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,