samedi 28 juillet 2012

Spacecrafts Gonets-M and Mir displayed on the target orbit

ROSCOSMOS logo.

07/28/2012

Rokot KM at the launch-pad

July 28, in accordance with cyclogram flight to Moscow was 7.19 nominal separation of two spacecraft (SC) "Gonets-M" and SC "MiR" from the upper block (RB) "Breeze-KM '. Spacecraft displayed on the target orbit.

Launching spacecraft was completed in 05.35 GMT with a space rocket "Rokot" with "the Briz-KM" starting from the the Republic of Belarus Plesetsk cosmodrome calculations Forces aerospace defense and specialists rocket and space industry of Russia.

Artist view of the Rokot launch

Spacecraft Gonets M message relay set up by JSC "Information space systems to them. Academician Reshetnev "for multi-functional personal satellite communication system (MSPSS)" messenger-D1M "providing access to communication services at any latitude and longitude, both for fixed and mobile subscribers. Spacecraft designed for communication and data transmission, including the "email", the registration message to the on-board storage device, storage and subsequent transfer to the user. SC also provide a link for subscribers in the overall radio visibility zone, telex and facsimile transmission of messages. In addition to their function is to automatically collect data from various sensors such as burglar and fire alarm systems, environmental sensors, etc. Under the Russian Federal Space Program for 2006-2015. group provides for the deployment of 12 satellites (three of the four spacecraft in the orbital plane). Altitude - 1500 km, inclination to the equatorial plane - 82.5 oz.

Gonets-M message relay

Spacecraft "Peace (Mir)" ("Jubilee-2") was established in JSC "Information Satellite Systems him. Academician Reshetnev. " In the design and construction of the payload of the spacecraft have been actively involved undergraduate and graduate students of Siberian State Aerospace University named after Academician Reshetnev (Siberian State Aerospace University), and also specialists of the Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center, Siberian Branch of RAS. On-board devices are designed and manufactured in the laboratories of Siberian State Aerospace University, in particular angled reflector laser control unit payload, power switching power supply, two small web camera and a camera remote sensing. The spacecraft will be used for educational student projects.

Original text in Russian: http://www.federalspace.ru/main.php?id=2&nid=19363

Images, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / Khrunichev Space Center / Translation: Orbiter.ch.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 27 juillet 2012

Successful berthing of the H-II Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 3 (HTV3) to the ISS












JAXA - Transfer Vehicle KOUNOTORI 3 (HTV3) patch.

July 28, 2012 (JST)

 Artist view of the HTV approaching ISS

The H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI 3" (HTV3) started its final approach to the International Space Station (ISS), and was captured by the ISS robotic arm at 21:23 p.m. on July 27 (Japanese Standard Time, JST). After being maneuvered by the arm, the HTV3 was successfully berthed to the ISS at 2:31 a.m. on July 28 (JST).

KOUNOTORI2 (HTV-2) docking at the ISS

Upon berthed to the ISS, the internal and external cargo will be unloaded by the onboard crew.

Comment by JAXA President

Today, I am delighted to announce that the H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI 3" (HTV3), launched by the H-IIB launch vehicle on July 21, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time) from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center, was successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:31 a.m. on July 28, 2012.

video
Timelapse of HTV-3 Approach to ISS

We are pleased to report that Astronaut Hoshide, who has recently commenced the long-duration stay at the ISS, participated in this significant task. It was with immense pride and joy to witness the Japanese and American astronauts performing their fruits of the rigorous training to successfully berth the "KOUNOTORI 3 " to the ISS.

video
Timelapse of HTV-3 Berthing to ISS

This success marks a notable milestone in this mission. We will continue to strive to ensure the transfer of supplies, departure from the ISS, and re-entry into the atmosphere as planned.

Keiji Tachikawa, President, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Reference Link: You can find out more detailed information on the following Web site: http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/htv/

Mission website:

KOUNOTORI3/H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 3 Special Site: http://www.jaxa.jp/countdown/h2bf3/index_e.html

KOUNOTORI3 (HTV3) News (ISS / Kibo Site): http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/htv/mission/htv-3/news/

Images, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) / NASA / NASA TV.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Saturn's Moons












NASA / ESA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

July 27, 2012


The Cassini spacecraft watches a pair of Saturn's moons, showing the hazy orb of giant Titan beyond smaller Tethys. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing sides of Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) and Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across).

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 18, 2010. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. Image scale is 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel on Titan and 6 miles (9 kilometers) per pixel on Tethys.

Cassini spacecraft

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For information about Cassini, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Cassini-Huygens/

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Geotail: 20 Years of Science and Still Going Strong














NASA / ISAS (JAXA) - GEOTAIL Mission patch.

July 27, 2012

 An artist's rendition of what Geotail looks like in space. Credit: JAXA

On July 24, 1992, the joint JAXA/NASA Geotail mission launched into space aboard a Delta II launch vehicle. It was the vanguard for a set of coordinated missions known as the International Solar Terrestrial Physics or ISTP project that studied the magnetic environs of Earth. Along with the Wind and Polar missions launched later, Geotail flew up into space to provide information about the way the magnetic envelope surrounding Earth, called the magnetosphere, responds to incoming material and energy from the sun.

Twenty years later, Geotail's instruments continue to function, sending back crucial information about how aurora form, how energy from the sun funnels through near-Earth space, and the ways in which magnetic field lines move and rebound creating explosive bursts that rearrange the very shape of our magnetic environment.

"Before Geotail was launched, previous missions had provided discoveries about what existed around Earth," says Don Fairfield, an emeritus space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who was NASA's first project scientist for Geotail. "So we knew basic things about what was in the magnetosphere, but we didn't completely understand them. Geotail and ISTP provided additional details on the physics of how the aurora was created and how the steady stream of particles from the sun called the solar wind interacted with Earth."

To study the magnetosphere, Geotail's orbit originally extended far out into the night side of the magnetosphere, through the long streaming lines of magnetic fields that trail away from Earth into what's called the magnetotail. This early orbit stretched over 800,000 miles away from Earth at apogee, giving it an unprecedented view of the tail.

"Other spacecraft had traveled through the distant tail," says Guan Le, a Goddard scientist who took over as NASA's project scientist for Geotail when Fairfield retired in 2008. "But Geotail was the first with a comprehensive suite of instruments that could provide unprecedented measurements of electric fields, magnetic fields, the kinds of particles, and the waves traveling through the region."


Image above: On July 24, 1992, the joint JAXA/NASA Geotail mission was launched to study the magnetosphere. Credit: JAXA.

After two years, Geotail moved into a new orbit that is somewhat unusual for a spacecraft – while it is an ellipse, it is a fairly squat one, and its nearest approach to Earth doesn't comes particularly close. This orbit carries Geotail as close as 40,000 miles on one side of Earth, and out to about 120,000 miles on the other side. The orbit ensures that Geotail often crossed the borders of the magnetosphere at varying points around Earth.

By passing through so many diverse areas around Earth, Geotail has provided scientists with much information about the location of certain events that were not previously known. For one, Geotail helped determine where in Earth's environment explosive energetic bursts known as magnetic reconnection occur. These bursts, which result from fast changes in shape of magnetic field lines, are responsible, among other things, for sending particles toward the poles that cause aurora and for connecting incoming solar wind from the sun to our magnetosphere and transferring energy from one to the other. Determining the locations for where to expect magnetic reconnection, namely between 80,000 and 120,000 miles away from Earth on the night side, has helped guide decisions about orbits for future missions such as the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, due to launch in 2014, which will provide even more details on the physics behind magnetic reconnection.

Geotail also helped confirm the location and mechanisms of how aurora form, observing initial magnetic reconnection in the magnetotail that corresponded to the appearance of aurora over the poles that in turn could be observed by the Polar mission and observers on the ground. Geotail observations also showed bubbles of plasma, known as plasmoids, shooting away from these magnetic reconnection sites down the magnetotail away from Earth.

Geotail has another claim to fame: it was one of the earliest Japanese space weather missions, says Le, and many of today's well-respected Japanese space scientists performed their early research on its data.

Since 20 years of work have not dulled the capacity of Geotail's instruments, it remains a useful observatory. With missions such as THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms), Cluster and Wind currently studying the magnetosphere, and missions such as RBSP (Radiation Belt Storm Probes) and MMS soon to come, Geotail can provide a complementary set of data at a remote location to show how events seen by one spacecraft in the magnetosphere can effect different regions.

"It's always useful to have another satellite to provide observations," says Fairfield. "Geotail can be used in many different ways. When you see something happening in one part of the magnetosphere, you always want to know what's happening somewhere else, and Geotail offers that crucial information."

The GEOTAIL mission is a collaborative project undertaken by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Geotail spacecraft was designed and built by ISAS and was launched by NASA on July 24, 1992. NASA provides DSN support for the mission, which brings data down from Geotail, and performs initial data processing. The science data are processed and maintained by JAXA.

Related Links:

    › Geotail mission site: http://pwg.gsfc.nasa.gov/geotail.shtml
    › NASA's RBSP site: http://www.nasa.gov/rbsp
    › MMS mission site: http://mms.gsfc.nasa.gov/
    › NASA's THEMIS site: http://www.nasa.gov/themis

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Karen C. Fox / JAXA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 26 juillet 2012

The Brightest Stars Don't Live Alone












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

26 July 2012

VLT finds most stellar heavyweights come in interacting pairs

Artist’s impression of a vampire star and its victim

A new study using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has shown that most very bright high-mass stars, which drive the evolution of galaxies, do not live alone. Almost three quarters of these stars are found to have a close companion star, far more than previously thought. Surprisingly most of these pairs are also experiencing disruptive interactions, such as mass transfer from one star to the other, and about one third are even expected to ultimately merge to form a single star. The results are published in the 27 July 2012 issue of the journal Science.

The Universe is a diverse place, and many stars are quite unlike the Sun. An international team has used the VLT to study what are known as O-type stars, which have very high temperature, mass and brightness [1]. These stars have short and violent lives and play a key role in the evolution of galaxies. They are also linked to extreme phenomena such as “vampire stars”, where a smaller companion star sucks matter off the surface of its larger neighbour, and gamma-ray bursts.

Hot and brilliant O stars in star-forming regions

“These stars are absolute behemoths,” says Hugues Sana (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands), the lead author of the study. “They have 15 or more times the mass of our Sun and can be up to a million times brighter. These stars are so hot that they shine with a brilliant blue-white light and have surface temperatures over 30 000 degrees Celsius.”

The astronomers studied a sample of 71 O-type single stars and stars in pairs (binaries) in six nearby young star clusters in the Milky Way. Most of the observations in their study were obtained using ESO telescopes, including the VLT.

By analysing the light coming from these targets [2] in greater detail than before, the team discovered that 75% of all O-type stars exist inside binary systems, a higher proportion than previously thought, and the first precise determination of this number. More importantly, though, they found that the proportion of these pairs that are close enough to interact (through stellar mergers or transfer of mass by so-called vampire stars) is far higher than anyone had thought, which has profound implications for our understanding of galaxy evolution.

video
Artist's impression of the evolution of a hot high-mass binary star

O-type stars make up just a fraction of a percent of the stars in the Universe, but the violent phenomena associated with them mean they have a disproportionate effect on their surroundings. The winds and shocks coming from these stars can both trigger and stop star formation, their radiation powers the glow of bright nebulae, their supernovae enrich galaxies with the heavy elements crucial for life, and they are associated with gamma-ray bursts, which are among the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. O-type stars are therefore implicated in many of the mechanisms that drive the evolution of galaxies.

“The life of a star is greatly affected if it exists alongside another star,” says Selma de Mink (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), a co-author of the study. “If two stars orbit very close to each other they may eventually merge. But even if they don’t, one star will often pull matter off the surface of its neighbour.”

Mergers between stars, which the team estimates will be the ultimate fate of around 20–30% of O-type stars, are violent events. But even the comparatively gentle scenario of vampire stars, which accounts for a further 40–50% of cases, has profound effects on how these stars evolve.

video
Artist's impression of the evolution of a hot high-mass binary star (annotated version)

Until now, astronomers mostly considered that closely-orbiting massive binary stars were the exception, something that was only needed to explain exotic phenomena such as X-ray binaries, double pulsars and black hole binaries. The new study shows that to properly interpret the Universe, this simplification cannot be made: these heavyweight double stars are not just common, their lives are fundamentally different from those of single stars.

For instance, in the case of vampire stars, the smaller, lower-mass star is rejuvenated as it sucks the fresh hydrogen from its companion. Its mass will increase substantially and it will outlive its companion, surviving much longer than a single star of the same mass would. The victim star, meanwhile, is stripped of its envelope before it has a chance to become a luminous red super giant. Instead, its hot, blue core is exposed. As a result, the stellar population of a distant galaxy may appear to be much younger than it really is: both the rejuvenated vampire stars, and the diminished victim stars become hotter, and bluer in colour, mimicking the appearance of younger stars. Knowing the true proportion of interacting high-mass binary stars is therefore crucial to correctly characterise these faraway galaxies. [3]

“The only information astronomers have on distant galaxies is from the light that reaches our telescopes. Without making assumptions about what is responsible for this light we cannot draw conclusions about the galaxy, such as how massive or how young it is. This study shows that the frequent assumption that most stars are single can lead to the wrong conclusions,” concludes Hugues Sana.

Understanding how big these effects are, and how much this new perspective will change our view of galactic evolution, will need further work. Modeling binary stars is complicated, so it will take time before all these considerations are included in models of galaxy formation.

Notes:

[1] Most stars are classified according to their spectral type, or colour. This in turn is related to the stars’ mass and surface temperature. From bluest (and hence hottest and highest mass) to reddest (and hence coolest and lowest mass), the most common classification sequence is O, B, A, F, G, K and M. O-type stars have surface temperatures of around 30 000 degrees Celsius or more, and appear a brilliant pale blue. They have a mass of 15 or more times the mass of the Sun.

[2] The component stars in binary star systems are usually located too close to each other to be seen directly as separate points of light. However, the team were able to detect their binary nature using the VLT’s Ultraviolet and Visible Echelle Spectrograph (UVES). Spectrographs spread out a stars’s light much like a prism breaks up sunlight into a rainbow. Imprinted in the starlight are subtle barcode-like patterns caused by elements in the stars atmospheres which darken specific colours of light. When astronomers observe single stars, these so-called absorption lines are fixed, but in binaries, the lines from the two stars are slightly shifted relative to each other by the stars’ motion. The extent to which these lines are offset from each other and the way they move over time allow astronomers to determine the stars’ motion, and hence their orbital characteristics, including whether they are close enough to each other to exchange mass or even merge.

[3] The existence of this large number of vampire stars fits well with a previously unexplained phenomenon. Around a third of stars that explode as supernovae are observed to have surprisingly little hydrogen in them. However, the proportion of hydrogen-poor supernovae closely matches the proportion of vampire stars found by this study. Vampire stars are expected to cause hydrogen-poor supernovae in their victims, as the hydrogen-rich outer layers are torn off by the vampire star’s gravity before the victim has a chance to explode as a supernova.

More information:
This research was presented in a paper “Binary interaction dominates the evolution of massive stars”, H. Sana et al., to appear in the journal Science on 27 July 2012.

The team is composed of H. Sana (Amsterdam University, The Netherlands), S.E. de Mink (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA), A. de Koter (Amsterdam University; Utrecht University, The Netherlands), N. Langer (University of Bonn, Germany), C.J. Evans (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh, UK), M. Gieles (University of Cambridge UK), E. Gosset (Liege University, Belgium), R.G. Izzard (University of Bonn), J.-B. Le Bouquin (Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France) and F.R.N. Schneider (University of Bonn).

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO 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 two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 40-metre-class European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Links:

    Research paper from Science magazine:

        Main text: http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1230/eso1230a.pdf

        Supplementary text: http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1230/eso1230b.pdf

    Photos of the VLT: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/category/paranal/


Images, Videos, Text, Credit: ESO / L. Calçada / S.E. de Mink / M. Kornmesser.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA's Space Launch System Passes Major Agency Review, Moves to Preliminary Design












NASA patch.

July 26, 2012

The rocket that will launch humans farther into space than ever before passed a major NASA review Wednesday. The Space Launch System (SLS) Program completed a combined System Requirements Review and System Definition Review, which set requirements of the overall launch vehicle system. SLS now moves ahead to its preliminary design phase.

The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and other payloads, and provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

An artist rendering of the various configurations of NASA's Space Launch System. (NASA)

These NASA reviews set technical, performance, cost and schedule requirements to provide on-time development of the heavy-lift rocket. As part of the process, an independent review board comprised of technical experts from across NASA evaluated SLS Program documents describing vehicle specifications, budget and schedule. The board confirmed SLS is ready to move from concept development to preliminary design.

"This new heavy-lift launch vehicle will make it possible for explorers to reach beyond our current limits, to nearby asteroids, Mars and its moons, and to destinations even farther across our solar system," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The in-depth assessment confirmed the basic vehicle concepts of the SLS, allowing the team to move forward and start more detailed engineering design."

The reviews also confirmed the SLS system architecture and integration with the Orion spacecraft, managed by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, which manage the operations and launch facilities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Image above: An expanded view of an artist rendering of the 70-metric-ton configuration of NASA's Space Launch System. (NASA).

"This is a pivotal moment for this program and for NASA," said SLS Program Manager Todd May. "This has been a whirlwind experience from a design standpoint. Reaching this key development point in such a short period of time, while following the strict protocol and design standards set by NASA for human spaceflight is a testament to the team's commitment to delivering the nation's next heavy-lift launch vehicle."

SLS reached this major milestone less than 10 months after the program's inception. The combination of the two assessments represents a fundamentally different way of conducting NASA program reviews. The SLS team is streamlining processes to provide the nation with a safe, affordable and sustainable heavy-lift launch vehicle capability. The next major program milestone is preliminary design review, targeted for late next year.


Image above: An expanded view of an artist rendering of the 130 metric ton configuration of NASA's Space Launch System. (NASA).

The first test flight of NASA's Space Launch System, which will feature a configuration for a 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity, is scheduled for 2017. As SLS evolves, a three-stage launch vehicle configuration will provide a lift capability of 130 metric tons (143 tons) to enable missions beyond low Earth orbit and support deep space exploration.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the SLS program. Across the country NASA and its industry partners continue to make progress on SLS hardware that will be integrated into the final design. The RS-25 core stage and J-2X upper-stage rocket engine in development by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., for the future two-stage SLS, will be tested at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The prime contractor for the five-segment solid rocket boosters, ATK of Brigham City, Utah, has begun processing its first SLS boosters in preparation for an initial qualification test next year, ahead of their use for the first two exploration missions. The Boeing Co. in Huntsville is designing the SLS core stage, to be built at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and tested at Stennis before being shipped to Kennedy.

For more information about the Space Launch System, including the newest proposed rocket configurations, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sls

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Trent J. Perrotto / Marshall Space Flight Center / Kim Henry.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

The Flame Nebula









NASA - WISE Mission patch.

July 26, 2012


The Flame Nebula sits on the eastern hip of Orion the Hunter, a constellation most easily visible in the northern hemisphere during winter evenings. This view of the nebula was taken by WISE, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

This image shows a vast cloud of gas and dust where new stars are being born. Three familiar nebulae are visible in the central region: the Flame Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula and NGC 2023. The Flame Nebula is the brightest and largest in the image. It is lit by a star inside it that is 20 times the mass of the sun and would be as bright to our eyes as the other stars in Orion's belt if it weren't for all the surrounding dust, which makes it appear 4 billion times dimmer than it actually is.

For more information about WISE Mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/main/index.html

Image, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 25 juillet 2012

ESA's Mars Express supports dramatic landing on Mars












ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

25 July 2012

On 6 August, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory will make a spectacular landing to deliver the Curiosity rover to the Red Planet. ESA’s Mars Express will track the mission’s progress, recording crucial flight data right until ‘wheels down’ on the alien surface.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is set to deliver the largest planetary rover ever flown onto the Red Planet’s surface early in the morning of 6 August.

Mars Express supports MSL

The landing in Gale Crater will mark the start of an ambitious exploration programme studying Mars’ habitability, climate and geology and collecting data for a future human mission to the planet.

When the craft enters the atmosphere at almost 21 000 km/hr, it will begin ‘seven minutes of terror’, during which the sophisticated entry, descent and landing system decelerates the rover to less than 3.6 km/hour for a gentle landing. 

International fleet to support MSL landing

During descent, it will transmit a stream of data and two nearby NASA spacecraft – Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – will track and relay the information from Curiosity.

At NASA’s request, Mars Express, orbiting the planet since December 2003, will also be on duty for those critical seven minutes, relaying data that could later be crucial if anything goes wrong.

Rover delivered by skycrane

“We began optimising our orbit several months ago, so that Mars Express will have an orbit that is properly ‘phased’ and provides good visibility of MSL’s planned trajectory,” says Michel Denis, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Manager.

Specialists at ESOC, ESA’s Spacecraft Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany, have designed and tested a new pointing mode for Mars Express for its Lander Communications system to point toward MSL.

The instrument was originally intended for communicating with the Beagle lander on the martian surface in 2003.

Mars Express to record and relay signals from NASA

On 6 August, Mars Express will turn and start listening at 05:10. Confirmation of touchdown is expected directly via Odyssey at 05:31, and Mars Express will record MSL signal data between 05:10 and 05:38 (all times GMT and subject to change).

Mars Express tracking MSL

Once complete, Mars Express will slew again to point toward Earth and transmit the recorded data to ESOC via the Agency’s 35 m-diameter deep-space antenna in New Norcia, Australia.

The data are expected around 06:40 GMT and will be immediately transmitted to NASA.

ESA's stations on standby

ESA’s station network will also directly support the landing, standing by as ‘hot back-up’ to NASA’s own deep-space network to receive data from 250 million km.

Mars Express

“NASA supported the arrival of Mars Express at Mars in 2003, and, in the past few years, we have relayed data from the rovers Spirit and Opportunity,” says ESA’s Manfred Warhaut, Head of Mission Operations.

“Mars Express also tracked the descent of NASA’s Phoenix lander in 2008 and we routinely share our deep space networks.

“Technical and scientific cooperation at Mars between ESA and NASA is a long-standing and mutually beneficial activity that helps us both to reduce risk and increase the return of scientific results.”

More information:

NASA MSL mission at JPL: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

Mars Express: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/index.html

Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=146903741

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Alex Lutkus / NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Autonomous flight THC Progress M-15M continues

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

July 25, 2012

In accordance with the program of work on the THC Progress M-15M 24 July 2012. were scheduled to rendezvous and re-cargo vehicle docked with the International Space Station in order to develop an advanced approach "Course-ON."

The process of docking of Progress M-15M on the part of long-stand-alone approach proceeded normally. Then, in 04 hours 22 minutes 04 seconds Moscow time, while in the 161 km from the station, traffic control system "Course-ON" THC Progress M-15M team was formed to ban future operations, in connection with which the convergence has been suspended .


The Russian Progress M-15M spacecraft is seen backing away from the International Space Station’s Pirs module Sunday. An attempt to re-dock with the station Monday was aborted when a new navigation system encountered a failure. (Credit:NASA TV).

The Progress M-15M spacecraft was undocked from the station’s Pirs module Sunday afternoon and directed to back away to a distance of about 100 miles. The goal of the exercise was to test a new KURS rendezvous antenna that is designed to replace three antennas currently used by approaching Progress and manned Soyuz spacecraft to “lock on” to space station navigation beacons.

Autonomous flight of the Progress M-15M

But Monday evening, with the Progress M-15M spacecraft at a distance of about nine miles from the station, the approach was aborted by the craft’s flight computer around 8:23 p.m. EDT. Experts analyze the operational control of the situation, make recommendations on the continuation of work and control the flight of cargo vehicle.

Currently, the average height of 408.1 km orbit of the truck, and its distance from the station is 484 km. The circumstances are not an obstacle to joining the Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-3, scheduled for July 27.

Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-3

Further work on the docking of "Progress" from the International Space Station will continue after the docking of a Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-3.

Original text in Russian: http://www.federalspace.ru/main.php?id=2&nid=19344

Images, Text, Credits: Press-service of Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) and the TsNIIMash / NASA TV / JAXA / Translation: Orbiter.ch.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Mars Orbiter Repositioned to Phone Home Mars Landing











NASA - 2001 Mars Odyssey patch.

July 25, 2012

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted its orbital location to be in a better position to provide prompt confirmation of the August landing of the Curiosity rover.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft carrying Curiosity can send limited information directly to Earth as it enters Mars' atmosphere. Before the landing, Earth will set below the Martian horizon from the descending spacecraft's perspective, ending that direct route of communication. Odyssey will help to speed up the indirect communication process.

Curiosity Approaching Mars, Artist's Concept

NASA reported during a July 16 news conference that Odyssey, which originally was planned to provide a near-real-time communication link with Curiosity, had entered safe mode July 11. This situation would have affected communication operations, but not the rover's landing. Without a repositioning maneuver, Odyssey would have arrived over the landing area about two minutes after Curiosity landed.

A spacecraft thruster burn Tuesday lasting about six seconds has nudged Odyssey about six minutes ahead in its orbit. Odyssey now is operating normally, and confirmation of Curiosity's landing is expected to reach Earth at about 10:31 p.m. PDT Aug. 5, as originally planned.

2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft

"Information we are receiving indicates the maneuver has been completed as planned," said Gaylon McSmith, Mars Odyssey project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, Calif. "Odyssey has been working at Mars longer than any other spacecraft, so it is appropriate that it has a special role in supporting the newest arrival."

Two other Mars orbiters, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the European Space Agency's Mars Express, also will be in position to receive radio transmissions from MSL during its descent. However, they will be recording information for later playback. Only Odyssey can relay information immediately.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft

Odyssey arrived at Mars in 2001. In addition to its own scientific observations, it has served as a communications relay for NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers and the Phoenix lander. Spirit and Phoenix are no longer operational. Odyssey and MRO will provide communication relays for Curiosity during the rover's two-year prime mission.

ESA Mars Express spacecraft

Odyssey and MSL, with its Curiosity rover, are managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The Odyssey spacecraft is operated by JPL and Lockheed Martin in Denver. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built Odyssey.

For more information about Mars Odyssey, visit: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey

For information about the Curiosity landing and other NASA Mars missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars

More information about Curiosity is at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and  http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ESA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

SolarImpulse - Home Sweet Home













SolarImpulse - Destination Morocco patch.

July 25, 2012

 Toulouse to Payerne – HB-SIA over Puy-de-Dôme area (France)

Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, HB-SIA majestically landed in the warm-shaded landscape of Payerne’s summer evening, Tuesday 24 July, at 06:30 PM (UTC). The public and Solar Impulse team were cheering, chins up, some with sunglasses and others shading their eyes with their bare hands, as the solar aircraft graciously touched the runway. The final touchdown concluded Solar Impulse’s and the world’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight.

 Toulouse to Payerne – Landing in Payerne AFB (Switzerland)

The Made in Switzerland trademark was perceptible from all angles as the swissness of the event couldn’t be resumed better: rolling hills of the Canton Fribourg farmlands in the background, Swiss Alphorns filling the air with deep and wooing sounds and spectators displaying their Swiss flags with “Congratulations!” signs high in the air. The Solar Impulse team was moved by the amount of people that came to see the closing of these mission flights, demonstrating the public's support for the vision.

video
 SolarImpulse landing at Payerne (Switzerland)

Every landing is an emotion in of itself. HB-SIA is seemingly immune from redundancy and routine but despite this, there was something magical about this mission’s final touchdown. Although I can’t speak for all members of the team, I am sure there was an overall feeling of accomplishment, confidence in the project’s message and pride in what has been achieved when the solar aircraft made its appearance in the Swiss skies.

Toulouse to Payerne – Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg after landing in Switzerland

The 2012 Crossing Frontiers mission flights wouldn’t have been possible without all the amazing support that was provided along HB-SIA’s journey to Africa and back but as we say in an old Croatian proverb “it’s wonderful to experience everything, but it’s always nicer to return home”.

Flight Report: Toulouse-Payerne:

Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
Date: 24.07.2012
Take-off time: 05:01 AM UTC
Time of landing: 06:30 PM UTC
Flight duration: 13h 29min
Average speed: 34 kts
Average altitude: 3596 metres

Crossing Frontiers fun facts:

    - Over 6000 km flown in 8 legs
    - 4 countries
    - 2 continents
    - Over 2'723'391 unique visitors of the solar impulse website
    - Over 4'164'130 viewers of the LIVE broadcastings
    - World’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight
    - 3 Air Sports Federation (FAI) records recorded and being reviewed

For more information about SolarImpulse, visit: http://solarimpulse.com/en/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SolarImpulse / Laurent Kaeser.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mardi 24 juillet 2012

Conference of the crew of STS-134 Mission at Geneva












NASA - STS-134 Mission patch.

July 24, 2012

Report by Orbiter.ch

Arrive at the conference at the Theater du Leman at 20:30 with my Canadian cousin Steve (who is on vacation one week in Geneva), we attended the conference of the crew of Mission STS-134.

The topic of the conference was the Mission STS-134, the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, taking off May 16, 2011 from Cape Canaveral, carrying on board AMS-02, the hunter of dark matter and antimatter, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). AMS-02 was installed on the International Space Station (ISS) May 20, 2011.

The theater was packed!

Astronauts arrive on the theater stage, astronaut Roberto Vittori of the European Space Agency, pilot Greg Johnson, Commander Mark Kelly, Mission Specialist Mike Fincke, Canadian astronaut Greg Chamitoff and the specialist Mission Drew Feustel.

The conference began with Prof. Samuel Ting of MIT, Nobel Prize in Physics, explained that the AMS is the subject of an international collaboration led by himself, the project proponent. It includes 60 laboratories from 16 countries, with major contributions from the United States, Europe (Germany, Spain, Finland, France, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland), China and Taiwan.

The conference begins

Then, Professor Samuel Ting removed through projections of photos and diagrams the operation of the AMS (it felt like an amphitheater in a university, except that the seats are more comfortable).

The six astronauts us (the public in the audience) explained one by one in detail the preparations and conduct of the mission. Starting with the Commander of the mission the Astronaut Mark Kelly, the preparations for the mission that lasted three years, their trip to Switzerland at Geneva to meet with Prof. Samuel Ting at CERN.

Professor Samuel Ting removed through projections of photos and diagrams of operation of the AMS

This first meeting has been the subject of an anecdote: six Astronauts have preferred advantage of their presence in the region to complete their training by going around the Mont Blanc (the highest mountain of the Alps in Europe, with a height of 4810.45 meters) rather than go directly at CERN.

Professor Samuel Ting tells the story of the Mont Blanc Tour

The meeting finally took place in between the Astronauts and Professor Samuel Ting, who showed them to the AMS-02 on completion of installation at CERN. Michael Fincke and Andrew Feustel are described in detail the sensations felt during takeoff of a Space Shuttle, Michael Fincke began twitching in his chair, mimicking the severe vibration of takeoff, general laughter in the theater.

Astronauts describe the feeling during the launch

Once in Earth orbit, the astronauts describe the feeling of weightlessness that are confusing to the human body (especially the first time), usually it's the first day or they must learn to move in the Space Station or notions of high and low do not exist, welcome to the fourth dimension.

The film begins mission STS-134, we witness the entire procedure for launch, the approach of the Space Station (which in the final meters, is 1.5 cm per second), stowage and life on board during the mission. They recovered to 12 in total with the Cosmonauts and Astronauts already present in the station.

Commander of the mission the Astronaut Mark Kelly speech

The implementation of the AMS-02 has not been easy handling apparatus as delicate as the AMS with a robotic arm (Canadarm) in weightlessness, but there are come with success, last year that this detector of cosmic particles has been installed on the International Space Station (ISS), it returns its data from space at CERN.

The conference concludes with questions from the public, including one by a little boy who spoke only French, and who complained that the astronauts do not speak his language, which the vast amusement of the whole theater and astronauts.

An autograph session with the crew who had been initially planned for the children present, but adults (including my cousin and me) were also precipitated on the photos to autograph.

 Autographs of the STS-134 Crew

Tomorrow, July 25, the astronauts will visit all of CERN, which was not the case during their first visit, they will discover the giant two main detectors Atlas and Alice, the enormity of this nuclear research complex with LHC is 27km in diameter at one hundred meters deep underground.

Sorry for the blurry pictures and bad shooting, but I must admit that we come to this conference a bit late and I had not had time to go home and get a camera (I used my smartphone), besides, I had nothing, or confirmation of registration, or my press card .. This report has been a little be Rock N 'Roll (those who know me will say, normal for a biker!).

Conference organized by CERN, supported by Geneva Airport and among others.

Images, Text, Credit: Orbiter.ch

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Mission accomplished, GIOVE-B heads into deserved retirement












ESA - GALILEO - GIOVE Mission patch.

24 July 2012

ESA’s GIOVE-B experimental navigation satellite is gradually raising its orbit as it prepares for well-earned retirement at the end of its four-year mission paving the way for Europe’s Galileo constellation.

On Tuesday, an initial thruster firing raised GIOVE-B’s orbit by about 30 km. This will be followed by others in the next three weeks so that by mid-August the satellite will be in a graveyard orbit some 600 km above its original 23 222 km orbit.

GIOVE-B in orbit

The second ‘Galileo In-Orbit Validation Experiment’ mission, launched on 27 April 2008, GIOVE-B carries both types of atomic clocks being used by the Galileo system: a rubidium clock, accurate to three seconds in one million years, and a passive hydrogen maser – the first clock of its kind flown in space – accurate to one second in three million years.

It is also fitted with an antenna to illuminate Earth with its test signal, linked to a signal generation unit able to produce the kind of complex modulated signals required for the interoperation of Galileo with the US GPS system. 

GIOVE-B also carries ESA’s advanced Standard Radiation Monitor to survey the radiation environment in this orbit.

Passive hydrogen maser

After more than four years of service, GIOVE-B’s payload was turned off on Monday, in preparation for the following day’s thruster firing.

“GIOVE-B, like its predecessor GIOVE-A, performed excellent work testing Galileo hardware, securing Europe’s rights to the radio frequencies set aside for Galileo and gathering data on medium-Earth orbit conditions,” said Valter Alpe, managing the GIOVE satellites for ESA.

“Its signal, in combination with its ground element, also served to prove the Galileo system will work as planned.

GIOVE Processing Centre

“But now that the first Galileo satellites have joined them in orbit – with the first two launched together on 21 October 2011, and a second pair due this autumn – and have proven to be operating extremely well – there is no longer any role left for these experimental satellites.”

GIOVE-A was launched on 28 December 2005 and rose into a graveyard orbit in August 2009, with its mission completed at the end of June this year.

Both satellites comfortably exceeded their design lives of 27 months.

More information:

Galileo: http://www.esa.int/esaNA/galileo.html

How the Galileo atomic clocks work: http://www.esa.int/esaNA/SEM5IURMD6E_index_0.html

Images, Text, Credits: ESA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch