samedi 19 janvier 2019

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-71

ULA - Delta IV Heavy / NROL-71 Mission poster.

Jan. 19, 2019

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-71 in Support of 
National Security

Delta IV Heavy carrying NROL-71 launch

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a critical payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) denoted NROL-71 lifted off from Space Launch Complex-6 on Jan. 19 at 11:10 a.m. PST. The mission is in support of our country’s national defense.

“Congratulations to our team and mission partners for successfully delivering this critical asset to support national security missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, “thank you to the entire team for their perseverance, ongoing dedication and focus on 100% mission success.”

Delta IV Heavy launches NROL-71

The Delta IV Heavy is the nation’s proven heavy lift launch vehicle, delivering high-priority missions for the National Reconnaissance Office, U.S. Air Force and NASA. With its advanced upper stage, the Delta IV Heavy can take more than 14,000 pounds directly to geosynchronous orbit, as well as a wide variety of complex interplanetary trajectories.

The mission launched aboard a Delta IV Heavy, comprised of three common booster cores each powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing a combined total of more than 2.1 million pounds of thrust. The second stage was powered by an AR RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine.

Delta IV Heavy / NROL-71 Mission patch

NROL-71 is ULA’s first launch in 2019 and 132nd successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA's next launch is the WGS-10 mission for the U.S. Air Force on a Delta IV rocket. The launch is scheduled for March 13, 2019 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at

Images, Video, Text, Credits: United Launch Alliance (ULA)/SciNews.


An artificial meteorite shower on Demand

ALE Co., Ltd logo / ALE satellite logo.

Jan. 19, 2019

ALE satellite

A meteorite launcher satellite has successfully been placed into orbit for an unprecedented space show in the Japanese skies.

A small Japanese rocket placed seven mini-satellites into orbit on Friday, including one designed to create artificial meteorite rain, a kind of space fireworks.

The idea of ​​this unprecedented celestial spectacle goes to a young company based in Tokyo that has developed the device.

The craft, which dropped in the interstellar universe the little Epsilon-4 launcher, must release 400 tiny balls that will shine when they cross the atmosphere early next year over Hiroshima.

Artificial meteors shower over a event

The rocket, which took off from the Uchinoura Space Center on Friday morning, was carrying a total of seven ultra-small satellites demonstrating various "innovative" technologies, according to Nobuyoshi Fujimoto, spokesman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

"I was so emotional"

The satellites have been placed in orbit as planned, a significant success for Epsilon. "I was too emotional, without words," Japanese news agency Jiji Lena Okajima, president of the ALE firm, told the story of the fake meteorite show, which will be repeated 20 to 30 times. .

Artificial meteors shower over Japan

The ALE satellite, orbiting 500 kilometers above the Earth, will gradually descend to 400 kilometers over the next year. Another is supposed to join him in a few months.

ALE would like to dream of "the whole world" with "shooting stars on command" ejected at the right place, at the right speed and in the right direction, according to a technical process kept secret.

ALE Promotion Movie

Stars (of various colors) should shine for several seconds before being completely consumed. If all goes well and the sky is clear, the event of 2020 could be visible to millions of people, including in remote urban areas and strong light pollution like Tokyo, according to the firm.

Related link & article:

ALE Co.:

Successfully launch of Epsilon-4 carrying RAPIS 1

Images, Animation, Video, Text, Credits: AFP/ALE Co., Ltd./ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 18 janvier 2019

International collaboration publishes concept design for a post-LHC future circular collider at CERN

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

18 January, 2019

On 15 January, the Future Circular Collider (FCC) collaboration submitted its Conceptual Design Report (CDR) for publication 

Image above: A collection of photos (following bellow) related to the FCC study, reflecting the different aspects of the project and the ongoing R&D activities to advance new technologies that can guarantee a reliable and sustainable operation. (Image: CERN).

Geneva. On 15 January, the Future Circular Collider (FCC) collaboration submitted its Conceptual Design Report (CDR) for publication, a four-volume document that presents the different options for a large circular collider of the future. It showcases the great physics opportunities offered by machines of unprecedented energy and intensity and describes the technical challenges, cost and schedule for realisation.

Over the next two years, the particle physics community will be updating the European Strategy for Particle Physics, outlining the future of the discipline beyond the horizon of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The roadmap for the future should, in particular, lead to crucial choices for research and development in the coming years, ultimately with a view to building the particle accelerator that will succeed the LHC and will be able to significantly expand our knowledge of matter and the universe. The new CDR contributes to the European Strategy. The possibility of a future circular collider will be examined during the strategy process, together with the other post-LHC collider option at CERN, the CLIC linear collider.

Artist's view of  Tunnel Interiors. Image Credit: CERN

The FCC study started in 2014 and stems directly from the previous update of the European Strategy, approved in May 2013, which recommended that design and feasibility studies be conducted in order for Europe “to be in a position to propose an ambitious post-LHC accelerator project at CERN by the time of the next Strategy update”. The FCC would provide electron-positron, proton-proton and ion-ion collisions at unprecedented energies and intensities, with the possibility of electron-proton and electron-ion collisions.

“The FCC conceptual design report is a remarkable accomplishment. It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society”, said CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti. “While presenting new, daunting challenges, the FCC would greatly benefit from CERN’s expertise, accelerator complex and infrastructures, which have been developed over more than half a century.”

Image above: The FCC study prepared a conceptual design of a 100km long ring accelerator, that uses CERN's existing accelerator infrastructure. Image Credit: CERN.

The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC opened a new path for research, as the Higgs boson could be a door into new physics. Detailed studies of its properties are therefore a priority for any future high-energy physics accelerator. The different options explored by the FCC study offer unique opportunities to study the nature of the Higgs boson. In addition, experimental evidence requires physics beyond the Standard Model to account for observations such as dark matter and the domination of matter over antimatter. The search for new physics, for which a future circular collider would have a vast discovery potential, is therefore of paramount importance to making significant progress in our understanding of the universe.

The FCC design study was a huge effort, possible only thanks to a large international collaboration. Over five years and with the strong support of the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme, the FCC collaboration involved more than 1300 contributors from 150 universities, research institutes and industrial partners who actively participated in the design effort and the R&D of new technologies to prepare for the sustainable deployment and efficient operation of a possible future circular collider.

Designing the Future Circular Collider

“The FCC’s ultimate goal is to provide a 100-kilometre superconducting proton accelerator ring, with an energy of up to 100 TeV, meaning an order of magnitude more powerful than the LHC”, said CERN Director for Accelerators and Technology, Frédérick Bordry. “The FCC timeline foresees starting with an electron-positron machine, just as LEP preceded the LHC. This would enable a rich programme to benefit the particle physics community throughout the twenty-first century.”

Using new-generation high-field superconducting magnets, the FCC proton collider would offer a wide range of new physics opportunities. Reaching energies of 100 TeV and beyond would allow precise studies of how a Higgs particle interacts with another Higgs particle, and thorough exploration of the role of the electroweak-symmetry breaking in the history of our universe. It would also allow us to access unprecedented energy scales, looking for new massive particles, with multiple opportunities for great discoveries. In addition, it would also collide heavy ions, sustaining a rich heavy-ion physics programme to study the state of matter in the early universe.

FCC cutaway. Image Credit: CERN

“Proton colliders have been the tool-of-choice for generations to venture new physics at the smallest scale. A large proton collider would present a leap forward in this exploration and decisively extend the physics programme beyond results provided by the LHC and a possible electron-positron collider.” said CERN Director for Research and Computing, Eckhard Elsen.

A 90-to-365-GeV electron-positron machine with high luminosity could be a first step. Such a collider would be a very powerful “Higgs factory”, making it possible to detect new, rare processes and measure the known particles with precisions never achieved before. These precise measurements would provide great sensitivity to possible tiny deviations from the Standard Model expectations, which would be a sign of new physics.

Image above:Artistic impression of a collision event at the centre of a future detector following preliminary design studies. Image Credit: CERN.

The cost of a large circular electron-positron collider would be in the 9-billion-euro range, including 5 billion euros for the civil engineering work for a 100-kilometre tunnel. This collider would serve the worldwide physics community for 15 to 20 years. The physics programme could start by 2040 at the end of the High-Luminosity LHC. The cost estimate for a superconducting proton machine that would afterwards use the same tunnel is around 15 billion euros. This machine could start operation in the late 2050s.

The complex instruments required for particle physics inspire new concepts, innovation and groundbreaking technologies, which benefit other research disciplines and eventually find their way into many applications that have a significant impact on the knowledge economy and society. A future circular collider would offer extraordinary opportunities for industry, helping to push the limits of technology further. It would also provide exceptional training for a new generation of researchers and engineers.


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 links:

Conceptual Design Report (CDR) :

European Strategy for Particle Physics:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

CLIC linear collider:

Higgs boson:

High-Luminosity LHC:

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

Images (mentioned), video, Text, Credit: CERN.

Best regards,

Payam-e Amirkabir Satellite launch, rocket third stage failed

Iranian Space Agency (ISA) logo.

Jan. 18, 2019

Simorgh launch vehicle carrying Payam-e Amirkabir launch

A Simorgh launch vehicle launched the Payam-e Amirkabir Satellite from the Imam Khomeini Space Center, Iran, on 15 January 2019.  The satellite was not placed into orbit due to an issue with the rocket’s third stage.

Simorgh launches Payam-e Amirkabir Satellite

Payam-e Amirkabir Satellite was designed and developed by Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology and was planned to carry out imagery mission in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Payam-e Amirkabir Satellite

The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) has planned to build imagery satellites with one-meter-precision by the end of current Iran’s 20-year National Vision Program in 2025.

The Simorgh rocket (سیمرغ, Phoenix, also called Safir-2) can place a satellite weighing up to 250 kg (550 pounds) in an orbit of 500 km (311 miles).

Iranian Space Agency (ISA):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Iranian Space Agency (ISA)/Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)/SciNews.


Tech Work and Life Science Ahead of Orbital Boost Today

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

January 18, 2019

Satellite and combustion technology are being worked on today aboard the International Space Station. The Expedition 58 crew also studied botany and psychology while the station raised its orbit in a planned reboost maneuver.

Anne McClain of NASA installed new SlingShot small satellite deployer gear inside the Cygnus space freighter. SlingShot will deploy small research satellites from Cygnus after it departs the space station’s Unity module in February and reaches a safe distance.

Image above: Expedition 58 crew members David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, Anne McClain of NASA and Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos. Image Credit: NASA.

McClain also transferred biomedical hardware for the Fluid Shifts head and eye pressure study into the Zvezda service module for continuing research. She later worked in the Columbus lab module installing a light meter to measure the amount of light nourishing plants inside the Veggie botany facility.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and configured hardware inside the flame and soot research device. The work is being done ahead of operations for the Advanced Combustion in Microgravity Experiments that encompass a set of five independent gaseous flames studies.

He later typed his mood, thoughts and emotions into an electronic journal for the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. The psychological study seeks to understand how the spacecraft environment, long-term separation from family and friends, loss of day-night cycle and other factors impact crew behavior.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

In the Russian segment of the station, Commander Oleg Kononenko transferred fluids and packed trash into the docked Progress 70 (70P) cargo craft. The Progress resupply ship is due to undock from the Pirs docking compartment on Jan. 25.

A second docked Progress cargo craft, the 71P, fired its engines shortly after 1:01 p.m. EST to raise the station’s orbit.  The reboost comes in advance of upcoming cargo missions and the next crew launch in February.

Related links:

Expedition 58:


Cygnus space freighter:

Unity module:

Fluid Shifts:

Zvezda service module:

Columbus lab module:


Advanced Combustion in Microgravity Experiments:

Behavioral Core Measures:

Progress 70 (70P) cargo craft:

Pirs docking compartment:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Juno’s Latest Flyby of Jupiter Captures Two Massive Storms

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Jan. 18, 2019

This image of Jupiter’s turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed its most recent close flyby of the gas giant planet on Dec. 21, 2018.

This new perspective captures the notable Great Red Spot, as well as a massive storm called Oval BA. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as Oval BA, may have formed from the same process centuries ago.

Juno captured Oval BA in another image earlier on in the mission on Feb. 7, 2018. The turbulent regions around, and even the shape of, the storm have significantly changed since then. Oval BA further transformed in recent months, changing color from reddish to a more uniform white.

Juno took the three images used to produce this color-enhanced view on Dec. 21, between 9:32 a.m. PST (12:32 p.m. EST) and 9:42 a.m. PST (12:42 p.m. EST). At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was between approximately 23,800 miles (38,300 kilometers) to 34,500 miles (55,500 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops above southern latitudes spanning 49.15 to 59.59 degrees.

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager.

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and to process into image products at:  

More information about Juno is at: and

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran.


Scientists Finally Know What Time It Is on Saturn

NASA - Cassini International logo.

January 18, 2019

Using new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers believe they have solved a longstanding mystery of solar system science: the length of a day on Saturn. It's 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

The figure has eluded planetary scientists for decades, because the gas giant has no solid surface with landmarks to track as it rotates, and it has an unusual magnetic field that hides the planet's rotation rate.

The answer, it turned out, was hidden in the rings.

Image above: A view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's northern hemisphere in 2016 as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice. A year on Saturn is 29 Earth years; days only last 10:33:38, according to a new analysis of Cassini data. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

During Cassini's orbits of Saturn, instruments examined the icy, rocky rings in unprecedented detail. Christopher Mankovich, a graduate student in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, used the data to study wave patterns within the rings.

His work determined that the rings respond to vibrations within the planet itself, acting similarly to the seismometers used to measure movement caused by earthquakes. The interior of Saturn vibrates at frequencies that cause variations in its gravitational field. The rings, in turn, detect those movements in the field.

"Particles throughout the rings can't help but feel these oscillations in the gravity field," Mankovich said. "At specific locations in the rings these oscillations catch ring particles at just the right time in their orbits to gradually build up energy, and that energy gets carried away as an observable wave."

Mankovich's research, published Jan. 17 by Astrophysical Journal, describes how he developed models of Saturn's internal structure that would match the rings' waves. That allowed him to track the movements of the interior of the planet - and thus, its rotation.

The rotation rate of 10:33:38 that the analysis yielded is several minutes faster than previous estimates in 1981, which were based on radio signals from NASA's Voyager spacecraft.

The analysis of Voyager data, which estimated the day to be 10:39:23, was based on magnetic field information. Cassini used magnetic field data, too, but earlier estimates ranged from 10:36 all the way to 10:48.

Scientists often rely on magnetic fields to measure planets' rotation rates. Jupiter's magnetic axis, like Earth's, is not aligned with its rotational axis. So it swings around as the planet rotates, enabling scientists to measure a periodic signal in radio waves to get the rotation rate. However, Saturn is different. Its unique magnetic field is nearly perfectly aligned with its rotational axis.

A day on Saturn. Animation Credit:

This is why the rings finding has been key to homing in on the length of day. Saturn scientists are elated to have the best answer yet to such a central question about the planet.

"The researchers used waves in the rings to peer into Saturn's interior, and out popped this long-sought, fundamental characteristic of the planet. And it's a really solid result," said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker. "The rings held the answer."

The idea that Saturn's rings could be used to study the seismology of the planet was first suggested in 1982, long before the necessary observations were possible. 

Co-author Mark Marley, now at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, subsequently fleshed out the idea for his Ph.D. thesis in 1990. Along with showing how the calculations could be done, he predicted where signatures in Saturn's rings would be. He also noted that the Cassini mission, then in the planning stages, would be able to make the observations needed to test the idea.

"Two decades later, in the final years of the Cassini mission, scientists analyzed mission data and found ring features at the locations of Mark's predictions," said co-author Jonathan Fortney, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the Cassini team. "This current work aims to make the most of these observations."

Cassini's mission ended in September 2017 when, low on fuel, the spacecraft was deliberately plunged into Saturn's atmosphere by the mission team, which wanted to avoid crashing the craft onto the planet's moons.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the U.S. and several European countries.

Related article:

NASA's Cassini Data Show Saturn's Rings Relatively New

More information about Cassini can be found here:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JoAnna Wendel/JPL/Gretchen McCartney.


NASA’s Campaign to Return to the Moon with Global Partners

NASA logo.

Jan. 18, 2019

The Moon is a fundamental part of Earth’s past and future - an off-world location that may hold valuable resources to support space activity and scientific treasures that may tell us more about our own planet. Americans first walked on its surface almost 50 years ago, but the next wave of lunar exploration will be fundamentally different.

Through an innovative combination of missions involving commercial and international partners, NASA’s robotic lunar surface missions will begin as early as 2020, focus on scientific understanding of lunar resources, and prepare the lunar surface for a sustained human presence, to include the use of lunar oxygen and hydrogen for future lunar vehicles. The lunar surface will also serve as a crucial training ground and technology demonstration test site where we will prepare for future human missions to Mars and other destinations.

Earth Moon. Image Credit: NASA

Since the beginning of its mission, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has imaged objects impacting the surface of the moon. Such observations are of interest scientifically since they allow NASA to test and constrain models used to understand how water and other volatiles may be transported to the permanently shadowed craters near the lunar poles.

In the coming months, the first Israeli spacecraft will land on the Moon, and partnership with NASA has helped make this possible. NASA will not only help with observations from LRO and communications support during the mission, but has also developed a laser retroreflector that will fly onboard the Israeli lander.

This past month, NASA held discussions with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume of their lunar lander, Chang’e 4, using LRO’s LAMP instrument. For a number of reasons, NASA was not able to phase LRO’s orbit to be at the optimal location during the landing, however NASA was still interested in possibly detecting the plume well after the landing. Science gathered about how lunar dust is ejected upwards during a spacecraft’s landing could inform future missions and how they arrive on the lunar surface.

Since the Chinese landing, LRO instruments have been collecting data that are currently being analyzed. LRO is expected to image the Chang’e 4 landing site on January 31 in a manner similar to what was done on Chang’e 3.  NASA and CNSA have agreed that any significant findings resulting from this coordination activity will be shared with the global research community at the 56th session of the Scientific and Technology Subcommittee meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meeting in Vienna, Austria, February 11-22, 2019. All NASA data associated with this activity are publicly available. In accordance with Administration and Congressional guidance, NASA’s cooperation with China is transparent, reciprocal and mutually beneficial.

On the commercial side, NASA announced in November that nine U.S. companies are now eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface. These companies will develop and build robotic landers that will carry NASA and other customer’s payloads to the lunar surface.

As NASA works toward its plan to sustainably return to the Moon, it will be critical to collaborate with both commercial and international partners along the way. This approach will enable human expansion across the solar system and bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

To learn more, visit

Chang’e 3:

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Emily Furfaro.

Best regards,

Successfully launch of Epsilon-4 carrying RAPIS 1

JAXA - RAPIS 1 Mission patch.

Jan. 18, 2019

Successfully of Epsilon-4 Launch With The Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1 Aboard

Epsilon-4 carrying RAPIS 1 launch

At 9:50:20 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) January 18, 2019 JAXA launched Epsilon-4, the Fourth Epsilon launch vehicle With The Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1.

National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstration-1* aboard the fourth Epsilon Launch Vehicle (Epsilon-4) from the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center. The launch proceeded on time at 9:50:20 a.m., (Japan Standard Time, JST) January 18, 2019.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 1, or RAPIS 1, along with six Japanese and Vietnamese secondary payloads on a rideshare mission.

Epsilon-4 launch with RAPIS-1 and Cubesats

The launch and flight of Epsilon-4 occurred nominally. All seven satellites separated from the launch vehicle successfully; the Rapid Innovative Payload Demonstration Satellite 1 (RAPIS-1) was jettisoned from the launch vehicle approximately 51 minutes 55 seconds into launch. Thereafter, other onboard satellites - MicroDragon, RISESAT, ALE-1, OrigamiSat-1, Aoba VELOX-IV and NEXUS - were respectively separated from Epsilon-4.

From the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center. The launch occurred on time. The launch and flight of Epsilon-4 took place normally. Approximately 51 minutes 55 seconds into the flight, the separation of "The Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1" proceeded, with confirmation as successful.

RAPIS-1 satellite

JAXA appreciates all for the support shown in behalf of the Epsilon-4 launch.

*Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1 is a suit of seven small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new technological approaches;

- Rapid Innovative payload demonstration Satellite 1 (RAPIS-1), which JAXA developed with the assistance of startups

- Small satellites: MicroDragon, RISESAT and ALE-1

- CubeSats: OrigamiSat-1, Aoba VELOX-IV, NEXUS

Related links:

Epsilon Launch Vehicle:

The Innovative Satellite Technology Demonstoration-1:

Innovative satellite technology demonstration program (Research and Development Directorate):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/National Research and Development Agency/SciNews.


jeudi 17 janvier 2019

NASA's Cassini Data Show Saturn's Rings Relatively New

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

Jan. 17, 2019

The rings of Saturn may be iconic, but there was a time when the majestic gas giant existed without its distinctive halo. In fact, the rings may have formed much later than the planet itself, according to a new analysis of gravity science data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Image above: An artist's concept of the Cassini orbiter crossing Saturn's ring plane. New measurements of the rings' mass give scientists the best answer yet to the question of their age. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The findings indicate that Saturn's rings formed between 10 million and 100 million years ago. From our planet's perspective, that means Saturn's rings may have formed during the age of dinosaurs.

The conclusions of the research — gleaned from measurements collected during the final, ultra-close orbits Cassini performed in 2017 as the spacecraft neared the end of its mission — are the best answer yet to a longstanding question in solar system science. The findings were published online Jan. 17 in Science.

Saturn formed 4.5 billion years ago, in the early years of our solar system. There have been clues that its ring system is a young upstart that attached to Saturn years afterward. But how long afterward?

To figure out the age of the rings, scientists needed to measure something else: the mass of the rings, or how much material they hold. Researchers had the remote-sensing measurements from Cassini and both of NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s. Then came Cassini's unprecedented, up-close data from its final orbits. As the spacecraft was running out of fuel, it performed 22 dives between the planet and the rings.

The dives allowed the spacecraft to act as a probe, falling into Saturn's gravity field, where it could feel the tug of the planet and the rings. Radio signals sent to Cassini from the antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network and the European Space Agency relayed the spacecraft's velocity and acceleration.

Once scientists knew how much gravity was pulling on Cassini, causing it to accelerate — down to a fraction of a millimeter per second — they could determine how massive the planet is and how massive the rings are.

"Only by getting so close to Saturn in Cassini's final orbits were we able to gather the measurements to make the new discoveries," said Cassini radio science team member and lead author Luciano Iess, of Sapienza University of Rome. "And with this work, Cassini fulfills a fundamental goal of its mission: not only to determine the mass of the rings, but to use the information to refine models and determine the age of the rings."

Iess' paper builds on a connection scientists previously made between the mass of the rings and their age. Lower mass points to a younger age, because the rings, which are bright and mostly made of ice, would have been contaminated and darkened by interplanetary debris over a longer period. With a better calculation of ring mass, scientists were better able to estimate the rings' age.

Saturn scientists will continue work to figure out how the rings formed. The new evidence of young rings lends credence to theories that they formed from a comet that wandered too close and was torn apart by Saturn's gravity — or by an event that broke up an earlier generation of icy moons.

Rotating Layers Go Deep

From Cassini's super-close vantage point, immersed in Saturn's gravity field, the spacecraft relayed measurements that led scientists to another surprising discovery.

It's long been known that Saturn's equatorial atmosphere rotates around the planet faster than its inner layers and core. Imagine a set of nested cylinders, rotating at different speeds. Eventually, toward the center of the planet, the layers move in synchrony and rotate together.

Jupiter's atmosphere behaves like this, too. But the new findings show that Saturn's layers start rotating in synchrony much deeper into the planet — at least 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) in. That's three times deeper than the same phenomenon at Jupiter. It's a depth that equals 15 percent of Saturn's entire radius.

"The discovery of deeply rotating layers is a surprising revelation about the internal structure of the planet," said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker of JPL. "The questions are what causes the more rapidly rotating part of the atmosphere to go so deep, and what does that tell us about Saturn's interior?"

At the same time, the measurement of Saturn's gravity solved yet another unknown: the mass of the core. Models of the interior developed by Burkhard Militzer, a UC Berkeley professor and a co-author of the paper, indicate that it is 15 to 18 Earth masses.

Cassini's mission ended in September 2017, when it was low on fuel and deliberately plunged into Saturn's atmosphere to protect the planet's moons. More science from the last orbits, known as the Grand Finale, will be published in the coming months.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The radio science instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the U.S. and Italy.

For more information about Cassini, go to:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JoAnna Wendel/JPL/Gretchen McCartney.


NASA's Moon Data Sheds Light on Earth’s Asteroid Impact History

NASA - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) patch.

Jan. 17, 2019

By looking at the Moon, the most complete and accessible chronicle of the asteroid collisions that carved our young solar system, a group of scientists is challenging our understanding of a part of Earth’s history.

Image above: The image shows a waning crescent Moon. Plotted on the night side is the LRO Diviner rock abundance map. The most prominent craters visible in the map are Tycho (85 million years old), Copernicus (797 million years old), and Aristarchus (164 million years old). The terminator passes through the Aristarchus plateau, dividing Aristarchus from its sister crater, Herodotus. Image Credits: Ernie Wright/NASA Goddard.

The number of asteroid impacts to the Moon and Earth increased by two to three times starting around 290 million years ago, researchers reported in a paper in the journal Science.

They could tell by creating the first comprehensive timeline of large craters on the Moon formed in the last billion years by using images and thermal data collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). When the scientists compared those to the timeline of Earth’s craters, they found the two bodies had recorded the same history of asteroid bombardment—one that contradicts theories about Earth’s impact rate.

For decades, scientists have tried to understand the rate that asteroids hit the Earth by carefully studying impact craters on continents and by using radiometric dating of the rocks around them to determine the ages of the largest, and thus most intact, ones. The problem is that many experts assumed that early Earth craters have been worn away by wind, storms, and other geologic processes. This idea explained why Earth has fewer older craters than expected compared to other bodies in the solar system, but it made it difficult to find an accurate impact rate and to determine whether it had changed over time.  

Image above: NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite captured this image of Pingualuit Crater on August 17, 2002. In it, water appears blue, and land appears in varying shades of beige. With a diameter of 2.14 miles (3.44 kilometers), Pingualuit Crater holds a lake about 876 feet (267 meters) deep. Image Credit: NASA.

A way to sidestep this problem is to examine the Moon. Earth and the Moon are hit in the same proportions over time. In general, because of its larger size and higher gravity, about twenty asteroids strike Earth for every one that strikes the Moon, though large impacts on either body are rare. But even though large lunar craters have experienced little erosion over billions of years, and thus offer scientists a valuable record, there was no way to determine their ages until the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter started circling the Moon a decade ago and studying its surface.

“We’ve known since the Apollo exploration of the Moon 50 years ago that understanding the lunar surface is critical to revealing the history of the solar system,” said Noah Petro, an LRO project scientist based at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. LRO, along with new commercial robotic landers under development with NASA, said Petro, will inform the development and deployment of future landers and other exploration systems needed for humans to return to the Moon's surface and to help prepare the agency to send astronauts to explore Mars. Achieving NASA’s exploration goals is dependent on the agency’s science efforts, which will contribute to the capabilities and knowledge that will enable America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach now and in the future.

“LRO has proved an invaluable science tool," said Petro. "One thing its instruments have allowed us to do is peer back in time at the forces that shaped the Moon; as we can see with the asteroid impact revelation, this has led to groundbreaking discoveries that have changed our view of Earth.”

Image above: A 2014 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera image showing two similarly sized craters in Mare Tranquillitatis. Both are about 500 meters in diameter. One is littered with boulders and the other is not. This boulder discrepancy is likely due to age differences between the two craters. Image width is about 2 kilometers. North points up. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

The Moon as Earth's Mirror

LRO's thermal radiometer, called Diviner, has taught scientists how much heat is radiating off the Moon’s surface, a critical factor in determining crater ages. By looking at this radiated heat during the lunar night, scientists can calculate how much of the surface is covered by large, warm rocks, versus cooler, fine-grained regolith, also known as lunar soil.

Large craters formed by asteroid impacts in the last billion years are covered by boulders and rocks, while older craters have few rocks, Diviner data showed. This happens because impacts excavate lunar boulders that are ground into soil over tens to hundreds of millions of years by a constant rain of tiny meteorites.

Image above: Geologist-Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt is photographed standing next to a huge, split boulder at Station 6 on the sloping base of North Massif during the third Apollo 17 extravehicular activity (EVA-3) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The "Rover" Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is in the left foreground. Schmitt is the Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot. This picture was taken by Commander Eugene A. Cernan on n December 13, 1972. Image Credit: NASA.

Paper co-author Rebecca Ghent, a planetary scientist at University of Toronto and the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, calculated in 2014 the rate at which Moon rocks break down into soil. Her work thus revealed a relationship between an abundance of large rocks near a crater and the crater’s age. Using Ghent’s technique, the team assembled a list of ages of all lunar craters younger than about a billion years.

“It was a painstaking task, at first, to look through all of these data and map the craters out without knowing whether we would get anywhere or not,” said Sara Mazrouei, the lead author of the Science paper who collected and analyzed all the data for this project while a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto.

The work paid off, returning several unexpected findings. First, the team discovered that the rate of large crater formation on the Moon has been two to three times higher over approximately the last 290 million years than it had been over the previous 700 million years. The reason for this jump in the impact rate is unknown. It might be related to large collisions taking place more than 300 million years ago in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, the researchers noted. Such events can create debris that can reach the inner solar system.  

The second surprise came from comparing the ages of large craters on the Moon to those on Earth. Their similar number and ages challenges the theory that Earth had lost so many craters through erosion that an impact rate could not be calculated.

“The Earth has fewer older craters on its most stable regions not because of erosion, but because the impact rate was lower about 290 million years ago,” said William Bottke, an asteroid expert at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and a co-author of the paper. “This meant the answer to Earth’s impact rate was staring everyone right in the face.”

Moon Sheds Light on Earth’s Impact History

Video above: By analyzing data on lunar craters provided by the Diviner instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have made a fascinating discovery about the history of impacts on both the Earth and the Moon. Video Credits: Ernie Wright & David Ladd/NASA Goddard.

Proving that fewer craters meant fewer impacts—rather than loss through erosion—posed a formidable challenge. Yet the scientists found strong supporting evidence for their findings through a collaboration with Thomas Gernon, an Earth scientist based at the University of Southampton in England who works on a terrestrial feature called kimberlite pipes.

These underground pipes are long-extinct volcanoes that stretch, in a carrot shape, a couple of kilometers below the surface. Scientists know a lot about the ages and rate of erosion of kimberlite pipes because they are widely mined for diamonds. They also are located on some of the least eroded regions of Earth, the same places we find preserved impact craters.

Gernon showed that kimberlite pipes formed since about 650 million years ago had not experienced much erosion, indicating that the large impact craters younger than this on stable terrains must also be intact. “So that's how we know those craters represent a near-complete record,” Ghent said.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credits: NASA/JPL

Ghent’s team, which also included Southwest Research Institute planetary astronomer Alex Parker, wasn’t the first to propose that the rate of asteroid strikes to Earth has fluctuated over the past billion years. But it was the first to show it statistically and to quantify the rate. Now the team’s technique can be used to study the surfaces of other planets to find out if they might also show more impacts.

The team’s findings related to Earth, meanwhile, may have implications for the history of life, which is punctuated by extinction events and rapid evolution of new species. Though the forces driving these events are complicated and may include other geologic causes, such as large volcanic eruptions, combined with biological factors, the team points out that asteroid impacts have surely played a role in this ongoing saga. The question is whether the predicted change in asteroid impacts can be directly linked to events that occurred long ago on Earth.

This research was funded in part by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). Researchers at the Southwest Research Institute are part of 13 teams within SSERVI, based and managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. SSERVI is funded by the Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Related link:

LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter):

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Svetlana Shekhtman/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Lonnie Shekhtman.


Mysterious radio waves have been detected in space

CHIME - Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment logo.

January 17, 2019

The bevy of high-speed flashes came from 1.5 billion light-years away, and they include one exceedingly rare repeating burst.

Astronomers have detected 13 high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space—including one that regularly repeats. While the exact sources remain unknown, the new bevy of mysterious blasts does offer fresh clues to where and why such flashes appear across the cosmos.

Fast radio bursts, as they are known to scientists, are among the universe's most bizarre phenomena. Each burst lasts just thousandths of a second, and they all appear to be coming from far outside our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Image above: The stars watch over the Kaleden Federal Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, home to the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME. photograph of Andre Renard.

Since these bursts were discovered in 2007, their cause has remained a puzzle. Based on estimations of the known range of their frequencies and an understanding of activity in the universe, scientists expect that nearly a thousand of them happen every day. But to date, only a handful have been found.

Now, a team using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, has announced the additional 13 new detections, including an especially rare repeating burst. Until now, only one other repeating fast radio burst was known to exist.

“The repeater,” as it being called, and its 12 counterparts came from a region of space some 1.5 billion light-years away, the team reports today in the journal Nature. All 13 new bursts have the lowest radio frequency yet detected, but they were also brighter than previously seen fast radio bursts, leading the team to think the low frequency has something to do with the sources’ environment.

“It doesn't mean that they're travelling from further away,” says study author Shriharsh Tendulkar, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of physics at McGill University. “As light propagates through the hot gas and plasma in the intergalactic medium and the interstellar medium, it has a bunch of different effects on the signal.”

For instance, the radio waves get twisted as they travel through space and can scatter or be absorbed by gas and plasma. The team therefore thinks that all 13 bursts probably originated from dense, turbulent regions inside their host galaxies, particularly areas with a lot of violent activity, such as near dense supernova remnants or close to black holes.

Deepening mystery

Tendulkar and the team also noticed that the structure of the new repeating burst is strikingly similar to the only other repeater ever found.

“The fact that we see these multiple structures in the burst was very similar to the first repeating fast radio burst. This is very uncommon,” he says. “Now there is this tantalising evidence that these bursts’ structures are seen only in repeaters.” That suggests that if more fast radio bursts are found with that structure, they may be prime candidates for also being repeaters.

The new repeating burst is brighter than the previous detection, which might be due to the fact that it is 1.5 billion light-years closer, but the team can’t know that for sure. To draw more comparisons, they’ll have to search the skies for the new burst’s host galaxy, which is not a guaranteed find. In the meantime, the team is continuing to use CHIME to observe the region of the sky where these bursts came from, as well as using other radio telescopes to follow up on the finds.

“We are trying to build up clues and trying to understand whether the repeating fast radio bursts and single fast radio bursts are different populations,” Tendulkar says. “Do they come from different objects? Or are they related in some way to each other? We are trying to figure these things out, so that's really exciting.”

What’s more, when CHIME detected these new bursts, it was only running at a fraction of its capacity, and the team is excited to see how many more will appear in their data now that the instrument is fully up and running.

“The CHIME discovery points to a huge potential,” says Shami Chatterjee, a senior researcher at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science who was not involved in the latest discoveries. “I’m intensely curious how many [fast radio bursts] they are sitting on now. They must have dozens or hundreds.”

Finding yet more bursts means that the odd occurrences could be effective tools for understanding the traces of gas, dust, and plasma that exist in the seemingly empty space between galaxies, called the intergalactic medium, Chatterjee adds.

“Everyone agrees that in the intergalactic medium, it's very hard to have a probe that can tell you about its make up,” Chatterjee says. “It is orders of magnitude emptier than our own interstellar medium, but because of the [fast radio bursts] that we are now finding, it is going to be one of the few ways that we can probe this medium and understand those environments.”

And for now, Tendulkar notes that the mystery surrounding fast radio bursts remains part of their appeal.

“There is a lot of fun in the not knowing,” he says. “You keep adding more information, but as in all sciences, whenever you solve one mystery, it always opens up three more.”

Related link:

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: National Geographic/Shannon Stirone/Dunlap Institute - University of Toronto.


Crew Studies Space-Caused Eye Pressure and Cultural Differences

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

January 17, 2019

The Expedition 58 crew focused again today on studying head and eye pressure changes astronauts experience while living in space. The crew then went on to more science hardware and life support maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Image above: Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques pose for a portrait inside the Destiny laboratory module. Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev is pictured in the background inside the Unity module which connects the International Space Station’s U.S. segment to the Russian segment. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques worked throughout Thursday morning researching the upward flow of fluids that occurs inside astronauts’ bodies. The duo conducted eye scans with a variety of devices to measure eye pressure changes caused by these fluid shifts in microgravity.

McClain then spent the afternoon connecting cables and installing parts on the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) that houses small experiments in the Kibo lab module. Saint-Jacques replaced electronics gear in the Kubik incubator that enables research on seeds, cells and small animals in the Columbus lab module.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Commander Oleg Kononenko ensured the upkeep of life support gear and other station systems in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. The veteran cosmonaut of three previous Expeditions ended the day exploring how station crew members from around the world interact and learn to live together in space.

Related links:

Expedition 58:

Fluid shifts:

Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR):

Kibo lab module:


Columbus lab module:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


mercredi 16 janvier 2019

First moon plants Grown in China’s Chang’e 4 biosphere experiment

CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo / Chongqing University logo.

Jan. 16, 2019

A sprouting cotton seed on China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander is the first plant ever to germinate on another world, heralding a new era for life in space.

Image above: Sprouting cotton plants on the moon. Other more images seen elsewhere are from the control setup on earth. Image Credit: Chongqing University.

Seeds of cotton, oilseed rape, potato and arabidopsis were carried to the moon as part of a biosphere experiment, along with fruit fly eggs and some yeast.

Pictures sent back by the probe show cotton, rape and potato seeds sprouting and growing well, the scientist leading the experiment, Liu Hanlong, told South China Morning Post. Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon on 3 January and this image was dated 7 January.

Chang’e-4 biological experiment - The first cotton sprout on the far side of the Moon

The organisms are kept in a sealed chamber, protected from the extreme temperatures and intense radiation on the moon’s surface. Understanding how to grow plants in space will help lay the foundation for establishing a human settlement on the moon, Liu said.

The six organisms could make up a mini-ecosystem, with plants producing oxygen and food to sustain the fruit flies. Yeast could process the flies’ waste and dead plants to provide another food source.

In a future human settlement, potatoes could provide food, rapeseed could be a source of oil and cotton could be used for clothing.

Chang'e 4 lander-rover relayed back via satellite relay.Image Credits: CASC/CNSA

Plants have been grown before in orbit in the International Space Station, including cucumbers. Astronauts got their first bites of space-grown romaine lettuce in 2015. Algae have even managed to survive 530 days on a panel on the outside of the Space Station.

Related article & links:

Chang'e-4 Probe & Rover Takes Color Photos on Moon's Far Side

Unpublished 360° picture of the hidden side of the Moon

China's Yutu-2 rover Enters Standby Mode for 'Noon Nap' as Chang'e 4 Tests Continue

"Small step for the rover, big step for China"

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

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

Chongqing University:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: CNSA/ Wong/China Central Television (CCTV)/Chongqing University/SciNews.