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Science & Technology Current
science & Technology Current November 4th week 2014
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science & Technology Current November 4th week 2014

 1. NASA launches Joint Polar Satellite System-1.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, the first in a “series of four highly advanced polar-orbiting satellites,” NASA announced on Saturday, with the agencies touting they expect significant improvements to their weather-forecasting abilities when JPSS-1 comes online in three months.

“Emergency managers increasingly rely on our forecasts to make critical decisions and take appropriate action before a storm hits,” NOAA National Weather Service director Louis W. Uccellini wrote in the statement. “Polar satellite observations not only help us monitor and collect information about current weather systems, but they provide data to feed into our weather forecast models.”

JPSS-1 is 14.8 feet in diameter (4.5 meters) and weighs 5,060 pounds (roughly 2,300 kilograms), and was one of the last NASA satellites scheduled to be powered into orbit by the Delta II rocket system. It will circle the Earth approximately 14 times a day at an elevation of 512 miles (824 kilometers).

Per the NASA release, JPSS-1 carries five instruments the agencies say will provide “meteorologists with observations of atmospheric temperature and moisture, clouds, sea-surface temperature, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash, and fire detection.” Program director Greg Mandt told Space.com the onboard suite consists of “instruments so precise that they can measure the temperature to better than a tenth of a degree from the surface of the Earth all the way to the edge of space.”

2. NASA tests Supersonic Parachute for Mars 2020 mission.

NASA is planning to send its next rover to Mars in 2020, and when it reaches the Red Planet, it will descend through the thin Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 miles per hour. To slow itself down, the spacecraft is going to need a good parachute. A very good parachute.

The space agency recently tested one such chute, and dramatic footage of the event shows the safety device opening at supersonic speeds.

“It is quite a ride,” Ian Clark, an aerospace engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the leader of the test, said in a written statement. “The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant. For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet, unfurling its parachute.”

For the Oct. 4 test, a 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket reached an altitude of 32 miles before starting its descent. The parachute, housed within a cylindrical structure, was deployed at an altitude of 26 miles, when the capsule was plummeting at Mach 1.8 (1.8 times the speed of sound, or about 1,380 miles per hour).

How did the parachute perform? Flawlessly. “Everything went according to plan or better than planned,” Clark said in the statement.


 

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