lundi 29 novembre 2021

Astronauts Ready for Tuesday’s Spacewalk


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Nov. 29, 2021

Two NASA astronauts are preparing for a spacewalk on Tuesday to replace a faulty antenna system on the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron will exit the orbiting lab tomorrow after setting their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 7:10 a.m. EST signifying the start of their spacewalk.

The duo was joined on Monday by three of their fellow Expedition 66 flight engineers collecting tools and reviewing procedures planned for the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk. NASA astronaut Raja Chari partnered with Marshburn and Barron gathering and organizing tethers, cameras, and pistol grip tools. The three astronauts then joined NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer for a procedures conference with spacewalk specialists on the ground.

Image above: The space station was pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during its departure on Nov. 8, 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

Chari and Vande Hei will be on duty throughout Tuesday monitoring the two astronauts during the spacewalk and helping them in and out of their spacesuits. Maurer will be at the controls of the Canadarm2 robotic arm assisting the spacewalkers at the Port-1 truss structure worksite. NASA TV begins its live coverage on Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. on the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

The station’s two cosmonauts, Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov and Commander Anton Shkaplerov, spent their day on a variety of space research and maintenance tasks in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. Dubrov photographed the condition of the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module following the Prichal module’s docking on Friday. Shkaplerov swapped out life support hardware and began unpacking cargo from the newly arrived Prichal docking port.

NASA TV Covers Station Spacewalk Live on Tuesday

NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron are scheduled to exit the International Space Station’s Quest airlock Tuesday for a spacewalk that will focus on replacing an S-band Antenna Subassembly (SASA) with a spare already available on the station’s truss structure.

Live coverage of the spacewalk will air on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app beginning Nov. 30 at 5:30 a.m. EST, with the crew members scheduled to set their spacesuits to battery power about 7:10 a.m., signifying the start of their spacewalk.

Image above: NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron will go on a spacewalk on Tuesday for station maintenance work. Image Credit: NASA.

Marshburn and Barron will work at the Port 1 (P1) truss structure, where the antenna is mounted. The antenna recently lost its ability to send signals to Earth via NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. Although its degradation has had limited impact on station operations, mission managers decided to install a new antenna to ensure communications redundancy. The space station has additional low-rate S-band systems, as well as the high-rate KU-band communications system that relays video.

During the planned six-and-a-half hour spacewalk, Marshburn will position himself at the end of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, working in tandem with Barron. Astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) will control the robotic arm from inside the space station.

Spacewalk. Animation Credit: NASA

This will be the 245th spacewalk in support of space station assembly. Marshburn will be extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), with red stripes on his spacesuit, while Barron will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), with an unmarked suit.

This will be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, the first spacewalk for Barron, and the 13th spacewalk on the space station this year. The pair arrived for a six-month science mission at the space station Nov. 11 with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission aboard the Crew Dragon Endurance.

Related links:


Expedition 66:

Canadarm2 robotic arm:

Port-1 truss structure:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble’s View of Planetary Nebula Reveals Complex Structure


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Nov 29, 2021

NGC 6891 is a bright, asymmetrical planetary nebula in the constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. This Hubble image reveals a wealth of structure, including a spherical outer halo that is expanding faster than the inner nebula, and at least two ellipsoidal shells that are orientated differently. The image also reveals filaments and knots in the nebula’s interior, surrounding the central white dwarf star. From their motions, astronomers estimate that one of the shells is 4,800 years old while the outer halo is some 28,000 years old, indicating a series of outbursts from the dying star at different times.

Hubble studied NGC 6891 as part of efforts to gauge the distances to nebulae, and to learn more about how their structures formed and evolved. NGC 6891 is made up of gas that’s been ionized by the central white dwarf star, which stripped electrons from the nebula’s hydrogen atoms. As the energized electrons revert from their higher-energy state to a lower-energy state by recombining with the hydrogen nuclei, they emit energy in the form of light, causing the nebula’s gas to glow.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Hajian (University of Waterloo), H. Bond (Pennsylvania State University), and B. Balick (University of Washington); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)/Animation Credits: NASA/ESA/Text Credits: NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/GSFC/Claire Andreoli.


Sentinel-6 returning most precise data ever on sea level


ESA / NASA - Sentinel-6 Mission patch.

Nov. 29, 2021

Sea-level rise is one of the most immediate consequences of climate change, as highlighted recently through urgent pleas from leaders of island nations at the COP26 summit. Global measures of sea-level rise are imperative to underpinning global policy and for strategies to protect coastlines and low-lying lands. Measuring tiny differences in the height of the sea surface from space is no easy task – but that’s exactly what the Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is doing. And, after a year of exhaustive testing, this new mission is now delivering the world’s most accurate data on sea-level rise.

Tarawa, Kiribati

Launched on 21 November 2020, Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich uses the latest radar altimetry technology, developed by ESA, to advance the long-term record of sea-surface height measurements that began in 1992 by the French–US Topex-Poseidon satellite and that were followed by the Jason series of satellite missions.

With the importance of monitoring sea-level rise so high on the global agenda, numerous organisations have been involved in making Copernicus Sentinel-6 the gold standard reference mission to take the record of sea-surface height measurements into the future, and to do this with greater precision than ever before.

So while Sentinel-6 is one of the European Union’s family of Copernicus missions, its implementation is the result of an exceptional cooperation between the European Commission ESA, Eumetsat, NASA and NOAA, with support from the CNES French space agency.

Tracking sea-level change

Eumetsat – the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, is responsible for operating the satellite and for making the data available to users.

The first data products, which were low-resolution products, were released in June. This was an important step in the transition to the higher-resolution products being released today. The data have been used for weather forecasting and seasonal forecasting models, and to forecast the development and track of hurricanes.

Sentinel-6’s Poseidon-4 altimeter was designed to bring new high-resolution Ku-band synthetic aperture radar measurements into the altimetry reference time series. It, therefore, delivers simultaneous low-resolution measurements and high-resolution measurements. The low-resolution measurements are matched with measurements from the mission’s predecessor, Jason-3, and, therefore, critical to ensuring continuity, and the enhanced high-resolution data can then be offered with absolute confidence.

Copernicus Sentinel-6 in action

To make sure that differences between the historical low-resolution time series and the new data from Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich are fully understood, a 12-month tandem flight has been taking place. This involves Sentinel-6 flying 30 seconds behind its predecessor satellite, Jason-3, following the same ground track.

Following months of careful testing, the stream of Copernicus Sentinel-6 high-resolution data are now available.

Eumetsat’s ocean altimetry programme manager, Julia Figa Saldana, said, “Experts from around the globe have closely examined and validated the data, confirming that the Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission is robust, precise and highly reliable. By cross-calibrating Sentinel-6 against its predecessor Jason-3 to within 1 mm, we ensure that the 30-year record of mean sea level, as captured by satellite radar altimeters, continues uninterrupted.

“The data released today is critical for monitoring the impact of climate change on Earth’s oceans.”

ESA’s Sentinel-6 mission scientist, Craig Donlon, added, “Measurements of sea-level rise provide a unique but integrated view of climate change since a warming ocean expands and increased melting of ice on land both lead to an increase in sea level.

“Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich securely brings a new synthetic aperture radar measurement technique into the reference altimeter time series for the first time. This allows Sentinel-6 to provide improved sea state and wind speed measurements, enhanced capabilities for river and lake hydrology applications while maintaining the stability of sea-level rise estimates. These measurements provide evidence that is critical to develop and implement robust societal policy for our future.”

Happy launch anniversary Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-6 project manager, Pierrik Vuilleumier, noted, “The collaboration with NASA, EUMETSAT, NOAA and CNES has, today, come to fruition with the timely release of mission products to operational users, providing both continuity with previous reference missions and new high-resolution synthetic aperture radar products. The Poseidon-4 altimeter’s digital technology brings unprecedented level of performance.”

“While Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is exceeding expectations in orbit, we are busy with its follow on, Sentinel-6B. The satellite is now at IABG’s facilities in Ottobrunn, Germany, undergoing an environmental test campaign that will run through until next March. In the middle of the year it will be put into storage until we prepare it for launch at the end of 2025.”

Related links:



Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/ATG medialab.

Best regards,

NASA Takes Another Step Toward Full Hubble Ops: Spectrograph Returns


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Nov 29, 2021

The Hubble Space Telescope team recovered the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument on Sunday, Nov. 28, moving the telescope further toward full science operations. Three of Hubble’s four active instruments are now collecting science data once again.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Image Credit: NASA

The team also continued work on developing and testing changes to instrument software that would allow them to conduct science operations even if they encounter several lost synchronization messages in the future. Those changes would first be installed on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph once they’re completed and tested within a few weeks. Hubble’s other instruments would also receive similar changes. The team has not detected further synchronization message issues since monitoring began Nov. 1.

Related articles:

NASA Closer to Full Hubble Operations as Another Instrument Resumes Science

NASA’s Next Steps to Return Hubble Instruments to Normal Operation Status

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys Instrument Resumes Science, Investigation Continues (Update)

NASA Takes Additional Steps to Investigate Hubble Instruments in Safe Mode

Hubble Remains in Safe Mode, NASA Team Investigating

Related links:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Jamie Adkins/Elizabeth Landau/GSFC/Claire Andreoli.


samedi 27 novembre 2021

55th anniversary of the first launch of the Soyuz rocket carrier


CCCP - Soyuz Rocket patch.

Nov. 27, 2021

55 years ago, on November 28, 1966, the first launch of the Soyuz carrier rocket with the unmanned Soyuz spacecraft was performed from the Baikonur cosmodrome. The Soyuz launch vehicle became the basis for its numerous modifications: Soyuz-U, Soyuz-FG, Soyuz-2. Rockets of this family have become a reliable support for Russian astronautics.

Soyuz FG first launch

The Soyuz is undoubtedly the most famous Russian launch vehicle. It is easily recognizable by the four conical side blocks of the first stage, the characteristic head fairing with four rectangles of lattice fins and the graceful "turret" of the emergency rescue system (on manned launches).

After successful launches of Vostok carrier rockets in 1963, Chief Designer of OKB-1 (now the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) Sergey Korolev began developing a new direction in manned astronautics. Considered not only simple flights with passive rendezvous of ships in orbit, but also long-term group flights with active rendezvous and docking, the transition of astronauts from ship to ship. To support these tasks, OKB-1 created a spacecraft with new engines and a control system, more comfortable flight conditions for cosmonauts (a utility compartment was introduced into the design) and, accordingly, having a large mass.

Soyuz rocket family

The most powerful rocket at that time was the Voskhod rocket. Nevertheless, its power-to-weight ratio was not enough for the implementation of new space programs. In parallel with the creation of a new spacecraft at OKB-1 by its branch No. 3 in Kuibyshev (now the Progress Rocket and Space Center, part of Roscosmos), work was underway to create a new generation of automatic spacecraft of the Zenit-4MT type, which also required an increase in energy carrier. In addition, there was an acute issue of equipping a manned spacecraft with an active emergency rescue system. So the need arose to develop a new modification of the launch vehicle. She received the name "Union".

By the mid-1960s, all design documentation for the R-7 and R-7A missiles was transferred from the Podlipki near Moscow to Kuibyshev by order of Sergei Korolev. Therefore, in accordance with the Decree of the Government of December 3, 1963, a new three-stage medium-class launch vehicle began to be developed by specialists of branch No. 3 of OKB-1 under the leadership of Dmitry Kozlov. The launch vehicle "Voskhod" with the spacecraft "Voskhod-1" and the world's first crew of three cosmonauts has not yet been launched. Aleksey Leonov had not yet made a spacewalk from the Voskhod-2 spacecraft, and the Kuibyshev designers had already developed a new launch vehicle, which awaited a long and happy fate of the main rocket of the domestic manned cosmonautics.

Soyuz FG

The Soyuz launch vehicle was created on the basis of the Voskhod rocket. The modernization of the three stages was carried out by branch No. 3 of OKB-1. Outwardly, the rocket stages remained practically unchanged, but in terms of their characteristics it was a completely different rocket. As a result of the measures taken, the specific thrust of the first stage engines was increased, the control system of the third stage was modernized and the on-board cable network was significantly lightened. In addition, a new type of emergency rescue system has been developed. She provided the rescue of the crew in the event of a launch vehicle accident both at the launch pad and at any stage of the flight. The structural and layout scheme of the SAS became the base for all modifications of launch vehicles and spacecraft of the Soyuz series, and has survived to this day, although it has been modernized several times over the course of many years of operation.

Soyuz FG

On October 26, 1968, the first manned launch of the Soyuz carrier rocket took place from the Baikonur cosmodrome. The Soyuz-3 spacecraft with cosmonaut Georgy Beregov was launched into orbit. More than half a century has passed, but even now Russian spacecraft are sent into space on the most reliable rocket in the world, which bears the name "Soyuz" (Union).

Soyuz FG roll-out

At present, preparations for the next manned launch are underway at the Baikonur cosmodrome. The launch of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft is scheduled for December 8, 2021 at 10:38 Moscow time. The flight to the International Space Station will last 12 days under a contract with Space Adventures. The commander of the prime crew is Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, while Yusaku Maezawa, president of the Start Today corporation, and Yozo Hirano, Yusaku Maezawa's personal assistant, are appointed to the prime crew.

Soyuz FG 3D printing

Order your Soyuz FG scale model (1/100) online (you can also specify a smaller or larger model) via Orbiter 3D Printing:

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

RSC Energia:

RCC Progress:

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/RSC Energia/ Aerospace/Orbiter 3D/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Potentially dangerous asteroid


Moscow Planetarium logo.

Nov. 27, 2021

There is a huge number of asteroids in the solar system, the bulk of which (more than 98%) is concentrated in the main belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Sometimes, under the influence of gravity of larger objects, they leave their usual orbits, flying towards the Earth. Asteroids over 150 meters in diameter, which can approach the Earth at a distance of less than 7.5 million km, are considered potentially hazardous objects.

Image above: Asteroid Bennu. The photo is composed of 12 images taken on December 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a distance of 24 km. Photo Credit: NASA.

Such objects include the asteroid Bennu (101955 Bennu). It was discovered in 2013 at the Socorro Observatory as part of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program to find asteroids. The asteroid was named after the Bennu bird from ancient Egyptian mythology, which was always reborn after death.

In 2016, Bennu became the target of the automatic interplanetary station OSIRIS-REx, designed to deliver soil samples from an asteroid. In 2018, the station reached this facility, and in October 2020, soil sampling took place. The planned return to Earth of the module with samples is September 2023.

The diameter of the asteroid is about 500 meters. It belongs to the spectral class B. It is a relatively rare class that belongs to the group of carbonaceous asteroids that predominate in the outer part of the main belt. Bennu is an active asteroid, periodically throwing out jets of dust and stones up to 10 cm in size. Spectroscopic data showed that its surface consists of a carbonaceous chondrite material, in which the mineral magnetite is present.

Image above: A snapshot of the surface of the asteroid Bennu, taken by OSIRIS-REx after landing (2020). The round head of the robotic arm has a diameter of 30 cm. Photo Credit: NASA.

According to scientists, the likelihood of a possible collision of an asteroid with the Earth between 2178 and 2290 is negligible. Bennu's orbit is dynamically unstable, as are the orbits of all objects approaching the Earth. Therefore, some scientists believe that Bennu has more chances to fly away towards the Sun.

Source: Moscow Planetarium.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Moscow Planetarium:


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Moscow Planetarium/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 26 novembre 2021

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of November 22, 2021


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Nov 26, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Nov. 22 that included testing thermal protection for re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere and a device for detecting eye changes during spaceflight, and studying magnetically assembled colloidal structures. On Saturday, Nov. 20, Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft departed the space station more than three months after it delivered supplies and scientific investigations.

Image above: Cygnus undocking from the space station. The cargo craft carried capsules for KREPE, an experiment demonstrating a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their contents during re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA.  

The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 21 years, supporting many scientific breakthroughs. The orbiting lab provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space, experience that supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

Coming in hot

KREPE, an experiment using the departing Cygnus craft, demonstrates a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their contents during re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere. Capsules stowed inside Cygnus carry sensors that begin collecting temperature data during re-entry and transmit it to the ground until splashdown. These measurements can be difficult to replicate in ground simulations and KREPE provides an inexpensive platform for atmospheric re-entry experiments. Researchers plan to analyze the data and use it to verify numerical models. Results also could help improve heat shielding materials for applications on Earth, such as in fire disasters.

Keeping an eye on the eyes

Image above: NASA astronaut Raja Chari (standing, left) and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer (seated, in black) are shown in preflight training for the Retinal Diagnostics investigation, which tests taking images of astronauts’ eyes with a handheld device. Image Credit: ESA.

An ESA (European Space Agency) investigation, Retinal Diagnostics tests using an ophthalmology lens approved for clinical use on Earth to capture images of the human retina in space for detection of vision changes common among astronauts, known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS). The images are used to test and train machine learning models to detect SANS. Results could show that that a lightweight, mobile, and non-invasive device and a machine learning model can help detect and document the progression of SANS. The technology ultimately could improve space-based medical data collection in support of future long-duration spaceflight missions. On Earth, this technology could enable diagnoses of patients in remote or developing regions that may not otherwise have access to ophthalmology or neurology services. Crew members set up the hardware and performed image collection for the experiment during the week.

Assembling advanced materials

InSPACE-4 studies using magnetic fields to assemble tiny structures from colloids, or particles suspended in a liquid. Colloidal structures have unique properties, such as mechanical response to or interaction with light and heat. Microgravity makes it possible to observe colloidal assembly in ways and over time scales not possible on Earth. Results could lead to more advanced materials for space applications, including thermal shields, protection from micrometeorites, energy production, and sensors for robotic and human missions. This work also could advance the manufacturing of materials on Earth for applications such as sound damping devices, camouflage, medical diagnostics, and building foundation stabilizers for areas prone to earthquakes. During the week, crew members gathered and set up experiment materials in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG).

Image above: This image from the space station shows Patagonia, a region in Chile and Argentina at the tip of the South American continent. Image Credit: NASA.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- JEM Water Recovery System, an investigation from Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), tests a technology to increase the recovery of drinkable water from urine, which could become a vital part of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) for future space travel and also provide water regeneration in dry regions or post-disaster on Earth.

- The SUBSA-BRAINS investigation examines the process of a soldering technique known as brazing in microgravity. Brazing could be used to construct and repair vehicles and habitats on future space missions.

Image above: Two of the space station’s free-flying Astrobee robots perform operations for Astrobatics, which demonstrates a hopping or self-toss maneuver that could serve as a means of robotic propulsion that uses very little propellant or fuel. Image Credit: NASA.

- Astrobatics demonstrates a hopping or self-toss maneuver with the Astrobee robotic vehicles, which could serve as a means of propulsion using very little propellant. Such maneuvers could be incorporated into future robotic missions and advanced terrestrial robotic applications.

- Acoustic Diagnostics, an ESA investigation, tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess possible adverse effects of noise and the microgravity environment on human hearing.

- Metabolic Space, an ESA investigation, demonstrates a wearable system to measure the cardiopulmonary function of astronauts during physical activities. The system could make it easier to monitor astronauts and other space travelers and enable early diagnosis of emerging health issues.

- The ESA GRASP investigation examines how the central nervous system integrates information from the senses to coordinate hand movement and visual input, in part to determine whether gravity is a frame of reference for control of this movement.

- Phospho-aging, an investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), examines the molecular mechanism behind aging-like symptoms, such as bone and muscle loss, that can occur more rapidly in microgravity. Results could lead to development of more effective countermeasures.

- Touching Surfaces tests laser-structured antimicrobial surfaces as a method for reducing microbial contamination aboard the space station. Results from this ESA investigation could help determine the most suitable design for antimicrobial surfaces for spacecraft and habitats as well as for terrestrial applications such as public transportation and clinical settings.

- Lumina is an ESA investigation demonstrating real-time monitoring of radiation dose received by crew members using a dosimeter with optical fibers that darken when exposed to radiation. Monitoring ionizing radiation is a key challenge for future space exploration, and this dosimeter could help anticipate radiation flares and guide reaction to them.

Space to Ground: Giving Thanks: 11/26/2021

Related links:

Expedition 66:


Retinal Diagnostics:


ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 66.

Best regards,