samedi 22 juin 2019

A two-seater electric plane unveiled in Sion, Switzerland

H55 logo.

June 22, 2019

Intended for the training of pilots, the aircraft, presented by André Borschberg, should be at the disposal of the aviation schools from 2021.

An electric plane was presented Friday at Sion airport (Switzerland), after making its first successful flight. Intended for pilot training, it should be available to aviation schools by 2021.

Two-seater electric plane H55

The two-seater electric plane sits in a hangar at Sion airport. It offers a zero-emission solution, quiet and economical, said to a hundred people gathered for the occasion, André Borschberg, former CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse and co-founder and president of H55.

Manufactured by the Czech company BRM Aero, the device is equipped with an electric propulsion system consisting of a motor and batteries (in the wings) developed by H55. This spin-off of Solar Impulse develops electric motors, batteries, management and control systems and interfaces with the driver.

Three former Solar Impulse adventurers, the world's first solar-powered flight, are at the helm of H55: pilot André Borschberg, electrical engineer Sébastien Demont and economist Gregory Blatt.

An hour and a half of endurance

The plane last week made its first flight in the skies of the city. By the end of 2020, a pilot project will be conducted with two aviation schools in Switzerland and by 2021 the Bristell Energic should be available to all interested schools, said André Borschberg.

The aircraft has an endurance of one hour and a half, for flights of 45 to 60 minutes, which corresponds to the flying schools training program. Overall, the cost of an electric-powered aircraft is lower than that of a gas-powered aircraft, taking into account the purchase price, maintenance and fuel.

Engine puncturing

For the H55 team, electric aircraft respond to a real need in a society that is increasingly sensitive to the environment and nuisances. It is attracting "considerable interest from aviation academies, airport resident associations and aeronautical authorities".

Image above: André Borschberg, co-founder and president of H55, in charge of the electric plane presented Friday in a hangar at Sion airport.

A member of the team spun the Bristell Energic engine in front of the guests gathered in the hangar: the purr contrasted sharply with the deafening takeoffs and landings heard at the airport on Friday morning.

Springboard to flying taxis

The H55 aircraft is a springboard for developing new solutions in air transport. "By flying electric planes and analyzing their performance, we are collecting essential data for the development of VTOL (note: vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) and flying taxis," said André Borschberg.

In 2018, H55 raised five million francs to develop its electric propulsion systems. The company benefits from the support of the Confederation of Canton Valais through the foundation The Ark, the city of Sion, but also an investment fund based in Switzerland and Silicon Valley.

Related article:

A new electric plane will soon be launched in Switzerland

Related links:

BRM Aero:

Solar Impulse:

Images, Text, Credits: ATS/H55/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 21 juin 2019

Virtual Reality Filming, Final Tests Before Crew Splits Up Monday

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 21, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew is going into the weekend preparing to split up on Monday amidst an array of ongoing human research. The orbital residents are also working on power upgrades and filming a virtual reality experience today.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are in their final weekend aboard the International Space Station. They will ride back to Earth on Monday with Commander Oleg Kononenko inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. Their Soyuz vehicle undocks at 7:25 p.m. EDT and lands in Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m. (8:47 a.m. Tuesday Kazakh time). NASA TV will broadcast all the homecoming activities live.

Image above: The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait aboard the International Space Station. Clockwise from center left are, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Christina Koch, David Saint-Jacques, Alexey Ovchinin, Anne McClain and Nick Hague. Image Credit: NASA.

Kononenko will hand over station command to cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin in a ceremony slated for Sunday at 3:35 p.m. live on NASA TV. Ovchinin officially becomes commander of Expedition 60 when the homebound trio’s Soyuz undocks Monday. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague are continuing their stay aboard the orbiting lab.

McClain and Saint-Jacques participated in one final study today exploring behavior, performance and cognition in space. The duo practiced grappling a cargo craft during a robotic simulation for the Behavioral Core Measures study. McClain also prepared a CubeSat for deployment next week. Saint-Jacques recorded a science video demonstrating Newton’s second and third laws in microgravity.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Hague joined McClain during the morning setting up the CubeSat hardware inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. In the afternoon, he partnered up with Koch and upgraded power electronics hardware in the Harmony module.

Finally, all six crewmembers gathered in the Zvezda service module at dinnertime and videotaped their activities with a 360-degree camera. The crew has been filming a variety of immersive, cinematic experiences throughout their mission to share with audiences on Earth.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Expedition 60:

Soyuz MS-11:


Behavioral Core Measures:

Kibo laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Zvezda service module:

360-degree camera:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Captures Elusive, Irregular Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

June 21, 2019

This image shows an irregular galaxy named IC 10, a member of the Local Group — a collection of over 50 galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood that includes the Milky Way.

IC 10 is a remarkable object. It is the closest-known starburst galaxy, meaning that it is undergoing a furious bout of star formation fueled by ample supplies of cool hydrogen gas. This gas condenses into vast molecular clouds, which then form into dense knots where pressures and temperatures reach a point sufficient to ignite nuclear fusion, thus giving rise to new generations of stars. 

As an irregular galaxy, IC 10 lacks the majestic shape of spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way, or the rounded, ethereal appearance of elliptical galaxies. It is a faint object, despite its relative proximity to us of 2.2 million light-years. In fact, IC 10 only became known to humankind in 1887, when American astronomer Lewis Swift spotted it during an observing campaign. The small galaxy remains difficult to study even today, because it is located along a line-of-sight which is chock-full of cosmic dust and stars.

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Nikolaus Sulzenauer, and went on to win 10th prize.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation, Credits: NASA, ESA and F. Bauer.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of June 17, 2019

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 21, 2019

Last week, the members of Expedition 59 conducted scientific investigations that examined how the human immune system and sensory perception change in space, and tested using microgravity to manufacture optical fibers. These and other studies aboard the International Space Station also make important contributions to NASA’s Artemis human exploration program, a two-phased approach to land humans on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustained presence there by 2028.

Image above: The Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer, attached to a robotic arm outside of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory module, ejects a set of three CubeSat satellites from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan for technology demonstrations. The International Space Station was orbiting 256 miles above the Amazon River in Brazil at the time. Image Credit: NASA.

Here are details on some of the science work that the crew of the orbiting lab conducted during the week of June 17:

Manufacturing high quality optic fiber in space

Crew members performed preparation work so ground could initiate fiber optic print runs for the Fiber Optic Production (FOP) investigation. Operating in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), this investigation creates optical fibers using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum called ZBLAN. Studies suggest that ZBLAN optical fibers produced in microgravity should be superior to those produced on Earth. The results may help verify these studies and guide further efforts to manufacture high value optical fiber in large volume aboard the space station.

A first look at immune response to an in-space challenge

Rodent Research-12 (RR-12) examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune system memory. Spaceflight has a dramatic effect on immune response, but few studies have followed an actual challenge to the body’s immune system in space. By advancing development of measures to counter spaceflight’s effects on the immune system, this investigation may help to maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. Last week, the crew discussed logistics and operations with the NASA Rodent Research and JAXA Mouse Mission teams on the ground.

Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain works on the Photobioreactor study on using microalgae to support hybrid life support systems in space. On future long-duration exploration missions, this approach could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Interpreting sensory input without gravity

The crew performed a session for the VECTION experiment. This study examines to what extent space may disrupt an astronaut's ability to visually interpret motion, orientation, and distance. It also looks at how these perceptions may adapt in space and change again upon return to Earth. Impairments in ability to judge motion, assess orientation, and estimate distances can have serious operational consequences for astronauts. Further knowledge of these abilities in space and on Earth could significantly improve safety of crew members on future space exploration missions.

Space to Ground: Tending the Hive: 06/21/2019

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The Photobioreactor investigation demonstrates whether the biological processes of microalgae can serve as part of a hybrid life support system. This approach would help future long-duration exploration missions reduce supplies that must be brought from Earth:

- The Capillary Structures investigation studies using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures:

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch checks out hardware for Capillary Structures, an experiment studying a new method of using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems on future space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

- STaARS BioScience-11 manufactures nanosomes, or nanoparticle delivery systems, for use in targeting chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Nanoparticles created in microgravity are much smaller, enhancing drug uptake and delivery and potentially reducing required dose per treatment and cost per dose:

- Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases:

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques hydrating growth packets for the BioNutrients investigation, which demonstrates a technology using engineered microbes for on-demand production of nutrients for humans on long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

- Veg-04A focuses on how light quality and fertilizer affect growth of Mizuna mustard, a leafy green crop, along with microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space:

- Probiotics examines the effects of beneficial bacteria or probiotics on the intestinal microbiota and immune function of crew members on long-duration space missions:

- Vascular Echo examines changes in blood vessels and the heart in space and recovery following return to Earth. Results could provide insight into developing countermeasures to help maintain crew member health on long voyages such as to the Moon or Mars:

- Genes in Space-6 determines the optimal DNA repair mechanisms that cells use in the spaceflight environment. It induces DNA damage and evaluates the entire mutation and repair process in space for the first time, using the miniPCR and Biomolecule Sequencer tools aboard the space station:

- Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program in order to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space:

Related links:

Expedition 59:


Fiber Optic Production (FOP):

Rodent Research-12 (RR-12):


Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Erling Holm/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 59/60.

Best regards,

Tumultuous Clouds of Jupiter

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

June 21, 2019

This stunning compilation image of Jupiter's stormy northern hemisphere was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet. Some bright-white clouds can be seen popping up to high altitudes on the right side of Jupiter's disk. (The Juno team frequently refers to clouds like these as "pop-up" clouds in image captions.)

Juno took the four images used to produce this color-enhanced view on May 29, 2019, between 12:52 a.m. PDT (3:52 a.m. EDT) and 1:03 a.m. PDT (4:03 a.m. EDT), as the spacecraft performed its 20th science pass of Jupiter. At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was between 11,600 miles (18,600 kilometers) and 5,400 miles (8,600 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops, above a northern latitude spanning from about 59 to 34 degrees.

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager.

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

More information about Juno is at and

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.


jeudi 20 juin 2019

Enhancing telecommunications: Arianespace’s Ariane 5 delivers T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C to geostationary transfer orbit

ARIANESPACE - Ariane 5 ECA Flight VA248 Mission poster.

June 20, 2019

Image above: Arinae 5 successfully orbited two telecommunications satellites on its second flight of 2019, performed from the Spaceport in French Guiana. Flight VA248. T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C. Image Credit: Arianespace.

An Ariane 5 ECA launch vehicle (Ariane Flight VA248) launched AT&T T-16 and EUTELSAT 7C satellites to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) from Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3) at Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, on 20 June 2019, at 21:43 UTC (18:43 local time). T-16 was manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space and will provide high-power broadcast services in Ku- and Ka-bands. EUTELSAT 7C was built by Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, and is a high-power broadcast satellite for markets in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Turkey.

Arianespace TV VA248 Launch Sequence

Conducted from the ELA-3 launch pad, today’s mission deployed an estimated payload lift performance of 10,594 kg. to geostationary transfer orbit. T-16 was released first in the sequence, separating from Ariane 5 27 minutes after liftoff, followed six minutes later by its EUTELSAT 7C co-passenger.

“For the second Ariane 5 launch of the year, our heavy-weight vehicle has once more performed perfectly,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël, who provided his post-flight comments from the Spaceport’s mission control center. “Congratulations to all!”

Another dual-payload delivery for Ariane 5

T-16 – produced in France by Airbus Defence and Space, based on the Eurostar 3000 LX Hybrid platform – will provide high-power broadcast services in Ku- and Ka-bands.

Being flexible, this hybrid-propulsion-powered broadcast satellite can be operated from five different orbital slots (from 99 deg. West to 119 deg. West) – with a coverage area that includes the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Its liftoff mass was estimated at 6,350 kg.


EUTELSAT 7C, an all-electric-propulsion telecommunications satellite for operation by Eutelsat, was released from the Ariane 5 launcher’s lower payload position. It was built by Maxar Technologies in the U.S. state of California using the company’s 1300-140” All-Electric platform and weighed approximately 3,400 kg. at liftoff.


Once operational from its orbital position at 7 deg. East, EUTELSAT 7C will significantly increase capacity over Sub-Saharan Africa – making room for several hundred additional digital channels as this region’s television market continues to grow at a rapid pace.

For more information about Arianespace, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Arianespace/Airbus Defence and Space/EUTELSAT.


Look, No Hands! NASA’s First Astrobee Robot “Bumble” Starts Flying in Space

ISS - ASTROBEE Mission patch.

June 20, 2019

On June 14, a robot named Bumble became the first Astrobee robot to fly under its own power in space. Astrobee is a free-flying robot system that will help researchers test new technologies in zero gravity and perform routine work alongside astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Robots that can operate on their own in space, such as Astrobee, can be caretakers for NASA's lunar gateway and will play a significant part in NASA’s future missions to explore the Moon and Mars.

Before Bumble’s first solo flight, the Astrobee team at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley verified that Bumble can find its position and was ready to navigate within the space station. Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques provided hands-on help for the pre-flight tests, manually moving Bumble around the Kibo laboratory to allow Astrobee’s navigation system to calibrate to its new surroundings. The navigation system uses a camera to observe the robot’s surroundings and compares what the camera sees to a map of the space station’s interior.

Animation above: NASA’s Astrobee robot, named Bumble, demonstrates a baby step of free flight by rotating in space. Astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency watches over while flight controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center command Bumble. NASA astronaut Nick Hague photographs the occasion. Animation Credit: NASA.

Astrobee robots can move in any direction and turn on any axis in space. Bumble’s first flights tested basic motions, such as "fly 11.8 inches forward" or "rotate 45 degrees to the right." NASA will continue to test Bumble's movement capability through a series of increasingly complex maneuvers to determine how well the robot performs in zero gravity. Results from these tests will be used to tune Astrobee’s propulsion system and help Bumble get ready to assume its role as the newest crewmember on the space station.

Bumble and a second Astrobee, “Honey,” launched to the space station in April. A third robot named “Queen” is scheduled to launch in July.

Learn more:

NASA’s New Flying Robots: Bee-ing in Space for the First Time:

Here’s Looking at You! Astrobee’s First Robot Completes Initial Hardware Checks in Space:

Related links:


Kibo laboratory:

Moon and Mars:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rick Chen.

Best regards,

Station Trio Reviews Landing Procedures During Human, Physics Research

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 20, 2019

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are reviewing the procedures they will use on their way to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station early next week. In the midst of the departure preparations, the six orbital residents also had time set aside for biomedical science and physics research aboard the orbiting lab.

Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques back to Earth on Monday inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft after 204 days in space. The trio spent the afternoon practicing their Soyuz undocking, atmosphere reentry and landing procedures. The homebound crew also familiarized themselves with the g-forces and the physical sensations they will experience when they penetrate Earth’s atmosphere 100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

Image above: From left are, Expedition 59 astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Anne McClain; cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin; and astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague. Image Credit: NASA.

McClain continued more biomedical tests Thursday as she submitted breath samples for the Marrow fat and blood cell study. Saint-Jacques injected control samples inside the new Bio-Analyzer to demonstrate the rapid analysis of blood, urine and saliva samples in microgravity.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch is in the midst of a ten-and-a-half month mission on the station, conducting scientific research and station maintenance. Today, she explored the possibility of producing high-grade fiber optic cables made possible only in microgravity. Fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who is staying in space until October, nourished and collected samples of microalgae grown inside the Photobioreactor. The study is demonstrating biological processes that may support hybrid life support systems in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin will lead Expedition 60 after the Expedition 59 trio departs Monday. He and Kononenko continued training to use a specialized Russian suit that counteracts the upward fluid shifts in the human body caused by microgravity. Ovchinin also checked inventory and configured hardware aboard Russia’s Progress 72 resupply ship.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Expedition 60:

Soyuz MS-11:



Rapid analysis:

High-grade fiber optic cables:


Specialized Russian suit:

Fluid shifts:

Progress 72:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Study Predicts More Long-Term Sea Level Rise from Greenland Ice

NASA - Operation IceBridge patch.

June 20, 2019

Greenland’s melting ice sheet could generate more sea level rise than previously thought if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and warm the atmosphere at their current rate, according to a new modeling study. The study, which used data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge airborne campaign, was published in Science Advances today.

Modeling the Future of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Video above: Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute used data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge to develop a more accurate model of how the Greenland Ice Sheet might respond to climate change in the future, finding that it could generate more sea level rise than previously thought. Video Credits: NASA/Katie Jepson.

In the next 200 years, the ice sheet model shows that melting at the present rate could contribute 19 to 63 inches to global sea level rise, said the team led by scientists at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. These numbers are at least 80 percent higher than previous estimates, which forecasted up to 35 inches of sea level rise from Greenland’s ice. 

The team ran the model 500 times out to the year 3000 for each of three possible future climate scenarios, adjusting key land, ice, ocean and atmospheric variables to test their effects on ice melt rate. The three climate scenarios depend on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere in coming years. In the scenario with no reduction of emissions, the study found that the entire Greenland Ice Sheet will likely melt in a millennium, causing 17 to 23 feet of sea level rise.

In the scenario where emissions are stabilized by the end of the century rather than continue to increase, the model shows ice loss falling to 26-57 percent of total mass by 3000. Drastically limiting emissions so they begin to decline by the end of the century could limit ice loss to 8-25 percent. This scenario would produce up to six feet of sea level rise in the next millennium, according to the study.

The updated model more accurately represents the flow of outlet glaciers, the river-like bodies of ice that connect to the ocean. Outlet glaciers play a key role in how ice sheets melt, but previous models lacked the data to adequately represent their complex flow patterns. The study found that melting outlet glaciers could account for up to 40 percent of the ice mass lost from Greenland in the next 200 years.

By incorporating ice thickness data from IceBridge and identifying sources of statistical uncertainty within the model, the study creates a more accurate picture of how human-generated greenhouse gas emissions and a warming climate may affect Greenland in the future.

A clearer picture

Capturing the changing flow and speed of outlet glacier melt makes the updated ice sheet model more accurate than previous models, according to the authors. As ocean waters have warmed over the past 20 years, they have melted the floating ice that shielded the outlet glaciers from their rising temperatures. As a result, the outlet glaciers flow faster, melt and get thinner, with the lowering surface of the ice sheet exposing new ice to warm air and melting as well.

“Once we had access to satellite observations, we were able to capture the surface velocity of the whole Greenland Ice Sheet and see how that ice flows. We recognized that some outlet glaciers flow very fast — orders of magnitude faster than the interior of the ice sheet,” said lead author Andy Aschwanden, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute.

IceBridge’s detailed ice thickness measurements helped the team to be the first to model these areas where outlet glaciers are affected by warmer ocean waters, as well as to model more of the complex feedbacks and processes influencing ice loss than previously possible. They examined the importance of factors like underwater melting, large ice chunks breaking off of glaciers, changing snowfall rates and rising air temperatures. They also examined factors that could slow down ice loss, like the movement of Earth’s surface “bouncing back” from the weight of ice that is no longer there.

Animation above: The researchers ran their model 1500 times, testing a variety of land, ice, ocean and atmospheric variables to see how they affected ice melt rate - including three possible future climate scenarios (from left to right: low, medium, and high emissions out to the year 2300). Animation Credits: NASA/Cindy Starr.

“At the end of the day, glaciers flow downhill,” Aschwanden said. “That’s very simplified, but if you don’t know where downhill is, the model can never do a good job. So the most important contributor to understanding ice flow is knowing how thick the ice is.”

Each of the three emissions scenarios used in the study produced different patterns of ice retreat across Greenland. The least severe scenario showed the ice retreating in the west and north, while the moderate scenario showed ice retreat around the island, except for in the highest elevation areas. The most severe scenario, in which emissions continue to increase at their present rate, showed more than half of the model runs losing more than 99 percent of the ice sheet by 3000.

At its thickest point, the Greenland Ice Sheet currently stands more than 10,000 feet above sea level. It rises high enough into the atmosphere to alter the weather around it, as mountains do. Today, this weather pattern generates almost enough snowfall to compensate for the amount of naturally melting ice each year. In the future, however, melting and flow will thin the interior, lowering it into a layer of the atmosphere that lacks the conditions necessary for sufficient replenishing snowfall.

“In the warmer climate, glaciers have lost the regions where more snow falls than melts in the summer, which is where new ice is formed,” said Mark Fahnestock, research professor at the Geophysical Institute and the study’s second author. “They’re like lumps of ice in an open cooler that are melting away, and no one is putting any more ice into the cooler.”

The team stressed that despite the need for ongoing research on exactly how glaciers will move and melt in response to warming temperatures, all of the model runs show that the next few decades will be pivotal in the ice sheet’s future outcome.

“If we continue as usual, Greenland will melt,” Aschwanden said. “What we are doing right now in terms of emissions, in the very near future, will have a big long-term impact on the Greenland Ice Sheet, and by extension, if it melts, to sea level and human society.”

Bridging the data gap

The model runs were performed on high-performance supercomputers at NASA’s Ames Research Center and the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM), an open-source model developed at UAF and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. NASA also provided funding support for the study. While other ice sheet models could perform the simulations they did, the team said, PISM is unique for its high resolution and low computational cost.

Image above: The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second-largest body of ice in the world, covering roughly 650,000 square miles of Greenland's surface. If it melts completely, it could contribute up to 23 feet of sea level rise, according to a new study using data from NASA's Operation IceBridge. Image Credits: NASA/Jefferson Beck.

NASA’s Operation IceBridge is the world’s largest airborne survey of polar land and sea ice. Using an array of aircraft and scientific instruments, IceBridge has collected data between the end of the first Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission in 2010 and the second, ICESat-2, which launched in 2018. It has measured the height of the ice below its flight path as well as the bedrock under the ice sheets.

“NASA’s space and airborne campaigns, like IceBridge, have fundamentally transformed our ability to try and make a model mimic the changes to the ice sheet,” Fahnestock said. “The technology that allows improved imaging of the glacier bed is like a better pair of glasses allowing us to see more clearly. Only NASA had an aircraft with the instruments and technology we needed and could go where we needed to go.”

Related links:

NASA’s Operation IceBridge:

Science Advances:

Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks:

NASA’s Ames Research Center:

Parallel Ice Sheet Model (PISM):

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sara Blumberg/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Jessica Merzdorf.


‘Concept to Reality’: NASA Marks Milestones in Development of Electric X-57

MAXWELL - X-57 patch.

June 20, 2019

NASA’s X-57 project has marked two critical milestones, taking two major steps toward demonstrating the benefits of electric propulsion for aviation.

More general aviation aircraft are in the air every year, which means that the challenge to address aircraft efficiency, noise and emissions becomes greater. NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, the agency’s first all-electric X-plane, will seek to meet that challenge by demonstrating innovative technology through electric-powered experimental flight.

The X-57 project is achieving this through several successive phases, in which the aircraft, a Tecnam P2006T, will undergo different modifications, or “Mods,” which NASA is tackling simultaneously to progress from one phase to the next, both safely and efficiently.

Image above: Engineers and specialists prepare X-57s Mod III wing for testing in the Flight Loads Laboratory at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Here, the wing began preparation for several tests, including weight and balance measurement, ground vibration testing, and wing loading tests. The high-aspect ratio wing contains 40 percent the area of the Mod II vehicle’s baseline wing, and will feature repositioning the two large electric cruise motors out to the wingtips to help boost efficiency. Image Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich.

One of these milestones was achieved as part of X-57’s Mod II activity – the configuration in which the X-57 project will flight test the research propulsion system, and will eventually fly as a fully electric aircraft. Mod II includes the replacement of the baseline aircraft’s two inboard combustion engines with electric cruise motors.

Having integrated much of the initial electric system into the Mod II aircraft, engineers for the first time tested the motors and propellers, integrated onto the vehicle, in an initial spin test.

“This is the first time we’ve had the electric motors installed with propellers and had them spinning,” said Sean Clarke, NASA’s Principal Investigator for X-57. “This was a big milestone, as it was a big systems test where we were able to run both motors on the airplane at the same time.

“It’s really exciting to actually have all of the systems integrated and to be able to operate the vehicle that we’ve been designing for our system tests. It’s a huge opportunity for us, so we’re very excited.”

Image above: X-57, pictured here in its final Mod IV configuration, will be powered by a battery system that consists of 16 battery modules. This system will comprise 800 lbs of the aircraft’s total weight. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. Image Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.

The test, which took place at Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California, verified that the propellers, which pull energy from the motor to provide thrust and propel the aircraft, operate as expected as the motors were provided with significant amounts of power for the first time.

Instead of using batteries, which the vehicle will ultimately use during taxi and flight tests, the spin test was carried out from the ground using a power supply. Following stages of Mod II testing include repeating the test with the use of batteries, and delivery of the Mod II aircraft to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Once delivered to NASA, the Mod II aircraft will undergo verification, followed by taxi tests, and eventually, experimental flight tests.

While Mod II proceeds toward testing, efforts are already well underway for X-57’s Mod III phase.

Mod III includes the replacement of the aircraft’s baseline wing with a new, high-aspect ratio wing, and features the repositioning of the electric cruise motors out to the wingtips – an arrangement that presents the potential to boost aircraft efficiency considerably, but was not feasible with heavier, traditional combustion engines.

X-57’s Mod III activity also achieved a major milestone, as NASA received delivery of the Mod III wing from the project’s prime contractor, Empirical Systems Aerospace, Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California, or ESAero.

Image above: The electric motors for X-57’s Mod II vehicle and their propellers were powered up and spun together for the first time as part of an integrated spin test. Chris Higbee, Project Engineer at Scaled Composites, is seen in the cockpit of the Mod II vehicle, which is the aircraft’s first of three electric configurations. The wind turbines seen along the hillside in the background illustrate a noticeable, appropriate impression of the future final phase of X-57, known as Mod IV, which will feature 12 small electric high-lift motors and propellers along its wing. Image Credits: AFRC TV / Steve Parcel.

Upon delivery of the wing, NASA immediately began running tests to verify that its specifications and components are sound, and that the wing matches NASA’s structure and design models.

NASA’s testing of the wing, which was built by Xperimental LLC in San Luis Obispo, includes weight and balance measurement, ground vibration testing, and wing loading tests. Weight and balance measurement determines the total mass and the center of gravity on the wing, and helps NASA verify that the aircraft will perform correctly during taxi and flight tests.

Ground vibration testing, or GVT, considers the engineering challenges of the relatively thin, high aspect-ratio wing, which could be prone to flutter and other vibration conditions in flight. The GVT lets NASA verify whether the structural properties built into the wing matches what is expected for flight.

Finally, the wing will undergo wing loading tests. These tests will confirm whether the wing structure acts as predicted as it carries the approximately 3,000 pound aircraft through flight.

“I think that getting the wing here really brings Mod III to reality for the team,” said X-57 Deputy Operations Engineering Lead Kirsten Boogaard. “Having the wing come here and people being able to see the size of it, the look of it, just actually see it in person instead of in models, I think, is a really big deal for the project.

NASA Marks Milestones in Development of Electric X-57

Video above: NASA’s X-57 project has marked two critical milestones in the development of the agency’s first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane, which will demonstrate the benefits of electric propulsion for aviation. Engineers for the first time tested the motors and propellers together for the project’s Mod II activity, which is the first electric configuration of the vehicle. Meanwhile, NASA received delivery of the wing for the project’s following Mod III activity, allowing testing to progress for two of X-57’s three electric configurations. For more, please visit Video Credit: AFRC TV.

“It’s a cool thing when ideas go from concept to reality, but that’s what NASA does.”

After these tests are complete, NASA will then send the wing back to ESAero, where the wing will undergo fit checks onto a second “fit-check” fuselage. Here, the wing will also have 12 nacelles integrated, which will eventually house 12 small, electric high-lift motors and propellers, which will be featured on X-57’s final phase, Mod IV.

NASA’s X-57 project is operated under the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate:

Future Aircraft:

Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Monroe Conner/Armstrong Flight Research Center/Matt Kamlet.


mercredi 19 juin 2019

Alzheimer’s Research and Homecoming Packing Aboard Lab Today

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 19, 2019

Three Expedition 59 crewmembers are less than one week away from completing their 204-day mission aboard the International Space Station. In the meantime, space research continues into advanced life support systems and nanoparticle therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques collected and stowed their biological samples for the Probiotics human research experiment this morning. The study from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is researching the consumption of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, to promote healthy intestines and immune systems in space.

Image above: The International Space Station was orbiting 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia when this nighttime photograph was taken of the aurora australis, or “southern lights.” Russia’s Soyuz MS-12 crew ship (foreground) and Progress 72 resupply ship are seen in this mesmerizing view. Image Credit: NASA.

The two flight engineers are also packing cargo and personal items for return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew craft. Commander Oleg Kononenko will lead the duo home inside the Russian spaceship for a June 24 landing in Kazakhstan. The threesome blasted off Dec. 3 and docked to the station’s Poisk module about six hours later inside the same Soyuz vehicle.

NASA TV will cover all the homecoming activities live beginning Sunday at 3:35 pm. EDT with the Change of Command Ceremony. Monday’s crew farewell and hatch closing will be at 4:10 p.m. with Soyuz undocking at 7:25 p.m. The Soyuz vehicle will fire its engines one last time at 9:55 p.m., followed bya parachute-assisted a landing in Kazakhstan on Monday at 10:48 p.m. EDT (Tuesday 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).

Aurora's over International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credits: NASA/JSC/Hirai Mamoru

NASA is evaluating technologies for a lightweight, advanced life support system that can recover water and remove carbon dioxide in space. Flight Engineer Nick Hague is supporting that research today with more Capillary Structures work. Hague is using specialized hardware to demonstrate the flow of fluid and gas mixtures using surface tension and fluid dynamics.

NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch is helping doctors on Earth target therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She collected samples from a temperature-controlled experiment facility and stowed them in a science freezer for analysis on Wednesday. The research is exploring manufacturing nanoparticles that target a disease’s underlying cause rather than its symptoms.

Related links:

Expedition 59:


MS-11 crew craft:

Poisk module:


Capillary Structures:

Experiment facility:

Manufacturing nanoparticles:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

China reveals scientific experiments for its next space station

CNSA - China National Space Administration logo.

19 June 2019

Projects will probe topics including DNA mutation, fire behaviour and the birth of stars.

Image above: Chinese astronauts are scheduled to have their own major space station from 2022.Image Credits: Chen Bin/Xinhua/Zuma.

China has selected nine scientific experiments — including a project that will probe how DNA mutates in space — to fly on its first major space station, scheduled to be completed in 2022.

The China Manned Space Agency selected the projects, which involve scientists from 17 nations, from 42 hopefuls, in a process organized with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

China’s existing space laboratory, Tiangong-2, which launched in 2016, also hosts experiments, but the new space station will be bigger and is intended to last longer. Known as the China Space Station, the outpost will be less than one-quarter of the mass of the International Space Station (ISS).

The science projects cover similar topics to experiments that have flown on the ISS since its launch in 1998, including fluid and fire behaviour, biology and astronomy.

Scientists working on the projects hail from spacefaring nations such as Russia, Japan and India, as well as low- and middle-income countries including Kenya, Mexico and Peru — the result of a special effort to encourage participation from such nations. “The cooperation takes into account the special needs of developing countries, which were encouraged to submit joint project applications with developed countries,” said Wang Qun, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, in a statement.

Tiangong-1 and Shenzou-9 docking. Image Credit: China News

The experiments include an Indian–Russian observatory called Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas, which will map dust clouds and star-forming regions of space using ultraviolet light. A group of European institutions, meanwhile, will study how microgravity and radiation in space affect the mutation of DNA in human ‘organoids’ — 3D biological structures that mimic organs. And a Saudi Arabian team will test how solar cells perform on the outside of the space station.

Other winners include a detector called POLAR-2, a more powerful follow-up to a sensor launched on Tiangong-2 to study the polarization of energetic γ-ray bursts from distant cosmic phenomena. POLAR-2, which will be built by an international collaboration, could even allow astronomers to observe the weak radiation associated with sources of gravitational waves.

But none of the experiments come from the United States, which since 2011 has forbidden NASA researchers from collaborating with China without congressional approval. A spokesperson for UNOOSA told Nature that US scientists were eligible to take part and were involved in several applications, but those projects weren’t ultimately selected.

The United States is planning to cut its funding for the ISS from 2024, as it concentrates its space efforts on building an outpost in the Moon’s orbit from 2022. This could mean that the Chinese space station becomes scientists’ only laboratory in low Earth orbit from 2024.

Related links:



Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Nature/Elizabeth Gibney.


ESA’s new mission to intercept a comet

ESA - Comet Interceptor Mission logo.

19 June 2019

‘Comet Interceptor’ has been selected as ESA’s new fast-class mission in its Cosmic Vision Programme. Comprising three spacecraft, it will be the first to visit a truly pristine comet or other interstellar object that is only just starting its journey into the inner Solar System.

Comet Interceptor concept

The mission will travel to an as-yet undiscovered comet, making a flyby of the chosen target when it is on the approach to Earth’s orbit. Its three spacecraft will perform simultaneous observations from multiple points around the comet, creating a 3D profile of a ‘dynamically new’ object that contains unprocessed material surviving from the dawn of the Solar System.

“Pristine or dynamically new comets are entirely uncharted and make compelling targets for close-range spacecraft exploration to better understand the diversity and evolution of comets,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA’s Director of Science.

“The huge scientific achievements of Giotto and Rosetta – our legacy missions to comets – are unrivalled, but now it is time to build upon their successes and visit a pristine comet, or be ready for the next ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar object.”

What is a Fast mission?

Comet Interceptor is a ‘fast’, or F-class mission. The ‘fast’ refers to the implementation time, with a total development duration from selection to launch readiness of about eight years. F-class missions, which have a launch mass of less than 1000 kg, will share the ride into space with a medium-class mission, taking advantage of additional space in the launcher and the boost to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, which is 1.5 million kilometres ‘behind’ Earth as viewed from the Sun.

Comet Interceptor is foreseen for launch as co-passenger with ESA’s exoplanet-studying Ariel spacecraft in 2028. Both missions will be delivered to L2 and from there Comet Interceptor will journey onwards to the chosen target using its own propulsion system.


The selection process has also been fast. Following a call for missions in July 2018, 23 pitches were submitted by the space science community, with six teams subsequently invited to provide more detailed proposals. Among them, Comet Interceptor was chosen at today’s Science Programme Committee to move into a more detailed definition phase.

"We thank the space science community for their excellent proposals, which covered a broad range of novel topics that could be explored within the constraints of the F-class guidelines," says Director Hasinger.

 "This type of innovative mission will play an important role in supplementing ESA’s Science Programme as we plan for the next decades of scientific exploration of our Universe.

"We are also happy to maintain the ‘fast’ mission philosophy by selecting Comet Interceptor within a year since the original call for proposals was made."

What new about Comet Interceptor?

Comet Interceptor comprises three spacecraft. The composite spacecraft will wait at L2 for a suitable target, then travel together before the three modules separate a few weeks prior to intercepting the comet. Each module will be equipped with a complementary science payload, providing different perspectives of the comet’s nucleus and its gas, dust, and plasma environment. Such ‘multi-point’ measurements will greatly improve the 3D information needed to understand the dynamic nature of a pristine comet while it is interacting with the constantly changing solar wind environment.

The mission’s instrument suite will draw on heritage from other missions, including a camera based on the one currently flying on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, along with dust, fields and plasma instruments, as well as a mass spectrometer, like those that flew on ESA’s Rosetta.

Previous comet missions, including ESA’s pioneering spacecraft Giotto and Rosetta, encountered short-period comets. These are comets with orbital periods of less than 200 years that have approached the Sun many times along their orbits in relatively recent times and as a consequence have undergone significant changes: Rosetta’s comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbits the Sun once every 6.5 years while Comet 1P/Halley, visited by Giotto and other spacecraft in 1986, returns to our skies every 76 years.

Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud in context

Comet Interceptor is different because it will target a comet visiting the inner Solar System for the first time – perhaps from the vast Oort cloud that is thought to surround the outer reaches of the Sun’s realm. As such, the comet will contain material that has not undergone much processing since the dawn of the Sun and planets. The mission will therefore offer a new insight into the evolution of comets as they migrate inwards from the periphery of the Solar System.

Although much rarer, another example of a potential target is an interstellar interloper from another star system, like the famed ‘Oumuamua that flew past our Sun on a highly inclined orbit in 2017. Studying an interstellar object would offer the chance to explore how comet-like bodies form and evolve in other star systems.

In the past, ‘new’ comets have only been discovered a few months to years before they pass through their closest approach to the Sun, which is too short notice to plan, build and launch a space mission, and for it to travel  to the specific object before it moves away from the Sun again.

Artist impression of ‘Oumuamua

Recent advances in ground-based surveys mean that the sky can be scanned more deeply and longer notice can be provided. Pan-STARRS is currently the most proliferous comet discovery machine, with more than half of all new comets per year uncovered by the survey. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, currently under construction in Chile, will also greatly increase the catalogue of new comets.

In any case, the destination for Comet Interceptor does not need to be known while the mission is being prepared; the spacecraft can be ready and waiting in space for a suitable comet encounter, and is expected to complete its mission within five years of launch.

Notes for editors:

The Comet Interceptor proposal team comprises an international group of experts led by Geraint Jones (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UK) and Colin Snodgrass (University of Edinburgh, UK). Find out more on the proposing team’s website:

Related links:

Cosmic Vision Programme:






Large Synoptic Survey Telescope:

What are Lagrange points?:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser.


mardi 18 juin 2019

Biomedicine and Physics Research During Crew Departure Preps Today

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 18, 2019

Biomedicine and physics topped the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 59 crew also checked out U.S. spacesuits while preparing a Russian crew ship for return to Earth next week.

NASA is preparing for human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The astronauts aboard the orbiting lab are helping scientists keep crews healthy and engineers design safer, more advanced spacecraft.

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment studying how to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems in space. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques started Tuesday morning collecting blood, urine and body swab samples for the Standard Measures study. They stowed the samples in a science freezer for later analysis to help doctors understand how humans respond to microgravity.

The Genes In Space-6 (GIS-6) experiment had another run today inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Christina Koch of NASA set up the Biomolecule Sequencer to sequence DNA samples during the morning. The DNA research seeks to understand how space radiation mutates DNA and assesses the molecular level repair process.

She and Saint-Jacques also took turns resizing U.S. spacesuits and swapping out components. Mission managers are planning more spacewalks later this year for battery and science hardware maintenance.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credits: ISS-EarthCam / ISS-HD Live/NASA

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent most of Tuesday running the Capillary Structures study to observe how fluid and gas mixtures behave inside structures designed for microgravity. Today’s operations demonstrated fluid flows with potential applications for advanced life support systems in space.

Commander Oleg Kononenko continues inventorying gear and trash for packing inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. He will complete a 204-day mission with McClain and Saint-Jacques when they parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on June 24 scheduled for 10:48 p.m. EDT (June 25 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Standard Measures:

Genes In Space-6 (GIS-6):

Columbus laboratory module:

Biomolecule Sequencer:

Capillary Structures:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,