New Horizons’ Next Target Just Got a Lot More Interesting

One artist’s concept of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons mission. This binary concept is based on telescope observations made at Patagonia, Argentina on July 17, 2017 when MU69 passed in front of a star. New Horizons theorize that it could be a single body with a large chunk taken out of it, or two bodies that are close together or even touching. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets?

New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

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SwRI Part of International Team Identifying Primordial Asteroid

The asteroid Toutatis photographed by Chang’e 2. (Credit: SASTIND)

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 3, 2017 (SwRI PR) — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) was part of an international team that recently discovered a relatively unpopulated region of the main asteroid belt, where the few asteroids present are likely pristine relics from early in solar system history. The team used a new search technique that also identified the oldest known asteroid family, which extends throughout the inner region of the main asteroid belt.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is Waaay Too Modest

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)

This Thing is Effin’ Awesome, Man! Thanks Juno!

JUPITER ORBIT (NASA PR) — Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno mission snapped pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10) flyby. The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

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NASA to Announce New Discoveries About Ocean Worlds on Thursday

NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is being designed to fly by the icy Jovian moon multiple times and investigate whether it possesses the ingredients necessary for life. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

NASA will discuss new results about ocean worlds in our solar system from the agency’s Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope during a news briefing 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 13. The event, to be held at the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington, will include remote participation from experts across the country.

The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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SwRI-led Team Selected for NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

BOULDER, Colo. (SwRI PR) — NASA announced it has selected a new team led by Southwest Research Institute to its Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

Project ESPRESSO (for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations) is a consortium of seven research institutions dedicated to developing tools and techniques needed for future human exploration of the solar system. Led by SwRI and funded by NASA under an approximately $5 million contract, ESPRESSO comprises six other partner institutions, two industry partners, and an international group of collaborative institutions.

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The Year in Suborbital Launches

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.
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NASA’s CYGNSS Mission Passes Major Milestone

Thermal vacuum (shown) and other environmental tests of the CYGNSS microsatellites wrapped last month at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The final series of tests will soon commence on all eight observatories, stacked in the final launch configuration. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)
Thermal vacuum (shown) and other environmental tests of the CYGNSS microsatellites wrapped last month at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The final series of tests will soon commence on all eight observatories, stacked in the final launch configuration. (Credit: Southwest Research Institute)

SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) — NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission took another major step last month as the eight CYGNSS microsatellites successfully completed functional and environmental testing of their systems and software. The mission is on track for launch in late 2016.

CYGNSS will probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to better understand their rapid intensification.

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Alan Stern Named to TIME100 List of Influential People

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) –TIME has named Dr. Alan Stern one of the 100 most influential people of the year. Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), serves as principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission, which made headlines worldwide when the spacecraft returned remarkable imagery of the Pluto system in July 2015 — the first high-resolution images ever taken of the icy planet and its moons. Stern was previously named to the TIME100 in 2007 after taking over as administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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SwRI Experiment Flies Aboard Blue Origin New Shepard Spacecraft

BE-3 restarted at 3,635 feet above ground level and ramped fast for a successful landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)
BE-3 restarted at 3,635 feet above ground level and ramped fast for a successful landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

BOULDER, Colo.,  April 4, 2016 (SwRI PR) — A Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) experiment designed to assess the surface properties and processes of near-Earth asteroids successfully flew aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle April 2.

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SwRI CubeSat to Explore Deep Space

CuSP_LogoSAN ANTONIO, Texas, February 2, 2016 (SwRI PR) ─ NASA announced that a miniature solar particle research spacecraft to be built by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI) will launch aboard NASA’s Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) rocket in 2018.

The CubeSat to study Solar Particles (CuSP) is one of a dozen shoebox-size payloads, called CubeSats, that will hitchhike into interplanetary space aboard EM-1, the first unmanned test flight of NASA’s giant new Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS rocket is designed to eventually carry astronauts to the Moon and Mars aboard the Orion spacecraft.

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NSRC is Back!

NSRC 2016 logoAfter a three-year hiatus, the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is back.

NSRC-2016 will be held June 2-4, 2016 at the Omni Interlocken Resort in Broomfield, Colorado!

More information will be posted soon at http://nsrc.swri.org/

AAS Awards Carl Sagan Memorial Award to Alan Stern

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AAS PR) — Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) and the Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, has been awarded the 2016 Carl Sagan Memorial Award by the American Astronautical Society (AAS).

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New Horizons Team Receives 2016 Goddard Trophy

This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)
This high-resolution image captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). The bright expanse is the western lobe of the “heart,” informally called Sputnik Planum, which has been found to be rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices. (Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

WASHINGTON, DC  (National Space Club PR) — The National Space Club is pleased to announce The New Horizons Pluto mission team has won the 2016 Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, the Club’s highest honor given annually to the individual or team who has provided leadership in ground breaking space and aeronautics capability to the USA. The Award will be presented at the 59th Annual Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner, taking place at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Friday, March 11, 2016.

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Pluto’s Moons Orbit Planet in Very Odd Ways

Video Caption: Most inner moons in the solar system keep one face pointed toward their central planet; this animation shows that certainly isn’t the case with the small moons of Pluto, which behave like spinning tops. Pluto is shown at center with, in order, from smaller to wider orbit: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, Hydra.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NASA PR) — The New Horizons mission is shedding new light on Pluto’s fascinating system of moons, and their unusual properties. For example, nearly every other moon in the solar system — including Earth’s moon — is in synchronous rotation, keeping one face toward the planet. This is not the case for Pluto’s small moons.

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Pluto Might Have Volcanoes That Spew Molten Ice

Using New Horizons images of Pluto’s surface to make 3-D topographic maps, scientists discovered that two of Pluto’s mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, could be ice volcanoes. The color depicts changes in elevation, blue indicating lower terrain and brown showing higher elevation. Green terrains are at intermediate heights. )Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Using New Horizons images of Pluto’s surface to make 3-D topographic maps, scientists discovered that two of Pluto’s mountains, informally named Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, could be ice volcanoes. The color depicts changes in elevation, blue indicating lower terrain and brown showing higher elevation. Green terrains are at intermediate heights. )Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (NASA PR) — From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Maryland.

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