lundi 31 décembre 2018

Planetary Defense: Tonight begin the Bennu Experiment

NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

Dec. 31, 2018

On Dec. 3, after traveling billions of kilometers from Earth, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached its target, Bennu, and kicked off a nearly two-year, up-close investigation of the asteroid. It will inspect nearly every square inch of this ancient clump of rubble left over from the formation of our solar system. Ultimately, the spacecraft will pick up a sample of pebbles and dust from Bennu's surface and deliver it to Earth in 2023.

Image above: This artist's concept shows the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft contacting the asteroid Bennu with the Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism or TAGSAM. The mission aims to return a sample of Bennu's surface coating to Earth for study as well as return detailed information about the asteroid and it's trajectory. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The spacecraft’s first orbital insertion is scheduled for Dec. 31 (today), and OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until mid-February 2019, when it exits to initiate another series of flybys for the next survey phase. During the first orbital phase, the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid at a range of 0.9 miles (1.4 km) to 1.24 miles (2.0 km) from the center of Bennu — setting new records for the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft and the closest orbit of a planetary body by any spacecraft.

Generations of planetary scientists will get to study pieces of the primitive materials that formed our cosmic neighborhood and to better understand the role asteroids may have played in delivering life-forming compounds to planets and moons.

But it's not just history that the mission to Bennu will help uncover. Scientists studying the rock through OSIRIS-REx's instruments in space will also shape our future. As they collect the most detailed information yet about the forces that move asteroids, experts from NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, who are responsible for detecting potentially hazardous asteroids, will improve their predictions of which ones could be on a crash-course with our planet.

Here is how the OSIRIS-REx mission will support this work:

How scientists predict Bennu's whereabouts

About a third of a mile, or half a kilometer, wide, Bennu is large enough to reach Earth's surface; many smaller space objects, in contrast, burn up in our atmosphere. If it impacted Earth, Bennu would cause widespread damage. Asteroid experts at the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, project that Bennu will come close enough to Earth over the next century to pose a 1 in 2,700 chance of impacting it between 2175 and 2196. Put another way, those odds mean there is a 99.963 percent chance the asteroid will miss the Earth. Even so, astronomers want to know exactly where Bennu is located at all times.

Animation above: This series of images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows Bennu in one full rotation from a distance of around 50 miles (80 km). The spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the thirty-six 2.2-millisecond frames over a period of four hours and 18 minutes. Animation Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona.

Astronomers have estimated Bennu's future trajectory after observing it several times since it was discovered in 1999. They've turned their optical, infrared and radio telescopes toward the asteroid every time it came close enough to Earth, about every six years, to deduce features such as its shape, rotation rate and trajectory.

"We know within a few kilometers where Bennu is right now," said Steven Chesley, senior research scientist at CNEOSand an OSIRIS-REx team member whose job it is to predict Bennu's future trajectory.

Why Bennu's future trajectory predictions get fuzzy

Scientists have estimated Bennu's trajectory around the Sun far into the future. Their predictions are informed by ground observations and mathematical calculations that account for the gravitational nudging of Bennu by the Sun, the Moon, planets and other asteroids, plus non-gravitational factors.

Given these parameters, astronomers can predict the next four exact dates (in September of 2054, 2060, 2080 and 2135) that Bennu will come within 7.5 million kilometers (5 million miles or .05 astronomical units) of Earth. That's close enough that Earth's gravity will slightly bend Bennu's orbital path as it passes by. As a result, the uncertainty about where the asteroid will be each time it loops back around the Sun will grow, causing predictions about Bennu's future orbit to become increasingly hazy after 2060.

In 2060, Bennu will pass Earth at about twice the distance from here to the Moon. But it could pass at any point in a 30-kilometer (19-mile) window of space. A very small difference in position within that window will get magnified enormously in future orbits and make it increasingly hard to predict Bennu's trajectory.

As a result, when this asteroid comes back near Earth in 2080, according to Chesley's calculations, the best window we can get on its whereabouts is 14,000 kilometers (nearly 9,000 miles) wide. By 2135, when Bennu's shifted orbit is expected to bring it closer than the Moon, its flyby window grows wider, to 160,000 kilometers (nearly 100,000 miles). This will be Bennu's closest approach to Earth over the five centuries for which we have reliable calculations.

"Right now, Bennu has the best orbit of any asteroid in our database," Chesley said. "And yet, after that encounter in 2135, we really can't say exactly where it is headed."

Animation above: This picture shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s view of Bennu during the final phase of its journey to the asteroid. From Aug. 17 through Nov. 27 the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera imaged Bennu almost daily as the spacecraft traveled 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km) toward the asteroid. The final images were obtained from a distance of around 40 miles (65 km). During this period, OSIRIS-REx completed four maneuvers slowing the spacecraft’s velocity from approximately 1,100 mph (491 m/sec) to 0.10 mph (0.04 m/sec) relative to Bennu, which resulted in the slower approach speed at the end of the video. Animation Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona.

There's another phenomenon nudging Bennu's orbit and muddying future impact projections. It's called the Yarkovsky effect. Having nothing to do with gravity, the Yarkovsky effect sways Bennu's orbit because of heat from the Sun.

"There are a lot of factors that might affect the predictability of Bennu's trajectory in the future, but most of them are relatively small," says William Bottke, an asteroid expert at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and a participating scientist on the OSIRIS-REx mission. "The one that's most sizeable is Yarkvovsky."

This heat nudge was named after the Polish civil engineer who first described it in 1901: Ivan Osipovich Yarkovsky. He suggested thatsunlight warms one side of a small, dark asteroid and some hours later the heat radiates away as the asteroid rotates its hot side into cold darkness. This thrusts the rock pile a bit, either toward the Sun or away from it, depending on the direction of its rotation.

In Bennu's case, astronomers have calculated that the Yarkovsky effect has shifted its orbit about 284 meters (0.18 miles) per year toward the Sunsince 1999. In fact, it helped deliver Bennu to our part of the solar system, in the first place, from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter over billions of years. Now, Yarkovsky is complicating our efforts to make predictions about Bennu's path relative to Earth.

Getting face-to-face with the asteroid will help

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will use its suite of instruments to transmit radio tracking signals and capture optical images of Bennu that will help NASA scientists determine its precise position in the solar system and its exact orbital path. Combined with existing, ground-based observations, the space measurements will help clarify how Bennu's orbit is changing over time.

Additionally, astronomers will get to test their understanding of the Yarkovksy effect on a real-life asteroid for the first time. They will instruct the spacecraft to follow Bennu in its orbit about the Sun for about two years to see whether it's moving along an expected path based on gravity and Yarkovsky theories. Any differences between the predictions and reality could be used to refine models of the Yarkovsky effect.

But even more significant to understanding Yarkovsky better will be the thermal measurements of Bennu. During its mission, OSIRIS-REx will track how much solar heat radiates off the asteroid, and where on the surface it's coming from—data that will help confirm and refine calculations of the Yarkovsky effect on asteroids.

The spacecraft also will address some open questions about the Yarkovsky theory. One of them, said Chesley, is how do boulders and craters on the surface of an asteroid change the way photons scatter off of it as it cools, carrying away momentum from the hotter side and thereby nudging the asteroid in the opposite direction? OSIRIS-REx will help scientists understand by mapping the rockiness of Bennu's surface.

"We know surface roughness is going to affect the Yarkovsky effect; we have models" said Chesley. "But the models are speculative. No one has been able to test them."

After the OSIRIS-REx mission, Chesley said, NASA's trajectory projections for Bennu will be about 60 times better than they are now.

Related article:

NASA’s Newly Arrived OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Already Discovers Water on Asteroid

Related links:

Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS):

OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer):

Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel/Tricia Talbert/JPL/DC Agle/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Lonnie Shekhtman.

Happy New Year,

Hubble Paved the Way for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Ultima Thule

NASA -  New Horizons Mission patch.

December 31, 2018

New Year's Ultima Thule encounter

Years before a team of researchers proposed a mission called New Horizons to explore the dwarf planet Pluto, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope had already made initial observations of the world at the dim outer fringes of our celestial neighborhood. Over many years, Hubble's pioneering observations repeatedly accomplished what ground-based telescopes could not — imaging features on Pluto's surface, finding new Plutonian moons, and tracking down a destination to visit after Pluto — an even tinier, icy object in a vast region of small worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.

Image above: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has explored the universe since the early 1990s, gathering visible, near-ultraviolet, and near-infrared imagery and spectra. From its location in space, the telescope avoids the distortion produced by Earth's atmosphere, enabling it to take images in higher resolutions at greater distances than possible with ground-based telescopes. Image Credit: NASA.

Thus began a decades-long relationship between Hubble and NASA's New Horizons mission: A legendary space-based telescope and a pioneering space probe hurtling through space at about 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour.

In 1990, Hubble produced the first image that illuminated Pluto and its large moon Charon. After Hubble's optical repair in 1993, scientists captured even sharper images. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, led the imaging projects while co-investigator Marc Buie, now at SwRI Boulder but then at Lowell Observatory where Pluto was discovered, led the data analysis.

Where is New Horizons? Image Credit: JHUAPL

"We got eight pixels of Pluto in 1994. Each pixel represented more than 150 square miles of Pluto's surface. Fast forward to 2002 and we got even fewer pixels per image. We had to wring every bit of information from each pixel possible," Buie said. "It was a time- and computer-intensive process, but we were able to create the first maps of Pluto's surface, and they were truly spectacular for their time."

Those crude but valuable maps provided the best evidence that Pluto was not simply a homogenous ball of ices, but has a complex, variegated surface — a promising aspect for close-up inspection by a visiting spacecraft. Hubble's cameras revealed nearly a dozen distinctive bright features, none of which had ever been seen before, including a "ragged" northern polar cap bisected by a dark strip, a puzzling high-contrast bright spot seen rotating with the planet, a cluster of dark spots, and a bright linear marking. That bright spot feature, unusually rich in carbon monoxide frost, became the prime target for New Horizons to examine up close after NASA funded the mission in 2002.

Image above: This is the first detection of Ultima Thule using the highest resolution mode of the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. Three separate images, each with an exposure time of 0.5 seconds, were combined to produce the image. All three images were taken on Dec. 24, when Ultima was 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun and 6.3 million miles (10 million kilometers) from the New Horizons spacecraft.(Click for full caption). Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Although Charon was discovered in 1978 using ground-based telescopes, Hubble detected all four of Pluto's other moons: Nix and Hydra in 2005, Kerberos in 2011, and Styx in 2012. These moons were spotted in the Hubble images by New Horizons team members, most notably Project Scientist Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and co-investigator Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. By the time the latter two moons were discovered, New Horizons was in the final years of its almost decade-long, 3-billion-mile sprint from Earth to Pluto.

Image above: Illustration of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69 – nicknamed “Ultima Thule” – a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles beyond Pluto. Set for New Year’s 2019, New Horizons’ exploration of Ultima will be the farthest space probe flyby in history. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

The discovery of these four small satellites was critical to overall Pluto flyby planning by identifying potential hazards, verifying the optimal spacecraft trajectory, and establishing the need for time to include observations of them as part of the flyby observing sequence. Without Hubble, New Horizons would have discovered these moons only a few months before the encounter — too late to effectively plan for their detailed study. To examine the possibility for an extended mission into the Kuiper Belt, the New Horizons team used Hubble in 2014 to conduct a needle-in-a-haystack search for a suitable Kuiper Belt Object that New Horizons could visit after passing Pluto. Hubble's sensitive telescope allowed it to look for fainter KBOs than ground-based telescopes can see. Hubble took deep exposures on 20 areas of the sky and found three suitable KBO targets about one billion miles beyond Pluto. Following NASA approval for a mission extension in 2016, Stern selected 2014 MU69, since nicknamed Ultima Thule, as the target for its January 2019 flyby. In the years since, Hubble has measured the target's red color and refined its orbit with dozens of additional observations.

Image above: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered the next target for the New Horizons spacecraft — 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule — in June 2014. Seen in these five overlaid images, the object resides more than one billion miles beyond Pluto in the frigid outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons will reach Ultima Thule on New Year's Day 2019. Image Credits: NASA/STScI/JHUAPL/SwRI.

"Without Hubble there would be no flyby of Ultima Thule," said Stern. "And without Hubble, New Horizons would not have been as productive studying Pluto's small moons. In fact, without Hubble's early images revealing how interesting Pluto's surface markings are, there might have never been a mission to explore this fascinating dwarf planet."

New Horizons Beyond Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft is now on course to fly by Ultima Thule — the farthest object ever explored by humankind — on New Year's Day, Jan. 1, at 12:33 a.m. EST. Follow New Horizons to Ultima Thule at

For more information on the New Horizons mission, including fact sheets, schedules, video and images, visit:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/JHUAPL.

Happy New Year,

An exoplanet covered with sapphires and rubies discovered by scientists

University of Zurich logo / University of Cambridge logo.

Dec. 31, 2018

Image above: Illustration of one of the exotic planets, rich in sapphires and rubies, observed by Zurich and British researchers. - Thibaut Roger / University of Zurich UZH.

Scientists think they have discovered a new type of exoplanet. A team of researchers from the Universities of Zurich (Switzerland) and Cambridge (United Kingdom) has unearthed an extrasolar planet called HD219134b with a surface covered with sapphires and rubies.

This exoplanet is located in the constellation Cassiopeia, 21 light years from Earth. It is five times heavier than the Earth because it consists of a heart rich in calcium and aluminum.

Planets that shine

The planet HD219134 b has a high temperature because it is very close to its star. According to the first observations of the scientists, this temperature could be at the origin of the chemical reactions which caused the creation of the ruby ​​blocks.

University of Zurich Tweet

"Maybe it shines with a blue and a red like rubies and sapphires, because these precious stones are aluminum oxides, common on this exoplanet", explains Caroline Dion, astrophysicist at the university from Zurich. According to her, this type of planet could be more common than we think, favoring the creation of a new category of exotic and rocky super-lands.

University of Zurich (UZH):

University of Cambridge:

Images, Text, Credits: ATS / UZH / Aerospace / Roland Berga.

Happy New Year,

dimanche 30 décembre 2018

China's BeiDou Navigation System Starts Global Service

BeiDou Navigation Satellite System patch.

Dec. 30, 2018

China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has started to provide global service, according to a press conference of the State Council Information Office.

The positioning accuracy of the system has reached 10 meters globally and five meters in the Asia-Pacific region. Its velocity accuracy is 0.2 meters per second, while its timing accuracy stands at 20 nanoseconds.

BeiDou navigation satellite

By the end of 2018, there were a total of 33 BDS satellites operating in orbit, including 15 BDS-2 satellites and 18 BDS-3 satellites.

China plans to launch another 11 BDS-3 satellites and one BDS-2 satellite in the coming two years to form the complete global network, which will further enhance the global service performance.

China began to construct its navigation system, named after the Chinese term for the Big Dipper constellation, in the 1990s and started serving the Asia-Pacific region in 2012.

This year has seen the most intensive launch of the BDS satellites, with a total of 19 satellites being sent into space, setting a new record in the world navigation system construction.

As an important achievement during the implementation of reform and opening up over the past 40 years, BDS has been widely used in China's national economy.

More than 14,000 companies and organizations are doing business related to BDS, employing over 500,000 people.

The total number of satellite navigation patent applications in China has reached 54,000, ranking first in the world.

In China, about 6.17 million vehicles, 35,600 postal and express delivery vehicles, as well as 80,000 buses in 36 major cities, use BDS. The system is also used in 3,230 inland river navigation facilities and 2,960 marine navigation facilities.

Related article:

Long March-3B launches BeiDou-3 MEO-17 and BeiDou-3 MEO-18

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

For more information about Beidou navigation system:

Images, Text, Credits: CASC/CNSA/BeiDou.


CASC - Long March-2D launches Hongyan-1 and six Yunhai-2 satellites

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

December 30, 2018

Image above: A Long March 2D rocket lifts off Saturday from the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China’s Inner Mongolia region. Image Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).

A Chinese Long March 2D booster climbed into orbit from the Jiuquan space base in the northwest of the country Saturday, delivering seven small satellites to space on communications and weather research missions with the help of a new upper stage capable of firing more than 20 times over two days.

With more than 650,000 pounds of thrust, the liquid-fueled Long March 2D rocket took off at 08:00 GMT (3 a.m. EST; 4 p.m. Beijing time) Saturday from Jiuquan, a remote military base in the Gobi Desert. Heading toward the southeast, the Long March 2D’s two main stages fired before giving way to a new upper stage to maneuver the mission’s six payloads into two distinct orbits.

Long March-2D launches Hongyan-1 and six Yunhai-2 satellites

The new upper stage, named Yuanzheng 3, is an evolution of the Yuanzheng 1 upper stage used on launches by other Long March rocket variants to inject Beidou navigation satellites into their intended orbits thousands of miles above Earth.

Yuanzheng 3 upper stage

Three of the six Yunhai 2 satellites were released in an orbit around 320 miles (520 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 50 degrees to the equator, and the Yuanzheng 3 boosted the other three into a 680-mile-high (1,095-kilometer) orbit at the same inclination, according to CASC.

CASC said the Yunhai 2 satellites will measure atmospheric environmental factors and the space environment, and help in disaster prevention and mitigation. China released no other details about the satellites or their instrumentation.

Yunhai satellite

The Hongyan test satellite will test L-band and Ka-band communications technologies in orbit to pave the way for a planned constellation to provide global communications services. It’s the second low Earth orbit communications satellite launched by China this month, following the Dec. 21 deployment of a pathfinder for the separate Hongyun broadband network.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/SciNews/Spaceflight Now/Stephen Clark


vendredi 28 décembre 2018

Swiss Air Force - Fighter's ready to do extra hours

Swiss Air Force patch.

Dec. 28, 2018

From January 1, 2019, the jets of the army will monitor the Swiss sky from 6am to 10pm every day of the year. Before a 24h service expected at the end of 2020.

 Swiss Air Force F / A-18C

Remember: in February 2014 (related article): during the hijacking of the Boeing 767-300 of Ethiopian Airlines that landed on the tarmac of Geneva airport, Swiss planes, warned early in the night, had not intervened . It was jets from the French and Italian army that had escorted the aircraft into the Swiss sky. Reason invoked: Swiss aircraft flew only during office hours! But things are changing.

As of January 1st, the availability of the air policing service will take a new step by expanding flight hours from 6am to 10pm, 365 days a year, including weekends and holidays. This will cover more than 90% of air traffic in the Swiss sky, writes Thursday the Federal Department of Defense, Protection of Population and Sports (DDPS).

And this surveillance will soon be 100% complete. At the end of 2020, the Swiss Army will provide coverage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to two armed fighter planes ready to take off in a maximum of 15 minutes. These will be based in Payerne (VD). But during the closing time of the runway, planes will take off from Emmen or Meiringen.

Swiss Air Force FA-18C vs German MiG-29 (Dogfight training)

Both devices will be assigned to Hot Missions and Live Missions. In the first case, these are commitments triggered by the presence of aircraft that violate the sovereignty of Swiss airspace yes who commit serious offenses. In the second case, these are spot checks of official aircraft belonging to foreign States which, in order to fly over Switzerland, require a diplomatic flight clearance.

Related article:

No F/A-18 outside office hours

Image, Video, Text, Credits: ATS/DDPS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

jeudi 27 décembre 2018

NASA Satellites Spot Young Star in Growth Spurt

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 27, 2018

Image above: This illustration shows a young star undergoing a type of growth spurt. Left panel: Material from the dusty and gas-rich disk (orange) plus hot gas (blue) mildly flows onto the star, creating a hot spot. Middle panel: The outburst begins — the inner disk is heated, more material flows to the star, and the disk creeps inward. Right panel: The outburst is in full throttle, with the inner disk merging into the star and gas flowing outward (green). Image Credits: Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC).

An adolescent star in the midst of a dramatic growth phase has been observed with the help of two NASA space telescopes. The youngster belongs to a class of stars that gain mass when matter swirling around the star falls onto its surface. The in-falling matter causes the star to appear about 100 times brighter. Astronomers have found only 25 stars in this class, and only about half of those have been observed during an outburst.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The new findings shed light on some long-standing mysteries surrounding the evolution of young stars, including how they acquire all of their mass. This rarely observed outbursting behavior could be common but might typically be hidden from our view by thick clouds of dust.

The newfound star, called Gaia 17bpi, was first spotted by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, but NASA's asteroid-hunting Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite serendipitously observed the star's brightening at the same time that Gaia did. Additional searches in NEOWISE's data archives and the archives of NASA's infrared-sensing Spitzer Space Telescope showed that these spacecraft had detected the flare-up in infrared light more than one year earlier.

Image above: The location of Gaia 17bpi, which lies in the Sagitta constellation, is indicated in this image taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kuhn (Caltech).

You can read the full story from the Caltech news office here: Caltech manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for NASA. The research is detailed in a new study titled "Gaia 17bpi: An FU Ori Type Outburst.":

JPL manages and operates the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech.

Related links:



Spitzer Space Telescope:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.


mercredi 26 décembre 2018

The Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle successfully launched from Vostochny spaceport


Dec. 26, 2018

Soyuz-2.1a carrying Kanopus-V №5 & Kanopus-V №6 launch

Today, on December 27, 2018, at 5:07 Moscow time, the launch vehicle Soyuz-2.1a with the upper stage (RB) Fregat and the remote sensing spacecraft (ERS) of the series "Canopus V" № 5 and 6.

Soyuz-2.1a launches Kanopus-V №5, Kanopus-V №6 and 26 small satellites

The space payloads in the composition of the upper unit "Frigate", the Kanopus-V devices No. 5 and No. 6, as well as 26 satellites were launched into an open-loop near-earth orbit.


The separation of the two spacecraft Earth remote sensing "Canopus-V" is planned at 06:06 and 06:12 Moscow time, small satellites - at 07:30 and 09:25 Moscow time.

A Soyuz-2.1a (Союз-2.1а) launch vehicle, with a Fregat (Фрегат) upper stage, launched the Kanopus-V №5 (Канопус-В № 5) and Kanopus-V №6 (Канопус-В № 6) remote sensing satellites from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur Oblast, Russia, on 27 December 2018, at 02:07 UTC (11:07 local time). As secondary payloads, Soyuz-2.1a launched 26 small satellites: GRUS (Axelspace), Flock 3k (twelve Planet Labs Inc 3U Dove CubeSats), ZACube-2, Lume-1 cubesat, D-Star ONE (iSat), D-Star ONE (Sparrow), eight Lemur-class satellites (Spire Global Inc) and UWE-4 (Würzburg University).

Roscosmos Press Release:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos/Günter Space Page/Roscosmos TV/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


CASC - Long March-3C launches TJS-3 satellite

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec. 26, 2018

Long March-3C launches TJS-3 satellite

A Long March-3C carrier rocket (Changzheng 3C, CZ-3C, 长征三号丙) launched the third communication technology test satellite (TJS-3) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, on 24 December 2018, at 16:53 UTC (25 December, 00:53 Beijing time).

Long March-3C launches TJS-3 satellite

According to official sources, the satellite entered its designated orbit.

The satellite is a product of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s Systems Engineering class. During this three year long endeavor approximately 30 high school students ranging from sophomores to seniors will have contributed. The project is broken down into individual subsystems that are assigned to groups of students. Each subsystem is assigned an industry representative that acts as a mentor to the students. In the end TJ3Sat will act as an educational resource for K-12 education worldwide.

TJS-3 satellite

As the satellite orbits the Earth it will beam back basic telemetry data (voltages, temperatures, CPU status,etc.) and host a voice synthesizer that will transmit uploaded text messages in a Steven Hawking-esk voice. The primary goal is to serve as a resource and educational outreach tool that will hopefully inspire other educational institutions to explore the wonders of Space.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/SciNews/Gunter's Space Page/ Aerospace.


lundi 24 décembre 2018

Living in space

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

Dec. 24, 2018

Since Yuri Gagarin became the first human to leave Earth in 1961, over 500 intrepid adventurers have made the journey into space. Today, astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world visit the International Space Station (ISS), which serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory. Life on the ISS is therefore far from easy; isolated space travellers must deal with the strange sensation of weightlessness and having very little access to fresh food.

Living in space

Over the last two decades, space agencies have created more comfortable conditions on the ISS, but we need to explore the concept of ‘living in space’ much further if humans are to ever live and work on another world, such as the Moon or Mars.

The ISS orbits at an altitude of 330–435 km above Earth’s surface

ESA’s Discovery and Preparation Programme works to prepare ESA for the future of space exploration. As part of this programme, ESA has worked with academic and industrial partners on a huge number of studies that lay the groundwork for living in space.

Preparing for a space mission

For their own safety, the welfare of their crew and the security of the specialist equipment they control, every astronaut and cosmonaut must go through intensive training before going into space. Training for a mission to the ISS takes years; European astronauts must learn the science behind spaceflight, how to operate equipment, how to deal with weightlessness and even how to speak Russian. When heading further into unchartered territory, even more preparation would be required.

Virtual reality rendering of a LUNA lunar environment

One Discovery and Preparation study that explored how to prepare for a space mission is the Lunar Analogues Study (LUNA). LUNA investigated creating artificial Moon-like environments that could be used to simulate and train for lunar exploration missions. One of the lunar environments that LUNA proposed – the European Surface Operations Laboratory (ESOL) – is now being built at the European Astronaut Centre. ESOL will contain a habitat, lunar terrain, a Mission Control Centre and a communication interface.

Another study, Moondive, looked into adapting ESA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility (NBF) – a large pool of water in which astronauts neither sink nor float, making it very useful for practising spacewalks outside the ISS. Adapting the NBF for lunar and asteroid mission simulations would involve changing the buoyancy to mimic the gravity of the destination, simulating the terrain and introducing robotic assistance.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst training for spacewalks in the Neutral Buoyancy Facility

Staying safe in space

Living in space can be risky! Aside from the threats from space debris and malfunctioning technology, space radiation can present dangers to space explorers, lack of gravity can result in physiological issues, and psychological issues can be caused by isolation and confinement. ESA works hard to ensure that astronauts remain as strong and healthy as possible.

Equipment sent to Mars is sterilised in advance

One Discovery study, BIOSIS (BIOSafety In Space), reviewed the biological risks to crews due to biocontamination of air and water, and made recommendations for new technology developments that could minimise these risks. BIOSIS recommended engineering an automated biomonitoring system that would prepare and analyse air, water and surface samples.

Image above: Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the Sun’s radiation, but astronauts travelling in space are more exposed.

Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to more radiation from the Sun than people are on Earth as they are not fully shielded by Earth’s magnetic field. Space explorers travelling further afield will be entirely outside this field and will therefore be exposed to significant radiation. Radiation exposure can damage astronauts’ DNA and lead to cancer, cataracts, and radiation sickness. A Discovery study – IPRAM (Interplanetary and Planetary Radiation Model for Human Spaceflight) – estimated the radiation risks involved in missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. These estimates can be used when planning future missions to ensure that astronauts remain as safe as possible.

Building a new home

For long-term space missions, astronauts would need somewhere to live when they reach their destination. Infrastructure is important for sheltering astronauts and scientific equipment from harsh environments, which could include thin atmospheres, extreme temperatures, radiation and micrometeoroids. There are three options for building infrastructure: bringing fully functional habitation from Earth, digging the habitat under the surface, or building structures using the local soil itself.

One Discovery study, 3D Printed Building Blocks Using Lunar Soil, investigated this third option. Building with lunar soil would reduce the materials required to be brought from Earth and very thick structures could be created for efficient radiation shielding. This study used a 3D printer to print building blocks from a base material similar to lunar soil. The study verified the usability of the lunar soil as a building material, selected a suitable printing process and designed an infrastructure. Since the study was carried out, ESA has been developing the concept of the “Moon Village” – an international project to put a space-base on the Moon.

Design for a 3D-printed lunar base

Many factors need to be considered before building a home on another world. The L-DEPP (Lunar Dust Environment and Plasma Package) study designed an instrument that could investigate the dusty surface environment of the Moon for better planning of future missions. The Moon has a very weak magnetic field, meaning it is constantly bombarded with solar radiation, micrometeorites and energetic plasma particles which charge up the surface and mobilise dust. The L-DEPP instrument would investigate the lunar dust, plasma, electric field, magnetic field and radio emissions using several different sensors that each have a specific role.

The Moon can reach extreme temperatures – down to -183°C at night! Finding a way to keep potential explorers protected from heat and cold is a huge challenge. Two Discovery studies investigated how to create heat on the Moon, with one concept involving an intricate energy-channelling system of reflectors and one also bringing in processed lunar soil, a heat engine and heat pipes.

A robotic helping-hand

Life in space can be tough for humans, but robots can be built to deal better with the harsh environment. ESA has a long history of developing robots to explore Mars, including several rovers. Nowadays, robotics is entering a new era in which it works more closely with humans.

When the ESA engineer moves his gauntleted hand, the robotic hand follows in sync

Some activities are particularly difficult for astronauts, for example spacesuit gloves make it hard to perform dextrous tasks. The ADAH (Astronaut Dexterous Artificial Hand) study investigated two scenarios to improve this: one where a robotic system supports or augments grasping and manipulation capabilities, and one where a robotic hand replaces the astronaut hand entirely. In the latter case, the astronaut would operate the robotic hand from inside a spacecraft. ESA have now developed several robotic hand prototypes, and have even designed “haptic feedback” robots, where an astronaut controls a robot using a joystick or arm exoskeleton, feeling the force on the robotic hand through this piece of equipment.


Other robots can move around the surface of planetary bodies and collect data that would be time-consuming and tiring for an astronaut. The Discovery study Lunar Volatile Resources Analysis Package (L-VRAP) defined an instrument for the first European Lunar Lander to detect, identify, quantify and characterise volatiles in the lunar soil and atmosphere. Creating a robot to do such a repetitive job allows an astronaut to focus on work that requires human levels of intelligence.

The technology that exists today could easily take us to the Moon and beyond, but it is studies like those carried out under the Discovery and Preparation Programme that will make a trip resourceful, sustainable and productive.

Related links:

Preparing for the Future:

Discovery and Preparation:

International Space Station (ISS):

Radiation in space:

3D printing on the Moon:,%20

ESA's Moon Village Concept:

European robotics:

Robotics for planetary exploration:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/A. Dowson/Guus Schoonewille/NASA/SOHO/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/Foster + Partners/    Fernando Gandía/GMV.

Merry Christmas,

dimanche 23 décembre 2018

SpaceX - GPS III SV01 Mission Success

SpaceX - GPS III SV01 Mission patch.

Dec. 23, 2018

GPS III SV01 Mission lift off

On Sunday, December 23rd at 5:51 a.m. PST, SpaceX successfully launched the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff.

GPS III Space Vehicle 01

For this mission, the satellite will be deployed to medium Earth orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff. Due to mission requirements, SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch.

An artist's rendition of GPS III in orbit

Due to mission requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch. U.S. Air Force’s first third-generation navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System.

Fro more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/USAF.


vendredi 21 décembre 2018

Successful launch of a Proton-M launch vehicle with a Russian spacecraft for the Ministry of Defense


December 21, 2018

Proton-M carrying Blagovest No. 13L lift off

Today, December 21, the Proton-M space rocket with a spacecraft was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

All prelaunch operations, launch and flight of the Proton-M launch vehicle were carried out in the normal mode. The successful launch of the spacecraft into the target orbit was provided by the Briz-M upper stage.

The new satellite has been accepted for control by the ground-based means of the Air and Space Forces (VKS) of Russia.

Video above: Launch of the Proton-M launch vehicle with a Russian spacecraft for the Ministry of Defense. Video Credit: Roscosmos TV.

It was the 2nd in 2018 and the 418th launch in the history of the Proton launch vehicle, (including all its modifications).

The Proton carrier rocket and the Briz-M upper stage were developed and mass-produced by the Center named after M. V. Khrunichev. The Proton-M PH is an upgraded version of the heavy-duty Proton carrier rocket with improved operational and environmental performance. Thanks to the use of the Briz-M upper stage, the Proton-M rocket is capable of delivering a payload of more than 6 tons to a geotransition orbit. The first launch of the Proton-M booster with the upper stage Breeze-M took place on April 7, 2001 of the year. Since then, this modification of the Proton rocket has been used in the 104th space launches.

Blagovest No. 13L satellite

The Blagovest No. 13L communications satellite to cover Russian territory and provide high-speed Internet, television and radio broadcast, and voice and video conferencing services for Russian domestic and military users.

Roscosmos Press Release:

Images, Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Günter Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of December 17, 2018

ISS - Expedition 57 Mission patch / ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

Dec. 21, 2018

After contributing to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the world-class orbiting laboratory, three members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 57 crew, including NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, returned to Earth Thursday, safely landing at 12:02 a.m. EST (11:02 a.m. local time) in Kazakhstan.

Image above: Expedition 57 crew members Alexander Gerst of ESA, Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA sit inchairs outside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft after landing in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA.

The Expedition 57 crew Highlights included investigations into new cancer treatment methods and algae growth in space. The crew also installed a new Life Sciences Glovebox, a sealed work area for life science and technology investigations that can accommodate two astronauts.

Here’s a look at some of the science conducted this week aboard the orbiting lab:

Investigation studies dexterity in space

Microgravity provides a unique environment to study dexterous manipulation. The European Space Agency’s GRIP investigation studies long-duration spaceflight effects on the abilities of human subjects to regulate grip force and upper limb trajectories when manipulating objects using different kinds of movements (e.g. oscillatory movements, rapid discrete movements and tapping gestures), while restrained in the seated or supine position. This week, the crew performed the GRIP science tasks restrained to a chair in the supine, or lying facing upward, position.

Data collected from this investigation may provide insight into potential hazards for astronauts as they manipulate objects in different gravitational environments. It could also support design and control of haptic interfaces to be used in challenging environments, and provide information about motor control that potentially will be useful for the evaluation and rehabilitation of patients with neurological diseases on Earth.

Crew provides blood and saliva for immune study

Protecting crew health is important as NASA prepares for long duration, deep-space missions. Functional Immune studies previously uninvestigated areas of the body’s immune response, and if spaceflight alters a crew member’s susceptibility to disease.

Image above: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst completes a blood collection with the help of NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. Image Credit: NASA.

The immune system is a complex weaving of biological structures and processes. Decreased activity in just one piece can cause changes in disease risk within the human body. Studies have shown that microgravity modifies the immune system. This may create an environment where rashes, unusual allergies and latent virus reactivation may present themselves in some crew members.

This week as a part of Functional Immune, the crew provided blood and saliva samples to be used to determine the changes taking place in crewmembers’ immune systems during flight.

Airway Monitoring

With dust particles present in the space station atmosphere, Airway Monitoring studies the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation in crewmembers, using ultra-sensitive gas analyzers to evaluate exhaled air. This helps to highlight any health impacts and to maintain crewmember well-being on future human spaceflight missions. This is especially important on longer-duration missions – for example, to the Moon and Mars - where crewmembers will have to be more self-sufficient in identifying and avoiding such conditions. This kind of research may also benefit similar conditions, such as asthma, on Earth.

This week, the crew completed Low nitric oxide (NO) and High NO measurements for the ambient pressure session in the Destiny Laboratory.

Image above: David Saint-Jacques, of the Canadian Space Agency, completes the Bone Densitometer calibration in support of the Rodent Research-8 investigation. Image Credit: NASA.

Other work was performed on these investigations:

- The Spaceflight-induced Hypoxic/ROS Signaling (APEX-05) experiment grows different wild and mutant varieties of Arabidopsis thaliana, in order to understand how their genetic and molecular stress response systems work in space:

- CASIS PCG 16 evaluates growth of LRRK2 protein crystals in microgravity. LRRK2 is implicated in Parkinson’s disease, but crystals of the protein grown on Earth are too small and compact to study:

- Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) examines the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression using groups of young and old mice flown in space and kept on Earth:

- The Bone Densitometer uses X-rays to measure the bone mineral density (and the lean and fat tissue) of mice living aboard the station. As a result, researchers hope to develop medical technology that will combat bone density loss in space and on Earth, helping millions of senior citizens who suffer from osteoporosis:

- Hydrogels are often used for tissue regeneration purposes due to their high water content and how easily they can be customized.  Hydrogel Formation and Drug Release in Microgravity Conditions takes advantage of reduced fluid motion in microgravity to more precisely study behavior of the gel and its potential as a wound-healing patch:

Space to Ground: Holiday Homecoming: 12/21/2018

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Expedition 58:

New cancer treatment methods:

Algae growth in space:

Life Sciences Glovebox:


Functional Immune:

Airway Monitoring:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 57/58.

Best regards,