Inserting new capabilities into a satellite is no simple task. Doing so as that satellite hurdles through space 22,000 miles above the Earth is a bit more challenging still. DARPA's Phoenix program, which hopes to repurpose retired satellites while they remain in orbit, seeks to fundamentally change how space systems could be designed here on earth and then sustained once in space.
In orbit at 18,000 miles an hour, day and night change places every 90 minutes. Darkness and light, sleep and wake: it's tough to focus on precise tasks floating outside the International Space Station. But not if you're a robot. NASA's Robotic Refueling Mission puts that proposition to the test, with a first-of-its-kind demonstration of a simulated fuel transfer in space, no human in sight. But first, there's a pile of prep before the operation can commence.
The Orion space capsule along with NASA Astronauts Lee Morin, Alvin Drew, Kjell Lindgren, Serena Aunon, Kate Rubins, and Mike Massimino pass the Presidential viewing stand and President Barack Obama during the Inaugural Parade on Monday Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Orion will carry future astronauts beyond Earth orbit to farther destinations than ever before. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls. Larger Image
A replica of NASA's Curiosity Rover and members of the Mars Science Laboratory science team pass the Presidential viewing stand and President Barack Obama during the Inaugural Parade on Monday Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls. Larger image
Astronauts on board the International Space Station captured this view of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area on Sunday, Jan. 20, one day before the public Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
This detailed view shows the Potomac River and its bridges at left, with National Mall at the center, stretching eastward from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument toward the Capitol building, where the inaugural ceremony will be held.