samedi 1 janvier 2011

Kepler Mission Manager Update of 12.30.10

NASA - Kepler Mission logo labeled.

January 1, 2011

In response to the Dec. 22, 2010 Safe Mode event on the Kepler spacecraft, the mission team has brought in several experts and begun a detailed anomaly investigation.

The team's initial results are that the Kepler spacecraft appears to be in good condition, and that the on-board fault protection is working as designed. During an initial assessment of the likely source of the anomaly, the team has been able to highlight the circuits most likely to have been involved in causing the safe mode. The team also has performed a failure analysis, which has not yet revealed any part that would have produced the behavior seen on the spacecraft, and has identified no part failures that would put the spacecraft at undue risk.

Kepler spacecraft (Artist's view)

With this assessment, the team commanded the spacecraft to gather more data on both the primary and back-up electronics. Those data were gathered on Dec. 29, 2010 and on Dec. 30, 2010, and are being analyzed. The results appear to show that the back-up electronics are not suffering from the same problem seen on the primary unit.

Science operations will not resume until the first week in Jan. 2011, at the earliest, while the team assesses whether or not to switch to the back-up hardware.

Meanwhile, the team is assessing delaying the next science data download, currently scheduled for late Jan. 2011, to minimize future data disruptions.

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.

Happy New Year 2011, greetings,

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.