samedi 5 décembre 2020

Chang’e-5 - Rendezvous and docking explained


CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo.

Dec. 5, 2020

Chang’e-5 - rendezvous and docking

Chang’e-5 - Rendezvous and docking explained

The Chang’e-5 ascender and orbiter-sample return vehicle will automatically dock in lunar orbit. Li Gefei (researcher, Beijing Aerospace Control Center) explains the rendezvous maneuvers and Peng Jing (deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-5 probe) explains the docking process.

Chang’e-5 seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter observed China’s Chang’e-5 lander-ascender one day after it landed on the near side of the Moon, near Mons Rümker, in the northern region of Oceanus Procellarum, on 1 December 2020, at 15:11 UTC (23:11 China Standard Time). The LROC team computed the coordinates of the lander to be 43.0576° N, 308.0839°E, –2570 m elevation, with an estimated accuracy of plus-or-minus 20 meters.

According to Lin Yangting (professor, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences), a joint team will be formed with European researchers to study the samples, part of the cooperation with the European Space Agency.

Related articles:

Chang’e-5 ascends to lunar orbit

Chang’e-5 collecting lunar samples

Chang’e-5 lands on the Moon

Chang’e-5 ready for Moon landing

Chang’e-5 enters lunar orbit

Chang’e-5 completes first orbital correction

CASC - Long March-5 Y5 launches Chang’e-5 lunar mission

ESA tracks Chang'e-5 Moon mission

Related links:

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

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

Image, Videos, Text, Credits: CNSA/China Central Television (CCTV)/NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Successful Separation of Hayabusa2 Re-entry Capsule


JAXA - Hayabusa2 Mission patch.

Dec. 5, 2020

Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule separation

It was confirmed from telemetry and Doppler data that Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule separated from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft as planned at 14:35 on December 5, 2020 (JST).

An Exciting Day for Science and Exploration

Today marks an exciting and historic event as precious samples from asteroid Ryugu have been brought to Earth by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 mission. This is an extremely challenging endeavor and we commend and congratulate Japan on being not only the first nation that has been able to carry out a successful asteroid retrieval mission, but to now have done so for the second time!

Hayabusa2 re-entry capsule to land in South Australia

We are excited about our collaboration between JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission and NASA’s asteroid sample return mission – OSIRIS-REx, which extracted a sample from near-Earth asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20. Our mutually beneficial partnership with Japan allows us to share samples from NASA’s mission at Bennu and receive a portion of JAXA’s sample from Ryugu. Together, we will gain a better understanding of the origins of our solar system, and the source of water and organic molecules that could have seeded life on Earth.

Asteroid Ryugu Image Credit & Copyright: ISAS, JAXA

Our model of sharing samples is a testament to the unprecedented partnership For the U.S. and Japan have built over half a century in aeronautics research and human and robotic space exploration. Together, our two spacecraft have traveled millions of miles to touch the ancient solar system. With Hayabusa2’s return today, and OSIRIS-REx’s return in less than three years, we will be able to share the science and insights we gain from these invaluable samples with all of humanity.

Japan's Hayabusa2 space capsule to fall back to Earth

The fact that humans can launch a spacecraft from Earth, have it rendezvous so accurately with a small target and delicately touch the surface to collect a sample is just incredible and shows the tenacity of the human spirit. Missions like Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx give us hope. They inspire us to persevere through the many challenges faced with such challenging endeavors, and they teach us the power of working together – not as one nation or as one agency, but together as humans who share a home on this pale blue dot.

Asteroid Bennu. Image Credit: NASA

And what’s most exciting is that this is just the beginning. The return of Hayabusa-2 is the start of a decade of trailblazing missions to explore the Moon together, as part of Artemis, and to return samples from distant bodies, including JAXA’s upcoming Martian Moons eXploration mission and NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission. Our collaboration with Japan will provide invaluable science and critical knowledge for expanding humanity’s presence deeper into the solar system.

Earth return final guidance phase

Congratulations again to JAXA and its partners, the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Government of Australia including the Australian Space Agency), and to the Japanese people. This is a great day for science and exploration.

Related links:

JAXA Hayabusa2 Project:


JAXA/NASA/Thomas Zurbuchen/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starship is About to Flight its Highest Altitude Test


SpaceX logo.

Dec. 5, 2020

Starship - SN8 ready for highest altitude test

The latest SpaceX Starship prototype could reach the highest altitude yet though its test flight has been pushed back to Monday.

Following a successful static fire test last week, CEO and founder Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX is ready to launch its heavy-lift rocket to 50,000 feet. But that has since been trimmed to about 41,000 feet.

Starship static fire test

The SpaceX Starship launch will test the rocket's "3 engine ascent, body flaps and transition from main to header tanks & landing flip."

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday the launch window opens Friday and closes Sunday. But that was pulled in favor of the new Monday timeline.

Starship - SN5 - 150m Flight Test

Starship has flown three prior test flights with a max height of 500 feet at its south Texas test flight facility.

Musk tweeted last week that there was a one in three chance that the Starship would land in one piece but said more prototypes have been built for future tests.

SpaceX Starship Delays

The SpaceX Starship is being designed as a deep-space spacecraft to travel to the moon and colonize Mars. But it is also envisioned as a heavy-lift launcher to put payloads in orbit as well as a hypersonic intercontinental passenger vehicle.

SpaceX Starship description

The final version of the rocket will have six Raptor engines, which will help it carry up to 100 people into space.

At the virtual Humans to Mars Summit in September, Musk said that the SpaceX Starship would make its first orbital flight "probably next year."

Starship Launch Animation

The SpaceX Starship is scheduled to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and other passengers on a trip around the moon in 2023. But that timeline is in question as Musk predicted Starship will do "hundreds of missions with satellites before we put people on board."


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 4 décembre 2020

Chang’e-5 ascends to lunar orbit


CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo.

Dec. 4, 2020

Chang’e-5’s gamma ray altimeter

During Chang’e-5’ landing, a gamma ray altimeter was used to control the descent. Wang Xiaobo (leader of the gamma ray altimeter project, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation – CASIC) explained: “When the distance was less than five meters, the altimeter sent a turning-off instruction and switched off the orbital control engine and the self-control engine.”

Chang’e-5 ascends to lunar orbit

The Chang’e-5 ascender separated from the lander on 3 December 2020, at 15:10 UTC (23:10 China Standard Time), and entered on an orbit around the Moon approximately six minutes later.

Chang’e-5 ascends to lunar orbit

The ascender deployed its solar panels and will rendezvous with the orbiter-sample return vehicle after a series of orbit raising maneuvers.

Chang’e-5 sends back color panoramic image (4K UHD)

The panoramic camera of the Chang’e-5 lander-ascender photographed the landing area in color. China’s Chang’e-5 mission landed on the near side of the Moon, near Mons Rümker, a volcanic complex in the northern region of Oceanus Procellarum, on 1 December 2020, at 15:11 UTC.

According to Lin Yangting (professor, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences), a joint team will be formed with European researchers to study the samples, part of the cooperation with the European Space Agency.

Related articles:

Chang’e-5 collecting lunar samples

Chang’e-5 lands on the Moon

Chang’e-5 ready for Moon landing

Chang’e-5 enters lunar orbit

Chang’e-5 completes first orbital correction

CASC - Long March-5 Y5 launches Chang’e-5 lunar mission

ESA tracks Chang'e-5 Moon mission

Related links:

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

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

Image, Videos, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of November 30, 2020


ISS - Expedition 64 Mission patch.

Dec. 4, 2020

Scientific investigations conducted aboard the International Space Station the week of Nov. 30 included studies of how humans perceive time in space, artificial organ growth, and differences in how materials react in low-Earth orbit and on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The seven crew members currently aboard include four from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, increasing the crew time available for science on the orbiting lab. The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 20 years and has supported many scientific breakthroughs during that time. The station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space, experience that supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

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

Time flies in space

Animation above: The Time Perception experiment requires astronauts to be in free-floating condition using VR goggles and a laptop to record their judgments of objects in the environment, as shown here by NASA Astronaut Victor Glover. Animation Credit: NASA.

During the week, the crew performed Time Perception, an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment that aims to quantify the subjective changes in time perception that humans experience during and after long-duration spaceflight. The crew members recorded their judgments of durations in seconds, minutes, hours, and days.

Scientists suspect that astronauts underestimate time duration while on orbit due to the absence of gravitational reference. Crew members also experience the sensation that time “is going faster up there.” Crew members tend to have slower motions at the beginning of flight and increase speed of their motions as the flight progresses. In addition, it takes about twice as long to execute experimental procedures in orbit as it does on Earth. Time perception also may be affected by lack of sleep, disrupted daily or circadian rhythms, stress, and accounting for the variety of time zones (such as GMT, Houston, and Moscow time) on the space station. Because time perception is fundamental to motion perception, sound localization, speech, and fine motor coordination, it is crucial for astronauts to adapt.

A step toward artificial organs

The crew made configuration changes during the week in preparation for Space Organogenesis. This investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) demonstrates the growth of 3D organ buds from human stem cells in order to analyze changes in gene expression. Cell cultures on Earth need supportive materials or forces to achieve 3D growth, but in microgravity, cell cultures can expand into three dimensions without those devices. There is a need to establish technology that can create artificial organs with regenerative medicine technology because the supply of organs for transplants cannot meet current demand. This investigation will be critical for advancing the organ transplantation field.

Putting materials to the test

Image above: An artist's rendition of the newly designed flight facility platform for MISSE built and integrated by Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance in Houston, Texas. The platform will have more space to accommodate material samples. Image Credits: Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance.

MISSE is a series of tests by NASA’s Glenn Research Center of how the harsh space environment affects the performance and durability of various materials. Each mission tests new materials and material configurations, and similar materials fly on multiple MISSE missions. MISSE-14 exposes space de-orbit, phase change, and radiation shielding materials as well as 10 types of crop seeds. The platform allows the crew to see how materials, coatings, or other components react to exposure to ultraviolet (UV), electromagnetic, and ionizing radiation; atomic oxygen and micro-meteoroids; and other conditions in low-Earth orbit.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

Image above: Preflight view of the Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) unit that monitors cabin air on the space station. APM has potential applications in environmental monitoring and air pollution studies on Earth. Image Credit: Steven Spielman.

- APM measures and quantifies the concentration of both small and large particles in cabin air as part of efforts to maintain air quality in the occupied environment on station, vital for the crew’s health.

- Rotifer B2, an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment, explores the cumulative effect of microgravity and space radiation on living organisms.

- ACME is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames. ACME’s goals are to advance fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth, and to improve spacecraft fire prevention.

- Drop Vibration examines the behavior of big liquid drops when their contact lines move rapidly as drops change shape through merging or due to vibration. These motions are fast and small on Earth but become slower and larger in microgravity, making it possible to observe them more closely.

- Standard Measures collects a set of consistent measurements from U.S. crew members to help characterize the effects of living and working in space on the human body.

Image above: NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins photographs radish leaves she cut from the bulb and harvested after a four-week grow period for the Plant Habitat-02 experiment. Image Credit: NASA.

- Plant Habitat-02 cultivates radish plants (Raphanus sativus) to determine the effects of space on their growth. This model plant is nutritious, has a short cultivation time, and is genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a plant frequently studied in microgravity.

- Food Acceptability looks at how the appeal of food changes during long-duration missions. Whether crew members like and actually eat foods directly affects caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits.

Space to Ground: A New Door to Space: 12/04/2020

Related links:

Expedition 64:

Commercial Crew Program:

Time Perception:

Space Organogenesis:



ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 64.

Best regards,

Corrected, the Boeing 737 MAX was able to take off


Boeing logo.

Dec. 4, 2020

"Are we going to arrive safe and sound?" This is the question that must have been asked by the 87 passengers who inaugurated the re-flight of the aircraft, grounded in two tragic crashes.

The first consumer flight of a revised and corrected Boeing 737 MAX welcomed 87 passengers, mostly journalists, Wednesday between Dallas, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma. For this promotional flight intended to dispel fears and to convince people of the reliability of this aircraft, American Airlines has pulled out all the stops. The company plans to restart commercial flights on December 29 aboard the 737 MAX, grounded for 20 months after two close-quarters accidents that killed 346 and re-authorized to fly in the United States since November.

Boeing 737 MAX

The plane had been grounded for twenty months following two crashes that left 346 dead.

On take off, flight attendants, as usual, presented safety instructions before handing out snacks and bottles of water. The only peculiarity: the captain, Pete Gamble, greets the passengers by assuring them that women and men had done everything to reestablish the "safety chain", broken by the accidents of Lion Air (189 dead) in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines (157 dead) from March 2019.

Thorough inspection

"Between the changes to the systems, the vigilant review of each device and the training we have put in place, the level of confidence has really risen," said the captain. “(The 737 MAX) needed a thorough inspection, it was done.”

Before taking control of the aircraft, each American Airlines pilot must first complete a two-hour training session on an iPad, before spending an hour alone in a simulator, then two hours with a colleague during which they will experience several scenarios. incidents.

No feverishness on board

"Are we going to arrive safe and sound?" The question had no doubt crossed the minds of some passengers on Wednesday. Aside from some turbulence in a grayish sky, the fifty-minute flight went off without a hitch. Masked on their faces, scattered throughout the plane and separated by an empty seat, the passengers were calm, showing no particular excitement.

Boeing 737 MAX Maneuvering Augmentation System

For a passenger with no specific aviation knowledge, nothing really sets the Boeing 737 MAX apart from the 73-8x lettering on the front wheel. The safety cards slipped into the seat pockets only mention the number "737". A few details allow aviation enthusiasts to recognize it, such as the wing tips with split tips or the curved engine blades.

Customer's choice

American Airlines ensures that any customer purchasing a plane ticket will be notified if they are flying a 737 MAX. The company is committed to providing alternatives for any passenger who does not wish to fly on the device. “Safety is our priority. There are no exceptions, "asserts David Seymour, the operational director of the company, who wants to highlight the work done by mechanics, engineers and pilots.

A 34-year employee with American Airlines, Roger Steele “loves” the Boeing 737 MAX. He was present when the company received its first copy. He is now making sure they are ready to fly safely. Under a hangar at the company's maintenance base in Tulsa, he oversees all checks and changes imposed by regulators before any flight. Four intense days of work on each device.

Thorough checks

Shifts in the warehouse 24 hours a day on two devices at a time to check tire pressure, hydraulics, engines, tanks. It is necessary to update certain flight software in the cockpit, to modify the positioning of some cables.

All these measures are dictated by the United States Aviation Agency (FAA), which on November 19 authorized the plane, grounded around the world since March 2019, to fly under certain conditions. “We started work the same day,” says Steele.

Boeing 737-8 MAX

About twenty 737 MAXs are still outside on the tarmac. The maintenance teams took care of them "as if they were on duty," said Erik Olund, director of the Tulsa maintenance base. In addition to a mandatory check every 30 days, they started the engines and turned the wheels every ten days. The humidity level and tanks were closely monitored and cushions installed in the engines to prevent animals from entering.

The pilots present repeat the same refrain: there is no risk in flying the 737 MAX. American Airlines will operate a flight on a Boeing 737 MAX between Miami and New York on December 29.


Images, Text, Credits: ATS/Boeing/The Air Current/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


COVID-19 drug research and bio-mining launching to the International Space Station


ISS - International Space Station logo.

Dec. 4, 2020

For the past 20 years, astronauts have been performing experiments on the International Space Station. Science in low Earth orbit is not only hugely important in preparation for continued space exploration, the research also benefits life on Earth.

Kubik facility

We’ve seen discoveries that have advanced Earth-bound medicine, engineering and agriculture, and from this weekend onwards, microgravity will help us in our fight against COVID-19, with European commercial experiments set to launch to the International Space Station on the 21st SpaceX cargo mission.

COVID-19 medicine

Scientists will use Europe’s commercial ICE Cubes Service to test a COVID-19 medicine in microgravity in order to better understand how remdesivir interacts with its delivery substance cyclodextrin so that the drug’sefficiency can be improved. It will be the first time any COVID-19 related research takes place on the International Space Station.

ICE Cubes Facility

The experiment represents collaboration at its finest: The customers, InnoStudio and Cyclolab, are using the High Quality Protein Crystal Growth Service Kirara, operated by the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS), to run an experiment in the ICE Cubes Facility, managed by Space Application Systems, in ESA’s Columbus laboratory.


The University of Edinburgh’s BioAsteroid mission will use the Bioreactor Express Service to investigate how gravity affects the interaction between microbes and rock in a liquid in reduced gravity, with support from the UK Space Agency. BioAsteroid builds on recently published research of the BioRock experiment that looked at how microbes performed under different gravitational circumstances to extract resources from rocks. These microbes could give us key insights on our way to colonising the Moon and Mars.

BioAsteroid Experiment Unit

The BioAsteroid project is a great example of how working with commercial partners can drastically speed-up research. It took roughly a decade for its predecessor BioRock to make it from conception to the International Space Station and back, whereas BioAsteroid will be traveling to space within a year from its conception.


Traditionally, research in orbit has been managed by governmental space agencies, working with scientists on the ground as the astronauts perform experiments on the International Space Station. But as the space industry expands, more commercial partners are getting involved.

These experiments demonstrate the benefits of working together with commercial partners. Researchers do not need to wait for a call for ideas or enter a selection process to be considered for an experiment aboard the International Space Station. This is an advantage for companies that are looking to be first on the market to present their results.

Human and robotic exploration benefits

Increased access, market benefits for commercial companies and shorter execution times all continue to increase the amount of space research and can therefore lead to new, more rapid discoveries. Discoveries that will help us explore farther into space, while at the same time providing benefits for people here on Earth, are good news for everyone.

Related links:

ICE Cubes Service:



Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS):

Space Application Systems:


Bioreactor Express Service:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.

Best regards,

Hubble Gazes Upon Cosmic Wonderland


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 4, 2020

This large expanse of space captured with the Hubble Space Telescope features the galaxy SDSS J225506.80+005839.9. Unlike many other extravagant galaxies and stunning nebulae imaged by Hubble, this galaxy does not have a short, popular name, and is only known by its long name given in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which refers to its coordinates in the sky. This galaxy – visible in the center right portion of the image – and its many wondrous neighboring galaxies lie in the constellation of Pisces (the Fish).

This is a post-starburst galaxy, which is a product of galaxies that have merged within the past billion years. This merger event drove gas to the galaxy's center and created an abundance of new stars, of which the brightest are visible in the remnant galaxy's core. The visible shells and tails surrounding the galaxy are also a result of this merger event.

Residing far beyond our own Milky Way at a distance of about 500 million light-years, it is almost impossible to glimpse this galaxy without the assistance of Hubble, and, like thousands of similar faint and very distant galaxies, it was only discovered and cataloged in recent years. Many millions of galaxies still await our discovery as we build a wondrous picture of our night sky.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Lynn Jenner/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Zabludoff.


The sun sets on ESEO as ESA’s pioneering student satellite mission concludes


ESA - ESEO Mission logo.

Dec. 4, 2020

After almost two years in space, ESA’s European Student Earth Orbiter mission – ESEO – is coming to a close. Designed by students, for students, it has raised the bar for what can be achieved by university student teams.

Artist impression of ESEO flying over Europe

Numerous technical setbacks provided additional hurdles, but also extra opportunities for students to learn about the reality of working with advanced hardware and software in orbit around our planet.

A satellite by students, for students

ESEO was envisaged by ESA Academy’s hands-on space programme as a revolutionary educational project; nothing less than a fully-functional satellite, with scientific and technological payloads designed and operated entirely by university students. This provided a unique opportunity for students across Europe to gain significant practical experience in the design, development, launch and operations of a real space mission – for many, a dream come true.

The ESEO satellite shows its beauty

In total, more than 600 students from ESA Member States have been involved in ESEO, from the project’s beginnings and during each phase and iteration, developing the scientific and technology demonstration payloads, key sub-systems, and the entire ground segment. Throughout the project, students took part in workshops and lectures, were directly involved in the technical project reviews, and actively worked on the design, development, and testing of their hardware and software. "I came to the ESEO project when I was applying for the doctorate program in the field of space debris mitigation,” recalls Dr. Chiara Palla, who worked on ESEO during her time as a PhD student at Cranfield University. “In fact, at Cranfield we were developing a drag sail mechanism to de-orbit the satellite. ESEO provided the chance to fully design, manufacture and test the device. This was an invaluable opportunity to engineer real space hardware and get hands-on with a space mission cycle in a fully international environment. I'm really convinced that the experience gained from ESEO has been driving me to successfully perform new research and lead new teams."

To make ESEO a reality, ESA teamed up with Prime Industrial contractor SITAEL. This leading Transportation and Aerospace Group developed the satellite platform, then performed the integration and testing of the whole spacecraft, including the integration of the student-built payloads and subsystems. In addition, they provided valuable and much appreciated technical support to the student teams under ESA’s coordination. Viktor Qiao was a student from the Hungarian Langmuir Probe team. He explains, “When I joined the Laboratory of Space Technology at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, I was very lucky, because I was just in time to participate in the development of the Langmuir Probe for ESEO. It was the first engineering project that I worked on and I’ll never forget all the practical skills I learned, and the experience of working with ESA professionals and participating in the final test campaign. Working with SITAEL was an excellent opportunity to gain experience in engineering fields other than our own, such as mechanical and systems engineering. It also provided a glimpse into the day-to-day reality of work within the space industry. I’m now a PhD student, and I’ll always be proud of ESEO as the project that started my engineering career – hopefully only the first in a long list of projects to come."

A further valuable contribution by industry for the success of the ESEO project came from ST Microelectronics, which donated a set of Integrated Current Limiters used for the development of the power distribution board by the student team from BME Budapest.

A lasting legacy

Originally designed to be in orbit for just six months, project extensions have seen ESEO circling our planet for almost two years. The spacecraft performed commissioning of the platform but was unable to reach its nominal attitude, and therefore, ideal operational mode. Due to a variety of technical challenges and hurdles, the mission operators were only able to activate a subset of the payloads, leading to reduced success in achieving the science objectives.

Learn more about ESEO’s in-orbit challenges and successes:

Despite – and indeed perhaps also thanks to – the setbacks, the educational return for the students involved over the lifecycle of ESEO has been truly vast, and ESEO’s overarching educational objective was achieved: for university students to acquire hands-on experience of the full life cycle of a real space project, real-life troubleshooting included, in order to prepare a well-qualified technical workforce for the European space sector.

“Remarkably, the participating students took a complicated space mission all the way from conception to operation in orbit,” says Hugo Marée, Head of the ESA Education Office. “The hurdles they overcame along the way have contributed to a great deal of learning, and given them unparalleled experience that will serve them well in their future careers in the space industry.”

ESEO Power Distribution Unit students, Hungary

ESEO’s mission may be over, but its story does not end here. ESA and SITAEL are preparing a second In-Flight Experience Workshop for students, with sessions themed on lessons learned during the operational phase of ESEO, as well as practical classes using an engineering model of the satellite. Furthermore, ESA is planning full training weeks based on the ESEO experience. Papers will also be published to disseminate ESEO’s learning among the wider community.

Alberto Lucci was a student at the University of Bologna working in ESEO’s Mission Control Centre. Like many of those involved, he now looks back on his time with ESEO as an inspirational and transformative experience. “Working on ESEO was like being on a roller coaster,” he remembers, “from the happiness of the first signal we received, to the concern for newfound issues, gasping with satisfaction at making recoveries, to the long nights spent executing operational procedures. This adventure will always be a milestone of my career. ESEO represented a chance for personal and professional growth: it taught me that with passion and expertise you can transform your dream into a career!”

Related links:

ESA’s European Student Earth Orbiter:



ESA Member States:

Images, Text, Credit: European Space Agency (ESA).


jeudi 3 décembre 2020

The second successful launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket in one day



Dec. 3, 2020

Soyuz-2 launches Gonets-M & ERA-1

On Thursday, December 3, 2020, at 4:14 Moscow time, the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle (manufactured by the Progress rocket and space center, part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region. the spacecraft block of the low-orbit commercial satellite communication system "Gonets-M" and the service platform of the nano-sized spacecraft "ERA-1" developed in the interests of the Russian Ministry of Defense, designed to test advanced microdevices and microsystems of orientation and astronavigation.

All prelaunch operations and the launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket took place in the normal mode. The means of the ground-based automated control complex of the Aerospace Forces monitored the launch and flight of the launch vehicle. Two minutes after the launch, the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket was taken for escort by ground-based facilities of the V.I. German Titov of the Aerospace Forces of the Aerospace Forces.

At the estimated time, the Fregat upper stage (manufactured by the Lavochkin association, part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) routinely separated from the third stage of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle and two hours later successfully launched the spacecraft into the calculated orbit. After launching into orbit, the spacecraft of the Russian Ministry of Defense was assigned the serial number "Cosmos-2548", and the "Gonets-M" satellites were transferred to the control of the customer, who will control them during the orbital flight. Specialists of the Main Testing Space Center. German Titov carried out operations to de-orbit the Fregat upper stage.

Launch of the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket with spacecraft at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome

Pavel Cherenkov, General Director of the Gonets Satellite System (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation), on the launch: “Congratulations to all colleagues and partners on the successful launch of three Gonets-M spacecraft. According to the information received, their separation from the upper stage took place normally, they were taken over by our duty shifts. After the specified flight operations are completed, they will be entered into the communication system. The replenishment of the grouping created an important resource for the viability of the system and created some redundancy opportunities.

For us, as an operator of the Gonets system, this is extremely important, since we can confidently guarantee our users the provision of services at the highest level. This year, we also commissioned four new regional stations, which dramatically improved the operation of the ground segment. Therefore, the Gonets system is ready to provide services for various segments with scalability both in terms of the list of services and the number of subscribers. "

Soyuz-2 launches Gonets-M & ERA-1

The officers of the Space Control Center of the Space Forces of the Aerospace Forces entered into the Main catalog of space objects of the Russian space control system information about the spacecraft launched into orbit, and began to analyze and process information about new space objects for their acceptance by ground means of the Main Center for Space Situation Intelligence Space Forces Aerospace Forces.

The Upper Stage "Fregat" ensures the efficient performance of all tasks related to the launch of one or several spacecraft into working orbits or trajectories departing from the Earth. The entire launching process is carried out autonomously, without interference from the Earth. The highest reliability and, practically, ideal launching accuracy, give the upper stage an undeniable competitive advantage over world analogues. This launch was the 90th for the Fregat upper stage.

Gonets-M satellite

The launch took place for the second time this year. Three satellites "Gonets-M", launched into orbit on September 28, 2020, have been successfully introduced by specialists of the "Gonets" satellite system into the communication system and are used for their intended purpose. The launches were carried out within the framework of the Federal Space Program of Russia for 2016–2025, which provides for the maintenance of the Gonets-D1M MSPSS orbital group in operational readiness and in the regular composition.

As part of the Gonets-D1M system, the Gonets-M spacecraft will serve for organizing personal communication services, including data transmission from mobile and stationary objects, as well as for industrial, environmental and scientific monitoring in hard-to-reach areas.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Russian Defense Ministry/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Crew Immersed in Space Science as Cargo Dragon Nears Launch


ISS - Expedition 64 Mission patch.

Dec. 3, 2020

Expedition 64 is getting ready for over 6,400 pounds of cargo due to arrive this weekend aboard the next-generation SpaceX Dragon space freighter. All seven International Space Station residents also were immersed in microgravity research throughout Thursday.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo spacecraft has rolled out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is counting down to a Saturday lift off at 11:39 a.m. EST. Weather-permitting Dragon, would automatically dock just under 24 hours later to the Harmony module’s space-facing port adjacent to the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle.

Image above: The upgraded version of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft is seen before it rolls out to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: SpaceX.

The Cargo Dragon’s main payload is the NanoRacks Bishop airlock that will be robotically attached to the Tranquility module. Bishop will increase the capacity for external space research at the space station benefitting public and private organizations.

The orbiting lab was humming today with a host of advanced space science looking at a variety of microgravity phenomena to enhance life for humans on and off the Earth.

Flight Engineers Michael Hopkins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack than enables safe investigations of flames and fuels on the station. Eye exams were on the slate this afternoon for astronauts Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi who also serviced botany and cell biology research gear.

Image above: JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Expedition 64 astronaut Soichi Noguchi relaxes at the end of the work day inside the seven-windowed cupola, the International Space Station's "window to the world." The orbiting lab was flying above the South Pacific at the time this photograph was taken on Nov. 27, 2020. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker serviced samples inside the Materials Science Laboratory before setting up the Fiber Optic Production study inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Her crewmate, Engineer Victor Glover collected and stowed biological samples for the Food Physiology study exploring how diet affects the immune system in space.

Finally, station Commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos wrapped up a 24-hour session that monitored his heart activity. The two-time station resident also explored ways to improve the workspace inside the station.

Related links:

Expedition 64:

Harmony module:

NanoRacks Bishop airlock:

Tranquility module:

Advanced space science:

Combustion Integrated Rack:


Cell biology:

Materials Science Laboratory:

Fiber Optic Production:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

Food Physiology:

Improve the workspace:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Selects Companies to Collect Lunar Resources for Artemis Demonstrations


NASA - Artemis Program logo.

Dec. 3, 2020

NASA Asks Commercial Companies to Collect Moon Rocks

Video above: NASA is taking a critical step forward in its lunar exploration goals by selecting commercial companies to collect lunar resources as part of the Artemis program. Video Credit: NASA.

NASA has selected four companies to collect space resources and transfer ownership to the agency: Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado; Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California; ispace Europe of Luxembourg; and ispace Japan of Tokyo. Overall, the new NASA contracts with these companies totals $25,001.

Space resources will play a key role in NASA’s Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration. Moreover, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a vital role in a future human mission to Mars. Like many other operations, ISRU activities will be tested and developed on the Moon, building the required knowledge to implement new capabilities that will be necessary to overcome the challenges of a human mission to Mars.

“These awards expand NASA’s innovative use of public-private partnerships to the Moon. We’re excited to join with our commercial and international partners to make Artemis the largest and most diverse global human space exploration coalition in history,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations. “Space resources are the fuel that will propel America and all of humanity to the stars.”

A great deal of work remains to be done to develop robust ISRU capabilities. Both robotic and human explorers will test new technologies and techniques.

NASA Asks Commercial Companies to Collect Moon Rocks

“Leveraging commercial involvement enhances our ability to safely return to the Moon in a sustainable, innovative, and affordable fashion,” said Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters. “A supportive policy for the recovery and use of space resources provides a stable and predictable investment environment for commercial space innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Companies will collect a small amount of lunar regolith from any location on the Moon and provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location. Subsequent to receiving such imagery and data, an “in-place” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith to NASA will take place. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.

NASA solicited fixed price quotes using simplified acquisition procedures and selected companies using the “low-priced, technically acceptable” selection method. The agency evaluated quotes and assigned a pass-fail rating based on their ability to satisfactorily meet the requirements of the solicitation. Companies were then selected from the acceptable proposals, in accordance with the agency’s available budget, starting with the lowest-priced proposals. Details about the selection are:

- Lunar Outpost proposed collection for $1 following arrival of a lander to the lunar South Pole in 2023.

- ispace Japan proposed collection for $5,000 following arrival in 2022 of a lander to Lacus Somniorum on the Moon’s northeastern near side.

- ispace Europe proposed collection for $5,000 following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole.

- Masten Space Systems proposed collection for $15,000 following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole.

Companies will receive 10% of their total proposed price upon award, will receive 10% upon launch, and the remaining 80% upon successful completion. NASA’s payment is exclusively for the lunar regolith. The agency will determine retrieval methods for the transferred lunar regolith at a later date.

Companies must take all actions to perform the contracts in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II, and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, as well as in accordance with NASA’s other relevant international obligations. NASA will continue to publicly release data and scientific discoveries gained through safe and sustainable lunar exploration to benefit all of humanity.

Related links:

NASA’s Artemis program:


Commercial Space:

NASA/Sean Potter/Stephanie Schierholz/Josh Finch/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Hubble Captures Fading of the Stingray Nebula


ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

Dec. 3, 2020

Hubble Captures Fading of the Stingray Nebula

Astronomers have caught a rare glimpse of a rapidly fading shroud of gas around an aging star. Archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the nebula Hen 3-1357, nicknamed the Stingray nebula, has faded precipitously over just the past two decades. Witnessing such a swift rate of change in a planetary nebula is exceedingly without precedent, researchers say.

Hubble’s Observation of the Stingray Nebula in 1996

Even though the Universe is constantly changing, most processes are too slow to be observed within a human lifespan. However, the Stingray Nebula is now offering scientists a special opportunity to observe a system’s evolution in real time.

Images captured by Hubble in 2016, when compared to Hubble images taken in 1996, show a nebula that has drastically dimmed in brightness and changed shape. Bright blue shells of gas near the centre of the nebula have all but disappeared, and the wavy edges that earned this nebula its aquatic-themed name are virtually gone. The young nebula no longer pops against the black velvet background of the distant Universe.

Hubble’s Observation of the Stingray Nebula in 2016

Researchers discovered unprecedented changes in the light emitted by glowing gas — nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen — that is being blasted off by the dying star at the centre of the nebula. The oxygen emission, in particular, dropped in brightness by a factor of nearly 1000.

“In most studies, the nebula usually gets bigger," said Bruce Balick of the University of Washington, USA, who led the new research. "Here, it’s fundamentally changing its shape and getting fainter, and doing so on an unprecedented timescale.”

Wide-Field View of the Stingray Nebula

“Because of Hubble’s optical stability, we are very, very confident that this nebula is changing in brightness,” said team member Martin Guerrero of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía in Granada, Spain. "That easy to see since, unlike the nebula, all of the other stars in the Hubble image - including a distant companion star - stayed constant in brightness."

The researchers note that while speculating on causes for this surprising finding, it’s important to explore the properties of the dying star at the centre of the Stingray nebula, which influences the structure and brightness of the nebula.

Hubble Captures Fading of the Stingray Nebula

A 2016 study by Nicole Reindl of the University of Leicester, UK, and a team of international researchers, also using Hubble data, noted that the star at the centre of the Stingray nebula, SAO 244567, is special in its own right.

Observations from 1971 to 2002 showed the temperature of the star skyrocketing to almost ten times hotter than the surface of our Sun. Reindl speculates the temperature jump was caused by a brief flash of helium fusion that occurred outside the core of the central star. After that the star began to cool again, returning to its previous stage of stellar evolution.

Zooming Into the Stingray Nebula

The team studying the rapid fading of the Stingray nebula can only speculate at this time what’s in store for the future of this young nebula.

More information:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of B. Balick, M. Guerrero, and G. Ramos-Larios


Images of Hubble:

Hubblesite release:

Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia — IASS-CSIC release:

Science paper:

ESA Hubblesite:

Image Credits: NASA, ESA, B. Balick (University of Washington), M. Guerrero (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía), and G. Ramos-Larios (Universidad de Guadalajara)/ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer/Bethany Downer/ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/Videos: NASA, ESA, B. Balick (University of Washington), M. Guerrero (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía), and G. Ramos-Larios (Universidad de Guadalajara), M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)/Digitized Sky Survey, Nick Risinger ( Astral Electronic.