jeudi 30 mars 2023

Cargo, Research Work Ongoing as Commercial Crew Missions Announced


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

March 30, 2023

The Expedition 69 crew members continue unpacking the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship in the midst of human research and pharmaceutical studies aboard the International Space Station. NASA and its commercial crew partners have also announced upcoming missions to the station.

Flight Engineers Frank Rubio of NASA and Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) took turns working inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on Thursday. The duo has been offloading some of the 6,200 pounds new research gear and crew supplies packed inside the Cargo Dragon. The U.S. commercial space freighter will remain docked to the Harmony module’s forward port until mid-April when it will return to Earth filled with completed science experiments and other cargo for retrieval and analysis.

Image above: UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi poses with a free-flying AstroBee robotic helper inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Rubio started his day pedaling on the station’s exercise bike while attached to sensors to measure his aerobic capacity in microgravity. Afterward, he performed research work in the Columbus laboratory module to understand how the different gravity levels of the Moon, Mars, and beyond may affect the biomanufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

Alneyadi’s first task of the day was to install an incubator in the Kibo laboratory module and later activate it in the afternoon. He also collected surface samples throughout the space station for microbial analysis back on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Station Commander Sergey Prokopyev was joined by Rubio and Roscosmos Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin during the morning checking their Soyuz launch and entry suits for leaks. Prokopyev and Petelin then tested communications with the ISS Progress 83 cargo craft docked to the Zvezda service module’s rear port. Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev worked throughout Thursday on computer maintenance and orbital plumbing tasks.

NASA and Boeing now are targeting no earlier than Friday, July 21, for the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the International Space Station, pending coordination for the U.S Eastern Range availability. The new target date provides NASA and Boeing the necessary time to complete subsystem verification testing and close out test flight certification products and aligns with the space station manifest and range launch opportunities.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Animation Credit: Boeing

NASA and SpaceX are targeting mid-August for the launch of Crew-7, the next rotational mission to the International Space Station.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter attached to the Unity module’s Earth-facing port fired its engines today for over 15 minutes today boosting the station’s orbit. The orbital reboost is the first of three that is positioning the orbiting lab for the upcoming launch and docking of the ISS Progress 84 cargo craft planned for late May. The maneuver also continues the certification process for using the Cygnus vehicle as an additional reboost capability.

Related links:

Expedition 69:

Harmony module:

Station’s exercise bike:

Columbus laboratory module:

Biomanufacturing of pharmaceuticals:

Kibo laboratory module:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA’s Psyche Has an Updated Mission Plan


NASA - Psyche Mission logo.

March 30, 2023

NASA’s Psyche mission, which will explore a metal-rich asteroid of the same name, is on track to launch in October 2023 after a one-year delay to complete critical testing. The launch period will open Oct. 5 and close Oct. 25. The asteroid, which lies in the outer portion of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, may be the remains of a core of a planetesimal, a building block of a rocky planet.

Due to the new launch date, Psyche has a new mission plan, which includes a flyby of Mars for a gravity assist and arrival at the asteroid in August 2029. The mission then will enter its 26-month science phase, collecting observations and data as the spacecraft orbits the asteroid at different altitudes.

The redesigned flight plan gives the mission more flexibility in how the spacecraft uses its electric propulsion thrusters to reach the asteroid, move between orbits, and remain in orbit.

Psyche explore a metal-rich asteroid. Image Credit: NASA

Unlike many other bodies in our solar system, the asteroid Psyche rotates on its side. Mission planners needed to take this unusual rotation into account as they mapped out the spacecraft’s observation orbits around the asteroid. Another challenge is that the spacecraft will reach Psyche at a different point in the asteroid’s orbit around the Sun than it would have in the previous mission plan. In the original plan, the spacecraft was to sequentially orbit the asteroid at four different altitudes, starting at the highest altitude (referred to as Orbit A) and working its way down to the lowest (Orbit D). In the new mission plan, Psyche will initially enter Orbit A, then descend to Orbit B1, then Orbit D, back out to Orbit C, and finally it will move out to Orbit B2 (the second portion of Orbit B).

This new orbital design ensures that imagers on the spacecraft will have the lighting they need during Orbits B1 and B2. The other orbits are designed to best enable the observations needed by Psyche’s Gamma Ray Neutron Spectrometer, magnetometer, and telecommunications system, which is used for the gravity science experiment.

Engineers and technicians now are completing the final verification and validation of the system-level elements of the fully integrated spacecraft. During this time, tests are performed on the spacecraft as well as in the mission’s three system test beds.

Later this spring, engineers will run a series of “day in the life” tests, when they use test beds to operate Psyche for five to seven days at a time with the same commands that they will use when it is in flight. They will run scenarios in which operations go as planned as well as when operations meet challenges.

The spacecraft is currently in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations Facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In June, the mission begins its final assembly, test, and launch operations, and engineers and technicians from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will return to Astrotech and work there until launch. Assembly of the spacecraft is complete except for the installation of the solar arrays and the imagers, which may be reinstalled before June. A final suite of tests will be run on the spacecraft, after which it will be fueled and then mated to the launch vehicle just prior to launch. Psyche will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, intended to test high-data-rate laser communications, remains integrated into the spacecraft.

Related articles & link:

NASA Continues Psyche Asteroid Mission

NASA Announces Launch Delay for Psyche Asteroid Mission

For more information about the Psyche mission, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius.


NASA-enabled AI Predictions May Give Time to Prepare for Solar Storms


NASA - Space Weather logo.

March 30, 2023

Like a tornado siren for life-threatening storms in America’s heartland, a new computer model that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and NASA satellite data could sound the alarm for dangerous space weather.

The model uses AI to analyze spacecraft measurements of the solar wind (an unrelenting stream of material from the Sun) and predict where an impending solar storm will strike, anywhere on Earth, with 30 minutes of advance warning. This could provide just enough time to prepare for these storms and prevent severe impacts on power grids and other critical infrastructure.

Image above: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare on Oct. 2, 2014. The solar flare is the bright flash of light at top. A burst of solar material erupting out into space can be seen just to the right of it. Image Credits: NASA/SDO.

The Sun constantly sheds solar material into space – both in a steady flow known as the “solar wind,” and in shorter, more energetic bursts from solar eruptions. When this solar material strikes Earth’s magnetic environment (its “magnetosphere”), it sometimes creates so-called geomagnetic storms. The impacts of these magnetic storms can range from mild to extreme, but in a world increasingly dependent on technology, their effects are growing ever more disruptive.

For example, a destructive solar storm in 1989 caused electrical blackouts across Quebec for 12 hours, plunging millions of Canadians into the dark and closing schools and businesses. The most intense solar storm on record, the Carrington Event in 1859, sparked fires at telegraph stations and prevented messages from being sent. If the Carrington Event happened today, it would have even more severe impacts, such as widespread electrical disruptions, persistent blackouts, and interruptions to global communications. Such technological chaos could cripple economies and endanger the safety and livelihoods of people worldwide.

In addition, the risk of geomagnetic storms and devastating effects on our society is presently increasing as we approach the next “solar maximum” – a peak in the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle – which is expected to arrive sometime in 2025.

Animation above: This movie, captured by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), shows two eruptions from the Sun called coronal mass ejections, which blasted charged particles into space on Oct. 28 and 29, 2003. Some of these high-energy particles hit SOHO’s camera, creating what looks like snow. These blasts were part of a string of solar storms around Halloween of that year, which triggered a blackout in Sweden and caused disruptions to communications, aircraft, and spacecraft (including SOHO). In SOHO’s view, a disk blocks direct light from the Sun so that fainter features near it can be seen, while the white circle represents the location and size of the Sun. Image Credits: NASA/ESA.

To help prepare, an international team of researchers at the Frontier Development Lab – a public-private partnership that includes NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Energy – have been using artificial intelligence (AI) to look for connections between the solar wind and geomagnetic disruptions, or perturbations, that cause havoc on our technology. The researchers applied an AI method called “deep learning,” which trains computers to recognize patterns based on previous examples. They used this type of AI to identify relationships between solar wind measurements from heliophysics missions (including ACE, Wind, IMP-8, and Geotail) and geomagnetic perturbations observed at ground stations across the planet.

From this, they developed a computer model called DAGGER (formally, Deep Learning Geomagnetic Perturbation) that can quickly and accurately predict geomagnetic disturbances worldwide, 30 minutes before they occur. According to the team, the model can produce predictions in less than a second, and the predictions update every minute.

The DAGGER team tested the model against two geomagnetic storms that happened in August 2011 and March 2015. In each case, DAGGER was able to quickly and accurately forecast the storm’s impacts around the world.

Image above: DAGGER’s developers compared the model’s predictions to measurements made during solar storms in August 2011 and March 2015. At the top, colored dots show measurements made during the 2011 storm. Colors indicate the intensity of geomagnetic perturbations that can induce currents in electric grids, with orange and red indicating the strongest effects. DAGGER’s 30-minute forecast for that same time (bottom) shows the most intense perturbations in approximately the same locations around Earth’s north pole. Image Credits: V. Upendran et al.

Previous prediction models have used AI to produce local geomagnetic forecasts for specific locations on Earth. Other models that didn’t use AI have provided global predictions that weren’t very timely. DAGGER is the first one to combine the swift analysis of AI with real measurements from space and across Earth to generate frequently updated predictions that are both prompt and precise for sites worldwide.

“With this AI, it is now possible to make rapid and accurate global predictions and inform decisions in the event of a solar storm, thereby minimizing – or even preventing – devastation to modern society,” said Vishal Upendran of the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics in India, who is the lead author of a paper about the DAGGER model published in the journal Space Weather.

The computer code in the DAGGER model is open source, and according to Upendran, it could be adopted, with help, by power grid operators, satellite controllers, telecommunications companies, and others to apply the predictions for their specific needs. Such warnings could give them time to take action to protect their assets and infrastructure from an impending solar storm, such as temporarily taking sensitive systems offline or moving satellites to different orbits to minimize damage.

With models like DAGGER, there could one day be solar storm sirens that sound an alarm in power stations and satellite control centers around the world, just as tornado sirens wail in advance of threatening terrestrial weather in towns and cities across America.

Related links:

The journal Space Weather:

ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer):

Space Weather:


Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Vanessa Thomas/GSFC/By Vanessa Thomas.

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Soyuz-2.1v launch vehicle launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome



March 30, 2023

On March 29, at 22:57 Moscow time, from the Plesetsk State Test Cosmodrome of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in the Arkhangelsk Region, combat crews of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces launched a Soyuz-2.1v light-class launch vehicle with a spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The launch of the carrier rocket and the launch of the satellite into the calculated orbit took place in the normal mode. After the launch, the Soyuz-2.1v launch vehicle was taken for escort by means of the ground-based automated control complex of the Main Test Space Center named after G.S. Titov.

At the estimated time, the spacecraft was launched into the target orbit and taken under control. A stable telemetry connection has been established and maintained with it. The onboard systems of the satellite are operating normally. The spacecraft was assigned the serial number Kosmos-2568.

After launching into orbit, officers of the Main Center for Space Intelligence of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces entered information about the satellite into the main catalog of space objects of the Russian space control system and began to analyze and process information about the new space object.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:



Ministry of Defence:

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Ministry of Defence (of Russia)/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Hubble Finds Saturn's Rings Heating Its Atmosphere


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

March 30, 2023

The secret has been hiding in plain view for 40 years. But it took the insight of a veteran astronomer to pull it all together within a year, using observations of Saturn from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and retired Cassini probe, in addition to the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and the retired International Ultraviolet Explorer mission.

The discovery: Saturn's vast ring system is heating the giant planet's upper atmosphere. The phenomenon has never before been seen in the solar system. It's an unexpected interaction between Saturn and its rings that potentially could provide a tool for predicting if planets around other stars have glorious Saturn-like ring systems, too.

Image above: This composite image shows the Saturn Lyman-alpha bulge, an emission from hydrogen which is a persistent and unexpected excess detected by three distinct NASA missions, namely Voyager 1, Cassini, and the Hubble Space Telescope between 1980 and 2017. A Hubble near-ultraviolet image, obtained in 2017 during the Saturn summer in the northern hemisphere, is used as a reference to sketch the Lyman-alpha emission of the planet. The rings appear much darker than the planet's body because they reflect much less ultraviolet sunlight. Above the rings and the dark equatorial region, the Lyman-alpha bulge appears as an extended (30 degree) latitudinal band that is 30 percent brighter than the surrounding regions. A small fraction of the southern hemisphere appears between the rings and the equatorial region, but it is dimmer than the northern hemisphere. North of the bulge region (upper-right portion of image), the disk brightness declines gradually versus latitude toward the bright aurora region that is here shown for reference (not at scale). A dark spot inside the aurora region represents the footprint of the spin axis of the planet. It's believed that icy rings particles raining on the atmosphere at specific latitudes and seasonal effects cause an atmospheric heating that makes the upper atmosphere hydrogen reflect more Lyman-alpha sunlight in the bulge region. This unexpected interaction between the rings and the upper atmosphere is now investigated in depth to define new diagnostic tools for estimating if distant exoplanets have extended Saturn-like ring systems. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, Lotfi Ben-Jaffel (IAP & LPL).

The telltale evidence is an excess of ultraviolet radiation, seen as a spectral line of hot hydrogen in Saturn's atmosphere. The bump in radiation means that something is contaminating and heating the upper atmosphere from the outside.

The most feasible explanation is that icy ring particles raining down onto Saturn's atmosphere cause this heating. This could be due to the impact of micrometeorites, solar wind particle bombardment, solar ultraviolet radiation, or electromagnetic forces picking up electrically charged dust. All this happens under the influence of Saturn's gravitational field pulling particles into the planet. When NASA's Cassini probe plunged into Saturn's atmosphere at the end of its mission in 2017, it measured the atmospheric constituents and confirmed that many particles are falling in from the rings.

"Though the slow disintegration of the rings is well known, its influence on the atomic hydrogen of the planet is a surprise. From the Cassini probe, we already knew about the rings' influence. However, we knew nothing about the atomic hydrogen content," said Lotfi Ben-Jaffel of the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris and the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, author of a paper published on March 30 in the Planetary Science Journal.

"Everything is driven by ring particles cascading into the atmosphere at specific latitudes. They modify the upper atmosphere, changing the composition," said Ben-Jaffel. "And then you also have collisional processes with atmospheric gasses that are probably heating the atmosphere at a specific altitude."

Ben-Jaffel's conclusion required pulling together archival ultraviolet-light (UV) observations from four space missions that studied Saturn. This includes observations from the two NASA Voyager probes that flew by Saturn in the 1980s and measured the UV excess. At the time, astronomers dismissed the measurements as noise in the detectors. The Cassini mission, which arrived at Saturn in 2004, also collected UV data on the atmosphere (over several years). Additional data came from Hubble and the International Ultraviolet Explorer, which launched in 1978, and was an international collaboration between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and the United Kingdom's Science and Engineering Research Council.

But the lingering question was whether all the data could be illusory, or instead reflected a true phenomenon on Saturn.

The key to assembling the jigsaw puzzle came in Ben-Jaffel's decision to use measurements from Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). Its precision observations of Saturn were used to calibrate the archival UV data from all four other space missions that have observed Saturn. He compared the STIS UV observations of Saturn to the distribution of light from multiple space missions and instruments.

"When everything was calibrated, we saw clearly that the spectra are consistent across all the missions. This was possible because we have the same reference point, from Hubble, on the rate of transfer of energy from the atmosphere as measured over decades," Ben-Jaffel said. "It was really a surprise for me. I just plotted the different light distribution data together, and then I realized, wow – it's the same."

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

Four decades of UV data cover multiple solar cycles and help astronomers study the Sun's seasonal effects on Saturn. By bringing all the diverse data together and calibrating it, Ben-Jaffel found that there is no difference to the level of UV radiation. "At any time, at any position on the planet, we can follow the UV level of radiation," he said. This points to the steady "ice rain" from Saturn's rings as the best explanation.

"We are just at the beginning of this ring characterization effect on the upper atmosphere of a planet. We eventually want to have a global approach that would yield a real signature about the atmospheres on distant worlds. One of the goals of this study is to see how we can apply it to planets orbiting other stars. Call it the search for 'exo-rings.'"

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

Related links:

Planetary Science Journal:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):


Image (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ray Villard/Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, Paris, France/Lunar and Planetary Laboratory–University of Arizona/Lotfi Ben-Jaffel.

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Strong Solar Flare Erupts from Sun


NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

March 30, 2023

The Sun emitted a strong solar flare, peaking at 10:33 p.m. ET on March 28, 2023. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event.

Animation above: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the bottom right of the Sun – on March 28, 2023. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is colorized in teal. Animation Credits: NASA/SDO.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength.

To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Related links:

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

Space weather:

Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Abbey Interrante.

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CASC - Long March-2D launches four PIESAT-1 satellites


CASC - Long March-2D / PIESAT-1 (Hongtu-1, 宏图一号) patch.

March 30, 2023

Long March-2D carrying four PIESAT-1 satellites liftoff

A Long March-2D launch vehicle launched four PIESAT-1 (Hongtu-1, 宏图一号) satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, China, on 30 March 2023, at 10:50 UTC (18:50 local time). 

Long March-2D launches four PIESAT-1 satellites

According to official sources, the four X-band interferometric synthetic-aperture radar (InSAR) satellites entered the planned orbits successfully and “will mainly provide commercial remote-sensing data services”.

PIESAT-1 satellite

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:
Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/Galaxy Aerospace/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.