Thursday, October 8, 2009

LCROSS Mission

Today NASA is going to conduct an interesting experiment to study the presence of water ice in lunar surface. In the experiment a Centaur rocket will first impact the moon surface near its south pole. The impact will create debris plume. The LCROSS(Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) will fly through the debris plume and collect data. The data will be streamed to the mission operations for analysis. After 4 minutes the LCROSS will also impact the lunar surface creating a second debris plume.
The experiment enables the scientists to observe soil beneath the lunar surface. NASA TV is doing a live broadcast of the experiment and the impact can be observed via telescopes too.
For details you can read the post on NASA Blogs.

Venera-D Mission

Venera-D is a space mission planned by the Russian space research institute IKI. The mission is scheduled for 2016 and aims to explore the Venus. The mission will involve an orbiting spacecraft, multiple air balloons, a surface lander and possibly a wind flyer. IKI has asked for contribution from other European nations for this ambitious project. IKI is planning to hold annual conference on the Venera-D project in the hope of expanding cooperation with the European scientists.
For details you can read this article on the BBC website.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mission Chandrayaan-1 ended today !

At 01:30 today, ISRO has lost contact with the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft orbiting the moon. Chandrayaan-1 was launched on 22nd October 2008 and carried 11 instruments on board including 5 Indian and 6 foreign instruments. The total cost of the mission was 386 crore.
According to ISRO Chandrayaan-1 has done its job technically 100% and scientifically 90-95%. Chandrayaan-1 has completed 312 days in orbit, making over 3400 orbits around the moon.
But the mission was scheduled to be of 2 yr duration and it could last only 10 months.
Currently ISRO is conducting a detail review of the telemetry data of the spacecraft to find the cause of the problem. In April 2009, the star sensor of the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has developed a malfunction and failed. The star sensor was responsible for determining the altitude of the spacecraft and for orientation. ISRO has been able to overcome the malfunction using antenna-pointing mechanism and on board gyroscopes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Isro-Nasa to look for water on Moon in tandem

Chandrayaan-1 launched by ISRO is currently orbiting the Moon in search of water and ice. It is going to be joined by LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) launched by NASA on 18th June,2009. Together the satellites will do some really interesting study. The spacecrafts will fly at a velocity of around 1.6 km per second and survey an area on the north pole of the Moon.
Generally a single satellite sends a signal to a spot of observation and picks the signal reflected back. But in this case, the radars of the spacecrafts will point to the same spot from different angles, such that the reflected signal sent by one can be picked up by the other.The radar instrument on board Chandrayaan-1 i.e. Mini-SAR will send signal pointed to the interior of the Erlanger Crater. The signal will get reflected from the crater and will be picked up by Mini-Rf radar on board LRO. Mini-SAR will also collect the signal reflected straight to it. Then scientists can compare the signal obtained from the oblique reflection to that obtained from the straight reflection for study. This type of experiment is called as Bi-Static radar experiment.
It is really challenging to put 2 space-crafts in orbit of the Moon and then coordinate them for such missions. The challenge increases when the spacecrafts are being designed, developed and deployed by 2 different organizations. But it is a good move by NASA and ISRO to combine their effort for such research activities.

NASA page on the experiment.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Space Internet

NASA is working on a project to extend the internet to the outer space. The technology is termed as Disruption Tolerant Networking or DTN. DTN will enable spacecrafts and satellites to communicate effectively with ground stations. DTN is also expected to lead to a inter-planetary internet in future.

Internet protocols being used on earth are unsuitable for space internet. On earth the machines are connected reliably among each other and the delay in communication is less. But in case of space internet the 2 machines will be within reach for a specific amount of time and then they may become out of reach. Also the delay in communication is high. So the Internet Research Task Force has developed a new protocol called DTN Bundle Protocol to solve the problems. With this protocol the data packets are not discarded if outages occur and are stored until an opportunity comes to transmit them.

For details you can refer to this article.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


CHAMP stands for Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project. It is a new USAF(US Air Force) project based on employing microwave weapons. The weapons will fire powerful bursts of high power microwave(HPM) and fry the electronics of multiple targets without harming people or other infrastructure. The microwave can be delivered from pods on air crafts, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Launch of RISAT-2

ISRO has successfully launched RISAT-2 satellite on 20th April,2009. The satellite has been developed by Israel and a PSLV(Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) has been used to place it on the designated orbit.
The satellite, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (SAI) uses SAR(Synthetic Aperture Radar) technology. SAR enables the satellite to capture images even in night and bad weather conditions.
RISAT-2 has been speculated as a spy satellite and has been deployed quickly after 26/11 Mumbai attacks. With RISAT-2 India aims to monitor the borders with Pakistan and China for infiltration and troop build up. The satellite will also help in mapping and managing natural disasters. Ships at sea can also be tracked by RISAT-2. Though RISAT-2 has been considered as a spy satellite, ISRO has denied it to be so. Also RISAT-2 has got global coverage.
Along with RISAT-2, Anusat has also been launched by the same PSLV rocket. Anusat has been built by Anna University with funding from ISRO. Anusat is a micro-satellite and will be used for education purpose. Anusat is a good example of industry-academia collaboration which is common in US and Japan, yet rare in India. The launch of Anusat has prompted six other educational institutions like IIT-Kanpur and VIT-Vellore to approach ISRO for building such satellites.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM)

    JEO : Jupiter Europa Orbiter

   JGO : Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter

Jupiter, the largest planet of our solar system has 63 moons. Jupiter along with its moons compose the Jovian system.Out of the 63 moons, the largest 4 moons i.e. Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa were discovered by Galileo and are known as Galilean moons.
Europa is the most likely place in the solar system beyond Earth to find life. It has more water than Earth. NASA has designed JEO (Jupiter Europa Orbiter) to study Europa. JEO will orbit Jupiter for 32 months and later move on to orbit Europa for a year.
Ganymede is the only moon in the solar system that has a magnetic field of its own. It is supposed to have water and ice. ESA(European Space Agency) has designed JGO(Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter) to study Ganymede. JGO will orbit Jupiter for 3 years and then move on to orbit Ganymede for 10 months.
The two orbiters will also monitor Io(to be studied by JEO) and Callisto(to be studied by JGO). JEO and JGO have been designed and developed separately. They will be operated separately as well.
But the satellites will be launched together in Feb 2020. The mission is named as Europa Jupiter System Mission or EJSM in short.

NASA web page on EJSM
NASA web page on JEO
NASA web page on JGO

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NASA's planned missions to Venus

NASA has formed a group of scientists and engineers to formulate goals for a series of space missions to Venus. The missions will be launched between 2020 and 2025 and will cost 3-4 billion USD. The team's study will be released in April.
The team's mission concept includes one orbiter, 2 balloons and 2 short-lived landers. Two Atlas V rockets will be used to launch the orbiter, balloons and landers.
The article from newscientist elaborates the mission goals in detail.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

India successfully tests BMD

Yesterday India has successfully tested the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). It was the third successful test of the BMD. Currently US, Russia and Israel are other countries who are developing capabilities in BMD.
The BMD system of India has been in development by ISRO. It is capable of successfully tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside(endo) and outside(exo) the atmosphere. The BMD system will be developed in 2 phases. The first stage is targeted for 2000 km range. It is scheduled to be operational by 2011-2012. The second stage is to handle 5000 km range.
India's BMD is as capable as Israeli Arrow-2 BMD system and US Patriot system.
Basically in a BMD shield, radars are used to track a hostile missile. Based on inputs from the radars, interceptor missiles are launched to engage and destroy the hostile missiles. The interceptor used for the test is called Prithvi Air Defence (PAD II). The interceptor was a two-stage vehicle, with the first stage fuelled by liquid propellants and the second stage by solid propellants. It was 10 metres long and weighed 5.2 tonnes.The interceptor used for the first time a manoeuvrable warhead called gimballed directional warhead (GDW), which can rotate 360 degrees.

For details of India's BMW program, you can read the following articles
A really nice article on India's BMW program
Wikipedia page on Indian BMD
Wikipedia page on ABM (Anti Ballistic Missiles)