NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star. The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system.
Scientists refined the estimates of the masses of the planets using observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observations show Kepler-9b is the larger of the two planets, and both have masses similar to but less than Saturn. Kepler-9b lies closest to the star with an orbit of about 19 days, while Kepler-9c has an orbit of about 38 days. By observing several transits by each planet over the seven months of data, the time between successive transits could be analyzed.
The full article may be found at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/two_planet_orbit.html
NASA and the Spaceward Foundation awarded a prize of $900,000 to LaserMotive LLC of Seattle, Washington for their winning performance in the Power Beaming Challenge competition held on Nov. 4th through 6th at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center. The Spaceward Foundation of Mountain View, CA manages this competition for NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program.
The Power Beaming Challenge is a demonstration of wireless power transmission in which teams build and demonstrate systems to beam energy from the ground to a robotic device that climbs a vertical cable. To compete, teams must integrate a complex set of technical skills for optical beam forming, electro-mechanical beam tracking, photovoltaic beam conversion, power capture electronics, and mechanical drive. To win a prize, the climber must reach the top of the cable at a height of one kilometer. Teams that can reach the top share in the prize purse of $2,000,000 based on their vertical speed and payload mass. LaserMotive’s average speed on their best of several successful climbs was 3.9 meters per second and by exceeding the average speed of 2 meters per second and being the only team to reach the top, they claimed the entire $900,000 prize for that level. Teams had to exceed an average speed of 5 meters per second to qualify for a share of the remaining prize purse of $1,100,000. That amount will remain available for the next Power Beaming competition.
The full article may be found at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/oct/early_stage_innovation/centennial_challenges/cc_pb_feature_11_10_09.html
75 Years Ago
July 2, 1935: The Air Defense Research Committee in the United Kingdom heard the first report on radio direction finding (RDF, later called RADAR). The historic development quickly transformed British air defenses in preparation for war.
65 Years Ago
July 13, 1945: An armed forces circular announced the activation of the White Sands Proving Ground. Later known as White Sands Missile Range, the facility was the largest over-land test installation in the western hemisphere and remains the largest today.
60 Years Ago
July 24, 1950: General Electric Co., in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, Calif. launched the Bumper #8 rocket. It was the first rocket launched from the recently established Long Range Proving Ground at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The purpose of the mission was to test methods of stage separation while a rocket is performing a near-horizontal flight.
50 Years Ago
July 1, 1960: NASA launched the first complete Scout launch vehicle fired from Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. (part of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.). The rocket quickly became a workhorse in orbiting scientific payloads because Scout’s four-stage booster could place a heavy satellite into orbit.
Credit: NASA Science