February 21, 2016

NASA Finally Uses HoloLens In Space (Source: UpLoad)
Last June Microsoft’s HoloLens was heading to the International Space Station aboard a rocket on a resupply mission from SpaceX when an “RUD” event occurred. That’s a “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” in the terms of Elon Musk. In other words, it blew up. In December, another resupply mission aboard Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft successfully put a set of HoloLens headsets in orbit bound for the space station.

HoloLens is being used to pioneer NASA’s Sidekick project. The goal is to use mixed reality to allow NASA scientists, astronauts, and engineers to visualize and collaborate on tasks in a way that reduces training time and increases efficiency. Scott Kelly has popped out the HoloLens and is beginning to explore its capabilities. (2/20)

Iridium Wins DOD Funds to Enhance Satellite Network (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications has been awarded a $8.57 million task order, under the Gateway Modernization Efforts contract, from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), to make upgrades and enhancements to the U.S. Department of Defense's dedicated Iridium gateway that will improve network effectiveness, enhance performance and enable continued preparation efforts for its next-generation, global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. (2/18)

New Horizons Finds Evidence for Frozen Ocean Inside Pluto's Moon Charon (Source: America Space)
One of the most surprising discoveries in recent years in the outer Solar System is that there are small moons which have oceans inside them. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus are now known to have global oceans of water beneath their icy crusts, and others are thought to as well, including Ganymede, Titan, and possibly others.

These moons have a lot of ice and rock as well, and gravitational tugging and heating from the large gas giant planets helps maintain a deep layer of liquid water inside them, where otherwise they would most likely be frozen solid in the deep cold so far from the Sun. Now it seems that another moon also once had an ocean, although in this case it is thought to now be solid ice: Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

The findings suggest that there used to be an ocean below Charon’s surface, but it has long since frozen, with the expanding ice causing the surface to stretch and fracture. Evidence of this can be seen all over the moon in images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby of Pluto last summer. Ridges, scarps, and valleys reveal a history of tectonic activity on this small world. (2/20)

How Has Virgin Galactic Made Their Latest Spaceship Safer? (Source: CSM)
A side-by-side comparison of the Virgin Space Ship Unity and the destroyed vehicle show little difference. The two are nearly identical with the same model and manufacturing of Unity began in 2012, before the accident or any redesigns occurred. However, the Unity does feature small safety additions.

A crucial pin has been added to prevent a pilot from accidentally unlocking the feathering mechanism on the ship’s tail, which caused the first crash. The latest design reportedly also features some improvements to make the landing gear more distinct have also been added. Are those small changes enough? Yes, for enthusiasts. Maybe, for the Federal Aviation Administration. (2/20)

What Could NASA Do With Double The Budget? (Source: Test Tube)
Following the space race, NASA's budget has remained relatively flat -- here's what the agency could accomplish with increased funding. Click here. (2/18)

Oft-Delayed Rocket Set to Lift Off at Wallops (Source: DelMarVa Now)
A terrier-improved Malemute sounding rocket is scheduled to take off between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 22, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Operative word: "scheduled." The same rocket saw its launch get scrubbed several times in December for a variety of reasons, ranging from rough seas for the recovery boat to too much activity going on in the ocean beneath its flight trajectory.

The payload will consist of several Wallops engineering department projects, as well as experiments from West Virginia University. The tests are designed to confirm ionospheric and upper-atmospheric theories and measure space weather activity, NASA officials say. (2/19)

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