Monday, October 31, 2011

Progress Launch: Russia successfully resumes Soyuz booster flights to the ISS

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has successfully returned the venerable Soyuz booster to flight via the launch of the Soyuz-U booster carrying the uncrewed Progress M-13M/45P resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is the first successful Soyuz booster flight to the ISS since the 24th August failure of the Soyuz-U booster carrying the Progress M-12M/44P spacecraft.

Previous failure:
Following the 24th August liftoff of the Soyuz-U booster carrying the Progress M-12M/44P resupply spacecraft to the ISS, the booster’s third stage unexpectedly shut down shortly after ignition, causing the third stage with attached Progress spacecraft to fall back to Earth and disintegrate in the atmosphere.

The failure could not have come at a worse time for the ISS, with the workhorse Space Shuttle having been retired only the previous month, and commercial resupply spacecraft still engaged in preparations for their debut launches to the station.

While the loss of supplies from Progress M-12M wasn’t a huge concern to the ISS due to the “heavy” delivery of cargo by the final Space Shuttle mission in July, more concerning was the fact that the third stage of the Soyuz-U booster used to launch unmanned spacecraft to the ISS shares a lot of commonality with the third stage of the Soyuz-FG booster used to launch crews to the station.

Following the launch failure, all Soyuz boosters were grounded pending an investigation, a move which forced delays to other crew and cargo flights to the ISS.

With impressive speed, a Russian commission quickly determined the cause of the failure to be a blocked fuel line leading to the gas generator in the Soyuz-U third stage’s RD-0110 engine. The blocked fuel line caused a loss of pressure in the gas generator, which in turn caused a shutdown of the RD-0110 engine’s turbopump, leading to a total loss of thrust.

While the blocked fuel line was attributed to a random, one-off event caused by human error in vehicle processing, all Soyuz third stages were ordered to be sent back to their assembly plant for through testing. With the tests confirming that the previous defect was indeed a one-off, Russia cleared the Soyuz booster for resumption of flights.

In order to prevent a re-occurrence of the defect, numerous new safety measures were implemented, including video cameras to record all stages of Soyuz booster assembly.

Numerous Russian media reports have cited ageing workforces, poor salaries, and a lack of investment as causes for the decline in the quality of the usually highly reliable Soyuz booster, which has completed well over one-thousand successful flights.

Fallout from the failure:
The largest concern resulting from the launch failure was that the Soyuz booster would not be returned to flight in time to launch a new crew to the ISS before the current one had to return to Earth, leading to a de-crewing of the station.

While operating the ISS in an un-crewed configuration is technically possible, it is highly undesirable due to the loss of scientific research and increased risk resulting from on-board failures, as detailed at length in previous articles on this site.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NASA-backed space taxi to fly in test next summer

Sierra Nevada Corp's "Dream Chaser" space plane, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, is one of four space taxis being developed by private industry with backing from the U.S. government.

For the unmanned test flight, it will be carried into the skies by WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft for the commercial suborbital passenger ship SpaceShipTwo, backed by Virgin Galactic, a U.S. company owned by Richard Branson's London-based Virgin Group.

The test flight was added after privately held Sierra Nevada got a $25.6-million boost to its existing $80 million contract with NASA.

The test flight will take place from either Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert, or from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Ed Mango, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said at a community briefing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

With the retirement of the space shuttles this summer, NASA is now dependent on Russia to fly astronauts to the space station, at a cost of more than $50 million per person.

The agency hopes to turn over crew transportation services to one or more commercial firms before the end of 2016, Mango said.

In addition to Sierra Nevada, NASA is funding spaceship development work at Boeing Co, Space Exploration Technologies, and Blue Origin, a start-up firm owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

"Having only one way to get crew to the station is a limitation," NASA astronaut Mike Fossum, who is currently living aboard the outpost, said during an in-flight interview last week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

China Will Own the Moon, Space Entrepreneur Worries

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A new game of "Solar System Monopoly" is under way, and the United States is losing, commercial space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow said today (Oct. 19).

The first prize, ownership of the moon, is up for grabs, and China will likely snag it, Bigelow said here at the 2011 International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.

Bigelow's Las Vegas-based company, Bigelow Aerospace, is constructing private inflatable space modules that it hopes to rent out to government and commercial customers. The firm is even working on a series of labs for a human lunar colony.

But by the time the America gets into gear to build its own moon base, large swaths of lunar territory may already be claimed, Bigelow said in a talk that the firebrand entrepreneur warned the audience would be "controversial."

"Americans are still basking in the lunar glory from 40 years ago," Bigelow said. "But we don’t own one square foot of the damn place. NASA is a shadow of the space agency it once was in the 1960s and 1970s."

In contrast, he argued, China has the motivation and ability to win the next space race and claim ownership of much of the moon. Bigelow argued that international law would allow a nation to make such a claim, especially if it were able to enforce it through continuous human lunar presence.

Owning the moon would be a windfall both financially and for international prestige, he said. Not only does it offer a jumping off point for further exploration of the solar system, but it also contains vast stores of valuable resources such as water and helium-3, a possible fuel for nuclear fusion.

Moreover, the symbolic and global psychological impact would be huge, Bigelow said. "I think nothing else China could possibly do in the next 15 years would cause as great a benefit for China."

In addition to China's growing technological prowess, the country has the cash, the lack of debt and the national will to become the owner of the moon, Bigelow argued. He predicted China could claim ownership of vast swaths of lunar territory by 2022 to 2026.

"Hopefully this will produce the fear factor necessary to motivate the Americans," Bigelow said.

But while the U.S. could be losing the race to own the moon, Bigelow said that Mars offers another frontier up for grabs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits 2nd-Lowest Level

Last month the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data from NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the summertime sea ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low.

The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months and shrinks each summer as the sun rises higher in the northern sky. Each year the Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum extent in September. It hit a record low in 2007.

The near-record ice-melt followed higher-than-average summer temperatures, but without the unusual weather conditions that contributed to the extreme melt of 2007. "Atmospheric and oceanic conditions were not as conducive to ice loss this year, but the melt still neared 2007 levels," said NSIDC scientist Walt Meier. "This probably reflects loss of multiyear ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas as well as other factors that are making the ice more vulnerable."

Joey Comiso, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said the continued low minimum sea ice levels fits into the large-scale decline pattern that scientists have watched unfold over the past three decades.

"The sea ice is not only declining, the pace of the decline is becoming more drastic," Comiso said. "The older, thicker ice is declining faster than the rest, making for a more vulnerable perennial ice cover."

While the sea ice extent did not dip below the 2007 record, the sea ice area as measured by the microwave radiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite did drop slightly lower than 2007 levels for about 10 days in early September, Comiso said. Sea ice "area" differs from extent in that it equals the actual surface area covered by ice, while extent includes any area where ice covers at least 15 percent of the ocean.

Arctic sea ice extent on Sept. 9, the lowest point this year, was 4.33 million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles). Averaged over the month of September, ice extent was 4.61 million square kilometers (1.78 million square miles). This places 2011 as the second lowest ice extent both for the daily minimum extent and the monthly average. Ice extent was 2.43 million square kilometers (938,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.

This summer's low ice extent continued the downward trend seen over the last 30 years, which scientists attribute largely to warming temperatures caused by climate change. Data show that Arctic sea ice has been declining both in extent and thickness. Since 1979, September Arctic sea ice extent has declined by 12 percent per decade.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Indo-French satellite put into orbit

SRIHARIKOTA: Despite gray skies on Wednesday morning, Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) trusted carrier, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), successfully carried an Indo-French joint satellite into space and placed it in orbit.
Besides this satellite, Megha-Tropiques, which will be used to provide groundbreaking real-time information about water cycles in the tropics, three other satellites— part of the vehicle’s 1,947 kg payload— were put in orbit.
The PSLV was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR) here.
Just over 21 minutes after the launch, ISRO chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan smilingly announced that the mission was a “grand success”. He described it as “a new phase of co-operation between India and France”.
This was the 20th PSLV launch.
It was also the 19th consecutive one that made it to orbit. Celebrations rang out at the control centre of the SDSC after the last satellite - Jugnu, developed by students of IIT-Kanpur, was deployed.
A representative from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, said that he was impressed by the “professional launch”.
Radhakrishnan described Megha- Tropiques as “unique” and said it was of tremendous interest to the scientific community globally.
Explaining that the satellite would record and transmit parameters relating to tropical weather and climate to aid prediction, he said this was the “beginning of a new era in science”.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surprisingly Earth-like features revealed on Saturn's moon

After meticulously stitching together images that were gathered over six years by a NASA spacecraft in orbit around Saturn, astronomers have created a global map of the surface of Titan, the ringed planet's largest moon, and it features some surprisingly Earth-like geological features.

An international team of astronomers, led by the University of Nantes in France, created the striking mosaic of Titan's surface using infrared images taken by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

The global map and animations were presented Oct. 4 at the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Science in Nantes, France.

The researchers used images that were taken during the Cassini mission's first 70 flybys of Titan. But, piecing together the map was an intricate and painstaking project because scientists had to comb through the pictures on a pixel-by-pixel basis to adjust illumination differences and other distortions caused by Titan's thick and hazy atmosphere, said Stéphane Le Mouélic, of the University of Nantes.

"As Cassini is orbiting Saturn and not Titan, we can observe Titan only once a month on average," Le Mouélic said in a statement. "The surface of Titan is therefore revealed year after year, as pieces of the puzzle are progressively put together. Deriving a final map with no seams is challenging due to the effects of the atmosphere — clouds, mist etc. — and due to the changing geometries of observation between each flyby."

Lifting the veil on Saturn's largest moon
Titan is the only moon known to be cloaked in a dense atmosphere, which is composed mainly of nitrogen. It also has clouds of methane and ethane, and ongoing research has presented increasing evidence for methane rain on the large, frigid moon.

Since Titan is veiled in an opaque atmosphere, its surface is difficult to study with visible light cameras, and only a few specific infrared wavelengths can penetrate the haze. Cassini's infrared instruments and radar signals provide an intriguing glimpse down to the surface of the frozen body, which, as the new global map reveals, has some interesting Earth-like features.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Antarctic underground lake could hold secrets of Earth's past

A lake hidden beneath three kilometres of ice in the western Antarctic could reveal what life on Earth looked like up to a million years ago and narrow down the search for extraterrestrial life.

A team of British scientists will arrive in Antarctica next week in the hope of becoming the first people to reach one of the frozen continent's 387 underground lakes.

Lake Ellsworth is likely to contain bacteria, microbes and other simple life forms which experts believe will have been sealed away from the rest of the Earth for up to a million years.

Samples of water and sediment to be collected from the lake could reveal undiscovered life forms which existed on Earth before the lake froze over, and what the planet's past climate was like.

The sediment collected from the bed of the lake is expected to support the theory that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is currently on the wane thanks to higher global temperatures, has melted and collapsed in the past.

Scientists also hope to learn how any life is able to exist in one of the most extreme environments on the planet – a clue which could help astronomers searching for life beyond Earth.

A similar operation being carried out at Vostok, a different underground Antarctic lake, by Russian scientists has been beset by delays and technical problems for several years, but the British team hope to drill through the ice, obtain their samples and bring them to the surface in a matter of hours.

The expedition marks the climax of a 15-year project by eight British universities, the British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre, funded principally by a £7 million grant from the National Environment Research Council.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Earth: History, Composition and Atmosphere

Earth – Overview

Physical Characteristics

Earth, our home, is the third planet from the sun. It is the only planet known to have an atmosphere containing free oxygen, oceans of liquid water on its surface, and, of course, life.

Earth is the fifth largest of the planets in the solar system — smaller than the four gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but larger than the three other rocky planets, Mercury, Mars and Venus. It has a diameter of roughly 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers), and is round because gravity pulls matter into a ball, although it is not perfectly round, instead being more of an "oblate spheroid" whose spin causes it to be squashed at its poles and swollen at the equator.

Roughly 71 percent of Earth's surface is covered by water, most of it in the oceans. About a fifth of its atmosphere is made up of oxygen, produced by plants.

Orbital Characteristics
The Earth spins on an imaginary line called an axis that runs from the north pole to the south pole, while also orbiting the sun. It takes Earth 24 hours to complete a rotation on its axis, and roughly 365 days to complete an orbit around the sun.

The Earth's axis of rotation is tilted in relation to the ecliptic plane, an imaginary surface through Earth's orbit around the sun. This means the northern and southern hemispheres will sometimes point toward or away from the sun depending on the time of year, varying the amount of light they receive and causing the seasons.

Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, but is rather an oval-shaped ellipse, like that of the orbits of all the other planets. Earth is a bit closer to the sun in early January and farther away in July, although this variation has a much smaller effect than the heating and cooling caused by the tilt of Earth's axis. Earth happens to lie within the so-called "Goldilocks zone" around its star, where temperatures are just right to maintain liquid water on its surface.

Earth probably formed at roughly the same time as the sun and other planets some 4.6 billion years ago, when the solar system coalesced from a giant, rotating cloud of gas and dust known as the solar nebula. As the nebula collapsed because of its gravity, it spun faster and flattened into a disk. Most of the material was pulled toward the center to form the sun. Other particles within the disk collided and stuck together to form ever-larger bodies, including the Earth. The solar wind from the sun was so powerful that it swept away most of the lighter elements, such as hydrogen and helium, from the innermost worlds, rendering Earth and its siblings into small, rocky planets.

Scientists think Earth started off as a waterless mass of rock. Radioactive materials in the rock and increasing pressure deep within the Earth generated enough heat to melt Earth's interior, causing some chemicals to rise to the surface and form water, while others became the gases of the atmosphere. Recent evidence suggests that Earth's crust and oceans may have formed within about 200 million years after the planet had taken shape.

The history of Earth is divided into four eons — starting with the earliest, these are the Hadean, Archean, Proterozoic, and Phanerozoic. The first three eons, which together lasted nearly 4 billion years, are together known as the Precambrian. Evidence for life has bee found in the Archaean about 3.8 billion years ago, but life did not become abundant until the Phanerozoic.

The Phanerozoic is divided into three eras — starting with the earliest, these are the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. The Paleozoic Era saw the development of many kinds of animals and plants in the seas and on land, the Mesozoic Era was the age of dinosaurs, and the Cenozoic Era we are in currently is the age of mammals.

Most of the fossils seen in Paleozoic rocks are invertebrate animals lacking backbones, such as corals, mollusks and trilobites. Fish are first found about 450 million years ago, while amphibians appear roughly 380 million years ago. By 300 million years ago, large forests and swamps covered the land, and the earliest fossils of reptiles appear during this period as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Universe, Dark Energy and Us

ALMOST every scientific talk or seminar in astronomy today starts from the idea that we live in a universe in which a mysterious force known as dark energy makes up about 70 percent of the total cosmic amount of everything. A mysterious substance known as dark matter makes up about 25 percent. And ordinary matter — the stuff of the periodic table, including interesting assemblies of matter like galaxies, stars, planets and people — is a paltry 5 percent.

If this is right, the things we observe in the universe are not the important things. Think of it this way: when you look at a snow-covered mountain, what you see is the snow, but the snow is not the mountain. In the cosmic setting, the fate of the universe depends on a tug of war between dark matter, which is trying to slow down the expansion of the universe, and dark energy, which is trying to speed things up. We see the motion of galaxies as the space between them stretches out and the light from exploding stars to judge their distances, but they are just tracers of the underlying reality.

Some people are upset by the idea that we are made up of material — atoms — that is a minor part of the cosmic scheme. Personally, it makes me feel special.

This week, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery, by two separate teams of astronomers, that the expansion of the universe is speeding up as a result of the force of dark energy. Saul Perlmutter of the Supernova Cosmology Project shared the prize with Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess of the High-Z Supernova team. Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Riess were graduate students of mine at Harvard, and I participated in this scientific adventure.

Both teams found, while they were taking measurements of distant exploding stars in 1997, that the expansion of the universe seemed to be speeding up, but at first neither team believed it. The energy needed to drive this acceleration seemed too crazy. It smelled of the notorious “cosmological constant,” a kind of energy associated with empty space, which Einstein proposed in 1917 to guarantee a static universe and then later banished from polite company when the universe was observed to be not static, but expanding. “Away with the cosmological constant,” Einstein said. As my mother said to me (more than once), “Do you think you are smarter than Einstein?”

Yet just a decade after the first inklings, this is the standard picture, secure enough for cautious Swedish academicians to select for this year’s prize.

How did this happen? Not by persuasive argument, but by evidence. If the expansion of the universe is the result of a battle between dark energy speeding things up and dark matter slowing things down, then the history of cosmic expansion will have a record of which entity was winning at various points. Because light takes time to get to us, we can see into the past by observing distant objects. In the recent past (say, the last five billion years) we see acceleration. But if we could look far enough into the past, then the balance should tip — the dark matter should be denser when the universe was a smaller place, while the dark energy, if it resembles the cosmological constant, should hold steady. This would make the universe slow down. Mr. Riess led a group that carried out these observations with the Hubble Space Telescope. In 2004 and in 2007, his team showed that the change from deceleration to acceleration really happened: the predictions for a dark energy/dark matter universe match the observations.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spectacular Photo Captures Astronaut's Last Day in Space

he scene could be straight out of a science fiction film: A solitary astronaut gazes longingly at his home planet below from a spaceship observation deck — a tiny bubble of light in the vast ocean of space. But this isn't a sci-fi scene at all; it's a real-life photo from a NASA astronaut.

In the photo, American astronaut Ron Garan is looking down at Earth from the International Space Station. The photo was taken by a crewmate from a different part of the space station and shows Garan awash in bright light as he snaps his own photos from the orbiting lab's seven-window observation room, called the Cupola. Bright stars shine in the background, with Earth's atmosphere aglow and city lights visible on the Earth.

"How I spent my last day in space," Garan wrote in a Twitter post recently when he uploaded the image. "That's me in the cupola off the coast of Australia taking my last of >25K pics." [Amazing Space Photos by Astronaut Ron Garan]

Garan, who spent more than five months living and working on the space station, was a prolific space photographer and posted many stunning views of space, Earth and auroras during his stay.

Garan returned to Earth on Sept. 16 aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, but during his spaceflight (as well as before and after it) he chronicled his work on Twitter under the moniker @Astro_Ron, He also runs a separate website called Fragile Oasis, which is dedicated to raising awareness about Earth and its environment.

Garan spent 164 days in space as part of the space station's Expedition 27 and Expedition 28 crews. He launched into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule on April 4.

Like all astronauts, Garan has said the views of Earth from space are awe-inspiring.

" I think it's very difficult not to be moved when you look at our planet from space. You see how beautiful it is, how fragile it is. You really get this feeling of, we've been given an incredible gift," Garan told after returning to Earth. "We are very, very fortunate."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Secret mission of X-37B may go into overtime

After nearly seven months of flight, the U.S. Air Force's latest X-37 robotic space plane is nearing a milestone in its secret mission in Earth orbit as it chalks up mileage and operational experience.

As of last week, the reusable X-37B space plane had been in orbit for more than 206 days, two months shy of its 270-day mission design lifetime. The spacecraft, which looks like a miniature space shuttle, launched on its clandestine mission on March 5 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The space plane is the second X-37B spacecraft built for the Air Force by Boeing's Phantom Works and carries the name Orbital Test Vehicle 2, or OTV-2.

The X-37B — like the now- retired NASA space shuttles — is capable of returning experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis, as well as re-flight of equipment. [ Photos: Air Force's 2nd Secret X-37B Mission ]

Extended flight possible
"On-orbit experimentation is continuing, though we cannot predict accurately when that will be complete," said Air Force Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, the X-37 systems program director. “We are learning new things about the vehicle every day, which makes the mission a very dynamic process."

McIntyre told that X-37B controllers initially planned a nine-month mission "but will try to extend it as circumstances allow." Doing so would provide program officials with additional experimentation opportunities "and allow us to extract the maximum value out of the mission," he said. [ Infographic: Inside the X-37B Space Plane ]

The X-37B is being operated under the direction of Air Force Space Command's 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, a space control unit located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

These hush-hush missions fall under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

Mystery mission
The X-37B spacecraft is about 29 feet long and 15 feet wide. It has a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed. Thanks to a deployable solar array power system, the vehicle can fly a mission for up to 270 days, project officials have said in the past.

What exactly the vehicle does while circling the Earth is a mystery, since the spacecraft's cargo is consistently classified. Payloads may well involve high-tech testing of photoreconnaissance gear, but other hardware for intelligence-gathering could be onboard.

The first flight of an X-37B space plane, in 2010, entailed a mission that lasted 225 days. The spacecraft was lofted on April 22 and landed on Dec. 3, gliding onto a specially prepared runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

When this second X-37B mission draws to a close, a "do-it-itself" guided entry and wheels-down runway landing and similar to the end of the first mission are expected at Vandenberg Air Force Base, with neighboring Edwards Air Force Base as an alternate site.

If the incoming space plane strays off its auto-pilot trajectory zooming in over the Pacific Ocean, the craft is outfitted with a destruct mechanism.

Monday, October 3, 2011

NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Moves Closer To Giant Vesta Asteroid

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has travelled to within 420 miles of the giant asteroid Vesta.

The spacecraft this week completed its gentle spiral into its new science orbit, known as the high altitude mapping orbit (HAMO), to obtain an even closer view of the asteroid.

In this orbit, the average distance from the spacecraft to the Vesta surface is 420 miles (680 kilometers), which is four times closer than the previous survey orbit.

The spacecraft’s orbit around the asteroid will take a little over 12 hours, compared to three days previously. HAMO is scheduled to last about 30 Earth days, during which Dawn will circle Vesta more than 60 times.

When Dawn is over Vesta’s dayside, it will point its science instruments to the giant asteroid and acquire data, and when the spacecraft flies over the nightside, it will beam that data back to Earth.

Scientists will combine the pictures to create topographic maps, revealing the heights of mountains, the depths of craters and the slopes of plains. This will help scientists understand the geological processes that shaped Vesta.

“The team has been in awe of what they have seen on the surface of Vesta,” said Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator, at UCLA. “We are sharing those discoveries with the greater scientific community and with the public.”

Dawn launched in September 2007 and arrived at Vesta in July 2011. Following a year at Vesta, the spacecraft will depart in July 2012 for Ceres, where it will arrive in 2015

Meanwhile, NASA has announced that a Dawn mission news conference will be held Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 at 12:15 p.m. CEST (3:15 a.m. PDT/6:15 a.m. EDT). The conference will be streamed live online.