vendredi 19 août 2011

Space Station Commercial Cargo Carrier Arriving At NASA Wallops

Orbital logo labeled.

August 19, 2011

NASA's partnership with industry to develop transportation to the International Space Station reaches another milestone on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The cargo module for Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft, which will carry supplies to the station, is scheduled to arrive at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Artist rendering of Cygnus spacecraft approaching the ISS

Reporters are invited to cover the arrival of Cygnus' Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) at 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. NASA officials and Orbital representatives will be available for interviews. To attend, journalists must contact Keith Koehler at e-mail by noon EDT on Aug. 23.

During the next several months, Orbital's engineering team will integrate the PCM with the Cygnus service module that includes the spacecraft's avionics, propulsion and power systems.

Orbital - Cygnus Mission Overview

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for a demonstration flight early next year on an Orbital Taurus II launch vehicle under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services agreement with the company. Cygnus will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's pad 0A at Wallops. For information about the spacecraft, visit:

For information about NASA's commercial space transportation efforts, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA / Orbital / Thales Alenia.


jeudi 18 août 2011

NASA Data And New Techniques Yield Detailed Views Of Solar Storms

NASA - STEREO labeled logo.

Aug. 18, 2011

NASA spacecraft observations and new data processing techniques are giving scientists better insight into the evolution and development of solar storms that can damage satellites, disrupt communications and cause power grid failures on Earth.

The solar storms, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), are being observed from NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft launched in 2006. The duo represents a key component within a fleet of NASA spacecraft that enhance the capability to predict solar storms.

Goddard Multimedia - NASA Spacecraft Track Solar

Video above: NASA's STEREO spacecraft and new data processing techniques have succeeded in tracking space weather events from their origin in the sun's corona to impact with the Earth, resolving a 40-year mystery about the structure of the structures that cause space weather: how the structures that impact the Earth relate to the corresponding structures in the solar corona. Credit: NASA/STEREO / Scott Wiessinger.

Previous spacecraft imagery did not clearly show the structure of a solar disturbance as it traveled toward Earth. As a result, forecasters had to estimate when storms would arrive without knowing the details of how they evolve and grow. New processing techniques used on STEREO data allow scientists to see how solar eruptions develop into space storms at the Earth.

"The clarity these new images provide will improve the observational inputs into space weather models for better forecasting," said Lika Guhathakurta, STEREO program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

CMEs are billion-ton clouds of solar plasma launched by the same sun explosions that spark solar flares. When they sweep past Earth, they can cause auroras, radiation storms that can disrupt sensitive electronics on satellites, and in extreme cases, power outages. Better tracking of these clouds and the ability to predict their arrival is an important part of space weather forecasting.

Newly released images from cameras on the STEREO-A spacecraft reveal detailed features in a large Earth-directed CME in late 2008, connecting the original magnetized structure in the sun's corona to the intricate anatomy of the interplanetary storm as it hit the planet three days later. When the data were collected, the spacecraft was more than 65 million miles away from Earth.

STEREO-A tracks a coronal mass election from the sun to Earth. Credit: SwRI

The spacecraft's wide-angle cameras captured the images. They detect ordinary sunlight scattered by free-floating electrons in plasma clouds. When these clouds in CMEs leave the sun, they are bright and easy to see. However, visibility is quickly reduced, as the clouds expand into the void. The clouds are about one thousand times fainter than the Milky Way, which makes direct imaging of them difficult. That also has limited our understanding of the connection between solar storms and the coronal structures that cause them.

"Separating these faint signals from the star field behind them proved especially challenging, but it paid off," said Craig DeForest, scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. and lead author of an Astrophysical Journal article released online yesterday. "We have been drawing pictures of structures like these for several decades. Now that we can see them so far from the sun, we find there is still a lot to learn."

Image above: Still from video of the orbital positions and fields of view of the STEREO spacecraft during the December 2008 CME. The orange area represents the CME. Credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center /Scientific Visualization Studio.

These observations can pinpoint not only the arrival time of the CME, but also its mass. The brightness of the cloud enabled researchers to calculate the cloud's gas density throughout the structure, and compare it to direct measurements by other NASA spacecraft. When this technique is applied to future storms, forecasters will be able to say with confidence whether Earth is about to be hit by a small or large cloud, and where on the sun the material originated.

STEREO's two observatories orbit the sun, one ahead of Earth and one behind. They will continue to move apart over time. STEREO is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program. The program seeks to understand the fundamental physical processes of the space environment from the sun to Earth and other planets.

The STEREO spacecraft were built and are operated for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the mission, instruments and science center. The STEREO instruments were designed and built by scientific institutions in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland.

For more information and images, visit:

For more information about the STEREO mission and instruments, visit:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.

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The launch of spacecraft "Express-AM4"



August 18 from Baikonur cosmodrome launch a launch vehicle (LV) "Proton-M" with the upper block (RB) "Breeze-M" and the spacecraft (SC) "Express-AM4."

Proton-M - Express-AM4 lunch

"Proton-M" has fulfilled normally, the head unit in the Republic of Belarus "Breeze-M" and the spacecraft separated at the scheduled time.

Express AM4 launch by Proton-M from Baikonur

Four inclusion of RB also held at the estimated time. In the remaining time until the fifth turn the booster does not work properly with the transmission and receipt of telemetry signals from the "Breeze-M" and board the spacecraft.

During the work on communication with the spacecraft specialists of the Federal Space Agency were involved in all the land measuring devices Baikonur Cosmodrome, by which it was possible to detect the upper stage "Briz-M".

Express AM4 communications satellite

Currently, experts conducted Roscosmos processing and analysis of telemetry data received and specialists taking steps to establish communications with the satellite "Express-AM4."

Image, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos PAO / EADS-Astrium / Translation:


First JWST instrument finishes testing

ESA - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) logo.

18 August 2011

A pioneering instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has completed testing in the UK. MIRI is a key European contribution to the mission, which will be a space telescope with a mirror seven times bigger in area than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) will be used by astronomers to study faint comets circling the Sun, newly born faraway planets, regions of obscured star formation, and galaxies near the edge of the Universe. It must work at extremely low temperatures, of just 7 K above absolute zero or -266° C.

MIRI in the thermal test chamber

A consortium of European institutes has built the main structure and optics of MIRI that focus and filter the infrared light collected by JWST’s 6.5 m-diameter mirror onto extremely sensitive detectors provided by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Much of that light will be thousands of millions of years old, having been emitted by objects in the distant Universe.

The testing, which took place at the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space in Oxfordshire, subjected MIRI to the harsh conditions it will experience after it is launched into space on board the Webb telescope.

“It is inspiring to see MIRI working extremely well at its operating temperature after so many years in development. The test campaign has been a resounding success and the whole MIRI team can be very proud of this magnificent achievement,” says Gillian Wright, the European Principal Investigator and lead of the MIRI European Science Team.

 MIRI's alignment testing

The tests ensured that all parts of the instrument function together properly. Targets inside the test chamber were used to simulate scientific observations and obtain critical performance data. Astronomers will use these during the coming years to develop software needed to calibrate the instrument after launch.

Preliminary results show that MIRI is working extremely well, and confirm that it should be able to perform all the cutting-edge science it was designed to accomplish. Peter Jakobsen, ESA JWST Project Scientist, congratulates the members of the MIRI consortium for having passed this significant milestone. “Future users of JWST and MIRI are looking forward to learning more about the detailed performance of the instrument once the test results are analysed further in the coming months. The experience gained by the MIRI test team throughout this campaign has sown the seeds for a rich scientific harvest from the JWST mission," he says.

MIRI in the thermal test chamber

ESA has been collaborating with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency since 1996 on the design and construction of the Webb telescope. MIRI is the first of JWST’s four instruments to complete its calibration testing.

“The successful completion of this difficult test programme – involving more than 2000 individual tests – marks a major milestone for the JWST mission. MIRI will now be delivered to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to join the integration and testing of the observatory’s science instrument payload, which began this year,” says Matthew Greenhouse, the Integrated Science Instrument Module Project Scientist for JWST at Goddard.

"The MIRI tests have demonstrated the excellent technical progress being made on the project and we're now looking forward to completing the equivalent tests on another of JWST's scientific instruments, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) being developed by ESA. These European eyes will play a crucial role in the success of this remarkable international mission to uncover mysteries across the Universe", says Mark McCaughrean, head of ESA's Research & Scientific Support Department.

Related Links:

JWST in depth:



Images, Text, Credits: ESA / STFC / RAL Space.


mercredi 17 août 2011

LHC control rooms to open for European Researchers' Night

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

August 18, 2011

 Young students in the ALICE control centre during European Researcher's night 2010

To mark European Researchers' Night, CERN is inviting young people into the Large Hadron Collider's control rooms on the evening of 23 September. Students aged between 13 and 18 will have the unique opportunity of spending two hours alongside physicists running the LHC and its detectors.

CERN is one of the world's largest research centres. More than 10,000 physicists from 100 different countries pool their efforts at CERN in a bid to extend our knowledge of matter and the Universe.

CERN - Stars Underground

To do this, they use a gigantic, 27-km machine installed 100 m below the ground, called the LHC, which collides particles at very high energies, close to the speed of light, thus recreating the conditions that existed just after the Big Bang. Using results recorded in the ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb and TOTEM detectors, physicists around the world analyse the particles produced in these collisions.

More information:

Image, Video, Text, Credit: CERN.


First 3D video transmission live from space

ISS - International Space Station patch.

17 August 2011

Half a century after humankind entered outer space, an ESA-developed camera produced live-streaming 3D images for the first time in the history of space travel – showing the International Space Station like never before.

On 6 August, NASA astronaut Ron Garan operated the Erasmus Recording Binocular (ERB-2) camera to open a new window on the ISS through stereoscopic eyes, in high-definition quality. As Flight Engineer for Expedition 28 and a video blogger himself, Garan set up the futuristic-looking camera in Europe's Columbus laboratory. While talking about the work on board the ISS, he enhanced the sense of depth and presence by playing with an inflatable Earth globe.

Astronaut Nespoli using ERB-2 3D camera

Not much bigger than a shoebox, with high-definition optics and advanced electronics, the ERB-2 is the second generation of ESA's stereoscopic camera family developed by Cosine BV (Leiden, the Netherlands) and Techno System (Naples, Italy).

On the ground at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, viewers wore polarised glasses similar to those used in cinemas and were amazed by the quality of the images. These near-real 3D images not only change the whole viewing experience, but can also be used in supporting science operations on the Station.

Live stream in 3D showing demo by Astronaut Ron Garan

This premiere was a long-awaited commissioning test of the live mode transmission, proving that all systems and procedures are ready to be used for future ERB-2 live-streaming events.

Video above: NASA astronaut Ron Garan in the first-even 3D video stream from space (Use red/blue stereo glasses to watch).

Apart from broadcasting stereo images in real-time for live programmes, ESA's ERB-2 coordinator Massimo Sabbatini dreams about filming extravehicular activities. "The camera could also be used in the future outside the ISS to support the astronauts' spacewalks or other critical robotic operations. This really felt like being in space with an astronaut by your side," he said.

Coming soon to a theatre near you

Get your 3D glasses ready. The first ERB-2 images will be soon posted on the new ESA YouTube 3D channel. "If you already have a new generation 3D-enabled plasma TV at home, you'll be able to immerse yourself in the world of the Space Station without leaving your sofa. These videos will turn more people into real space fans," said Sabbatini.

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli already recorded his life on board the ISS during his MagISStra mission. His colleague André Kuipers will also contribute to the 3D immersion: he is being trained to use the ERB-2 camera during his six-month mission to ISS starting in November this year.

Related links:

Human Spaceflight Research / Erasmus Centre:

Stay tuned for stunning hi-def 3D videos from ISS:

Erasmus Experiment Archive (EEA):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / K. Lochtenberg / NASA.


mardi 16 août 2011

Honeycomb Carbon Crystals Possibly Detected in Space

NASA - SPITZER Space Telescope logo.

August 16, 2011

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted the signature of flat carbon flakes, called graphene, in space. If confirmed, this would be the first-ever cosmic detection of the material -- which is arranged like chicken wire in flat sheets that are one atom thick.

Graphene was first synthesized in a lab in 2004, and subsequent research on its unique properties garnered the Nobel Prize in 2010. It's as strong as it is thin, and conducts electricity as well as copper. Some think it's the "material of the future," with applications in computers, screens on electrical devices, solar panels and more.

Graphene in space isn't going to result in any super-fast computers, but researchers are interested in learning more about how it is created. Understanding chemical reactions involving carbon in space may hold clues to how our own carbon-based selves and other life on Earth developed.

Spitzer identified signs of the graphene in two small galaxies outside of our own, called the Magellanic Clouds, specifically in the material shed by dying stars, called planetary nebulae. The infrared-sensing telescope also spotted a related molecule, called C70, in the same region – marking the first detection of this chemical outside our galaxy.

C70 and graphene belong to the fullerene family, which includes molecules called "buckyballs," or C60. These carbon spheres contain 60 carbon atoms arranged like a soccer ball, and were named after their resemblance to the architectural domes of Buckminister Fuller. C70 molecules contain 70 carbon atoms and are longer in shape, more like a rugby ball.

An artist's concept of graphene, buckyballs and C70 superimposed on an image of the Helix planetary nebula. Image credit: IAC / NASA / NOAO / ESA / STScI / NRAO.

Fullerenes have been found in meteorites carrying extraterrestrial gases, and water has been very recently encapsulated in buckyballs by using new laboratory techniques. These findings suggest fullerenes may have helped transport materials from space to Earth long ago, possibly helping to kick-start life.

Spitzer definitively detected both buckyballs and C70 in space for the first time in July 2010 (see It later spotted buckyballs -- equivalent in mass to 15 full moons -- in the Small Magellanic Cloud. These latter results demonstrated that, contrary to what was previously believed, fullerenes and other complex molecules could form in hydrogen-rich environments (see

According to astronomers, the graphene, buckyballs and C70 might be forming when shock waves generated by dying stars break apart hydrogen-containing carbon grains.

The team that performed the Spitzer research is led by Domingo Aníbal García-Hernández of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain. The results appear in the Astrophyscial Journal Letters. García-Hernández is also the lead author of the study that used Spitzer to detect heaps of buckyballs in the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Read the news release from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson at

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. For more information about Spitzer, visit and

Image (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA / JPL / Whitney Clavin.

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