat initiative has been moving forward.  Two mission concepts have been selected for further development.  Our primary mission is to fly a cryocooled mid-infrared imager.  As a backup, we’re also considering an active radar to detect orbital debris. The objective of the IR mission (or ADLIRSAT) is to obtain full coverage of Earth’s surface from 51º North to 51º South using a 1280×1024 resolution, 12 micron pixel pitch imager operating at 3-5 micron wavelength (mid-infrared) and map changes in the Earth’s surface temperature over time.  It would be one of the first satellites to demonstrate a cryocooled MWIR…

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MarsDrop experiment plumets into Midwestern corn field

MarsDrop is an initiative to develop an inexpensive space probe that will land on Mars using a parawing. The parawing will allow the probe to fly significant distances through the Martian atmosphere under controlled guidance. The only way this can be tested on Earth is to drop the probe and parawing from a high-altitude balloon in the stratosphere where the conditions mimic those found on Mars. Orbital Transports is collaborating with Far Horizons and The Aerospace Corporation to develop the guided descent components. We conducted the first test of the parawing and guided descent components today. The parawing unfortunately failed…

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