NASA’s Juno: Science Results Offer First 3D View of Jupiter Atmosphere

Jupiter’s banded appearance is created by the cloud-forming “weather layer.” This composite image shows views of Jupiter in (left to right) infrared and visible light taken by the Gemini North telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, respectively. [Credits: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley) et al.]

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — New findings from NASA’s Juno probe orbiting Jupiter provide a fuller picture of how the planet’s distinctive and colorful atmospheric features offer clues about the unseen processes below its clouds. The results highlight the inner workings of the belts and zones of clouds encircling Jupiter, as well as its polar cyclones and even the Great Red Spot.

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NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft aboard is seen in this 2 minute and 30 second exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids. Like the mission’s namesake – the fossilized human ancestor, “Lucy,” whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution – Lucy will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system. (Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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NASA Sets Coverage, Invites Public to Virtually Join Lucy Launch

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA will provide coverage of upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for Lucy, the agency’s first mission to explore the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. 

Lucy is scheduled to launch no earlier than 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 16, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

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Science of Psyche: Unique Asteroid Holds Clues to Early Solar System

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, engineers integrate a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer into the agency’s Psyche spacecraft. The instrument will help determine the elements that make up its target, an asteroid also named Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Set to launch next year, NASA’s Psyche mission marks the first time the agency has set out to explore an asteroid richer in metal than rock or ice.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — More than 150 years have passed since novelist Jules Verne wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but reality has yet to catch up with that science fiction adventure. While humans can’t bore a path to our planet’s metallic core, NASA has its sights set on visiting a giant asteroid that may be the frozen remains of the molten core of a bygone world.

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NASA’s Lucy Mission Prepares for Launch to Trojan Asteroids

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA has tested the functions of Lucy, the agency’s first spacecraft to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, filled it with fuel, and is preparing to pack it into a capsule for launch Saturday, Oct. 16.

Named after characters in Greek mythology, these asteroids circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to visit these asteroids. By studying these asteroids up close, scientists hope to hone their theories on how our solar system’s planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they ended up in their current configuration.

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SwRI Tests Liquid Acquisition Device Aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket

New Shepard rocket lands (Credit: Blue Origin)

August 26, 2021 — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) experiment was performed aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket today, which launched from Van Horn, Texas. Five variations of the tapered liquid acquisition device (LAD), which is designed to safely deliver liquid propellant to a rocket engine from fuel tanks, were aboard the rocket to evaluate their performance in microgravity.

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Virgin Orbit and Southwest Research Institute to Pursue Space Science Missions, Launches and Joint Space Service Offerings

LauncherOne ignites after being dropped from Cosmic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Virgin Orbit PR) — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive launch company, announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a new collaboration with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an independent, non-profit research and development organization. Under the terms of the agreement, Virgin Orbit and SwRI will explore multiple specialized mission opportunities using the LauncherOne system coupled with SwRI’s deep expertise in space mission development. Additionally, the two organizations will explore potential opportunities for joint manufacturing of SwRI’s space platforms and delivery of space services to Virgin Orbit’s customers. 

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NASA Technologies Slated for Testing on Blue Origin’s New Shepard

New Shepard launch (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

VAN HORN, Texas — While there won’t be humans on Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle will carry technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program supports six payload flight tests, which are slated for lift off no earlier than Aug. 26 from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas.

For some innovations, this is just one of several tests supported by NASA on different flight vehicles. Iterative flight testing helps quickly ready technologies that could eventually support deep space exploration.

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Blue Origin New Shepard’s 17th Flight to Space Set for August 25

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard’s next mission will fly a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration a second time on the exterior of the booster, 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, 11 of which are NASA-supported, and an art installation on the exterior of the capsule. Liftoff is currently targeted for Wednesday, August 25, at 8:35 am CDT/13:35 UTC from Launch Site One in West Texas. Live launch coverage begins at T-30 minutes on BlueOrigin.com.

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NASA Begins Launch Preparations for First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids

An artist’s concept of the Lucy Mission. (Credit: SwRI)

NASA’s first spacecraft to explore the Trojan asteroids arrived Friday, July 30, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. It is now in a cleanroom at nearby Astrotech, ready to begin final preparations for its October launch.

The mission has a 23-day launch period beginning on October 16. Lucy will undergo final testing and fueling prior to being moved to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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SwRI Awarded Lunar Lander Investigation Contract

This photograph of a nearly full Moon was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft at a point above 70 degrees east longitude. Mare Crisium, the circular, dark-colored area near the center, is near the eastern edge of the Moon as viewed from Earth. (Credits: NASA)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, June 21, 2021 (Southwest Research Institute PR) — To advance understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has selected three new lunar investigations, including a payload suite led by Southwest Research Institute. The Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS) is one of two packages that will land on the far side of the Moon, a first for the agency, as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative.

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NASA’s New Horizons Reaches a Rare Space Milestone

New Horizons spacecraft (Credit: JHUAPL/SwRI)

Now 50 times as far from the Sun as Earth, History-Making Pluto Explorer photographs Voyager 1’s location from the Kuiper Belt

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — In the weeks following its launch in early 2006, when NASA’s New Horizons was still close to home, it took just minutes to transmit a command to the spacecraft, and hear back that the onboard computer received and was ready to carry out the instructions.

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SwRI’s 100-kg Small Satellite Platform Added to NASA’s RDSO Catalog

Credit: SwRI

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (SwRI PR) — NASA has selected Southwest Research Institute’s 100 kg-class small satellite (SmallSat) platform to be listed in the Rapid Spacecraft Development Office (RSDO) IV catalog used by the U.S. government to rapidly contract for flight-proven spacecraft. The Southwest Space Platform-100 (SwSP-100) is now available through the $6 billion, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV contract.

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SwRI Researcher Theorizes Worlds with Underground Oceans May be More Conducive to Life than Worlds with Surface Oceans like Earth

Interior water ocean worlds like Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, are prevalent throughout the universe. New research from Southwest Research Institute suggests that layers of rock and ice may shield life within such oceans, protecting it from impacts, radiation and other hazards and concealing it from detection. Layers of rock and ice may therefore shield and protect life residing in them, and also sequester them from threats and detection. (Credits: Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 16, 2021 (Southwest Research Institute PR) — One of the most profound discoveries in planetary science over the past 25 years is that worlds with oceans beneath layers of rock and ice are common in our solar system. Such worlds include the icy satellites of the giant planets, like Europa, Titan and Enceladus, and distant planets like Pluto.

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How Were the Trojan Asteroids Discovered and Named?

This is a view of the inner solar system in a Jupiter-rotating reference frame. The camera begins at viewpoint oblique to the ecliptic plane, then moves up to a top-down view. Clusters of Trojan asteroids appear behind and ahead of Jupiter in its orbit. (Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

By David Dezell Turner
Southwest Research Institute

BOULDER, Colo. — On Feb. 22, 1906, German astrophotographer Max Wolf helped reshape our understanding of the solar system. Again.

Born in 1863, Wolf had a habit of dramatically altering the astronomy landscape. Something of a prodigy, he discovered his first comet at only 21 years old. Then in 1890, he boldly declared that he planned to use wide-field photography in his quest to discover new asteroids, which would make him the first to do so. Two years later, Wolf had found 18 new asteroids. He later became the first person to use the “stereo comparator,” a View-Master-like device that showed two photographs of the sky at once so that moving asteroids appeared to pop out from the starry background.

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