vendredi 25 décembre 2015

An astronaut erroneously called by phone a granny on Earth

ISS - Expedition 46 Mission patch.

December 25, 2015

Astronaut Tim Peake, in six-month mission in space, misadventures with phone calls to the Earth.

British astronaut Tim Peake The currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), apologized Friday from a lady he called in error (wrong number) from space by asking "Hello, is this planet Earth?".

Tim Peake twit screen capture

"It was not a hoax, just a wrong number," he said on Twitter. "I would like to apologize to the lady that I just called by mistake by asking "Hello, is this planet Earth?", he added.

Tim Peake twit screen capture

This is not the first time that "Major Tim", who joined the ISS on December 15 for a six-month mission, misadventures with phone calls to the Earth. On Monday, he told how the phone rang in the void when he tried to reach his parents Nigel and Angela. He left them a message on their answering machine.

A first for Columbia

Astronaut Tim Peake

Tim Peake, 43, is subject to maximum attention in the UK where the media report his every move in space. I must say it is the first Briton to travel to the ISS and only the second in the space after Helen Sharman in 1991.

He took off on December 15 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, along with American Tim Kopra and the Russian Yuri Malenchenko captain. The three men had to manually dock to the ISS because of a technical problem.

Related links:

Astronaut Tim Peake on Twitter:

Principia mission:

Principia in UK:

NASA One-year mission:

To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Tim Peake/Wikipedia/Twitter/NXP/AFP/Translation & screen captures: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Season's Greetings,

Radar Images of a Christmas-Eve Asteroid: An Early Gift for Astronomers

Asteroid Watch logo.

Dec. 25, 2015

Images above: These images of an asteroid that is at least 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) long were taken on Dec. 17, 2015, (left) and Dec. 22 (right) by scientists using NASA's 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. This asteroid, named 2003 SD2020, will safely fly past Earth on Thursday, Dec. 24, at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). On Dec. 17, it was about 7.3 million miles (12 million kilometers) from Earth. By Dec. 22, it was closing in on its Christmas Eve flyby distance. Images Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR.

Asteroid 2003 SD220 safely fly past Earth on Dec. 24 at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have generated the highest-resolution images to date of this asteroid using the Deep Space Network's 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at Goldstone, California. The radar images were acquired between Dec. 17 and Dec. 22, when the distance to this near-Earth object (NEO) was narrowing from 7.3 million miles (12 million kilometers) to almost the flyby distance.

"The radar images data suggest that asteroid 2003 SD220 is highly elongated and at least 3,600 feet [1,100 meters] in length," said Lance Benner of JPL, who leads NASA's asteroid radar research program. "The data acquired during this pass of the asteroid will help us plan for radar imaging during its upcoming closer approach in 2018."

Three years from now, the asteroid will safely fly past Earth again, but even closer, at a distance of 1.8 million miles (2.8 million kilometers). The 2018 flyby will be the closest the asteroid will get to Earth until 2070, when it is expected to safely fly past our planet at a distance of about 1.7 million miles (2.7 million kilometers).

"There is no cause for concern over the upcoming flyby of asteroid 2003 SD220 this Christmas Eve," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for NEO Studies at JPL. "The closest this object will come to Santa and his eight tiny reindeer is about 28 times the distance between Earth and the moon."

Radar has been used to observe hundreds of asteroids. When these primitive denizens of the solar system pass relatively close to Earth, radar is a powerful technique for studying their sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for improving the calculation of their orbits.

JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program within the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/DC Agle/Tony Greicius.

Season's Greetings,

jeudi 24 décembre 2015

ROSCOSMOS: Proton-M with the Express-AMU1 was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome



 Proton-M carrying Express-AMU1 launch

December 25, 2015 at 00:31 MSK (Moscow Time)launch vehicle (LV) Proton-M with the upper stage Briz-M and telecommunications spacecraft Express-AMU1 successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome platform №200.

Starting performed by specialists and enterprises of Roskosmos space industry of Russia. 10 minutes after the start of the rocket, the upper stage and spacecraft cleanly separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle and entered the calculated orbit.

Launch of space rocket Proton-M with the spacecraft Express AMU1

Further injection into the target orbit carried by the upper stage Breeze-M. The total duration of excretion from the start of the launcher before separation of the spacecraft, will be 9 hours and 12 minutes, the separation of spacecraft Express-AMU1 scheduled for 9:43 MSK December 25, 2015.

The launch was the seventh success since the beginning of 2015 with the launch of a space rocket Proton-M, and 409 for all lёtnuyu its history since 1965.

 Express AMU1 satellite

The spacecraft made by order of subordinate Federal Communications Agency of FSUE Russian Satellite Communications. The device is designed for direct broadcasting and broadband data in the European part of the Russian Federation, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. Spacecraft AMU1 Express will be placed in geostationary orbit at 36 degrees East.  Lifetime of the device is 15 years.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ROSCOSMOS TV/Airbus/Translation: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Merry Christmas, best regards, (Roland)

mardi 22 décembre 2015

Space Station Receives New Space Tool to Help Locate Ammonia Leaks

ISS - International Space station patch.

Dec. 22, 2015

Nobody wants a spacecraft to spring a leak – but if it happens, the best thing you can do is locate and fix it, fast. That’s why NASA launched the International Space Station (ISS) Robotic External Leak Locator (IRELL), a new tool that could help mission operators detect the location of an external leak and rapidly confirm a successful repair.

Image above: The IRELL tool could help mission operators sniff out and locate potential leaks that might occur on the space station thermal control system. Image Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn.

The IRELL launched to the space station aboard the fourth Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services Flight (CRS-4). The tool will be put through a series of tests to evaluate its performance and determine its capabilities as a leak locator for the orbiting space laboratory.

If IRELL’s concept is proven successful, the robotic tool could potentially greatly reduce the time that astronauts spend on spacewalks finding and repairing external leaks on the ISS.  Future versions of IRELL could also potentially support other programs and vehicles operating in low Earth orbit and beyond.

Helping the ISS Operate Optimally

Just as coolant in your car cools its engine, ammonia is circulated through a huge system of pumps, reservoirs and radiators on the space station to cool all of its complex life support systems, spacecraft equipment and science experiments. The coolant system contains thousands of feet of tubing and hundreds of joints. Throughout its lifetime, this system has experienced tens of thousands of thermal cycles through each orbital night and day and the normal wear and tear of 15 years in service. The station also has to contend with micrometeoroids: tiny objects whizzing through space at speeds that can easily exceed 20,000 mph – and that can cause unwanted, microscopic holes in spacecraft equipment.

Image above: Engineers from the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center prepare the IRELL for flight. Image Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn.

Over time, there have been intermittent component failures and leaks in the ammonia cooling loop. Astronauts have undertaken spacewalks to help diagnose, troubleshoot and replace components within the complex active thermal control system. Without a way to robotically locate the leak with high accuracy, astronauts have used valuable spacewalk time to inspect and isolate a potential leak site before addressing the problem at hand.

Working together, the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) developed the IRELL for the ISS Program to allow ground-based operators to robotically locate leaks so astronauts could dedicate their time and energy to other duties on-orbit.

“This was a fantastic collaborative effort with Johnson,” says Benjamin Reed, deputy project manager of SSCO. “Their team knows the ISS structure inside and out. Every step of the way, we co-designed the IRELL so that it would be precisely ‘the right tool for the job.’”

How the IRELL Works

Two instruments working in sync give the IRELL its ammonia-detecting superpowers. The first sensor, explains Dino Rossetti, the SSCO IRELL Instrument Integration Lead, is a small mass spectrometer. Designed for use in a vacuum, it measures the atomic masses of the molecules present to create a “mass spectrum” reading. From this spectrum, analysts can distinguish between gases that are naturally present in the orbital environment versus ammonia, which could only be coming from the ISS itself. Far more sensitive than a human nose, the instrument can detect ammonia from a football field’s length away.

Image above: Mission Control room at Johnson Space Center from which Dextre operations are commanded. Image Credit: NASA.

The second instrument is an ion vacuum pressure gauge. True to its name, this device measures total pressure in space. It cannot distinguish between different gas molecules, but it can sniff for a large leak up close and locate a leak’s position to within a few inches. If the mass spectrometer is overcome by a sizeable leak, the gauge also offers an alternate method of detection.

After IRELL’s arrival at ISS, the Canadian Dextre robot – completely controlled by ground operators at Johnson – will pick up the tool for an initial series of tests. During subsequent operations, Dextre will point the IRELL toward the space station’s cooling lines while a NASA team monitors from Earth. That’s when the game of “Hot and Cold” begins. When the tool is pointed at a leak, the tool’s signal goes up. The closer the tool comes to the leak source, the higher the reading becomes. When not in use, the instrument will be stored within the ISS.

A Tale of Two Centers

As they locked down the tool’s technical design, the combined Goddard and Johnson teams focused on delivering IRELL quickly and cost-efficiently.

“The challenge,” said Rossetti, “was to identify and incorporate the right sensors and ruggedize the entire instrument, in a cost effective way, for the space environment.”

They also wanted to put the IRELL on a delivery truck 18 months after the designers’ pens touched paper – an incredibly tight timeline for a brand new space tool.

Image above: NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy (right) and Tom Marshburn are seen on a 2013 spacewalk to inspect and replace a pump controller box on the International Space Station's far port truss (P6) leaking ammonia coolant. Image Credit: NASA.

To accelerate the process, the team used an off-the-shelf mass spectrometer called a “residual gas analyzer” developed by Stanford Research Systems. Working with NASA, the company modified their existing design for use in IRELL’s mass spectrometer so NASA wouldn’t have to start from scratch. The ion gauge was also an off-the-shelf device that the team repackaged to fit within the instrument housing.

Through every phase of development, the IRELL project drew heavily from the combined NASA team experience. With a long history of cutting-edge mission planning and operations, the Johnson team is responsible for keeping the immense, orbiting research asset operating safely and reliably for global use. Robotic tools like the IRELL can help them to monitor the space station’s vital signs and prescribe efficient maintenance.

Image above: Controlled by a team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), the Canadian Space Agency’s Dextre robot will point IRELL toward the station’s cooling lines. A NASA ground team will monitor the signals from Earth. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Center.

Jesse Buffington, the IRELL project manager at JSC, explained that, “The IRELL is a critical capability that will mitigate risk for ISS and will also establish a capability that future extended duration exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit will benefit from.”

In creating the IRELL, SSCO leveraged the experience they gained building and executing the multi-phased Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM), an experiment on the space station that is successfully demonstrating robotic tools, technologies and techniques to service spacecraft that were not designed for in-flight repair. Prior to SSCO’s formation in 2009, its core team spent 26 years building more than 300 tools for astronauts to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

“It is very exciting,” said Buffington, “to see the talent and dedication of so many people come together across NASA and our International Partners to create new tools and techniques like the Leak Locator. This new capability will be there to help ensure the ISS can safely operate well into the next decade and point the way for future spacecraft addressing similar concerns.”

Related links:

Robotic External Leak Locator (IRELL):

Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO):

Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM):

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

Space Station Research and Technology:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Jennifer Harbaugh/GSFC/Peter Sooy.

Best regards,

ISS Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist

ISS - International Space Station logo.

December 22, 2015

The International Space Station welcomed three new crew members this week who immediately set to work growing plants in space and conducting science investigations on their own bodies. Data collected from both will not only provide important understanding when planning long-duration missions into our solar system, but could help with plant and human health on Earth.

A Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, Dec. 15, carrying Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake. The three will spend the next six months living and working on board the orbiting facility.

Peake started his mission on the station by joining NASA astronaut Scott Kelly in caring for the Zinnia flower seedlings in the Veggie facility as part of the Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) investigation. The two refilled the plant pillows with water to keep the plants healthy, but are varying the amount of water replaced in the pillows based on the status of each individual plant.

Image above: Zinnia flowers are starting to grow in the International Space Station's Veggie facility as part of the VEG-01 investigation attempting to grow plants in the form of a growth chamber and planting "pillows,” which provide nutrients for the root system in orbit. These plants appear larger than their ground-based counterparts and scientists expect buds to form on the larger plants soon. Image Credits: NASA.

Veggie provides lighting and nutrient supply for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting "pillows,” which provide nutrients for the root system. It supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for educational outreach, fresh food and even recreation for crew members on long-duration missions. The Veg-01 investigation is used to assess on-orbit function and performance of the Veggie facility, focusing on the growth and development of seedlings in the spaceflight environment and the composition of microbial flora on the plants and the facility. Previously, the facility has grown lettuce -- which was consumed by the crew earlier this year -- and now investigators are attempting to grow Zinnia flowers. Understanding how flowering plants grow in microgravity can be applied to growing other edible flowering plants, such as tomatoes.

Image above: The Soyuz spacecraft carrying three new crew members to the International Space Station docked with the orbiting laboratory on Dec. 15. This image taken from the station shows the newly docked Soyuz in the center with a Progress resupply vehicle already attached to the station in the upper right. Image Credit: NASA.

The Veggie pillow concept is a low mass, low maintenance, modular system that requires no additional energy beyond a special light to help plant growth. Data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources, such as water, more efficiently.

While astronauts work to grow healthy plants, they are also trying to keep their own blood healthy. It is believed that microgravity, like long-duration bed rest on Earth, has a negative effect on astronaut bone marrow and the blood cells that are produced there. The extent of this effect and recovery from it are of interest to space research and healthcare providers on Earth.

Peake and Kelly began setup for the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) MARROW study into the effect of microgravity on human bone marrow. Fat cells and blood-producing cells share the same space in bone marrow. During prolonged bed rest on Earth, the fat cells grow at the expense of blood-producing cells. Scientists want to learn if changes in bone marrow fat in space can help explain blood changes for crew members.

Image above: ESA astronaut Tim Peake tweeted a picture of his first blood draw completed in space. The sample was taken as part of the MARROW investigation. Image Credits: Tim Peake on Twitter.

MARROW measures fat changes in the bone marrow before, and after exposure to microgravity. In addition, this investigation measures specific changes of red and white blood cell functions. Bone marrow fat is measured using magnetic resonance. Red blood cell function is measured with a breath sample analyzed with a gas chromatograph, and white blood cell function is studied through their genetic expression. Peake completed his air (breath and ambient air) and blood sampling sessions. This research produces the first data on bone marrow fat changes in microgravity, a vital organ responsible for the production of all red and white blood cells. Data from this study may lead to treatments that would enable safe human space exploration and better recovery from prolonged bed rest on Earth.

The fourth Orbital ATK resupply mission reaching the space station on Dec. 9 brought a new series of NanoRacks Module investigations -- small, encapsulated studies that are added to a rack of investigations on the station. The rack provides data transfer, power and water based on the needs of the individual investigation. The five modules installed this week contain a range of experiments developed by students at Valley Christian School in San Jose, California, and include investigations in to water purification, protein crystallization in space, plant inoculation for disease protection (Plant Inoculum), and background radiation and magnetic fields in microgravity.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly installed NanoRacks modules that arrived on the fourth Orbital ATK resupply mission in a NanoRacks Platform-2 locker in the Japanese Exploration Module (JEM). Animation Credit: NASA.

One of these investigations could impact the design of future spacecraft. The High Temperature Dispersion in Microgravity study examines how heat dissipates in space, examining various methods of accelerating heat dissipation. Thermal control is difficult in the vacuum environment of space, where temperatures can fluctuate several hundred degrees between sunlight and shade and where radiation is the only way to transfer heat. There is no natural convection in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, so fans are necessary to move heat and air around. This investigation uses resistors to heat up liquid crystal paper and measures temperatures according to the paper’s color change. Research data could change the development of future cooling and thermal regulation systems for next-generation spacecraft as students get a hands-on education about thermodynamics and the nation's space program.

Other investigations and facilities with significant activity this week included Cardio-Ox, DOSIS-3D, OASIS, MELFI, EML, and EXPRESS Racks.

Progress made on human research investigations this week included Cognition, Fine Motor Skills, Habitability, Journals, and Space Headaches.

Related links:

Veggie hardware validation test (Veg-01) investigation:

MARROW study:

High Temperature Dispersion in Microgravity study:






For more information about ISS the space laboratory, visit:

Space Station Research and Technology:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist/Jennifer Harbaugh.

Best regards,

Lowdown on Ceres: Images From Dawn's Closest Orbit

NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Dec. 22, 2015

Image above: This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn's low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. 3-D versions of two of these views are also available.

Dawn took these images of the southern hemisphere of Ceres on Dec. 10, at an approximate altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers), which is its lowest-ever orbital altitude. Dawn will remain at this altitude for the rest of its mission, and indefinitely afterward. The resolution of the new images is about 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel.

Image above: This 3-D image, best viewed with red-blue glasses, shows a portion of Ceres' southern hemisphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Among the striking views is a chain of craters called Gerber Catena, located just west of the large crater Urvara. Troughs are common on larger planetary bodies, caused by contraction, impact stresses and the loading of the crust by large mountains -- Olympus Mons on Mars is one example. The fracturing found all across Ceres' surface indicates that similar processes may have occurred there, despite its smaller size (the average diameter of Ceres is 584 miles, or 940 kilometers). Many of the troughs and grooves on Ceres were likely formed as a result of impacts, but some appear to be tectonic, reflecting internal stresses that broke the crust.

"Why they are so prominent is not yet understood, but they are probably related to the complex crustal structure of Ceres," said Paul Schenk, a Dawn science team member at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston.

Image above: This part of Ceres, near the south pole, has such long shadows because, from the perspective of this location, the sun is near the horizon. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

The images were taken as part of a test of Dawn's backup framing camera. The primary framing camera, which is essentially identical, began its imaging campaign at this lowest orbit on Dec. 16. Both cameras are healthy.

Dawn's other instruments also began their intense period of observations this month. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer will help identify minerals by looking at how various wavelengths of light are reflected by the surface of Ceres. The gamma ray and neutron detector is also active. By measuring the energies and numbers of gamma rays and neutrons, two components of nuclear radiation, it will help scientists determine the abundances of some elements on Ceres.

Image above: This view of Ceres, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on December 10, shows an area in the southern mid-latitudes of the dwarf planet. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Earlier in December, Dawn science team members revealed that the bright material found in such notable craters as Occator is consistent with salt -- and proposed that a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite may be present. A different group of Dawn scientists found that Ceres also contains ammoniated clays. Because ammonia is abundant in the outer solar system, this finding suggests that Ceres could have formed in the vicinity of Neptune and migrated inward, or formed in place with material that migrated in from the outer solar system.

"As we take the highest-resolution data ever from Ceres, we will continue to examine our hypotheses and uncover even more surprises about this mysterious world," said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Image above: Dawn took this image in its low-altitude mapping orbit from an approximate distance of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from Ceres. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Dawn is the first mission to visit a dwarf planet, and the first mission outside the Earth-moon system to orbit two distinct solar system targets. It orbited protoplanet Vesta for 14 months in 2011 and 2012, and arrived at Ceres on March 6, 2015.

Dawn's mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants, visit:

More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches.


lundi 21 décembre 2015

Falcon 9 OrbComm OG2 launch & Successful First Rocket Landing

SpaceX - ORBICOMM-2 Mission logo.

December 21, 2015

Image above: First OG1 Mission lift off from SpaceX's launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (archive image).

On December 21, 2015 at 8:10pm ET, a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 rocket successfully launched 11 communications satellites for Orbcomm. This marks the company's return to flight after a faulty strut caused the June 28 explosion of the CRS-7 Falcon 9.

Falcon 9 OrbComm OG2 launch & Successful First Rocket Landing

This launch was the 20th overall launch of the Falcon 9 family. Another successful event that occurred during this flight was the boostback of the first stage and its eventual landing on Landing Complex 1 at Cape Canaveral.

First look at our massive new Landing Zone 1

The launch is part of ORBCOMM's second and final OG2 Mission and will lift off from SpaceX's launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This mission also marks the first time SpaceX attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land. The landing orockets so they can be re-used was a secondary test objective. Has much broader implications for the future of space travel. If Elon Musk and Co. can develop reusable rockets, it’ll drastically drive down the cost of launching stuff into orbit and usher in a new era for space travel.
Successful First Falcon 9 rocket landing

Right now, getting stuff up into space is ridiculously expensive. It varies from launch to launch, but costs typically range from about $5,000 to $15,000 per pound. That makes putting things into orbit prohibitively expensive for smaller companies that don’t have deep pockets. If SpaceX can figure out this reusable rocket thing though, it’ll lower the cost of entry for anyone and everyone looking to get something into space. The proverbial floodgates will be open, and in a few years time, space will be like the wild west — filled with opportunities for anyone brave or enterprising enough to go there.

ORBCOMM satellite

SpaceX has been working on reusable rockets for years now, and while it hasn’t managed to safely bring one back down from orbit quite yet, it’s getting closer and closer with each attempt. Musk and Co. have experienced their fair share of setbacks, but now the company is back with a new-and-improved Falcon 9 rocket that finally stick the landing.

For more information, visit and

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Günter Soace Page/ Aerospace.


Cassini Completes Final Close Enceladus Flyby

NASA - Cassini International logo.

Dec. 21, 2015

Enceladus, Old and New

Enceladus dramatically displays the contrast between its older and newer terrain.

Newer surfaces (on the left in the image) will not have had time to accumulate craters. But as material sits exposed on the surface, impact scars build up, as in the more heavily cratered area on the top and right. Scientists can use this, along with estimates of how frequently impacts happen, to determine ages of surfaces of solid planets and of moons like Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across).

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn side of Enceladus. North on Enceladus is up and rotated 36 degrees to the right. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 18, 2015.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 85,000 miles (137,000 kilometers) from Enceladus. Image scale is 2,680 feet (818 meters) per pixel.

Image above: NASA's Cassini spacecraft paused during its final close flyby of Enceladus to focus on the icy moon's craggy, dimly lit limb, with the planet Saturn beyond. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting data and images from the mission's final close flyby of Saturn's active moon Enceladus. Cassini passed Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 9:49 a.m. PST (12:49 p.m. EST).

"This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. "While we're sad to have the close flybys behind us, we've placed the capstone on an incredible decade of investigating one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system."

Cassini will continue to monitor activity on Enceladus from a distance, through the end of its mission in Sept. 2017. Future encounters will be much farther away -- at closest, more than four times farther than this latest encounter.

This was the 22nd Enceladus encounter of Cassini's mission. The spacecraft's discovery of geologic activity there, not long after arriving at Saturn, prompted changes to the mission's flight plan to maximize the number and quality of flybys of the icy moon.

Image above: During its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view featuring the nearly parallel furrows and ridges of the feature named Samarkand Sulci. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

"We bid a poignant goodbye to our close views of this amazing icy world," said Linda Spilker, the mission's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Cassini has made so many breathtaking discoveries about Enceladus, yet so much more remains to be done to answer that pivotal question, 'Does this tiny ocean world harbor life?'"

After revealing Enceladus' surprising geologic activity in 2005, Cassini made a series of discoveries about the material gushing from warm fractures near its south pole. Scientists announced strong evidence for a regional subsurface sea in 2014, revising their understanding in 2015 to confirm that the moon hosts a global ocean beneath its icy crust.

In addition to the processed images, unprocessed, or "raw," images appear on the Cassini mission website at:

Additional information and multimedia products for Cassini's final Enceladus flybys are available at:

Image above: NASA's Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn's moon Enceladus, capturing this view of two different terrain types. A region of older terrain covered in craters that have been modified by geological processes is seen at right, while at left is a province of relatively craterless, and presumably more youthful, wrinkled terrain. Cassini acquired the view during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the 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 operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit or . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at and ESA's website:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Preston Dyches/Space Science Institute/Tony Greicius.

Best regards,

Chandra Finds Remarkable Galactic Ribbon Unfurled

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Dec. 21, 2015

An extraordinary ribbon of hot gas trailing behind a galaxy like a tail has been discovered using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This ribbon, or X-ray tail, is likely due to gas stripped from the galaxy as it moves through a vast cloud of hot intergalactic gas. With a length of at least 250,000 light years, it is likely the largest such tail ever detected.  In this new composite image, X-rays from Chandra (blue) have been combined with data in visible light from the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (yellow) in the Canary Islands, Spain.

The tail is located in the galaxy cluster Zwicky 8338, which is almost 700 million light years from Earth. The length of the tail is more than twice the diameter of the entire Milky Way galaxy. The tail contains gas at temperatures of about ten million degrees, about twenty million degrees cooler than the intergalactic gas, but still hot enough to glow brightly in X-rays that Chandra can detect.

The researchers think the tail was created as a galaxy known as CGCG254-021, or perhaps a group of galaxies dominated by this large galaxy, plowed through the hot gas in Zwicky 8338. The pressure exerted by this rapid motion caused gas to be stripped away from the galaxy.

In images from Chandra and the NSF's Karl Jansky Very Large Array (not shown in composite), the galaxy CGCG254-021 appears to be moving towards the bottom of the image with the tail following behind. There is a significant gap between the X-ray tail and the galaxy, the largest ever seen. The significant separation between the galaxy and the tail might be evidence that the gas has been completely stripped off the galaxy.

Astronomers were also able to learn more about the interactions of the system by carefully examining the properties of the galaxy and its tail. The tail has a brighter spot, referred to as its “head”. Behind this head is the tail of diffuse X-ray emission. The gas in the head may be cooler and richer in elements heavier than helium than the rest of the tail. In front of the head there are hints of a bow shock, similar to a shock wave formed by a supersonic plane and in front of the bow shock is the galaxy CGCG254-021.

Artist's view of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image Credit: NASA

Independent research involving observations at infrared wavelengths indicates that CGCG254-021 has the highest mass of all galaxies in Zwicky 8338. The infrared observations, together with models for how galaxies evolve, also imply that among the galaxies in the cluster, CGCG254-021 had by far the highest rate of stars forming in the recent past. However, there is no evidence for new star formation, possibly because gas has been depleted in forming the tail.

The paper describing these results was published in the November 2015 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is also available online. The authors of the paper are Gerrit Schellenberger and Thomas Reiprich from the University of Bonn in Germany. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations. Swift is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Images, Text, Credits:  X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Bonn/G. Schellenberger et al; Optical: INT/Lee Mohon.


Astronauts Make Quick Work of Short Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 46 Mission patch.

December 21, 2015

Spacewalkers Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra ended their spacewalk at 11:01 a.m. EST with the repressurization of the U.S. Quest airlock after accomplishing all objectives. They released brake handles on crew equipment carts on either side of the space station’s mobile transporter rail car so it could be latched in place ahead of Wednesday’s docking of a Russian cargo resupply spacecraft. The ISS Progress 62 resupply mission launched at 3:44 a.m. EST this morning (2:44 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

After quickly completing their primary objective for the spacewalk, Kelly and Kopra tackled several get-ahead tasks. Kelly routed a second pair of cables in preparation for International Docking Adapter installment work to support U.S. commercial crew vehicles, continuing work he began during a November spacewalk. Kopra routed an Ethernet cable that ultimately will connect to a Russian laboratory module. They also retrieved tools that had been in a toolbox on the outside of the station, so they can be used for future work.

Image above: Spacewalkers Scott Kelly and Tim Kopra work to move stalled robotic transporter before moving on to “get-ahead” tasks. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The three-hour and 16-minute spacewalk was the third for Kelly, who is nine months into a yearlong mission and the second for Kopra, who arrived to the station Dec. 15. It was the 191st in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Crew members have now spent a total of 1,195 hours and 20 minutes working outside the orbital laboratory.

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Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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A sparkling quintet

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch / ESA - Herschel Mission patch.

December 21, 2015

Sparkling Stephan’s Quintet

The Stephan’s Quintet of galaxies was discovered by astronomer Édouard Stephan in 1877. At the time, however, he reported the discovery of ‘new nebulae’, as the concept of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way was only formalised in the 1920s.

This image combines observations performed at three different wavelengths, with ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories as well as with ground-based telescopes, to reveal the different components of the five galaxies.

Stephan’s Quintet is one of the most spectacular galactic groups known, but only four galaxies from the originally discovered quintet are physically linked – the other was later discovered to be much closer to us. NGC 7320, the galaxy in the lower part the image, lies about 40 million light-years from us, rather than the 300 million light-years of the others.

One of them is the bright source above NGC 7320 in this view, two are the intertwined galaxies immediately to the right of image centre, and the fourth is the round patch towards the lower-right corner.

Later, it was discovered that an additional galaxy, hidden beyond the left edge of this image, sits at a similar distance to these four galaxies, reinstating the group as a quintet.

By observing these galaxies in infrared light with Herschel – shown in red and yellow – astronomers can trace the glow of cosmic dust. Dust is a minor but crucial ingredient of the interstellar matter in galaxies, which consists mainly of gas and provides the raw material for the birth of new generations of stars.

 Seeking out starburst galaxies

Image above: Looking back on the Universe’s history for a specific patch of the sky observed by Herschel and Keck to reveal many previously unseen starburst galaxies. This graphic shows a representation of the distribution of nearly 300 galaxies in one 1.4 x 1.4 degree field of view. In total, Keck identified 767 galaxies found by Herschel.

One galaxy stands out in the infrared light: the nearby NGC 7320, a spiral galaxy busy building new stars.

Shown in white, the optical light observed from ground-based telescopes reveals the shapes of the four distant galaxies, which exhibit tails and loops of stars and gas. These intricate features are an effect of their mutual gravitational attraction.

The intense dynamical activity of the distant group is also portrayed in the distribution of diffuse hot gas, which shines brightly in X-rays and was detected by XMM-Newton.

Represented in blue, the hot gas appears to sit mostly between the four colliding galaxies. It is likely a mixture of primordial gas predating the formation of the galaxies and intergalactic gas that has been stripped off the galaxies or expelled during their interactions.

A hint of a shockwave from the interaction of these four galaxies is visible as an almost vertical blue structure on the right of the image centre. This structure of hot gas also seems to trace a filament of infrared-bright dust that might have been heated by the shock.

At the top end of the shock, the infrared view reveals stars forming both within and outside the galaxies.

A faint tail of stars, gas and dust extends towards the left, leading to a dwarf galaxy glowing in infrared – the red and yellow object at the tip of the tail.

Further to the left, a dense concentration of hot gas is also visible in blue at the end of the tail, although it is unclear whether it belongs to the galactic group or is a foreground source.

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Images, Text, Credits: ESA/XMM-Newton (X-rays); ESA/Herschel/PACS, SPIRE (infrared); SDSS (optical)/ESA/C. Carreau/C. Casey (University of Hawai'i); COSMOS field: ESA/Herschel/SPIRE/HerMES Key Programme; Hubble images: NASA, ESA.


Supply Ship Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

December 21, 2015

Image above: The Progress 62 (Progress MS-01) on rocket Soyuz-2.1a launches from Kazakhstan on a two-day trip to the International Space Station: Image Credit: NASA TV.

Carrying more than 2.8 tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted ISS Progress 62 cargo craft launched at 3:44 a.m. EST (2:44 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. The Russian cargo craft will make 34 orbits of Earth during the next two days before docking to the orbiting laboratory at 5:31 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Russian Cargo Ship Sets Sail for the International Space Station

Video above: At the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 62 cargo ship launched at 3:44 a.m. Eastern time (2:44 p.m. Baikonur time) on Dec. 21 on a two-day journey to reach the International Space Station. Loaded with 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 46 crew, the Progress reached orbit less than nine minutes after launch for a two-day rendezvous deliberately planned to test upgraded software and telemetry systems. Docking to the Pirs Docking Compartment on the station is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 23. Video Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA TV.

At 8:10 a.m. EST, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA will exit the station’s U.S. Quest airlock to conduct a previously unplanned spacewalk to help move the station’s mobile transporter rail car so it can be latched in place prior to arrival of the Progress spacecraft. NASA TV coverage of the planned three-hour spacewalk will begin at 6:30 a.m.

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NASA Television will provide live coverage of Progress 62’s arrival to the space station’s Pirs docking compartment beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

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Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.


dimanche 20 décembre 2015

Progress M-28M mission completed from orbit and sunk in Pacific

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

December 20, 2015

December 19, 2015, in accordance with the program of the ISS logistics vehicle (THC) Progress M-28M, performing their mission, at 10:35 MSK (Moscow Time) undocked from the International Space Station.

According to the calculations of experts Service ballistics navigation support MCC at 13:42 MSK the boosters of Progress M-28M was included on the brake, then the ship came down from orbit.

(Illustration) Progress-M space cargo

Fall of unburnt structural elements of the cargo ship occurred at 14:28 MSK in unnavigable area of Pacific Ocean.

Progress M-28M was part of the space station to the July 5, 2015. After completing the main task of the delivery of goods necessary for the functioning of the ISS for the flight of the transport ship to the ISS with the help of its engines it was carried out 3 and 1 orbit correction maneuver evasion debris.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/Translation: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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