Media Invited to Upcoming Launch of NASA’s Newest Planet-Hunting Spacecraft


Portal origin URL: Media Invited to Upcoming Launch of NASA’s Newest Planet-Hunting SpacecraftPortal origin nid: 420200Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 13:55Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Media accreditation now is open for the launch of a NASA spacecraft that will search for planets outside of our solar system with a field of view almost 400 times larger than that of the agency’s Kepler mission.Portal image: illustration of TESSScience Categories: Universe

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Public Invited to Come Aboard NASA’s First Mission to Touch the Sun


Portal origin URL: Public Invited to Come Aboard NASA’s First Mission to Touch the SunPortal origin nid: 420182Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 12:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission will launch in summer 2018 to travel closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions. And you can send your name along for the ride.Portal image: illustration of Parker Solar ProbeScience Categories: Sun

No, Those Aren’t Animal Tracks on Mars -

A United Kingdom-based researcher claims he's seen evidence of ancient animal tracks on Mars, but don't get too excited. The features he's talking about are widely documented by NASA as interesting crystal shapes that likely formed in water.

Far Northern Permafrost May Unleash Carbon Within Decades


Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic -- formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment -- will thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere in this century, with the peak transition occurring in 40 to 60 years, according to a new NASA-led study.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 10:06

Beaming with the Light of Millions of Suns


In the 1980s, scientists started discovering a new class of extremely bright sources of X-rays in galaxies. These sources were a surprise, as they were clearly located away from the supermassive black holes found in the center of galaxies. At first, researchers thought that many of these ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs, were black holes containing masses between about a hundred and a hundred thousand times that of the sun. Later work has shown some of them may be stellar-mass black holes, containing up to a few tens of times the mass of the sun.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Monday, March 5, 2018 - 13:33

Tri-axial Double Probe will Enable Small Spacecraft to Measure Electric Fields


This blog post originated in the 2016 Science Mission Directorate Technology Highlights Report (20 MB PDF).

Technology Development

A team at NASA GSFC is working to develop new technology that will enable small satellites to measure direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) electric field vectors in space. One element of this new technology involves development of coilable, narrow, composite booms, which when deployed, have the necessary stiffness and straightness to enable electric field double probe measurements to be gathered in space.

Left: Electric field booms compactly stowed in the CubeSat volume (10 cm on a side). Right: Six booms extend sensors from the main CubeSat body to distances of 5m, tip-to-tip, enabling tri-axial or vector electric field measurements. (Credits: CTD and NASA GSFC)

Double probe measurements gather the potential difference along a given axis or component of the electric field; tri-axial measurements gather all three perpendicular components of the vector. These newly developed booms include small wires extending the length of the tubes to isolate the sensor elements at the ends from the main boom element. In addition, the team has successfully miniaturized the main electronics of the probes themselves without any loss of capability or sensitivity.


Electric field instruments gather data to address fundamental, physical processes including the flow of energy in a wide range of space environments. The development of such small tri-axial electric field double probes will enable inexpensive sampling of Earth’s ionosphere, allowing researchers to learn more about a host of important scientific phenomena in geospace— including lightning, aurora, radio waves, and large-scale instabilities.

Status and Future Plans

In 2016, the NASA team developed a tri-axial boom system in conjunction with Composite Technology Development (CTD), Inc. of Lafayette, Colorado. CTD has produced coiled composite booms that will compactly fit inside the 10 cm3 volume of a CubeSat, yet, when deployed, will provide a tri-axial 5m tip-to-tip boom system. The team also developed the associated electric field electronics that will fit inside the CubeSat. During the coming year, researchers will complete testing and mechanical accommodations with other instruments and CubeSat subsystems, preparing a complete prototype experiment for spaceflight.

Sponsoring Organization

This research is sponsored by the Heliophysics Division via the H-TIDeS program. The PI and lead Co-investigators are Drs. R. Pfaff and D. Rowland at NASA GSFC.

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