Take a Flight Over Dwarf Planet Ceres

Video Caption: Take a flight over dwarf planet Ceres in this video made with images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The simulated flyover was made by the mission’s camera team at Germany’s national aeronautics and space research center (DLR).

Dawn in Great Shape, Prepares to Photograph Ceres

Artist's concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Since its capture by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres on March 6, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has performed flawlessly, continuing to thrust with its ion engine as planned. The thrust, combined with Ceres’ gravity, is gradually guiding the spacecraft into a circular orbit around the dwarf planet. All of the spacecraft’s systems and instruments are in excellent health.

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Dawn Enters Orbit Around Ceres

Dawn_change_of_addressPASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000) kilometers from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

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A Video Look Dawn’s Innovative Ion Propulsion System

Video Caption: Ion propulsion isn’t something found only in science fiction. JPL engineer Mike Meacham looks at how ion engines are being used to drive NASA’s Dawn spacecraft through the solar system. Dawn is approaching dwarf planet Ceres in the main asteroid belt with arrival expected in March 2015. Previously, Dawn orbited Vesta, the second-largest body in the asteroid belt. Learn how ion propulsion works and why it’s the reason Dawn will be the first spacecraft ever to orbit two solar system bodies beyond Earth. More about Dawn at: http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/

The Year Ahead in Space

The BEAM module docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
The BEAM module docked at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Update: Added Falcon Heavy flight test to the list.

A number of very cool space missions are set to unfold in the coming year. Here’s a brief rundown:

Jan. 6: Falcon 9 Barge Landing Attempt. SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge. The goal is to recover the stage intact for later relaunch. Success could lead to significantly lower launch costs in the years ahead.

March 5: Dawn Arrives at Ceres. Having completed an exploration of the asteroid Vesta, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is due to arrive at the dwarf planet Ceres on March 5. The vehicle will enter orbit around the unexplored world, which is the largest object in the Asteroid Belt.

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SpaceX’s Dragon, Astrobotic’s Rover Receive PopSci’s Best of What’s New Awards

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, Astrobotic’s privately funded lunar rover, and NASA’s Curiosity, Dawn and MESSENGER missions have made Popular Science’s Best of What’s New 2011 list.

PopSci singled out Dragon for the Grand Award in the Aviation & Space category. The magazine calls the vehicle “the future of American spaceflight,” a ship that will eventually fly cargo and crews to the International Space Station, the moon and Mars.

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Electric Plasma Engines Becoming Key to Future Space Exploration

The Efficient Future of Deep-Space Travel – Electric Rockets
Scientific American


Alone amid the cosmic blackness, NASA’s Dawn space probe speeds beyond the orbit of Mars toward the asteroid belt. Launched to search for insights into the birth of the solar system, the robotic spacecraft is on its way to study the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest remnants of the planetary embryos that collided and combined some 4.57 billion years ago to form today’s planets.

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