vendredi 26 novembre 2010

CERN - LHC experiments bring new insight into primordial universe

CERN logo.

26 Nov 2010

After less than three weeks of heavy-ion running, the three experiments studying lead ion collisions at the LHC have already brought new insight into matter as it would have existed in the very first instants of the Universe’s life. The ALICE experiment, which is optimised for the study of heavy ions, published two papers just a few days after the start of lead-ion running.

 Snapshot of two colliding lead ions just after impact (simulation)

Now, the first direct observation of a phenomenon known as jet quenching has been made by both the ATLAS and CMS collaborations. This result is reported in a paper from the ATLAS collaboration accepted for publication yesterday in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters. A CMS paper will follow shortly, and results from all of the experiments will be presented at a seminar on Thursday 2 December at CERN. Data taking with ions continues to 6 December.

More information

    * Press release: LHC experiments bring new insight into primordial universe:

    * Event displays: ALICE, ATLAS, CMS

    * Heavy-ion event animation:

Images, Text, Credit: CERN.



ARIANESPACE labeled logo.

November 26, 2010

On Friday, November 26, Arianespace orbited two communications satellites: INTELSAT 17 for the international satellite operator Intelsat, and HYLAS 1 for the European operator Avanti Communications.

Ariane 5 V198, with Hylas-1 and Intelsat 17 aboard, in place at the Launch Zone (ZL-3) of Ariane Launch Complex no.3 (ELA-3) at the Guiana Space Centre

54th Ariane 5 launch, 40th success in a row

This latest successful Ariane 5 launch, the fifth 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.

Liftoff of V198, the 54th Ariane 5 flight

The 54th launch of an Ariane 5, and 40th 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 ten commercial geostationary communications satellites out of the total of 17 launched since the beginning of the year, giving it over 60% of the market.

Supporting space communications

Arianespace and Intelsat have built up a long-standing relationship based on mutual trust, reaching back some 27 years. Since 1983, Arianespace has launched 51 satellites for Intelsat.

HYLAS 1 is Avanti Communications’ first satellite. A new European satellite operator, Avanti Communications also chose Arianespace to orbit its HYLAS 2 satellite, scheduled for launch in the first half of 2012.

“ESA’s cooperation with Avanti Communications on Hylas-1 is a prime example of a public–private partnership, a creative fast-track for demonstrating and reaping the benefits of satellite high technology as part of an operational mission,” commented Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications.

This is a new way of working that ESA will pursue in telecoms. Within the next 24 months, two similar initiatives in partnership with satellite operators Inmarsat and Hispasat will foster the development of state-of-the-art technologies to serve the new needs of the worldwide market and Europe’s citizens.

To learn more about ESA and Hylas, go to:

ESA related link:

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: 2010 ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG.


ESA's gravity mission granted 18-month extension

ESA - GOCE Mission logo.

26 November 2010

Originally due to complete its mission of mapping Earth's gravity in April 2011, approval has been given to extend the life of the GOCE mission to the end of 2012. This extension will improve the already excellent datasets the mission is delivering to its growing user community.

 Building a picture of the gravity field

In orbit since March 2009, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Explorer (GOCE) is measuring Earth's gravity field with unprecedented detail to advance our understanding of ocean circulation, sea-level change and Earth-interior processes. Originally, the satellite was planned to orbit Earth for 20 months, but the extension will allow the mission to continue until December 2012.

Data from GOCE have, so far, demonstrated a step change in the way we see the gravity field and how it is used within the geosciences. In recognition of the continuing good health, technical excellence and benefits the GOCE mission brings to science, ESA's Earth Observation Programme Board granted the extension yesterday.

For more informations about GOCE mission, visit:

Image, Video, Text, Credits:  ESA / AOE Medialab.


Soyuz Landing Caps Space Station's First Decade of Expeditions

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-19 Mission patch.

Nov. 26, 2010

Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock and Flight Engineers Shannon Walker and Fyodor Yurchikhin safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft on the Kazakhstan steppe Thursday, wrapping up a five-month stay aboard the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonaut Yurchikhin, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 8:23 p.m. EST from the station's Rassvet module. The trio landed at 11:46 p.m. (10:46 a.m. on Nov. 26 local time) at a site northeast of the town of Arkalyk.

Soyuz TMA-19 landing

Working in frigid temperatures, Russian recovery teams were on hand to help the crew exit the Soyuz vehicle and re-adjust to gravity. Yurchikhin will return to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside of Moscow, while Wheelock and Walker will fly directly home to Houston.

The trio launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 15. As members of the Expedition 24 and 25 crews, they spent 163 days in space, 161 of them aboard the station, and celebrated the 10th anniversary of continuous human life, work and research by international crews aboard the station on Nov. 2.

During their mission, the Expedition 24 and 25 crew members worked on more than 120 microgravity experiments in human research; biology and biotechnology; physical and materials sciences; technology development; and Earth and space sciences.

The astronauts also responded to an emergency shutdown of half of the station's external cooling system and supported three unplanned spacewalks by Wheelock and Expedition 24 Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson to replace the faulty pump module that caused the shutdown. Their efforts restored the station's critical cooling system to full function.

Yurchikhin has logged 371 total days in space, Wheelock 178 days and Walker 163 days.

The station is occupied by Expedition 26 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian Federal Space Agency. A new trio of Expedition 26 flight engineers, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 15. They will dock with the station and join its crew on Dec. 17.

To send holiday greetings to the crew and get more information about the space station, visit:

Wheelock and Kelly both post updates about their missions to their Twitter pages at: and

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS / NASA.

Best regards,

jeudi 25 novembre 2010

SISNeT into 10th year of providing precise satnav online

ESA - EGNOS labeled logo.

26 November 2010

Providing online access to sharpened satnav accuracy, ESA’s SISNeT system has entered its 10th year of operations. The service has become a prized educational tool while supporting a growing number of high-precision navigation applications.

The US GPS global satellite navigation system has an accuracy of 5–10 m. Across our continent that accuracy is greatly improved through the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), an operational precursor to Europe’s coming Galileo global satnav system.

Students using SISNeT

EGNOS broadcasts augmented information through a trio of geostationary satellites linked to a network of monitoring ground stations.

The problem is that, in some environments, such as dense woodland or urban canyons, direct linkage with EGNOS can be blocked, while contact with the more numerous, worldwide GPS constellation in medium orbits remains unimpeded.

EGNOS sharpens GPS accuracy over Europe

So back in 2001 ESA developed ‘Signal-In-Space over the InterNeT’ (SISNeT) to deliver EGNOS data through the Internet.

“Using wireless or 3G, SISNeT gives access to the EGNOS information normally transmitted by geostationary satellites in even the most challenging environments,” said Félix Torán, overseeing SISNeT for ESA.

SISNeT website

“The resulting improvements in accuracy down to 1–2 m give a lot of added value to blind pedestrians, to give just one example of the many services it has enabled.

“Bringing the precision to this level makes the difference between knowing for sure you are on the pavement rather than the middle of the road.”

SISNeT helping the blind

Today, SiSNeT has thousands of users, distributed in many technical and academic fields. It is often used to develop and test new navigation applications.

In both Toulouse and London, for example, SiSNeT was the basis of a prototype bus-tracking service. In Poland, it is being evaluated for improving the positioning and monitoring of the country’s fire brigade. Multiple SISNeT receivers have been developed, including one hand-held model based on a mobile phone.

SISNeT on mobile phone

The system has also found a niche in universities worldwide, where the access and analyses of satnav signals it offers are being used in education and teaching.

ESA has developed a portfolio of educational software, freely downloadable from the SISNeT website. Vietnam is the latest of a large number of countries considering making academic use of the service.

“With ever-improving communications infrastructure over the lifetime of the project, transit delay has become less and less of a problem,” added Mr Torán.

SISNeT architecture

“However, SISNeT was never designed to enable the ‘Safety of Life’ services that EGNOS by itself will soon be supporting, simply because the exact time delay of information received through the Internet cannot be precisely guaranteed.”

Next year, SISNeT-enabled services could move to a commercial, professional footing, Mr Torán added: “SISNeT is freely available, but it remains a prototype system, with no guaranteed service levels. But another system, called the EGNOS Data Access Service (EDAS), is offering reliable performance levels on a warranty basis.”

EDAS has been developed by the European Commission with ESA technical support.

“EDAS offers a next step for services initially based on SISNeT,” Mr Torán concluded. “But SISNeT is not going away – it has a broad user base and its own distinct value, as an educational tool and testbed for novel ideas.”

Related links:


Credits: ESA / FGI.


NASA Sets Shuttle Discovery's Launch For No Earlier Than Dec. 17

NASA - STS-133 Mission patch.

Nov. 24, 2010

NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery's launch for no earlier than Dec. 17. Shuttle managers determined more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the STS-133 mission.

As a result, the launch status meeting planned for Monday, Nov. 29, has been postponed and will be rescheduled.

STS-133 Discovery rollout

The Program Requirements Control Board (PRCB) reviewed on Wednesday repairs and engineering evaluations associated with cracks on two 21-foot-long, U-shaped aluminum brackets, called stringers, on the shuttle's external tank. Managers decided the analysis and tests required to launch Discovery safely are not complete. The work will continue through next week.

The next status review by the PRCB will be Thursday, Dec. 2. If managers clear Discovery for launch on Dec. 17, the preferred time is approximately 8:51 p.m. EST.

For STS-133 crew and mission information, visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / KSC.


mercredi 24 novembre 2010

ESO - Pulsating Star Mystery Solved

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

24 November 2010

Artist’s impression of the remarkable double star OGLE-LMC-CEP0227

By discovering the first double star where a pulsating Cepheid variable and another star pass in front of one another, an international team of astronomers has solved a decades-old mystery. The rare alignment of the orbits of the two stars in the double star system has allowed a measurement of the Cepheid mass with unprecedented accuracy. Up to now astronomers had two incompatible theoretical predictions of Cepheid masses. The new result shows that the prediction from stellar pulsation theory is spot on, while the prediction from stellar evolution theory is at odds with the new observations.

The new results, from a team led by Grzegorz Pietrzyński (Universidad de Concepción, Chile, Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland), appear in the 25 November 2010 edition of the journal Nature.

Grzegorz Pietrzyński introduces this remarkable result: “By using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, along with other telescopes, we have measured the mass of a Cepheid with an accuracy far greater than any earlier estimates. This new result allows us to immediately see which of the two competing theories predicting the masses of Cepheids is correct.”

Classical Cepheid Variables, usually called just Cepheids, are unstable stars that are larger and much brighter than the Sun [1]. They expand and contract in a regular way, taking anything from a few days to months to complete the cycle. The time taken to brighten and grow fainter again is longer for stars that are more luminous and shorter for the dimmer ones. This remarkably precise relationship makes the study of Cepheids one of the most effective ways to measure the distances to nearby galaxies and from there to map out the scale of the whole Universe [2].

Unfortunately, despite their importance, Cepheids are not fully understood. Predictions of their masses derived from the theory of pulsating stars are 20–30% less than predictions from the theory of the evolution of stars. This embarrassing discrepancy has been known since the 1960s.

Wide-field view of part of the Large Magellanic Cloud and the remarkable double star OGLE-LMC-CEP0227

To resolve this mystery, astronomers needed to find a double star containing a Cepheid where the orbit happened to be seen edge-on from Earth. In these cases, known as eclipsing binaries, the brightness of the two stars dims as one component passes in front of the other, and again when it passes behind the other star. In such pairs astronomers can determine the masses of the stars to high accuracy [3]. Unfortunately neither Cepheids nor eclipsing binaries are common, so the chance of finding such an unusual pair seemed very low.
None are known in the Milky Way.

Wolfgang Gieren, another member of the team, takes up the story: “Very recently we actually found the double star system we had hoped for among the stars of the Large Magellanic Cloud. It contains a Cepheid variable star pulsating every 3.8 days. The other star is slightly bigger and cooler, and the two stars orbit each other in 310 days. The true binary nature of the object was immediately confirmed when we observed it with the HARPS spectrograph on La Silla.”

The observers carefully measured the brightness variations of this rare object, known as OGLE-LMC-CEP0227 [4], as the two stars orbited and passed in front of one another. They also used HARPS and other spectrographs to measure the motions of the stars towards and away from the Earth — both the orbital motion of both stars and the in-and-out motion of the surface of the Cepheid as it swelled and contracted.

This very complete and detailed data allowed the observers to determine the orbital motion, sizes and masses of the two stars with very high accuracy — far surpassing what had been done before for a Cepheid. The mass of the Cepheid is now known to about 1% and agrees exactly with predictions from the theory of stellar pulsation. However, the larger mass predicted by stellar evolution theory was shown to be significantly in error.

The much-improved mass estimate is only one outcome of this work, and the team hopes to find other examples of these remarkably useful pairs of stars to exploit the method further. They also believe that from such binary systems they will eventually be able to pin down the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud to 1%, which would mean an extremely important improvement of the cosmic distance scale.


[1] The first Cepheid variables were spotted in the 18th century and the brightest ones can easily be seen to vary from night to night with the unaided eye. They take their name from the star Delta Cephei in the constellation of Cepheus (the King), which was first seen to vary by John Goodricke in England in 1784. Remarkably, Goodricke was also the first to explain the light variations of another kind of variable star, eclipsing binaries. In this case two stars are in orbit around each other and pass in front of each other for part of their orbits and so the total brightness of the pair drops. The very rare object studied by the current team is both a Cepheid and an eclipsing binary. Classical Cepheids are massive stars, distinct from similar pulsating stars of lower mass that do not share the same evolutionary history.

[2] The period luminosity relation for Cepheids, discovered by Henrietta Leavitt in 1908, was used by Edwin Hubble to make the first estimates of the distance to what we now know to be galaxies. More recently Cepheids have been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope and with the ESO VLT on Paranal to make highly accurate distance estimates to many nearby galaxies.

[3] In particular, astronomers can determine the masses of the stars to high accuracy if both stars happen to have a similar brightness and therefore the spectral lines belonging to each of the two stars can be seen in the observed spectrum of the two stars together, as is the case for this object. This allows the accurate measurement of the motions of both stars towards and away from Earth as they orbit, using the Doppler effect.

[4] The name OGLE-LMC-CEP0227 arises because the star was first discovered to be a variable during the OGLE search for gravitational microlensing.  More details about OGLE are available at:

More information:

This research was presented in a paper to appear in the journal Nature on 25 November 2010.

The team is composed of G. Pietrzyński (Universidad de Concepción, Chile, Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland), I. B. Thompson (Carnegie Observatories, USA), W. Gieren (Universidad de Concepción, Chile), D. Graczyk (Universidad de Concepción, Chile), G. Bono (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Universita’ di Roma, Italy), A. Udalski (Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland), I. Soszyński (Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland), D. Minniti (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile) and B. Pilecki (Universidad de Concepción, Chile, Obserwatorium Astronomiczne Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Poland).

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 14 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


    * Research letter to Nature link:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO / L. Calçada / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide de Martin.


ESA - Hylas-1 advances European telecom technology

ESA - Hylas-1 Mission logo.

23 November 2010

Hylas-1, the first satellite created specifically to deliver broadband access to European consumers, is very much a commercial undertaking. Launching this Friday, 26 November, it is also a significant technological achievement, encapsulating a decade of research and development by ESA and European industry.


With a launch mass of a little over 2.5 tonnes, and based on an Indian platform, Hylas-1 is on the small side as telecom satellites go, but the new technologies it carries enable it to pipe the Internet through the sky to hundreds of thousands of paying customers across Europe.

This first ‘Highly Adaptable Satellite’ is ESA’s first public–private partnership to result in an operational mission: UK operator Avanti Communications has put up the majority of the budget, with ESA’s contribution focused on Hylas-1’s advanced communications payload. Avanti gains a more capable satellite while Europe’s advanced technologies reach orbit much more rapidly than would otherwise be the case.


Telecom R&D has always been a priority for ESA, acting through its Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme. When it comes to space, this is where the money is – the telecom sector is by far the most commercially mature. It is no exaggeration to say that Europe’s continued success within this market forms the economic underpinning for the rest of its space endeavours.

Telecom also offers pronounced social benefits, with satellites proving a versatile tool to extend the global reach of communications networks, from broadcasting to telephony and now broadband Internet.

Putting flexibility into orbit

In a conventional telecommunications payload, a transponder’s receive frequency, bandwidth and transmit frequency are all fixed during the satellite design phase, typically several years before entering into service.

Hylas-1 Ka- and Ku-band antennas

During the lifetime of a satellite, however, the operational requirements on the payload, in particular for broadband satellites, may change with evolving markets beneath them. With the expected lifetime of current commercial satellites exceeding 15 years, the ability to adapt to these changing needs should be highly advantageous.

“Hylas-1 allows its operator to adjust the bandwidth, frequency and output power of its communications payload,” said Andrea Cotellessa, Hylas-1 Project Manager.

“This is a quite new capability, and is due to a payload concept called the Generic Flexible Payload (GFP), developed by Astrium UK through a series of ESA contracts.”

Hylas-1 serving Europe

The satellite has a separate antenna on each side of its structure – one transmitting a wide Ku-band beam for TV broadcasting and other standard satellite services, and the other transmitting in higher-frequency Ka-band for broadband services, directing eight spot beams onto key European markets, maximising its efficiency by reusing its given allocation of radio frequencies between spot beams.

“The operator can fine-tune how much bandwidth and power to put in each beam,” explained Mr Cotellessa. “For an operator it is very important to have this flexibility, because you are able to match changes in data demand as they happen - effectively ‘future-proofing’ the satellite against market changes.

“It also means that even with a small satellite you can support large numbers of widely dispersed customers.”

Evolving the GFP

The GFP concept owes its existence to many years of cooperation between ESA and Astrium in payload technological research, Mr Cotellessa added: “The mainstream of research and development by ESA’s Directorate of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, working through the ARTES programme, has been to look at various next-generation telecom systems and our involvement with the GFP concept was part of that.”

GFP aboard

This effort began life in 2003, with ESA supporting a research project by Astrium to develop ‘Modular Microwave Hybrid Technology’ (MMHT).

Typically with telecom satellites their repeaters – the units that amplify, refine or otherwise condition signal inputs for output – are designed and built on an individual, bespoke basis, which adds considerable time and cost to their construction.

Instead, the MMHT approach sought to apply the principle of standardisation to repeater production, creating a portfolio of building blocks for given tasks, such as frequency converters or amplifiers. Known as ‘hybrids’, these circuits can then be combined as required to meet the particular needs of a given mission.

MMHT module construction

A second stage project, beginning the following year, produced MMHT modules with increased integration and functionality, known as Hi-MMHTs (for High Integration), containing around 2000 separate connections between layers.

The technologies and capabilities developed under these contracts have now been applied to developing the Hylas-1 payload units that together form its Generic Flexible Payload.

Setting the standard

Based on their chosen function, telecom satellites operate in a range of frequency bands, such as C-band for telephony and cable-TV distribution, Ku-band for television broadcasting and ‘very small aperture terminal’ networks, or Ka-band for broadband access.


Rather than satellite makers having to design separate payload systems for each frequency band, the GFP architecture translates the frequency of signals received by the satellite to a standard ‘intermediate frequency’ (IF) at C-band, where all signal conditioning and routing is performed.

This frequency conversion is performed by an electronic device called the Agile Integrated Down-converter Assembly (AIDA), which was the first unit to be developed using Hi-MMHT technology.

On Hylas-1, this signal is then passed to a solid-state matrix called the Routing and Switching Equipment (RASE). While doing away with the need for mechanical connections, RASE can establish connectivity between any pair of satellite uplink and downlink beams.


The signal then passes to an item of equipment that is the heart of the GFP architecture, the Single Channel Agile Converter Equipment, or SCACE.

SCACE allows the channel bandwidth to be adjusted – for example, to respond to changing demand levels from within a particular geographic region, and to be converted to the desired transmit frequency.

The flexibility that the GFP delivers to Hylas-1 is increased by another pioneering piece of technology, developed with ESA support by Tesat-Spacecom in Germany: the In-Orbit Adjustable Microwave Power Module (IOA-MPM) allows the transmit power signal to be adjusted to match demand while maintaining near-constant efficiency, preventing power being wasted in the form of heat.

Qualified for space

One last innovation is the most visible: Hylas-1’s larger, double-sized antenna, which had to be carefully optimised for high-frequency Ka-band operations, the responsibility of EADS Casa Espacio in Spain.

Hylas-1 Ka-band antenna

The antenna’s radiating surface accuracy had to be high while resisting any deforming effects due to the temperature extremes of Earth orbit, with high surface reflectivity to prevent undesirable heating.

“The various components of the Hylas-1 payload emerged through co-funded projects with the companies in question,” said Mr Cotellessa. “Then, once the Hylas-1 public–private partnership was agreed, ESA agreed to develop them up to the level they were ready for integrated use within a mission, then to qualify them for space.

Hylas-1 in geostationary orbit
“This required the most rigorous qualification programme imaginable: a very long series of ever-more demanding tests, much more demanding in fact than the actual mission requirements.

“But at the end of the process we are left certain that the technology is ready for operation in orbit.”

Even before Hylas-1 is launched on 26 November it has already proven influential. Astrium is already offering GFP technology to its commercial telecom customers, while another IOA-MPM will be flying on ESA’s Small GEO mission, demonstrating a new small geostationary orbit platform.

And a full-sized commercial satellite, Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat, will soon be following Hylas-1’s advance into Europe’s emerging Ka-band broadband market.

Related links:

Avanti Communications:

EADS Astrium:

EADS Casa Espacio:

Tesat Spacecom:

Credits: ESA / J.Huart / Astrium / ISRO.

Best regards,

NASA Selects Companies For Advanced Aircraft Concepts Study

NASA logo.

Nov. 22, 2010

NASA has awarded two contracts for studies designed to identify advanced concepts for airliners that could enter service in 2025 and fly with less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption.

A team led by Lockheed Martin of Palmdale, Calif., was selected for a contract worth $2.99 million. A team led by Northrop Grumman of El Segundo, Calif., was selected for a contract worth $2.65 million. Both contracts have a performance period of 12 months, beginning in November.

A key objective of the research is to ensure technological elements proposed for meeting NASA's noise, emissions and fuel burn reduction goals can be integrated on a single aircraft that could operate safely within a modernized air traffic management system.

NASA advanced concept airliner

The teams will define a preferred system concept for an aircraft that can fly up to 85 percent of the speed of sound; cover a range of approximately 7,000 miles; and carry between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds of payload, either passengers or cargo.

NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project is sponsoring the study. The project is part of the Integrated Systems Research Program managed by the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.

The project is working to develop technology that would enable future aircraft to burn 50 percent less fuel than current models; reduce harmful emissions by 50 percent; and shrink the geographic areas affected by objectionable airport noise by 83 percent.

For information about NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project, visit:

For information about NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.


mardi 23 novembre 2010

Europe maintains its presence on the final frontier

Aerospace Engineering.

22 November 2010

ESA has decided to extend the productive lives of 11 of its operating space science missions. This will enable ESA’s world-class science missions to continue returning pioneering results until at least 2014.

ESA’s Science Programme Committee (SPC) had to make significant decisions at its 18-19 November meeting in Paris: 11 science missions, all of them still working beyond their planned lifetimes, all of them still delivering exceptional science, and yet all coming to the end of their funding.


“Their longevity is a testament to the care with which the industrial teams built these satellites, the expert way the project teams operate them, and the ingenuity of the scientists who keep thinking of new and valuable science investigations to make with them,” says Martin Kessler, Head of ESA’s Science Operations Department.

Two years ago, a new approach to extending missions was built into ESA’s financial plan for science missions. It means that, every two years, a comprehensive evaluation is made of all missions approaching the end of their funding, with a view to extending them.

Venus Express

The missions under consideration during this round were Cluster, Integral, Planck, Mars Express, Venus Express and XMM-Newton – all led by ESA.

Also considered were ESA’s contributions to the international collaborative missions Hinode (with Japan), Cassini-Huygens, Hubble Space Telescope and SOHO (all with NASA), and to science operations of ESA’s Proba-2 technology demonstrator.

Last week, the SPC confirmed previously agreed extensions for these missions until 2012 and approved new extensions to 2014, subject to confirmation in late 2012 on the regular two-year cycle.

The extensions for SOHO, Hinode and Proba-2 will ensure that our Sun is closely watched during the rise to its next peak of magnetic activity, expected in 2013. Meanwhile, the four Cluster satellites will measure the effect of this activity nearer to home, in Earth’s magnetosphere.

The Sun seen by SOHO

ESA last year launched the Herschel observatory working in the infrared and submillimetre bands. ESA’s now-extended high-energy observatories, Integral and XMM-Newton, mean that European astronomers have access to an unprecedented range of observations providing unique insights into the violent Universe. These complement the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared data flowing from the long-serving Hubble Space Telescope.

Within the Solar System, Mars Express and Venus Express are investigating Earth’s nearest planetary neighbours, while Cassini-Huygens continues its comprehensive study of Saturn and its moons.

The microwave sky as seen by Planck

The Planck satellite is mapping the leftover radiation from the Big Bang, the ‘cosmic microwave background radiation’. The new decision calls for a one-year extension to use its low-frequency sensor in a new way to extract as much information as possible from the signals that constitute a blueprint of the Big Bang.

“It is not an easy time to make such commitments but we should not doubt the wisdom of the SPC in squeezing even more return from the big investments of the past,” says David Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. “The highest quality science will continue to flow from this armada of spacecraft. It is a good day for European space science. Europe will continue to play an important part in unlocking the mysteries of our Universe.”

Related links:

More on Cosmic Vision 2015-2025:

Credits: ESA (Image by C. Carreau) / ESA/ LFI & HFI Consortia.


ESA - Express map delivery from space

ESA - ENVISAT Mission logo.

23 November 2010

Meeting the environmental needs of an ever-expanding Europe requires consistent and regularly updated information on its land cover and use. As part of ESA’s GlobCorine project, a pan-European land cover and use map for 2009 is now available online.

GlobCorine map 2009

The map, based on ESA’s Envisat MERIS data from 1 January to 31 December 2009, is the first of its kind to be produced in such a short time – nine months as opposed to years.

GlobCorine shows how an automated service can generate and regularly update such maps, which are essential for environmental agencies.

The map, providing a resolution of 300 m, was delivered to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the project’s main user, in October.

"The novelty of this map is that we can finally have relevant, timely global land cover information compatible with the time series of European Corine land cover data for decision-making," EEA’s Chris Steenmans, Head of Programme, Shared Environmental Information System, said at the final GlobCorine meeting held at ESA’s Earth observation centre (ESRIN) in Frascati, Italy, last week.

"If you want to bring the environment into the context of economic and social development, then the speed of environmental information delivery needs to keep pace with economists and decision-makers for sustainable development.

"This means we can’t continue what we have done in the past, which was to report on land use changes using three or sometimes five-year-old data. Instead, we have to provide up-to-date figures that will help us to monitor sustainability of our ecosystem services."

Jean-Louis Weber, Special Adviser on Economic Environmental Accounting at EEA, said the idea of GlobCorine is based on two needs: "EEA has been asked by the European Commission to organise an information and reporting system on the state of the environment for the whole pan-European and Mediterranean region, and land cover is basic information needed to understand more complex processes.

"EEA is also involved in 'green accounting' in the UN context where we cooperate with the World Bank for ecosystem evaluation methodologies. Recently, a Global Partnership for Ecosystem Valuation has been organised by the World Bank.

"Before monetary evaluation can begin, one must describe the ecosystems and how they change. The GlobCorine map is a precursor that can be used to organise this type of information and accounting."

Sophie Bontemps of the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, which carried out GlobCorine with ESA, said she was pleased to work in close collaboration with EEA because it allowed her to obtain a clear view of the usefulness of the project.

"GlobCorine is much more than a project aiming to deliver a European land cover map. It is the scientific and technical demonstration that a description of the state of land surface on a continental scale can be provided within a year."

Related links:

GlobCorine 2009 map:

European Environment European Environment Agency (EEA):

Université catholique de Louvain:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA 2010 & Université Catholique de Louvain.


Graduation of Europe’s new astronauts

ESA logo.

22 November 2010
ESA’s six latest astronaut candidates proudly received their diplomas today at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. From now on, they are officially ‘astronauts’.

The new astronauts, smiling in their blue overalls, were in the spotlight at ESA’s training centre today. They were presented with their certificates signed by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General, Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of Human Spaceflight, and Michel Togini, Head of the Astronaut Group.

ESA's new astronauts display their diplomas

The graduation ceremony, held in front of friends, family, guests and media, marked a milestone in their astronaut careers: the official end of Basic Training, the first phase of astronaut education.

This training covered space engineering, electrical engineering, different scientific disciplines and the major systems of the International Space Station (ISS) and other space vehicles.

It included scuba diving to prepare for spacewalks, robotics, survival training, rendezvous and docking, and the Russian language.


When the new astronaut candidates were selected in 2009, one of the main criteria was the ability to work in a team. The six formed a tight group from the beginning – a team spirit coloured their whole Basic Training period.

New astronauts waiting for their graduation awards at the ceremony marking the completion of their Basic Training on Monday 22 November 2010

“When we introduced these six new astronauts, the most important part was not that there were six individuals representing five member countries, but a team of six persons representing Europe,” said Mr. Dordain at the ceremony.

“When I signed your awards a moment ago, I thought that you should have also received a team award, because I know that your team is more solid now than it was a year ago.

“We can’t assign you all to one single mission, but you will all fly to space and, when you do, I hope you consider a mission of one of you as mission of your team, too.”

“ESA has three new flight opportunities to the ISS before 2015, so half of the new astronauts will have an opportunity to fly in space very soon,” said Mrs. Di Pippo. “The first will head into orbit in 2013.”

“I hope that with these flight opportunities and with these new astronauts we can give a further push to scientific utilisation of the Space Station.

“I think is important, especially now when we see the utilisation of the Station continuing to 2020 and hopefully also beyond.”

European astronaut class 2009

Selection of the new astronauts began in 2008 when ESA called for candidates from all Member States and received more than 8000 applications.

After a year-long selection process, Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, Alexander Gerst from Germany, Andreas Mogensen from Denmark, Luca Parmitano from Italy, Timothy Peake from the UK and Thomas Pesquet from France were invited to join ESA’s astronaut group in May 2009.

The new astronauts will continue with pre-assignment training and taking part in public relations activities. Once assigned to a mission, they will concentrate on specialised training for that mission.

Video material

Video coverage of the different phases of Basic Training of the new ESA astronauts is available at:

A new Video News Release will be released shortly at:

Related links

ESA Astronauts:

Images, Text, Credit: ESA /  S. Corvaja, 2010.

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