lundi 30 décembre 2013

Hubble Eyes Galaxy as Flat as a Pancake

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 30, 2013

Located some 25 million light-years away, this new Hubble image shows spiral galaxy ESO 373-8. Together with at least seven of its galactic neighbors, this galaxy is a member of the NGC 2997 group. We see it side-on as a thin, glittering streak across the sky, with all its contents neatly aligned in the same plane.

We see so many galaxies like this — flat, stretched-out pancakes — that our brains barely process their shape. But let us stop and ask: Why are galaxies stretched out and aligned like this?

Try spinning around in your chair with your legs and arms out. Slowly pull your legs and arms inwards, and tuck them in against your body. Notice anything? You should have started spinning faster. This effect is due to conservation of angular momentum, and it’s true for galaxies, too.

This galaxy began life as a humongous ball of slowly rotating gas. Collapsing in upon itself, it spun faster and faster until, like pizza dough spinning and stretching in the air, a disc started to form. Anything that bobbed up and down through this disk was pulled back in line with this motion, creating a streamlined shape.

NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope

Angular momentum is always conserved — from a spinning galactic disk 25 million light-years away from us, to any astronomer, or astronomer-wannabe, spinning in an office chair.

More information:

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

For more information about Hubble Space Telescope, visit: and

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

Best regards,

Medical Science for Crew as Year Nears End

ISS - International Space Station patch.

Dec. 30, 2013

The six-member Expedition 38 crew is getting ready for another eventful year of scientific research, finishing up 2013 with medical research activities. Both NASA and Russian spacewalkers also are cleaning up after three fast-paced spacewalks.

With one exception, all station systems are powered up and running normally following two spacewalks by NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins to replace a degraded cooling system pump module. The new pump module is working well, which allows electrical systems cooled by that loop to be put back into full service. The last string of power to the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory is scheduled to be brought back on line Tuesday.

Image above: NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins enjoys time in the Cupola, which affords the most broad views of Earth.

Read about the first U.S. spacewalk to replace the pump module:

Read about the final U.S. spacewalk to install the pump module:

Hopkins started his day working in the Human Research Facility (HRF) and collecting biological samples for stowage inside a science freezer. In the afternoon he used the HRF’s space linear acceleration mass measurement device (SLAMMD) to calculate his body mass. SLAMMD subjects a crew member to a known force and the resulting acceleration provides a body mass measurement that is accurate to within a half-pound.

Read how astronauts measure their body mass:

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata also joined Hopkins for SLAMMD measurements in the afternoon. Earlier in the day, Wakata set up gear for the SPRINT study that evaluates the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise to minimize muscle and bone loss and heart shrinkage during long-duration space missions. He also checked instrumentation inside the Combustion Integrated Rack used for experiments involving flames and flame suppression.

Read more about SPRINT:

Image above: The Caribbean country of Cuba is pictured in this high oblique image with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in the foreground.

Mastracchio partnered with Hopkins in the morning for spinal scans using the Ultrasound 2 probe and software. The scans were conducted with assistance from ground doctors who were viewing the session in real-time. Throughout the day, Mastracchio worked various maintenance tasks such as sampling the station’s water for analysis, changing out a flash disc on a camera and removing a jumper cable in the Unity node.

Read about the Spinal Ultrasound experiment:

Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy are cleaning up after a Friday spacewalk that lasted 8 hours and 7 minutes. They started Monday stowing their spacewalk tools and checking them into the inventory management system. Afterward, they returned the Zvezda service module and the Pirs docking compartment to their normal post-spacewalk configuration.

Read more about the Russian spacewalk:

Flight Engineer and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin installed a dosimeter to detect radiation. He also connected cables on water tanks and checked fans inside Zvezda.

For more information about the Space Station (ISS), visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.


samedi 28 décembre 2013

Successful launch of Soyuz-2.1V with AIST student-built microsatellite & SKRL 756 calibration spheres



Was commissioned ILV Soyuz-2.1V The program has been fully implemented

 Artist's view of the Soyuz-2.1V launch

28 December at 16.30 Moscow time from the launch complex of the platform 43 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome starting calculations Forces Aerospace Defense with the participation of specialists of rocket-space industry Russia conducted a successful launch (ILV) Soyuz-2.1V with block removal (BV) Volga and SC Stork.

Soyuz-2.1V & AIST & microsatellite & SKRL 756 calibration spheres, at the launch-pad

After separation from the regular second stage of the launch vehicle (LV) head unit comprising SC Stork and block elimination continued autonomous flight. Inferring the spacecraft to the target orbit was performed by operating the propulsion unit excretion.

At 18.10 MSK spacecraft nominally separated from BV Volga on the target orbit.

Payloads description

Soyuz-2 Phase 1B-two-stage booster easy class, developed by FSUE SRP TsSKB Progress (Samara). Designed to launch satellites with launch complexes LV Soyuz-2. Booster developed on the basis of Soyuz-2 Phase 1B, with the removal of the side blocks, install the central unit of the engine NK - 33A engine and steering RD0110R ( development of "KBKhA"). Second stage unit borrowed from the block with completion stage 3 Soyuz-2 stage 1B . With the Soyuz-2.1V, a block elimination Volga.

Soyuz-2.1V at the launch-pad description

A Russian government Soyuz 2-1v rocket with a Volga upper stage will launch with the AIST student-built microsatellite and SKRL 756 calibration spheres. The Soyuz 2-1v rocket and Volga upper stage will be making their first flight. The new rocket is a smaller version of the Soyuz launch vehicle without strap-on boosters.

AIST student-built microsatellite

Spacecraft Stork developed by the Samara State Aerospace University. Korolev and FSUE "SRP" Samara Space Center. SC is designed for educational, scientific, technical and experimental problems working out means of measuring the geomagnetic field and compensation microgravity environment on board. SC weight-50 kg.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Gunter's Space / Translation: Aerospace.


vendredi 27 décembre 2013

Station Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk to Deploy Cameras

ISS - Expedition 38 Mission patch / ROSCOSMOS - Russian Federation Cosmonaut Flag patch.

Dec. 27, 2013

Two Russian cosmonauts in Orlan spacesuits wrapped up a 8-hour, 7-minute spacewalk to attempt the installation of photographic equipment on the exterior of the International Space Station at 4:07 p.m. EST Friday. 

Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy promptly completed the main objective of Friday’s spacewalk -- the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras as part of a Canadian commercial endeavor designed to downlink Earth observation imagery – but had to remove them later due to an unspecified problem that prevented telemetry from being received on the ground by Russian flight controllers.

As planned, Kotov and Ryazanskiy attached the two cameras on a combination biaxial pointing platform and spacewalk workstation that was installed on the Zvezda service module during a spacewalk on Nov. 9. Kotov and Ryazanskiy also installed a foot restraint to the workstation.

Image above: Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio captured this view of spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy working outside the International Space Station and posted it to Twitter. Image Credit: NASA.

After routing data and telemetry cables for the medium resolution camera, Kotov jettisoned the cable reel opposite of the station’s direction of travel for disposal.

When the flight control team at the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow did not see the expected telemetry and electrical connectivity from the medium and high resolution cameras, Kotov and Ryazanskiy were directed to remove the cameras and return them to the airlock for further analysis.  The spacewalkers also were instructed to take detailed photographs of the electrical connectors mated earlier for additional review.

 ISS Russian Spacewalkers Run Into Snag With Camera Installation

In addition to their work with the two cameras, the spacewalkers also removed the Vsplesk experiment package and jettisoned it. Vsplesk, installed during an Expedition 17 spacewalk in July 2008, was designed to monitor seismic effects using high-energy particle streams in the near-Earth environment. Kotov and Ryazanskiy replaced it with  hardware for a more sophisticated earthquake-monitoring experiment, Seismoprognoz, which they attached to a Zvezda handrail.

Because of the issue in activating the cameras, Kotov and Ryazanskiy did not have time to complete the all of their planned tasks, which included the jettisoning of a frame that once held three Micro-Particles Capturer and Space Environment Exposure Device (MPAC & SEED) units for a Japanese space exposure study and the installation of a payload boom.

Image above: Spacewalkers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy remove the high resolution camera they installed earlier during Friday's spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA.

Friday's spacewalk eclipsed the record for the longest Russian spacewalk set by Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin, who conducted a 7-hour, 29 minute excursion on Aug. 16.

With the completion of his fifth spacewalk, Kotov now has 30 hours and 43 minutes of total spacewalking time.  Ryazanskiy has a total of 13 hours and 57 minutes over his two spacewalks.

This was the 177th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, totaling 1,115 hours, 44 minutes, and the 11th spacewalk this year.

Image above: This graphic shows the locations of the six Expedition 38 crew members during Friday's Russian spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA TV.

During the spacewalk, Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins was restricted to the Poisk module and the Soyuz TMA-10M craft that brought him, Kotov and Ryazanskiy to the complex in September. The remaining three crew members – Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio, Koichi Wakata and Mikhail Tyurin – had access to the Zarya module and the entirety of the U.S. segment of the station.

Friday’s Russian spacewalk was not related to a recent pair of U.S. spacewalks to replace a faulty ammonia coolant pump module.  Flight controllers in Houston’s Mission Control successfully restarted the new pump Tuesday night following two spacewalks – including a 7-hour, 30-minute excursion Tuesday -- by Mastracchio and Hopkins to replace a degraded pump module on the station’s starboard truss. That pump module continues to operate well.

For more information about the Space Station (ISS), visit:

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


jeudi 26 décembre 2013

New Pump Module Working Well; Station Crew Preps for Russian Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 38 Mission patch.

Dec. 26, 2013

With a new ammonia pump module installed during a Christmas Eve spacewalk operating properly, the International Space Station’s Expedition 38 crew spent Thursday cleaning up U.S. spacesuit systems and tools and completing preparations for an unrelated Russian spacewalk on Friday.

Flight controllers in Houston’s Mission Control successfully restarted the new pump Tuesday night following two spacewalks – including a 7-hour, 30-minute excursion Tuesday -- by Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins to replace a degraded pump module on the station’s starboard truss.

Image above: Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins work with spacesuits and spacewalk equipment of the International Space Station's Quest airlock Thursday. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Read more about the Dec. 24 spacewalk:

Read more about the Dec. 22 spacewalk:

Early on Christmas Day, the heat exchangers for the Destiny laboratory, the Harmony and Tranquility nodes and the Japanese Kibo laboratory were reintegrated to enable experiments racks and other systems affected by the partial Cooling Loop A shutdown Dec. 11 to come back on line. The Columbus laboratory heat exchanger will remain down until the European Space Agency, at its own request, conducts that module’s integration next week when personnel return from the holiday.

Mastracchio and Hopkins began their Thursday with a round of post-spacewalk medical exams conducted by Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata, who served as the robotics operator for the two spacewalks.

Afterward, Mastracchio and Hopkins focused on scrubbing the cooling loops and refilling the water tanks of the spacesuits they wore Tuesday. The suits functioned perfectly during the spacewalk, remaining dry throughout the excursion. 

Image above: NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins participates in the first Expedition 38 spacewalk designed to troubleshoot a faulty coolant pump on the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The completion of the spacewalk and the successful restart of the ammonia pump module clears the decks for Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy to conduct their own 7-hour spacewalk Friday out of the Pirs docking compartment. Their work is not related to the two U.S. spacewalks to replace the faulty ammonia coolant pump.

Kotov and Ryazanskiy, in Russian Orlan spacesuits, will exit the Pirs airlock at 8 a.m. EST Friday to install a pair of high-fidelity cameras on the Zvezda service module as part of a Canadian commercial endeavor designed to downlink Earth observation imagery. The two spacewalking cosmonauts also will refresh several experiment packages on the exterior of the Russian segment of the station.

Russian Spacewalk at Space Station

Kotov and Ryazanskiy spent Thursday preparing equipment inside the Pirs airlock and later joined Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin for a final review of spacewalk procedures.

NASA Television will air live coverage of Friday’s spacewalk beginning at 7:30 a.m. This will be the 177th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance, and the 11th this year.


For more information about the Space Station (ISS), visit:

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

Best regards,

Proton-M with the Express-AM5 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome



Proton-M & Express-AM5 spacecraft on the launch-pad

December 26, 2013 at 14.49.56 Moscow time from the launch complex of the platform 81 Baikonur cosmodrome starting calculations of rocket - space industry Russia, the launch of a space rocket (RKN) "Proton-M with the upper stage (RB) Breeze-M intended for injection into the target orbit of the Russian telecommunications spacecraft (SC) Express-AM5.

Proton-M & Express-AM5 spacecraft Launch

At 14.59 MSK (Moscow time) head unit comprising RB Breeze-M and Express-AM5 cleanly separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle. Further removal of the spacecraft to the target orbit at the expense of the propulsion system booster.

Express-AM5 communication satellite

 Express AM5 is a civil communications satellite for the Russian Satellite Communications Co.

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Gunter's Space / Translation: Aerospace.


mercredi 25 décembre 2013

Rockot launch vehicle lifted off


Dec. 25, 2013

Rockot launch

Rockot launch vehicle lifted off from Site 133/3 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia at 0:31 UTC on Wednesday, December 25 carrying three Rodnik military communication satellites to Low Earth Orbit as part of the maintenance and modernization of the Strela constellation of low-orbiting communication satellites used by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Launch confirmation was reported by Ria Novosti.

Rodnik military communication satellite

Confirmation of mission success came later on Wednesday after the successful release of the three satellites into their planned high-inclination orbit at an altitude of ~1,500 Kilometers.

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS / Zvezda TV / Catherine Laplace-Builhe.

Greetings & Merry Christmas,

mardi 24 décembre 2013

Spacewalkers Complete Installation of Ammonia Pump Module

ISS - Expedition 38 Mission patch / EVA- Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Dec. 24, 2013

Spacewalkers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins completed a second spacewalk to install a spare ammonia pump module. The U.S. Quest airlock began repressurization at 2:23 p.m. EDT Tuesday signaling the official end of their spacewalk.

Tuesday’s main tasks included the removal and installation of a spare pump module. The first task was to remove the spare pump module from the space station’s External Stowage Platform-3. After that was completed, the module was bolted to the S1 truss and connected to Loop A of the station’s external Active Thermal Control System.

Image above: Rick Mastracchio (left) and Mike Hopkins (right) are assisted by the rest of their Expedition 38 crew mates after the completion of their Dec. 24 spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Hopkins attached himself to the Canadarm2 and took a ride to the worksite. Mastracchio tethered himself to the station and translated to the S1 truss to assist his partner. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata operated the Canadarm2 from inside the Destiny laboratory.

While doing the connection work, the duo demated ammonia fluid lines from a jumper box that enabled ammonia flow during the repair spacewalks. After experiencing some difficulty disconnecting a fluid line the spacewalkers reported seeing ammonia flakes escaping a valve. As a precaution, mission controllers asked the spacewalkers to inspect their spacesuits for possible ammonia contamination. Once they were back in the Quest airlock the duo conducted more ammonia decontamination procedures on their spacesuits. All four fluid lines were successfully reconnected to the newly installed pump module restoring ammonia flow.

Image above: Astronaut Mike Hopkins rides the Canadarm2 carrying the 780-pound ammonia pump module as the International Space Station flies over South America. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Afterward, Hopkins and Mastracchio completed electrical connections to the pump module. Power was successfully restored to the ammonia pump module. However, flight controllers will perform more tests before restarting the pump and returning it to full functionality.

NASA Conducts Second Spacewalk to Fix Coolant Pump on ISS

The duo was originally scheduled to finish the installation work on Monday before mission controllers detected a spacesuit configuration issue at the end of Saturday’s spacewalk, in which the spacewalkers removed a faulty pump that experienced a problem with its internal flow control valve Dec. 11.

The suspect pump was removed from the starboard truss and parked in a temporary location on the station’s Mobile Base System rail car where it can stay until at least next June. Managers decided an extra day of preparation was necessary to get a backup spacesuit ready for Mastracchio.

Image above: Astronaut Mike Hopkins prepares to attach himself to a foot restraint on the Canadarm2 outside the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Read more about the spacesuit configuration issue:

Read more about Saturday’s spacewalk:

The Christmas Eve spacewalk lasted seven hours and 30 minutes. This was the 176th spacewalk in support of space station assembly and maintenance. Mastracchio holds 51 hours and 28 minutes spacewalking time over eight spacewalks. Hopkins holds 12 hours and 58 minutes over two spacewalks.

For more information about the Space Station (ISS), visit:

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

Best regards & Merry Christmas,

lundi 23 décembre 2013

Cassini Sees Saturn and Moons in Holiday Dress

Cassini Mission International patch.

Dec. 23, 2013

Painted Lines on an Ornament

Image above: The globe of Saturn, seen here in natural color, is reminiscent of a holiday ornament in this wide-angle view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

This holiday season, feast your eyes on images of Saturn and two of its most fascinating moons, Titan and Enceladus, in a care package from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. All three bodies are dressed and dazzling in this special package assembled by Cassini's imaging team.

The new images are available online at: and .

"During this, our tenth holiday season at Saturn, we hope that these images from Cassini remind everyone the world over of the significance of our discoveries in exploring such a remote and beautiful planetary system," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. "Happy holidays from all of us on Cassini."

'Tis the Season

Image above: Winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere of Saturn and with this cold season has come the familiar blue hue that was present in the northern winter hemisphere at the start of NASA's Cassini mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Two views of Enceladus are included in the package and highlight the many fissures, fractures and ridges that decorate the icy moon's surface. Enceladus is a white, glittering snowball of a moon, now famous for the nearly 100 geysers that are spread across its south polar region and spout tiny icy particles into space. Most of these particles fall back to the surface as snow. Some small fraction escapes the gravity of Enceladus and makes its way into orbit around Saturn, forming the planet's extensive and diffuse E ring. Because scientists believe these geysers are directly connected to a subsurface, salty, organic-rich, liquid-water reservoir, Enceladus is home to one of the most accessible extraterrestrial habitable zones in the solar system.

Lakes Through the Haze

Image above: Using a special spectral filter, the high-resolution camera aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft was able to peer through the hazy atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Packaged along with Saturn and Enceladus is a group of natural-color images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, highlighting two of Titan's most outstanding features. Peering through the moon's hazy, orange atmosphere, the Cassini narrow-angle camera spots dark, splotchy features in the polar regions of the moon. These features are the lakes and seas of liquid methane and ethane for which the moon is renowned. Titan is the only other place in the solar system that we know has stable liquids on its surface, though in Titan's case, the liquids are ethane and methane rather than water. At Titan's south pole, a swirling high-altitude vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon's un-illuminated atmosphere. Titan's hazy atmosphere and surface environment are believed to be similar in certain respects to the early atmosphere of Earth.

But the planet that towers over these moons is a celestial wonder itself. The north and south poles of Saturn are highlighted and appear drastically different from each other, as seen in new natural-color views. The globe of Saturn resembles a holiday ornament in a wide-angle image overlooking its north pole, bringing into view the hexagonal jet stream and rapidly spinning polar vortex that reside there. And the planet's south pole, now in winter, looking very different than the springtime north, displays brilliant blue hues, reminiscent of a frosty winter wonderland.

Frozen in Time

Image above: NASA's Cassini captures a still and partially sunlit Enceladus. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

"Until Cassini arrived at Saturn, we didn't know about the hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, the active drama of Enceladus' jets, and the intricate patterns at Saturn's poles," said Linda Spilker, the Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Spectacular images like these highlight that Cassini has given us the gift of knowledge, which we have been so excited to share with everyone."

Launched in 1997, Cassini has explored the Saturn system for more than nine years. NASA plans to continue the mission through 2017, with the anticipation of much more groundbreaking science and imagery to come.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France, and Germany. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

More information about Cassini is available at: and

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Jia-Rui Cook / Space Science Institute / Steve Mullins.


Phobos - Glorious grooves

ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

Dec. 23, 2013

Glorious grooves

The innermost moon of Mars, Phobos, is seen here in full 360 degree glory. The images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA’s Mars Express at various times throughout the mission’s 10 years.

The moon’s parallel sets of grooves are perhaps the most striking feature, along with the giant 9 km-wide Stickney impact crater that dominates one face of the 27 x 22 x 18 km moon.

The origin of the moon’s grooves is a subject of much debate. One idea assumes that the crater chains are associated with impact events on the moon itself.

Moon of Mars, Phobos by ESA's Mars Express

Another idea suggests they result from Phobos moving through streams of debris thrown up from impacts 6000 km away on the surface of Mars, with each ‘family’ of grooves corresponding to a different impact event.

Mars Express has imaged Phobos from a wide range of distances, but will make its closest flyby yet on 29 December 2013, at just 45 km above the moon.

Although this is too close to take images, gravity experiments will give insight into the interior structure of Phobos.

For more information about ESA's Mars Express Mission, visit:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum).


samedi 21 décembre 2013

Spacewalkers Remove Degraded Ammonia Pump

ISS - Expedition 38 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Dec. 21, 2013

Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28 minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool.

NASA Begins Series of Spacewalks to Fix Coolant Pump on ISS

During Saturday’s spacewalk, the two astronauts focused on removing a degraded pump module from Loop A of the station’s external Active Thermal Control System. That pump module encountered a problem Dec. 11 when an internal valve stuck in an incorrect position, causing temperatures in the station’s cooling lines to drop. On Monday, Mastracchio and Hopkins will venture outside the station again to begin the installation of a replacement pump module. If necessary a third spacewalk would occur on Christmas day to finalize the installation.

Image above: Astronaut Rick Mastracchio works outside the International Space Station during the first of a series of spacewalks to replace a degraded ammonia pump module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

After exiting the Quest airlock, Hopkins made his way out to Saturday’s worksite at center of the Starboard 1 truss segment. Mastracchio meanwhile attached himself to a foot restraint at the end of the station’s 57-foot robotic arm so that Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata, the robotics operator for the spacewalks, could fly Mastracchio to the worksite and position him for his various tasks.

The two spacewalkers first spent some time demating four ammonia fluid line “quick disconnects” from the pump module.

Once the four fluid lines were disconnected, Mastracchio and Hopkins worked to attach the fluid lines to a pump module jumper box, which allows the ammonia to reach the system’s plumbing in the ammonia and nitrogen tanks to keep it in a liquid state.

Image above: Spacewalker Rick Mastracchio works to disconnect the fluid lines from the degraded pump module in this view from the NASA astronaut's helmet camera. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Afterward the spacewalkers installed a generic thermal cover over the pump module jumper and ammonia fluid lines.

With the spacewalk proceeding well ahead of schedule, Mission Control in Houston informed Mastracchio and Hopkins that they could press ahead with the first task originally planned for Monday’s spacewalk –removing the degraded pump module from the starboard truss and attaching it to a stowage location on the Payload Orbital Replacement Unit Accommodation (POA) on the station’s railcar, or Mobile Base System.

While Hopkins set up the POA and an adjustable grapple fixture, Mastracchio removed the five electrical connectors from the pump module and unfastened the module from the truss.

Image above: Astronaut Rick Mastracchio holds the degraded pump module while the International Space Station's robotic arm guides the module to a grapple fixture. Image Credit: NASA TV.

With Mastracchio holding the 780-pound pump while he was attached to the end of the robotic arm, Wakata guided the arm to attach the module to the grapple fixture and activated the snares to hold it in place.

Mastracchio now holds 43 hours and 58 minutes of spacewalking time during seven spacewalks, and Hopkins now holds 5 hours and 28 minutes during one spacewalk.

Saturday’s spacewalk was the 175th in support of space station assembly and maintenance.

For more information about the Space Station (ISS), visit:

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


vendredi 20 décembre 2013

Curiosity Team Upgrades Software, Checks Wheel Wear

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Dec. 20, 2013

Rocky Mars Ground Where Curiosity Has Been Driving

Image above: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity captured this 360-degree view using its Navigation Camera (Navcam) after a 17-foot (5.3 meter) drive on 477th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Dec. 8, 2013). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The team operating NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has completed a software upgrade on the vehicle and is next planning a check of wear and tear on the rover's wheels.

"Curiosity is now operating on version 11 of its flight software," said Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, project manager for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory Project, which operates Curiosity.

Self-Portrait by Curiosity Rover Arm Camera square. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the third upgrade version since Curiosity's landing on Mars16 months ago. Completing the switch from version 10 took about a week.  An earlier switch to version 11 prompted an unintended reboot on Nov. 7 and a return to version 10, but the latest transition went smoothly.

These upgrades allow continued advances in the rover's capabilities. For example, version 11 brings expanded capability for using the Curiosity's robotic arm while the vehicle is on slopes. It also improves flexibility for storing information overnight to use in resuming autonomous driving on a second day.

An upcoming activity will be driving to a relatively smooth patch of ground to take a set of images of Curiosity's aluminum wheels, using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover's arm. 

Left-Front Wheel of Curiosity Rover, Approaching Three Miles

Image above: The left-front wheel of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows dents and holes in this image taken during the 469th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Nov. 30, 2013). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

"We want to take a full inventory of the condition of the wheels," Erickson said. "Dents and holes were anticipated, but the amount of wear appears to have accelerated in the past month or so. It appears to be correlated with driving over rougher terrain. The wheels can sustain significant damage without impairing the rover's ability to drive. However, we would like to understand the impact that this terrain type has on the wheels, to help with planning future drives."

Curiosity's recent driving has crossed an area that has numerous sharp rocks embedded in the ground.  Routes to future destinations for the mission may be charted to lessen the amount of travel over such rough terrain, compared to smoother ground nearby.

Rocky Mars Ground Where Curiosity Has Been Driving (Stereo)

Image above: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity captured this stereo view using its Navigation Camera (Navcam) after a 17-foot (5.3 meter) drive on 477th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Dec. 8, 2013). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity inside Gale Crater to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions.  JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Curiosity is online at and . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: and on Twitter at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Guy Webster.


Long March 3B/E rocket launch the Bolivian Tupac Katari satellite

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec. 20, 2013

Long March 3B/E launch

A Chinese Long March 3B/E launched the the TKSat-1 satellite for Bolivia on Friday. The launch took place at 16:42 UTC (17:02 GMT / 12:02 p.m. EST) from the LC2 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province.

TKSat-1, also known by Tupac Katari, is the result of an agreement signed on December 13, 2010, by the China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) and the Bolivia Aerospace Bureau.

With 30 transponders on board (26 Ku-band, 2 C-band and 2 Ka-band), the Tupak Katari satellite is designed for a 15 year mission duration.

Tupak Katari satellite

Tupak Katari will begin orbit operations at 87.2 degrees West longitude in March 2014.

The satellite’s launch mass was 5,100 kg, with 30 transponders, four of which will be used for TV transmission only and the rest for transmission and reception. The satellite will also service Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, North of Chile and Argentina, and the East of Brazil.

The spacecraft is the first communications satellite of Bolivia. It will not only provide communications and broadcasting services to the whole territory of Bolivia and the surrounding areas, but also facilitate the development of civil projects like remote education and telemedicine.

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Images, Text, Credits: CASC / Xinhua.