Monday, October 26, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Building NASA's Huge, New Rocket

NASA's first flight test of its Ares I-X booster is only slated to last two minutes, but it represents the culmination of years of work by the rocket-minded ATK Space Systems in Utah and almost 1,000 other NASA workers and private contractors across 17 states.

To ensure that they see the fruits of their labor, technicians have installed more than 700 sensors on the $445 million Ares I-X test vehicle. That electronic swarm should provide engineers with a smorgasbord of flight data, and has led to a few jokes regarding the sensor-studded rocket.

"It's almost like flying a Christmas tree," said Trina Patterson, a spokesperson for ATK Space Systems, an aerospace company based in Magna, Utah. The rocket is set launch at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Tuesday fromNASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ATK has good reason to want that data, because it produced the first rocket stage that plays the undeniable starring role in the upcoming launch. Its story represents just one out of many involved in the U.S. space agency's first small step back to the moon with its tallest rocket — the 327-foot (100-meter) Ares I-X — in more than 30 years.;_ylt=Al9FydrwZ5JPrCgK_ZNIJcWHgsgF;_ylu=X3oDMTNpcjYxZjRyBGFzc2V0A3NwYWNlLzIwMDkxMDI2L2JlaGluZHRoZXNjZW5lc2J1aWxkaW5nbmFzYXNodWdlbmV3cm9ja2V0BHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9wYWdpbmF0ZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA2JlaGluZHRoZXNjZQ--

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Planets

European astronomers have found 32 new planets outside our solar system, adding evidence to the theory that the universe has many places where life could develop. Scientists using the European Southern Observatory telescope didn't find any planets quite the size of Earth or any that seemed habitable or even unusual. But their announcement increased the number of planets discovered outside the solar system to more than 400.

Six of the newly found planets are several times bigger than Earth, increasing the population of so-called super-Earths by more than 30 percent. Most planets discovered so far are far bigger, Jupiter-sized or even larger.;_ylt=Aoq5s7K3rpkIppeTncMRNTUPLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTJqYWRpZ28xBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMDkxMDIwL3VzX3NjaV9uZXdfcGxhbmV0cwRjcG9zAzMEcG9zAzYEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDYW5hcnRpc3QzOXNy

Wednesday, October 07, 2009