What does it take to get into space? A great place to start that journey is tons and tons of training. For NASA astronauts, training can come in a variety of different ways. The Neutral Buoyancy lab in Austin, Texas is one of the best training facilities in the country. At the Neutral Bouyancy lab astronauts suit up and SCUBA dive to complete mock missions just as they would if they were in outer space. This training is possible because the buoyancy force of water simulates the weightless effect of being in orbit. Click the link below for additional information on the Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/index.html#.U9KYqPldVzo
Here at AstroCamp, we have created our own Astronaut training program that mimics the one done at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. Students get trained in SCUBA diving procedures and safety, then they eventually complete a mock mission to repair a broken satellite. The neutral buoyancy for the water also makes it easy to bust some funky moves in what we like to call, the turtle dance!
NASA’s Orion Spacecraft is about the engage in its very first unmanned test flight. A successful test flight for Orion is a big deal for the future of human space exploration. That’s why we’re paying very close attention to this event. Here’s what you can expect to happen on Thursday, December 4th.
The scheduled launch time is 7:05 A.M. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral Florida. If weather can be a factor to launch fortunately there is a window of 2 hours and 39 minutes to still get the launch off or else it will be postponed to another day. In the future, Orion will be launched by a different rocket system, but for this test flight it will be riding on a Delta IV Heavy Rocket. After launch the whole test flight will take 4.5 hours as the spacecraft makes two orbits around the Earth before coming back to ground.
There are several systems that need to be tested during this launch. First test is the separation or jettison of the protective coverings that keep Orion safe from the atmosphere during launch. Once in space, these casings are no longer necessary and removing them will lighten the spacecraft. After an initial orbit, the Upper Stage Rockets will boost the spacecraft into a very high orbit of about 3,600 miles. The last stage of testing will be the reentry capsule. NASA needs to see if the capsule can handle the intense temperatures and pressures that the spacecraft will experience on the return to Earth. The parachutes will also need to deploy successfully to ensure a nice soft landing. Let’s hope for the best!
The new spacecraft is fascinating, and models of it were difficult to find, so we designed our own! This is the result!
For those of you who don’t know, Orion is NASA’s new spacecraft, filling the role of the retired space shuttle program. It is designed with versatility in mind, so if you go searching for pictures of it, you are likely to find lots of different things. In the video, the red piece that snaps on top is the Orion capsule, and is included in any of the pictures you will find, but the other modular parts change drastically.
One of the lesser known features is the Launch Abort System, which attaches to the top of the capsule during its ride into space on a Delta Heavy Rocket. Future launches will instead use the Space Launch System (SLS) which is still in development. The Launch Abort System is an added safety mechanism designed to pull the capsule–and crew inside–away should anything go wrong with the rocket behind them! This is the gray piece on the top.
The bottom gray pieces are the propulsion system. This is probably the most widely varied part of the Orion Spacecraft in pictures that you will see. The solar panels fold out–a feature that didn’t quite make it into the 3D printed version (although they do fold on a single hinge!) and that portion can also separate from the larger propulsion system sitting below.
Perhaps if there is interest, we’ll put together another video showing how each of the components work!
Up, up, and away!!! From the ground of Cape Canaveral to the edges of our atmosphere and into the reaches of outer space, humans have pushed the field of rocketry to the final frontier. Many people believe that rocket design reached its peak with the development of NASA’s space shuttle, but the designs of current rockets are continuously changing and improving.
NASA is currently developing the Space Launch System, or SLS, to be an improved model of the space shuttle system. The emergence of private companies who are designing and building their own unique rockets is truly revolutionizing the space industry. Space X is currently one of the leading companies in the private space race, already using their Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets to send supplies up to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic is also changing the game by developing spacecraft that will take people who can afford the cost of a ticket into outer space. As the field of rocketry is forever changing, who knows where the next big breakthrough in design will come from? Maybe it will be you. Here at AstroCamp, we create our own unique small scale rockets. The creation and design of each rocket is limited only by the mind of the builder.
This is Ferrofluid. Invented at NASA, by Steve Papell in 1963, it is a liquid with bits of iron in it that will align along magnetic fields! Usually, it is kept inside of a container, often suspended in a clear liquid. Here, we let some of ours out to play!
The ferrofluid isn’t dangerous, although it does leave a nasty stain on skin and clothing, much like it is on our platter here, but it was well worth it!
Magnetic fields are an often mystifying concept, because of the inability to see it in normal circumstances, but with the addition of ferrofluid, it becomes much more obvious! In our setup here, the iron sphere is attached to two strong neodynium magnets, and becomes highly magnetized. The ferrofluid that made it to the sphere is condensed on the areas where the magnetic field is the strongest, allowing the magnetic field to become visible close to the magnet! We can now see something that is normally invisible!
While it seems exotic, ferrofluid is found in all kinds of everyday things, including speakers, transformers, and hard drives!
We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampsummer.org for additional information. Happy Reading!