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SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station After Successful Launch

by James Cawley for NASA ISS News

Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX)

May 04, 2019

More than 5,500 pounds of cargo is on its way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The company’s 17th commercial cargo mission to resupply the space station began at 2:48 a.m. EDT on May 4, 2019, with liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Kenny Todd, International Space Station Operations and Integration manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, explained during the postlaunch press conference that launch success far overshadowed fatigue with the early morning launch.

“If you have to be up, I can’t think of a better reason than to see one of these launches – it was absolutely spectacular,” Todd said. “We’re really excited to get Dragon on board in a couple of days.”

After a successful climb into space, the Dragon spacecraft now is in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and drawing power.

“We had a beautiful launch today; it was really great,” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president, Build and Flight Reliability. “Dragon is on the way, the orbiter is great – it’s right on the money.”

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver science, supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Science experiments include NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) and Space Test Program-Houston 6 (STP-H6).

OCO-3 will be robotically installed on the exterior of the space station’s Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility Unit, where it will measure and map carbon dioxide from space to increase our understanding of the relationship between carbon and climate.

STP-H6 is an X-ray communication investigation that will be used to perform a space-based demonstration of a new technology for generating beams of modulated X-rays. This technology may be useful for providing efficient communication to deep space probes, or communicating with hypersonic vehicles where plasma sheaths prevent traditional radio communications.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 5:30 a.m. on Monday, May 6. Capture is scheduled for 7 a.m.; installation coverage is set to begin at 9 a.m. Astronauts aboard the station will capture the Dragon using the space station’s robotic arm and then install it on the station’s Harmony module.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend about four weeks attached to the space station, returning to Earth with more than 4,200 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_Dragon_Heads_to_Space_Station_After_Successful_Launch_999.html.

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NASA Spacecraft to use ‘Green’ Fuel for the First Time

Edwards AFB CA (SPX)

Jun 11, 2019

A non-toxic, rose-colored liquid could fuel the future in space and propel missions to the Moon or other worlds. NASA will test the fuel and compatible propulsion system in space for the first time with the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM), set to launch this month on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

The mission will demonstrate the exceptional features of a high-performance “green” fuel developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The propellant blends hydroxyl ammonium nitrate with an oxidizer that allows it to burn, creating an alternative to hydrazine, the highly toxic fuel commonly used by spacecraft today.

Spacecraft love hydrazine, but it’s toxic to humans. Handling the clear liquid requires strict safety precautions – protective suits, thick rubber gloves and oxygen tanks. GPIM promises fewer handling restrictions that will reduce the time it takes to prepare for launch.

“Spacecraft could be fueled during manufacturing, simplifying processing at the launch facility, resulting in cost savings,” explained Christopher McLean, principal investigator for GPIM at Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado. The company leads this NASA technology demonstration mission.

Another perk of the is performance. It’s denser than hydrazine and offers nearly 50% better performance – equivalent to getting 50% more miles per gallon on your car. This means spacecraft can travel farther or operate for longer with less propellant onboard.

In order to tap into the propellant’s benefits, engineers first had to develop new hardware – everything from thrusters and tanks to filters and valves. GPIM uses a set of thrusters that fire in different scenarios to test engine performance and reliability. Planned maneuvers include orbit lowering and spacecraft pointing.

Aerojet Rocketdyne in Redmond, Washington, designed, built and extensively tested the GPIM propulsion system. The hardware consists of a propellant tank and five 1-Newton thrusters to carry the non-toxic fuel.

Fred Wilson, director of business development for Aerojet, has decades of experience in spacecraft propulsion systems. Wilson gave credit to NASA for funding the technology, through flight demonstration. Taking the green propellant from the lab to space insures the capability can be fully adopted by government and industry.

“If it weren’t for the initial investment and inherent risk of doing something for the first time, this technology would likely already be in space,” said Dayna Ise, executive for NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program that manages GPIM. “NASA stepped up to fund it because we see the value and potential for this technology to propel spaceflight forward.”

Building upon the GPIM work, Wilson says Aerojet is moving forward on a range of other thrust-level propulsion systems to utilize high-performance green propellant.

“We see interest in using green propellant across the space industry,” Wilson said. “The trend is towards smaller and smaller satellites, to do more mission in a small package.”

The technology appeals to small and cube satellite builders who have small budgets and serious space and weight limitations. From small satellites to large spacecraft, there’s a wide range of space missions that can benefit by using green propellant. “GPIM has the potential to inspire new ideas and new missions,” McLean said.

GPIM will illustrate the benefits of the green fuel and help improve how satellites are designed and operated. The propellant and propulsion system could be used in place of hydrazine regardless of a spacecraft’s purpose or destination.

NASA has been charged to land humans on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence by 2028. There is potential for this technology to be used for a variety of lunar missions within the Artemis program, but first it must be demonstrated in space.

GPIM is a technology demonstration mission made possible by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). It draws upon a government-industry team of specialists from NASA, Ball Aerospace, Aerojet Rocketdyne and AFRL. GPIM is one of over 20 satellites launching as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, which is managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_Spacecraft_to_use_Green_Fuel_for_the_First_Time_999.html.

IAF ties up with ISRO for manned mission crew selection

Bengaluru, India (IANS)

May 31, 2019

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday said it signed an agreement with the state-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on Tuesday for crew selection and training for the country’s prestigious maiden manned mission Gaganyaan by 2021-22.

“The agreement was signed by Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Space Operations) Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor and Gaganyaan Project Director R. Hutton in the presence of the space agency’s Chairman K. Sivan here,” tweeted IAF.

The crew selection and training will be conducted at ISRO’s Human Space Flight Center, opened on January 31 adjacent to its headquarters in the city, to develop technologies for the manned space missions.

As announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address on August 15, 2018, the space agency will send three astronauts, including a woman, in a capsule into space around the earth’s orbit for a week-long rendezvous by December 2021 or 2022, which marks the country’s 75th year of independence.

The Rs 9,023-crore ambitious project involves sending a 3-member crew on board a heavy rocket to an altitude of 350-400 km and orbit around the planet for conducting experiments in space during a week-long voyage.

The previous NDA government on December 28, 2018 approved the country’s first human space flight program.

“In the run-up, the space agency will send two unmanned missions before 2021 and the manned mission by 2022,” a space official told IANS earlier.

ISRO on January 31 opened a Human Space Flight Center adjacent to its headquarters here to develop technologies for manned space missions.

The Human Flight Space Center will also develop engineering systems for crew survival in space and sustained human space flight missions.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/IAF_ties_up_with_ISRO_for_manned_mission_crew_selection_999.html.

SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes into Atlantic, completing test flight’s return leg

MARCH 8, 2019

By Brooks Hays

March 8 (UPI) — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has been retrieved by the “Go Searcher” recovery ship after splashing into the Atlantic Ocean Friday morning.

All three major phases of the return leg — the spacecraft’s deorbit, parachute deployment and splashdown — went as planned.

Last week, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft proved the private space company is capable of safely launching and carrying astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station. Now, SpaceX and Crew Dragon have demonstrated their ability to safely shepherd astronauts back to Earth.

The return leg of the test flight began while most people on the East Coast were still asleep.

The International Space Station confirmed in a tweet the Crew Dragon undocked at 2:32 a.m. ET.

“Dragon’s trunk has been jettisoned and its de-orbit burn is complete,” SpaceX reported in a tweet at 8:10 a.m. ET.

The spacecraft deployed its four parachutes at 8:44 a.m. Just a few minutes later, the craft splashed into the Atlantic. At 9:52 a.m. ET, SpaceX confirmed in a tweet Crew Dragon had been successfully craned onto the deck of the recovery ship.

The Crew Dragon made history last week when SpaceX launched the first spacecraft under NASA’s commercial crew program. After being released by the rocket’s second stage, the Crew Dragon executed a series of orbital phasing maneuvers, finally rendezvousing with the International Space Station on Sunday morning.

After executing a docking maneuver, scientists unloaded 400 pounds of equipment and supplies. Crew Dragon remained attached to the space station from Sunday, allowing SpaceX engineers more time to test a variety of systems and components.

The inaugural commercial crew test flight, Demo-1 mission, is uncrewed. However, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless — but lifelike — passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission. SpaceX engineers dubbed the dummy Ripley, a nod to a character in the 1979 film Alien.

In addition to bringing Ripley safely back to Earth, Crew Dragon is tasked with returning some 350 pounds of gear and scientific experiments.

If all goes as planned — as was the case with the first half of the mission — SpaceX could conduct a crewed test flight as early as April.

NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing to design and build crew-carrying spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the space station — replacements for the Space Shuttle, which NASA retired in 2011.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2019/03/08/SpaceX-Crew-Dragon-splashes-into-Atlantic-completing-test-flights-return-leg/2141551986386/.

SpaceX Dragon’s final test: making it to Earth in one piece

By Ivan Couronne

Washington (AFP)

March 8, 2019

Crew Dragon, the new vessel built by SpaceX for NASA is set to return Friday off the coast of Florida — the most perilous part of a mission to prove it can take US astronauts to the International Space Station.

Dragon will undock from the ISS Friday at 0731 GMT. Five hours later, the capsule will leave Earth orbit and re-enter the atmosphere, testing its heat shield. Splashdown is expected at 8:45am Eastern Time (1345 GMT).

“I’d say hypersonic re-entry is probably my biggest concern,” Elon Musk, the founder and head of SpaceX, said last Saturday following the capsule’s launch from the Kennedy Space Center.

“Will the parachutes deploy correctly? And will the system guide Dragon 2 to the right location and splashdown safely?” he asked.

The mission has been hitch-free thus far. Dragon docked with the ISS Sunday without incident, and the space station’s three current crew members were able to open the hatch and enter the capsule. They closed the airlock Thursday.

This time around, Dragon’s own crew member is a dummy, named Ripley. But if all goes well, the next flight will see two US astronauts book a return trip to the ISS, sometime before the end of the year, according to NASA.

Its descent will be broadcast in its entirety by NASA and SpaceX, thanks in large part to a camera embedded in Dragon.

A NASA spokesman told AFP a drone would be on hand to try to film the capsule, which will be slowed by four parachutes as it falls.

Long lens cameras have also been loaded onto the salvage boat. SpaceX did not broadcast images of Dragon’s interior during the flight up to the ISS.

– Like Apollo –

NASA and the administration of President Donald Trump have spent all week extolling the historic nature of the mission.

It represents the first private space mission to the ISS, as well as the first time a space vessel capable of carrying people was launched by the US in eight years.

Dragon also marks a return to a “vintage” format: it is the first US capsule since the pioneering Apollo program of the 1960s and 70s.

Capsules have no wings and fall to the earth, their descent slowed only by parachutes — much like the Russian Soyuz craft, which land in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The last generation of US spacecraft, the Space shuttles, landed like airplanes. Shuttles took American astronauts to space from 1981 to 2011, but their cost proved prohibitive, while two of the original four craft had catastrophic accidents, killing 14 crew members.

After the program was retired, the US government, under then president Barack Obama, turned toward SpaceX and Boeing to develop a new way to ferry its crews, paying the firms for their services.

Due to development delays, the switch has come to fruition only Trump.

For now, Russia will continue to be the only country taking humans to the ISS. NASA buys seats for its astronauts, who train with their cosmonaut counterparts.

Russia, for its part, has not seemed particularly enthused with the success of the Dragon flight.

While the space world was busy congratulating SpaceX and NASA last Saturday, Roskomos tweeted only the following day, praising the US space agency (not SpaceX) but insisting the “safety of flights should be irreproachable,” a pointed reference to technical objections Russians had raised on Dragon’s approach procedure towards the ISS.

But the space agencies themselves insist that cooperation remains excellent.

In the long run, said NASA’s Johnson Space Center director Mark Geyer, US astronauts will continue to learn Russian, and vice versa.

“There’ll be a Russian on our flights, and we’ll still have an American on a Soyuz flight. That’s mainly because we always want, in case there are issues with either system, that we have an integrated crew.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/SpaceX_Dragons_final_test_making_it_to_Earth_in_one_piece_999.html.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is put to the test

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Mar 20, 2019

In a little more than seven minutes in the early afternoon of Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will execute about 27,000 actions and calculations as it speeds through the hazardous transition from the edge of space to Mars’ Jezero Crater. While that will be the first time the wheels of the 2,314-pound (1,050-kilogram) rover touch the Red Planet, the vehicle’s network of processors, sensors and transmitters will, by then, have successfully simulated touchdown at Jezero many times before.

“We first landed on Jezero Crater on Jan. 23rd,” said Heather Bottom, systems engineer for the Mars 2020 mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “And the rover successfully landed again on Mars two days later.”

Bottom was the test lead for Systems Test 1, or ST1, the Mars 2020 engineering team’s first opportunity to take the major components of the Mars 2020 mission for a test drive. Over two weeks in January, Bottom and 71 other engineers and technicians assigned to the 2020 mission took over the High Bay 1 cleanroom in JPL’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility to put the software and electrical systems aboard the mission’s cruise, entry capsule, descent stage and rover through their paces.

“ST1 was a massive undertaking,” said Bottom. “It was our first chance to exercise the flight software we will fly on 2020 with the actual spacecraft components that will be heading to Mars – and make sure they not only operate as expected, but also interact with each other as expected.”

The heritage for Mars 2020’s software goes back to the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and the Curiosity rover that has been exploring Mars’ Gale Crater since 2012. But 2020 is a different mission with a different rover, a different set of science instruments and a different destination on Mars. Its software has to be tailored accordingly.

Work began in earnest on the flight software in 2013. It was coded, recoded, analyzed and tested on computer workstations and laptops. Later, the flight software matriculated to spacecraft testbeds where it was exposed to computers, sensors and other electronic components customized to imitate the flight hardware that will launch with the mission in 2020.

“Virtual workstations and testbeds are an important part of the process,” said Bottom. “But the tens of thousands of individual components that make up the electronics of this mission are not all going to act, or react, exactly like a testbed. Seeing the flight software and the actual flight hardware working together is the best way to build confidence in our processes. Test like you fly.”

Making the Grade

On the day before ST1 began, the High Bay 1 cleanroom was hopping with “bunny suit”-clad engineers and technicians assembling, inspecting and testing the mission’s hardware. The next day, Wednesday, Jan. 16, the room was eerily quiet. The majority of workers had been replaced by two technicians there to monitor the flight test hardware.

Lines of electrical cabling – “umbilicals” – were added to provide data and power to the spacecraft’s cruise stage, back shell, descent stage and rover chassis, which have yet to be stacked together. The ground to in-flight spacecraft (and in-flight spacecraft to ground) communications were handled by X-band radio transmission, just like they would be during the trip to Mars.

ST1 began with commands to energize the spacecraft’s electrical components and set up thermal, power and telecom configurations. While all the spacecraft components remained in the cleanroom, Bottom and her team had them thinking they were sitting on top of an Atlas 541 rocket 190 feet (58 meters) above Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral on July 17, 2020, waiting to be shot into space.

Next, they focused on another part of cruise before testing the landing sequence. Then they did it all over again.

After a successful launch, they time jumped 40 days ahead to simulate deep space cruise. How would the software and hardware interact when they had to perform navigation fixes and trajectory correction maneuvers? And how would they work when simulated events didn’t go as planned? The team looked for answers on the operators’ computer screens in the test operations room beside the cleanroom.

“From the test operations room, you could look out the windows onto the cleanroom floor and clearly see the flight hardware,” said Bottom.

“Nothing was visibly moving, but underneath the outer structure, there were flight computers swapping sides, radios sending and receiving transmissions, fuel valves moving in and out, subsystems being energized and later turned off, and electrical signals being sent to nonexistent pyrotechnic devices. There was a lot going on in there.”

On Jan. 30, the Mars 2020 test team was able to close their 1,000-plus page book of procedures for ST1. They went two-for-two on Mars landings. They also launched four times, performed deep space navigation, executed several trajectory correction maneuvers and even tested a few in-flight off-nominal situations.

This first evaluation of flight hardware and software, over a year in the making, had been a thorough success, demonstrating where things excelled and where they could be improved. When these new changes have been investigated on both a virtual workstation and in the testbed, they will have their chance to “fly” in one of the many other systems tests planned for Mars 2020.

“One of the future scenario tests will place the rover inside a thermal chamber and simulate being on the surface. It will step through mission critical activities at some very low Mars surface temperatures,” said Bottom. “Both literally and figuratively it will be a very cool test.”

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/NASAs_Mars_2020_Rover_Is_Put_to_the_Test_999.html.

JAXA and Toyota to study joint lunar project

Tokyo, Japan (SPX)

Mar 14, 2019

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have announced an to consider collaborating on international space exploration. As a first step, JAXA and Toyota have reached agreement to further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study*1 of a manned, pressurized rover*2 that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.

Such a form of mobility is deemed necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.

International space exploration, aiming to achieve sustainable prosperity for all of humankind by expanding the domain of human activity and giving rise to intellectual properties, has its sights set on the moon and Mars. To achieve the goals of such exploration, coordination between robotic missions, such as the recent successful touchdown by the asteroid probe Hayabusa2 on the asteroid Ryugu, and human missions, such as those involving humans using pressurized rovers to conduct activities on the moon, is essential. When it comes to challenging missions such as lunar or Martian exploration, various countries are competing in advancing their technologies, while also advancing their cooperative efforts.

JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said about the agreement between JAXA and Toyota: “At JAXA, we are pursuing international coordination and technological studies toward Japan’s participation in international space exploration. We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits.

Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence. Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface.

For this, we would like to concentrate our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies. Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: “The automotive industry has long done business with the concepts of ‘hometown’ and ‘home country’ largely in mind. However, from now on, in responding to such matters as environmental issues of global scale, the concept of ‘home planet’, from which all of us come, will become a very important concept.

“Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfill, shares the same aspirations of international space exploration.

“Furthermore, cars are used in all of Earth’s regions, and, in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive. And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.

“I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the thus-far developed durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel cell environmental technologies.”

Also, at a symposium held in Tokyo, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata and Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi held a talk session, excerpts from which are shown below.

JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata in speaking about the announcement said, “At JAXA, we are studying various scenarios as well as technologies that will be applied to specific space missions. Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.

“Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment.

“For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept meets such mission requirements. Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May of 2018.

“Thus far, our joint study, has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurized rover system, and we have identified the technological issues that must be solved. Going forward, we want to utilize Toyota’s and JAXA’s technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.

“International space exploration is a challenge to conquer the unknown. To take up such a challenge, we believe it is important to gather our country’s technological capabilities and engage as ‘Team Japan’. Through our collaboration with Toyota as the starting point, we can further expand the resources of ‘Team Japan’ in the continued pursuit of international space exploration.”

Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi further added, “As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in such a lunar project by way of Toyota’s car-making and, furthermore, by way of our technologies related to electrified vehicles, such as fuel cell batteries, and our technologies related to autonomous and automated driving. I am filled with great excitement.

“Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA.

“Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. For electrification, fuel cell batteries represent an indispensable technology.

“Fuel cell electric vehicles have the ability to emit reduced amounts of harmful substances, such as particulate matter, that are found in the air they take in. As such, they are characterized by having so-called ‘minus emissions’*3. We want to further improve on this characteristic.

“Contributing to Earth’s environment cannot be achieved without the widespread use of electrified vehicles. As a full-line manufacturer of electrified vehicles, and aiming for the widespread use of such vehicles, Toyota?going beyond only making complete vehicles?wants to provide electrification to its customers in various forms, such as through systems and technologies.

“Our joint studies with JAXA are a part of this effort. Being allowed to be a member of ‘Team Japan’, we would like to take up the challenge of space.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/JAXA_and_Toyota_Reach_Agreement_on_Consideration_Toward_International_Space_Exploration_999.html.

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