jeudi 22 août 2019

ULA Successfully Launches GPS III Satellite for U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

ULA - Delta IV /GPS III Magellan Mission poster.

Aug. 22, 2019

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the second Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite, designated Magellan, for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 22 at 9:06 EDT. This mission marked the 29th and final flight of the Delta IV Medium rocket and the 73rd GPS launch by a ULA or heritage vehicle.

“Thank you to the team and our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we processed and launched this critical asset, providing advanced capabilities for warfighters, civil users, and humankind across the globe,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud of the strong legacy of the Delta IV Medium program, and look forward to the future with our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur.”

Delta IV Medium launches GPS III SV02 Magellan

The GPS III system, built by Lockheed Martin, represents the next step in modernization of the worldwide navigation network with a new generation of advanced satellites offering improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

This mission launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) configuration vehicle, which included a 4-meter Payload Fairing and two Northrop Grumman solid rocket motors. The common booster core for Delta IV was powered by the RS-68A engine, and the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage was powered by the RL10B-2 engine, both supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

ULA’s next launch is Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, Orbital Flight Test, aboard an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Global Positioning System III SV02 Magellan satellite

ULA maintains a track record of 100% mission success with 135 successful launches.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

ULA website:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: United Launch Alliance (ULA)/SciNews.


Full Science Schedule Today After Spacewalk and Rocket Launch

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 22, 2019

Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station following its launch just a few hours after Wednesday’s spacewalk. The Expedition 60 crew is back on a full science schedule today and preparing to send a U.S. cargo craft back to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan called down to Mission Control today to discuss yesterday’s spacewalk when they installed the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. The duo, including NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch, talked about normal technical issues and task challenges they faced before, during and after the spacewalking job.

Image above: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is pictured working outside the International Space Station during a six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk to install the orbiting lab’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Koch spent most of Thursday tending to lab mice living aboard the station. Scientists seek therapeutic insights not possible on Earth by observing the rodents due to their genetic similarity to humans.

Hague spent a portion of his day contributing to experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) continued exploring ways to manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires before moving on to more cell differentiation research.

Image above: A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station July 27, 2019, on the company's 18th cargo delivery to the space station as it orbits 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, off the west coast of Namibia. Image Credit: NASA.

Morgan is preparing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth next week. The crew will be packing Dragon over the weekend and into Monday with the results of numerous space experiments for analysis. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon from its grips on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California a few hours later for retrieval by SpaceX personnel.

The first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft launched yesterday from Kazakhstan about nine hours after Hague and Morgan completed their spacewalk. The Soyuz MS-14 is orbiting Earth today headed toward the station following a successful 2.1a booster test during its ascent. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov will monitor its automated approach and rendezvous when it docks Saturday to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

Artemis Program Identity Makes Its Debut in Space

During a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Aug. 22, astronaut Nick Hague debuted the Artemis program identity in space. Hague and fellow crewmember Andrew Morgan installed the second International Docking Adapter on the complex to enable commercial spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX to carry astronauts to the station.

The work happening now is paving the way for the future. We are going to the Moon to stay, by 2024. NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to surface of the Moon within five years, and prepare for human exploration of Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit:

Related articles:

NASA TV to Air US Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

Uncrewed Soyuz Rocket Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

Related links:

Expedition 60:


NASA TV: and


International Docking Adapter-3:

Lab mice:

Variety of space phenomena:

Manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires:

Cell differentiation:

SpaceX Dragon:


Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Sarah Loff.

Best regards,

30 Years Ago: Voyager 2's Historic Neptune Flyby

NASA - Voyager 1 & 2 Mission patch.

Aug. 22, 2019

Image above: This picture of Neptune was taken by Voyager 2 less than five days before the probe's closest approach of the planet on Aug. 25, 1989. The picture shows the "Great Dark Spot" — a storm in Neptune's atmosphere — and the bright, light-blue smudge of clouds that accompanies the storm. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet. Marking the end of the Voyager mission's Grand Tour of the solar system's four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — that first was also a last: No other spacecraft has visited Neptune since.

"The Voyager planetary program really was an opportunity to show the public what science is all about," said Ed Stone, a professor of physics at Caltech and Voyager's project scientist since 1975. "Every day we learned something new."

Wrapped in teal- and cobalt-colored bands of clouds, the planet that Voyager 2 revealed looked like a blue-hued sibling to Jupiter and Saturn, the blue indicating the presence of methane. A massive, slate-colored storm was dubbed the "Great Dark Spot," similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Six new moons and four rings were discovered.

During the encounter, the engineering team carefully changed the probe's direction and speed so that it could do a close flyby of the planet's largest moon, Triton. The flyby showed evidence of geologically young surfaces and active geysers spewing material skyward. This indicated that Triton was not simply a solid ball of ice, even though it had the lowest surface temperature of any natural body observed by Voyager: minus 391 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 235 degrees Celsius).

Image above: This global color mosaic shows Neptune's largest moon, Triton. Pink-hued methane ice may compose a massive polar cap on the moon's surface, while dark streaks overlaying this ice is thought to be dust deposited from huge geyser-like plumes that erupt from Triton's surface. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The conclusion of the Neptune flyby marked the beginning of the Voyager Interstellar Mission, which continues today, 42 years after launch. Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1 (which had also flown by Jupiter and Saturn), continue to send back dispatches from the outer reaches of our solar system. At the time of the Neptune encounter, Voyager 2 was about 2.9 billion miles (4.7 billion kilometers) from Earth; today it is 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from us. The faster-moving Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles (21 billion kilometers) from Earth.  

Getting There

By the time Voyager 2 reached Neptune, the Voyager mission team had completed five planetary encounters. But the big blue planet still posed unique challenges.

Voyager 2 into deep space. Animation Credit: NASA

About 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth is, the icy giant receives only about 0.001 times the amount of sunlight that Earth does. In such low light, Voyager 2's camera required longer exposures to get quality images. But because the spacecraft would reach a maximum speed of about 60,000 mph (90,000 kph) relative to Earth, a long exposure time would make the image blurry. (Imagine trying to take a picture of a roadside sign from the window of a speeding car.)

So the team programmed Voyager 2's thrusters to fire gently during the close approach, rotating the spacecraft to keep the camera focused on its target without interrupting the spacecraft's overall speed and direction.

The probe's great distance also meant that by the time radio signals from Voyager 2 reached Earth, they were weaker than those of other flybys. But the spacecraft had the advantage of time: The Voyagers communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network, or DSN, which utilizes radio antennas at sites in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone, California. During Voyager 2's Uranus encounter in 1986, the three largest DSN antennas were 64-meters (210 feet) wide. To assist with the Neptune encounter, the DSN expanded the dishes to 70 meters (230 feet). They also included nearby non-DSN antennas to collect data, including another 64-meter (210 feet) dish in Parkes, Australia, and multiple 25-meter (82 feet) antennas at the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Image above: Voyager 2 took these two images of the rings of Neptune on Aug. 26, 1989, just after the probe's closest approach to the planet. Neptune's two main rings are clearly visible; two fainter rings are visible with the help of long exposure times and backlighting from the Sun. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The effort ensured that engineers could hear Voyager loud and clear. It also increased how much data could be sent back to Earth in a given period, enabling the spacecraft to send back more pictures from the flyby.

Being There

In the week leading up to that August 1989 close encounter, the atmosphere was electric at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages the Voyager mission. As images taken by Voyager 2 during its Neptune approach made the four-hour journey to Earth, Voyager team members would crowd around computer monitors around the Lab to see.

"One of the things that made the Voyager planetary encounters different from missions today is that there was no internet that would have allowed the whole team and the whole world to see the pictures at the same time," Stone said. "The images were available in real time at a limited number of locations."

But the team was committed to giving the public updates as quickly as possible, so from Aug. 21 to Aug. 29, they would share their discoveries with the world during daily press conferences. On Aug. 24, a program called "Voyager All Night" broadcast regular updates from the probe's closest encounter with the planet, which took place at 4 a.m. GMT (9 p.m. in California on Aug. 24).

The next morning, Vice President Dan Quayle visited the Lab to commend the Voyager team. That night, Chuck Berry, whose song "Johnny B. Goode" was included on the Golden Record that flew with both Voyagers, played at JPL's celebration of the feat.

Image above: (From left) Chuck Berry and Carl Sagan at a Voyager 2 Neptune flyby celebration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in August 1989. Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is the only rock-and-roll song on the Golden Records currently traveling in interstellar space aboard Voyagers 1 and 2. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Of course, the Voyagers' achievements extend far beyond that historic week three decades ago. Both probes have now entered interstellar space after exiting the heliosphere — the protective bubble around the planets created by a high-speed flow of particles and magnetic fields spewed outward by our Sun.

They are reporting back to Earth on the "weather" and conditions from this region filled with the debris from stars that exploded elsewhere in our galaxy. They have taken humanity's first tenuous step into the cosmic ocean where no other operating probes have flown.

Voyager data also complement other missions, including NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), which is remotely sensing that boundary where particles from our Sun collide with material from the rest of the galaxy. And NASA is preparing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), due to launch in 2024, to capitalize on Voyager observations.

The Voyagers send their findings back to DSN antennas with 13-watt transmitters — about enough power to run a refrigerator light bulb.

"Every day they travel somewhere that human probes have never been before," said Stone. "Forty-two years after launch, and they're still exploring."

Related links:

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX):

Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP):

Golden Record:

NASA History:

For more information about the Voyager mission visit:

For more images of Neptune taken by Voyager 2 visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.

Best regards,

Jupiter mission takes first images of destination – from Earth!

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

22 August 2019

Artist's impression of JUICE

As part of preparations for the launch of ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, its navigation camera has been given a unique test: imaging its destination from Earth.

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, will launch in 2022 on a seven-year journey to the Jupiter system. In the first mission of its kind, it will not only orbit Jupiter and make repeated flybys of the planet’s large and ocean-bearing moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, but will culminate in a dedicated orbital tour of Ganymede – the largest moon in the Solar System.

Jupiter system captured in Juice NavCam test

The spacecraft will be equipped with a scientifically powerful suite of instruments for an in-depth analysis of Jupiter, its environment, and moons, but it also flies essential elements such as a navigation camera, or NavCam. Together with radio tracking, the NavCam will be used to obtain the position and velocity of the spacecraft relative to the moon it is flying by.

The NavCam has been specifically designed to be resistant to the harsh radiations environment around Jupiter and to acquire images of the planet, moon and background stars. Importantly, NavCam measurements will allow the spacecraft to be in the optimal trajectory and to consume as little fuel as possible during the grand tour of Jupiter, and to improve the pointing accuracy during these fast and close rendezvous approaches. The close encounters will bring the spacecraft between about 200 and 400 km to the moons.

In June, a team of engineers took to the roof of the Airbus Defence and Space site in Toulouse to test the NavCam engineering model in real sky conditions. The purpose was to validate hardware and software interfaces, and to prepare the image processing and onboard navigation software that will be used in-flight to acquire images.

Jupiter system captured in Juice NavCam test (annotated)

In addition to observing Earth’s Moon and other objects, the instrument was pointed towards an obvious target in the night sky: Jupiter. The camera used the ‘Imaging mode’ and ‘Stars Centroiding Mode’ to test parameter settings which in turn will be used to fine-tune the image processing software at attitude control and navigation levels.

“Unsurprisingly, some 640 million kilometres away, the moons of Jupiter are seen only as a mere pixel or two, and Jupiter itself appears saturated in the long exposure images needed to capture both the moons and background stars, but these images are useful to fine-tune our image processing software that will run autonomously onboard the spacecraft,” says Gregory Jonniaux, Vision-Based Navigation expert at Airbus Defence and Space. “It felt particularly meaningful to conduct our tests already on our destination!”

Simulated NavCam views of Jupiter moons

During the flybys themselves it will be possible to see surface features on these very different moons. In a separate test, the NavCam was optically fed with simulated views of the moons to process more realistic images of what can be expected once in the Jupiter system.

“The simulated views of the moons of Jupiter give a more realistic impression of what our NavCam will capture during flybys,” adds Daniele Gherardi, ESA Guidance, Navigation and Control expert. “Of course, the high-resolution scientific camera suite will impress us with even more detail of these enigmatic moons.”

Simulated NavCam view of Jupiter and moons

Meanwhile the test navigation camera will be further improved with a full flight representative performance optics assembly by the end of the year, and will subsequently be used to support onboard software tests of the complete Juice spacecraft. After launch, the test camera will be used at ESA’s operations centre to support the mission operations throughout its mission.

Juice is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme. The prime contractor is Airbus Defence and Space. The camera is supplied by Sodern.

Related link:

JUICE in depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Airbus Defence and Space/AOES.


Study started for bacteria-free space missions

ISS - International Space Station logo.

22 August 2019

Bacteria grow everywhere, including inside the International Space Station. That is why ESA has selected the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) to develop antimicrobial surface treatments for the interior of spacecraft.

Four Spacecraft Docked on Space Station

The Luxembourg institute launched its 18-month research project dubbed “ESA NBactspace”, on 4 March 2019, with a view to ensuring the health and safety of astronauts during future missions.

Bacterial pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics, while standard surface coatings designed to counteract growth rely on heavy metal particles, such as silver and copper – metals that can form a toxicity risk in the closed environment of a spacecraft. As we look to explore farther into our Solar System, it is important for mission designers to keep astronauts safe from microbial, algal and parasitic contamination as well as from nanoparticle toxicity.

Inside the Space Station

LIST has been tasked with developing heavy-metal free antimicrobial coatings, that provide the same efficiency in space while using non-toxic biologically sourced materials, such molecules extracted from plants or lignin-based materials, or antimicrobial peptides found in bacteria.

The goal is to have no particles released into the spacecraft, or release a very low concentration of non-toxic biodegradable or biocompatible particles.

All-in-one antimicrobial surface

Two common ways of avoiding pathogens binding to surfaces are through materials that destroy these pathogens on contact, or developing surfaces that diffuse activity along their exterior. LIST aims to build a new, efficient combination of both these mechanisms, using biologically-sourced or synthetic materials that are biologically compatible.

Matiss experiment floating in Space Station

“The application study follows from research conducted on the International Space Station such as the MATISS series of experiments that are testing common coatings,” says ESA’s Malgorzata Holynska, materials and processes engineer, “the findings will greatly contribute to better knowledge and definition of standards to follow in confined environments such as spacecraft, but also for applications on Earth.”

The applied research could have important socio-economic impacts, besides developing a sustainable and viable alternative to heavy metal-based surface coatings. It is envisaged that the technology could be transfered to other environments, such as e.g. the hospital setting, and medical implants or devices.

Related links:

Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST):

Human health:

International Space Station(ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/A. Gerst/NASA.


Uncrewed Soyuz Rocket Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-14 / Skybot F-850 Mission patch.

August 22, 2019

Image above: The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Image Credits: Roscosmos/NASA TV.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launched at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) from Site 31 at the Cosmodrome on a Soyuz 2.1a booster, which has been used recently to launch uncrewed Russian Progress cargo resupply missions to the space station.

Soyuz MS-14 launch with Skybot F-850 on board

The Soyuz 2.1a booster, equipped with a new digital flight control system and upgraded engines, is replacing the Soyuz FG booster that has been used for decades to launch crews into space. The Soyuz spacecraft will have an upgraded motion control and navigation system, as well as a revamped descent control system.

Soyuz MS-14 to test new upgrades, ferry Skybot humanoid robot to ISS. Image Credit: Roscosmos

Instead of crew members, the Soyuz will carry 1,450 pounds of cargo to the Expedition 60 crew currently residing on the orbital outpost.

Skybot F-850 humanoid robot

The Soyuz will navigate to station for an automated docking on the space-facing Poisk module on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 1:30 a.m.  After a two-week stay at the station, the Soyuz will be commanded to undock from the station on Friday, Sept. 6, at 2:13 p.m. EDT.

NASA TV coverage of the docking, and undocking activities is as follows:

Saturday, Aug. 24:

    12:45 a.m. – Docking coverage (docking scheduled for 1:30 a.m.) EDT

Friday, Sept. 6:

    1:45 p.m. – Undocking coverage (undocking scheduled for 2:13 p.m.) EDT

Related links:

Expedition 60:

NASA TV: and

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Roscosmos/SciNews.


mercredi 21 août 2019

Spacewalkers Complete Installation of Second Commercial Docking Port

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

August 21, 2019

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan concluded today’s spacewalk at 2:59 p.m. EDT. During the six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed the second of two international docking adapters (IDAs).

Image above: Spacewalkers Nick Hague (top) and Andrew Morgan install the International Docking Adapter (IDA-3) to the Pressurized Mating Adapter on top of the station’s Harmony module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The IDAs will be used for the future arrivals of Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon  commercial crew spacecraft. NASA’s commercial crew partnership with Boeing and SpaceX will restore launches of American astronauts from American soil on American rockets and maximize the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research and technological advances aboard the orbiting laboratory to enable the agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis lunar exploration program and future missions to the Moon and Mars. Regular human space transportation to the space station is a critical step to opening the space station for commercial business to enable the growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and the development of a robust low-Earth orbit economy.

The spacewalkers also completed additional routing for the station’s wireless internet.

Image above: Astronauts Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano take a portrait with spacewalkers Andrew Morgan (right) and Nick Hague (left) in their U.S. spacesuits during this morning’s spacewalk preparations. Image Credit: NASA.

Space station crew members have spent a total of 56 days, 23 hours, and 26 minutes during 218 spacewalks in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. It was the fifth spacewalk in 2019, and the first for Morgan. During three spacewalks, Hague has now spent a total of 19 hours and 59 minutes outside the space station.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

commercial crew:

International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3):


Moon and Mars:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

mardi 20 août 2019

LS2 Report: New SPS beam dump takes shape

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

20 August, 2019

The Super Proton Synchrotron will receive a new beam dump before the end of the second long shutdown of CERN’s accelerator complex 

 The beam dump's shielding being assembled (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

By the end of the second long shutdown (LS2) of CERN’s accelerator complex, a nine-metre-long object with several hundred tonnes of shielding will be installed around the beam line of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS). But this object, the longest single component of the SPS, is no ordinary one. It contains the new beam dump of the SPS, designed to absorb beams of particles whose flight through the SPS needs to be terminated. Deep inside the complex device will sit the actual absorbing elements of the dump, containing graphite, molybdenum and tungsten. This core will be sheathed in layers of concrete, cast-iron shielding (painted green per CERN’s colour schemes) and marble. The new beam dump will help absorb particle beams with a wide range of energies – from 14 to 450 GeV – and is being built as part of the LHC Injectors Upgrade (LIU) project.

As discussed in a previous LS2 Report, the old beam dump of the SPS – located at Point 1 of the accelerator’s ring – is being replaced by a new one at Point 5, in preparation for the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC). Since the older object would be unable to cope with the higher beam intensities needed for the HL-LHC, which will come online in 2026, the SPS team decided five years ago to construct a new dump with the required properties. The re-design was needed because the higher intensities will result in the dump undergoing much larger mechanical forces over the course of its lifetime, necessitating a more robust device than before.

“We considered building an external dump outside the SPS tunnel, similar to the one the LHC has,” explains Etienne Carlier, from CERN’s Technology department. “But the large dynamic range of the SPS beams makes it impossible to extract the different beams with one system. So we decided to use an internal dump, which is part of the SPS itself.” Building this beam dump is one of the most important tasks in the framework of the LIU project and around 125 metres of the SPS tunnel will be modified to accommodate it. There are several challenges along the way, involving the dedicated infrastructure required, which includes new kicker magnets, an optical system to monitor the beam position and cooling and ventilation systems.

The kickers located before an accelerator’s beam dump are responsible for deflecting the beam off its usual path and sweeping it into the dump block. At a precise instant, they need to generate suitable electromagnetic pulses in the vertical and horizontal planes to do so. The vertical kicker system generates a pulse of up to 650 MW during one SPS revolution with the help of the most powerful pulse-forming network built at CERN. It uses two newly developed redundant 36-kV solid-state switches, which will operate in parallel for machine protection, to transfer the stored energy to the magnet. “The kicker deflects and dilutes the beam in such a way that it can be absorbed along the length of the dump core,” notes Carlier. “And because it has to always deflect the beam at the same angle independent of the beam energy, the charge build-up in the capacitor bank is proportional to the energy of the circulating beams.”

The kicker switch (Image: CERN)

SPS operators need to know whether beams are being dumped correctly or not, by observing their shape and distribution as they enter the dump volume. “We need to have this information so we know that the dump has a uniform heat profile when the beams enter it,” Carlier says. The beam profile will be recorded by means of a screen that will be installed in the path of the beams being dumped, as part of the “Beam Instrumentation TV” system. This intricate system is made of a 17-m-long optical line with five high-quality mirrors that transfer the beam image from the screen to a well-shielded camera located outside the beam dump, which the operators can monitor remotely in real time.

The beam dump will have a dedicated vacuum sector surrounding the whole structure. The core itself is surrounded by copper shielding and will be water-cooled, while air ventilation will not only help with cooling but will also ensure that none of the air gets activated by the radiation of the core. After LS2, the dump will be baked out in the tunnel before the SPS receives beam, heating the graphite making up the dump core to 200 °C. Then, during machine operation, the dump block will be heated to higher temperatures by the impacting beams and the pressure within the dump will temporarily increase until the blocks are conditioned.

Preparations to house the gigantic structure are under way in the underground caverns and tunnels where the SPS sits, and the dump itself is taking shape on the surface. The abutment upon which the beam dump will sit is being assembled in the cavern known as ECX5, where once the UA1 detector operated. This abutment has to be made of a special concrete, containing extremely low levels of cobalt and europium. These elements are easily activated by radiation and would therefore stay hot for a long time. Avoiding them comes at a high cost but ensures that the abutment doesn’t absorb too much radiation over the course of the dump’s lifetime. The abutment’s base will be affixed to the ground, while the layer just below the dump will be composed of movable concrete blocks.

The civil-engineering work is expected to last until the end of this year, after which the beam dump will start to be assembled in its designated abode. Over the remaining months of LS2, the beam dump and its services will be readied for the beams that will arrive in 2021, as the LHC begins its third run.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

Second long shutdown (LS2):

CERN’s accelerator complex:

Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS):

LHC Injectors Upgrade (LIU) project:

High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC):

UA1 detector:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Achintya Rao.


Spacewalkers Installing New Commercial Docking Port Wednesday

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 20, 2019

A new commercial crew docking port is in position on the International Space Station ready for installation during Wednesday’s spacewalk. Russia is also counting down to the launch of an unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft to the orbiting lab just a few hours after tomorrow’s spacewalk.

The Expedition 60 crew was asleep when the Canadarm2 robotic arm grappled and removed the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) from the rear of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Robotics controllers then remotely guided the IDA-3 to the Harmony module’s space-facing port and inspected it with the Canadarm2.

Image above: NASA astronauts (from left) Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan gather for a portrait inside the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola, as the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft approaches the orbiting lab on July 27. Image Credit: NASA.

Spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan will set their spacesuits to battery power Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. EDT and exit the Quest airlock to finish installing the IDA-3. The duo will spend about six and a half hours routing cables and configuring the station’s second Boeing and SpaceX crew vehicle docking port. NASA TV is broadcasting live the spacewalk starting Wednesday at 6:30 a.m.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin with Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano familiarized themselves with tomorrow’s spacewalk procedures. Koch also prepared Hague and Andrew’s installation tools and set up the IDA-3 control panel.

Image above: NASA astronauts (from left) Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague pose with the spacesuits they will wear during a six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to install the International Docking Adapter-3. Image Credit: NASA.

Parmitano moved on and continued researching cell differentiation for the Micro-15 investigation. Afterward, he photographed biofilm samples in the Kubik incubator for the BioRock space mining study that explores how microbes interact with rocks.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is standing at its launch pad in Kazakhstan preparing for a liftoff just a few hours after Hague and Morgan finish their spacewalk. The unpiloted vehicle will blast off Wednesday at 11:38 p.m. EDT and test its 2.1a booster segment during ascent. The Soyuz spacecraft will automatically dock to the station’s Poisk module on Saturday at 1:30 a.m.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

NASA TV: and


International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3):

Harmony module:

Quest airlock:




Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

Mission to Jupiter's Icy Moon Confirmed

NASA - Europa Clipper Mission patch.

August 20, 2019

Image above: A 2016 artist's concept of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. The design is changing as the spacecraft is developed. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

An icy ocean world in our solar system that could tell us more about the potential for life on other worlds is coming into focus with confirmation of the Europa Clipper mission's next phase. The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft and science payload.

"We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We are building upon the scientific insights received from the flagship Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and working to advance our understanding of our cosmic origin, and even life elsewhere."

The mission will conduct an in-depth exploration of Jupiter's moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology. To develop this mission in the most cost-effective fashion, NASA is targeting to have the Europa Clipper spacecraft complete and ready for launch as early as 2023. The agency baseline commitment, however, supports a launch readiness date by 2025.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for the Science Mission Directorate. Europa Clipper is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Related links:

Europa Clipper:


Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/Gretchen McCartney.

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Space Station Science Highlights: Week of August 12, 2019

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

Aug. 20, 2019

Scientific studies continued aboard the International Space Station last week, including experiments on acoustics, crystal growth, the effects of microgravity on stem cells, and more. Crew members also prepared for an upcoming extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalk, to install an International Docking Adapter or IDA. Use of these standardized docking facilities allows the space station to accommodate multiple spacecraft, from new commercial craft to other yet-to-be designed international vehicles. The space station is a test bed for learning what keeps humans healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrating technologies for future exploration, including Artemis, NASA’s program to return humans to the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars.

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch takes images of Earth from the cupola as the space station flies 259 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South America. Image Credit: NASA.

Here are details on some of the science conducted on the orbiting laboratory during the week of August 12:

Space may be silent but the space station is not

The crew completed questionnaires and measured ambient background noise for the Acoustic Diagnostics investigation, which tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess possible adverse effects of noise and microgravity. Researchers compare the relationship between the detection of sounds naturally generated from within the inner ear and hearing loss from exposure to noisy environments.

Toward a longer shelf life for antibodies

Image above: Monoclonal antibodies like this one bind selectively to targets, meaning they can fight a wide range of diseases while leaving healthy tissues and cells intact. CASIS PCG 19 compares antibody formulation stability in microgravity and on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Vials for the CASIS PCG 19 investigation incubated at different temperatures for two weeks. The crew transferred these vials to the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) to preserve them. This investigation examines the stability of monoclonal antibody formulations in microgravity. These formulations degrade over time but discarding them leads to increased cost and limits locations on Earth where patients can benefit from them. Storing formulations in microgravity may reveal processes that lead to degradation and, ultimately, to methods for slowing it down.

Understanding stem cells in space

Animation above: European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano conducts operations for the Micro-15 investigation, which examines the influence of microgravity on stem cell differentiation, gene expression and cell proliferation. Animation Credit: NASA.

Stem cells are capable of becoming any type of cell in the body, a process known as cell differentiation. Prior flight experiments and ground-based simulations have demonstrated that microgravity influences this differentiation as well as gene expression and cell proliferation in stem cells. The Micro-15 investigation examines the mechanisms behind these observations using three-dimensional (3D) cultures of mammalian stem cells. The crew prepared the culture sets and initiated incubation. Sets of twelve samples will incubate for various lengths of time before retrieval and fixing.

Keeping tabs on astronaut health

Bio-Monitor tests a wearable garment capable of monitoring an astronaut’s heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature and other parameters for up to 48 hours in a non-invasive and unobtrusive way. The space station is equipped with health and life sciences research tools, but the capability for continuous and simultaneous recording of several physiological parameters is lacking. The Bio-Monitor could help address these gaps. Last week, a crew member wore the garment and headband connected to the data unit for a 72-hour session.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Lighting Effects studies the effects on crew member circadian rhythms, sleep, and cognitive performance when solid-state light-emitting diodes (LEDs) replace fluorescent light bulbs on the space station:

- The ISS Experience creates short virtual reality videos from footage taken during the yearlong investigation covering different aspects of crew life, execution of science and the international partnerships involved on the space station:

- Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases:

- Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space:

- Goodyear Tire evaluates creation of silica fillers using traditional techniques in microgravity, which may yield results not possible on Earth:

- Rodent Research-17 (RR-17) uses young and old mice to evaluate the physiological, cellular and molecular effects of microgravity and spaceflight:

Space to Ground: Robotic Refueling: 08/16/2019

Related links:

Expedition 60:

International Docking Adapter or IDA:


Acoustic Diagnostics:


Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI):



Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 60.


A space cocktail of science, bubbles and sounds

ISS - International Space Station logo.

20 August 2019

The International Space Station was again the stage for novel European science and routine operations during the first half of August. Plenty of action in the form of bubbles and sounds added to the mix in the run-up to a spacewalk and the comings and goings of visiting vehicles.

Day and night

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano installed the Multiscale Boiling experiment, known affectionately as Rubi, in its new home in Europe’s Columbus laboratory. It took Luca a few hours to fit the container, the size of a large shoebox, inside the Fluid Science Laboratory.

A lot of science will take place in there – Rubi will generate bubbles under controlled conditions using a special heater to expand our knowledge of the boiling process. Larger bubbles in slow motion will allow scientists to observe and measure effects that are too fast and too small on Earth.

With this insight and more accurate calculations of the boiling process, products such as laptops can be improved and made more compact.

Bubbles in altered states of gravity

Can you hear me?

The Space Station is a labyrinth of modules running 24/7, and many astronauts have remarked upon the incessant hum that comes from living in a large spacecraft. Scientists worry that this non-stop buzz might affect the hearing of the astronauts.

Luca and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan lent their ears to the first session of the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment. Once a month, with headphones on, the astronauts will listen to sounds as a device records the response of their inner ears.  

Detecting hearing loss in space will both help take care of astronauts’ health during long missions and improve a device for testing hearing more accurately on Earth in noisy environments.

Human, all too human - in space

As we get older, the way protein accumulates in our brain is thought to cling together in larger threads, depriving us of memories and a sharp brain. The possibility that astronauts have a higher propensity to develop neurodegenerative diseases is the focus of the Amyloid Aggregation experiment.

Protein aggregation in space

Amyloids are protein aggregations associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Luca carefully manipulated a set of tiny tubes with different incubation times. Upon completion of the experiment, the whole kit will remain frozen at –80°C until it is shipped back to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon vehicle on 27 August.

Disrupted time perception, altered eye-hand coordination and loss of body mass are some of the effects that life in space has on the human body. Both Luca and Andrew ran sessions of the Time, Grip and Grasp experiments to help scientists understand how our brain copes with microgravity.

Dexterity in space

A new experiment for Space Station research is NutrISS. During five consecutive days, Luca logged his nutritional intake and assessed any changes in his body weight, fat mass and fat-free mass in an app called Everywear. Medical teams on Earth will use it to limit bone and muscle loss in space.

Little creatures

Keeping germs at bay on the International Space Station is the focus of the Matiss-2 experiment. For nearly a year, sample holders have been exposed in the Columbus module, letting the air flow through and collect any bacteria floating past.

Luca removed one of the holders and prepared it for download to Earth, where scientists will assess the antibacterial properties of five advanced materials that could stop bacteria from settling and growing on the surface. Which one will work best?

Unwanted bacteria

Elsewhere inside the Columbus module bacteria will continue to grow but for our benefit. The International Space Station is hosting some of the smallest miners in the universe: microbes. Luca unleashed biofilm-forming microbes for incubation in the Kubik experiment container. The BioRock experiment grows different species on basalt slides for 21 days under microgravity, Earth’s gravity and martian gravity.

Bacteria were sent to the Space Station in a desiccated, dormant state and rehydrated on board. Scientists want to learn how altered states of gravity affect the interaction of microbes with rock, and how the little miners could help astronauts on future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Related links:

Multiscale Boiling experiment:







Images, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA-L.Parmitano/A. Morgan/Technical University Darmstadt.


A second planet around the star Beta Pictoris

Astrophysics - Astrobiology logo.

 August 20, 2019

After the giant planet Beta Pictoris B, discovered in 2009, a "little sister" was spotted around the star.

A new giant planet has been discovered around the young star Beta Pictoris, which shines 63.4 light years from Earth, according to a study published Monday in the journal "Nature Astronomy".

Artist's impression of the planet Beta Pictoris b

"This is a giant planet of about 3000 times the mass of the Earth, located 2.7 times farther from its star than the Earth of the Sun," said Anne-Marie Lagrange, CNRS researcher at the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble, lead author of the study.

Visible to the naked eye and long known for its rapid rotation, the star Beta Pictoris became famous in the 1980s, when it allowed astronomers to obtain the first image of a disk of dust and gas surrounding a star, vestige of the primitive cloud that gave birth to it.

 Map of the sky Beta Pictoris

In addition, the global system of which it is a part, about 20 million years old - very little compared to the 4.6 billion years of the solar system - could look like what our world should be right after its formation. "This planetary system is probably the best to understand their formation and early evolution," says the astrophysicist who studied for 35 years.

Planets in formation

After the giant planet Beta Pictoris B, discovered by a team of Anne-Marie Lagrange in 2009, a second was spotted around the star. This "little sister, almost twin", logically takes the name of Beta Pictoris C. According to scientists, the two planets are still being formed.

"Giant planets play a crucial role in planetary systems," says the astrophysicist. "We can also study the interactions between the planets and the dust disk".

Dust and gas disc around a solar system in formation

Beta Pictoris C was indirectly detected by the HARPS spectrograph, a planet hunter from the Southern European Observatory (ESO) in Chile. The researchers used the so-called "radial velocity" method, which consists in detecting in the spectrum of a star the disturbances caused by the presence around it of a celestial body.

They also determined that Beta Pictoris C, housed between her star and her older sister, orbits relatively close to Beta Pictoris which she tours in about 1200 days. But according to the study "more data will be needed to obtain more accurate estimates". Other planets could be discovered around Beta Pictoris, but "maybe much less massive," concludes Anne-Marie Lagrange.

Related articles:

Infant exoplanet weighed by Hipparcos and Gaia

Two Families of Comets Found Around Nearby Star

Crashing Comets Explain Surprise Gas Clump Around Young Star

Length of Exoplanet Day Measured for First Time

European Southern Observatory (ESO):

Images, Text, Credits: ATS/ESO/IAU Sky & Telescope/NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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