vendredi 20 avril 2018

New Research Activated as Biological Samples Packed for Earth Return Aboard Dragon

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 20, 2018

The outside of the International Space Station is a harsh environment but scientists are taking advantage of the extreme conditions to conduct advanced space research. Astronauts are also researching what happens to a variety of organisms living for months at a time inside a spacecraft as NASA prepares for longer missions farther out into space.

Image above: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle tends to plants grown inside the VEGGIE facility in support of space botany research. Image Credit: NASA.

The fifth and final external materials experiment (MISSE) delivered by the latest SpaceX Dragon resupply ship was activated outside the orbital lab today. Robotics engineers operating the Canadarm2 and Dextre extracted and installed the MISSE canisters one by one from Dragon’s trunk to areas on the station. The canisters were then remotely opened exposing a variety of materials to the vacuum of space to help engineers design safer and stronger spacecraft systems.

Back inside the orbital lab, Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA harvested and photographed plants for the APEX-06 study today. The botanical samples collected from the VEGGIE facility were later processed and stowed in a science freezer for return to Earth inside the Dragon cargo craft. They will be analyzed after being quickly shipped to scientists at NASA and the University of Wisconsin.

NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel once again partnered up and collected their blood and urine samples today for more biomedical experiments. Researchers are analyzing the samples as they continuously study how the human body adapts to extended periods of weightlessness. Results will help doctors provide therapies to maintain the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

Image above: "The Enchanted Islands of #Ecuador – the Galápagos," were photographed by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, currently aboard the International Space Station with the Expedition 55 crew. This view from more than 200 miles above our Earth shows the cloud-covered Galápagos Islands and sunglint in the waters off the coast of Ecuador on April 13, 2018, as the station orbited above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA/Ricky Arnold.

Mice are also being observed on the space station so scientists can detect the chemical signals that lead to weakened bones and muscles. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai drew more blood samples from the rodents today and wrapped up a week-long run of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The blood samples will be processed in a centrifuge, stowed in biological science freezer then returned to Earth inside Dragon for analysis on Earth.

Related links:



VEGGIE facility:

SpaceX Dragon:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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New Technology Doubles Scientists’ View of Ocean-Air Interactions

NASA - Armstrong Flight Research Center patch.

April 20, 2018

Image above: NASA's Beechcraft B-200 Super King Air is shown on the ramp at the Armstrong Flight Research Center. The twin-turboprop aircraft, used for research and mission support functions, recently was fitted with wingtip winglets that improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce fuel burn. Image Credits: NASA Photo/Carla Thomas.

NASA scientists are hard at work trying to unlock mysteries of our planet’s ocean surface currents and winds using a new Earth science radar instrument called DopplerScatt.

Ocean currents and winds form a never-ending feedback loop: winds blow over the ocean's surface, creating currents. At the same time, the hot or cold water in these currents influences the wind's speed. Understanding the relationship between the two phenomena is crucial to understanding Earth's changing climate. Gathering data on this interaction can also help people track oil spills, plan shipping routes and understand ocean productivity in relation to fisheries.

Image above: Engineers Raquel Rodriguez Monje and Fabien Nicaise discuss placement of the DopplerScatt radar instrument on the NASA B200 before its final installation onto the aircraft’s fuselage. Image Credits: NASA Photo/Ken Ulbrich.

NASA has been studying winds for decades using NASA's NSCAT, QuickScat and RapidScat instruments. However, DopplerScatt, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides a new capability to measure both winds and currents simultaneously.

Flying aboard a B200 King Air aircraft, DopplerScatt is a spinning radar that "pings" the ocean's surface, allowing it to take measurements from multiple directions at once. It's a step up from previous technology, which could simultaneously measure currents from one or two directions at the most, and couldn't measure properties of the sea surface as completely as this new instrument.

Image above: Radar operator Alexander Winteer monitors incoming wind data from the DopplerScatt radar instrument during a science flight off the California Coast on March 5, 2018. Image Credits: NASA Photo/Carla Thomas.

Like a highway patrol person's speed gun, the DopplerScatt instrument calculates the Doppler effect of a radar signal bouncing off an object. As that object moves closer or farther away, it detects these changes and figures out its speed and trajectory. Those measurements are combined with data from a scatterometer, which detects the reflection of the radar signal from the ocean's surface. The more "scattering" the radar observes, the rougher the waves. From the roughness and orientation of the waves, wind speed and direction can be calculated.

DopplerScatt is funded and managed by the Earth Science Technology Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. The B200 King Air research aircraft used to fly the instrument is managed and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center located in Edwards, California.

Related links:




B200 King Air aircraft:

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Earth Science Technology Office:

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center/Kate Squires/Monroe Conner.


jeudi 19 avril 2018

CERN’s SPS experiments restart

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

19 Apr 2018

Image above: The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), CERN’s second-largest accelerator. (Image: Julien Ordan/CERN).

At CERN, springtime usually marks the restart of the lab’s experiments. But while most eyes turn towards the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its experiments, the research programme at the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), CERN’s second-largest accelerator, has also resumed. This month witnesses the restart of data taking for a range of experiments fed with particle beams from the SPS. These experiments are an essential arm of CERN’s experimental programme, addressing areas as varied as precision tests of the Standard Model and studies of the quark–gluon state of matter, believed to have existed shortly after the Big Bang.

On 9 April, data taking restarted at three SPS experiments: NA58/COMPASS,  NA62, and NA63. NA58 directs several types of particle onto a variety of fixed targets to look at the ways in which elementary particles called quarks and gluons combine to make up protons, neutrons and other hadrons. This year the experiment is shooting quark­–antiquark pairs called pions at a proton target to collect the world’s largest data set on a hadron–hadron collision process called Drell–Yan mechanism, in order to make a fundamental test of the theory of the strong interaction between quarks and gluons.

NA62, another fixed-target experiment, aims to precisely test the Standard Model by looking for the super-rare decay of a positively charged particle known as a kaon into a positively charged pion and a neutrino–antineutrino pair. Earlier this year, the NA62 team reported the first candidate event for this decay, and the team aims to run the experiment for a record number of 218 days this year. If the Standard Model prediction for the number of events is correct, NA62 should see about 20 events with the data collected before the end of this year.

NA63 fires beams of electrons or antielectrons at a variety of fixed targets, among them large diamonds, to study radiation processes in strong electromagnetic fields like those seen in astrophysical objects such as highly magnetized neutron stars. On the cards for this year is a measurement of the so-called radiation reaction — the effect of the electromagnetic field emitted by an accelerated charged particle on the particle’s motion. Details of this effect are under debate, even though the effect has been known for over a hundred years.

The NA61/SHINE SPS experiment is set to restart data taking on 25 April. NA61 studies the production of hadrons using collisions between several types of hadron or nucleus and an assortment of nuclear targets. In store for this year are, among others, measurements of heavy hadrons with charm-type quarks produced in collisions between lead nuclei, and measurements of fragmentation of light nuclei. The first of these measurements are relevant for studying the quark–gluon state of matter, and the second are needed to understand the propagation of cosmic rays in the Milky Way.

Image above: Inside NA61, one of several experiments fed with particle beams from the SPS. (Image: Julien Ordan/CERN).

These are not the only experiments benefiting from particle beams from the SPS. NA64 and AWAKE are both set to start taking data in the coming months. With such a rich diversity of experiments linked to the SPS, the accelerator is so much more than a link in the accelerator chain taking protons to the LHC.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related article:

First LHC test collisions of 2018

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS):

Standard Model:





For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.


Station Biomedical and Exercise Studies Impact Health on Earth and in Space

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 19, 2018

Biomedical research to improve health on Earth and in space dominated today’s science activities aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 55 crew is helping scientists from around the world understand how life shaped by gravity adapts to living in outer space.

Image above: Doha, the capital city of Qatar, was photographed as the space station orbited over the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel joined forces today collecting and stowing their blood samples in a science freezer for a pair of human research studies. The samples will be analyzed later to detect the chemical responses and physiological changes that take place in the human body during a spaceflight mission.

Blood samples were also drawn from mice as Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai continued his week-long research activities for the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. Those samples will be processed in centrifuge, stowed in a freezer then analyzed to detect the processes that lead to muscle and bone loss in microgravity. Astronauts could benefit from the results and stay healthier on longer missions farther into space.

Image above: Flying over North Pacific Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'622 Km/h, altitude: 403,11 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 April 19, 2018 at 19:40 UTC.

Exercise is a very important contributor to maintaining stronger bones and muscles in space. However, exercise devices are bulky and can impact spacecraft habitability. Arnold tested a newer, smaller device today called the Miniature Exercise Device-2 that provides a range of motion and resistance workouts while maximizing habitable spacecraft volume.

Related links:

Chemical responses:

Physiological changes:

Miniature Exercise Device-2:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Takes First 3-D Microscopic Image on the Space Station

ISS - International Space Station logo.

April 19, 2018

Standard flat imagery of space science is a thing of the past for researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G).  Using the International Space Station’s newly upgraded microscope, the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), scientists can now see microscopic particles in 3-dimensional images.

On April 12, researchers first viewed the particles, called colloids, in 3-D, during the ongoing Advanced Colloids Experiments (ACE). Colloids are suspensions of microscopic particles in a liquid, and they are found in products ranging from milk to fabric softener. Consumer products often use colloidal gels to distribute specialized ingredients, for instance droplets that soften fabrics, but the gels must serve two opposite purposes: they have to disperse the active ingredient so it can work, yet maintain an even distribution so the product does not spoil.

NASA Takes First 3-D Microscopic Image on the Space Station

Video above: A composite 3-D model of NASA's Advanced Colloids Experiment. Video Credits: P&G, NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

Researchers are using the Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6) investigation, which has been in development for eight years, to study the behavior of colloids in gels and creams. The team plans to use the results to improve product shelf life and provide for more efficient product packaging.

ACE-T-6 has used a variety of imaging techniques with hardware developed by Glenn and ZIN Technologies, Inc. Now because of last year’s confocal upgrade to the LMM, researchers are able to view micron-sized particles in consecutive 2-D layers, or slices, and combine them into 3-D models that can be viewed from any angle. These models greatly increase the ability for scientific observations of how colloidal systems evolve.

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6) on ISS. Image Credit: NASA

In a microgravity environment, particles in these systems settle 100,000 times slower than on Earth, allowing observation during days or weeks instead of just minutes, revealing previously hidden thermo-dynamic interactions.

ACE will continue using this imaging technology through 2019. Researchers will study particle shapes, coatings, chemistry and manipulation with magnetic fields by observing these now visible particle interactions.

P&G has partnered with NASA in research and innovation for more than 10 years to investigate the mechanisms of consumer product shelf life. Researchers can apply knowledge gained from the Advanced Colloids Experiments to improving the stabilizers within gels and creams found within consumer products, which in turn could ultimately improve shelf-life. As a result, the research may lead to commercial enhancements like improved battery performance and solar cells, and better consumer products such as shampoo and pharmaceuticals.

Related links:

NASA’s Glenn Research Center:

Light Microscopy Module (LMM):

Advanced Colloids Experiments (ACE):

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-6 (ACE-T-6):

Confocal upgrade to the LMM:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ronald Coulter/NASA Glenn Research Center/Debbie Lockhart.

Best regards,

Two Hubble Views of the Same Stellar Nursery

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

April 19, 2018

These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary in space.

The colorful visible-light image at left reveals a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This dust-and-gas landscape is being sculpted by powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds unleashed by a monster young star. Located at the center of the photo, the star, known as Herschel 36, is about 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. This hefty star is 32 times more massive and 40,000 times hotter than our Sun. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star’s standards, only 1 million years old.

Image above: These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images compare two diverse views of the roiling heart of a vast stellar nursery, known as the Lagoon Nebula. The images, one taken in visible and the other in infrared light, celebrate Hubble’s 28th anniversary in space. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and STScI.

The blistering radiation and powerful stellar winds (streams of subatomic particles) are pushing dust away in curtain-like sheets. As the monster star throws off its natal cocoon of material, it is suppressing star formation around it.

However, at the dark edges of this dynamic bubble-shaped ecosystem, stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. Dark, elephant-like “trunks” of material represent dense pieces of the cocoon that are resistant to erosion by the searing ultraviolet light and serve as incubators for fledgling stars.

A monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust.

Image above: This colorful image, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, celebrates the Earth-orbiting observatory’s 28th anniversary of viewing the heavens, giving us a window seat to the universe’s extraordinary tapestry of stellar birth and destruction. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and STScI.

The star-filled image at right, taken by Hubble in near-infrared light, reveals a very different view of the Lagoon Nebula compared to its visible-light portrait. Making infrared observations of the cosmos allows astronomers to penetrate vast clouds of gas and dust to uncover hidden gems. Hubble’s view offers a sneak peek at the dramatic vistas NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will provide.

Lagoon Nebula Zoom and Flythrough

Video above: This video zooms into the core of a rich star-birth region called the Lagoon Nebula, located in the constellation Sagittarius in the direction of our Milky Way galaxy’s central bulge. Video Credits: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon, D. Player, J. DePasquale, F. Summers, and Z. Levay (STScI) Acknowledgement: Fujii, Digitized Sky Survey, ESO/VPHAS, and Crisp.

The most obvious difference between Hubble’s infrared and visible photos of this region is the abundance of stars that fill the infrared field of view. Most of them are more distant, background stars located behind the nebula itself. However, some of these pinpricks of light are young stars within the Lagoon Nebula. The giant star Herschel 36, near the center of the frame, shines even brighter in this infrared view.

Dark smudges known as Bok globules mark the thickest parts of the nebula, where dust protects still-forming stars and their planets. While Hubble cannot penetrate these dusty clumps, Webb will be able to see through them.


The Lagoon Nebula resides 4,000 light-years away. The image shows a region of the nebula measuring about 4 light-years across.

The observations were taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, 2018.

For additional images and videos, visit:

For NASA's Hubble website:

For Hubble Europe's release:

For the 1996 Hubble Lagoon Nebula Release:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Donna Weaver/Ray Villard.


mercredi 18 avril 2018

Lab Tests and Life Science as Station Orbits Higher Today

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 18, 2018

A docked Russian cargo craft automatically fired its engines this morning boosting the International Space Station’s altitude a little higher. During the rest of the day, the Expedition 55 crew supported life science and swapped out station hardware.

Russia’s Progress 69 resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module fired its thrusters boosting the station’s orbit today. The two-minute, six-second burn establishes the correct orbit when three crew members undock and land in June and a two-orbit rendezvous capability for the Progress 70P resupply craft when it launches in July.

Image above: Mexico, Baja California and the southern coast of the state of California are pictured as the International Space Station orbited above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA crewmates Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel became lab assistants today as they collected and stowed their own blood, urine and saliva samples in a science freezer. Two long-running human research experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, are basing their results on the analysis of these samples helping scientists understand how microgravity impacts the human body.

Tingle later tested the Miniature Exercise Device-2 for providing a range of motion and resistance exercise while taking up less space aboard the station. Feustel installed new firewall gear in the Harmony module before replacing manifold bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack. Arnold worked with commercial science hardware then processed samples for a protein crystal growth student experiment.

Image above: Flying over North Pacific Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'611 Km/h, altitude: 409,52 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 April 19, 2018 at 01:33 UTC.

Mice are being observed on the orbital lab today to understand the physiological signals that lead to muscle and bone loss in space. Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency collected blood samples from the mice to be processed, analyzed and stowed in a science freezer. Scientists are studying the effectiveness of a drug therapy to prevent those stresses and signals that cause weakened bones and muscles.

Related links:

Biochemical Profile:


Miniature Exercise Device-2:

Student experiment:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

NASA Planet Hunter on Its Way to Orbit

SpaceX - TESS Mission patch.

April 18, 2018

Image above: NASA’s next planet-hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 18, 2018. TESS will search for new worlds outside our solar system for further study. Image Credit: NASA Television.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life.

TESS, which is expected to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches TESS - Falcon 9 first stage landing

“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.”

Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.

NASA TESS deployment

“One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit,” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. “Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That’s one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before.”

For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.

Image above: Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC.

TESS will be watching for phenomena called transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer’s perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness. More than 78 percent of the approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using transits.

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft found more than 2,600 exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars between 300 and 3,000 light-years from Earth, using this same method of watching for transits. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets.

The brightness of these target stars will allow researchers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet’s mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets’ capacity to harbor life.

“The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”

NASA’s New Planet Hunter: TESS

Video above: This video provides an overview of the TESS mission, which will monitor bright, nearby stars for evidence of orbiting planets. Video Credits: NASA GSFC.

Through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, the worldwide scientific community will be able to conduct research beyond TESS’s core mission in areas ranging from exoplanet characterization to stellar astrophysics, distant galaxies and solar system science.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT and managed by Goddard. George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, serves as principal investigator for the mission. TESS’s four wide-field cameras were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

Related links:

NASA’s Kepler:

TESS Guest Investigator Program:

NASA Astrophysics Explorer:

TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/NASA/Felicia Chou/Karen Northon/Goddard Space Flight Center/Claire Saravia/Kennedy Space Center/Joshua Finch/SciNews.


Proton-M launches Blagovest military communications satellite


April 18, 2018

Illustration image of Proton-M rocket launch (Amazon-5)

Russia’s Proton-M rocket made its first flight in six months Thursday, on track to deploy a Blagovest military communications satellite. Launch occurred from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 04:12 local time (22:12 UTC on Wednesday), ahead of over nine hours of flight to deployment of its passenger.

Thursday’s launch is carrying the Blagovest No.12L satellite, the second spacecraft in a new series of communications satellites for Russia’s Ministry of Defence. After launch the satellite is likely to be renamed Kosmos 2526 under the designation scheme that Russia uses for its military spacecraft. Few details about the spacecraft have been made public.

Blagovest – meaning Good News – is a project that has been funded by the Russian military. Each satellite carries a payload of Ka and Q-band transponders. Although the satellites are being launched for the Ministry of Defence, they are reportedly equipped for telephony, broadcasting and internet services – which will support a dual-use mission with commercial service as well as linking Russia’s military bases.

Blagovest satellite

The Blagovest spacecraft are built by ISS Reshetnev – the successor to the Soviet-era NPO PM design bureau that was headed by Mikhail Reshetnev. Blagovest is based around the Ekspress 2000 bus that has previously been used for the civilian Ekspress-AM5 and AM6 and Yamal 401 satellites. Once in orbit the satellite will deploy a pair of solar arrays to generate power. It is expected to remain in service for fifteen years.

The Blagovest constellation is expected to consist of at least four satellites in geostationary orbit. It will include spacecraft at longitudes of 45 and 128 degrees East – Kosmos 2520 operates at 45 degrees East.

Thursday’s launch of Blagovest No.12L follows the successful deployment of Blagovest No.11L, the first satellite in the series, last August. Now known as Kosmos 2520, Blagovest No.11L was deployed by a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage flying out of Site 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Blagovest No.12L is riding to orbit aboard the same type of rocket, flying from the same launch pad.

Images, Text,Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA Graham/Günter Space Page.


Where is the Universe’s missing matter?

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

18 April 2018

Astronomers using ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory have probed the gas-filled haloes around galaxies in a quest to find ‘missing’ matter thought to reside there, but have come up empty-handed – so where is it?

All the matter in the Universe exists in the form of ‘normal’ matter or the notoriously elusive and invisible dark matter, with the latter around six times more prolific.

Curiously, scientists studying nearby galaxies in recent years have found them to contain three times less normal matter than expected, with our own Milky Way Galaxy containing less than half the expected amount.

“This has long been a mystery, and scientists have spent a lot of effort searching for this missing matter,” says Jiangtao Li of the University of Michigan, USA, and lead author of a new paper.

Searching galactic haloes for ‘missing’ matter

“Why is it not in galaxies — or is it there, but we are just not seeing it? If it’s not there, where is it? It is important we solve this puzzle, as it is one of the most uncertain parts of our models of both the early Universe and of how galaxies form.”

Rather than lying within the main bulk of the galaxy, the part can be observed optically, researchers thought it may instead lie within a region of hot gas that stretches further out into space to form a galaxy’s halo.

These hot, spherical haloes have been detected before, but the region is so faint that it is difficult to observe in detail – its X-ray emission can become lost and indistinguishable from background radiation. Often, scientists observe a small distance into this region and extrapolate their findings but this can result in unclear and varying results.

Jiangtao and colleagues wanted to measure the hot gas out to larger distances using ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory. They looked at six similar spiral galaxies and combined the data to create one galaxy with their average properties.

“By doing this, the galaxy’s signal becomes stronger and the X-ray background becomes better behaved,” adds co-author Joel Bregman, also of the University of Michigan.

“We were then able to see the X-ray emission to about three times further out than if observing a single galaxy, which made our extrapolation more accurate and reliable.”

Massive and isolated spiral galaxies offer the best chance to search for missing matter. They are massive enough to heat gas to temperatures of millions of degrees so that they emit X-rays, and have largely avoided being contaminated by other material through star formation or interactions with other galaxies.

Still missing

The team’s results showed that the halo surrounding galaxies like the ones observed cannot contain all of the missing matter after all. Despite extrapolating out to almost 30 times the radius of the Milky Way, nearly three-quarters of the expected material was still missing.

There are two main alternative theories as to where it could be: either it is stored in another gas phase that is poorly observed – perhaps either a hotter and more tenuous phase or a cooler and denser one – or within a patch of space that is not covered by our current observations or emits X-rays too faintly to be detected.

Either way, since the galaxies do not contain enough missing matter they may have ejected it out into space, perhaps driven by injections of energy from exploding stars or by supermassive black holes.

ESA's XMM-Newton x-ray observatory

“This work is important to help create more realistic galaxy models, and in turn help us better understand how our own Galaxy formed and evolved,” says Norbert Schartel, ESA XMM-Newton project scientist. “This kind of finding is simply not possible without the incredible sensitivity of XMM-Newton.”

“In the future, scientists can add even more galaxies to our study samples and use XMM-Newton in collaboration with other high-energy observatories, such as ESA’s upcoming Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics, Athena, to probe the extended, low-density parts of a galaxy’s outer edges, as we continue to unravel the mystery of the Universe’s missing matter.”

Notes for editors:

“Baryon budget of the hot circumgalactic medium of massive spiral galaxies,” by J-T Li et al. (2018) is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aab2af.

Related links:

The Astrophysical Journal Letters:

More information about ESA's XMM-Newton mission can be found here:

XMM-Newton overview:

XMM-Newton image gallery:

XMM-Newton in-depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Norbert Schartel/University of Michigan/Joel Bregman/Jiangtao Li/ESA/XMM-Newton; J-T. Li (University of Michigan, USA); Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).


mardi 17 avril 2018

Station Set to Orbit Higher as Crew Performs Biomedical Tests

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 17, 2018

The International Space Station is set to raise its orbit Wednesday ahead of upcoming cargo and crew missions. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 55 crew members are staying busy today with medical tests, cargo work and lab maintenance.

Image above: Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Drew Feustel of NASA is inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module talking to dignitaries on Earth, including university officials, musicians and scientists, during an educational event that took place at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Image Credit: NASA.

The space station will increase its altitude slightly when a docked Russian cargo craft automatically fires its engines for two minutes and six seconds early Wednesday. The maneuver will establish the correct orbit for the landing of three crew members in June and a two-orbit rendezvous capability for the next Russian Progress resupply craft in July.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle collected and stowed his own urine sample today for a pair of biomedical studies examining the effects of spaceflight on the human body. The U.S. Navy pilot also continued operations for the Metabolic Tracking (MT) experiment that observes how human tissue samples are impacted by a specific drug compound.

Image above: Sunrise over Australia, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'597 Km/h, altitude: 409,77 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 April 17, 2018 at 21:08 UTC.

Expedition 55-56 crewmates Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold checked each other’s eyes today using optical coherence tomography gear inside the Harmony module. Feustel also installed and checked the station’s first updated printer since 2000 before wrapping up his day unloading cargo from the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. Arnold finally collected water samples and changed out a cartridge as part of preventative maintenance on a U.S. oxygen generator.

Astronaut Norishige Kanai from Japan continued more upkeep work for the Mouse Stress Defense experiment that is exploring the causes of muscle and bone loss in space. The busy flight engineer later assisted his fellow crew members unloading SpaceX cargo before injecting human tissue samples with a drug compound for the MT study.

Related links:

Metabolic Tracking (MT):

SpaceX Dragon:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Diamonds tell a vanished planet

EPFL logo.

April 17, 2018

EPFL scientists have examined a slice of a meteorite containing diamonds formed under high pressure.

Image above: The fragment in question could be studied. Image Credits: EPFL/Hillary Sanctuary.

The study of EPFL researchers shows that the body of origin was a planetary embryo of a size between that of Mercury and that of Mars. On October 7, 2008, an asteroid a little over four meters in diameter entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded 37 kilometers above the Nubian Desert in Sudan. During his explosion, he threw multiple fragments on the surface of the desert.

Only fifty fragments, of a size of 1 to 10 centimeters, were collected, for a total mass of 4.5 kilos. It is mainly ureilites, a rare type of stony meteorite that often contains small clusters of nanometer-sized diamonds, said Tuesday the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) in a statement.

The prevailing view is that these tiny diamonds can form in three ways: shock waves of enormous pressure from high-energy collisions between the original meteorite and other objects in space, a deposition by chemical vapors or the "normal" static pressure inside the original body, as for most diamonds on Earth.

Planet Embryo

EPFL scientists, along with colleagues in France and Germany, studied diamonds with a diameter of 100 microns in some of these meteorites. The analysis showed that the diamonds contained chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulphides, which scientists call "inclusions".

It has long been known that they exist in terrestrial diamonds, but they are described for the first time in an extraterrestrial body. The particular composition and morphology of these materials can only be explained if the pressure under which the diamonds were formed was greater than 20 GPa (giga-pascals).

Image above: Artist’s conception of the dust and gas surrounding a newly formed planetary system. Image Credit: NASA.

And this level of internal pressure can be explained only if the body of origin was a planetary "embryo" of a size between those of Mercury and Mars, according to the layer in which the diamonds were formed.

Lost planets

Many models have predicted that these planetary embryos existed during the first million years of our Solar System, and the study provides irrefutable proof of their existence. Many planetary embryos had the size of Mars, like the one that struck the Earth to give birth to the Moon.

According to the authors, "this study provides compelling evidence that the original body of this meteorite was one of those 'lost' great planets destroyed by collisions 4.5 billion years ago." . The discovery is published in Nature Communications.

Related article from EPFL:

For more information about Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ATS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

lundi 16 avril 2018

Storm hunter in position

ESA - Colombus patch.

April 16, 2018

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, also known as the Space Storm Hunter, was installed today outside the European space laboratory Columbus.

Operators in Canada commanded the International Space Station’s 16-m long robotic arm to move the 314-kg facility from a Dragon spacecraft’s cargo hold to its place of operation on Columbus.

Mounted on Columbus

Pointing straight down at Earth, the storm hunter will observe lightning and powerful electrical bursts in the atmosphere that occur above thunderstorms, the so-called transient luminous events. The inner workings of these magnificent forces of nature are still unknown. The International Space Station offers a great vantage point to gather information about such events – it circles 400 km above Earth and covers the areas where most thunderstorms appear.

Setting up

The first part to getting data is checking the communication channels. The storm hunter will send data over the International Space Station network beamed via communication satellites to a ground station in White Sands, USA, then on to the Space Station mission control in Houston, under the Atlantic ocean to the Columbus Control Centre near Munich, Germany, and finally to the Belgian user operations and support centre in Brussels.

The observatory has two suites of instruments to capture optical images in infrared and ultraviolet, and x-ray and gamma-ray detectors. Sensors will measure light levels to determine if an image should be taken and the data sent back to Earth.

Setting the levels will be a matter of trial and error – setting the trigger too low will flood the network with images that are of no use, too high and some thunderstorms will not be recorded. The operators will collaborate with scientists at the Technical Institute of Denmark who are eagerly awaiting readings from the observatory, in order to find the best solution.

Visual cameras will pinpoint areas of interest while photomultiplier tubes record the details of the lightning and transient luminous events. Other sensors are included to learn more about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, for high and low energy x-ray and gamma-ray bursts.

Lightning strikes

Each element of the storm hunter will be activated in turn and tested to ensure they are working as expected. This is expected to take up to six weeks, during which the user control centre will be run continuously.

Anuschka Helderweirt, operations engineer at the Belgian operations centre, says: “We are thrilled to start operating these instruments in space, this is what the hours spent training, developing procedures and preparing for anomalies was for. We are ready to deliver some fascinating new scientific data.”

Related links:

Experiment archive:

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity:

European space laboratory Columbus:

Terma (DK):

ASIM website:

DTU Space:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/D. Ducros/NASA.

Best regards,

Medicine and Mice Research All Week Long for Astro-Scientists

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 16, 2018

Scientists on the ground and in space this week are exploring a wide variety of phenomena affecting humans living in space. The ongoing life science aboard the International Space Station is designed to improve astronauts’ health in space and benefit people on Earth.

Image above: The clear blue waters surrounding the islands of the Bahamas were pictured April 4, 2018 from an Expedition 55 crew member aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

Medicine plays an important role in an astronaut’s health and doctors want to know more about how drug therapies work in space. NASA Flight Engineer Drew Feustel supported the medicine research today and injected human tissue samples with a drug compound for the Metabolic Tracking study. Those samples will be incubated then frozen before returning to Earth to be analyzed. Results may help the pharmaceutical industry design better, cheaper drugs for humans on Earth and in space.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai is tending to mice today, cleaning their habitats and preparing for a week-long run of the Mouse Stress Defense experiment. The Expedition 55 crew and doctors on Earth are observing the mice to understand the processes leading to muscle and bone loss in microgravity. Researchers are testing therapies that may prevent the physiological signals and stresses in space that lead to a weakened musculoskeletal system.

Other important space research taking place throughout the week will look at how plants grow off Earth possibly sustaining future crews and improving Earth agriculture. The crew will also test the new Miniature Exercise Device-2 for providing a range of motion and resistance exercise while taking up less space aboard the station.

Image above: Sunset over South Pacific Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'622 Km/h, altitude: 407,76 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 April 16, 2018 at 17:22 UTC.

More external cargo operations took place outside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship over the weekend. Robotics controllers remotely operating the Canadarm2 stowed a failed pump flow control sub-assembly (PFCS) in Dragon’s trunk ahead of a May spacewalk. That spacewalk will see two astronauts work outside the station to relocate a series of spare sub-assemblies for functional testing.

Related links:

Metabolic Tracking:

How plants grow off Earth:

Miniature Exercise Device-2:

SpaceX Dragon:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

A Universe of Opportunities

NASA 60th anniversary logo.

April 16, 2018

As NASA celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2018, it is renewing its focus on its core exploration and discoveries, and on strengthening our economy and security. The agency is dedicated to exploring the Moon and deep space by leading innovative commercial and international partnerships as human exploration, science, and technology work together as never before.

Lunar outpost concept. Image Credit: NASA

Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships is a public-private partnership model that encourages the commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support human spaceflight missions.

NASA Technology Transfer Program. Using NASA inventions, you could create new products or launch a new company.

NASA Spinoffs are technologies, products, and processes that have been derived from NASA development and expertise.

The Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) Program optimizes utilization of NASA’s chemical rocket propulsion test facilities in support of agency and external customer test objectives.

NASA Centennial Challenges offer incentive prizes to generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the Nation. The program seeks nontraditional sources from the public, academia, and industry to compete and accelerate technology.  The program currently has three open competitions: 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, Cube Quest, and Vascular Tissue Challenge.

NASA’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division is advancing the state of the art in robotic servicing to open up a new world where fleet managers can call on robotic mechanics to diagnose, maintain, and extend the lifespan of their assets.

NASA Partnerships develops strategic partnerships with academic, nonprofit, and industry partners dedicated to advancing the goals of the agency and world at large.

Kennedy Space Center is the world’s preeminent Multi-User Spaceport for government and commercial space access, enabling the world to explore and work in space.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program advances innovative space technologies, stimulates U.S. commercial spaceflight, and supports capability development in the suborbital and orbital small satellite launch vehicle market.

The Small Spacecraft Systems Virtual Institute advances the field of small spacecraft systems and allied sciences by promoting innovation, exploring new concepts, identifying emerging technology opportunities, and establishing effective conduits for collaboration and the dissemination of research results relevant to small spacecraft systems and subsystems.

NASA’s Applied Remote Sensing Training Program empowers the global community through remote sensing training.

Find out how your Small Business can help NASA develop tomorrow’s technology.

Building on its work in air traffic management for crewed aircraft, NASA is researching technologies for a UAS Traffic Management system that could develop airspace integration requirements enabling safe, efficient, low-altitude operations.

Your feedback on International Deep Space Standards will improve the interoperability standards enabling the development of systems to maximize investment in, and benefits of, deep space exploration platforms and technologies.

Interact with NASA data and become part of the real process of discovery by becoming a NASA Citizen Scientist. From finding planets around other stars to creating images of Jupiter to making Earth observations in your own backyard, join the NASA science team.

NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program Office enables the agency’s many missions to communicate with Earth. SCaN develops, manages, and operates the agency’s three communications networks: the Near Earth Network, Space Network, and Deep Space Network. These networks provide tracking, telemetry, and command services for missions from launch through retirement. SCaN is preparing for the next generation of robotic and human exploration through technology development, innovation and partnership with industry, academia, and other government agencies.

NASA has a long tradition of turning to accomplished citizens for advice and guidance on major program and policy issues before the agency. NASA Advisory Council and Committee meetings are typically open to the public.

NASA Social events provide social media followers with the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at NASA facilities and events and speak with scientists, engineers, astronauts, and managers.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate has prioritized Tipping Point funding opportunities for public-private partnerships to achieve NASA’s goals of expanding capabilities and opportunities in space.

NASA EXPRESS is your #1 source for the latest NASA education opportunities including internships, fellowships, and scholarships.

NASA iTech is a collaborative effort to find and foster innovative solutions that aim to solve challenges on Earth and also have the potential to solve some of NASA’s challenges agency wide.

Flying experiments on the International Space Station is a unique opportunity to eliminate gravity as a variable, provide exposure to vacuum and radiation, and have a clear view of Earth and the universe.

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Brian Dunbar.