fy2000 link to home page department of energy

logo for the Department of EnergyDoE’s Office of Nuclear Energy continued to support NASA’s Space Exploration Program by providing radioisotope power sources and heater units, and developing new advanced power systems covering the range of power levels required to meet more stringent power system requirements for future missions. DoE personnel provided safety analyses to support the NASA Environmental Impact Statement for the potential use of radioisotope heater units on the Mars 2003 mission. DoE conducted competitive procurements with several potential system contractors for development of conceptual designs for a Stirling radioisotope power system. A Stirling engine is one in which work is performed by the expansion of gas at high temperature to which heat is supplied through a wall. At the end of the fiscal year, DoE specialists were evaluating these contractor designs and expected to select one for further development. Additionally, DoE initiated actions to procure a system contractor to develop a multimission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) suitable for use in a variety of environments such as the surface of Mars and deep space. Finally, following a bench-scale demonstration in 2000, DoE proceeded to install a full-scale process to recover Plutonium-238 scrap for reuse as an energy source for radioisotope power systems for future NASA missions.

In FY 2001, DoE’s Office of Science cooperated with NASA in a wide variety of activities, such as bringing the experimental techniques of fundamental physics for use in outer space, using the science and technology plasma science to devise new propulsion systems, joint efforts to understand atmospheric and environmental phenomena, and a working partnership in advanced computing research. These activities were carried out under a Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and DoE signed by NASA Administrator Goldin and DoE Secretary Watkins in 1992.

Through an Implementing Arrangement with NASA signed in 1995, the Office of Science continued in 2001 to build the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) for use on the International Space Station. The AMS is an international experiment designed to use the unique environment of space to search for and measure, with a much greater sensitivity than heretofore possible, various unusual types of matter. AMS will study the properties and origin of cosmic particles and nuclei, including antimatter and dark matter. Discovering the presence of either material will increase scientists’ understanding of the early universe and could potentially lead to a clearer understanding of the actual origin of the universe. Funding in FY 2001 was used for analysis of data acquired during a 10-day Shuttle flight in 1998, and for planning and fabrication for an upcoming Shuttle flight, for the eventual deployment on the International Space Station in 2003.

DoE’s Office of Science and NASA’s Office of Space Science worked together in FY 2001 to build the Large-Area Telescope (LAT), the primary instrument for the Gamma-ray Large-Area Space Telescope (GLAST) project. This device, using the techniques of experimental particle physics research, detects gamma rays emitted by the most energetic objects and phenomena in the universe. Stanford University and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) are responsible to the Office of Science and to NASA for overall project direction. SLAC, a DoE facility at Stanford University, is responsible for the assembly and integration of the complete instrument, data acquisition system management, as well as software development for GLAST’s flight system and science analysis. DoE provided funding in FY 2001 for R&D, design, and fabrication of the telescope, in conjunction with NASA and international partners. At the end of FY 2001, the launch was anticipated to take place in 2004.

DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center collaborated in FY 2001 on the development of an advanced rocket technology that could cut in half the time required to reach Mars. Called the Variable-Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR), the technology is a precursor to fusion rockets and was developed in DoE’s magnetic fusion program. The VASIMR concept could provide a powerful means of propulsion by utilizing plasma as the propellant. A key to the technology is the capability to vary the plasma exhaust to maintain optimal propulsive efficiency.

Some of the new fusion technologies being developed for VASIMIR include magnets that are super-conducting at space temperatures, compact power generation equipment, and compact and robust radio-frequency systems for plasma generation and heating. ORNL’s Fusion Energy Division continued to play a key role in developing and adapting these technologies for use on the VASIMR plasma thruster. NASA’s Johnson Space Center provided direct support to ORNL to fund technology development specific to the VASIMR. In addition, DoE's Office of Science complemented the NASA effort by supporting related research on creating high-density plasmas by radio-frequency heating.

The Office of Science also worked with NASA to evaluate the responses of ecosystems to increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and to make predictions of future climate variation due to such increases. In FY 2001, the Office of Science made available to NASA its models of carbon dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems developed under the Terrestrial Carbon Processes Program. Scientists began to use these models as a basis for comparison with a variety of models developed under NASA’s Vegetation Model Analysis Program.

DoE’s Office of Science and NASA also worked together to calculate the biweekly primary productivity of various representative regions in the United States. In FY 2001, the AmeriFlux Program of the Office of Science provided real-time meteorological and solar radiation data for these calculations, and NASA provided data on leaf-area and photosynthetically active radiation. This joint work made possible continental-scale estimates of seasonal and geographic patterns of productivity. The AmeriFlux Program produced unique measurements of net ecosystem production from about 25 locations across the U.S. These results provided an independent calibration of NASA’s productivity calculations.

The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program of the Office of Science conducted a joint field campaign with NASA that is designed to provide accurate measurements of water vapor in the upper troposphere. Data on water vapor in the upper troposphere are one of the key elements required to improve the performance of large-scale weather and climate-prediction models. The Office of Science and NASA provided ground and airborne instrumentation for water vapor measurements for the campaign. In addition, NASA provided the new Proteus aircraft, an airborne platform designed for high-altitude and long-endurance research flights. This campaign represented the most extensive study of upper-level water vapor to date–a critical step forward in climate model improvements.

The Office of Science and NASA also collaborated in a joint effort to measure water vapor in the lower troposphere. Both agencies provided ground-based instruments, which enabled researchers to compare two sets of data. This research has led to new algorithms for the instruments that will be used by each agency as standards for specific measurements.

The Office of Science’s Low-Dose Radiation Research Program continued to have an ongoing interaction with the Space Radiation Health Program in NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research. The focus of research in the DoE Low-Dose Radiation Research Program continued to be on doses of radiation that are at or below current workplace exposure limits. The primary area of emphasis of the NASA Space Radiation Health Program continued to be understanding the biological effects of space radiation that account for radiation risks.

In FY 2001, NASA and DoE developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to better coordinate their common interests that were pending final approval at the end of the fiscal year. This close collaboration between NASA and DoE is to enhance progress in understanding and predicting the effects and health risks resulting from low-dose radiation. In addition to the MoA, DoE and NASA jointly sponsored a radiation investigators workshop in FY 2001 that included presentations by representatives of all radiation biology research projects funded by DoE and NASA. DoE and NASA also issued a joint Request for Applications in FY 2001 for research that addresses both DoE and NASA needs to understand the human health effects and risks of exposures to low doses of radiation.

The Office of Science continued to make available to NASA the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron (AGS), part of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) complex at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The AGS is the only accelerator in the United States capable of providing heavy ion beams at energies of interest for space radiobiology. Since the fall of 1995, experiments in radiobiology have been performed using beams of iron, gold, or silicon ions from the AGS. NASA funded these experiments as part of its Space Radiation Health Program. A new NASA-funded facility is under construction at the RHIC complex, the Booster Applications Facility. This new user facility, scheduled for completion in 2003, will be used to more effectively continue NASA’s radiation biology studies. The Office of Science and NASA continued working together to expand the range of technical resources available for experimentation and analysis of experimental results at BNL.

In the computing area, the Office of Science and NASA continued their collaboration on "Grids," an innovative way to transfer data among geographically disbursed computer systems at rates of a gigabyte per second and higher. Disciplines that are benefiting from Grid technology include multidisciplinary aerospace system design, high-energy physics data analysis, climate analysis and prediction, and large-scale remote instrument operation. The Office of Science and NASA also conducted the Global Grid Forum, a technology definition and standards organization that is providing an invaluable contribution to the field.

Most users of Grids will access Grid services via discipline-specific frameworks that are built from services that use the World Wide Web. The Office of Science supplied and continued working on various technologies that made Grid services available in the Web environment. The Office of Science has developed a range of basic Grid services for reliable movement of terabyte-sized datasets, data replication, and location management techniques to minimize data access times, etc. Two Office of Science laboratories, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory, set up experimental Grids with NASA's Ames Research Center in order to identify and resolve the technical and configuration issues that arise from cross-institutional operation of the authentication and security infrastructure, and cross-operation of the directory services that are the central information service for Grids.

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