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Different views of one of two optic units onboard NuSTAR, each consisting of 133 nested cylindrical mirror shells as thin as a fingernail. The mirrors are arranged in this way in order to focus as much X-ray light as possible.
Precision and Efficiency: Building NuSTAR’s Mirrors

By William W. Zhang   Many NASA projects involve designing and building one-of-a-kind spacecraft and instruments. Created for particular, unique missions, they are custom-made, more like works of technological art than manufactured objects.

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Antarctica offers a unique environment for long-duration balloon flights, which the International Focusing Optics Collaboration for micro-Crab Sensitivity (InFOCuS) mission hopes to take advantage of in 2014. Here, the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder payload prepares for its Antarctic launch.
Building a Better Telescope: The Legacy of NASA’s Balloon Missions

By Don Cohen In an article on the NuSTAR launch delay in the fall 2012 issue of ASK, I wrote, “NuSTAR, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, contains the first focusing telescopes designed to look at high-energy X-ray radiation.”

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Morpheus ground-level hot fire on April 2, 2012, at Kennedy Space Center's Vertical Test Bed Flight Complex.
Hard Lessons and Lean Engineering

By Kerry Ellis Future human space exploration will mean getting beyond low-Earth orbit—and returning safely. Several projects across NASA are working on the challenges that goal presents, among them propulsion alternatives and guidance, navigation, and control. Three years ago, Project Morpheus and the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology project, or ALHAT, began collaborating on advances in these areas.

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Johnson integrated environments facilities test, evaluate, and certify for spaceflight. The Space Station Airlock chamber was developed to support the International Space Station program for airlock and extravehicular hardware testing, verification/certification, and flight crew training.
The Transformation of MOD: Adapting to Change in a Dynamic Environment

By Joyce Abbey   During the Apollo era, the NASA budget peaked at approximately 4 percent of the overall federal budget. Fifty years later, the Cold War is over, there are no more missions to the moon, the Space Shuttle has been retired, the International Space Station (ISS) has been completely assembled, and America’s sights are set on […]

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Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-K, enclosed in its payload fairing, passes through the Launch Complex 39 area and Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center as it travels from the Astrotech payload processing facility to its launch site.
Earth’s Bridge to Space

By Stefano Coledan   Two months shy of the thirtieth anniversary of the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) launch, the eleventh in this group of NASA spacecraft successfully flew into orbit January 30, 2013, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

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Old Instrument Illustration
The Challenge of Launching Old Scientific Instruments

By Karen Halterman Scientific instruments for robotic NASA space missions are usually designed for flight on a specific satellite with a planned launch date. Sometimes multiple copies of instruments are developed to fly on several satellites. Occasionally, the last instrument in the series is launched years after originally planned and may be decades old when […]

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovered a previously unknown, transient third radiation belt around Earth, revealing the existence of unexpected structures and processes within these hazardous regions of space. The Van Allen belts are affected by solar storms and space weather and can swell dramatically, and this discovery shows even new belts can be temporarily formed due to particle reactions. “Even fifty-five years after their discovery, the Earth’s radiation belts still are capable of surprising us and still have mysteries to discover and explain,” said Nicky Fox, Van Allen Probes deputy project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. This discovery shows the dynamic and variable nature of the radiation belts and improves our understanding of how they respond to solar activity. Scientists observed the third belt for four weeks before a powerful interplanetary shock wave from the sun annihilated it.
ASK Interactive (ASK 50)

  NASA in the News NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovered a previously unknown, transient third radiation belt around Earth, revealing the existence of unexpected structures and processes within these hazardous regions of space.

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The Knowledge Notebook: The Folly of Technological Solutionism

By Laurence Prusak   A few decades ago a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher, Ithiel de Sola Pool, put out a book called Predicting the Telephone.

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From the NASA CKO: Living in Uncertainty

By Ed Hoffman Project-based organizations like NASA have a paradox embedded in their DNA: the tension between the organization’s need for stability and the inherent uncertainty of complex projects.

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