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Parker Solar Probe pulls back the veil on Venus’s night side

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When flying past Venus in July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, short for Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow — light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside. The prominent dark feature in the center of the image is Aphrodite Terra, the largest highland region on the Venusian surface. Bright streaks in WISPR, such as the ones seen here, are typically caused by a combination of charged particles — called cosmic rays — sunlight reflected by grains of space dust, and particles of material expelled from the spacecraft’s structures after impact with those dust grains. The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here. The dark spot appearing on the lower portion of Venus is an artifact from the WISPR instrument. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher

An ultra-sensitive camera on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe caught an ethereal glimpse of the night side of Venus during a flyby last year, unexpectedly seeing through thick atmospheric haze to reveal part of the planet’s hellishly hot landscape.

Parker’s wide-field imaging instrument, known as WISPR, is designed to observe the large-scale structure of the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, while other instruments on the probe measure electric and magnetic fields, and solar wind particles. The mission launched from Cape Canaveral in August 2018 and has traveled closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft.

The mission is designed to study the origin of the solar wind, a fast-moving flow of particles streaming away from the sun in every direction. The solar wind drives space weather and influences the entire solar system, and can bring impacts such as communications and electricity blackouts, damage to satellites, and colorful auroral displays to Earth.

Named for Eugene Parker, who correctly predicted the existence of the solar wind in 1958, Parker Solar Probe will also investigate why the solar corona is many times hotter than the sun’s surface. The spacecraft is armored to withstand the extreme temperatures of the sun’s outer atmosphere, where temperatures reach 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit (2 million degrees Celsius).

Parker Solar Probe will continue breaking its own record in the coming years. The spacecraft uses gravitational slingshot maneuvers around Venus to alter its trajectory, moving the closest point of its orbit — or perihelion — ever-closer to the sun.

The flybys with Venus also offer opportunities for bonus science. An image released by NASA last week shows the night side of Venus in stark contrast to a starry sky.

Parker’s wide-field imager captured the image of Venus during a flyby July 11, 2020, from a distance of 7,693 miles (12,380 kilometers) away, according to NASA. Developed at the Naval Research Laboratory, the WISPR instrument has two overlapping cameras that take pictures in visible light.

Scientists expected Parker Solar Probe’s images of Venus to show the planet’s sulfuric acid clouds, which typically hide Venus’s landscape. Instead, Parker’s cameras saw hints of the surface of Venus.

“WISPR is tailored and tested for visible light observations. We expected to see clouds, but the camera peered right through to the surface,” said Angelos Vourlidas, the WISPR project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The picture released by NASA shows a section of Venus named Aphrodite Terra, the planet’s largest highland region. NASA says Aphrodite Terra appears darker than its surroundings because it is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) cooler than neighboring regions.

The bright rim around Venus’s atmosphere may show a phenomenon known as nightglow created as oxygen atoms high above the surface recombine into molecules over the night side of the planet, NASA said. The streaks visible in the image may be the signature of cosmic rays, interplanetary dust grains, or materials from the spacecraft itself, officials said.

“The number of streaks varies along the orbit or when the spacecraft is traveling at different speeds, and scientists are still in discussion about the specific origins of the streaks here,” NASA said in a statement.

U.S. scientists coordinated Parker’s observations with the Japanese team managing the Akatsuki spacecraft, the only probe currently in orbit around Venus.

“WISPR effectively captured the thermal emission of the Venusian surface,” said Brian Wood, an astrophysicist and WISPR team member from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. “It’s very similar to images acquired by the Akatsuki spacecraft at near-infrared wavelengths.”

Artist’s concept of Parker Solar Probe flying near Venus. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

NASA said scientists are studying whether the WISPR instrument might be sensitive to infrared light, which would be an “unforeseen capability” for the cameras. If they can see in infrared light, the cameras might be able to observe dust around the sun and in the inner solar system in a new way.

If it turns out WISPR is not sensitive to infrared light, the images of Venus’s surface “may have revealed a previously unknown ‘window’ through the Venusian atmosphere,” NASA said.

Parker Solar Probe’s flight plan includes seven flybys with Venus during its seven-year mission. The spacecraft completed its fourth Venus flyby Feb. 20, bending Parker’s orbit to set up for close approaches to the sun April 29 and Aug. 9. During those solar encounters, Parker will set a new record when it flies approximately 6.5 million miles (10.4 million kilometers) from the sun’s surface, about 1.9 million miles closer than on the mission’s previous perihelion Jan. 17.

Ground teams sent up commands for the WISPR instrument to take more pictures of Venus during the Feb. 20 flyby. That data will be downlinked to Earth by the end of April, according to NASA.

“We are really looking forward to these new images,” said Javier Peralta, a planetary scientist from the Akatsuki team, who first suggested a Parker Solar Probe campaign with Akatsuki. “If WISPR can sense the thermal emission from the surface of Venus and nightglow — most likely from oxygen — at the limb of the planet, it can make valuable contributions to studies of the Venusian surface.”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/02/28/parker-solar-probe-pulls-back-the-veil-on-venuss-night-side/

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Virgin Galactic unveils new spaceship for its growing fleet

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Virgin Galactic has unveiled the company’s first SpaceShip III in its growing fleet, VSS Imagine.

The spaceship showcases Virgin Galactic’s innovation in design and astronaut experience. Imagine also demonstrates progress toward efficient design and production, as Virgin Galactic works to scale the business for the long-term.

VSS Imagine will commence ground testing, with glide flights planned for this summer from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The livery design, finished entirely with a mirror-like material, reflects the surrounding environment, constantly changing colour and appearance as it travels from earth to sky to space.

Leveraging a modular design, the SpaceShip III class of vehicles are built to enable improved performance in terms of maintenance access and flight rate. This third generation of spaceship will lay the foundation for the design and manufacture of future vehicles.

As VSS Imagine begins ground testing, manufacturing will progress on VSS Inspire, the second SpaceShip III vehicle within the Virgin Galactic fleet. The introduction of the SpaceShip III class of vehicles is an important milestone in Virgin Galactic’s multi-year effort that targets flying 400 flights per year, per spaceport.

VSS Imagine is unveiled ahead of VSS Unity’s next test flight, which is planned for May 2021.

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, commented: “Today we unveiled our SpaceShip III class of vehicles, marking the beginning of the Virgin Galactic fleet. VSS Imagine and Inspire are stunning ships that will take our future astronauts on an incredible voyage to space, and their names reflect the aspirational nature of human spaceflight. Congratulations to our dedicated team who worked so brilliantly to achieve this milestone.”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, added: “Virgin Galactic spaceships are built specifically to deliver a new, transforming perspective to the thousands of people who will soon be able to experience the wonder of space for themselves. As a SpaceShip III class of vehicle, Imagine is not just beautiful to look at, but represents Virgin Galactic’s growing fleet of spaceships. All great achievements, creations and changes start with an idea. Our hope is for all those who travel to space to return with fresh perspectives and new ideas that will bring positive change to our planet.”

www.virgingalactic.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/virgin-galactic-unveils-new-spaceship-for-its-growing-fleet/

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

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Hexcel joins ASCEND project

Hexcel has announced its role within the recently launched UK-based project called ASCEND (Aerospace and Automotive Supply Chain Enabled Development) that will focus on developing high-rate manufacturing and processing technologies that will accelerate the development of new, lightweight advanced composite materials.

The composites company will join lead partner GKN Aerospace and 13 other project stakeholders in a collaboration across the UK supply chain to develop the technologies and automation equipment required to manufacture lightweight, more fuel-efficient structures for sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive industries.

Hexcel will contribute to the ASCEND project framework, developing a new HexPly fast cure prepreg system that will significantly reduce component processing times compared to existing aerospace prepregs.

In addition to its new fast curing prepreg technology, Hexcel’s range of Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) products will be incorporated into the ASCEND project work packages. The project will use both HiTape advanced unidirectional dry carbon reinforcements and HiMax multiaxial non-crimp fabrics reinforcements.

The ASCEND project will allow Hexcel to collaborate with Tier 1 companies, engineers, tooling specialists, and production equipment OEMs to deliver both prepreg and liquid composite moulding solutions that meet both the performance targets and satisfy the processing requirements for high-rate automated manufacture.

The technical integration enabled by the ASCEND project partnerships will ensure a complete understanding of customer performance and processing needs, coupled with the opportunity to industrialize new technologies utilizing the extensive capabilities of GKN’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol.

Paul Mackenzie, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Hexcel, said “We are  proud to be part of the ASCEND program, and we look forward to working with other leading companies as we develop processes and materials that help to make the next generation of sustainable air mobility, aerospace, and automotive vehicles possible. This project offers the perfect platform for Hexcel to collaborate and further develop our HexPly, HiMax, and HiTape technologies.”

The ASCEND partners working alongside Hexcel include Assyst Bulmer, Airborne, Cobham Mission Systems Wimborne, Cygnet Texkimp, DES Composites, FAR-UK, Hive Composites, LMAT, Loop Technology, McLaren Automotive, The National Composites Centre, Solvay Composite Technologies, Rafinex, and Sigmatex (UK).

Together, the group looks forward to delivering the material and automation innovations that will power more sustainable mobility solutions of the future.

www.hexcel.com

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Source: https://www.aero-mag.com/hexcel-joins-ascend-project/

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes extends landing gear kits contract with Magellan

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Boeing Commercial Airplanes division has extended its component supply contract with Canada-based supplier Magellan Aerospace.

Under this long-term contract, Magellan will continue to supply landing gear kits and structural components for Boeing platforms such as the 737, 767, and 777.

The contract extension also shows that Magellan meets Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ cost, quality and performance requirements.

Magellan business development, marketing and contract vice-president Haydn Martin said: “Securing this major business extension for key Boeing platforms is foundational for our New York and Kitchener facilities as the aerospace industry works to recover from the impact of the global pandemic.

“The confidence that Boeing has placed in Magellan is significant and demonstrates our ability to offer our customers comprehensive and reliable solutions.”

For Boeing, the company is using a vertical integration strategy that leverages global resources in Ontario, New York City, and India.

It has also made significant investments across all its facilities regarding manufacturing technology and the workforce to enhance its competitiveness worldwide.

Magellan will deliver these kits and hardware from its facilities in Kitchener, Ontario and New York City, New York. The company will also produce an extra supply of kits to reduce production risk.

Deliveries will be made directly to Boeing’s assembly facilities in Renton and Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Magellan signed a five-year renewal agreement with Avio Aero to supply magnesium and aluminium castings.

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/boeing-commercial-aircraft-magellan/

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ZeroAvia raises new funding for hydrogen-electric engine development

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Zero-emission aviation firm ZeroAvia has raised $24.3m in new funding to support the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric engine.

Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, an existing investor, led the latest funding round and was joined by new investor British Airways.

Other investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ, also joined the financing.

The financing takes the company’s total private investment to more than $53m while the total funding raised is close to $74m since its formation.

ZeroAvia’s funding comes a few months after the UK Government, through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK, announced a $16.3m (£12.3m) grant to deliver a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered aircraft in the market by 2023.

The new funding will accelerate the hydrogen-electric powertrain development for a ten to 20-seater regional aircraft.

ZeroAvia aims to commercialise the engine as early as 2024. The company aims to enter the more than 50-seater commercial aircraft segment by 2026.

The funding will also de-risk the company ambition to power a 100-seat single-aisle aircraft by 2030.

ZeroAvia CEO and founder Val Miftakhov said: “This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale.

“With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology.”

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Source: https://www.aerospace-technology.com/news/zeroavia-electric-raising-funds/

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