vendredi 28 janvier 2011

Russian Cargo Vehicle Progress M-09M Blasts off to the ISS



Russian cargo vehicle Progress M-09M lifted off toward the International Space Station (ISS) at 4:32 Moscow time [1:32 GMT] on Friday, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said. It was launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on a Soyuz-U booster rocket. It separated 10 minutes later and successfully entered the designated orbit.

Soyuz-U / Progress night launch

The space freighter will deliver fuel, oxygen, food, books and birthday presents for Expedition 26 captain Scott J. Kelly of the United States, who turns 47 on February 21. The spaceship is to dock with the space station on January 30 at 5:40 Moscow time [2:40 GMT]. There are a number of notable cargoes aboard Progress M-09M, one of which is the Earth Artificial Satellite (EAS) “Kedr”.

Kedr is a 30 kg, 550 х 550 х 400 mm minisatellite, classified as such due to its mass of less than 100 kg. It is designed to transmit 25 greeting messages in 15 different languages, earth photos, and telemetry data for its scientific equipment and service systems. It will transmit its signal at 145.95 MHz, with the amateur radio callsign is RS1S.

The satellite’s name is derived from Yuri Gagarin’s callsign, which was also Kedr. Its purpose is to perform the Space Experiment (SE) RadioSkaf, which involves the development, processing and launch of a supersmall spacecraft during an EVA.

It will also be used for student space education programs, and for this year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight. Kedr will be manually jettisoned overboard to free-fly from the ISS during Russian EVA-28 on 16th February.

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos PAO / NASA.


jeudi 27 janvier 2011

NASA To Announce New Planetary Discoveries

NASA - Kepler logo labeled.

Jan. 27, 2011

NASA will host a news briefing at 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Feb. 2, to announce the Kepler mission's latest findings about planets outside our solar system. The briefing will be held in the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St S.W. in Washington and carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website at

Image above: An artist's impression of a distant solar system with up to seven planets, including a world just slightly bigger than Earth.Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet. Although additional observations will be needed over time to achieve that milestone, Kepler is detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help us better understand our place in the galaxy.

Kepler spacecraft (Artist's view). Credit: NASA

The news conference will follow the scheduled release of Kepler mission science data on Feb. 1. The data release will update the number of planet candidates and is based on observations conducted between May 2 and Sept. 17, 2009.

Participants are:

-- Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington
-- William Borucki, Kepler Science principal investigator, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
-- Jack Lissauer, Kepler co-investigator and planetary scientist, Ames
-- Debra Fischer, professor of Astronomy, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the Feb. 1 data release, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / ESO.

Best regards,

Crew Attaches Japanese Resupply Vehicle to Station

JAXA - HTV-2 Mission patch.


Expedition 26 Flight Engineers Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli used the station’s robotic arm to attach the unpiloted Japanese Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV2) to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 9:51 a.m. EST.

The unpiloted Japanese Kounotori2 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV2) is attached to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module by the station’s robotic arm. Credit: NASA

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched HTV2 aboard an H-IIB rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at 12:37 a.m. (2:27 p.m. Japan time) on Saturday.

HTV2 is the second unpiloted cargo ship launched by JAXA to the station and will deliver more than four tons of food and supplies to the station and its crew members.

The crew will open the hatch and begin retrieving the supplies from inside HTV2 at about 7:30 a.m. Friday. In the coming days, a pallet loaded with spare station parts will be extracted from a slot in the cargo ship and attached to an experiment platform outside the Japanese Kibo module. Other cargo will be transferred internally to the station.

HTV-2 cutaway description

The cargo vehicle will be filled with trash, detached from the station and sent to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere at the end of March.

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA / Roscosmos / JAXA.


Veteran ERS satellite provides new insight into Greenland's plumbing

ESA - ERS-2 satellite logo.

27 January 2011

Warmer summers may paradoxically slow down the speed of glaciers flowing towards the sea, suggests new research. This investigation, using data from ESA's oldest environmental satellite, has important implications for future estimates of sea-level rise.

It has been well understood that, in recent years, glaciers on Greenland's massive ice sheet have been flowing towards the sea faster than they did in the past. This has been attributed, in part, to higher temperatures melting the surface of the ice sheet.

 Meltwater pouring into a moulin on Greenland

The surface meltwater winds its way down to the bedrock through cracks and holes in the ice called moulins. At the base of the glacier, it is generally thought that this water lubricant helps the ice sheet to flow rapidly towards the sea.

However, acceleration of ice flow during the summer has proved difficult for scientists to model, leading to uncertainties in projections of future sea-level rise.

The letter published in this week's Nature journal explains how increased melting in the summer may actually be slowing down the flow of glaciers.

Ice-velocity map

Using observations from ESA's veteran ERS-1 satellite, which in July will have been in orbit for 20 years, new research suggests that the internal drainage system of the ice sheet adapts to accommodate more meltwater, without speeding up the flow of the glacier.

Prof. Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, UK, who led the study said, "It had been thought that more surface melting would speed up flow and cause the ice sheet to retreat faster, but our research suggests the process is more complicated."

Research centred on six landlocked glaciers in the southwest of Greenland and used data from the radar on ERS-1 from 1992 to 1998. This period included particularly warm summers in Greenland, with 1998 being one of the warmest on record.

"We used ERS-1 data and a technique called 'intensity tracking' over periods of 35 days to estimate the speed at which the glaciers were moving throughout the study," explained Prof. Shepherd.

"Our research suggests that increases in surface melting may not change the rate of flow at all. However, this doesn't mean that the ice sheet is safe from climate change because changes in ocean melting also play an important role."

Edge of Greenland ice sheet

The observations from ERS-1 showed that although the initial ice speed-up was similar in all years, the glacier experienced a dramatic late summer slowdown in warmer years when there was more meltwater. The research team put this down to an efficient subglacial drainage during warm melt seasons – a process that is commonly observed in Alpine glacier systems.

Although there is more to understand about the dynamics of glacier motion, these new findings will need to be taken into account when assessing how much the Greenland ice sheet may contribute to future sea-level rise.

ERS-2 satellite

Launched in 1991, ERS-1 was Europe's first radar satellite dedicated to environmental monitoring. The success of this first mission provided the basis for the routine remote sensing we have come to rely upon today to unravel the complexities of the way Earth works.

ERS-1 and the follow-on ERS-2 have proved very innovative missions. To exploit the outstanding science derived from ERS data even more, investigations are currently being made into the possibility of an additional ERS-2 phase dedicated to ice monitoring before the end of the mission in mid-2011.

Related missions:

ERS overview:

Related links:

University of Leeds – School of Earth and Environment:

More information:

Letter in Nature:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / J. Box / University of Leeds.


mercredi 26 janvier 2011

The Apollo 1 tragedy - 27 January 1967 - In Memoriam

NASA - Apollo 1 Mission patch.

Jan. 27, 2011

One of the worst tragedies in the history of spaceflight occurred on January 27, 1967 when the crew of Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire in the Apollo Command Module during a preflight test at Cape Canaveral. They were training for the first crewed Apollo flight, an Earth orbiting mission scheduled to be launched on 21 February. They were taking part in a "plugs-out" test, in which the Command Module was mounted on the Saturn 1B on the launch pad just as it would be for the actual launch, but the Saturn 1B was not fueled. The plan was to go through an entire countdown sequence.

  The Apollo 1 crew in training, Left to right: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

At 1 p.m. on Friday, 27 January 1967 the astronauts entered the capsule on Pad 34 to begin the test. A number of minor problems cropped up which delayed the test considerably and finally a failure in communications forced a hold in the count at 5:40 p.m. At 6:31 one of the astronauts (probably Chaffee) reported, "Fire, I smell fire." Two seconds later White was heard to say, "Fire in the cockpit." The fire spread throughout the cabin in a matter of seconds. The last crew communication ended 17 seconds after the start of the fire, followed by loss of all telemetry.

 Apollo 1 capsule after the incident

The Apollo hatch could only open inward and was held closed by a number of latches which had to be operated by ratchets. It was also held closed by the interior pressure, which was higher than outside atmospheric pressure and required venting of the command module before the hatch could be opened. It took at least 90 seconds to get the hatch open under ideal conditions. Because the cabin had been filled with a pure oxygen atmosphere at normal pressure for the test and there had been many hours for the oxygen to permeate all the material in the cabin, the fire spread rapidly and the astronauts had no chance to get the hatch open. Nearby technicians tried to get to the hatch but were repeatedly driven back by the heat and smoke. By the time they succeeded in getting the hatch open roughly 5 minutes after the fire started the astronauts had already perished, probably within the first 30 seconds, due to smoke inhalation and burns.

Apollo 1 capsule interior burned after the incident

The Apollo program was put on hold while an exhaustive investigation was made of the accident. It was concluded that the most likely cause was a spark from a short circuit in a bundle of wires that ran to the left and just in front of Grissom's seat. The large amount of flammable material in the cabin in the oxygen environment allowed the fire to start and spread quickly. A number of changes were instigated in the program over the next year and a half, including designing a new hatch which opened outward and could be operated quickly, removing much of the flammable material and replacing it with self-extinguishing components, using a nitrogen-oxygen mixture at launch, and recording all changes and overseeing all modifications to the spacecraft design more rigorously.

Plaque to commorate the Apollo 1 astronauts on the Launch Complex 34

The mission, originally designated Apollo 204 but commonly referred to as Apollo 1, was officially assigned the name "Apollo 1" in honor of Grissom, White, and Chaffee. The first Saturn V launch (uncrewed) in November 1967 was designated Apollo 4 (no missions were ever designated Apollo 2 or 3). The Apollo 1 Command Module capsule 012 was impounded and studied after the accident and was then locked away in a storage facility at NASA Langley Research Center. The changes made to the Apollo Command Module as a result of the tragedy resulted in a highly reliable craft which, with the exception of Apollo 13, helped make the complex and dangerous trip to the Moon almost commonplace. The eventual success of the Apollo program is a tribute to Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee, three fine astronauts whose tragic loss was not in vain.

Apollo 1 Tribute video

For more detail on Apollo 1 see the references below.

More on Apollo 1

NASA moves Apollo 1 capsule to new storage facility - NASA Press Release, February 2007:

Plan to store Apollo 1 capsule with Challenger debris cancelled - NASA Press Releases, May 1990:

National Air and Space Museum / Disaster on Pad 34:

Kennedy Space Center / apollo-1:

NASA History Office / Apollo-1:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / Dr. David R. Williams / / Youtube.


Mars500 - Approaching the Red Planet

ESA - ROSCOSMOS Mars500 Mission patch.

26 January 2011

In this 11th Mars500 Mission Diary Diego writes about the preparations for the 'arrival' at Mars on 1 February and about his feelings now that the action is hotting up.

Unlike the International Space Station, which ports a wonderful Italian-made Cupola with windows that gives magnificent sights of the Earth and stars , we do not have any windows.

Image above: Diego Urbina, European Mars500 crewmember, photographed inside the Mars500 facility, is waiting for their virtual Mars arrival on 1 February 2011 (Using Orbiter Space Flight Simulator).

Knowing that we would soon get to Mars, I was a bit troubled about this fact, and some time ago decided to spend a bit of my free time calculating our trajectory and then coding scripts in a planetarium software, it turned out quite well!

The script allowed us to see every day ‘real time’ how we were approaching Mars, with pretty graphics and information on the distance to Earth, distance to Mars, communications delay, etc. Looking at this virtual window was surprisingly fascinating, in spite of it being just a simulated view.

First you see just a reddish dot that is just somewhat bigger than Mars seen from Earth. At a couple of million kilometres away, it becomes a little orange ball somehow resembling a planet, and then you see two tiny dots, Deimos and Phobos, the two Martian moons with the spooky names (one means Dread and the other Fear). Finally, in a matter of a couple of days, this little rusty red ball becomes a behemoth that occupies whole screen – or window, if you will. I can already see how this progression of views could blow the minds of whoever will be approaching the real Mars.

Mars500 facility has no windows, but a laptop running Celestia Space Simulation

Now, when we are ‘seeing’ this planet from so close, we have got a vast set of new tasks. This makes our days different; generally more loaded, and hence... better. The activity and growing expectation of what is coming, broke the monotony into little pieces and fed them to the god Ares.

Soon, the crew will be divided in two, a surface crew and an orbital crew. The orbital crew, with our Flight Engineer Romain Charles on board, will be our eye in the sky, busy supporting the tasks on the ground and driving a virtual rover over the Martian surface (just the fact that you are close to Mars makes driving a rover on its surface in real time possible), plus other tasks involving mostly getting the spaceship ready to go back to the Blue Marble.

The work of the second group, the Martian surface crew including myself, will be composed of virtual and real tasks. Virtual, with a series of computer simulations of things that a Martian crew would most likely have to do on the surface of the planet, and real, with some of those very tasks executed on the planetary surface on the second floor of the Mars500 facility. It will be the most extensive place we will have seen in 8 months, even though we will have to see it from the rather closed spacesuit system.

Unlike the pressurized modules, the walls of the surface dome are quite thin, and the crew that will be working might hear someone if they were close by, threatening the realism of the simulation, therefore nobody will be around the facility when we work on an EVA (extra vehicular activity or spacewalk). Instead, all the people that need to see the EVA, will be located in Mission Control Moscow (MCC-M) located in Korolev City. This is the same legendary place where the Mir space station was controlled and that is, apart from Houston, one of the control centres of the International Space Station now.

Testing a modified Orlan before the mission

We are currently training on the upcoming activities, reading a bunch of updates to our manuals and checking our communication protocols, then, on 1 February, we will open the Martian landing module, transfer consumables and hardware from the orbiter to the landing module and vice versa (the landing module acted as a storage volume during the first half of the mission), and finally, configure all the hardware that will be used on the surface.

After one week of intense preparation of the landing module by the whole crew, Aleksandr Smoleevsky, Wang Yue and I, will transfer to the 50 cubic metres of volume of the landing module and live there in ‘further’ isolation for a month, on a simulated red planet. Wish us luck!


Related links:

Mars500 quick facts:

Mars500 crew:

Orbiter, a free and realistic space flight simulation program for the Windows PC: "Flagship":

Orbiter free add-ons:

Celestia, The free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions:

Celestia, add-on's website:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Diego Urbina / S. Corvaja / ROSCOSMOS / Mars500 Crew.


Hubble finds a new contender for galaxy distance record

ESA - HUBBLE Space Telescope logo.

26 January 2011

Pushing the Hubble Space Telescope to the limit of its technical ability, an international collaboration of astronomers have found what is likely to be the most distant and ancient galaxy ever seen, whose light has taken 13.2 billion years to reach us (a redshift of around 10).


Astronomers have pushed the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what is plausibly the most distant and ancient object in the Universe [1] ever seen. Its light has travelled for 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble [2], which corresponds to a redshift around 10. The age of the Universe is 13.7 billion years.

The dim object, called UDFj-39546284, is likely to be a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the Universe’s current age. It is tiny. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Rate of star birth in the early Universe

This galaxy would be more distant than the population of redshift 8 galaxies recently discovered in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, including the current most distant spectroscopically confirmed [3] record holder at a redshift of 8.6 (eso1041), and the redshift 8.2 gamma-ray burst from 2009 (eso0917). A redshift of z = 8.6 means that the object is seen as it was around 600 million years after the Big Bang.

“We’re seeing huge changes in the rate of star birth that tell us that if we go a little further back in time we’re going to see even more dramatic changes,” says Garth Illingworth of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

How far does Hubble see

The astronomers were surprised, as this new result suggests that the rate at which galaxies were forming stars grew precipitously, increasing by a factor of ten over the 170 million years that elapsed between the era of this newly discovered candidate galaxy and that of the population of previously identified galaxies at a redshift around 8 (650 million years after the Big Bang).

“These observations provide us with our best insights yet into the likely nature of the earlier generation of primeval objects that we are yet to find,” adds Rychard Bouwens of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Astronomers don’t know exactly when the first stars appeared in the Universe, but every step further from Earth takes them deeper into the early Universe’s formative years when stars and galaxies were just beginning to emerge in the aftermath of the Big Bang [4].

“We’re moving into a regime where there are big changes afoot. Another couple of hundred million years back towards the Big Bang, and that will be the time when the first galaxies really are starting to build up,” says Illingworth.

Bouwens and Illingworth are reporting the discovery in the 27 January issue of the British science journal Nature.

The even more distant proto-galaxies that the team expects are out there will require the infrared vision of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is the successor to Hubble. Planned for launch later this decade, JWST will provide the spectroscopic measurements that will confirm today’s report of the object’s tremendous distance.

A year of detailed analysis was required before the object was identified in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field — Infrared (HUDF-IR) data taken in the late summers of 2009 and 2010. The object appears as a faint dot of starlight in the Hubble exposures, and although its individual stars can’t be resolved by Hubble, the evidence suggests that this is a compact galaxy of hot stars that first started to form over 100-200 million years earlier, from gas trapped in a pocket of dark matter.

The proto-galaxy is only visible at the longest infrared wavelengths observable by Hubble. This means that the expansion of the Universe has stretched and thereby reddened its light more than that of any other galaxy previously identified in the HUDF-IR, taking it to the very limit that Hubble can detect. JWST will go deeper into infrared wavelengths and will be at least an order of magnitude more sensitive than Hubble, allowing it to hunt more efficiently for primeval galaxies at even greater distances, at earlier times, closer to the Big Bang.


The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

[1] The international team of astronomers in this study consists of R. J. Bouwens (Leiden University and University of California, Santa Cruz), G. D. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz), I. Labbe (Carnegie Observatories), P. A. Oesch (ETH Zurich), M. Trenti (University of Colorado), C. M. Carollo (ETH Zurich), P. G. van Dokkum (Yale University), M. Franx (Leiden University), M. Stiavelli (Space Telescope Science Institute), V. González (University of California, Santa Cruz), D. Magee (University of California, Santa Crux) and L. Bradley (Space Telescope Science Institute)

[2] Astronomers plumb the depths of the Universe, and probe its history, by measuring how much the light from an object has been stretched by the expansion of space. This is called the redshift value or z. In general, the greater the observed z value for a galaxy, the more distant it is in time and space, as observed from our position in the Milky Way. Before Hubble was launched, astronomers could only see galaxies out to a z of approximately 1, corresponding to an era halfway through the history of the Universe. The original Hubble Deep Field, taken in 1995, leapfrogged to z = 4, or roughly 90 percent of the way back to the beginning of time. The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) produced the Hubble Ultra Deep Field of 2004, pushing back the limit to z ~ 6. ACS was installed on Hubble during Servicing Mission 3B in 2002. Hubble’s first infrared camera, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer reached out to z = 7. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) first took us back to z ~ 8, and has now plausibly penetrated back for the first time to z = 10. The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to extend this back to a z of approximately 15, 275 million years after the Big Bang, and possibly beyond. The very first stars may have formed between z’s of 30 and 15.

[3] Likely candidates for distant galaxies can be identified and have their redshift estimated by carefully studying them in Hubble images taken through a range of different filters. The galaxy will be visible only in some of the filters. An estimate of the redshift can be deduced from the colour of the last filter in which the object is detected (a technique known as photometric redshift). However, redshifts can only be confirmed through spectroscopic study, in which the light from a galaxy is split into its constituent wavelengths for analysis. This newly discovered candidate galaxy is too faint to be studied spectroscopically by any telescope in operation today, but the forthcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be equipped to do so.

[4] The hypothesised hierarchical growth of galaxies — from stellar clumps to majestic spirals and ellipticals — didn’t become evident until the Hubble Space Telescope Deep Field exposures. The first 500 million years of the Universe’s existence, from a z of 1000 to 10 is now the missing chapter in the story of the hierarchical growth of galaxies. It’s not clear how the Universe assembled structure out of a darkening, cooling fireball of the Big Bang. As with a developing embryo, astronomers know there must have been an early period of rapid changes that would set the initial conditions which made the Universe of galaxies what it is today.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (University of California, Santa Cruz, and Leiden University) and the HUDF09 Team


    * Science paper:

    * NASA press release:

    * Hubble Ultra Deep Field – Infrared:

    * Images of Hubble:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (University of California, Santa Cruz, and Leiden University) and the HUDF09 Team.

Best regards,

When Artemis talks, Johannes Kepler listens

ESA logo labeled.

26 January 2011

After Ariane 5 lofts ATV Johannes Kepler into space on 15 February, ESA’s Artemis data relay satellite will be ready for action.

Artemis will provide communications between Johannes Kepler and the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse, France. Hovering some 36 000 km above the equator at 21.4ºE, Artemis will route telemetry and commands to and from the control centre whenever the satellite sees the International Space Station or ATV. During every ATV-2 orbit, there is close to 40 minutes of continuous contact.

Artemis will provide communications for ATV-2

ESA's Redu site in Belgium houses the Artemis mission control centre and a Ka-band ground terminal with a 13.5 m-diameter dish antenna. The task of communicating with Johannes Kepler will be shared between Artemis and NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

The first ATV mission was also supported by Artemis, in 2008. Working in parallel with TDRSS, Artemis was used as the main relay while ATV was attached to the Station and provided back up for commands and telemetry during rendezvous, docking, undocking and reentry.

ESA's Redu site in Belgium

Artemis will again provide dedicated support to ATV throughout the free-flying phase of its mission up to the docking with the Station. TDRSS is the backup to Artemis during the attached phase, while Artemis will back up TDRSS during the other phases and in emergency situations.

Such was the case on 11 September 2008, when the Artemis Mission Control Centre provided emergency support to ATV-1 after Hurricane Ike closed down the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“As Artemis also provides support to ESA’s Envisat’s Earth observation satellite, the Mission Control Centre ensures there will be no conflicts between the two satellites,” explained Benoit Demelenne, Head of Redu's Spacecraft Operations Unit in charge of the Artemis users’ schedule.

“The experience gained during the ATV-1 mission has been fruitful in preparing us for this mission.”

 Artemis satellite artist's view

In July, Artemis will mark 10 years in space. The satellite has three main purposes:

# provide inter-orbit satellite communication using advanced S- and Ka-band radio links and laser technology;
# for Europe's EGNOS satnav system broadcast enhanced GPS and Glonass signals for use by civilian safety-critical transport and navigational services;
# provide voice and data communications between mobile terminals in remote areas of Europe and North Africa, as well as in the Atlantic.

“After 10 years, Artemis has demonstrated ESA and European industry expertise in performing its mission,” said Franco Ongaro, head of ESA’s Telecom Technologies, Products and Systems department.

“Artemis is not only the precursor of the European Data Relay Satellite in terms of satellite service delivery but a demonstrator of new communication techniques.

Related links:

ATV blog:

Redu station:


Images, Text, Credits: ESA / J.Huart.


mardi 25 janvier 2011

Parts of ATV Edoardo Amaldi coming together

ESA - ATV Edoardo Amaldi patch.

25 January 2011

While ESA's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, is undergoing final launch preparations, its successor, ATV Edoardo Amaldi, is shaping up in Bremen. The launch of Europe’s third space ferry is planned for February 2012.

The three main parts of ATV-3 arrived at the premises of EADS Astrium in Bremen, Germany, in December. The vehicle is now waiting to be assembled at the end of January.

ATV-3's Equipped Avionics Bay (EAB) being delivered via Beluga Airbus

The Integrated Cargo Carrier, built by Thales Alenia Space Italy, was transported by a voluminous Beluga aircraft from Turin airport just before Christmas.

This module represents about 60% of the total ATV volume and will hold all the liquid and dry cargo, totalling up to 7.5 tonnes.

Europe-wide engineering expertise

The Equipped Propulsion Bay, containing the rocket engines and propellant tanks, was built on site in Bremen. The Equipped Avionics Bay – ATV's 'brain' – was delivered from Toulouse, France, after thermal vacuum testing.

As the computers in the avionics bay generate a lot of heat, the thermal control system of this section is particularly sophisticated – and vital for ATV's success.

These two modules will be combined at the end of the month into their final configuration for launch. Later in the spring, the cargo carrier will be electrically connected with them for final testing.

ATV-3's Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC)

ATV-3 will be shipped to the launch site, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, in September for dispatch to the ISS in February 2012.

Mass-producing the cargo craft

The newest ATV, named after a leading figure in Italian space science last century, will be the first to be processed and launched within the target cadence of one ATV per year.

Construction of the following ATVs is also on schedule to keep up the tempo.

"The main challenges of Edoardo Amaldi will be not only to perform its very complex mission as successfully as its predecessors, but also to prepare it within a much shorter interval since the previous one," says Massimo Cislaghi, ESA’s ATV-3 Mission Manager.

ATV-3's Equipped Avionics Bay (EAB)

"This implies, for instance, that any technical information from the Johannes Kepler mission will become available only when the Edoardo Amaldi preparations are already at a very advanced stage."

So far, the only differences between the two spacecraft are the name and the cargo manifest.

The launch by the end of February 2012 will be, "vital for space station logistics, especially at a time when the operational life of the US Space Shuttle will have come to an end, and its replacement might not yet be ready," comments Massimo.

After being happily mated in Bremen for system integration and testing, the parts will then be separated. Their next destination is French Guiana, where all the pieces will be reassembled and tested again before the vessel's voyage into space.

Editor's note: Follow the mission of ATV Johannes Kepler, due for launch on 15 February 2010, via ESA's ATV blog:

Related documents:
ATV Factsheet:

Space pioneers:

Edoardo Amaldi:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Thales Alenia Space.


How to land humans on an asteroid

AENEA Mission patch.

25 January 2011

After a year of intensive studies, young engineers from Europe faced an unusual but challenging task on the future space exploration: can you safely transport humans to a near-Earth asteroid in an international endeavour?

The virtual mission was called AENEA – Human Exploration of a Near Earth Asteroid – and it came to completion last week during the fifth international Master SEEDS (Space Exploration and Development Systems) event at ESTEC, in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

ESA supported this academic course to educate young engineers for industries that wish to establish their role in the international space arena.

The day before their presentations, the pupils had the opportunity to visit many of the ESTEC facilities and found the state-of-the-art Concurrent Design Facility particularly relevant to their mission design.

Their presentations was preceded with an overview of ESA exploration activities – the Lunar Lander, Advanced Reentry Vehicle and Expert – by the head of Transportation and Exploration, Bruno Gardini.

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, the first European commander of the International Space Station, also took to the stage and presented a well-received overview of his OasISS mission:

It was not an easy task to design a mission to transport humans safely to a near-Earth asteroid, performing extravehicular activities on its surface, scientific experiments and technological tests to extend the scientific knowledge and capabilities in space exploration and utilisation.

“The students have matured over the one-year period and developed a professional capability to handle engineering problems with a system mind”, said the SEEDS Educational Project Manager, Prof. Ernesto Vallerani.

“Now they are prepared to enter the industrial world with specific competences, engaged in advance space activities.”

A multisite study

A number of elements were identified and developed to accomplish AENEA’s overall mission requirements.

AENEA presentation ceremony

A few of the elements were studied in detail: mission analysis, robotic system, communications, guidance navigation control, heavy launch vehicles, transportation modules, reaction control cystems and crew habitation systems.

Work on this mission design was performed in each of the three locations (Germany, France and Italy) under the close supervision of their professors and experts from industry as well as academia.

The type of work the students performed was equivalent to pre-Phase-A, leading to the definition of a space infrastructure to support the exploration mission objectives.

For the duration of their studies, the students attended preparatory courses in Torino: “Understanding Space: Introduction to Space basic Concepts” and “Learning Space Systems: Fundamentals of Space Engineering”. They undertook an intensive period of preliminary design and subsequently engaged in six months of project work in Toulouse, Bremen and Torino.

Thanks to this course, young and enthusiastic people from Europe have found a role in the international space exploration initiative. Their reinforced engineering skills are needed to develop the space systems and to follow in the footsteps of their older colleagues.

Video feed of the presentation can be seen here:

Further information:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA.

Best regards,

lundi 24 janvier 2011

Progress M-09M Fairing Incapsulation Completed, Progress M-08M Departed from the ISS



Progress M-09M Fairing Incapsulation Completed at Baikonur

Progress M-09M fairing incapsulation has been successfully completed at Baikonur by Yuzhny Space Center – TSENKI subsidiary, TsSKB-Progress and RSC-Energia experts. The vehicle is now to be transported to site 112 for further integration with the launcher.

Fairing Incapsulation images:

The launch of the vehicle to the International Space Station is slated for Jan. 28, at 4:33 a.m. Progress M-09M will deliver about 2.5 t of cargo to the orbital outpost, including propellant, oxygen, food, scientific equipment, additional hardware for ISS RS and USOS, crew parcels, and small spacecraft Kedr developed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s space mission.

Images, Credit: Yuzhny Space Center.

Progress M-08M Departed from the ISS

Today, on Jan. 24, cargo vehicle Progress M-08M departed from the International Space Station.
At 03:40 a.m. MSK, a departure command for the automatic cargo vehicle was issued from the ISS. Three minutes later the Progress  separated from the docking port on the Pirs module. The vehicle had been attached to this port since Oct. 30, 2010.

Progress M1-8 departure. Credit: NASA.

Unburnt parts of Progress M-08M fell down in remote area of the Pacific at about 09.7 MSK. In parallel, preps for Progress M-09M launch continue at Baikonur. The cargo vehicle with about 2.5t of cargo for the ISS is slated for launch on Jan. 28.

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: ROSCOMOS PAO.