samedi 17 août 2019

Smart Dragon-1 (First commercial launcher) launches three satellites

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Aug. 17, 2019

Smart Dragon-1 lift off

Smart Dragon-1 launch vehicle launched three satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 17 August 2019, at 04:11 UTC (12:11 local time).

Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1, also known as Lightning Dragon No.1, Jielong-1, 捷龙一号) is a new solid-propellant rocket developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT). According to official sources, SD-1 has a total length of 19.5 meters, a diameter of 1.2 meter, a takeoff weight of about 23.1 tonnes and is capable of sending 200 kg payloads to a Sun-synchronous orbit with at an altitude of 500 km.

Smart Dragon-1's first launch (捷龙一号, Jielong-1)

Four rocket motors fired in succession as the Jielong 1 booster flew south from Jiuquan. CALT said the Jielong 1 rocket placed its three satellite payloads into orbit, and Chinese officials hailed the mission as a success.

The Jielong 1 carried three satellites on Saturday’s launch.

Smart Dragon-1 (捷龙一号, Jielong-1)

 One of the microsatellites, owned by a Beijing-based company named Qiansheng Exploration Technology Co. Ltd., weighed around 140 pounds (65 kilograms) at the time of launch. The spacecraft hosts an Earth-imaging instrument with a resolution of less than 6.6 feet (2 meters), could pave the way for a fleet of Earth-observing satellites from Qiansheng.

 Xingshidai 5 satellite

A small Earth observation satellite named Xingshidai 5, owned by Chengdu Guoxing Aerospace Technology Co. Ltd., was also aboard the Jielong 1 rocket Saturday. An experimental data relay satellite named Tianqi 2, developed by Guodian Gaoke in Beijing, was the third payload on Saturday’s launch.

Related links:

China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT):

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CALVT/CASC/ China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 16 août 2019

Station Preps for New Docking Port During Science and Soyuz Checks

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 16, 2019

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Three NASA astronauts remain focused on preparations for next week’s spacewalk at the International Space Station. The rest of the Expedition 60 focused on biology research and a pair of docked spaceships.

Flight Engineer Christina Koch has been supporting spacewalkers Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, as they get ready for the fifth spacewalk of the year on Aug. 21. The pair will install the new International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) to the Harmony module’s space-facing port during the six-and-a-half-hour job.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship is pictured attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module as the orbital complex flew 260 miles above the Nile River Delta in Egypt. Image Credit: NASA.

Koch printed out checklists the spacewalkers will wear on their spacesuit cuffs and verified the spacesuits are the correct size. She also joined Hague and Morgan reviewing next week’s spacewalk procedures. The spacewalking duo also set up the Quest airlock where they will collect their tools and suit up ahead of their excursion.

Robotics controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 to detach the IDA-3 from the rear portion of the SpaceX Dragon on Monday. They will maneuver the new docking port to a pressurized mating adapter on top of Harmony readying it for Wednesday’s spacewalk. Hague and Morgan in their U.S. spacesuits will then route cables and configure hardware readying the IDA-3 for new SpaceX and Boeing crew ships.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague, in his white U.S. spacesuit, is contrasted by the blackness of space during a six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk that took place in March 2019. Image Credit: NASA.

Luca Parmitano, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut on his second station mission, worked on a biology experiment today with potential benefits for the medicine industry. He tended to stem cell samples growing in a specialized incubator to help researchers understand cell behavior in space.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov checked out two docked Soyuz crew ships today. The duo tested and recharged communications gear in the vehicles and continued packing gear for return to Earth.

SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 related articles:

Dragon Installed to Station’s Harmony Module for Cargo Operations

Dragon Captured With New Science Experiments

Dragon Reaches Orbit, Astronauts Prepare for Saturday Capture

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches CRS-18

Science Soars to the Space Station on SpaceX CRS-18

Related links:

Expedition 60:

International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3):

Harmony module:

Quest airlock:


stem cell samples:

specialized incubator:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble’s Portrait of Star’s Gaseous Glow

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Aug. 16, 2019

Although it looks more like an entity seen through a microscope than a telescope, this rounded object, named NGC 2022, is certainly not algae or tiny, blobby jellyfish. Instead, it is a vast orb of gas in space, cast off by an aging star. The star is visible in the orb's center, shining through the gases it formerly held onto for most of its stellar life.

When stars like the Sun grow advanced in age, they expand and glow red. These so-called red giants then begin to lose their outer layers of material into space. More than half of such a star's mass can be shed in this manner, forming a shell of surrounding gas. At the same time, the star's core shrinks and grows hotter, emitting ultraviolet light that causes the expelled gases to glow.

This type of object is called, somewhat confusingly, a planetary nebula, though it has nothing to do with planets. The name derives from the rounded, planet-like appearance of these objects in early telescopes.

NGC 2022 is located in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter).

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation,  Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Wade.


Robotic Tool Operations Bring In-Space Refueling Closer to Reality

ISS - Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) patch.

Aug. 16, 2019

Image above: Robotic Refueling Mission 3’s Multi-Function Tool 2, operated by Dextre, demonstrates robotic refueling operations on the outside of space station. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) completed an initial set of tool operations, bringing the idea of using water ice or methane from other worlds as fuel for spacecraft one step closer to reality. The ability to store and transfer cryogens (super-cold hydrogen, oxygen and methane) will help spacecraft journey father into our solar system and beyond.

Image above: The RRM3 team manages operations from the Goddard Satellite Servicing Control Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Image Credits: NASA/Taylor Mickal.

The successful operations demonstrated the first of three tools designed by the Satellite Servicing Projects Division to robotically transfer liquid methane from one tank to another in space. Operated by space station’s Dextre robot, the Multi-function Tool 2 unstowed the cryogen coupler adapter and inserted it into the cryogen coupler adapter port. This operation would make it possible to then transfer cryogenic fuel using the remaining RRM3 tools. Additional RRM3 tool operations will be carried out later this year.

Animation above: The Robotic Refueling Mission is testing the tools and techniques that will one day enable robots to refuel, repair and upgrade satellites in space. Animation Credit: NASA.

RRM3 launched to the International Space Station in December 2018. While the mission is no longer capable of transferring liquid methane due to a hardware issue in April, it has achieved several objectives. RRM3 demonstrated the longest storage of a cryogen without loss due to a process called boil off. Boil off is a loss of fluid that occurs when the cryogen is not maintained at a low enough temperature. Special coolers within RRM3 kept the liquid cold for four months.

Related links:

Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3):


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Vanessa Lloyd and Peter Jacobs.


Virgin Galactic presents its new HQ

Virgin Galactic logo.

August 16, 2019

Virgin Galactic unveiled Thursday its new control center and announced its latest tests for commercial flights in space.

The new Virgin Galactic HQ in New Mexico

The Virgin Galactic space tourism company on Thursday presented its new headquarters in the US state of New Mexico and unveiled the schedule of its latest test flights, getting even closer to its first commercial flights.

Virgin Galactic's control room was installed in the Spaceport America base, owned by New Mexico. This base was officially "opened" in 2011 by British billionaire Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004.

The new Virgin Galactic HQ in New Mexico

After years of development, delayed by a fatal accident in 2014, Virgin Galactic has created a spaceship and crossed the border twice, but never with paying customers, even though 600 people - including celebrities Hollywood girls - signed up for the program.

First flights next year

Managing Director George Whitesides confirmed to AFP that he expected the first flights to take place "next year". "Today was a great day," he explained. "It's extraordinarily satisfying to see all the pieces put in place, the last touches, the vehicle, the staff, the place ... and the customers." "We are extremely happy to have arrived there," he concluded.

Gateway to Space

On the same day, Virgin Galactic presented to its guests two floors of "Spaceport America" ​​"dedicated primarily to flight operations". The complex also includes "communal spaces designed to be used, in the future, by Virgin Galactic customers, their friends and their families," the company said in a statement. This "means that the base is now functional and able to meet the demands of Virgin Galactic charter flights."

The company announced last month the upcoming lifting of hundreds of millions of dollars in order to send, finally, its first customers in space, within a year. Virgin Galactic will offer a few minutes of weightlessness to six passengers at a time. They will float in the cabin and will see the curvature of the Earth, under a black sky, by large portholes.

Virgin Galactic Opens the Doors to the ‘Gateway to Space’

Virgin's chief pilot, Scotland's Dave Mackay, wrote on a blog that VMS Eve, Virgin's carrier ship, had arrived at the base and that the new test phases would begin soon. Later in the year, VMS Eve will return to California for "final testing".

Virgin Galactic:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Virgin Galactic/AFP/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

jeudi 15 août 2019

Station Orbits Higher as Crew Preps for Spacewalk and New Spaceship

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 15, 2019

The International Space Station is orbiting higher today as the Expedition 60 crew continued setting up for next week’s spacewalk. The orbiting residents also focused on space biology experiments and packing gear for return to Earth.

A docked Progress 73 (73P) spacecraft fired its thrusters overnight in two 10-minute burns three hours apart raising the station’s altitude. The maneuver puts the complex at the proper phasing for the rendezvous and docking of Russia’s unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship late next week.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is processed for its Aug. 21 launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

The Soyuz MS-14 will lift off on Aug. 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a test of the spacecraft’s 2.1a booster during its ascent into Earth orbit. It will arrive at the station Aug. 24 for an automated docking to the Poisk module. The vehicle will undock on Sept. 6 for a return to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan continue servicing their spacesuits and reviewing procedures for the fifth spacewalk of the year. The duo will route cables and configure hardware to install the International Docking Adapter-3 on top of the station’s Harmony module. They will exit the station Aug. 21 for the six-and-a-half-hour job that takes place the same day the Soyuz MS-14 lifts off.

Spacewalk views from helmet camera. Animation Credit: NASA

Rodent research and stem cell differentiation were Thursday’s primary space science activities. Flight Engineer Christina Koch fed mice and cleaned their cages as scientists observed the creatures that are genetically similar to humans. Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency wore the Bio-Monitor recording his vital signs while exploring how microgravity affects a variety of cell functions.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov will be ready for next week’s arrival of the Soyuz MS-14. They are taking inventory of gear for return in the spacecraft while continuing to unload cargo from the 73P.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

Progress 73 (73P):

Poisk module:

International Docking Adapter-3:

Harmony module:


Cell functions:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Moon Glows Brighter Than Sun in Images From NASA's Fermi

NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

Aug. 15, 2019

If our eyes could see high-energy radiation called gamma rays, the Moon would appear brighter than the Sun! That’s how NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has seen our neighbor in space for the past decade.

Gamma-ray observations are not sensitive enough to clearly see the shape of the Moon’s disk or any surface features. Instead, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) detects a prominent glow centered on the Moon’s position in the sky.

Animation above: The Moon shines brightly in gamma rays as seen in this time sequence from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Each 5-by-5-degree image is centered on the Moon and shows gamma rays with energies above 31 million electron volts, or tens of millions of times that of visible light. At these energies, the Moon is actually brighter than the Sun. Brighter colors indicate greater numbers of gamma rays. This animation shows how longer exposure, ranging from two to 128 months (10.7 years), improved the view. Image Credits: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration.

Mario Nicola Mazziotta and Francesco Loparco, both at Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Bari, have been analyzing the Moon’s gamma-ray glow as a way of better understanding another type of radiation from space: fast-moving particles called cosmic rays.

“Cosmic rays are mostly protons accelerated by some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, like the blast waves of exploding stars and jets produced when matter falls into black holes,” explained Mazziotta.

Because the particles are electrically charged, they’re strongly affected by magnetic fields, which the Moon lacks. As a result, even low-energy cosmic rays can reach the surface, turning the Moon into a handy space-based particle detector. When cosmic rays strike, they interact with the powdery surface of the Moon, called the regolith, to produce gamma-ray emission. The Moon absorbs most of these gamma rays, but some of them escape.

Mazziotta and Loparco analyzed Fermi LAT lunar observations to show how the view has improved during the mission. They rounded up data for gamma rays with energies above 31 million electron volts — more than 10 million times greater than the energy of visible light — and organized them over time, showing how longer exposures improve the view.

“Seen at these energies, the Moon would never go through its monthly cycle of phases and would always look full,” said Loparco.

Image above: These images show the steadily improving view of the Moon’s gamma-ray glow from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Each 5-by-5-degree image is centered on the Moon and shows gamma rays with energies above 31 million electron volts, or tens of millions of times that of visible light. At these energies, the Moon is actually brighter than the Sun. Brighter colors indicate greater numbers of gamma rays. This image sequence shows how longer exposure, ranging from two to 128 months (10.7 years), improved the view. Image Credits: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration.

As NASA sets its sights on sending humans to the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program, with the eventual goal of sending astronauts to Mars, understanding various aspects of the lunar environment take on new importance. These gamma-ray observations are a reminder that astronauts on the Moon will require protection from the same cosmic rays that produce this high-energy gamma radiation.

While the Moon’s gamma-ray glow is surprising and impressive, the Sun does shine brighter in gamma rays with energies higher than 1 billion electron volts. Cosmic rays with lower energies do not reach the Sun because its powerful magnetic field screens them out. But much more energetic cosmic rays can penetrate this magnetic shield and strike the Sun’s denser atmosphere, producing gamma rays that can reach Fermi.

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Animation Credit: NASA

Although the gamma-ray Moon doesn’t show a monthly cycle of phases, its brightness does change over time. Fermi LAT data show that the Moon’s brightness varies by about 20% over the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle. Variations in the intensity of the Sun’s magnetic field during the cycle change the rate of cosmic rays reaching the Moon, altering the production of gamma rays.

- Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope:

Related link:

Artemis program:

Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Francis Reddy.


mercredi 14 août 2019

Robotics Supporting Exploration; Briefers Talk Friday About Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 14, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew is busy conducting space research everyday inside the International Space Station. While they work, scientists and engineers on Earth can remotely control and observe experiments attached to the outside of the orbiting lab.

Researchers today concluded a run of the external Robotic Refueling Mission 3 experiment. Robotics controllers on the ground remotely guided the Dextre robotic hand, attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and tested cryogenic refueling techniques in space. Refueling and repairing satellites and spacecraft supports NASA’s objective of sending humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Image above: Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA photographs Earth landmarks through the station’s “window to the world,” the seven-windowed cupola. Image Credit: NASA.

Back inside the space station, the astronauts continued supporting human research activities. NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan joined ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano for eye exams at the end of the day. Morgan also serviced a variety of science freezers holding experiment samples for analysis. Parmitano continued researching stem cell differentiation for the Micro-15 experiment.

Hague and Morgan are also getting ready for a spacewalk on Aug. 21. The duo spent a couple of hours Wednesday configuring spacewalking tools and tethers they will use next week. The spacewalkers’ mission is to install a second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3, on top of the Harmony module. Briefers will discuss the spacewalk details on NASA TV beginning Friday at 2 p.m. EDT.

All six crewmembers, including NASA astronaut Christina Koch and cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov, participated in an emergency simulation during the afternoon. The station crew practiced the activities necessary to contain emergencies such as pressure and chemical leaks or a fire.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Two reboosts will occur overnight tonight to set up the correct phasing for the uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 34-orbit rendezvous next week and landing Sept. 6. The Soyuz and its 2.1a booster are scheduled to roll out to the Site 31 launch pad on Monday.

In Louisville, Colorado, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced the selection of United Launch Alliance as launch provider for the Dream Chaser spacecraft. Dream Chaser is scheduled to begin missions to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station in late 2021.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

Robotic Refueling Mission 3:

Dextre robotic hand:



International Docking Adapter-3:

Harmony module:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Selects Proposals to Further Study the Fundamental Nature of Space

NASA logo.

Aug. 14, 2019

NASA has selected two proposals for concept studies that could help us better understand the fundamental nature of space and how it changes in response to planetary atmospheres, radiation from the Sun, and interstellar particles. The proposals will advance NASA’s heliophysics program and could lead to better protection for both technology and humans as we travel farther from home.

Each of these Heliophysics Science Mission of Opportunity proposals will receive $400,000 to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. After the studies, NASA will choose one proposal to launch as a secondary payload on the agency’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP).

Image above: NASA has chosen two new science proposals for nine-month concept studies to advance our understanding of how the particles and energy in space – shown here flowing from the Sun in an illustration of the solar wind – affect the fundamental nature of space. One proposal will ultimately be chosen to launch along with NASA’s upcoming Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe in October 2024. Image Credit: NASA.

The proposals were selected based on potential science value and feasibility of development plans. Total cost of this Mission of Opportunity is capped at $75 million and is funded by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program.

The selected proposals are:

Spatial/Spectral Imaging of Heliospheric Lyman Alpha (SIHLA)

SIHLA would map the entire sky to determine the shape and underlying mechanisms of the boundary between the heliosphere, the area of our Sun’s magnetic influence, and the interstellar medium, a boundary known as the heliopause. The observations would gather far-ultraviolet light emitted from hydrogen atoms. This wavelength is key for examining many astrophysical phenomena, including planetary atmospheres and comets, because so much of the universe is composed of hydrogen. SIHLA will focus on mapping the velocity and distribution of the solar wind – the outpouring of particles from the Sun – helping to resolve our understanding of what drives structure in the solar wind and heliopause. This is an area of research undergoing rapid evolution due to data from NASA missions, such as Voyager, Parker Solar Probe and Interstellar Boundary Explorer.

The principal investigator for SIHLA is Larry Paxton at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Global Lyman-alpha Imagers of the Dynamic Exosphere (GLIDE)

The GLIDE mission would study variability in Earth’s exosphere, the uppermost region of its atmosphere, by tracking far ultraviolet light emitted from hydrogen. The proposed mission would fill an existing measurement gap, as only a handful of such images previously have been made from outside the exosphere. The mission would gather observations at a high rate, with a view of the entire exosphere, ensuring a truly global and comprehensive set of data. Understanding the ways in which Earth’s exosphere changes in response to influences of the Sun above or the atmosphere below, would provide us with better ways to forecast and, ultimately, mitigate the ways in which space weather can interfere with radio communications in space.

The principal investigator for GLIDE is Lara Waldrop at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

IMAP currently is scheduled to launch in October 2024 to orbit a point between Earth and the Sun known as the first Lagrangian point, or L1. From there, IMAP will help researchers better understand the interstellar boundary region, where particles from the Sun collide with material from the rest of the galaxy. This distant area controls the amount of harmful cosmic radiation entering the heliosphere, the magnetic bubble that shields our solar system from charged particles surrounding it. Cosmic rays from the galaxy and beyond affect astronauts and can harm technological systems. They also may play a role in the presence of life in the universe.

From the start of IMAP mission formulation, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) planned to include secondary spacecraft on the launch under the agency’s new SMD Rideshare Initiative, which cuts costs by sending multiple missions on a single launch. This launch will also include a Heliophysics Technology Demonstration Mission of Opportunity – which will be announced separately – to test technologies that can enable future science missions, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Follow-On mission, which will expand that agency’s space weather forecasting capabilities.

“Launching missions together like this is a great way to ensure maximum science return while keeping costs low,” said Peg Luce, deputy director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “We carefully select new heliophysics spacecraft to complement the well-placed spacecraft NASA has in orbit to study this vast solar wind system – and our rideshare initiative increases our opportunities to send such key missions into space.”

Related links:

NASA’s heliophysics program:

Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP):


Parker Solar Probe:

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX):

For information about NASA and space science, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Grey Hautaluoma/Karen Fox.


Atlas V launches AEHF-5

ULA - Atlas V / AEHF-5 Mission poster.

August 14, 2019

Liftoff! Atlas V AEHF-5

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket launched the AEHF-5 satellite from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 8 August 2019, at 10:13 UTC (06:13 EDT).

Atlas V launches AEHF-5

Built by Lockheed Martin, Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites provide highly-secure, jam-proof connectivity for the U.S. Air Force.

AEHF-5 satellite

The mission was the 80th for an Atlas V launch vehicle and the 10th in the 551 configuration. The Atlas V 551 rocket is the most powerful in the Atlas V fleet.

United Launch Alliance (ULA):

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


mardi 13 août 2019

Crew Gets Ready for Next Spacewalk and New Spaceships

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 13, 2019

The International Space Station will soon see U.S., Russian and Japanese spaceships arriving and departing over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, the Expedition 60 crew is staying focused on an upcoming spacewalk while continuing ongoing microgravity research.

Next week’s spacewalkers, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, are reviewing their procedures and practicing their maneuvers on a computer today. The duo will exit the station Aug. 21 and install the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3, to the Harmony module’s space-facing port.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague conducts science operations for the Cell Science-02 bone healing and tissue regeneration experiment. Image Credit: NASA.

Morgan wrapped up his day setting up experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency continued exploring stem cell differentiation. Christina Koch of NASA serviced and replaced hardware that fuels experiments inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov worked during the morning tearing down a Russian atmosphere purification unit. The duo then moved on to cardiopulmonary research before winding down the day with exercise.

The next spacecraft to launch to the orbiting lab will be an unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 crew ship on Aug. 22. It will lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a test of its upgraded 2.1a Soyuz booster. The new Soyuz will automatically dock to the Poisk module two days later where it will stay until Sept. 6.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Russia will launch its next crewed mission Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka will lead the six-hour flight to the station with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Spaceflight Participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori.

SpaceX is planning to retrieve its Dragon resupply ship on Aug. 27 when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean after its release from the Harmony module. Dragon will return to Earth with several thousand pounds of completed science experiments for analysis and station hardware for servicing.

Finally, Japan’s resupply ship, the H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8), is scheduled to blast off to the station Sept. 10 (U.S. time) from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will arrive at the station Sept. 14 for a robotic capture and installation to the same Harmony port Dragon will vacate at the end of the month. HTV-8’s scheduled liftoff date comes exactly 10 years after the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched its first HTV cargo freighter to the space station.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

International Docking Adapter-3:

Harmony module:

Poisk module:

H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8):

HTV cargo freighter:

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Mission Selects Final Four Site Candidates for Asteroid Sample Return

NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

Aug. 13, 2019

After months grappling with the rugged reality of asteroid Bennu’s surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has selected four potential sites for the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to “tag” its cosmic dance partner.

Image above: Pictured are the four candidate sample collection sites on asteroid Bennu selected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Site Nightingale (top left) is located in Bennu’s northern hemisphere. Sites Kingfisher (top right) and Osprey (bottom left) are located in Bennu’s equatorial region. Site Sandpiper (bottom right) is located in Bennu’s southern hemisphere. In December, one of these sites will be chosen for the mission’s touchdown event. Image Credits: NASA/University of Arizona.

Since its arrival in December 2018, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has mapped the entire asteroid in order to identify the safest and most accessible spots for the spacecraft to collect a sample. These four sites now will be studied in further detail in order to select the final two sites – a primary and backup – in December.

The team originally had planned to choose the final two sites by this point in the mission. Initial analysis of Earth-based observations suggested the asteroid’s surface likely contains large “ponds” of fine-grain material. The spacecraft’s earliest images, however, revealed Bennu has an especially rocky terrain. Since then, the asteroid’s boulder-filled topography has created a challenge for the team to identify safe areas containing sampleable material, which must be fine enough – less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) diameter – for the spacecraft’s sampling mechanism to ingest it.

“We knew that Bennu would surprise us, so we came prepared for whatever we might find,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “As with any mission of exploration, dealing with the unknown requires flexibility, resources and ingenuity. The OSIRIS-REx team has demonstrated these essential traits for overcoming the unexpected throughout the Bennu encounter.”

The original mission schedule intentionally included more than 300 days of extra time during asteroid operations to address such unexpected challenges. In a demonstration of its flexibility and ingenuity in response to Bennu’s surprises, the mission team is adapting its site selection process. Instead of down-selecting to the final two sites this summer, the mission will spend an additional four months studying the four candidate sites in detail, with a particular focus on identifying regions of fine-grain, sampleable material from upcoming, high-resolution observations of each site. The boulder maps that citizen science counters helped create through observations earlier this year were used as one of many pieces of data considered when assessing each site’s safety. The data collected will be key to selecting the final two sites best suited for sample collection.

OSIRIS-REx probe. Image Credit: NASA

In order to further adapt to Bennu’s ruggedness, the OSIRIS-REx team has made other adjustments to its sample site identification process. The original mission plan envisioned a sample site with a radius of 82 feet (25 m). Boulder-free sites of that size don’t exist on Bennu, so the team has instead identified sites ranging from 16 to 33 feet (5 to 10 m) in radius. In order for the spacecraft to accurately target a smaller site, the team reassessed the spacecraft’s operational capabilities to maximize its performance. The mission also has tightened its navigation requirements to guide the spacecraft to the asteroid’s surface, and developed a new sampling technique called “Bullseye TAG,” which uses images of the asteroid surface to navigate the spacecraft all the way to the actual surface with high accuracy. The mission’s performance so far has demonstrated the new standards are within its capabilities.

"Although OSIRIS-REx was designed to collect a sample from an asteroid with a beach-like area, the extraordinary in-flight performance to date demonstrates that we will be able to meet the challenge that the rugged surface of Bennu presents," said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "That extraordinary performance encompasses not only the spacecraft and instruments, but also the team who continues to meet every challenge that Bennu throws at us."

The four candidate sample sites on Bennu are designated Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey, and Sandpiper – all birds native to Egypt. The naming theme complements the mission’s two other naming conventions – Egyptian deities (the asteroid and spacecraft) and mythological birds (surface features on Bennu).

Asteroid Bennu Sample Site Finalists

Video above: Since arriving at near-Earth asteroid Bennu in December 2018, NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission has been studying this small world of boulders, rocks, and loose rubble - and looking for a place to touch down. The goal of OSIRIS-REx is to collect a sample of Bennu in mid-2020, and return it to Earth in late 2023. Video Credit: NASA.

The four sites are diverse in both geographic location and geological features. While the amount of sampleable material in each site has yet to be determined, all four sites have been evaluated thoroughly to ensure the spacecraft’s safety as it descends to, touches and collects a sample from the asteroid’s surface.

Nightingale is the northern-most site, situated at 56 degrees north latitude on Bennu. There are multiple possible sampling regions in this site, which is set in a small crater encompassed by a larger crater 459 feet (140 m) in diameter. The site contains mostly fine-grain, dark material and has the lowest albedo, or reflection, and surface temperature of the four sites.

Kingfisher is located in a small crater near Bennu’s equator at 11 degrees north latitude. The crater has a diameter of 26 feet (8 m) and is surrounded by boulders, although the site itself is free of large rocks. Among the four sites, Kingfisher has the strongest spectral signature for hydrated minerals.

Osprey is set in a small crater, 66 feet (20 m) in diameter, which is also located in Bennu’s equatorial region at 11 degrees north latitude. There are several possible sampling regions within the site. The diversity of rock types in the surrounding area suggests that the regolith within Osprey may also be diverse. Osprey has the strongest spectral signature of carbon-rich material among the four sites.

Sandpiper is located in Bennu’s southern hemisphere, at 47 degrees south latitude. The site is in a relatively flat area on the wall of a large crater 207 ft (63 m) in diameter. Hydrated minerals are also present, which indicates that Sandpiper may contain unmodified water-rich material.

Asteroid Bennu Sample Site Finalists

This fall, OSIRIS-REx will begin detailed analyses of the four candidate sites during the mission’s reconnaissance phase. During the first stage of this phase, the spacecraft will execute high passes over each of the four sites from a distance of 0.8 miles (1.29 km) to confirm they are safe and contain sampleable material. Closeup imaging also will map the features and landmarks required for the spacecraft’s autonomous navigation to the asteroid’s surface. The team will use the data from these passes to select the final primary and backup sample collection sites in December.

The second and third stages of reconnaissance will begin in early 2020 when the spacecraft will perform passes over the final two sites at lower altitudes and take even higher resolution observations of the surface to identify features, such as groupings of rocks that will be used to navigate to the surface for sample collection. OSIRIS-REx sample collection is scheduled for the latter half of 2020, and the spacecraft will return the asteroid samples to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

Explore the final four candidate sites in detail:

Images (mentioned), Animation (NASA), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Grey Hautaluoma/Alana Johnson/GSC/Nancy Neal Jones/University of Arizona/Erin Morton.


lundi 12 août 2019

Human Research Revealing Space Impacts as Spacewalk Preps Gear Up

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 12, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew kicked off the workweek exploring stem cells and testing the printing of human tissue on the International Space Station. The astronauts are also gearing up for a spacewalk planned for next week.

Operations continue inside the orbiting lab’s new BioFabrication Facility today. Astronaut Nick Hague printed more human tissue samples Monday and stowed them in an incubator to observe and promote their cellular growth.

Image above: Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan works with the BioFabrication Facility that is researching whether the weightless environment of space may support the fabrication of human organs. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set up the Life Science Glovebox in the Kibo laboratory module and researched the properties of stem cells. The space-based Micro-15 experiment is helping scientists understand stem cell differentiation better than ground-based studies. Results may provide therapeutic insights into ailments affecting humans on Earth and in space.

Early this morning, Parmitano joined NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan for hearing tests. Scientists are measuring how the microgravity environment and the acoustic levels of the station affect a crewmember’s hearing before, during and after a mission.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Morgan then partnered up with astronaut Christina Koch in the afternoon to configure spacewalking tools and spacesuit components. Morgan will follow lead spacewalker Nick Hague out of the Quest airlock hatch on Aug. 21 for a six hour and 30 minute spacewalk. The duo will install the International Docking Adapter-3 designed to receive new commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX.

Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov spent their morning learning how the gastrointestinal system adapts to long-term spaceflight. The duo performed ultrasound scans of their gut before and after eating breakfast. Ovchinin then packed gear for return on a future Soyuz landing as Skvortsov checked Russian video and photography gear.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

BioFabrication Facility:


Life Science Glovebox:

Kibo laboratory module:


Acoustic levels of the station:

Quest airlock:

International Docking Adapter-3:

Gastrointestinal system:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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One Year, 2 Trips Around Sun for NASA's Parker Solar Probe

NASA - Parker Solar Probe patch.

Aug. 12, 2019

Parker Solar Probe. Animation Credit: NASA

Since NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched on Aug. 12, 2018, Earth has made a single trip around the Sun — while the daring solar explorer is well into its third orbit around our star. With two close passes by the Sun already under its belt, Parker Solar Probe is speeding toward another close solar approach on Sept. 1, 2019.

Parker Solar Probe is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the solar wind — the constant outflow of particles and magnetic fields from the Sun — in 1958. Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA mission to be named for a living person.

NASA Parker Solar Probe Update: One Year Later with Eugene Parker

Video above: Nicky Fox, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division, reflects on Parker Solar Probe's first year in space with Eugene Parker, after whom the mission is named. In 1958, Parker published the first scientific paper theorizing the existence of the solar wind, now studied by the spacecraft that bears his name. Video Credit: University of Chicago.

In the year since launch, Parker Solar Probe has collected a host of scientific data from two close passes by the Sun.

"We're very happy," said Nicky Fox, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "We've managed to bring down at least twice as much data as we originally suspected we’d get from those first two perihelion passes."

The spacecraft carries four suites of scientific instruments to gather data on the particles, solar wind plasma, electric and magnetic fields, solar radio emission, and structures in the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, the corona. This information will help scientists unravel the physics driving the extreme temperatures in the corona — which is counterintuitively hotter than the solar surface below — and the mechanisms that drive particles and plasma out into the solar system.

Parker Solar Probe's View of Solar Wind in Nov. 2018

Video above: Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument saw the solar wind streaming past during the spacecraft's first solar encounter in November 2018. Video Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe.

Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument captures images of solar wind structures as they stream out from the Sun, allowing scientists to connect them with Parker's in situ measurements from its other instruments.

This video, which spans Nov. 6-10, 2018, combines views from both WISPR telescopes during Parker Solar Probe's first solar encounter. The Sun is out of frame past the combined image's left side, so the solar wind flows from left to right past the view of the telescopes. The bright structure near the center of the left edge is what's known as a streamer —  a relatively dense, slow flow of solar wind coming from the Sun — originating from near the Sun's equator.

The video appears to speed up and slow down throughout the movie because of the ways data is stored at different points in Parker Solar Probe's orbit. Near perihelion, the closest approach to the Sun, the spacecraft stores more images — and more frames for a given section make the video appear to slow down. These images have been calibrated and processed to remove background noise.

Image above: Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument saw the solar wind streaming past during the spacecraft's first solar encounter in November 2018. Image Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe.

The Milky Way's galactic center is visible on the right side of the video. The planet visible on the left is Mercury. The thin white streaks in the image are particles of dust passing in front of WISPR's cameras.

The mission team is currently in the process of analyzing data from Parker Solar Probe's first two orbits, which will be released to the public in 2019.

"The data we’re seeing from Parker Solar Probe’s instruments is showing us details about solar structures and processes that we have never seen before,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which built and operates the mission for NASA. “Flying close to the Sun — a very dangerous environment — is the only way to obtain this data, and the spacecraft is performing with flying colors.”

Parker Solar Probe:

Videos (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Sarah Frazier.


"Miniature Bears" in space

SpaceIL - Google Lunar XPrize patch.

August 12, 2019

Image above: Sent to an Israeli lunar probe last April, these microscopic invertebrates could still be alive despite the crash of the aircraft.

Water bears, traveling aboard the Israeli lunar probe that crashed last April, could survive on the moon for thirty years.

Microscopic invertebrates, known as "water bears", could lead a peaceful life on the moon. Sent to an Israeli lunar probe last April, they could still be alive despite the crash of the aircraft, say scientists.

Image above: These miniature animals, strongly resembling bears, are among the most resistant species in the world.

These miniature animals, strongly resembling bears, are among the most resistant species in the world. They can survive at 150 degrees heat or total freezing. For Nova Spivack, one of the experts who participated in sending them to the moon, "the tardigrades are perfect for going into space. They are microscopic, multicellular and represent one of the most sustainable life forms on earth. Their chances of survival are extremely high. "

Image taken by the Israeli lunar probe (Beresheet) just before its crash

Very resistant "bears"

In an experiment 12 years ago, water bears became the first creatures to survive in space.

Image above: Tradigrades are invertebrates considered as micro-animals.

According to Francisco Diego Quintana, professor of physics at University College London, "they could live thirty years on the moon". But the scientist warns of the dangers of these experiments. Sending new species into space could disturb already existing and older life forms. "If we start to contaminate them, it can become a major problem."

Micro-animals less than a millimeter

The tardigrades are invertebrates considered as micro-animals. Their size does not exceed one millimeter long, the equivalent of the tip of a gray pencil.

Image above: Tardigrade, scientists estimate that the species dates back to 530 million years.

Scientists estimate that the species dates back to 530 million years ago. Water bears are still part of the current fauna and can be seen under a microscope in gardens or in small wet crevices.

Tardigrades, known colloquially as water bears or moss piglets, are a phylum of water-dwelling eight-legged segmented micro-animals. They were first described by the German zoologist Johann August Ephraim Goeze in 1773, who called them little water bears.

Related articles:

Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing Attempt

SpaceX - NUSANTARA SATU Mission Success

NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt

Related links:


University College London (UCL):

Images, Text, Credits: SpaceIL/University College London/Wikimedia/Wikipedia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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