samedi 26 septembre 2020

Airbus ZEROe puts hydrogen at the heart of future aircraft


Airbus logo.

Sept. 26, 2020

By 2035, the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft could take to the skies. To bring this vision to reality, Airbus is exploring game-changing concept aircraft – known as ZEROe – powered by hydrogen, a disruptive zero-emission technology with the potential to reduce aircraft emissions by up to 50%.

At first glance, the three recently unveiled Airbus “concept” aircraft offer little more than a sense of déja vu. One looks remarkably similar to a classic commercial aircraft – except with longer, more flexible wings. Another resembles a turboprop-powered airliner with its arrangement of eight-bladed propellers. And the third is a “blended-wing body,” a revolutionary design that has seen some traction among engineers over the last year.

But upon closer inspection, the trio features one game-changing difference compared to predecessors: hydrogen propulsion.

“As recently as five years ago, hydrogen propulsion wasn’t even on our radar as a viable emission-reduction technology pathway,” explains Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus Vice President, Zero-Emission Aircraft. “But convincing data from other transport industries quickly changed all that. Today, we’re excited by the incredible potential hydrogen offers aviation in terms of disruptive emissions reduction.”

That is indeed the objective. Airbus recently announced its ambition to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. This means only the most disruptive zero-emission technology to reduce the aviation industry’s climate impact will need to be rigorously tested and evaluated. And hydrogen certainly stands out from the pack: according to internal calculations, Airbus estimates hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50%.

Three game-changing concepts for future aircraft

In aircraft, there are two broad types of hydrogen propulsion: hydrogen combustion and hydrogen fuel cells. Airbus’ three zero-emission “concept” aircraft – known as ZEROe – are all hydrogen-hybrid aircraft. This means they are powered by modified gas turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. At the same time, they also use hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical power that complements the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system.  However, each option has a slightly different approach to integrating the liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system. Airbus engineers have conceptualised integration solutions that carefully take into account the challenges and possibilities of each type of aircraft.

"As recently as five years ago, hydrogen propulsion wasn’t even on our radar as a viable emission-reduction technology pathway. Today, we’re excited by the incredible potential hydrogen offers aviation in terms of disruptive emissions reduction." Glenn Llewellyn, Vice President, Zero Emission Aircraft.

Turbofan: Two hybrid-hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

Turboprop: Similar to the turbofan aircraft, this concept’s liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead. However, two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the eight-bladed propellers, provide thrust.

Blended-Wing Body (BWB): This configuration features an exceptionally wide interior, thereby opening up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution. In this example, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Like the turbofan aircraft, two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust.

“Hydrogen has a different volumetric energy density than jet fuel, so we have to study other storage options and aircraft architectures than existing ones,” explains Jean-Brice Dumont, Airbus Executive Vice President, Engineering. “This means the visual appearance of our future zero-emission aircraft will change. These three configurations provide us with some exciting options for further exploration.”

The world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035

If hydrogen technology development progresses at the expected rate, Airbus’ highly anticipated zero-emission commercial aircraft is expected to roll off the assembly line for entry-into-service by 2035.

To meet this ambitious 2035 target, Airbus will need to launch the ZEROe aircraft programme by 2025. This time frame gives Airbus engineers approximately five years to mature all the required hydrogen technologies. Over the coming months, several hydrogen demonstrator programmes – which will test hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen combustion technologies respectively – are estimated to be formally launched. A full-scale aircraft prototype is estimated to arrive by the late 2020s.


Images, Text, Credits: Airbus.


vendredi 25 septembre 2020

The hatches of the International Space Station were closed


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

Sept. 25, 2020

The crew of the 63rd long-term mission to the International Space Station is isolated on the Russian segment of the ISS over the weekend to search for an atmospheric leak.

To continue their regular work, Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Wagner and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will have access to the Zarya, Zvezda, Poisk modules, the Progress MS cargo spacecraft and the manned Soyuz MS.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

During work, the crew will transmit operational information about the state of the atmosphere to the Flight Control Centers of the partner countries. The hatches are scheduled to open on Monday, September 28, 2020, after 11:00 Moscow time.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related articles:

More Leak Checks as Crew Spends Weekend in Russian Segment

ISS crew is isolated to search for atmospheric leak

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of September 21, 2020


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

Sept. 25, 2020

Scientific work conducted during the week of September 21 aboard the International Space Station included continued studies of compounds in space station air, as well as briefings about which foods are best for astronauts’ immune systems in space. A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft is scheduled to launch next week to the space station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, carrying thousands of pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, and other cargo.

Image above: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy captured this image of Houston, Texas at night while traveling on the International Space Station with the Expedition 63 crew. Image Credit: NASA.

Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. Experience gained on the orbiting lab supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Here are details about some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

Saving time with a small device

Spacecraft Atmosphere Monitor (SAM) demonstrates the capabilities of a small, portable device known as a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer. This instrument measures trace organic compounds in space station air, as well as basic atmosphere contents, such as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane and water. SAM uses little power and transmits data back to the ground research team every two seconds, eliminating the need to return air samples to Earth for analysis. This week, the crew transferred SAM to a new location on an EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS) rack. EXPRESS is made up of several multipurpose racks that support and store research experiments by providing stowage, power, command and control, data, cooling, and many more functions to the payloads. The crew also removed the Major Constituent Analyzer (MCA) plug, which was used during the transition to protect the sensor while the unit was turned off.

Hands-off experiments

Image above: View of the Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) payload. NICER’s mission is to perform an in-depth study of neutron stars, and it aids in the understanding of ultra-dense matter. Image Credit: NASA.

Adaptation is a vital part of space exploration, and part of that process is shifting some research and experimentation responsibilities over to automated systems in order to complete more science on station. The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) is one of several astrophysics observatories mounted externally on the space station and can operate with little to no crew involvement thanks to these systems. NICER studies the extraordinary physics of neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas. These stars are the densest objects in the universe and contain exotic states of matter impossible to replicate in any lab. They shine most brightly in narrow beams that sweep the sky as the stars spin, and from a great distance appear to pulse like lighthouse beacons, giving them the name “pulsar.” NICER also contains software for the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) demonstration, which studies using pulsars as natural beacons for a future GPS-like system for spacecraft navigation.

Microgravity meals

A changing immune system is just one of many physiological effects astronauts experience during their missions in space. To study how the immune system changes in microgravity, NASA scientists monitor what the astronauts eat because immune function is linked to diet. These data help determine dietary alterations that could improve immune function as crew members adjust to the new environment. The Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, the Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status During Adaptation to Spaceflight (Food Physiology) investigation documents the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome, as well as the ability of those improvements to support adaptation to spaceflight. With improved understanding of food’s effects on physiology, scientists can continue to improve the spaceflight diet and crew health. Crew members conducted briefings for the investigation during the week.

Image above: Bubble detectors, seen here in the cupola (lower center), measure neutron radiation on the space station for the Radi-N2 investigation. Image Credit: NASA.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment-Water Recovery (PBRE-WR) investigation, which uses the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), examines the rates at which a gas and liquid flow simultaneously (known as two-phase flow) through a filter in the space station water processor.

- The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF) uses electrostatic levitation to eliminate the need for a container, something only possible in microgravity, and examines the behavior of materials.

- The Burning Rate Emulator (BRE) investigation is a fire safety study conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) as part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project.

- Radi-N2, a Canadian Space Agency investigation, uses bubble detectors to better characterize the neutron environment on the space station, helping to define the risk it poses to crew members.

- The Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Water Recovery System (JWRS) investigation from JAXA demonstrates a way to generate drinkable water from urine.

- Astrobee tests three self-contained free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts with routine chores, give ground controllers additional eyes and ears, and perform crew monitoring, sampling, and logistics management.

- Crew members regularly photograph various features and natural events on Earth using digital handheld cameras for the Crew Earth Observations (CEO) investigation. Photographs are publically available at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Space to Ground: Rolling Out: 09/25/2020

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Spacecraft Atmosphere Monitor (SAM):

EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station (EXPRESS):

Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER):

Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT):

Food Physiology:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 63.

Best regards,

NA63 makes crystal-clear study of radiation reaction


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Sept. 25, 2020

The NA63 collaboration has made a high-precision study of the phenomenon of radiation reaction, using particle beams and crystals

Image above: Two members of the NA63 collaboration adjust part of the set-up used by the team to measure the phenomenon of radiation reaction. (Image: NA63 collaboration).

Place a charged particle in an electromagnetic field and the particle will accelerate and give off radiation. Typically, the emitted radiation has little effect on the particle’s motion. However, if the acceleration is extremely large, as is the case for high-energy electrons or positrons in strong electromagnetic fields, the emitted radiation will drastically slow down the particle. The effect, known as radiation reaction, has been recognised since the beginning of the twentieth century, and is relevant in several branches of physics, from accelerator physics to astrophysics. But until now it has been difficult to pin down the maths that best describes the phenomenon. In a paper recently published in Physical Review D, the NA63 collaboration reports a high-precision study of the phenomenon that shows that an equation proposed long ago does the job remarkably well.

The NA63 team has previously investigated radiation reaction by firing a beam of high-energy positrons from the Super Proton Synchrotron at a silicon crystal. The phenomenon has also been studied by colliding a high-intensity laser beam with a high-energy electron beam. However, these two types of study were conducted in a regime in which quantum effects were dominant, and the laser-based experiments also used relatively small data samples with large data fluctuations, all of which prevented a high-precision study of the effect.

Enter the latest NA63 study. By directing a beam of high-energy charged particles (electrons or positrons) from the Super Proton Synchrotron at several (silicon or diamond) crystals of different thickness, one crystal at a time and with different angles at which the beam strikes the crystal, the NA63 team succeeded in studying with high precision the radiation reaction for the charged particles in the crystal’s strong electromagnetic field. In all cases, the researchers measured the energy spectrum of the photons emitted by the charged particles, that is, they measured how the number of photons emitted by the charged particles varied with the photon energy.

They found that all of the measured energy spectra are in remarkable agreement with predictions based on the Landau–Lifshitz equation describing the dynamics of charged particles in a strong electromagnetic field if these predictions also include small changes from quantum effects.

“This classical equation was proposed in the 1950s to account for the effect of radiation reaction,” said NA63 spokesperson Ulrik Uggerhøj. “Our new study has investigated for the first time the experimental regime in which the effect is dominant, and it showed that the equation does seem to describe this regime well.”


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

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

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

Physical Review D:

Super Proton Synchrotron:

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

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

Best regards,

Hubble Shoots the Moon


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.


 Sept. 25, 2020

This image from 1991 shows Earth's Moon, with its dark basaltic mare, clearly visible in great detail.

Our Moon is Earth's only natural satellite, unlike several other planets in our solar system. For example, gas giant Jupiter has more than 70 known moons.

Learn more about the Moon and participate in International Observe the Moon Night.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)


International Observe the Moon Night:

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/Lick Observatory/ESA/Hubble.


More Leak Checks as Crew Spends Weekend in Russian Segment



ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 25, 2020

As part of ongoing work to isolate the source of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate, the Expedition 63 crew will once again spend the weekend inside the station’s Russian segment. All the space station hatches will be closed this weekend so mission controllers can again monitor the air pressure in each module with the goal of localizing the source of the increased rate. The test presents no safety concern for the crew. Commander Chris Cassidy and his crewmates Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin will stay in the Zvezda service module from Friday night into Monday morning.

Image above: The Expedition 63 crew will stay in the Russian segment’s Zvezda service module during a cabin air leak test this weekend. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew will spend Friday gathering items for the weekend isolation before closing hatches throughout the station at the conclusion of their crew work day.

Related article:

ISS crew is isolated to search for atmospheric leak

Related links:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

ISS crew is isolated to search for atmospheric leak


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

Sept. 25, 2020

Over the coming weekend, the crew of the 63rd Long-Term Expedition to the International Space Station will be isolated in the Russian segment of the station to further search for an atmospheric leak on board the ISS.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

The ISS-63 crew consisting of Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, Ivan Wagner and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will routinely carry out all the planned work, nothing threatens their safety.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related articles:

Station Controllers Resume Normal Ops as Crew Keeps Up Research

Station Crew Re-Enters U.S On-Orbit Segments, Mission Control Preps for Storm

Crew Spending Another Day in Russian Segment

Crew Spending Weekend in Station’s Russian Segment

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


jeudi 24 septembre 2020

Station Gearing Up for October Cargo and Crew Missions


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 24, 2020

October is shaping up to be a busy traffic period as the International Space Station gears up for a space delivery, a crew exchange and a commercial crew mission. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew focused on science, eye exams and leak inspections today.

The next U.S. cargo mission to resupply the station is due to launch on Tuesday at 10:27 p.m. EDT from Virginia.  The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman will arrive on Saturday, Oct. 3, packed with nearly 8,000 pounds supplies and gear including an advanced space toilet and brand-new science experiments. Cygnus’ preflight events, launch, rendezvous and robotic capture will be broadcast live on NASA TV.

Image above: Expedition 64 crew members (from left) Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, Sergey Ryzhikov and Kate Rubins are pictured during Soyuz qualification exams are the next crew to launch to the station. Image Credit: NASA.

Three new Expedition 64 crew members will then set their sights on their Oct. 14 launch aboard the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship to the orbiting lab. NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will ride alongside cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov as they prepare for a 185-day mission in space.

One week later, the new station crew will say goodbye to the Expedition 63 trio that has been living in space since April. Commander Chris Cassidy with Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will parachute to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft on Oct. 21 completing a 195-day station research mission.

SpaceX is targeting Oct. 23 for the launch of four astronauts on its first operational Crew Dragon mission. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins will command the commercial crew vehicle piloted by first-time space flyer Victor Glover. They will be supported by Mission Specialists and veteran astronauts Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi for the six-month stay at the orbital lab. The quartet will join the Expedition 64 crew one day after launch.

International Space Station (ISS) flying over Earth. Animation Credit: NASA

Back on the space station today, Cassidy looked at Ivanishin’s retinas using non-invasive light wave technology, or optical coherence tomography. The commander then prepared Astrobee robotic assistants for an upcoming student competition before servicing an incubator and a science freezer. Ivanishin and Vagner continued checking power and life support systems in the station’s Russian segment.

As part of ongoing work to isolate the source of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate, the Expedition 63 crew used specialized detectors to inspect several windows, seals and valves across the space station. Results from their inspections will be analyzed on the ground.

Related links:


Expedition 63:

Expedition 64:

Advanced space toilet:



Science freezer:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Marks Continued Progress on X-59


NASA - X-59 Mission patch.

Sept. 24, 2020

Image above: NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology X-plane, or QueSST, is designed to fly faster than the speed of sound, without producing a loud, disruptive sonic boom, which is typically heard on the ground below aircraft flying at such speeds. Instead, with the X-59, people on the ground will hear nothing more than a quiet sonic thump – if they hear anything at all. The X-59 will fly over communities around the United States to demonstrate this technology, providing scientifically valid data from the community overflights to U.S. and international regulators, who will use the information to help them come up with rules based on noise levels that may enable new commercial markets for supersonic flight over land. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Assembly of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft is continuing during 2020 and making good progress, despite challenges such as those imposed by the unexpected global pandemic.

NASA plans as early as 2024 to fly the X-59 over select communities on missions to gather information about how the public will react to the level of quiet supersonic flight noise the aircraft is designed to produce – if they hear anything at all.

Data collected will be shared with federal and international regulators to help them set new rules that may allow supersonic flight over land and enable a whole new market for commercial faster-than-sound air travel.

“This mission is the culmination of decades of research, and with the X-59 we are continuing to pioneer a future of aviation in which we will see drastically reduced flight times for global-travelling passengers,” said Peter Coen, NASA’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstration Mission Integration Manager.

For now, assembly of X-59 is taking place at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, where with each construction milestone, the airplane is taking shape – literally.

One of those milestones is with the X-59’s eXternal Vision System, or XVS, which is a forward-facing camera and display system that allows the pilot to see outside the aircraft via augmented reality.

The XVS is NASA’s solution to the aircraft’s lack of a forward-facing window – a result of the need to place the cockpit lower and farther back on the airplane because of its unique, elongated nose and fuselage profile.

The innovative XVS system underwent successful flight tests in August 2019 and passed several rounds of qualification testing in January of this year.

Major progress was also made on the aircraft’s wing thanks to the Skunk Works’ Combined Operation: Bolting and Robotic Auto-drill (COBRA) system. This advanced robotic technology enhances production by drilling and inspecting hundreds of holes on the wing that are part of the assembly process.

Image above: The unique, elongated nose for NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, or QueSST, aircraft is a critical element in NASA’s design to reduce the loud sonic boom, heard from supersonic aircraft, to no more than a quiet thump. Seen here at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, the nose for the X-59 is over 30 feet long – long enough for pilots to require an innovative virtual system to see beyond the front of the aircraft. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Meanwhile, pallet brackets were recently installed into the airframe for the XVS and Flight Test Instrumentation Systems, marking the first installation of components supplied directly by NASA for the X-59.

Moreover, the X-59 has achieved several other milestones, including delivery of several major aircraft segments that will soon be installed. These include the F414-GE-100 turbofan engine from General Electric Aviation, the aircraft’s vertical tail, and the one-of-a-kind, extended-length nose.

Although production and assembly have continued at a steady pace in many areas, the development of an all new, full scale experimental aircraft is not without its challenges.

As a result, some schedule updates have been implemented.

NASA now expects the X-59’s assembly to be complete and major ground testing to begin in summer 2021, leading to a target date for first flight in summer 2022.

“The integrated NASA and Lockheed X-59 team is doing an amazing job given the challenging circumstances of COVID-19,” said NASA’s LBFD Project Manager Craig Nickol. “The team has shown remarkable resilience, and we’re excited to see the visible progress on X-59 assembly and integration every day. Although we have had some challenges in 2020, the team has responded well by updating plans and continuing to make progress. We’re looking forward to several important milestones this year.”

These milestones include completion of manufacturing the X-59’s wing and its mating to the aircraft’s fuselage, both expected by the end of 2020.

“We are over half-way complete with the build of this one-of-a-kind X-plane,” said David Richardson, X-59 Program Director, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “We will soon complete close-out of the wing, which is the central structural anchor of the aircraft, and we will then prepare for mate of the empennage, fuselage, and the distinctive, super long nose.  The team has done a phenomenal job of advancing aerospace technology and working through challenges to drive progress, all of which has been enabled by our close partnership with NASA.”

None of the schedule adjustments threaten timing of the ultimate goal of delivering results of the community overflights to the International Civil Aviation Organization and Federal Aviation Administration in 2027.

With that information in hand, regulators will be able to decide if a change should be made in rules that prohibit supersonic flight over land – a decision that would be expected in 2028.

Before then, however, and even as the X-59 aircraft is under construction, other teams of NASA’s aeronautical innovators are preparing for their roles in what NASA calls the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration mission.

Once the X-59 begins flying, it will be important to validate that it is capable of producing supersonic shockwaves that will lead to quiet thumps in place of loud sonic booms. This will require tools for shock wave visualization, in-flight pressure measurement, and acoustic validation – technologies which are continuing preparation and testing at NASA, both on the ground and in the air.

These acoustic validation flights are targeted for 2023.

At the same time, critical planning and preparation for the community overflights continues – flights that are expected to begin in late 2024. The effort is taking advantage of lessons learned from a flight series that took place over Galveston, Texas in 2018.

X-59 Assembly Time Lapse, Sept. 2020

Video above: This time lapse video shows progress made on major sections of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, or QueSST, aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California. Through X-59, NASA will demonstrate the ability to fly supersonic, or faster than the speed of sound, without producing a loud sonic boom typically heard on the ground below aircraft flying at such speeds, instead reducing it to a quiet thump. This may open the door to future faster-than-sound flight over land on a commercial level. Video Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Taken together, this mission work is spread across three projects within NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. They include the Commercial Supersonic Technology project managed out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, the Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities project managed out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, and the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project, responsible for the X-59 aircraft itself, managed out of Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

X-59’s mission to provide regulators with data that may open the future to supersonic flight over land, drastically reducing flight times, is the culmination of decades of NASA supersonic research. While the challenge is there, NASA, as it always has, is pioneering the future of flight through the first “A” in its name – Aeronautics.

Related links:

NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology aircraft:

Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate:

Commercial Supersonic Technology project:

Langley Research Center:

Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities project:

Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project:


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


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins its Countdown to TAG


NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

Sept. 24, 2020

A historic moment is on the horizon for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. In just a few weeks, the robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface, touch down for a few seconds and collect a sample of the asteroid’s rocks and dust – marking the first time NASA has grabbed pieces of an asteroid, which will be returned to Earth for study.

On Oct. 20, the mission will perform the first attempt of its Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event. This series of maneuvers will bring the spacecraft down to site Nightingale, a rocky area 52 ft (16 m) in diameter in Bennu’s northern hemisphere, where the spacecraft’s robotic sampling arm will attempt to collect a sample. Site Nightingale was selected as the mission’s primary sample site because it holds the greatest amount of unobstructed fine-grained material, but the region is surrounded by building-sized boulders. During the sampling event, the spacecraft, which is the size of a large van, will attempt to touch down in an area that is only the size of a few parking spaces, and just a few steps away from some of these large boulders.


Video above: On Oct. 20, the OSIRIS-REx mission will perform the first attempt of its Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event. Not only will the spacecraft navigate to the surface using innovative navigation techniques, but it could also collect the largest sample since the Apollo missions. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

During the 4.5-hour sample collection event, the spacecraft will perform three separate maneuvers to reach the asteroid’s surface. The descent sequence begins with OSIRIS-REx firing its thrusters for an orbit departure maneuver to leave its safe-home orbit approximately 2,500 feet (770 meters) from Bennu's surface. After traveling four hours on this downward trajectory, the spacecraft performs the “Checkpoint” maneuver at an approximate altitude of 410 ft (125 m). This thruster burn adjusts OSIRIS-REx’s position and speed to descend steeply toward the surface. About 11 minutes later, the spacecraft performs the “Matchpoint” burn at an approximate altitude of 177 ft (54 m), slowing its descent and targeting a path to match the asteroid's rotation at the time of contact. The spacecraft then descends to the surface, touches down for less than sixteen seconds and fires one of its three pressurized nitrogen bottles. The gas agitates and lifts Bennu’s surface material, which is then caught in the spacecraft’s collector head. After this brief touch, OSIRIS-REx fires its thrusters to back away from Bennu’s surface and navigates to a safe distance from the asteroid.

After the orbit departure maneuver, the spacecraft undertakes a sequence of reconfigurations to prepare for sampling. First, OSIRIS-REx extends its robotic sampling arm – the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – from its folded storage position out to the sample collection position. The spacecraft’s two solar panels then move into a “Y-wing” configuration over the spacecraft’s body, which positions them safely up and away from the asteroid’s surface during touch down. This configuration also places the spacecraft’s center of gravity directly over the TAGSAM collector head, which is the only part of the spacecraft that will contact Bennu’s surface during the sample collection event.

OSIRIS-REx colecting sample. Animation Credit: NASA

Because the spacecraft and Bennu are approximately 207 million miles (334 million km) from Earth during TAG, it will take about 18.5 minutes for signals to travel between them. This time lag prevents the live commanding of flight activities from the ground during the TAG event, so the spacecraft is designed to perform the entire sample collection sequence autonomously. Prior to the event’s start, the OSIRIS-REx team will uplink all of the commands to the spacecraft and then send a “GO” command to begin.

To autonomously navigate to site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx uses the Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) navigation system. The spacecraft begins collecting navigation images about 90 minutes after orbit departure. It then compares these real-time images to an onboard image catalog, using identified surface features to make sure that it’s on the right course toward the site. As the spacecraft approaches the surface, OSIRIS-REx updates the Checkpoint and Matchpoint maneuvers based on the NFT's estimate of the spacecraft’s position and velocity. OSIRIS-REx continues to use the NFT estimates as it descends to the surface after the Matchpoint maneuver to monitor its position and descent rate. The spacecraft will autonomously abort should its trajectory vary outside of predefined limits.

To ensure that the spacecraft touches down on a safe area that avoids the region’s many boulders, the navigation system is equipped with a hazard map of site Nightingale, which delineates areas within the sample site that could potentially harm the spacecraft. If the spacecraft’s NFT system detects that it is on course to touch one of these hazardous zones, the spacecraft will autonomously wave off its approach once it reaches an altitude of 16 ft (5 m). This keeps the spacecraft safe and allows for a subsequent sample collection attempt at a future date.

Image above: This artist’s concept shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descending towards asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of the asteroid’s surface. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

As the spacecraft performs each event in the sample collection sequence, it will send telemetry updates back to the OSIRIS-REx team, albeit at an extremely slow data rate. The team will monitor the telemetry during the excursion and will be able to confirm that the spacecraft has successfully touched down on Bennu’s surface soon after TAG occurs. The images and other science data collected during the event will be downlinked after the spacecraft has backed away from the asteroid and can point its larger antenna back to Earth to transmit at higher communication rates.

OSIRIS-REx is charged with collecting at least 2 oz. (60 grams) of Bennu’s rocky material to deliver back to Earth – the largest sample return from space since the Apollo program – and the mission developed two methods to verify that this sample collection occurred. On Oct. 22, OSIRIS-REx’s SamCam camera will capture images of the TAGSAM head to see whether it contains Bennu’s surface material. The spacecraft will also perform a spin maneuver on Oct. 24 to determine the mass of collected material. If these measures show successful collection, the decision will be made to place the sample in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for return to Earth. If sufficient sample has not been collected from Nightingale, the spacecraft has onboard nitrogen charges for two more attempts. A TAG attempt at the back-up Osprey site would be made no earlier than January 2021.

The mission team has spent the last several months preparing for the sample collection event while maximizing remote work as part of its COVID-19 response. On the day of TAG, a limited number of team members will monitor the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space’s Mission Support Area, taking appropriate safety precautions. Other members of the team will also be at other locations on-site to cover the event, while also observing safety protocols.

The spacecraft is scheduled to depart Bennu in 2021 and it will deliver the collected sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx 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.

To view graphics from the Sept. 24 media telecon, go to:

To visit the OSIRIS-REx media gallery, go to:

For more information on the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit: and

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/University of Arizona/Writer: Brittany Enos.

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mercredi 23 septembre 2020

Changing the parameters of the next correction of the ISS orbit


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Sept. 23, 2020

In connection with the unscheduled correction of the orbit of the International Space Station to avoid "space debris" held on September 23, 2020, the Mission Control Center (Korolev, Moscow Region) made a decision to form ballistic conditions before the launch of the Soyuz MS-17 manned spacecraft on changing the parameters of the planned ISS orbit correction on October 7, 2020.

According to preliminary data from the ballistic and navigation support service of the Flight Control Center of the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation), the engines of the Progress MS-14 cargo ship docked to the aggregate compartment of the Zvezda module will be turned on at 11:11 Moscow time and will work 403.7 s. After carrying out the corrective maneuver, the average altitude of the station's orbit will decrease by 1.4 km and will be about 418.4 km above the Earth's surface.

International Space Station (ISS)

The launch of the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-17 manned spacecraft and the crew of the 64th long-term expedition to the International Space Station is scheduled for October 14, 2020 from the Baikonur cosmodrome. The prime crew includes Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, as well as NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins. Back-up crew: Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Peter Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hai.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

An unscheduled correction of the ISS orbit was carried out

On the evening of September 22, 2020, the Russian Mission Control Center received information that the International Space Station is part of the so-called. The "red zone". This means that there is a danger of collision between the station and "space debris".

After analyzing the available information, the flight control group of the International Space Station made a decision on the need for an urgent evasion maneuver.

The engines of the Progress MS-14 cargo vehicle were switched on at 00:19 Moscow time on September 23 and worked for 150 seconds, giving the station an impulse of 0.3 m/s, as a result of which it evaded a dangerous object.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related articles:

Station Crew Preps for Space Debris Avoidance Maneuver

ISS orbit correction is scheduled for October 7

International Space Station (ISS):

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Crew Readies for New Space Toilet and Continues Eye Exams


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 23, 2020

The International Space Station is gearing up for an advanced bathroom set to arrive on a U.S. resupply ship early next month. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 crew continued this week’s eye checks and more space research and life support maintenance.

The orbital lab will get a new space toilet scheduled to be delivered inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft on Oct. 3. The upgraded restroom facility will be smaller, more comfortable and support a larger crew as NASA’s Commercial Crew Program sends more astronauts to the station.

Image above: NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait in front of the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Image Credit: NASA.

Station crewmates Chris Cassidy and Ivan Vagner will be at the robotics workstation commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus next Saturday. The duo began reviewing Cygnus’ mission profile today and are getting up to speed with the tasks necessary to support the upcoming space delivery.

The two crewmates then joined their colleague cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin for regularly scheduled eye checks in the afternoon. Wednesday’s tests looked at the retina using non-invasive light wave technology, or optical coherence tomography. The weeklong exams also consist of reading vision charts with one eye covered, as well as self-administered ultrasound eye scans with real-time support from ground doctors.

ISS orbital laboratory flying over night Earth. Animation Credit: NASA

Cassidy’s science work today saw him activate the Astrobee robotic helpers and check out hardware for a perception and orientation in space study. The NASA astronaut then collected samples of the station’s U.S. segment drinking water for microbial analysis.

Working from the Russian side of the station, Ivanishin spent the morning replacing smoke detectors in the Zarya module. Vagner also gathered drinking water samples for later analysis both on the orbiting lab and back on Earth.

Related article:

Cygnus Carries Toilet, Cancer Research, VR Camera to Space Station on 14th Mission

Related links:

Expedition 63:

New space toilet:


Perception and orientation in space:

Zarya module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Cyclones of Color at Jupiter’s North Pole


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Sept. 23, 2020

Cyclones at the north pole of Jupiter appear as swirls of striking colors in this extreme false color rendering of an image from NASA’s Juno mission. The huge, persistent cyclone found at Jupiter’s north pole is visible at the center of the image, encircled by smaller cyclones that range in size from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 kilometers). Together, this pattern of storms covers an area that would dwarf the Earth.

The color choices in this image reveal both the beauty of Jupiter and the subtle details present in Jupiter’s dynamic cloud structure. Each new observation that Juno provides of Jupiter’s atmosphere complements computer simulations and helps further refine our understanding of how the storms evolve over time.

The Juno mission provided the first clear views of Jupiter’s polar regions. Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument has also mapped this area, as well as a similar pattern of storms at the planet’s south pole.

JUNO spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

Citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt made this composite image using data obtained by the JunoCam instrument during four of the Juno spacecraft’s close passes by Jupiter, which took place between Feb. 17, 2020, and July 25, 2020. The greatly exaggerated color is partially a result of combining many individual images to create this view.

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

More information about Juno is at and

Text, Animation Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Gerald Eichstädt.

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NASA's New Mars Rover Will Use X-Rays to Hunt Fossils


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

September 23, 2020

PIXL, an instrument on the end of the Perseverance rover's arm, will search for chemical fingerprints left by ancient microbes.

Image above: NASA's New Mars Rover Will Use X-Rays to Hunt Fossils. In this illustration, NASA's Perseverance Mars rover uses the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL). Located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, the X-ray spectrometer will help search for signs of ancient microbial life in rocks. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has a challenging road ahead: After having to make it through the harrowing entry, descent, and landing phase of the mission on Feb. 18, 2021, it will begin searching for traces of microscopic life from billions of years back. That's why it's packing PIXL, a precision X-ray device powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Short for Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, PIXL is a lunchbox-size instrument located on the end of Perseverance's 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm. The rover's most important samples will be collected by a coring drill on the end of the arm, then stashed in metal tubes that Perseverance will deposit on the surface for return to Earth by a future mission.

Nearly every mission that has successfully landed on Mars, from the Viking landers to the Curiosity rover, has included an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer of some kind. One major way PIXL differs from its predecessors is in its ability to scan rock using a powerful, finely-focused X-ray beam to discover where - and in what quantity - chemicals are distributed across the surface.

"PIXL's X-ray beam is so narrow that it can pinpoint features as small as a grain of salt. That allows us to very accurately tie chemicals we detect to specific textures in a rock," said Abigail Allwood, PIXL's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Rock textures will be an essential clue when deciding which samples are worth returning to Earth. On our planet, distinctively warped rocks called stromatolites were made from ancient layers of bacteria, and they are just one example of fossilized ancient life that scientists will be looking for.

Animation above: A device with six mechanical legs, the hexapod is a critical part of the PIXL instrument aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover. The hexapod allows PIXL to make slow, precise movements to get closer to and point at specific parts of a rock's surface. This GIF has been considerably sped up to show how the hexapod moves. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

An AI-Powered Night Owl

To help find the best targets, PIXL relies on more than a precision X-ray beam alone. It also needs a hexapod - a device featuring six mechanical legs connecting PIXL to the robotic arm and guided by artificial intelligence to get the most accurate aim. After the rover's arm is placed close to an interesting rock, PIXL uses a camera and laser to calculate its distance. Then those legs make tiny movements - on the order of just 100 microns, or about twice the width of a human hair - so the device can scan the target, mapping the chemicals found within a postage stamp-size area.

"The hexapod figures out on its own how to point and extend its legs even closer to a rock target," Allwood said. "It's kind of like a little robot who has made itself at home on the end of the rover's arm."

Then PIXL measures X-rays in 10-second bursts from a single point on a rock before the instrument tilts 100 microns and takes another measurement. To produce one of those postage stamp-size chemical maps, it may need to do this thousands of times over the course of as many as eight or nine hours.

That timeframe is partly what makes PIXL's microscopic adjustments so critical: The temperature on Mars changes by more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) over the course of a day, causing the metal on Perseverance's robotic arm to expand and contract by as much as a half-inch (13 millimeters). To minimize the thermal contractions PIXL has to contend with, the instrument will conduct its science after the Sun sets.

"PIXL is a night owl," Allwood said. "The temperature is more stable at night, and that also lets us work at a time when there's less activity on the rover."

Image above: PIXL opens its dust cover during testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One of seven instruments on NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, PIXL is located on the end of the rover's robotic arm. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

X-rays for Art and Science

Long before X-ray fluorescence got to Mars, it was used by geologists and metallurgists to identify materials. It eventually became a standard museum technique for discovering the origins of paintings or detecting counterfeits.

"If you know that an artist typically used a certain titanium white with a unique chemical signature of heavy metals, this evidence might help authenticate a painting," said Chris Heirwegh, an X-ray fluorescence expert on the PIXL team at JPL. "Or you can determine if a particular kind of paint originated in Italy rather than France, linking it to a specific artistic group from the time period."

Image above: PIXL requires pictures of its rock targets to autonomously position itself. Light diodes encircle its opening and take pictures of rock targets when the instrument is working at night. Using artificial intelligence, PIXL relies on the images to determine how far away it is from a target to be scanned. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

For astrobiologists, X-ray fluorescence is a way to read stories left by the ancient past. Allwood used it to determine that stromatolite rocks found in her native country of Australia are some of the oldest microbial fossils on Earth, dating back 3.5 billion years. Mapping out the chemistry in rock textures with PIXL will offer scientists clues to interpret whether a sample could be a fossilized microbe.

More About the Mission

A key objective for Perseverance's mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will also characterize the planet's climate and geology, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first planetary mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with the European Space Agency, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans:

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers.

Learn more about the Mars 2020 mission at:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.


School Bus-Size Asteroid to Safely Zoom Past Earth


Asteroid Watch logo.

September 23, 2020

Roughly 15 to 30 feet wide, the object will make its closest approach on Sept. 24.

Image above: This illustration shows a near-Earth asteroid like asteroid 2020 SW traveling through space. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A small near-Earth asteroid (or NEA) will briefly visit Earth's neighborhood on Thursday, Sept. 24, zooming past at a distance of about 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above our planet's surface. The asteroid will make its close approach below the ring of geostationary satellites orbiting about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) away from Earth.

Based on its brightness, scientists estimate that 2020 SW is roughly 15 to 30 feet (5 to 10 meters) wide - or about the size of a small school bus. Although it's not on an impact trajectory with Earth, if it were, the space rock would almost certainly break up high in the atmosphere, becoming a bright meteor known as a fireball.

"There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two."

After asteroid 2020 SW was discovered on Sept. 18 by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, follow-up observations confirmed its orbital trajectory with high precision, ruling out any chance of impact. CNEOS scientists determined that it will make its closest approach at 4:12 a.m. PDT (7:12 a.m. EDT) on Sept. 24 over the Southeastern Pacific Ocean. After Thursday's close approach, the asteroid will continue its journey around the Sun, not returning to Earth's vicinity until 2041, when it will make a much more distant flyby.

Animation above: This animation from NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies depicts asteroid 2020 SW's trajectory as it safely passes Earth on Sept. 24, 2020. Also shown is the location of a typical geosynchronous satellite (labeled "GEOSAT"), orbiting 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth's equator. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

In 2005, Congress assigned NASA the goal of finding 90% of the near-Earth asteroids that are about 460 feet (140 meters) or larger in size. These larger asteroids pose a much greater threat if they were to impact, and they can be detected much farther away from Earth, because they're simply much brighter than the small ones. It is thought that there are over 100 million small asteroids like 2020 SW, but they are hard to discover unless they get very close to Earth.

"The detection capabilities of NASA's asteroid surveys are continually improving, and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet," added Chodas.

A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL hosts CNEOS for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office. More information about CNEOS, asteroids, and near-Earth objects can be found at:

For more information about NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow @AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Josh Handal/JPL/Ian J. O'Neill.