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NASA

— Space

Cassini prepares for dramatic climax to its mission

NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently completed the second of five planned burns designed to maneuver the spacecraft out of Saturn's ring plane, and into a polar orbit. The move is being made in preparation for the final phase of Cassini's mission, which will see the spacecraft perform a series of daring orbits, maximizing the probe's scientific output prior to the mission's termination.

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— 3D Printing

3D-printed engine combustor withstands hypersonic flight testing

Aerospace 3D printing went Mach 5 this week, with Orbital ATK announcing that it has successfully tested a printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. A key scramjet component, the 3D-printed combustor spent 20 days undergoing high-temperature hypersonic flight conditions as well as one of the longest duration propulsion wind tunnel tests for such a component.

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— Robotics

NASA crowdsources design ideas for its new ISS-bound robot

Since arriving in 2006, NASA's SPHERES robots have roamed the International Space Station assisting in microgravity research by serving as engineering and robotic testbeds. Now it is time for an upgrade. As NASA prepares to launch SPHERES' successor, a free-flying cube-shaped robot known as Astrobee, it is crowdsourcing design concepts for one of new machine's more noteworthy features, a robotic arm to be used for perching and interacting with objects.

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— Science

Detailed seafloor gravity map brings the Earth's surface into sharp focus

Not so long ago the ocean floor was as unknown as the far side of the Moon. Now, an international team of scientists is using satellite data to chart the deep ocean by measuring the Earth's gravitational field. The result is a new, highly-detailed map that covers the three-quarters of the Earth's surface that lies underwater. The map is already providing new insights into global geology.

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— Space

Juno Jupiter probe sets solar-powered space distance record

NASA's unmanned Juno deep space probe may still be over six months away from reaching Jupiter, but it's already flown into the record books. On Wednesday, January 13 at 2:00 pm EST (19:00 GMT) the planetary orbiter became the most distant solar-powered craft from Earth as it passed a point 493 million miles (793 million km) from the Sun. Juno is the ninth deep space probe to visit the outer Solar System and the first to rely on solar panels for power instead of nuclear generators.

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— Space

NASA weighs collosal, ancient galaxy cluster

A team of astronomers has used data collected by a trio of NASA's orbital telescopes in order to weigh an ancient galaxy cluster dating back to 3.8 billion years after the universe was created. Known as IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426), the cluster is the largest structure of its kind ever discovered in this period. Located 10 billion light-years from Earth, it boasts a mass of 500 trillion times that of our Sun – the equivalent of around 1,000 Milky Ways.

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