Orion Heat Shield & Dragon V2 | SciByte 133

Orion Heat Shield & Dragon V2 | SciByte 133

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We take a look at NASA testing the world’s largest heat shield, ancient evidence of lyme disease, sign language on glasses, story and spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Testing NASA\’s Orion Spacecraft Heat Shield

  • Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida have attached the world’s largest heat shield to a pathfinding version of NASA’s Orion crew capsule
  • **Delta IV Heavy Rockets***
  • The Delta IV Heavy is the only rocket with sufficient thrust to launch the Orion EFT-1 capsule and its attached upper stage to its intended orbit of 3600 miles altitude above Earth
  • That is 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 year
  • Orion Spacecraft
  • Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle now under development to replace the now retired space shuttle
  • “The Orion heat shield is the largest of its kind ever built. Its wider than the Apollo and Mars Science Lab heat shields,” | Todd Sullivan, heat shield senior manager
  • Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1)
  • The initial test flight later this Fall on a crucial mission dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1)
  • One of the primary goals of NASA’s eagerly anticipated Orion EFT-1 uncrewed test flight is to test the efficacy of the heat shield in protecting the vehicle – and future human astronauts
  • At the conclusion of the two-orbit, four- hour EFT-1 flight, the detached Orion capsule plunges back and re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere at 20,000 MPH (32,000 kilometers per hour).
  • “That’s about 80% of the reentry speed experienced by the Apollo capsule after returning from the Apollo moon landing missions,” Scott Wilson, NASA’s Orion Manager of Production Operations
  • The big reason to get to those high speeds during EFT-1 is to be able to test out the thermal protection system
  • A trio of parachutes will then unfurl to slow it down for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean
  • The Heat Shield
  • The heat shield is constructed from a single seamless piece of Avcoat ablator and measures 16.5 ft (5 m) in diameter
  • The ablative material will wear away as it heats up during the capsules atmospheric re-entry thereby preventing the 4000* F (2204*C) heat from being transferred to the rest of the capsule
  • Numerous sensors and instrumentation have been specially installed on the EFT-1 heat shield and the back shell tiles to collect measurements of things like temperatures, pressures and stresses during the extreme conditions of atmospheric reentry
  • The Future
  • Data gathered during the flight will aid in confirming. or refuting, design decisions and computer models as the program moves forward to the first flight in late 2017 on the EM-1 mission and more human crewed missions thereafter
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Early in the Process | Textron Team Readies Orion Heat Shield for Shipment to Kennedy Space Center | ReelNASA
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • World Largest Heat Shield Attached to NASA\’s Orion Crew Capsule for Crucial Fall 2014 Test Flight | UniverseToday.com


Ancient Lyme Disease

  • New discoveries of ticks fossilized in amber show that the bacteria which cause Lyme disease may have been lurking around for 15 million years
  • Lyme Disease
  • In the United States, Europe and Asia, ticks are a more important insect vector of disease than mosquitos
  • It is a stealthy, often misdiagnosed disease that was only recognized about 40 years ago and can cause problems with joints, the heart and central nervous system
  • **Amber***
  • Plant and animal life forms found preserved in amber are very efficient at maintaining populations of microbes in their tissues, and can infect mammals, birds, reptiles and other animals
  • Bacteria
  • The findings were made when scientists studied 15-20 million-year-old amber
  • They offer the oldest fossil evidence ever found of Borrelia, a type of spirochete-like bacteria that to this day causes Lyme disease
  • This is the oldest fossil evidence of ticks associated with such bacteria
  • In a separate report, scientists announced the first fossil record Rickettsia bacteria, the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and related illnesses
  • **What This Might Mean*
  • In 30 years of studying diseases revealed in the fossil record, the scientist has documented the ancient presence of such diseases as malaria, leishmania, and others.
  • It\’s now worth considering that these tick-borne diseases may be far more common than has been historically appreciated
  • Evidence suggests that dinosaurs could have been infected with Rickettsial pathogens
  • Rickettsia species are carried by many chiggers, ticks, fleas, and lice, and cause diseases in humans such as typhus, spotted fever group, and others
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Amber discovery indicates Lyme disease is older than human race | Phys.org
  • Lyme Disease Bacteria Found in 15-Million-Year-Old Amber | Paleontology | Sci-News.com



  • Students at Brigham Young University recently launched the \”Signglasses\” project in an attempt to develop a better system of sign language for narration through several types of glasses, including Google Glass.
  • By coincidence, the only two deaf students to ever take Professor Jones’ computer science class signed up just as the National Science Foundation funded Jones’ signglasses research
  • “Having a group of students who are fluent in sign language here at the university has been huge\” | Professor Mike Jones
  • The team tested their system during a field trip visit to the Jean Messieu School for the deaf, where it was revealed that the signer should be displayed in the center of the lens
  • Deaf participants could then look straight through the signer as they focused on a planetarium show.
  • This was particularly surprising for researchers as they believed that deaf students would prefer to have a video displayed at the top, as Google Glass normally presents itself
  • The Future
  • Jones will publish the full results of their research in June at Interaction Design and Children
  • Researchers hope that with further studies, this tool can also be used for literary guidance
  • One idea is when you\’re reading a book and come across a word that you don\’t understand, you point at it, push a button to take a picture
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | BYU Signglasses Project | Austin Balaich
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Google Glass adaptation opens the universe to deaf students | news.byu.edu/
  • \’Signglasses\’ System Helps Deaf Literacy | ScienceWorldReport.com

— Updates —

ISEE-3 Reboot

  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • SciByte 132 | ISEE-3 Back To Life | May 27, 2014
  • The Low Down
  • Approval from NASA to attempt contact, and that go-ahead came on May 29th
  • The ISEE-3 Reboot Project has announced that it has achieved two-way communication with the ISEE-3 at a transmission rate of 512 bits per second.
  • “We have been able to verify modulated data through ground stations in Germany, Morehead State in Kentucky, and the SETI Allen Array in California.” | project member Keith Cowing
  • Eventual goal is to actually change its current trajectory into one that will enable more frequent communication with the probe
  • Transponders
  • The spacecraft has two transponders, transponder A and Transponder B
  • Transponder B is normally the engineering telemetry transponder and transponder A is the ranging transponder
  • The final state of the spacecraft before was to have both of the transponders transmitters active and that is what people around the world have been tracking.
  • Communication
  • The team tried several times to command the spacecraft\’s B transponder into the mode where it normally sends engineering telemetry but that did not work
  • They then tried the same process on transponder A, the initial command was just to turn engineering telemetry, which was successful so they were able to commanded the spacecraft into engineering telemetry mode.
  • Through the A transponder receiver we commanded through the B transponder command decoder to output engineering telemetry through transponder B\’s transmitter
  • The team tried to command the spacecraft into 64 bits/second mode, which was a mode that is much more complicated to set up and they did not get working successfully during the limited time that the spacecraft is visible from Arecibo
  • They need to do this so that the smaller dishes at Morehead State and Bochum will have a positive signal margin so that we can record several hours of data
  • When they later processed the first day\’s data dump from the spacecraft they received 49 full frames of data at a bitrate of 512 bits/second, and there were no errors on the downlink
  • Verified so Far the Following Systems on the Spacecraft
  1. Transponder A receiver
  2. Transponder A\’s Command Decoder and Data Handling Unit
  3. Transponder B\’s Command Decoder and Data Handling Unit

+ Milestones Related to Commanding and Receiving Data
1. Successful commanding multiple times of ISEE-3/ICE
2. Received engineering telemetry from both data multiplexing units on the spacecraft
3. Successful demodulation on the ground of the received data, through the output of bits
4. Verification of good data at 512 bits/sec, including frame synchronization, correct number of bits/frame, and with no errors, showing a very strong 30+ db link margin through Arecibo
+ The Future
+ If they can maneuver the spacecraft by June 17th they can get the very small delta V number, however if this starts to climb rapidly as the spacecraft gets closer to the moon they cannot at this time rule out a lunar impact.
+ Multimedia
+ Image | \”ISEE-3 Mission Control\” | Space College: ISEE-3 Reboot Project Archives | spacecollege.org
+ YouTube | ISEE-3 Reboot | Mike Loucks Mike
+ Twitter | ISEE3 Reboot Project (ISEE3Reboot)
+ YouTube | ISEE-3 Reboot | Mike Loucks
+ YouTube | ISEE-3 Reboot Project – Recovering a 30 year old space probe Scott Manley
+ Further Reading / In the News
+ Space College: ISEE-3 Reboot Project Archives | spacecollege.org
+ Citizen Scientists Take Command Of Decades-Old NASA Probe | Forbes.com
+ 35-year-old ISEE 3 Craft Phones Home | Sky & Telescope


SpaceX Dragon V2

  • The previous version of the Dragon capsule was flightworthy enough to deliver supplies, its life support system wasn’t reliable for human passengers
  • Dragon V2, on the other hand, will be able to carry seven astronauts for seven days.
  • General Capabilities
  • The vehicle holds seats for 7 passengers, and includes an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable environment for crewmembers
  • When the capsule reaches the ISS, it will dock with the station autonomously. Unlike its predecessor, it won’t need the ISS’s robotic arm to reach out and grab it
  • To land back on Earth, a backup technique for the new capsule is to slow its speed with parachutes before splashing into the ocean
  • The main technique for landing uses its engines to land propulsively which will will make it quickly reusable
  • “You’ll be able to land anywhere on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter,” | SpaceX CEO Elon Musk
  • The Future
  • Dragon V2’s robust thermal protection system is capable of lunar missions, in addition to flights to and from Earth orbit
  • According to Ars Technica, NASA pays Russia about $71 million per astronaut for trips to the ISS. Musk thinks he can drop that number to $20 million or less.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | SpaceX Dragon V2 | Flight Animation | spacexchannel·
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Dragon V2: SpaceX\’s Next Generation Manned Spacecraft | SpaceX
  • Inside The New Dragon Spacecraft | Popular Science



Looking back

  • June 7, 1958 : 56 years ago : Ultrasound Article : A seminal article that launched the widespread use of ultrasound in medical diagnosis was published in The Lancet by Ian Donald, an English physician. After a few years developing the experimental use of ultrasound, Donald had applied it to treat patients in his hospital. In the Lancet article, Investigation of Abdominal Masses by Pulsed Ultrasound, he described how he was able to make the life-saving diagnosis of a huge, easily removable, ovarian cyst in a woman who had been diagnosed by others as having inoperable stomach cancer. Donald knew about sonar from his service in WW II, and industrial use of reflected ultrasound waves for flaw detection in materials, and with help from others, he launched its use in medicine

Looking up this week

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