jeudi 30 décembre 2010

NASA Seeks Space Technology Graduate Fellowship Applicants

NASA logo.

Dec. 30, 2010

NASA is seeking applications from graduate students for the agency's new Space Technology Research Fellowships. Applications are being accepted from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of graduate students interested in performing space technology research beginning in the fall of 2011.

The fellowships will sponsor U.S. graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA's strategic space technology objectives through their studies. Sponsored by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, the fellowships' goal is to provide the nation with a pipeline of highly skilled engineers and technologists to improve America's technological competitiveness. NASA Space Technology Fellows will perform innovative space technology research today while building the skills necessary to become future technological leaders.

Human hand and pneumatic robot hand. Credit: Volker Steger

"Our Space Technology Graduate Fellowships will help create the pool of highly skilled workers needed for NASA's and our nation's technological future, motivating many of the country's best young minds into educational programs and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "This fellowship program is coupled to a larger, national research and development effort in science and technology that will lead to new products and services, new business and industries, and high-quality, sustainable jobs. Fellowships will be awarded to outstanding young researchers and technologists positioned to take on NASA's grand challenges and turn these goals and missions into reality."

The deadline for submitting fellowship proposals is Feb. 23. Information on the fellowships, including how to submit applications, is available at:

To learn more about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and the crosscutting space technology areas of interest to NASA, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Volker Steger.


Ariane 5 launch - HISPASAT 1E & KOREASAT 6

ARIANESPACE - HISPASAT 1E / KOREASAT 6 Launch Mission poster.

Dec. 29, 2010

On Wednesday, December 29, Arianespace orbited two communications satellites: Hispasat 1E for the Spanish operator Hispasat, and Koreasat 6 for the KT Corporation.

 55th Ariane 5 launch, 41st success in a row

This latest successful Ariane 5 launch, the sixth in 2010, once again proves the launcher’s operational capabilities. Ariane 5 is the only commercial satellite launcher now on the market capable of simultaneously launching two payloads and handling a complete range of missions, from commercial launches into geostationary orbit to scientific satellites boosted into special orbits.

The 55th launch of an Ariane 5, and 41st successful mission in a row, clearly demonstrate the launcher’s reliability and availability. Arianespace’s launch Service & Solutions continue to set the global standard and guarantee independent access to space for all customers, including national and international space agencies, private firms and governments.


With the launch this evening, Arianespace has now orbited 12 commercial geostationary communications satellites out of the total of 19 launched since the beginning of the year, giving it more than 60% of the market.


For more informations about ARIANESPACE, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ARIAESPACE /  HISPASAT / KT Corporation.


mardi 28 décembre 2010

Galileo pathfinder GIOVE-A achieves five years in orbit

ESA - GALILEO / GIOVE Mission logo.

28 December 2010

ESA’s GIOVE-A satellite – the first prototype of Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system – is still working well after five years in space.

The first ‘Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element’, GIOVE-A, was launched on 28 December 2005 by a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, carrying a prototype rubidium atomic clock designed for the Galileo constellation.

Artist's impression of GIOVE-A

It was joined on 27 April 2008 by GIOVE-B, equipped with an ultra-precise passive hydrogen maser design as well as a second rubidium clock. Operational Galileo satellites will carry both clock designs for maximum reliability.

“Both satellites had a design lifetime of 27 months each,” said Valter Alpe, managing GIOVE activities for ESA. “It is a pleasant surprise, therefore, to have GIOVE-A still fully operational after 60 months in orbit. GIOVE-B, meanwhile, is showing no sign of problems after 33 months in space.

“Part of their long lifespans can be put down to design margins, though luck comes into it as well. The satellites have been orbiting through an exceptionally quiet time in the 11-year solar cycle, meaning they have accumulated lower radiation doses than originally anticipated.”

Lift off of Soyuz carrying GIOVE-A

ESA and prime contractor Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd of the UK completed GIOVE-A extremely quickly. From the contract signing in July 2003 to launch took less than two and a half years.

ESA and the European Commission needed to begin using the radio frequencies the International Telecommunications Union had provisionally allocated to Galileo to secure their future access.

“GIOVE-A made it to orbit ahead of the ITU deadline, then began to broadcast Europe’s first navigation signal-from-space on 12 January 2006,” continued Valter. “This represented one major goal of the two GIOVE missions, but there were several others.”

GIOVE-A mated with Fregat launcher upper stage

“Europe has not used such orbits too often in the past, so both satellites were checking the radiation environment,” added Stefano Binda, Systems Performance Engineer for GIOVE.

“We needed to perform in-orbit testing of the purely European atomic clocks at the core of the Galileo system and an experimental version of the global Galileo ground mission segment could begin trials once we had the GIOVE signals-from-space.

“Those same signals have also proved a very useful resource for manufacturers of Galileo receivers worldwide, allowing them to easily test their designs against a realistic version of the final Galileo navigation signal.”

Standard Radiation Environment Monitor (SREM)

The results from GIOVE-A and –B have proved promising. Both atomic clock designs have proved resistant to radiation effects, with GIOVE-B’s passive hydrogen maser – designed to lose less than one second every three million years – running so well that errors cannot be spotted easily over the general measurement system noise.

With the Galileo IOV satellites on the way, GIOVE-A has already made room for them. It began manoeuvres in July 2009 towards a graveyard orbit, about 300 km above its normal orbit.

“Both GIOVEs will continue to have an important role,” added Stefano. “We can experiment with them in a way we won’t be able to with the operational Galileo constellation, which will be serving users on a 24/7 basis.

“And we want to see how their performance changes over time, especially now the solar cycle is becoming more active.

“While the GIOVE platforms are not really equivalent to Galileo, their payloads are broadly comparable. So considering that Galileo satellites are designed for 12-yearlives, we are very interested in seeing how the GIOVE payloads start to show their age.”

External links:

European Commission - Galileo:

International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS):

Surrey Satellite Technology - GIOVE A:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / P. Carril / PAUL SCHERRER INSTITUT (PSI).

Best regards,

lundi 27 décembre 2010

Decorating the Sky

NASA - Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) logo.

Dec. 27, 2010

This mosaic image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features three nebulae that are part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud--the Flame nebula, the Horsehead nebula and NGC 2023.

Despite its name, there is no fire roaring in the Flame nebula. What makes this nebula shine is the bright blue star seen to the right of the central cloud. This star, Alnitak, is the easternmost star in Orion's belt. Wind and radiation from Alnitak blasts away electrons from the gas in the Flame nebula, causing it to become ionized and glow in visible light. The infrared glow seen by WISE is from dust warmed by Alnitak's radiation.

The famous Horsehead nebula appears in this image as a faint bump on the lower right side of the vertical dust ridge. In visible light, this nebula is easily recognizable as a dramatic silhouette in the shape of a horse's head. It is classified as a dark nebula because the dense cloud blocks out the visible light of the glowing gas behind it. WISE's infrared detectors can peer into the cloud to see the glow of the dust itself.

WISE spacecraft, infrared sky (Artist's view)

A third nebula, NGC 2023, can be seen as a bright circle in the lower half of the image. NGC 2023 is classified as a reflection nebula, meaning that the dust is reflecting the visible light of nearby stars. But here WISE sees the infrared glow of the warmed dust itself.

Color in this image represents specific infrared wavelengths. Blue represents light emitted at 3.4-micron wavelengths, mainly from hot stars. Relatively cooler objects, such as the dust of the nebulae, appear green and red. Green represents 4.6-micron light and red represents 12-micron light. This image was made from data collected after WISE began to run out of its supply of solid hydrogen cryogen in August 2010. Cryogen is a coolant used to make infrared detectors more sensitive. WISE mapped the entire sky by July using four infrared detectors, but during the period from August to October 2010, while the cryogen was depleting, WISE had only three detectors operational, and the 12-micron detector was less sensitive. This turned out to be a good thing in the case of this image, because the less-sensitive detector reduced the glare of the Flame portion of the nebula enough to bring out details of the rest of the nebula.

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA.


Proton-M Lifts Off Successfully from the Baikonur Space Port

ILS - KA-SAT Launch Mission poster.


International Launch Services (ILS), a world leader in providing launch services to the commercial space industry, successfully carried the KA-SAT satellite to orbit for Eutelsat Communications of France on an ILS Proton. The ILS Proton vehicle lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:51 a.m. local time (4:51 p.m. EST, 10:51 p.m. in Paris on December 26).  After a 9 hour 12 minute mission, the Breeze M successfully released the KA-SAT satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

Proton launch

The launch of the KA-SAT satellite marks the 8th ILS Proton launch of the year; a record number of commercial launches for ILS. This was also the 64th commercial launch to date for ILS and the 12th Proton launch for the year. The Proton Breeze M vehicle is built by Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, one of the pillars of the Russian aerospace industry and majority owner of ILS. Proton has a heritage of 363 missions since its maiden flight in 1965.

KA-SAT stellite

The 6150 kg KA-SAT satellite was built on the Eurostar E3000 platform by Astrium and has a 15 year life expectancy.  With its total capacity of 70 Gbps, KA-SAT is ranked as the world’s most powerful satellite and will be situated at Eutelsat’s 9 degrees East location. Through a configuration of 82 spot beams and a ground infrastructure of ten gateways connected to the Internet, KA-SAT will provide service across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin.

KA-SAT coverage over Europe and the Mediterranean Basin

Frank McKenna, president of ILS said, “We worked very closely with Eutelsat and Astrium to ensure the successful launch of the KA-SAT satellite on ILS Proton. We are honored to play an important role in the deployment of innovative programs and technologies such as KA-SAT, the first European satellite that will operate exclusively in high capacity Ka-band frequencies. We thank Eutelsat for relying on ILS Proton once again to deliver their spacecraft securely into orbit.”

“We are pleased to continue our long term relationship with ILS with the launch of KA-SAT on the powerful Proton Breeze M rocket. The launch of this High Throughput Satellite marks the opening of a new era for satellite-delivered broadband and data services across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. It is also new evidence of Eutelsat’s commitment to innovation that broadens the scope of satellite-based services in a rapidly-expanding digital economy. Our sincere thanks and appreciation go out to the entire team of ILS, Khrunichev and Astrium, for their tireless work on this mission,” said Michel de Rosen, CEO of Eutelsat.

For more informations about ILS, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos PAO / ILS / Eutelsat.


samedi 25 décembre 2010

ISRO launch fails, rocket explodes after lift-off

ISRO logo.

Dec. 25, 2010

Launch of India's latest communication satellite GSAT-5P onboard homegrown GSLV-F06, powered by Russian cryogenic engine, failed today when the rocket developed a snag soon after lift-off from the Sriharikota spaceport.

GSAT-5P launch put off after leak today

The rocket blasted-off at around 4 pm from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at the end of the 29-hour countdown but was hit by a snag in the first stage itself, ISRO sources said.

"The incident occurred in the first stage itself", the sources said, adding, details would be disclosed later.

This is the second failure this year for ISRO after the previous GSLV mission with the country's maiden cryogenic engine hit a snag and the rocket plunged into the Bay of Bengal on April 15 this year.

GSAT-5P, carry C-band and 12 extended C-band transponders, was meant for augmenting communication services currently provided by the Indian National Satellite System.


ISRO had postponed the December 20 launch of the Geo-Stationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06), in its seventh mission, after a minor leak was noticed in the Russian Cryogenic engine during the pre-countdown checks.

The last GSLV mission (GSLV-D3) failed after the malfunctioning of indigenous cryogenic stage, dampening the country's hopes of joining the elite club of five nations with such capability.

GSLV failure a 'major' setback, say ISRO scientists

Describing the failure of the GSAT-5P communication satellite launch this evening as "very tragic", India's top space scientists and strategic thinkers today said the launch vehicle going up in flames soon after the lift off was "a major setback" for ISRO.

Senior space scientist Prof Yashpal, in his first reaction to the failure of the satellite launch, said, "It is very tragic. I think something has happened in early stages. I have never heard of such a thing, as we have had several successes before."

Noting that the GSLV-F06 launch vehicle had disintegrated in its initial stages itself, Yashpal said, "We did not get up to the liquid stage. It is terribly sad that something somewhere has gone amiss. A lot of data is available. So they will be able to find out what went wrong."

GSLV-F06 at the launch-pad

He felt that this was "a freak mishap" as the early stages of the launch vehicle had been tested several times by India and have an 100 per cent success rate.

"It (the problem in the launch vehicle) cannot be something fundamentally wrong. It must be something big. It is unfortunate. This is an accident of some sort," he said.

Former ISRO engineer Madan Lal, in his remarks, said there seemed to be "some technical problem" in the first stage of the launch vehicle and not with the Russian cryogenic stage that India was using for the satellite launch this time.

"Cryogenic stage is the third stage of the launch. It (failure) appears not to be linked with the cryogenic stage," he said.

Lal said India had time and again succeeded in the early stages of the launch vehicle and that part was not a problem area for ISRO scientists.

Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) research fellow Ajay Lele said it was "a huge setback" for ISRO. But, he said, the scientists would be able to come back and relaunch the satellite soon.

"It was an important mission for ISRO. It is supposed to be one of the heaviest satellites ever tried by ISRO. In the business of satellite launches, failures are a part of the game," he remarked.

For more information about Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), visit:

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ISRO / India 9 TV / Sify News.


jeudi 23 décembre 2010

Where Stars Are Born

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec 23, 2010

This mosaic image is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of the starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82). The galaxy is remarkable for its bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions.

Throughout the galaxy's center, young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy, which results in a huge concentration of young stars carved into the gas and dust at the galaxy's center. The fierce galactic superwind generated from these stars compresses enough gas to make millions of more stars.

In M82, young stars are crammed into tiny but massive star clusters. These, in turn, congregate by the dozens to make the bright patches, or starburst clumps, in the central parts of M82. The clusters in the clumps can only be distinguished in the sharp Hubble images. Most of the pale, white objects sprinkled around the body of M82 that look like fuzzy stars are actually individual star clusters about 20 light-years across and contain up to a million stars.

The rapid rate of star formation in this galaxy eventually will be self-limiting. When star formation becomes too vigorous, it will consume or destroy the material needed to make more stars. The starburst then will subside, probably in a few tens of millions of years.

The observation was made in March 2006, with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys' Wide Field Channel. Astronomers assembled this six-image composite mosaic by combining exposures taken with four colored filters that capture starlight from visible and infrared wavelengths, as well as the light from the glowing hydrogen filaments.

Images, Text,  Credits: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA); Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI), and P. Puxley (National Science Foundation).


Mars500 video diary 9: Science and experiments

ESA - ROSCOSMOS Mars500 Mission patch.

23 December 2010

In this latest video from Mars500, Diego and Romain show some scientific experiments the crew is working with.

The daily routine in the isolation includes not only joking and counting the days passing, but also plenty of serious work with science and maintenance of the facility. Despite the monotonous life, the spirit is still high - as this video shows!

Season's greetings from Mars500

Look at latest Mars500 photos here:

Image, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA / ROSCOSMOS / Mars500 Team.


mercredi 22 décembre 2010

NASA Seeks Proposals For Technology Flight Demonstrations And Information About Suborbital Flight Services

NASA - patch.

Dec. 22, 2010

NASA is seeking proposals from researchers interested in testing new technologies during suborbital flights. The agency also is requesting information from commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle providers and commercial payload integrators about carrying the technology payloads.

Parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch

The selected payloads will fly on aircraft that provide parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles capable of flying to altitudes above 62 miles. The flights will expose the payloads to reduced gravity and near-zero gravity environments.

"During these flights, researchers will be able to test their technologies in a range of microgravity environments and share their data with NASA -- data NASA can use when planning future missions," said Bobby Braun, NASA chief technologist at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Parabolic flight

The solicitation is being made by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which is designed to foster development of a commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry while developing new technologies and improving microgravity research. When available, such reusable vehicles will provide lower-cost, more frequent, and more reliable access to space.

Technology flights are expected to reduce risks associated with emerging technologies and procedures, and overall space operations in future missions, by demonstrating applications in a relevant environment.

The solicitation for suborbital flights is open until Dec. 31, 2014. Applications for the first round of flights are due by Jan. 31, 2011. Responses to the request for information about services of commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle providers are due Jan. 20, 2011. Participation in both activities is open to all categories of organizations.

Suborbital Flight - Ultimate Space Adventures

The Flight Opportunities Program, part of NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, integrates the existing Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research and Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology programs. The Flight Opportunities Program is managed at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

The announcement of opportunity can be viewed at:

For more information about NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Country of Tourism / X-Prize.


NASA Hosts Planet-Finding Tweetup in California's Silicon Valley

NASA - Kepler Mission logo / NASA - DLR SOFIA Mission patch.

Dec. 22, 2010

NASA will give 100 of its Twitter followers an insider look at its planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft and the agency's Ames Research Center on Feb. 11 in Moffett Field in California.

For the first time, NASA's Twitter followers are being invited to Ames to learn about planetary discoveries from Kepler and the science flights of NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft.

The Tweeps also will get behind-the-scenes access to NASA's research center in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. Attendees will tour the center and speak with NASA officials, managers and scientists. The Tweetup will include a "meet and greet" session to allow participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the staff behind the tweets on @NASA and @NASA_Ames.

Extra-solar Planet (Artist's view)

"This Tweetup will give participants and those who follow along online another look at the diverse ways NASA is pioneering the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research," said Stephanie Schierholz, social media manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Tweetup registration opens at 1 p.m. EST on Jan. 5 and closes at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10. NASA will accommodate 100 active Tweeps randomly selected from those who sign up online. Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list. Those who cannot attend the Tweetup can follow along via Web coverage, including tweets and live streaming.

For more information about the Tweetup and to sign up, visit:

To find all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA at:

NASA also has a website where anyone – including those not on Twitter – can follow along with the events:

The NASA Ames Twitter account will be providing live updates from the event at:

For more information about Ames, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / DLR.


NASA-NSF Scientific Balloon Launches From Antarctica

NASA - CREAM Missions patch.

Dec. 22, 2010

NASA and the National Science Foundation launched a scientific balloon on Monday, Dec. 20, to study the effects of cosmic rays on Earth. It was the first of five scientific balloons scheduled to launch from Antarctica in December.

The Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM VI) experiment was designed and built at the University of Maryland. CREAM VI is investigating high-energy cosmic-ray particles that originated from distant supernovae explosions in the Milky Way and reached Earth. Currently, CREAM VI is floating at 126,000 feet above Antarctica with nominal science operations.

Balloon and BLAST

Two smaller, hand-launched space science payloads have already been launched, flown, and successfully flight terminated. They carried the Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (BARREL) experiment designed and constructed at Dartmouth College. BARREL will provide answers on how and where Earth's Van Allen radiation belts, which produce the polar aurora, periodically interact with Earth's upper atmosphere. These test flights will help scientists prepare for similar flight experiments scheduled for launch in 2013 and 2014.

Next in line will be an experiment from the University of Pennsylvania called the Balloon Borne Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST). This experiment will investigate how magnetic fields impede star formation in our galaxy. BLAST’s instrumentation and telescope will collect data to make the first high-resolution images of magnetically polarized dust in a number of nearby star forming regions.

A super-pressure balloon test flight also will be conducted. The 14-million-cubic-foot NASA balloon is the largest single-cell, fully-sealed, super-pressure structure ever flown. It is twice the size of a similar balloon flown over Antarctica for 54 days from December 2008 to February 2009. NASA’s goal is to eventually develop a 26-million cubic-foot super-pressure balloon, nearly the size of a football stadium.
NASA scientific balloons are composed of a lightweight polyethylene film, similar to sandwich wrap. Flying to altitudes of nearly 25 miles, the balloons carry payloads weighing up to 6,000 pounds.

During part of each Antarctic summer, from December to February, NASA and the National Science Foundation conduct a scientific balloon campaign. Two unique geophysical conditions above Antarctica make long-duration balloon flights circumnavigating the continent possible during the three-month period.

CREAM Team posing

A nearly circular pattern of gentle east-to-west winds that lasts for a few weeks allows the recovery of a balloon from roughly the same geographic location from which it was launched and permits a flight path that is almost entirely above land. Balloons are illuminated continuously because the sun never sets during the Antarctic summer. And balloons maintain a constant temperature and altitude, which increases and stabilizes observation times. By contrast, in other areas of the world, daily heating and cooling cycles change the volume of gas in the balloon and cause it to rise and fall, severely limiting fly times.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia manages the scientific balloon program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Under NASA safety supervision, the launch operations are conducted by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, which is managed by the Physical Science Laboratory of New Mexico State University. The National Science Foundation manages the U.S. Antarctic Program and provides logistic support for all U.S. scientific operations in Antarctica.

To monitor the real time flight tracks of the balloons, visit:

For more information on NASA’s scientific balloon program, visit: and

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / NSF.

Best regards,

mardi 21 décembre 2010

Soyuz TMA-20 Autonomous Mission in Photo Report by Dmitry Kondratiev

ISS - Expedition 26 Mission patch / ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-20 Mission patch.


Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratiev continues his blog from the International Space Station.
He has published the photos made during autonomous mission of the Soyuz TMA-20 crew vehicle. Such images are published in the Internet for the first time.

Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratiev in the Soyuz TMA-20 vehicle

Earth view from the porthole of the spaceship Soyuz
Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratiev entering Space Station
Dmitri Kondratyev and Catherine Coleman take their first meal in the Station
Dmitri Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli inside the Station

Catherine Coleman with a welcome message

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos PAO / Dmitry Kondratiev.


NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery Rolls Off Launch Pad Tuesday

NASA - STS-133 Mission patch.

Dec. 21, 2010

Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to roll back from Launch Pad 39A to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for additional work related to its final scheduled mission. The first motion of the shuttle is targeted for 12:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 21 (today).

Space Shuttle Discovery rolls toward Launch Pad 39B

In the VAB, technicians will scan below the foam insulation surrounding the intertank section of Discovery's external tank to look for any issues, such as cracks. They also will reapply foam after removing 89 sensors from the tank's aluminum skin following an instrumented tanking test on Dec. 17.

The sensors were used to measure changes in the tank as super-cold propellants were pumped in and drained out during the test. Data and analysis from the test will be used to determine what caused the tops of two, 21-foot-long support beams, called stringers, on the outside of the intertank to crack during fueling on Nov. 5. Discovery's next launch attempt is no earlier than 1:37 a.m. on Feb. 3.

External thank description

The fully assembled space shuttle, consisting of orbiter Discovery, the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters, is mounted on a mobile launcher platform and will be returned to the VAB atop a crawler transporter. The crawler will travel slower than 1 mph during the 3.4-mile journey, which is expected to take about six hours.

Video highlights of the rollback will air on the NASA Television Video File segment Tuesday.

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

For more information about Discovery's STS-133 mission and its crew, visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / KSC.

Best regards,

Supermassive Black Holes

NASA - Chandra X-Ray Observatory logo.


This two-panel graphic contains two composite images of galaxies used in a recent study of supermassive black holes. In each of the galaxies, data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are blue, and optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky survey are colored red, green and blue. The galaxy on the left, Abell 644, is in the center of a galaxy cluster that lies about 1.1 billion light years from Earth. On the right is an isolated, or "field," galaxy named SDSS J1021+131, which is located about 900 million light years away. At the center of both of these galaxies is a growing supermassive black hole, called an active galactic nucleus (AGN) by astronomers, which is pulling in large quantities of gas.

A newly published study from Chandra tells scientists how often the biggest black holes in field galaxies like SDSS J1021+131 have been active over the last few billion years. This has important implications for how environment affects black hole growth. The scientists found that only about one percent of field galaxies with masses similar to the Milky Way contain supermassive black holes in their most active phase. They also found that the most massive galaxies are the most likely to host these AGN, and that there is a gradual decline in the AGN fraction with cosmic time. Finally, the AGN fraction for field galaxies was found to be indistinguishable from that for galaxies in dense clusters, like Abell 644.

This study involves a survey called the Chandra Multiwavelength Project, or ChaMP, which covers 30 square degrees on the sky, the largest area covered of any Chandra survey to date. Combining Chandra's X-ray images with optical images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, about 100,000 galaxies were analyzed. Out of those, about 1,600 were bright in X-ray light, signaling possible AGN activity.

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / Northwestern Univ / D.Haggard et al. Optical: SDSS.

> Read more/access larger images:


lundi 20 décembre 2010

NASA Announces Lineup For Total Eclipse Of The Moon

NASA logo.

Dec. 20, 2010

NASA has planned various ways to help the public enjoy the total lunar eclipse on the night of Dec. 20 to 21.

Total Eclipse Of The Moon

Astronomers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will host a pair of live web chats to answer questions and help make the rare celestial experience one to remember. Marshall Center astronomer Rob Suggs will hold the first chat from 3 - 4 p.m. EST on Dec. 20 and discuss the best ways to view the eclipse. From 12 a.m. - 5 a.m., Marshall researcher Mitzi Adams will answer questions as the eclipse passes across the continental United States. A live video feed of the eclipse will be available on the chat site at:

Suggs also will be available for media interviews at Marshall from 2 - 3 p.m. Dec. 20. News media interested in attending the events should contact Janet Anderson at 256-544-0034 no later than 10 a.m. Monday.

For observers on the East Coast, the eclipse will last from 1:33 - 5:01 a.m. EST. The eclipse happens when the moon passes through the shadow of Earth, and the moon's appearance changes from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and perhaps gray. To learn about the science behind eclipses, visit:

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., has set up a lunar eclipse Flickr group for those who want to share or view photos of the eclipsed moon. NASA will choose one photographer to have his or her work featured as official JPL wallpaper on their website. To learn more, visit:

JPL also is hosting the "I'm There: Lunar Eclipse" text campaign to connect people who are watching the eclipse in the same area and to provide them with tips on viewing the phenomenon. To learn more, visit:

For more information on all NASA activities regarding the lunar eclipse, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / AP / Fred Espenak.