samedi 3 février 2018

JAXA - SS-520-5 TRICOM 1R launch success

JAXA - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency logo.

Feb. 3, 2018

Image above: The SS-520-5 rocket lifts off Saturday from the Uchinoura Space Center with the TRICOM 1R satellite.

A modified sounding rocket originally designed to loft science instruments on high-altitude suborbital arcs blasted off Saturday from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan and soared into orbit to become the world’s smallest satellite launcher.

The SS-520-5 rocket lifted off at 0503 GMT (12:03 a.m. EST; 2:03 p.m. Japan Standard Time), the opening of a 10-minute window. It released a small satellite into orbit seven-and-a-half minutes later, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which declared the launch a success.

SS-520 No. 5 launches TRICOM-1R

A live webcast of the launch provided by JAXA experienced technical difficulties, but it briefly showed the SS-520-5 launcher soaring into a clear afternoon sky.

Standing just 31 feet (9.5 meters) tall and spanning around 20 inches (52 centimeters) in diameter, the SS-520-5 rocket was modest by launcher standards. With Saturday’s successful flight, the solid-fueled booster became the smallest rocket to ever put an object in orbit around Earth.

TRICOM 1R satellite overview

A student-built shoebox-sized CubeSat named TRICOM 1R — weighing in at about 10 pounds (3 kilograms) — was mounted on top of the SS-520-5 rocket for liftoff from the Uchinoura Space Center in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture.

The SS-520-5 rocket headed east from Uchinoura over the Pacific Ocean with the TRICOM 1R payload.

For more information about JAXA, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: JAXA/SpaceFlight Clark.


vendredi 2 février 2018

Cosmonauts Finish Record-Breaking Russian Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

February 2, 2018

Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have completed a spacewalk lasting 8 hours and 13 minutes. It is the longest Russian spacewalk, breaking the previous record of 8 hours and 7 minutes that Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy set Dec. 27, 2013, on a spacewalk during Expedition 38.

The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 10:34 a.m. EST. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 6:47 p.m. EST.

Image above: As of Feb. 2, 2018, there have been 207 spacewalks at the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

During the record-breaking spacewalk, the duo installed a new electronics and telemetry box for the high gain antenna on the Zvezda service module to enhance communications between Russian flight controllers and the Russian modules. The antenna system appears to be working normally.

It was the 207th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, the fourth in Misurkin’s career, and the second for Shkaplerov. It is the fifth-longest spacewalk in human spaceflight history.

Related links:


Expedition 54:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

CASC Long March 2D Launches CSES & MicroSatellites

CASC - China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite patch.

February 2, 2018

Long March 2D Launches CSES & MicroSatellites. Image Credit: CASC

China launched a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Friday, carrying a group of seven satellites from China, Italy, Argentina and Denmark including an innovative experiment to study the ionospheric precursors of Earthquakes to evaluate whether forecasting of strong Earthquakes will be possible from an orbital vantage point.

Friday’s launch occurred at 7:51 UTC from Jiuquan’s Launch Complex 43 and the two-stage rocket was headed to the south west toward a 500-Kilometer orbit from where its payloads will operate. Chinese state media declared the launch successful not long after the vehicle achieved orbit and the first payload teams confirmed signals from their satellites were being received.

Long March-2D launches China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite

Friday’s launch placed into orbit the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) “Zhangheng-1”, the next two satellites of the commercial Aleph-1 imaging constellation operated by Satellogic, the GOMX 4A and 4B duo experimenting with inter-satellite communications & stationkeeping, and the Chinese FengMaNiu 1 and Shaonian Xing CubeSats completing technology demonstration and outreach missions via amateur radio equipment.

Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES). Image Credit: CAST

Zhangheng-1 is a 730-Kilogram, multi-instrument satellite named after Han Dynasty scholar Zhang Heng, setting out to complete a comprehensive study of the ionospheric precursors of Earthquakes using particle, magnetic & electric field and plasma sensors. The satellite, baselined for a five-year science mission, is based on the CAST2000 satellite platform and was developed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the China Earthquake Administration and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) which provided the High-Energy Particle Detector instrument.

The reliable prediction of Earthquakes brings the potential of saving hundreds if not thousands of lives every year, but so far only came with false starts and methodology based on flawed science. However, promising leads have been found in data from orbiting satellites that showed Earth’s crust may be giving hints before large tremors in the form of electromagnetic anomalies that will then percolate through Earth’s ionosphere up to altitudes of several hundred Kilometers where they can be detected between a few minutes to a few days before an Earthquake.

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

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: CASC/


Hubble’s Majestic Spiral in Pegasus

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Feb. 2, 2018

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a spiral galaxy known as NGC 7331. First spotted by the prolific galaxy hunter William Herschel in 1784, NGC 7331 is located about 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (the Winged Horse). Facing us partially edge-on, the galaxy showcases its beautiful arms, which swirl like a whirlpool around its bright central region.

Astronomers took this image using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), as they were observing an extraordinary exploding star — a supernova — near the galaxy’s central yellow core. Named SN 2014C, it rapidly evolved from a supernova containing very little hydrogen to one that is hydrogen-rich — in just one year. This rarely observed metamorphosis was luminous at high energies and provides unique insight into the poorly understood final phases of massive stars.

NGC 7331 is similar in size, shape and mass to the Milky Way. It also has a comparable star formation rate, hosts a similar number of stars, has a central supermassive black hole and comparable spiral arms. The primary difference between this galaxy and our own is that NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy — it lacks a “bar” of stars, gas and dust cutting through its nucleus, as we see in the Milky Way. Its central bulge also displays a quirky and unusual rotation pattern, spinning in the opposite direction to the galactic disk itself.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

By studying similar galaxies we hold a scientific mirror up to our own, allowing us to build a better understanding of our galactic environment, which we cannot always observe, and of galactic behavior and evolution as a whole.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA/D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)/Text: European Space Agency/NASA/Karl Hille.

Best regards,

NASA’s Newly Rediscovered IMAGE Mission Provided Key Aurora Research

NASA - Magnetospheric Multiscale Satellites (MMS) patch.

Feb. 2, 2018

On Jan. 20, 2018, amateur astronomer Scott Tilley detected an unexpected signal coming from what he later postulated was NASA’s long-lost IMAGE satellite, which had not been in contact since 2005. On Jan. 30, NASA — along with help from a community of IMAGE scientists and engineers — confirmed that the signal was indeed from the IMAGE spacecraft. Whatever the next steps for IMAGE may be, the mission’s nearly six years in operation provided robust research about the space around Earth that continue to guide science to this day.

On March 25, 2000, NASA launched the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, mission. It was the first mission to use neutral atom, photon and radio imaging techniques to produce large-scale, simultaneous measurements of the charged particles that exist in near-Earth space — namely in our magnetosphere, the magnetic fields that surround our planet, and its inner bubble of cold material called the plasmasphere.

Image above: IMAGE spacecraft is tested prior to its March 2000 launch. Image Credit: NASA.

“IMAGE was a discovery machine and a seminal mission that gave us a broader perspective on Earth’s environment and its ever-changing magnetosphere,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, who worked as a co-investigator and deputy project scientist for IMAGE. “Much of my career as a magnetospheric physicist was with IMAGE, and the science was transformative.”

Originally designed as a two-year mission, IMAGE was approved twice to continue its operations. But when the spacecraft unexpectedly failed to make contact on a routine pass on Dec.18, 2005, its promising tenure seemed to be cut short.

Investigations into possible causes of failure suggested that the transmitter controller power source was tripped, possibly by an incoming high-energy cosmic ray or radiation belt particle. It was hypothesized that passing through a dramatic change in energy — such as what happens when a spacecraft experiences total darkness during an eclipse — could potentially reset the spacecraft. But after a 2007 eclipse failed to induce a reboot, the mission was declared over.

What was the IMAGE mission?

Before that, however, IMAGE was a powerhouse. The data collected during its nearly five years of operation led to some 40 new discoveries about Earth’s magnetosphere and plasmasphere. Many of these discoveries had their basis in energetic neutral atom, or ENA, imaging, a novel technique pioneered by IMAGE to render the invisible visible.

The technique makes use of some fundamental space physics. Particles with an electric charge — like the ions that make up much of the plasma in the magnetosphere — are bound to Earth’s magnetic field lines, spinning around them like a yo-yo on a string. But when they crash into neutral particles, the charged particles can steal the neutral’s electrons in a process called charge exchange, becoming neutral themselves.

No longer magnetically bound, these energetic neutral atoms barrel off into space in whatever direction they were heading when the collision occurred. ENA instruments capture these neutral atoms and use them to build up large scale images of the surrounding plasma, similar to how ordinary cameras capture light rays to create pictures.

Image above: Earth's plasmasphere and plume as measured by IMAGE’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager. Image Credits: Sandel, B. R., et al., Space Sci. Rev., 109, 25, 2003.

In combination with ENA instruments, IMAGE also used ultraviolet and radio imaging techniques that together led to many of IMAGE’s most notable accomplishments. Among them is the confirmation of the plasmaspheric plume, a region of plasma particles that flow backwards toward the Sun on Earth’s dayside. Such a backflow had been predicted by models, but never directly observed by spacecraft.

“It’s as if you’re driving in a convertible,” said Thomas Moore, the mission scientist for IMAGE, as well as the lead for the spacecraft’s Low Energy Neutral Atom (LENA) Imager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The air is rushing against the car in one direction, but your hair will blow towards the windshield.”

IMAGE produced large-scale images every two minutes. The rapid cadence of imaging allowed scientists to knit the images together to create frame-by-frame movies that could show the vast scale of charged particle interactions in near-Earth space, including those that cause the aurora.

Animation above: IMAGE captured the South Pole aurora caused by a coronal mass ejection in the fall of 2003. Animation Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, lead animator.

The missions that had flown before IMAGE had only been able to gather measurements at a single point in time and space — catching the particles the spacecraft happened to fly through at the time, rather than capturing a wide panoramic view. But such point measurements are challenging to interpret.

“The trouble with a single point measurement is you’re always moving around and you’re never quite sure if the variation that you see is because you’ve moved to a different place or because something has changed globally in the system,” Moore said. “I used to liken space physics before IMAGE to trying to study severe storms by driving around with a rain gauge out your window.”

IMAGE drastically changed the playing field. “We suddenly had a camera that could see the whole system,” Moore added.

Image above: An oblique view of the plasmasphere, reconstructed from IMAGE data. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, lead animator.

But IMAGE didn’t just make pretty pictures: It was also the first space science mission to formally include an education and public outreach program (POETRY) as part of its proposal to NASA, specifically setting aside a budget for such activities. Partnering with elementary, middle and high school teachers, IMAGE’s science findings were incorporated into lessons and classroom activities:

While IMAGE’s future continues to unfold, its legacy has already proven its worth: The information it gleaned with its wide-range view provides an important complement to missions looking at smaller scales of the magnetosphere, including the highly successful Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, or MMS, launched in March 2015 and currently in orbit.

NASA's Latest Updates on Contacting IMAGE

New data regarding IMAGE provides some additional — though not yet complete — information on how the spacecraft began to transmit signals again.

Read more:


IMAGE mission homepage:

Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Miles Hatfield.


Stellar winds behaving unexpectedly

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

2 February 2018

ESA’s XMM-Newton has spotted surprising changes in the powerful streams of gas from two massive stars, suggesting that colliding stellar winds don’t behave as expected.

Massive stars – several times larger than our Sun – lead turbulent lives, burning their nuclear fuel rapidly and pouring large amounts of material into their surroundings throughout their short but sparkling lives.

Stellar wind evolution

These fierce stellar winds can carry the equivalent of Earth’s mass in a month and travel at millions of kilometres per hour, so when two such winds collide they unleash enormous amounts of energy.

The cosmic clash heats the gas to millions of degrees, making it shine brightly in X-rays.

Normally, colliding winds change little because neither do the stars nor their orbits. However, some massive stars behave dramatically.

This is the case with HD 5980, a pairing of two huge stars each 60 times the mass of our Sun and only about 100 million kilometres apart – closer than we are to our star.

 One had a major outburst in 1994, reminiscent of the eruption that turned Eta Carinae into the second brightest star in the sky for about 18 years in the 19th century.

HD 5980 in the star-forming region NGC 346

While it is now too late to study Eta Carinae’s historic eruption, astronomers have been observing HD 5980 with X-ray telescopes to study the hot gas.

In 2007, Yaël Nazé of the University of Liège, Belgium, and her colleagues discovered the collision of winds from these stars using observations made by ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescopes between 2000 and 2005.

Then they looked at it again with XMM-Newton in 2016.

“We expected HD 5980 to fade gently over the years as the erupting star settled back to normal – but to our surprise it did just the opposite,” says Yaël.

They found the pair was two and a half times brighter than a decade earlier, and its X-ray emission was even more energetic.

“We had never seen anything like that in a wind–wind collision.”

Deciphering Eta Carinae’s eruptive twin

With less material ejected but more light emitted, it was difficult to explain what was happening.

Finally, they found a theoretical study that offers a fitting scenario.

“When stellar winds collide, the shocked material releases plenty of X-rays. However, if the hot matter radiates too much light, it rapidly cools, the shock becomes unstable and the X-ray emission dims.

“This somewhat counterintuitive process is what we thought happened at the time of our first observations, more than 10 years ago. But by 2016, the shock had relaxed and the instabilities had diminished, allowing the X-ray emission to rise eventually.”

XMM-Newton spacecraft

These are the first observations that substantiate this previously hypothetical scenario. Yaël’s colleagues are now testing the new result in greater detail through computer simulations.

“Unique discoveries like this demonstrate how XMM-Newton keeps providing astronomers with fresh material to improve our understanding of the most energetic processes in the Universe,” says Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA.

Notes for Editors:

The paper “A changing wind collision,” by Y. Nazé et al. is published in the Astrophysical Journal:

Theoretical study:


XMM-Newton overview:

XMM-Newton image gallery:

XMM-Newton in-depth:

Animation, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Markus Bauer/Norbert Schartel/Université de Liège/Yaël Nazé/ESA/XMM-Newton; Y. Nazé et al. 2018/NASA, ESA, A. Nota (STScI/ESA).

Best regards,

jeudi 1 février 2018

Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk Preps, More Eye Checks for Rest of Crew

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

February 1, 2018

A pair of cosmonauts have wrapped up preparations for Friday morning’s spacewalk to work on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The other four Expedition 54 crew members continued more eye exams throughout the day on Thursday.

Commander Alexander Misurkin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov completed a spacewalk procedures review today, finished collecting tools and readied their Orlan spacesuits. The veteran cosmonauts will exit the Pirs airlock around 10:30 a.m. EST Friday for 6.5 hour spacewalk. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the second spacewalk of the year at 9:45 a.m.

Image above: The International Space Station orbits above the Falkland Islands off the coast of the southern-most portion of Argentina on the continent of South America. In the upper-right of the photograph is the docked Progress 68 cargo craft. Image Credit: NASA.

The duo will work outside the Zvezda service module to swap out a high gain communications antenna electronics system. If time permits the spacewalkers may also retrieve experiments, photograph the back of Zvezda, reposition a foot restraint and jettison old experiment gear.

The rest of the crew continued working with doctors in real time on the ground today to get a look at their eyes and understand how microgravity affects vision. Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Scott Tingle and Joe Acaba participated in eye scans using an ultrasound device this morning. Tingle then partnered up with Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Related links:


Expedition 54:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings

ISS - The Twins Study patch.

Feb. 1, 2018

The Twin Study propelled NASA into the genomics era of space travel. It was a ground-breaking study comparing what happened to astronaut Scott Kelly, in space, to his identical twin brother, Mark, who remained on Earth. The perfect nature versus nurture study was born.

The Twins Study brought ten research teams from around the country together to accomplish one goal: discover what happens to the human body after spending one year in space. NASA has a grasp on what happens to the body after the standard-duration six-month missions aboard the International Space Station, but Scott Kelly’s one-year mission is a stepping stone to a three-year mission to Mars.

Image above: Identical twin astronauts, Scott and Mark Kelly, are subjects of NASA’s Twins Study. Scott (right) spent a year in space while Mark (left) stayed on Earth as a control subject. Researchers looked at the effects of space travel on the human body. Credit: NASA. Image Credit: NASA.

If the results of the Twins Study are like a play, Act 1 began at NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) 2017 Investigators’ Workshop (IWS), where the ten teams presented their preliminary findings. Reports included data on what happened to Scott Kelly, physiologically and psychologically, while he was in space, and compared the data to Mark Kelly, as a control subject on Earth. The 2018 IWS is Act 2, where findings from 2017 were corroborated, with some additions. Researchers also presented what happened to Scott after he returned to Earth, again while making comparisons to Mark. Act 3 will be debuted later in 2018 when an integrated summary publication is expected to be released.

By measuring large numbers of metabolites, cytokines, and proteins, researchers learned that spaceflight is associated with oxygen deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression.

After returning to Earth, Scott started the process of readapting to Earth’s gravity. Most of the biological changes he experienced in space quickly returned to nearly his preflight status. Some changes returned to baseline within hours or days of landing, while a few persisted after six months.

Scott’s telomeres (endcaps of chromosomes that shorten as one ages) actually became significantly longer in space. While this finding was presented in 2017, the team verified this unexpected change with multiple assays and genomics testing. Additionally, a new finding is that the majority of those telomeres shortened within two days of Scott’s return to Earth.

Image above: The Twins Study Investigators came from around the country to meet and share their final research results at the annual Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop held in Galveston, Texas. Image Credit: NASA.

Another interesting finding concerned what some call the “space gene”, which was alluded to in 2017. Researchers now know that 93% of Scott’s genes returned to normal after landing. However, the remaining 7% point to possible longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia.

Increasing mission duration from the typical six-month ISS mission to one year resulted in no significant decreases in Scott’s cognitive performance while inflight and relative to his twin brother Mark on the ground. However, a more pronounced decrease in speed and accuracy was reported postflight, possibly due to re-exposure and adjustment to Earth’s gravity, and the busy schedule that enveloped Scott after his mission.

For additional detail on preliminary findings, visit NASA Twins Study Investigators to Release Integrated Paper in 2018. All of these findings are being integrated and summarized by the research teams; researchers are also evaluating the possible impact that these findings will have on future space travel beyond low Earth orbit. The next step for Twins Study investigators is Act 3, as referenced above. An integrated summary paper will be published later this year. A series of smaller papers grouped by related research areas will also be released.

Image above: Graphic illustration of the path the individual Twins Study research takes from research to integration to one summary paper to several companion papers. Image Credit: NASA.

The Twins Study has benefited NASA by providing the first application of genomics to evaluate potential risks to the human body in space. The NASA Twins Study also presented a unique opportunity for investigators to collaborate, participating in a team approach to HRP research.

Observations guide development of future hypotheses. Research from the landmark Twins Study will inform NASA’s Human Research Program studies for years to come, as NASA continues to prioritize the health and safety of astronauts on spaceflight missions.

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe, productive human space travel. HRP enables space exploration by reducing the risks to astronaut health and performance using ground research facilities, the International Space Station, and analog environments. This leads to the development and delivery of an exploration biomedical program focused on: informing human health, performance, and habitability standards; the development of countermeasures and risk mitigation solutions; and advanced habitability and medical support technologies. HRP supports innovative, scientific human research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities, hospitals, and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.

Related links:

Twins Study:

NASA Twins Study Investigators to Release Integrated Paper in 2018:

Human Research Program:

Journey to Mars:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Timothy Gushanas/Human Research Program/Monica Edwards/Laurie Abadie.

Best regards,

The Penguin and the Egg

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

Feb. 1, 2018

This image of distant interacting galaxies, known collectively as Arp 142, bears an uncanny resemblance to a penguin guarding an egg. Data from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes have been combined to show these dramatic galaxies in light that spans the visible and infrared parts of the spectrum.

This dramatic pairing shows two galaxies that couldn't look more different as their mutual gravitational attraction slowly drags them closer together.

The "penguin" part of the pair, NGC 2336, was probably once a relatively normal-looking spiral galaxy, flattened like a pancake with smoothly symmetric spiral arms. Rich with newly-formed hot stars, seen in visible light from Hubble as bluish filaments, its shape has now been twisted and distorted as it responds to the gravitational tugs of its neighbor. Strands of gas mixed with dust stand out as red filaments detected at longer wavelengths of infrared light seen by Spitzer.

The "egg" of the pair, NGC 2937, by contrast, is nearly featureless. The distinctly different greenish glow of starlight tells the story of a population of much older stars. The absence of glowing red dust features informs us that it has long since lost its reservoir of gas and dust from which new stars can form. While this galaxy is certainly reacting to the presence of its neighbor, its smooth distribution of stars obscures any obvious distortions of its shape.

Eventually these two galaxies will merge to form a single object, with their two populations of stars, gas and dust intermingling. This kind of merger was likely a significant step in the history of most large galaxies we see around us in the nearby universe, including our own Milky Way.

At a distance of about 23 million light-years, these two galaxies are roughly 10 times farther away than our nearest major galactic neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy. The blue streak at the top of the image is an unrelated background galaxy that is farther away than Arp 142.

Spitzer Space Telescope

Combining light from across the visible and infrared spectrums helps astronomers piece together the complex story of the life cycles of galaxies. While this image required data from both the Spitzer and Hubble telescopes to cover this range of light, NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to see all of these wavelengths of light, and with dramatically better clarity.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Spitzer Space Telescope:

Hubble Space Telescope:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/ESA/STScI/AURA/JPL-Caltech.


ROSCOSMOS: Soyuz-2.1А LV with two KANOPUS-V satellites lift off from Vostochny


February 1, 2018

Soyuz-2.1А LV with two KANOPUS-V satellites lift off

On February 1, 2018 at 05:07:18 Moscow time, Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle successfully lifted off from VOSTOCHNY Cosmodrome. The launch mission is to deliver 2 Earth observation Kanopus-V satellites (№3 and №4) and 9 smallsats piggybacked under the federal and commercial contracts of Glavkosmos to their target orbits.

According the flight program, the first three stages of Soyuz-2.1b have taken the ascent unit into low orbit just short of eight minutes and forty-eight seconds after liftoff. From this point in the mission, the Fregat upper stage performs planned mission maneuvers to advance the satellites to their planned orbits. Separation of the Kanopus-V satellites is scheduled to occur approximately 1 hour after lift-off.

Launch of the Soyuz-2-1a carrying the Canopus-V spacecraft 3 and 4

Soyuz-2 launcher is based on the Soyuz-U series. Soyuz-2 features advanced engines and up-to-date control and telemetry systems that significantly enhance the LV technical and operational specifications. The upgrading was done in two phases. At phase 1а, a standardized Soyuz-2.1a was born to accommodate various upper composites with fairings of up to 4.11m in diameter. The LV is capable to orbit a payload with improved accuracy; the upgraded control system and stage I-II engines have allowed for increasing of the payload mass to be lofted to the low Earth orbit. At phase 1b resulted in Soyuz-2.1b, stage III was refitted with a state-of-the-art 14D23 (RD-0124) engine which made its performance even better.

Kanopus-V satellite

The prime LV designer is Progress Space Rocket Center (the city of Samara). Depending on a mission, Soyuz-2 launcher can be configured with the Fregat upper stage. A standard Fregat upper stage was designed by Lavochkin Association to complement various launchers in order to put satellites in different orbits. It is used in Soyuz rockets. A standard Fregat upper stage equipped with extra fuel tanks or drop-off tanks evolved to highly efficient upper stage modifications: Fregat-MT and Fregat-SB.

Roscosmos Press Release:

Images, Video Text, Credits: Roscosmos/Günter Space Page.


Mount Sharp 'Photobombs' Mars Curiosity Rover

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

February 1, 2018

Image above: This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it's been investigating for the past several months. Poking up just behind Curiosity's mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot's selfie. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

A new self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it has been investigating for the past several months. Directly behind the rover is the start of a clay-rich slope scientists are eager to begin exploring. In coming weeks, Curiosity will begin to climb this slope. In the image, north is on the left and west is on the right, with Gale Crater's rim on the horizon of both edges.

Poking up just behind Curiosity's mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot's selfie. When Curiosity landed on Mars five years ago, the team's intention was to study lower Mount Sharp, where the rover will remain for all of its time on Mars. The mountain's base provides access to layers formed over millions of years. These layers formed in the presence of water -- likely due to a lake or lakes where sediments accumulated, which formed these layers inside Gale Crater.

The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity's Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). They were all taken on Jan. 23, 2018, during Sol 1943.

For news about other Mars missions this month, view the first episode of a new video series, "The Mars Report."

NASA Mars Report January 31, 2018

Video above: In this first episode of The Mars Report we celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Opportunity rover; show you a recent panoramic view from the Curiosity rover; and recap a "cool" discovery of ice deposits spotted by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Also, we look forward to the InSight lander, heading to the Red Planet in May 2018. Video Credits: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Additional information about NASA's exploration of Mars is at:

Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity):

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Andrew Good.


mercredi 31 janvier 2018

SpaceX - GovSat-1 Mission Success

SpaceX - GovSat-1 Mission patch.

Jan. 31, 2018

GovSat-1 Successfully Launched on SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

On Wednesday, January 31st, SpaceX successfully launched the GovSat-1 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

GovSat-1 Launch

The satellite was deployed approximately 32 minutes after launch, putting the GovSat-1 satellite into its targeted orbit.

Falcon 9’s first stage for the GovSat-1 mission previously supported the NROL-76 mission from LC-39A in May 2017.

GovSat-1 communications satellite

GovSat 1 communications satellite for LuxGovSat, a joint venture between SES and the government of Luxembourg. The GovSat 1 satellite, also known as SES 16, will provide secure military X-band and Ka-band communications links, helping support Luxembourg’s NATO obligations. The satellite was built by Orbital ATK.

For more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SES/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


SPHERES Science and Vision Checks Ahead of Friday Spacewalk & Full Moon

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

January 31, 2018

Image above: Full Moon seen by Griffith Observatory and EarthCam channel on ISS, speed: 27'567 Km/h, altitude: 419,95 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on January 31, 2018 at 14:53 UTC.

As the International Space Program gets ready for a pair of spacewalks in February, the Expedition 54 crew was busy setting up a pair of experimental internal satellites and conducting vision checks today.

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei brought out a pair of tiny satellites, also known as SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites), for a run of the SmoothNAV experiment today. The study is researching how algorithms and sensors may help determine relative positions and velocities between spacecraft.

Both astronauts also joined Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai for eye exams during the afternoon. Tingle and Kanai first swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer checking each other’s eyes today using optical coherence tomography. Then Tingle joined Acaba and Vande Hei afterward for more eye checks using a fundoscope. Doctors on the ground remotely assisted the astronauts viewing their eyes in real time.

Image above: A pair of empty Russian Orlan spacesuits are pictured inside the airlock of the Pirs docking compartment. The spacesuits will be worn during a Feb. 2 spacewalk with cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov. Image Credit: NASA.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov donned their Orlan spacesuits today to ensure a good fit and check for pressure leaks ahead of a spacewalk scheduled to start Friday at 10:30 a.m. EST. They’ll work outside for about 6.5 hours of maintenance on the Russian side of the orbital laboratory.

The second spacewalk is set to take place Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. when Vande Hei and Kanai exit the station to continue robotics maintenance on the Canadarm2. They’ll stow a pair of latching end effectors, or robotic hands, which had been detached from the Canadarm2 on two previous spacewalks, the first on Oct. 5, 2017 and the second on Jan. 23.

International Space Station Transits the Full Moon

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, from Alexandria, Va. Onboard are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle; Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Related links:


Expedition 54:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Glory From Gloom

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

31 January 2018

Star formation region Lupus 3

A dark cloud of cosmic dust snakes across this spectacular wide field image, illuminated by the brilliant light of new stars. This dense cloud is a star-forming region called Lupus 3, where dazzlingly hot stars are born from collapsing masses of gas and dust. This image was created from images taken using the VLT Survey Telescope and the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and is the most detailed image taken so far of this region.

The Lupus 3 dark cloud in the constellation of Scorpius

The Lupus 3 star forming region lies within the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion), only 600 light-years away from Earth. It is part of a larger complex called the Lupus Clouds, which takes its name from the adjacent constellation of Lupus (The Wolf). The clouds resemble smoke billowing across a background of millions of stars, but in fact these clouds are a dark nebula.

Wide-field view of the Lupus 3 dark cloud and associated hot young stars

Nebulae are great swathes of gas and dust strung out between the stars, sometimes stretching out over hundreds of light-years. While many nebulae are spectacularly illuminated by the intense radiation of hot stars, dark nebulae shroud the light of the celestial objects within them. They are also known as absorption nebulae, because they are made up of cold, dense particles of dust that absorb and scatter light as it passes through the cloud.

Famous dark nebulae include the Coalsack Nebula and the Great Rift, which are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, starkly black against the brilliance of the Milky Way.

Zooming in on the Lupus 3 star-forming region

Lupus 3 has an irregular form, appearing like a misshapen snake across the sky. In this image it is a region of contrasts, with thick dark trails set against the glare of bright blue stars at the centre. Like most dark nebulae, Lupus 3 is an active star formation region, primarily composed of protostars and very young stars. Nearby disturbances can cause denser clumps of the nebula to contract under gravity, becoming hot and pressurised in the process. Eventually, a protostar is born out of the extreme conditions in the core of this collapsing cloud.

The two brilliant stars in the centre of this image underwent this very process. Early in their lives, the radiation they emitted was largely blocked by the thick veil of their host nebula, visible only to telescopes at infrared and radio wavelengths. But as they grew hotter and brighter, their intense radiation and strong stellar winds swept the surrounding areas clear of gas and dust, allowing them to emerge gloriously from their gloomy nursery to shine brightly.

Panning across the Lupus 3 star-forming region

Understanding nebulae is critical for understanding the processes of star formation — indeed, it is thought that the Sun formed in a star formation region very similar to Lupus 3 over four billion years ago. As one of the closest stellar nurseries, Lupus 3 has been the subject of many studies; in 2013, the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile captured a smaller picture of its dark smoke-like columns and brilliant stars (eso1303).

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and by Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Related links:


ESOcast 148 Light: Clouded Star Birth:

ESO’s La Silla Observatory:

MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope:

Research review paper:

Photos of the VLT Survey Telescope:

Photos of the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Richard Hook/R. Colombari/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Digitized Sky Survey 2/ Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/Videos: ESO/R. Colombari/Digitized Sky Survey 2/N. Risinger ( Music: Astral electronic.


mardi 30 janvier 2018

Rescheduled Robotics Work Makes Two Spacewalks in February

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

Jan. 30, 2018

Saying Goodnight

Image above: "Good night from @Space_Station. DC, NY, Toronto, Cleveland, and surrounding areas!" This note from NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei may be visually stunning, but it's a common occurrence on the International Space Station, which experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. Image Credits: NASA/Mark Vande Hei.

International Space Station managers have rescheduled a U.S. spacewalk postponed on Monday to mid-February. Meanwhile, the Expedition 54 crew is also preparing for a Russian spacewalk this Friday.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Norishige Kanai are planning to begin their spacewalk Feb. 15 at 7:10 a.m. EST to stow and reposition a pair of Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The LEEs are robotic hands attached to the tip of the Canadarm2 that grapple and release cargo ships and external station hardware.

During the 6.5-hour excursion, the spacewalkers will first move an older LEE from a bracket on the Mobile Base System on the truss to the Quest airlock. It was removed from Canadarm2 during a spacewalk last October. Next, a degraded LEE detached from Canadarm2 during the last U.S. spacewalk on Jan. 23 will be moved from an external stowage platform to the Mobile Base System. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the spacewalk at 5:30 a.m.

Image above: Astronaut Scott Tingle works on a U.S. spacesuit inside the Quest airlock at the beginning of January 2018 before a pair of robotics maintenance spacewalks were scheduled to begin. Image Credit: NASA.

Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov will exit the Pirs airlock in their Orlan spacesuits Friday at around 10:30 a.m. for 6.5 hours of Russian maintenance, highlighted by the swap out of an electronics system for the Zvezda Service Module’s high gain communications antenna. Live NASA TV coverage begins at 9:45 a.m.

Earlier today, Zvezda’s engines fired for 23 seconds to increase the station’s altitude and set up operations for the arrival of cargo and the departure of crew. The Progress 69 cargo craft will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Feb. 11, then 3 Expedition 54 crew members will depart the station in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft Feb. 27 for a landing in Kazakhstan later that day.

Related links:


Expedition 54:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA’s Small Spacecraft Produces First 883-Gigahertz Global Ice-Cloud Map

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center logo.

Jan. 30, 2018

A bread loaf-sized satellite has produced the world’s first map of the global distribution of atmospheric ice in the 883-Gigahertz band, an important frequency in the submillimeter wavelength for studying cloud ice and its effect on Earth’s climate.

IceCube — the diminutive spacecraft that deployed from the International Space Station in May 2017— has demonstrated-in-space a commercial 883-Gigahertz radiometer developed by Virginia Diodes Inc., or VDI, of Charlottesville, Virginia, under a NASA Small Business Innovative Research contract. It is capable of measuring critical atmospheric cloud ice properties at altitudes between 3-9 miles (5 Km-15 Km).

Image above: The bread loaf-sized IceCube was deployed from the International Space Station in May. One month later, it began science operations gathering global data about atmospheric ice clouds in the submillimeter wavelengths. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA scientists pioneered the use of submillimeter wavelength bands, which fall between the microwave and infrared on the electromagnetic spectrum, to sense ice clouds. However, until IceCube, these instruments had flown only aboard high-altitude research aircraft. This meant scientists could gather data only in areas over which the aircraft flew.

“With IceCube, scientists now have a working submillimeter radiometer system in space at a commercial price,” said Dong Wu, a scientist and IceCube principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “More importantly, it provides a global view on Earth’s cloud-ice distribution.”

Sensing atmospheric cloud ice requires scientists deploy instruments tuned to a broad range of frequency bands. However, it’s particularly important to fly submillimeter sensors. This wavelength fills a significant data gap in the middle and upper troposphere where ice clouds are often too opaque for infrared and visible sensors to penetrate. It also reveals data about the tiniest ice particles that can’t be detected clearly in other microwave bands.

The Technical Challenge

IceCube’s map is a first of its kind and bodes well for future space-based observations of global ice clouds using submillimeter-wave technology, said Wu, whose team built the spacecraft using funding from NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office’s (ESTO) In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate CubeSat Initiative. The team’s challenge was making sure the commercial receiver was sensitive enough to detect and measure atmospheric cloud ice using as little power as possible.

Image above: IceCube Principal Investigator Dong Wu set out to demonstrate a commercial 883-Gigahertz radiometer in space, but ended up getting much more: the world’s first ice-cloud map in that frequency. Here he is pictured holding the instrument. Image Credit: NASA.

Ultimately, the agency wants to infuse this type of receiver into an ice-cloud imaging radiometer for NASA’s proposed Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystems, or ACE, mission. Recommended by the National Research Council, ACE would assess on a daily basis the global distribution of ice clouds, which affect the Earth’s emission of infrared energy into space and its reflection and absorption of the Sun’s energy over broad areas. Before IceCube, this value was highly uncertain.

“It speaks volumes that our scientists are doing science with a mission that primarily was supposed to demonstrate technology,” said Jared Lucey, one of IceCube’s instrument engineers. He was one of only a handful of scientists and engineers at Goddard and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia who developed IceCube in just two years. “We met our mission goals and now everything else is bonus,” he said.

Multiple Lessons Learned

In addition to demonstrating submillimeter-wave observations from space, the team gained important insights into how to efficiently develop a CubeSat mission, determining which systems to make redundant and which tests to forgo because of limited funds and a short schedule, said Jaime Esper, IceCube’s mission systems designer and technical project manager at Goddard.

Image above: Relatively small teams from both Goddard and the Wallops Flight Facility built the IceCube mission. The Goddard team included (left photo, back row, from left to right): Dong Wu, Michael Solly, Jared Lucey, Jeffrey Piepmeier, Paul Racette, Derek Hudson; (front row, left to right): Melyane Ortiz-Acosta, Armi Pellerano, Carlos Duran-Aviles, Kevin Horgan, Negar Ehsan, and Mark Wong. Image Credit: NASA.

“It wasn’t an easy task,” said Negar Ehsan, IceCube’s instrument system lead. “It was a low-budget project” that required the team to develop both an engineering test unit and a flight model in a relatively short period of time. In spite of the challenges, the team delivered the VDI-provided instrument on time and budget. “We demonstrated for the first time 883-Gigahertz observations in space and proved that the VDI-provided system works appropriately,” she said. “It was rewarding.”

The team used commercial off-the-shelf components, including VDI’s radiometer. The components came from multiple commercial providers and didn’t always work together harmoniously, requiring engineering. The team not only integrated the radiometer to the spacecraft, but also built spacecraft ground-support systems and conducted thermal-vacuum, vibration, and antenna testing at Goddard and Wallops.

“IceCube isn’t perfect,” Wu conceded, referring to noise or slight errors in the radiometer’s data. “However, we can make a scientifically useful measurement. We came away with a lot of lessons learned from this CubeSat project, and next time engineers can build it much more quickly.”

Image above: The Wallops team included (right photo, back row, from left to right): Chris Purdy, Brian Abresch, Alex Coleman, and Kurt Reddersen; (front row, from left to right): Brooks Flaherty, Scott Heatwole, Jerry Cote, Henry Hart, Bob Stancil, and Ted Daisey. Image Credit: NASA.

“This is a different mission model for NASA,” Wu continued. “Our principal goal was to show this small mission could be done. The question was, could we can get useful science and advance space technology with a low-cost CubeSat developed under an effective government-commercial partnership. I believe the answer is yes.”

Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA, including: planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.

NASA ESTO supports InVEST missions like IceCube and technologies at NASA centers, industry and academia to develop, refine and demonstrate new methods for observing Earth from space, from information systems to new components and instruments.

For more Goddard technology news, go to

Related links:

NASA’s proposed Aerosol-Cloud-Ecosystems, or ACE:



Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Lori Keesey.