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A new rotor landing system is being tested by NASA. The space agency is trying to enable its future space capsule to land like helicopters. The tests are conducted in the 550 foot fall Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Washington.
The idea behind the new landing system called auto-rotation is to replace parachutes with spinning blades to allow soft and controlled landings of the spacecraft on land instead of the ocean. It has been proven efficient on helicopters, but never been tried on a spacecraft. NASA considered using a rotor re-entry landing system for the Apollo spacecraft in the 1960s, but it never progressed.
According to Discovery News, the new rotor re-entry landing system is designed for capsule-inspired spacecraft like the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle that is projected to launch before the end of the decade. Right now, engineers are trying to determine how to deploy the blades the right way. They think they can come up with a similar mechanism used in bombs whose fins flick open at high-speed. They want a mechanism that deploys the blades and start them spinning immediately. Using a scale model suspended at 480 feet above the floor, they are testing ways to get the blades spinning with drop tests at the VAB. Engineers are using a helicopter radio-control unit to change the rotor’s pitch and slow-down the capsule.
Succeeding rotor re-entry landing tests will eventually get more complicated. Future tests will involve full-scale models dropped form high-altitude balloons.
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News Source: www.hindubusinessline.com
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Just before sunrise, space shuttle Atlantis made its final landing in Florida, putting to bed the 30-year U.S. shuttle program and ending NASA’s 135th and final manned shuttle mission to space.
As a little white dot passed over the horizon, the crowd of spectators gathered at Kennedy Space Center to welcome the shuttle home.
Together with its crew members known as the final four : Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus, and Rex Walheim, Atlantis’ mission was virtually flawless, with the crew delivering five-and-a-half tons of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.
“You know, the space station’s changed the way we view our world, and it’s changed the way we view our universe. A lot of emotion today, but one thing’s indisputable: America’s not gonna stop exploring,” Ferguson said, as the shuttle landed.
It was a bittersweet day for shuttle astronauts, crews and technicians. Today, United Space Alliance, one of the space program’s largest employers, will lay off about 2,000 employees.
“For some, Friday is their last day, and they performed flawlessly right up to the end,” Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said. “I have extreme pride in every one of them.”
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Source: USA Today, cnet News, The Washington Post