SESDA Communications Staff Support Solar Orbiter Launch, a Mission Taking Solar Science to New Heights

February 27, 2020

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying the Solar Orbiter, lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:03 p.m. EST, on Feb. 9, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

More than ten SESDA science writers, outreach and production staff travelled to Kennedy Space Center to help NASA communicate launch events to the public. Solar Orbiter, a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, launched at 11:03 p.m. EST on Feb. 9, 2020, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. With a scientific payload of 10 different instruments — each complementing and supporting the others — Solar Orbiter combines high-resolution telescopes with measurements from the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft. Together the observations create a one-of-a-kind, comprehensive picture of the Sun’s inner workings and how they can affect the space environment further out in the solar system. During its mission, Solar Orbiter will journey out of the ecliptic plane — the belt of space roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator through which the planets orbit — to get a bird’s eye view of the Sun’s poles. This unprecedented perspective will allow Solar Orbiter to take the first-ever images of this region on the Sun.

SESDA Engineer Receives Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal

February 3, 2020

Congratulations to Tim Cameron in the Heliophysics Ionosphere, Thermosphere, Mesosphere Physics (ITM) Laboratory on receiving an Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal for his accomplishments in electrical engineering.

“This prestigious NASA medal is awarded to both Government and non-Government individuals for exceptional engineering contributions toward achievement of the NASA mission. This award is given for individual efforts for applications of engineering principles or methods that have resulted in a contribution of fundamental importance in this field or have significantly enhanced understanding of this field or have significantly advanced the state of the practice as demonstrated by an application to aerospace systems.”

SESDA Web Developer Implements Promising New Technology

WebGL is a relatively new cross-platform web standard for enabling low-level 3D graphics functionality directly within a browser. It is supported by all major browsers (Safari, Chrome, Edge, and Firefox) and allows for dynamic rendering of images. SESDA web developer Kirill Vorobyev recognized the intrinsic value of applying this technology to the Helioviewer visualization tool to stream user-selected movies of solar data and perform rapid on-the-fly image processing such as changing the user’s perspective. You can play with a beta version here.

HECN Work at SC19

December 20, 2019

Paul Lang next to the HECN-built equipment

SESDA’s HECN team, working with the Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the 100-GigE Ciena Testbed, the StarLight national and international optical network exchange facility, CenturyLink, Internet2, and SCinet, created a multi-100-GigE network topology for live demos at SuperComputing 2019 in Denver, CO.  This included 4×100-GigE network paths between NASA Goddard and SC19, 2×100-GigE network paths between StarLight and SC19, and 2×100-GigE network paths between NASA Goddard and StarLight. 

At SC19 the HECN team demonstrated the use of NVMe over Fabric over TCP (NVMe-oF/TCP) technology across a 4×100-GigE wide-area network (WAN) infrastructure as a SCinet Network Research Experiment (NRE).  The experiments showcased very high performance disk-to-memory and disk-to-disk network data transfers between a single high performance 4×100-GigE NVMe server at SC19 and a single 2×100-GigE high performance NVMe client at NASA Goddard, with only a moderate level of system CPU utilization on the server.  The top result was an aggregate throughput of nearly 200 Gigabits per second (Gbps) on 64 reads across 16 NVMe drives using 2 100-GigE WAN links. When doing full disk-to-disk network data transfers using NVMe-oF/TCP to read a remote NVMe drive and then write to a local NVMe drive, the aggregate throughput dropped to about 120 Gbps.  This may be due to inadequate buffering to handle the slower NVMe write speeds and requires further investigation.  Also performed were more traditional network data transfers using the normal Linux TCP/IP network stack, which achieved an aggregate throughput of almost 200 Gbps while totally consuming all of the system CPU resources.

Network Topology used for the used for the demonstrations at the SuperComputing 2019 (SC19) event in  Denver, CO in Nov 2019


December 16, 2019

The SESDA team helped host the 3rd International Heliophysics Data Environment Alliance (IHDEA) meeting at the Goddard Corporate Park facility during October 16-18, 2019. The primary goal of the meeting was to establish the IHDEA, which has the goals of fostering coordinated development of common data standards and services, and promoting their use to enable efficient and effective sharing of Heliophysics data (from space, ground, and models) so as to enhance the scientific return of the data and facilitate new discovery. The meeting was a resounding success marked by the completion of drafts of the IHDEA Charter and Bylaws documents which will be finalized and released to the International Heliophysics community with a formal announcement of the establishment of the IHDEA.

NASA Scientists Observe the Earth’s Atmosphere Leaking into Space

December 10, 2019

This time-lapse photograph shows the first stages of the VISION-2 Black Brant X rockets as they leave the launch pad from Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, in Norway. Credits: NASA/ Allison Stancil-Ervin
This time-lapse photograph shows the first stages of the VISION-2 Black Brant X rockets as they leave the launch pad from Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, in Norway. Credits: NASA/ Allison Stancil-Ervin

In the tiny Arctic town of Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, where polar bears outnumber people, winter means three months without sunlight. The unending darkness is ideal for those who seek a strange breed of northern lights, normally obscured by daylight. When these unusual auroras shine, Earth’s atmosphere leaks into space.

NASA scientists traveled to Ny-Ålesund to launch rockets through these auroras and witness oxygen particles right in the middle of their escape. Piercing these fleeting auroras, some 300 miles high, would require strategy, patience — and a fair bit of luck. The Mission is called VISIONS-2 and rockets were launched Dec, 7, 2018. SESDA Outreach staff travelled with the scientists to help document and report their story and continuing science results. This video describes the mission:

Parker Solar Probe First Data Release

November 21, 2019

(Image: © Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
An artist’s depiction of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe gathering data about the sun
(Image: © Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission released its first set of data following two close passes of the Sun in 2018 and 2019. SESDA staff in the Space Physics Data Facility (SPDF) played critical roles in ensuring that available data could be readily accessed and retrieved from its archives via the CDAWeb system. They worked closely with instrument providers to test and validate data sets, and developed custom display software to facilitate analysis and discovery.

The Heliophysics STEM Innovation Lab on TED

A special shout out to SESDA’s Troy Cline for an illuminating invited TED-x talk on Space Science and Education at Chandigarh, India. As the director of the Heliophysics STEM Innovation Lab, Troy highlighted NASA’s involvement in supporting international outreach events such as the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse and in using novel technologies such as Virtual Reality to advance public awareness and understanding of science and engineering.

Science on Fire

September 25, 2019

Kudos to Leslie Garrison from the MMS Outreach group on a highly professional hosting of NASA Science Live: A World of Fires which highlighted NASA’s critical involvement in studying extreme forest fires and their impact on ecosystems and populations.

GIFT Keeps On Giving

September 13, 2019

The Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT) performs research campaigns at geologic areas that are similar to locations on other planets and moons. In August, as the team took measurements of lava tubes and landscapes formed by the Mauna Loa volcano, SESDA’s Molly Wasser traveled with them and created Twitter and Facebook posts sharing their science and giving the public a first-hand account of research in the field.