samedi 15 janvier 2011

Soyuz TMA-19 Completed Significant Number of Scientific Experiments in the ISS

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-19 Mission patch.


Soyuz TMA-19/ISS 23-24 crew has successfully completed the mission program, which covered significant number of scientific experiments, Roscosmos Stats Secretary- Deputy Head Vitaly Davydov stated on Friday during ‘Welcome-Home’ ceremony for Fiodor Yurchikhin, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock at Star City. Davydov also noted that the crew was very professional and harmonious.

Soyuz TMA-19 Crew

The crew spent more than 5 months in the station, received 3 Russian cargo space vehicles, performed more than 40 experiments, including the international ones.

Roscosmos Deputy Head congratulated the crew and presented special awards of the Federal Space Agency to Fiodor Yurchikhin, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock.

Operations and Experiments in the International Space Station (January 17-23, 2011)

International Space Station (ISS)

January 17, Monday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Preparation for purging and evacuation of the Progress M-08M fuel and oxidizer refueling devices
Pre-EVA crew training on airlocking procedures
Pre-EVA processing of the space suits
Progress M-08M reactivation
Removal of QD-screws on the docking assembly
Closure of Progress M-08M hatches, leak check
ECLSS (Environment Control and Life Support System) maintenance operations
Space ray research: BTN-Neutron (registration of high-energy neutron flows)
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R (study of radiation environment dynamics in the station and improvement of space dosimeter)
Space bio-technology: Biotrek (study of space radiation heavy particle flows influence on genetic properties of producing cells in biologically active substances), Lactolen (study of the space environment effects on growing, genetic and physiological parameters of the lactolen producent strain)
Life-science experiments: Biorisk (exposure of the sets with passive samples), Sonocard (validation of the medical system by using contactless monitoring of the crew physiological parameters during sleeping time), Vzaimodeistvie (Interaction) (study of the long-term space mission crew behavior patterns: crew-ops)
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk (Splash)(monitoring of the seismic effects in near-Earth space), Impulse (ionosphere sounding by pulsed plasma sources- standby)
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R (studies of exobiological processes in outer space)
Medical test: evaluation of the hand muscles, measurement of the body mass and shank size

Here is a NASA graphic that shows the experiment and where it is to be installed oustide the Zvezda module

January 18, Tuesday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Purging and evacuation of the Progress M-08M fuel and oxidizer refueling devices
Pre-EVA crew training in the space suits
ECLSS maintenance operations
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk
Educational experiments:
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R

January 19, Wednesday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Filling Electron water containers
Progress M-07M reactivation
Removal of QD-screws on the docking assembly
Closure of Progress M-07M hatches, leak check
ECLSS maintenance operations
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk, Sonocard, Vzaimodeistvie, Sprut (study of the liquids in the human body)
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse
Technical studies and experiments: Veterok (Wind) (in-orbit validation of the equipment and new technology effectiveness for gas environment parameters)

Here is a NASA graphic that shows the experiment and where it is to be installed oustide the Zvezda module

January 20, Thursday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Test of the Progress M-08M Kurs-P and Kurs-A systems
Refining EVA timeline, consultations with the EVA expertsCrew rest – half-a-day
ECLSS maintenance operations
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R

January 21, Friday
Crew EVA (Oleg Skripochka, Dmitry Kondratiev)
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Preparation of the Poisk module and reactivation of Soyuz TMA-M
Post-EVA ISS RS return to the initial state
ECLSS maintenance operations
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse,
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R
Medical test: biochemical urine analysis

Biorisk-2 on Pirs Module

January 22, Saturday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
Weekly ISS cleaning
Crew rest – half-a-day
ECLSS maintenance operations
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk, Sonocard
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R

January 23, Sunday
ISS attitude control with USOS CMG assistance
ECLSS maintenance operations
Crew rest
Space bio-technology: Biotrek, Lactolen
Studies of the Solar system: BTN-Neutron
Life-science experiments: Biorisk, Sonocard
Study of the physical conditions in the ISS environment: Matreshka-R
Geophysics and studies of the near-Earth space: Vsplesk, Impulse
Contract experiments: EXPOSE-R
Technical studies and experiments: Sreda (integrated study of the ISS parameters),  Identification (refining ISS math model parameters), Izgib (Curve) (registration of the levels in micro-accelerations which are provided by the equipment functioning on-board)

Nomenclature and sequence of the operations to be performed may vary depending on real circumstances.

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos and MCC-M PAO / NASA.

Best regards,

vendredi 14 janvier 2011

Astronaut Jose Hernandez Leaves NASA

NASA logo.

Jan. 14, 2011

After a decade working in various roles, astronaut Jose Hernandez has left NASA for a position in the aerospace industry.

"Jose's talent and dedication have contributed greatly to the agency, and he is an inspiration to many," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We wish him all the best with this new phase of his career."

Astronaut Jose Hernandez

The son of Mexican migrant farm workers, he joined NASA in 2001 as a materials research engineer at Johnson. He was promoted to the Materials and Processes Branch chief in 2002 and served there until he was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2004.

During the STS-128 shuttle mission in 2009, he managed the transfer of more than 18,000 pounds of supplies and equipment between the shuttle and International Space Station and assisted with robotics operations. He also served as a flight engineer in the shuttle's cockpit during launch and landing.

For Hernandez' complete astronaut biographical information, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Image, Text, Credit: NASA.


Ready, steady and … fit for space!

ESA - MagISStra Mission patch / ESA - Mission X patch.

14 January 2011

An energetic countdown yelled by 300 students today marked the official launch of ‘Mission X’. Some 4000 pupils around the world are embarking on a unique mission to train like an astronaut and boost their fitness.

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, currently living on the International Space Station, declared the mission officially under way in a video addressed to the worldwide participants.

Paolo Nespoli 'tweeted' good luck to Mission X participants

The message of the ‘Mission X’ Ambassador was received with enthusiasm by the pupils taking part in the event at Space Expo, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

“I will be in space doing my two hours of daily exercise to stay fit, and you will be doing it along with me in order to learn how to climb a mountain on Mars or how to jump on the Moon as a space explorer,” said Paolo.

The students, aged 8–12 years, immediately started their training under the watchful eye of the triple Olympic swimming champion Pieter van den Hoogenband, who is supporting an initiative that includes up to 20 different physical exercises.

During this first training mission, they practised scientific reasoning and teamwork while participating in hands-on activities in four different ‘stations’.

Modules like Do a Spacewalk or Base Station Walkback are among the tasks they will have to perform for the next two months.

A planetary competition

‘Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut’ is an international pilot project led by ESA and NASA involving nine different countries.

Mission X, all systems are go!

In Germany, 300 pupils will visit the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne to carry out some experiments on gravity, biology and medicine.

Students from Italy, the UK and France are already members of this global community of promising space explorers. Pupils from the US, Austria, Colombia and Spain are getting ready for mission launch in the coming weeks.

Japan, as an observer, did not restrict the age of participants and kids from 3 years old started the training with easier exercises watched by their parents.

For up to two months, Mission X teams will perform a number of physical exercises and classroom lessons and will have scores awarded after each.

As an open competition, everyone can become involved in the programme by tracking their progress and comparing it with other teams in different countries.

Space inspiration

Students working on the food pyramid for a healthier lifestyle

Astronauts are good role models for explaining the importance of physical activity and nutrition to youngsters. During the event in the Netherlands, Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang pointed out how taking care of your body must be an integral part of your life.

“It is so important to exercise and eat healthily while you are young. And you can learn a lot about yourself if you try to improve your spatial awareness, balance and endurance, for example,” explained Christer.

First training session to be as fit as an astronaut

His space colleague Paolo Nespoli will be speaking to students live from the Station on 24 March, when they will have the opportunity to share their results.

At the end of Mission X in April, the winning class for each country will be announced.

Related links:

Train like an astronaut:

ISS Expedition 26 (NASA):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / A. Le Floc'h / NASA.


NASA Satellites Find High-Energy Surprises in 'Constant' Crab Nebula

NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.


The combined data from several NASA satellites has astonished astronomers by revealing unexpected changes in X-ray emission from the Crab Nebula, once thought to be the steadiest high-energy source in the sky.

"For 40 years, most astronomers regarded the Crab as a standard candle," said Colleen Wilson-Hodge, an astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who presented the findings today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. "Now, for the first time, we're clearly seeing how much our candle flickers."

Video above: The Crab Nebula, created by a supernova seen nearly a thousand years ago, is one of the sky's most famous "star wrecks." For decades, most astronomers have regarded it as the steadiest beacon at X-ray energies, but data from orbiting observatories show unexpected variations. Since 2008, it has faded by 7 percent, activity likely tied to the environment around its central neutron star. (Video Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center).

The Crab Nebula is the wreckage of an exploded star whose light reached Earth in 1054. It is one of the most studied objects in the sky. At the heart of an expanding gas cloud lies what's left of the original star's core, a superdense neutron star that spins 30 times a second. All of the Crab's high-energy emissions are thought to be the result of physical processes that tap into this rapid spin.

For decades, astronomers have regarded the Crab's X-ray emissions as so stable that they've used it to calibrate space-borne instruments. They also customarily describe the emissions of other high-energy sources in "millicrabs," a unit derived from the nebula's output.

This view of the Crab Nebula in visible light comes from the Hubble Space Telescope and spans 12 light-years. The supernova remnant, located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus, is among the best-studied objects in the sky. Credit: NASA/ESA/ASU/J. Hester.

"The Crab Nebula is a cornerstone of high-energy astrophysics," said team member Mike Cherry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La. (LSU), "and this study shows us that our foundation is slightly askew." The story unfolded when Cherry and Gary Case, also at LSU, first noticed the Crab's dimming in observations by the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) aboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

The team then analyzed GBM observations of the object from August 2008 to July 2010 and found an unexpected but steady decline of several percent at four different "hard" X-ray energies, from 12,000 to 500,000 electron volts (eV). For comparison, visible light has energies between 2 and 3 eV.

With the Crab's apparent constancy well established, the scientists needed to prove that the fadeout was real and was not an instrumental problem associated with the GBM. "If only one satellite instrument had reported this, no one would have believed it," Wilson-Hodge said.

So the team amassed data from the fleet of sensitive X-ray observatories now in orbit: NASA's Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and Swift satellites and the European Space Agency's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL). The results confirm a real intensity decline of about 7 percent at energies between 15,000 to 50,000 eV over two years. They also show that the Crab has brightened and faded by as much as 3.5 percent a year since 1999.

Image above: X-ray data from NASA's Fermi, RXTE, and Swift satellites and the European Space Agency's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) confirm that the Crab Nebula's output has declined about 7 percent in two years at energies from 15,000 to 50,000 electron volts. They also show that the Crab has brightened or faded by as much as 3.5 percent a year since 1999. Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has detected powerful gamma-ray flares (magenta lines) as well. (Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center).

The scientists say that astronomers will need to find new ways to calibrate instruments in flight and to explore the possible effects of the inconstant Crab on past findings. A paper on the results will appear in the Feb. 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Fermi's other instrument, the Large Area Telescope, has detected unprecedented gamma-ray flares from the Crab, showing that it is also surprisingly variable at much higher energies. A study of these events was published Thursday, Jan. 6, in Science Express.

The nebula's power comes from the central neutron star, which is also a pulsar that emits fast, regular radio and X-ray pulses. This pulsed emission exhibits no changes associated with the decline, so it cannot be the source. Instead, researchers suspect that the long-term changes probably occur in the nebula's central light-year, but observations with future telescopes will be needed to know for sure.

This region is dominated by four high-energy structures: an X-ray-emitting jet; an outflow of particles moving near the speed of light, called a "pulsar wind"; a disk of accumulating particles where the wind terminates; and a shock front where the wind abruptly slows.

Image above: NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the complex X-ray-emitting central region of the Crab Nebula. This image is 9.8 light-years across. Chandra observations were not compatible with the study of the nebula's X-ray variations. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/F. Seward et al.

"This environment is dominated by the pulsar's magnetic field, which we suspect is organized precariously," said Roger Blandford, who directs the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, jointly located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. "The X-ray changes may involve some rearrangement of the magnetic field, but just where this happens is a mystery."

The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus.

NASA's Fermi is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

The GBM Instrument Operations Center is located at the National Space Science Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala. The team includes a collaboration of scientists from UAH, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and other institutions.

NASA Goddard manages Swift, RXTE and a guest observer facility for U.S. participation in the European Space Agency's INTEGRAL mission.

Related Link:

Download related video and visuals from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.


ATV Johannes Kepler gears up for space journey

ESA - Johannes Kepler ATV-2 Mission patch.

14 January 2011

ATV-2 is almost ready for launch on 15 February from Europe’s Spaceport. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.

ESA's latest Automated Transfer Vehicle space ferry, named after the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, is now fully fuelled, its oxygen tanks are filled and most of the cargo from ESA and NASA is placed inside.

ATV-2 Johannes Kepler

Only last-minute cargo of up to 400 kg will be added two weeks before launch using a special access device. 

While the first ATV in 2008 performed a series of demonstrations on its way to the International Space Station (ISS), Johannes Kepler will head directly to its destination.

The planned journey includes some extra days to allow for possible delays, but the docking has to take place on 26 February to meet the busy ISS schedule.

Docking automatically, but controlled from Toulouse

ATV will navigate, fly and dock to the Station automatically, but it will be monitored and commanded from the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse, France. Despite its mass of about 20 tonnes, the ferry can manoeuvre itself to within a few centimetres.

During the docking, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will stand by ready to interrupt the approach if necessary. ATV carries several separate systems to detect potential problems and to ensure the safety of the Station and its crew at all times.

ATV Kepler tanking up, 10 January 2011

The links between the ATV-CC, ATV, Ariane and control centre at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, will be tested twice in realistic launch simulations, on 4 and 11 February.

The Ariane 5 ES vehicle is already assembled in Kourou and the ATV will be attached on top on 20 January, beginning 20 days of combined operations with the Ariane and ATV teams.

The launch window will open for four days from 15 February.

Express delivery service

ATV-2 will carry more to the Space Station than Jules Verne, the first ATV, delivered in 2008. Several upgrades permit Johannes Kepler to ferry a full propellant load of almost 5 tonnes. All the cargo – liquid, gas and dry goods – totals 7.5 tonnes.

200th Ariane being assembled in December 2010

At the Station, ATV will provide storage and help in adjusting the orbit, performing regular orbit reboosts and avoiding space debris.

After staying for three and a half months at the Station, it will undock before being commanded by ATV-CC to burn up in the atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.

Follow the mission of Johannes Kepler on the ATV blog

ESA will follow the launch preparations, flight and docking of the ATV on a special blog opened today.

The blog will cover the mission's milestones and include technical and operational details, updated with text and video entries from ESA establishments, the launch site in Kourou and the ATV control centre in Toulouse.

Access and join the flight!:

Images, Text, Credits: 2010 ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique Vidéo du CSG / S. Martin / P. Baudon.


A Torrent of Star Information

NASA - Chandra X-Ray Observatory logo.


A new Chandra X-ray Observatory image of Messier 82, or M82, shows the result of star formation on overdrive. M82 is located about 12 million light years from Earth and is the nearest place to us where the conditions are similar to those when the Universe was much younger with lots of stars forming.

M82 is a so-called starburst galaxy, where stars are forming at rates that are tens or even hundreds of times higher than in a normal galaxy. The burst of star birth may be caused by a close encounter or collision with another galaxy, which sends shock waves rushing through the galaxy. In the case of M82, astronomers think that a brush with its neighbor galaxy M81 millions of years ago set off this torrent of star formation.

M82 is seen nearly edge-on with its disk crossing from about 10 o’clock to about 4 o’clock in this image from Chandra (where low, medium, and high-energy X-rays are colored red, green, and blue respectively.) Among the 104 point-like X-ray sources in the image, eight so far have been observed to be very bright in X-rays and undergo clear changes in brightness over periods of weeks and years. This means they are excellent candidates to be black holes pulling material from companion stars that are much more massive than the Sun. Only a handful of such binary systems are known in the Local Group of galaxies containing the Milky Way and M31.

Chandra observations are also important in understanding the rapid rate at which supernovas explode in starburst galaxies like M82. When the shock waves travel through the galaxy, they push on giant clouds of gas and dust, which causes them to collapse and form massive stars. These stars, in turn, use up their fuel quickly and explode as supernovas. These supernovas produce expanding bubbles of multimillion-degree gas that extend for millions light years away from the galaxy’s disk. These bubbles are seen as the large red areas to the upper right and lower left of the image.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Read more/access larger images:

Image, Text, Credits: NASA / CXC / Wesleyan Univ. / R. Kilgard et al.

Henize 2-10, a Dwarf Starburst Galaxy

The combined observations from multiple telescopes of  Henize 2-10, a dwarf starburst galaxy located about 30 million light years from Earth, has provided astronomers with a detailed new look at how galaxy and black hole formation may have occured in the early Universe. This image shows optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green and blue, X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple, and radio data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array in yellow. A compact X-ray source at the center of the galaxy coincides with a radio source, giving evidence for an actively growing supermassive black hole with a mass of about one million times that of the sun.

Stars are forming in Henize 2-10 at a prodigious rate, giving the star clusters in this galaxy their blue appearance. This combination of a burst of star formation and a massive black hole is analogous to conditions in the early Universe. Since Henize 2-10 does not contain a significant bulge of stars in its center, these results show that supermassive black hole growth may precede the growth of bulges in galaxies. This differs from the relatively nearby Universe where the growth of galaxy bulges and supermassive black holes appears to occur in parallel.

A paper describing these results was published online in Nature on January 9th, 2011 by Amy Reines and Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Virginia, Kelsey Johnson of the University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia and Crystal Brogan also of NRAO in Virgina.

Image, Tex, Credits: X-ray (NASA / CXC / Virginia / A.Reines et al); Radio (NRAO / AUI / NSF); Optical (NASA / STScI).

Read more/access larger images:

ESA / SSA - Presenting plans for space weather warning system

European Space Weather Week 7 logo.

14 January 2011

Speaking in November 2010 at a major European scientific conference, ESA experts presented plans for the initial versions of space weather hazard warning services, soon to be offered as part of the Agency's Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Programme.

Experts from ESA's Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Programme (SSA-PP) presented the latest overview of soon-to-be-deployed space weather warning services at the 7th annual European Space Weather Week (ESWW7) in Bruges, Belgium, 15-19 November 2010.

 International scientists at European Space Weather Week 7

The event is one of the world's top venues for scientists, engineers and researchers studying space weather and its impacts on critical technologies and systems.

One major focus of the conference was ESA's SSA programme, and its preparations to launch initial warning services against hazards such as solar storms and magnetic storms. Such natural phenomenon present serious hazards to all satellites in Earth orbit, astronauts on board the ISS and to some infrastructure on the ground, such as communication systems and power distribution networks at northern latitudes.

Latest information on ESA's SSA system

Space weather experts from ESA presented the latest information on current studies to define the first space weather 'precursor services' that will be offered by the SSA system to customers such as satellite operators and developers. The first services are due to be deployed during 2011 and will be followed by more during the course of the SSA Preparatory Programme.

"We were very happy to include as part of this year's event, a joint session covering the main SSA space weather activities together with presentations on a broad range of new space weather-focussed R&D studies supported by the European Comission. This was also the first public presentation of these studies, which will be highly complementary to our ongoing SSA work," said ESA's Alexi Glover, a space weather expert and one of the conference organizers.

Solar storms generate large amounts of radiation and particles that can arrive at Earth and harm satellites within less than 24 hours. Satellites orbiting between the Sun and Earth themselves provide some of the best 'early-warning' vantage points.

Proba-2 observes a Coronal Mass Ejection in 2010

Another SSA study presented at ESWW7 covers identifying the instrumentation that will be needed to perform space-based space weather observations and the optimal locations from which to make these observations. In order to achieve reliable space weather warning services, constant monitoring of the space environment from a range of vantage points on ground and in space will be needed, together with timely dissemination of reliable data to customers.

SSA: Reuse of exisiting European capabilities

The SSA programme is also assessing existing European space weather facilities and capabilities that could be incorporated into the future full SSA system. Typical examples of existing national assets include space weather observatories, centres of analytical excellence, warning and forecasting networks, radiation and dosimetry expertise and space weather computational models, tools and data processing facilities.

"We met with many experts from Europe and the rest of the world. There is a lot of support in the scientific community for ESA's SSA activities and we discussed the many opportunities for European scientific and research centres to contribute to SSA precursor services for space weather warnings," said Juha-Pekka Luntama, Head of the Space weather Segment at ESA's SSA programme office.

J-P. Luntama

Europe already has a wealth of expertise and assets providing high-quality scientific observations, results and models as well as a number of space weather products to local customers. ESA's SSA space weather segment intends to build on this foundation and work toward a federated space-weather service-provision concept, avoiding duplication and ensuring that these existing assets and resources play a key role in Europe's new SSA system.

In Europe's economy today, numerous sectors are potentially affected by space weather, ranging from space-based telecommunications, broadcasting, weather services and navigation through to power distribution and terrestrial communications, especially at northern latitudes.

More than 250 experts from 35 countries took part in the 2010 European Space Weather Week, the largest attendance ever.

Related Links:

Space Situational Awareness:

ESWW7, 7th European Space Weather Week:

European Commission - REA Research Executive Agency:

Understanding the 7th Framework Programme:

European Commission CORDIS:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / ROB / P. Vanlommel / ESWW7.

Best regards,

jeudi 13 janvier 2011

A First Look at Flight in 2025

NASA logo.


In late 2010, NASA awarded contracts to three teams — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, The Boeing Company — to study advanced concept designs for aircraft that could take to the skies in the year 2025.

At the time of the award, the team gave NASA a sneak peek of the particular design they plan to pursue.

Image above: Artist's concept of an aircraft that could enter service in 2025 from the team led by Northrop Grumman. Credit: NASA / Northrop Grumman.

Each design looks very different, but all final designs have to meet NASA's goals for less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption. Each aircraft has to be able to do all of those things at the same time, which requires a complex dance of tradeoffs between all of the new advanced technologies that will be on these vehicles.

Image above: Artist's concept of an aircraft that could enter service in 2025 from the team led by The Boeing Company. Image credit: NASA / The Boeing Company.

The proposed aircraft will also have to operate safely in a more modernized air traffic management system.

And each design has to 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.

Image above: Artist's concept of an aircraft that could enter service in 2025 from the team led by Lockheed Martin. Image credit: NASA / Lockheed Martin.

For the rest of this year, each team will be exploring, testing, simulating, keeping and discarding innovations and technologies to make their design a winner.

How different will the final designs look from these initial glimpses? Check back and see.

Read About Aircraft Designs for 2035:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.


NASA Updates Shuttle Target Launch Dates For Two Flights

NASA - Space Shuttle Program 1981-2011 patch.

Jan. 13, 2011

NASA is targeting 4:50 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 24, for the launch of space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission to the International Space Station. The liftoff of shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 flight is planned for 7:48 p.m. EDT on April 19, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The target dates were selected Thursday during the Space Shuttle Program's weekly Program Requirements Control Board meeting.

Space Shuttle, aerial view

NASA sets official launch dates for each shuttle mission following agency Flight Readiness Reviews, which typically occur about two weeks prior to launches. All target launch dates are subject to change.

For more information about the shuttle missions and their crews, visit:

The shuttle and International Space Station launch manifest is available at:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.


NASA Announces Backup Commander For STS-134 Mission

NASA - STS-134 Mission patch.

Jan. 13, 2011

NASA announced Thursday that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams during STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly's absence. Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was critically wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.

Kelly remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April 19 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Astronaut Mark Kelly

"I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence, if necessary," Kelly said. "I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to finish our training."

"Mark is still the commander of STS-134," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. "He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's care."

Astronaut Frederick Wilford Sturckow

Sturckow will begin training next week at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston with the rest of the STS-134 crew, which includes Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff. The 14-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts that include two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for the Dextre robot and micrometeoroid debris shields.

For more information on the STS-134 mission, visit:

For complete biographies of the STS-134 crew, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA.


ESA - Studying Paolo’s brains

ESA - MagISStra Mission patch.

13 January 2011

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, now working as a flight engineer on the International Space Station, is busy with a range of scientific experiments. The latest is peering inside his head to help understand how the human brain works.

Our brains are changing all the time – nerves are rearranging themselves and the connections between the nerve cells are reforming as the brain memorises new information, stores the old and continuously adapts to new situations.

Preparing Neurospat in the Columbus facility

New experiences, learning, physiological changes, sleep disturbance and fatigue are among the most influential factors.

Sometimes, especially after an accident or a cerebral stroke, the recover power of brain tissue is simply mind-boggling: the remaining healthy tissue can take over the functions of damaged areas.

Space is a stress factor

The weightlessness in orbit is also a big change for brains. Not only are there changes in blood circulation and other physical conditions, but the way that cognitive functions of daily life are managed also alter dramatically.

 Cady gives Paolo gel injections in the scalp

Adapting to the multitudinous effects that gravity has on the human body and the way the brain deals with them is perhaps the greatest demand that the nervous system has to face in space. The increased load on the cognitive capacity is accompanied by a multitude of stresses on the brain.

On 21 December, his second full working day on the Station, Paolo set up the Neurospat experiment with assistance from crewmate Cady Coleman.

Neurospat aims to detect the brain’s mechanisms involved in the altered behaviour in weightlessness and to locate the crucial parts of the cerebral cortex.

Helping life on Earth

Specially designed display unit of the Neurospat experiment
Neurospat uses a laptop computer with a special program, a visor to focus on the computer without external visual distractions and an electroencephalograph to record brain activity.

By recording this activity, European scientists are probing the activity that underlies cognitive processes involved in four different tasks: visual-motor tracking, perception of how the body is oriented, 3D navigation and discriminating the orientation of objects.

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Images, Text, Credits: NASA / ESA / S. Corvaja, 2010.


'Heartbeats' From a Black Hole System

NASA - Chandra X-Ray Observatory logo.


 This optical and infrared image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows the crowded field around the binary system GRS 1915+105 (GRS 1915 for short) located near the plane of our Galaxy. The top-left inset shows a close-up of the Chandra image of GRS 1915, and the bottom-right inset shows the remarkable "heartbeats" seen in the X-ray light from this system. Using Chandra and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), astronomers have discovered what drives these heartbeats and given new insight into the ways that black holes can regulate their intake and severely curtail their growth.

GRS 1915 contains a black hole about 14 times the mass of the sun that is feeding off material from a nearby companion star. As the material swirls toward the black hole, a disk forms. The black hole in GRS 1915 has been estimated to rotate at the maximum possible rate, allowing material in the inner disk to orbit very close to the black hole -- at a radius only 20 percent larger than the event horizon -- where the material travels at 50 percent the speed of light.

Researchers monitored this black hole system with Chandra and RXTE over a period of eight hours. As they watched, GRS 1915 gave off a short, bright pulse of X-ray light approximately every 50 seconds. This type of rhythmic cycle closely resembles an electrocardiogram of a human heart -- though at a slower pace. It was previously known that GRS 1915 can develop such heartbeats, but researchers gained new understanding into what drives the beats, and used the pulses to figure out what controls how much material the black hole consumes from the RXTE data.

The astronomers also used Chandra's high-resolution spectrograph to study the effects of this heartbeat variation on regions of the disk very far from the black hole, at distances of about 100,000 to a million times the radius of the event horizon. By analyzing the Chandra spectrum, they found a very strong wind being driven away from the outer parts of the disk. The rate of mass expelled in this wind is remarkably high, as much as 25 times the maximum rate at which matter falls onto the black hole. This massive wind drains material from the outer disk and eventually causes the heartbeat variation to shut down.

Read more/access larger images:

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / Harvard / J. Neilsen et al.; Optical: Palomar DSS2.


How GIOVE’s signals show way for Galileo

ESA - GALILEO-GIOVE Mission logo.

13 January 2011

Five years ago today, ESA’s GIOVE-A satellite began broadcasting Europe’s first navigation signal from space.That signal is still going strong, supporting this year’s debut of the full-scale Galileo navigation system.

Having been launched on 28 December 2005, it was two weeks later on 12 January 2006 that the first Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element satellite, GIOVE-A, began broadcasting a navigation signal synchronised with its rubidium atomic clock.

Artist impression Giove A satellite

A second satellite, GIOVE-B, adding an ultra-precise passive hydrogen maser atomic clock, was launched on 27 April 2008 and began broadcasting its own signal from medium Earth orbit on 7 May 2008.

“These signals were required to formally secure Europe’s access to the allocated Galileo frequencies, while also allowing us to assess the on-orbit functioning of the two atomic clock designs at Galileo’s heart,” said Valter Alpe, managing GIOVE operations for ESA. “Meanwhile, we could also begin to test the kind of elaborate ground processing needed for the operational Galileo system.”

All satnav systems require a dedicated ground segment to provide continuous fine-tuning of the correction data broadcast through the navigation signal. Navigation satellites must keep the time extremely accurately: their signals contain precise timings.

GIOVE-A ground track

Receivers triangulate a user’s position on Earth by calculating the distance travelled by four or more different satellite signals. Because these signals travel at the speed of light, their timings need to be ultra-accurate.

An onboard clock drifting forward or back by a billionth of a second translates into a 30 cm range error.

“The trick of the whole satellite navigation story is that the user is receiving not just the clock timing itself but also very slight corrections transmitted in the signal stating if the clock is running a few nanoseconds early or late,” said Valter.

“It takes a sophisticated ground segment to generate these corrections, but this process is essential for maintaining service accuracy.”

Spectrum from GIOVE A

A worldwide network of operational ground sensor stations is being deployed for Galileo, with the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites due for launch this year.

Galileo sensor stations receivers will provide range measurements to be relayed back to the Galileo Control Centre in Fucino, Italy, from where navigation corrections will be formulated and transmitted. This operating principle behind the worldwide network has already been validated as part of the GIOVE project.

Five years of GIOVE's signal-in-space: a testbed for experimentation

“We set up a much simpler dedicated infrastructure for GIOVE, with an initial 11 ground stations that has since grown to 17,” explained Stefano Binda, Systems Performance Engineer for GIOVE.

“This was done through ESA’s space operations centre ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, and partner research institutions. But although this was done comparatively quickly and cheaply, the ground stations still need to be distributed worldwide, to guarantee the necessary depth of coverage.

GIOVE Processing Centre at ESTEC

“Each satellite needs to be seen simultaneously by at least two ground stations to be able to solve the key navigation message unknowns.

“So the network extends all the way to the Antarctic, Polynesia and Australia. Each one collects ranging and clock data, which is delivered every hour to the heart of the GIOVE ground mission segment - a facility at ESA’s Radio Navigation Laboratory based at ESTEC in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, called the GIOVE Processing Centre (GPC).”

The GPC crunches all the raw measurement data from the GIOVE ground stations to produce an updated summary of both satellites’ clocks and current orbits, as well as the ground stations’ own atomic clocks.

GIOVE architecture

This information is then passed on to the control centres of the two satellites: Guildford in the UK for GIOVE-A, Fucino in Italy for GIOVE-B, where it can then be uploaded to the satellites.

“The idea has been to really build a complete mini-navigation system, so in the end we can check the complete loop is working and get also feedback on the ground segment operations,” explained Stefano.

“We check the navigation messages produced in the GPC are the same as those retrieved from the satellites in the first place.”

This entire ground segment and all the receivers used were fully developed in Europe. The GIOVE signals are broadly similar to GPS, but reception involved some technical challenges.


For instance, GIOVE-B was the first navigation satellite to broadcast using a ‘multiplex binary offset carrier’ in one of its two channels, a special modulation that offers robust protection against signal interference and the signal reflection known as ‘multipath’.

Similar modulation has been agreed between Galileo and future versions of the GPS satellites within one shared frequency band.

The freely available nature of GIOVE signals has also supported experimentation to guarantee the interoperability of the US and European systems.

GIOVE Payload Control Interface

As an example, GPS and Galileo run on different time systems – GPS time is maintained by the US Naval Observatory, while Galileo System Time is generated by the Precise Timing facility at the Galileo Control Centre in Fucino, which is in turn cross-checked for alignment to the international Coordinated Universal Time by a combination of European timing laboratories.

For the two systems to work together, the difference between their timings must be known precisely. GIOVE signals incorporate a measurement of the current separation – called the GPS to Galileo Time Offset – on an experimental basis.

Both systems, GPS and Galileo, will broadcast an operational version of this value once Galileo is in orbit.

First two Galileo IOV satellites

The GIOVE signals-in-space have been an experimental resource for a wide variety of groups, from space agencies to receiver manufacturers and application designers, but their story appears far from over. Their atomic clocks and host satellites are showing little signs of ageing, but the mission teams are interested in monitoring future changes.

The Radio Navigation Laboratory at ESTEC includes spacecraft simulators for both satellites, as well as a cleanroom containing a replica of the GIOVE-B payload, allowing them to replicate any changes observed in GIOVE-A and –B’s behaviour.

And once Galileo reaches space these satellites will still be exceptionally valuable for future experiments such as checking effects on the system of increasing solar activity and verifying performance in the longer term including ageing effects, continuing to serve as a global testbed for Galileo service improvements.

More information:

European Commission - Galileo:

RF Payload Systems Laboratories:

GIOVE website:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / P. Carril / RAL.

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