samedi 22 janvier 2011

Launch Result of H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 2 with KOUNOTORI2 (HTV2) Onboard

JAXA - HTV-2 Mission patch.

January 22, 2011 (JST)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the H-IIB Launch Vehicle No.2 (H-IIB F2) with the KOUNOTORI2 (HTV2, a cargo transfer vehicle to the International Space Station) onboard at 2:37:57 p.m. on January 22 (Sat.,) 2011 (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 15 minutes and 13 seconds after liftoff, the separation of the KOUNOTORI2 was confirmed.

Separation of the KOUNOTORI2 (Artist's view)

We would like to express our profound appreciation for the cooperation and support of all related personnel and organizations that helped contribute to the successful launch of the H-IIB F2.


At the time of the launch, the weather was clear, a wind speed was 8.3 meters/second from the north-west and the temperature was 10.6 degrees Celsius.

H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 2 (H-IIB F2) Launch Sequence (Quick Review)

(*1) The values are based on quick report results without detailed data evaluation.
(*2) The values are updated ones based on actual measurement data such as thrust characteristics which are unique for the H-IIB F2 engines. Therefore, they are slightly different from the values in the Launch Plan
(*3) The definition of SRBA burnout is when the combustion chamber presser becomes 2% against the largest combustion pressure.
(*4) The definition of SRBA jettison is to cut the thrust struts.

Mission website:

KOUNOTORI2/H-IIB Launch Veicle No.2 Special Site:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency / Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd / NASA.


vendredi 21 janvier 2011

Mars Express close flybys of martian moon Phobos

ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

21 January 2011

Mars Express has returned images from the Phobos flyby of 9 January 2011. Mars Express passed Mars’ largest moon at a distance of 100km.

 Stereo-1 channel image of Phobos

This image has been photometrically enhanced to illuminate darker areas. Resolution: 4.1 m/pixel.

3D Image (red-cyan anaglyph)

The HRSC-camera recorded images of Phobos on 9 January 2011 at a distance of 100 km with a resolution of 8.1 m/pixel. Due to the stereo viewing geometry during the flyby a small part of the moon’s edge is only visible for the right eye resulting in odd 3D-perception in this area. This part has been slightly adjusted for better viewing. Also, for the left eye at the left edge of the image four small data gaps have been interpolated.


Superimposed on the HRSC-nadir image are 7 SRC-images with a resolution of about 3 m/pixel. The Super Resolution Channel images show more details of the surface of Phobos.

Sequence of 5 HRSC-channels

Sequence of 5 HRSC-channels, orbit 8974: (left to right) stereo S1 (4.1 m/pixel), photometric P1 (8.1 m/pixel), nadir ND (3.9 m/pixel), photometric p2 (8.2 m/pixel), stereo S2 (4.3 m/pixel).

Planned landing site of the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission

Image of Phobos with a resolution of 8.2 m/pixel in orbit 8974. The ellipses marked the previously planned (red) and currently considered (blue) landing sites for the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission.

Related links:

High Resolution Stereo Camera:

Behind the lens...:

Frequently asked questions:

For specialists:

ESA Planetary Science archive (PSA):

NASA Planetary Data System:

HRSC data viewer:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum).

Best regards,

NASA Prepares To Launch Next Earth-Observing Satellite Mission

NASA - Glory Mission patch.

Jan. 21, 2011

Glory is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 23 at 5:09 a.m. EST. It will join a fleet called the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train" of satellites. This group of other Earth-observing satellites, including NASA's Aqua and Aura spacecraft, flies in tight formation.

"Glory is going to help scientists tackle one of the major uncertainties in climate change predictions identified by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: the influence of aerosols on the energy balance of our planet," said Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "This mission also marks the first satellite launch under President Obama's climate initiative that will advance the United States' contribution to cutting-edge and policy-relevant climate change science."

Originally confirmed in 2005, Glory has been developed by a team of engineers and scientists at several government, industry and academic institutions across the country. The Glory spacecraft arrived at Vandenberg on Jan. 11 after a cross-country road trip from Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va.

"The spacecraft is in place at the launch and all of the post-shipment inspections and electrical tests have been completed," said Bryan Fafaul, Glory project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The spacecraft will be mated to Orbital's Taurus XL 3110 rocket next month.

Glory will carry new technology designed to unravel some of the most complex elements of the Earth system. The mission carries two primary instruments, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) and the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM). APS will improve measurement of aerosols, the airborne particles that can influence climate by reflecting and absorbing solar radiation and modifying clouds and precipitation.

Glory spacecraft in orbit (Artist's view)

TIM will extend a decades-long data record of the solar energy striking the top of Earth's atmosphere, or total solar irradiance. APS will collect data at nine different wavelengths, from the visible to short-wave infrared, giving scientists a much-improved understanding of aerosols. The instrument, NASA's first Earth-orbiting polarimeter, will help scientists distinguish between natural and human-produced aerosols. The information will be used to refine global climate models and help scientists determine how our planet is responding to human activities.

The TIM instrument will maintain and improve upon a 32-year record of total solar irradiance, a value that fluctuates slightly as the sun cycles through periods of varying intensity approximately every 11 years. While scientists have concluded that solar variability is not the main cause of the warming observed on Earth in recent decades, the sun has historically caused long-term climate changes. Having a baseline of the solar energy that reaches Earth gives us a way to evaluate future climate changes. Better measurements of total solar irradiance give scientists another way to test their climate models and understand the sun's longer cyclical changes and how they may impact the climate.

Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 438 miles, about the distance from Boston to Washington. After launch, mission operators will conduct verification tests for 30 days and then begin to collect data for at least three years.

Glory's Taurus launch rocket also will carry into orbit a secondary payload: NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellite, or ELaNA, mission. This mission will put three small research satellites, or CubeSats, into orbit for Montana State University, the University of Colorado and a consortium of state universities called Kentucky Space.

Glory is managed by Goddard for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Launch management is provided by NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orbital is responsible for Glory's design, manufacture, payload integration, and testing, as well as spacecraft operations at its Mission Operations Complex in Dulles, Va. The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder provided and will operate the TIM instrument. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, Calif., provided the APS instrument, which will be operated by Goddard's Institute for Space Studies in New York.

For more information about Glory, visit: 

Related link:, Changing Sun, Changing Earth:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Goddard.


jeudi 20 janvier 2011

Missing part delays space mission

ESA - LISA Pathfinder Mission patch.

20 January 2011

Schedule slips for European-led effort to blaze a trail for gravitational-wave detection

For Stefano Vitale, a principal investigator on the LISA Pathfinder mission, the situation is excruciating. Nearly all the instruments for the €300-million (US$400-million) spacecraft have been delivered for what was originally to have been a launch this year. But delays have pushed that target to 2013 and possibly later, with everything now held up by a small but crucial component. "All the rest is waiting for one part. It's heartbreaking," says Vitale, a physicist at the University of Trento in Italy.

It is a rougher-than-anticipated start for a mission that was created to find obstacles. LISA Pathfinder is a European-led test of the technology needed to run the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), an ambitious effort to detect gravitational waves from sources in the distant Universe. Scientists hope that LISA can achieve this by measuring the precise separations between three pairs of masses free-floating inside three spacecraft positioned 5 million kilometres apart. The technical challenge along with the estimated cost of LISA (€1 billion to €2 billion) made a precursor mission a necessity. If LISA Pathfinder encounters significant problems it could sow doubts about the overall effort.

Image above: The LISA Pathfinder is missing the mechanism to hold two masses (yellow cubes) in place during launch. Credit: ESA.

LISA Pathfinder is not expected to detect gravitational waves, but it must deploy and measure the relative positions of two test masses with sufficient precision for LISA to move forward. The missing piece of the mission is part of a 'caging mechanism' consisting of two sets of eight fingers that will hold the two 1.96-kilogram gold–platinum masses during launch, and then, once the spacecraft reaches its orbit at the L1 Lagrangian point where the gravitational pull of Earth and Sun are balanced, delicately release them. The masses will then float freely inside their separate compartments while the spacecraft uses electrical microthrusters to maintain its position so precisely that the masses do not hit the sides of their containers.

The exacting requirement for a mechanism that can hold the masses firmly enough to withstand a force of 2,000 newtons but still release them without imparting a velocity of more than 5 micrometres per second (18 millimetres an hour) lies at the heart of the delay. A first prototype of the motor powering the fingers failed key tests, prompting the European Space Agency (ESA) to set up a task force to look into the problem. The motor is now being redesigned from scratch. "Little by little, the launch date is slipping," says Pierre Binétruy of Paris Diderot University, a physicist on the LISA international science team.

LISA Pathfinder (Artist view)

Scientists on the mission say that the important thing is to learn from the delay, to avoid similar problems on LISA. With LISA Pathfinder, ESA initially followed a conventional model for managing space missions, assigning science research groups outside the space agency to design the payload — including the caging mechanism — while industrial partners designed the spacecraft itself. But designers found that the spacecraft was operationally indistinguishable from its science payload, because the positioning of the masses inside it is coupled closely to the craft's ability to keep its place in space using the microthrusters. ESA then took on the design of the caging mechanism together with a contractor, Thales Alenia Space in Milan, Italy, which was unable to comment before Nature went to print.

On 10 February, the ESA Science Programme Committee is expected to assess options for the new design and chart a path forwards

Last August, the Astro2010 decadal survey of the US National Academy of Sciences ranked participation in LISA among its top priorities, above a competing project, the International X-ray Observatory (IXO). But that recommendation assumed a successful LISA Pathfinder. Xavier Barcons, a physicist at the Cantabria Institute of Physics in Santander, Spain, who works with IXO, says the problems on Pathfinder call into question the decision to rank it higher than his project. "We also have technical difficulties but we've mastered the basics. LISA is a completely new adventure," he says.

He says that it is not clear whether LISA can fly by 2025, as the decadal survey assumed. But Fabio Favata, head of ESA's science coordination office, says that by uncovering problems early, LISA Pathfinder could help LISA avoid delays. "The present situation, although unfortunate, does emphasize the importance of pathfinding," he says.

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / naturenews, Eugenie Samuel Reich.


Electro-L Reaches Targeted Orbit



Zenith-Electro-L Launch

Launched by Zenith-SB rocket from Baikonur yesterday, Russian weather satellite Electro-L has successfully separated from Fregat-SB upper stage and reached the targeted orbit  at 00.28 MSK, Jan. 21.


With this launch, Russia will have its own weather satellite in GSO. Within 10 years of orbital operations, Electro-L will provide Russian and world customers with weather prediction, sea and ocean status, ionosphere status, climate monitoring, ecological data.

Zenith-SB rocket rollout to the launch-pad

Electro-L overall mission objectives are to provide on an operational basis multispectral imagery (hydro-meteorological data) of the atmosphere (including the cloud-covered sky) and of the Earth's surface within the coverage region (visible disk) of the spacecraft, to collect heliospheric, ionospheric, and magnetospheric data, to provide the needed communication services for the transmission/exchange of all data with the ground segment.

To see launch video, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos PAO / Photo credit: S.Sergeev (Yuzhny Space Center).

Best regards,

Galileo satellite undergoes launch check-up at ESTEC

ESA - GALILEO Mission logo.

20 January 2011

Galileo’s first satellite is undergoing testing at ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands, checking its readiness to be launched into orbit. This marks a significant step for Europe’s Galileo satnav constellation.

The first part of Europe’s global satellite navigation system is due to be launched over the next two years – a total of four Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites.

First two Galileo IOV satellites

The following four years to 2015 will see Galileo brought up to its first operational configuration of 18 satellites in medium Earth orbit.

Before they are launched, the IOV satellites must be formally qualified for space operations by passing a rigorous series of tests that reproduce the heavy vibration, acoustic noise and shock they will experience during the violent rocket ride into orbit – plus a little extra for safety.

The venue for these tests is the ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. This unique European facility combines a complete portfolio of space simulation facilities under a single roof.

“From the point of view of mechanical qualification, the Galileo IOV satellites are identical,” said Pedro Cosma, Assembly Integration and Testing engineer for Galileo.

Galileo dispenser testing

“So we are employing one of the satellites for this qualification testing, the first to be built, known as the Protoflight Model (PFM). It will respond in practically the same way as the other Flight Models – FM2, FM3 and FM4.”

The satellites have been built by a consortium of European companies. Their payloads were designed, developed and assembled by EADS Astrium in Portsmouth, UK, with the overall satellite designed and developed by Astrium in Ottobrunn, Germany and assembled by Thales Alenia Space in Rome, Italy.

The first satellite will endure simulated launch vibrations on ESTEC’s Electrodynamic Shaker, followed by the sudden pyrotechnic shocks during separation from the launch vehicle.

Finally, it will take an acoustic battering matching the launcher’s sound pressure and frequency – imagine a squadron of fighter jets taking off 30 m away – in the Large European Acoustic Facility.

“We’re not anticipating any surprises,” added Pedro. “This is because we’ve previously carried out these tests on two Galileo structural/thermal models, but testing on an actual satellite remains an essential part of the official flight qualification process.”

Those models have also recently been reused for other tests at ESTEC. The Galileo IOV satellites are launched two at a time, so a dispenser is needed to hold them together within the launcher fairing and then, when the time is right, to release them in orbit.

Pyrotechnic devices will shoot them safely away from the dispenser and each other. Last December these models took part in a pyrotechnic shock test alongside a qualification model of the dispenser.

Soyuz launching from French Guiana

“The test’s success prepares us to perform a release test with the real dispenser and PFM satellite in our facilities later this month,” Pedro added.

Once ESTEC testing is complete in February, the PFM will be reunited with the rest of the IOV quartet in Italy for a follow-up round of thermal vacuum testing, to prove that they can withstand the temperature extremes of space.

Finally, the satellites will be transported to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana to be launched on Soyuz rockets. The PFM and Flight Model 2 will be on the first flight of Soyuz from Kourou, marking a double first for ESA.

Related links:

EADS Astrium:

Thales Alenia Space:

Images, Text, Credit: ESA.


Romania accedes to ESA Convention

ESA logo / ROSA logo.

20 January 2011

Romania took a step further in its relations with ESA by signing the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention on 20 January 2011, to become the 19th ESA Member State.

The signing ceremony took place at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest, with the participation of Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Teodor Baconschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marius-Ioan Piso, President and CEO of the Romanian Space Agency, and cosmonaut Dumitru Dorin Prunariu, Chairman of the Board of the Romanian Space Agency.

ESA's Director General and President of the Romanian Space Agency sign the accession agreement

Romania has a long aerospace tradition and has contributed to more than 30 scientific and technological space missions. During the 1970s and 1980s, Romania was an active member of the Soviet Union’s Interkosmos programme to involve fellow socialist nations in space exploration.

Romania’s cooperation with ESA is long-standing. In 1992, Romania was one of the first Eastern European countries to sign a Cooperation Agreement in the field of the peaceful use of outer space with ESA, paving the way for Romanian participation in several research projects with other European countries. Cooperation between ESA and Romania was strengthened further in October 1999 with the signing of a five-year Framework Cooperation Agreement, and the signature of the European Cooperating State Agreement in 2006.

ESA's Director General presents a gift to Romanian Foreign Minister

Romania has participated in several ESA missions, such as Cluster, Herschel, Planck, SOHO and Gaia with co-investigators, and in Earth Observation activities (EDUSPACE software), microgravity and exploration (SURE) and technology activities (the IAP telemedicine project).

Later this year, the Government of Romania will conclude the ratification process and once the ratification instrument is deposited with the Government of France, Romania will become officially the 19th ESA Member State and will make known its interest in ESA’s optional activities.

Related links:

Romania becomes third ESA European Cooperating State:

The SURE project, a new opportunity for European research in space:

ESA Convention:

Images, Credit: Romanian Space Agency / Text, Credit: ESA.

Best regards,

mercredi 19 janvier 2011

JAXA - Commencement of initial analysis of particles in Hayabusa sampler container

JAXA - Hayabusa Mission patch.

January 17, 2011 (JST)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been engaged in collecting and categorizing particles in the sampler container (*1), which was brought back by the instrumental module of the asteroid exploration spacecraft "Hayabusa."

 Hayabusa sampler container before the opening

JAXA decided to commence the initial analysis (*2) of particles indentified as rocky using scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations, which were collected through the free fall method from sample catcher compartment "A." Please see the attached list of researchers in charge of initial analysis.

*1 The Hayabusa sampler container consists of 2 compartments that are called Sample Catcher A and B.

*2 "Initial analysis" means the analysis of typical particles to obtain information necessary for categorizing
(identification, classification and numbering) as a part of curation activity (*3).

*3 "Curation activity" means the retrieval of particles, preservation, categorizing and allocation and their necessary analysis.

List of initial analysis plans

Note: This table shows overall plan for over the next several months. Michael Zolensky (NASA), Scott Sandford (NASA) and Trevor Ireland (ANU, Australia) will join as foreign researchers.

Mission website:

Asteroid Explorer "HAYABUSA" (MUSES-C):

High Energy Accelerator Research Organization:

Images, Text, Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)


NASA Spacecraft Prepares For Valentine's Day Comet Rendezvous

NASA - STARDUST NEXT Mission patch.

Jan. 19, 2011

NASA's Stardust-NExT spacecraft is nearing a celestial date with comet Tempel 1 at approximately 11:37 p.m. EST, on Feb. 14. The mission will allow scientists for the first time to look for changes on a comet's surface that occurred following an orbit around the sun.

This is an artist's concept of the Stardust spacecraft beginning its flight through gas and dust around comet Wild 2. Credit: NASA / JPL.

The Stardust-NExT, or New Exploration of Tempel, spacecraft will take high-resolution images during the encounter, and attempt to measure the composition, distribution, and flux of dust emitted into the coma, or material surrounding the comet's nucleus. Data from the mission will provide important new information on how Jupiter-family comets evolved and formed.

The mission will expand the investigation of the comet initiated by NASA's Deep Impact mission. In July 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft delivered an impactor to the comet's surface to study its composition. The Stardust spacecraft may capture an image of the crater created by the impactor. This would be an added bonus to the huge amount of data that mission scientists expect to obtain.

Deep Impact sent a 370-kg impactor into Comet Tempel 1 in July 2005, but the resulting dust obscured its view of the newly formed crater. Artist's impression: NASA / JPL / UMD / Pat Rawlings.

"Every day we are getting closer and closer and more and more excited about answering some fundamental questions about comets," said Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator at Cornell University. "Going back for another look at Tempel 1 will provide new insights on how comets work and how they were put together four-and-a-half billion years ago."

At approximately 209 million miles away from Earth, Stardust-NExT will be almost on the exact opposite side of the solar system at the time of the encounter. During the flyby, the spacecraft will take 72 images and store them in an on board computer.

Initial raw images from the flyby will be sent to Earth for processing that will begin at approximately 3 a.m. EST on Feb. 15. Images are expected to be available at approximately 4:30 a.m. EST.

As of today, the spacecraft is approximately 15.3 million miles away from its encounter. Since 2007, Stardust-NExT executed eight flight path correction maneuvers, logged four circuits around the sun and used one Earth gravity assist to meet up with Tempel 1.

This spectacular image of comet Tempel 1 was taken 67 seconds after it obliterated Deep Impact's impactor spacecraft. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UMD.

Another three maneuvers are planned to refine the spacecraft's path to the comet. Tempel 1's orbit takes it as close in to the sun as the orbit of Mars and almost as far away as the orbit of Jupiter. The spacecraft is expected to fly past the 3.7 mile-wide comet at a distance of approximately 124 miles.

In 2004, the Stardust mission became the first to collect particles directly from comet Wild 2, as well as interstellar dust. Samples were returned in 2006 for study via a capsule that detached from the spacecraft and parachuted to the ground southwest of Salt Lake City.

Mission controllers placed the still viable Stardust spacecraft on a trajectory that could potentially reuse the flight system if a target of opportunity presented itself. In January 2007, NASA re-christened the mission Stardust-NExT and began a four-and-a-half year journey to comet Tempel 1.

The Nucleus of Comet Tempel 1. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech /UMD

"You could say our spacecraft is a seasoned veteran of cometary campaigns," said Tim Larson, project manager for Stardust-NExT at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. "It's been half-way to Jupiter, executed picture-perfect flybys of an asteroid and a comet, collected cometary material for return to Earth, then headed back out into the void again, where we asked it to go head-to-head with a second comet nucleus."

The mission team expects this flyby to write the final chapter of the spacecraft's success-filled story. The spacecraft is nearly out of fuel as it approaches 12 years of space travel, logging almost 3.7 billion miles since launch in 1999. This flyby and planned post-encounter imaging are expected to consume the remaining fuel.

JPL manages mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and manages day-to-day mission operations.

For more information about the Stardust-NExt mission, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.


Astronaut Steve Bowen Named To STS-133 Space Shuttle Crew; Media Teleconference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CST

NASA - STS-133 Mission patch.

Jan. 19, 2011

NASA selected astronaut Steve Bowen as a mission specialist on STS-133, the next space shuttle mission planned for launch on Feb. 24. Bowen replaces astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident over the weekend. The agency will hold a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 19, to discuss the change in crew personnel.

The teleconference panelists are:
-- Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Space Operations
-- Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office

"Tim is doing fine and expects a full recovery, however, he will not be able to support the launch window next month," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "If for some unanticipated reason STS-133 slips significantly, it is possible that Tim could rejoin the crew."

The crew change should not affect the mission's target launch date.

Space Shuttle Discovery on launch pad

"Steve is an ideal candidate, and we have complete confidence he'll contribute to a fully successful STS-133 mission," Whitson said. "He has performed five prior spacewalks. That extensive experience, coupled with some adjustments to the spread of duties among the crew, will allow for all mission objectives to be accomplished as originally planned in the current launch window."

Bowen will begin training this week with the STS-133 crew, which includes Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Eric Boe, and Mission Specialists Alvin Drew, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott. Bowen also will train to perform the two planned spacewalks of the mission. He will join Alvin Drew to move a failed ammonia pump and perform other external configurations to the station.

The STS-133 mission to the International Space Station will deliver the Permanent Multipurpose Module, an external platform that holds large equipment and critical spare components for the station. The mission also will deliver Robonaut 2, or R2, the first human-like robot in space.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:

For Bowen's complete astronaut biographical information, visit:

For Kopra's complete astronaut biographical information, visit:

For information on the STS-133 mission, visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.

Best regards,

NASA Television To Air Space Station Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 26 Mission patch.

Jan. 19, 2011

Two Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station will conduct a spacewalk Friday, Jan. 21, to prepare the complex for future assembly and experiment work. The spacewalk will air live on NASA Television beginning at 8 a.m. CST.

Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka will perform the six-hour spacewalk.They will install an experimental Russian radio transmission system, retrieve existing experiments and install a TV camera on the Rassvet mini-research module that will assist in future dockings of vehicles to that port.

The Russian cosmonauts will exit the Pirs docking compartment airlock around 8:20 a.m. in their Russian Orlan spacesuits. The spacewalk will be the first for Kondratyev, who will wear the spacesuit marked with red stripes, and the second for Skripochka, who will wear the suit with blue stripes. Skripochka's first spacewalk was Nov. 15, 2010, and lasted six hours and 27 minutes.

For more information about the International Space Station visit:

For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / ROSCOSMOS / RuSpace.


The Orion Nebula: Still Full of Surprises

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

19 January 2011

 This ethereal-looking image of the Orion Nebula was captured using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile. This nebula is much more than just a pretty face, offering astronomers a close-up view of a massive star-forming region to help advance our understanding of stellar birth and evolution. The data used for this image were selected by Igor Chekalin (Russia), who participated in ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Igor’s composition of the Orion Nebula was the seventh highest ranked entry in the competition, although another of Igor’s images was the eventual overall winner.

The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, is one of the most easily recognisable and best-studied celestial objects. It is a huge complex of gas and dust where massive stars are forming and is the closest such region to the Earth. The glowing gas is so bright that it can be seen with the unaided eye and is a fascinating sight through a telescope. Despite its familiarity and closeness there is still much to learn about this stellar nursery. It was only in 2007, for instance, that the nebula was shown to be closer to us than previously thought: 1350 light-years, rather than about 1500 light-years.

The jewel in Orion’s sword

Astronomers have used the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile to observe the stars within Messier 42. They found that the faint red dwarfs in the star cluster associated with the glowing gas radiate much more light than had previously been thought, giving us further insights into this famous object and the stars that it hosts. The data collected for this science project, with no original intention to make a colour image, have now been reused to create the richly detailed picture of Messier 42 shown here.

Zooming in on the Orion Nebula

The image is a composite of several exposures taken through a total of five different filters. Light that passed through a red filter as well as light from a filter that shows the glowing hydrogen gas, were coloured red. Light in the yellow–green part of the spectrum is coloured green, blue light is coloured blue and light that passed through an ultraviolet filter has been coloured purple. The exposure times were about 52 minutes through each filter.

Panning across the Orion Nebula

This image was processed by ESO using the observational data found by Igor Chekalin (Russia) [1], who participated in ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition [2], organised by ESO in October–November 2010, for everyone who enjoys making beautiful images of the night sky using real astronomical data.


[1] Igor searched through ESO’s archive and identified datasets that he used to compose his image of Messier 42, which was the seventh highest ranked entry in the competition, out of almost 100 entries. His original work can be seen here.  Igor Chekalin was awarded the first prize of the competition for his composition of Messier 78, and he also submitted an image of NGC3169, NGC3166 and SN 2003cg, which was ranked second highest.

[2] ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 competition gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search through ESO’s vast archives of astronomical data, hoping to find a well-hidden gem that needed polishing by the entrants. Participants submitted nearly 100 entries and ten skilled people were awarded some extremely attractive prizes, including an all expenses paid trip for the overall winner to ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal, in Chile, the world’s most advanced optical telescope. The ten winners submitted a total of 20 images that were ranked as the highest entries in the competition out of the near 100 images.
More information

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


    * ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 competition:

    * Research papers:

    * Photos of La Silla Observatory:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO and Igor Chekalin / IAU and Sky & Telescope / Video: Credit: ESO, Fujii, A., Gendler, R. and Chekalin, I. / Music: John Dyson (from the album "Moonwind").


mardi 18 janvier 2011

ESA’s Mercury mapper feels the heat

ESA - BepiColombo Mission patch.

18 January 2011

 BepiColombo's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter in the Large Space Simulator

Key components of the ESA-led Mercury mapper BepiColombo have been tested in a specially upgraded European space simulator. ESA’s Large Space Simulator is now the most powerful in the world and the only facility capable of reproducing Mercury’s hellish environment for a full-scale spacecraft.

The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) has survived a simulated voyage to the innermost planet. The octagonal spacecraft, which is Japan’s contribution to BepiColombo, and its ESA sunshield withstood temperatures higher than 350°C.

This is a taste of things to come for the spacecraft. BepiColombo will encounter fully ten times the radiation power received by a satellite in orbit around Earth and, to simulate this, the Large Space Simulator (LSS) at ESA’s ESTEC centre in the Netherlands had to be specially adapted.

BepiColombo's Component spacecraft in orbit around Mercury

Engineers talk about the power of the Sun in units called the solar constant. This is how much energy is received every second through a square metre of space at the distance of Earth’s orbit.

“Previously, the LSS was capable of simulating a solar constant or two. Now it has been upgraded to produce ten solar constants,” says Jan van Casteren, ESA BepiColombo project manager.

The improvements have been achieved in two ways: the lamps from the simulators are being used at their maximum power and the mirrors that focus the beam have been adjusted.

Instead of producing a parallel beam of light 6 m across, they now concentrate the light into a cone just 2.7 m in diameter when it reaches the spacecraft. This creates a beam so fierce that a new shroud with a larger cooling capacity had to be installed to ‘catch’ the light that missed the spacecraft and prevent the chamber walls from heating up.

BepiColombo feels the heat

BepiColombo consists of separate modules. The MMO will investigate the magnetic environment of Mercury. It is kept cool during its six-year cruise to Mercury by the sunshield. These are the two modules that have now completed their thermal tests.

“The sunshield test was successful. Its function to protect the MMO spacecraft during the cruise phase was demonstrated,” says Jan.

“ESA’s Large Space Simulator is now the most powerful in the world and the only facility capable of reproducing Mercury’s hellish environment for a full-scale spacecraft.”

Once at Mercury, most of the Sun’s fearsome heat will be prevented from entering BepiColombo by special thermal blankets. They consist of multiple layers including a white ceramic outer layer and several metallic layers to reflect as much heat as possible back into space.

“The tests allowed us to measure the thermal blanket’s performance. The results allow us to prepare some adjustments for the tests of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter next year,” says Jan.

BepiColombo's scientists and engineers discuss the mission

In addition to enduring temperatures of 350°C, ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) will go where no spacecraft has gone before: down into a low elliptical orbit around Mercury, of between just 400 km and 1500 km above the planet’s scorching surface.

At that proximity, Mercury is worse than a hot plate on a cooker, releasing floods of infrared radiation into space. So, the MPO will have to deal with this as well as the solar heat. The MPO begins its tests in the LSS in the summer.

Related links:

BepiColombo industrial contract signed:

BepiColombo mission to be presented to the media:

ESA gives go-ahead to build BepiColombo:

Spot the targets of Europe's space explorers:

Mercury shows its dark side:

Images, Animations, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / C. Carreau / JAXA.

Best regards,

lundi 17 janvier 2011

First Human Space Flight by Yuri A. Gagarin 50th Anniversary (1961-2011)

ROSCOSMOS - Vostok-1 Mission logo / ROSCOSMOS - Vostok-1 Mission patch.


Vostok 1 was the first human spaceflight. The Vostok 3KA spacecraft was launched on April 12, 1961, taking into space Yuri Gagarin, a cosmonaut from the Soviet Union (ex-USSR or CCCP).

Yuri A. Gagarin First Human Space Flight  12 April 1961

The Vostok 1 mission was the first time anyone had journeyed into outer space and the first time anyone had entered into orbit. The Vostok 1 was launched by the Soviet space program and designed by the Soviet rocket scientists Sergey Korolyov and Kerim Kerimov.

Vostok-1 launch, 12 April 1961

Kedr to Make Space Mission

Launch campaign of the Progress M-09M cargo vehicle continues at Baikonur.

Last week a small spacecraft was loaded into the vehicle together with other standard cargo items.
The satellite name was adopted by Yu.A. Gagarin call sign in his historical flight, namely Kedr.

Vostok-1 spacecraft

The satellite’s signal will be transmitted at radio amateur frequency of 145.95 MHz. Kedr has radio amateur call sign RS1S.  Kedr is to be launched by Russian Cosmonauts during the future EVA.

Vostok-1 landed
The satellite is to be delivered to the ISS by Progress M-09М to begin its mission on Jan. 28.

Related Link:

Simulate the first human flight with Orbiter SFS 2006 or 2006P1 (not compatible with Orbiter 2010):

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS PAO /