mercredi 29 décembre 2021

Station Residents Wrap Up 2021 With Spacesuits and Dragon Work


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Dec 29, 2021

The astronauts and cosmonauts of Expedition 66 worked throughout Wednesday on U.S. and Russian spacesuits. The orbital residents will also end 2021 working on life science and cargo operations aboard the International Space Station.

Among the 6,500 pounds of cargo delivered aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon on Dec. 22 were a U.S. spacesuit and other spacewalking gear. NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn removed the new spacesuit from Dragon on Wednesday then installed communications gear and configured it. The duo also packed an older U.S. spacesuit inside the Cargo Dragon for return to Earth in January. The next U.S. spacewalk is targeted for spring when two astronauts will install a third set of roll-out solar arrays on the orbiting lab.

Image above: This mosaic depicts the space station pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour on Nov. 8, 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

Russian spacewalks are also planned at the station in 2022 to outfit the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module that arrived in July. Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov began reviewing procedures today for the upcoming excursions when they will configure Nauka to operate with the rest of the space station. The pair from Roscosmos also started organizing Russian Orlan spacesuit components and spacewalking tools.

The last days of 2021 will see the station crew move headlong into a variety of space biology research. The astronauts have already begun initiating some of the nearly 2,500 pounds of science experiments and research gear delivered in Dragon. Barron and Marshburn will start observing mice on Thursday to understand how microgravity affects the visual function. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer has already started the new Cytoskeleton experiment and will work on it the rest of the week to study how the human cell adapts to weightlessness.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Orbital maintenance is critical to ensure ongoing and safe station operations. NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Raja Chari will focus on that work the rest of the week. Vande Hei will be configuring different research hardware while also assisting the cosmonauts with their Russian spacesuit work. Chari will spend the next few days unpacking the Cargo Dragon and work on station life support and plumbing tasks.

The space station blog is taking a short break until Monday, Jan. 3, as the station’s five astronauts and two cosmonauts orbit Earth into the New Year.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Visual function:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.


Biggest Moments on Mars: NASA’s Perseverance Rover 2021 Year in Review


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

Dec 29, 2021

A new video looks back on the six-wheeled scientist’s first 10 months on the Red Planet and all that it’s accomplished so far.

NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover Milestones - 2021 Year in Review

Video above: What has NASA's Perseverance rover accomplished since landing on the surface of Mars in February 2021? Surface Operations Mission Manager Jessica Samuels reflects on a year filled with groundbreaking discoveries at Jezero Crater and counts up the rover's achievements. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS,

NASA’s Perseverance rover has been busy since its harrowing touchdown in Mars’ Jezero Crater this past February.

In the 10 months since, the car-size rover has driven 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers), set a record for the longest rover drive in a Martian day, taken more than 100,000 images, and collected six samples of Martian rock and atmosphere that could eventually be brought to Earth for further study.

And then there’s NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which hitched a ride to the Red Planet with Perseverance: Proving that powered, controlled flight is possible in Mars’ thin atmosphere, the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) rotorcraft has logged 18 flights and counting.

In a new video, Jessica Samuels – the Perseverance surface operations mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California – looks back on a year filled with groundbreaking discoveries. She also explains the next phase of Perseverance’s mission: to explore the delta that formed in Jezero Crater billions of years ago from sediment that an ancient river carried into the lake that once existed in the crater.

Mars Perseverance Rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“It feels great to be a part of making history and enabling the start of a Mars Sample Return campaign,” said Samuels. “What motivates us as engineers and scientists exploring another planet is the opportunity to learn more.”

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 characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

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

For more about Perseverance: and

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/Karolyn Pearson.

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-2D launches TianHui-4


CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec 29, 2021

Long March-2D carrying TianHui-4 liftoff

A Long March-2D launch vehicle launched the TianHui-4 satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 29 December 2021, at 11:13 UTC (19:13 local time).

Long March-2D launches TianHui-4

According to official sources, TianHui-4 (天绘-4, Sky Map-4) has entered the planned orbit and will be “mainly used to carry out scientific experimental research, land resources census, geographic information mapping and other tasks”.

TianHui-4 satellite

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

Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/Günter's Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mardi 28 décembre 2021

Crew Unpacks Cargo Dragon and Starts New Space Research


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Dec 28, 2021

The Expedition 66 crew members continue unpacking the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle and initiating brand new microgravity investigations. Some of the new science taking place aboard the International Space Station today is looking at plant genetics, human cellular function, and even space laundry techniques.

The four NASA astronauts living on the orbital lab took turns on Tuesday offloading some of the 6,500 pounds of new crew supplies, station hardware, and science experiments. Flight Engineer Kayla Barron began her morning working inside the Cargo Dragon. She then serviced samples inside the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, a research device that observes the thermophysical properties of high temperature materials.

Image above: The Prichal, pictured still attached to the Progress delivery vehicle, is docked to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module as the station orbited into a sunrise. Image Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA.

Astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Thomas Marshburn and Raja Chari got together on Tuesday afternoon to unpack the Cargo Dragon as well. Vande Hei and Marshburn have also begun work on a pair of new experiments exploring how to improve life in space. Vande Hei is testing detergent samples to learn how to keep clothes clean in a variety of gravity environments during long-term space missions. Marshburn set up the Veggie botany research facility for observing plant growth at the genetic level to promote space agriculture. Chari collected and spun his blood samples in a centrifuge then stowed them for later analysis. Afterward, Chari entered the Columbus laboratory module and began organizing cargo packed inside.

Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) collected research hardware from inside Columbus for a space biology investigation. He then began assembling that gear and thawing culture chambers inside the Kibo laboratory module. The work is for the new Cytoskeleton biology study, taking place in the Life Science Glovebox, and will explore how the machinery of the human cell is impacted by weightlessness.

ISS HD Live/ Aerospace

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, along with Vande Hei, started their day practicing emergency evacuation procedures. The trio trained on a computer for the procedures they would use in the unlikely event they would have to quickly board the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship, undock and return to Earth. Shkaplerov then unpacked Russian spacewalk gear delivered recently aboard the Prichal docking module. Dubrov focused on electronics and hardware maintenance for the rest of the day.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Electrostatic Levitation Furnace:

Testing detergent samples:


Plant growth at the genetic level:

Columbus laboratory module:

Kibo laboratory module:


Life Science Glovebox:

Prichal docking module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned9, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.


The launch vehicle "Angara-A5" was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome



Dec 28, 2021

Angara-A5 liftoff

An Angara-A5 launch vehicle was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, on 27 December 2021, at 15:00 UTC (18:00 local time). This was the third test launch (Test flight No.3) for the Angara-A5 (Ангара-А5) heavy lift launch vehicle, the most powerful version of the Angara rocket.

Angara-A5 launch, 2021

The space forces of the Russian Aerospace Forces held on Monday, December 27, 2021, the third test launch of the Angara-A5 heavy carrier rocket with the overall mass model of the payload from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

Angara-A5 launch

A few minutes later, the orbital block separated from the third stage. Further insertion of the orbital block into the target geostationary orbit will be carried out using the upper stage according to a typical nine-hour three-pulse scheme with four starts of the main engine of the upper stage.

Angara-A5 on launch-pad

Roscosmos State Corporation congratulates the Aerospace Forces and the entire Russian space industry (the team of the Khrunichev Center, NPO Energomash, NPTs AP, TsENKI) on the successful test launch of the Angara-A5 launch vehicle with a new generation upper stage!

This flight showed that the tests of the Angara rocket are developing exactly according to plan. Next year, it is expected that work on the construction of a launch pad for this type of launch vehicle at the Vostochny cosmodrome will be completed. A year later - its first launch from the new Russian Cosmodrome!

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Ministry of Defence:


Images, Video, Text, Credits: Roscosmos/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Hubble Lends a Helping Hand


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec 28, 2021

Far above rain clouds, light pollution, and atmospheric distortion, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has a clear view of the universe. It has shown us distant galaxies, tracked interstellar objects as they soar through our solar system, and studied the atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars. In addition to its own stunning images and groundbreaking discoveries, Hubble uses its powerful vision to support many other past, ongoing, and future missions in space.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Image Credit: NASA

These missions represent a vast array of science – from planetary probes that get up close to study the intricate dynamics of the gas giants’ atmospheres, to observatories that look beyond our solar system into deep space to study the early universe.

Image above: The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to launch on December 24, 2021.
Image Credits: NASA/GSFC.

An upcoming key example of support for such missions is Hubble’s preparatory observations for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with the European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency, set to launch on December 24. Built to advance science goals motivated by Hubble’s discoveries, Webb will have a head start on its mission to learn more about the oldest galaxies in our cosmos, mysterious planets beyond other stars, and much more. This type of mission collaboration has been an important part of Hubble’s legacy.

Uncovering Our Solar System

Hubble has supported several of NASA’s most important and compelling planetary missions. The science and images gathered from these missions have not only allowed us to further our understanding of our outer solar system but also provide us with a closer look.

Hubble’s observations of Jupiter have assisted several missions studying the atmosphere, moons, and cosmic objects surrounding the gas giant. Monitoring activity in Jupiter’s atmosphere for decades, Hubble has seen massive storms burst forward from beneath the clouds, and watched its largest storm, the Great Red Spot, shrink as its wind speeds increase. Following up on these observations and working in tandem with Hubble, the Juno mission has continued to learn more about these cloud layers and what makes the storms stir.

The New Horizons mission used Hubble observations to learn more about its target, the dwarf planet Pluto. Hubble discovered four additional Plutonian moons from its observations, two of which were found after New Horizons launched. Without Hubble’s help, New Horizons would have discovered the tiny moons only a few months before its visit to Pluto, allowing for little time to properly plan all of the new observations. In June 2014, Hubble searched for and discovered another target for the New Horizons spacecraft, 2014 MU69, now called Arrokoth, the farthest and most primitive solar system object ever explored by humankind. New Horizons flew by Arrokoth in early 2019.

Hubble will help study the compositional components of the Trojan asteroids in support of NASA’s Lucy mission, which launched in October 2021. These asteroids orbit the Sun in tandem with Jupiter and are thought to be left over from the formation of the solar system. Because Hubble can detect a small, dim satellite orbiting a larger asteroid – something an Earth-bound telescope might miss – the Lucy team is using Hubble to search for Trojan satellites prior to Lucy’s launch. They made their first round of observations in the fall of 2018.

The next year they spotted something that might have been a satellite near Eurybates, a Trojan asteroid, and submitted an urgent proposal to use Hubble again. They were able to get their observations about a month later. Hubble discovered that Eurybates has a small satellite, subsequently named Queta. This discovery has become a “bonus” science exploration opportunity for the spacecraft as it will be visiting not seven but eight asteroids, targeted for a flyby in 2027.

Though searching for satellites is one of the mission’s central goals, finding these tiny worlds before Lucy launched gives the team the opportunity to investigate their orbits and plan for more detailed follow-up observations with the spacecraft.

Exoplanets, Stars, Galaxies, and More

When Hubble launched over 30 years ago, astronomers had no way to prove that planets existed outside our solar system.

Today, thousands of exoplanets are known to exist. Hubble currently works alongside other space telescopes like TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which aims to find promising exoplanets orbiting our nearest and brightest stars. Hubble supports these TESS discoveries by obtaining ultraviolet spectra of the exoplanets’ host stars to establish how radiation from stars affects their exoplanets’ atmospheric chemistry and composition. Hubble also collects measurements of exoplanet atmospheres to search for evidence of clouds, hazes, and/or water.

Among many other goals, the James Webb Space Telescope will observe exoplanets where Hubble provided a confident detection of water in the atmosphere and measure its abundance.

Hubble is also supporting Webb through a series of preparatory science observations to identify potential targets for the telescope. Started in 2016, the program encourages astronomers to submit science proposals for Hubble observations to pave the way for Webb’s observations. Once launched, the telescope will be able to immediately start probing deeper into stellar populations and building upon observations of galaxies and their forms.

Recently, Hubble had its eye on a relic galaxy, NGC 1277, whose stars were born 10 billion years ago – but it has undergone no further star formation. Galaxies like NGC 1277 are called “red and dead,” and are typically too far away to be studied in detail. Webb will be able to measure the motions of the globular star clusters in NGC 1277 and potentially learn more about the dark matter it contains, providing new insight into this type of galaxy.

NASA's Roman Space Telescope, set to launch in the mid-2020s, will observe many objects Hubble or Webb already studied. It won't focus on a single object, but rather build upon the large mosaics taken by Hubble due to Roman’s large field of view and detectors. One example is the PHAT mosaic which covers a third of the Andromeda Galaxy and was created with over 400 Hubble images. Roman will capture this view in infrared light using only two images, opening a world of understanding about galaxies and their components.

The Future of Astronomy in Deep Space

The COSMOS survey began in 2002 as a Hubble program to image a wide and deep patch of sky, about the area of 10 full moons. Once Webb begins science observations in the summer of 2022, it will build on that legacy by surveying a half-million galaxies within that patch of sky, becoming the largest project Webb will undertake during its first year. Called COSMOS-Webb, this in-depth survey will allow scientists to learn more about dark matter and how it has evolved with galaxies and their stars over the universe’s lifetime.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

Gravitational waves are 'ripples' in space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the universe; these disturbances can be picked up with ground-based detectors like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and operated by Caltech and MIT. Because signals from a gravitational wave only give astronomers a very brief signal of spacetime disturbance without much directional information, astronomers then use telescopes that can be pointed very quickly across the sky and cover a vast area to hone in on the region of space where the signals originated. Gravity waves and light waves are physically different ways to transmit information, and observations using both are called multi-messenger astronomy, a rapidly growing field of astronomy.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

Once astronomers have found the right galaxy where the cosmic event, such as the merging of two dense neutron stars, has occurred; Hubble is then focused on that area. Hubble can obtain a detailed spectrum of light and a sharp image of the galaxy to better understand the event, detecting radiation that is sometimes associated with the event producing gravitational waves. Once launched, Webb will also be used for in-depth study of these events.

Over its lifetime, Hubble’s powerful vision has “set the stage” for Webb and several other missions that aim to uncover fascinating facts about our universe – from our cosmic neighborhood to the farthest reaches of space.

Related links:

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/GSFC/Claire Andreoli.


lundi 27 décembre 2021

Last Week of 2021 Sees New Space Research Kick Off


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Dec 27, 2021

The seven-member Expedition 66 crew is going into the final week of 2021 with a host of science experiments exploring numerous space phenomena benefitting astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Kayla Barron worked on a pair of space farming studies during Monday afternoon exploring a variety of plant characteristics. Vande Hei set up components for the MVP (Multi Variable Platform) Plant-01 experiment inside the Harmony module. That study is investigating how a plant’s molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks adapt to weightlessness. Barron worked inside the Kibo laboratory module and configured the Plant Habitat-05 investigation which will observe the regenerative capacity of a variety of cotton genotypes.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-19 crew ship is pictured docked to the Rassvet module as the International Space Station orbited 260 miles above southeast Asia. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn started Monday morning transferring research samples to science freezers in the Kibo lab. Chari then moved on and updated emergency checklists while also collecting and stowing his blood and urine samples for later analysis. Marshburn serviced the station’s oxygen generation system then unpacked medical gear from the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle.

Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) spent his day working throughout the orbiting lab on a variety of research gear. Maurer first swapped science freezers inside the Unity module. Next, he installed the BioSentinel radiation exposure study in the Kibo lab. Finally, the astronaut from Germany worked in the Columbus laboratory module thawing research samples for the Cytoskeleton experiment before uninstalling the Kubik incubator.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The station’s commander, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, recharged computer tablets inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship while also working on Russian life support maintenance throughout the day. Russian Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov checked out electronics gear in the morning before joining Shkaplerov in the afternoon and replacing components on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

MVP (Multi Variable Platform) Plant-01:

Harmony module:

Kibo laboratory module:

Plant Habitat-05:

Unity module:


Columbus laboratory module:



Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Arianespace - Flight ST37, successfully placed 36 more OneWeb satellites into orbit


Arianespace - OneWeb 12 / Flight ST37 Mission patch.

December 27, 2021

Flight ST37, the 15th operated by Arianespace in 2021, successfully placed 36 more OneWeb satellites into orbit

- Thanks to ST37, 60% of OneWeb’s constellation is now in orbit, bringing the constellation to 394 satellites launched.

- Thanks to ST37, Arianespace have conducted 15 launches in 2021, including eight  missions for the benefit of OneWeb and a total of nine Soyuz flights, from three different spaceports.

- This launch also marks a new milestone in Arianespace history: since its creation in 1980, the company has officially deployed 1,101 satellites.

On Monday, December 27, at precisely 06:10 p.m. local time at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome (01:10 p.m. UTC), Soyuz flight ST37 lifted-off with 36 OneWeb satellites bringing, after this successful deployment, the size of the fleet in orbit to 394. Flight ST37 was the 63rd Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace, the 37th with its Starsem affiliate, and the 12th mission for OneWeb.

The mission lasted three hours and 45 minutes. The 36 satellites were deployed during nine separation sequences, at an altitude of 450 km. It was also the fifteenth successful launch operated by Arianespace’s teams this year, bringing to 1,101 the total number of spacecraft orbited since the start of the company’s operations.

OneWeb 12 launch

“It is a very special time of the year, right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I would like to warmly thank all the Arianespace and Starsem teams involved in this mission and the incredible work they did alongside our Russian partners in order to allow us to launch, from Baikonour Cosmodrome, our 15th and last launch of 2021. This year has been marked by key milestones, the latest one being that, with today’s flight, we will officially have deployed more than 60% of OneWeb’s constellation,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “2021 has been a really busy year for us with 15 launches operated from three different spaceports, which represents a 50% increase in launches over 2020. With 2022 headed in the same direction, we are sure to demonstrate that our services and solutions answer our clients’ needs: any time, any mass, any orbit.”

Today’s launch, Arianespace’s 12th for OneWeb, also was the first time Soyuz delivered 36 satellites –instead of the usual 34- from the Baikonour Cosmodrome. This improvement of the efficiency of the flight itself will allow Arianespace to better and more quickly serve the needs of OneWeb. To obtain this result, the team worked to improve every step in the plan: from the manufacturing process to launch vehicle integration and mission programing.

OneWeb’s mission is to create a global connectivity platform through a next-generation satellite constellation in Low Earth Orbit. The OneWeb constellation will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity to a wide range of customer sectors, including aviation, maritime, enterprise and government. Central to its purpose, OneWeb seeks to bring connectivity to the hardest to reach places, where fiber cannot reach, and thereby bridge the digital divide.

OneWeb satellite

The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture of OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites were produced in Florida, USA, in its leading-edge satellite manufacturing facilities that can build up to two satellites per day on a series production line dedicated to spacecraft assembly, integration, and testing.

The launch of the satellites was operated by Arianespace and its Euro-Russian affiliate Starsem under contract with Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. Arianespace is responsible for the overall mission and flight-worthiness, with the support of Starsem for launch campaign activities including management of its own launch facilities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. RKTs-Progress (the Samara Space Center) is responsible for the design, development, manufacture and integration of the Soyuz launch vehicle as well as for the 3-stage Soyuz flight. NPO Lavotchkin is responsible for the launch preparation operations and flight of the Fregat orbital vehicle.

About Arianespace

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 1,100 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and from the Russian cosmodromes in Baikonur and Vostochny. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

About Starsem

Starsem is dedicated to providing international commercial marketing and operation of the Soyuz launch vehicle from the Baikonur cosmodrome. Shareholders in Starsem are Arianespace, ArianeGroup, the State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS and the Samara Space Center “RKTs-Progress”.

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Arianespace/Starsem/SciNews.


More Than You Wanted to Know About Webb’s Mid-Course Corrections!


NASA / ESA / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

Dec 27, 2021

James Webb Space Telescope separation

On Dec. 25, the Webb team successfully executed the first of three planned orbit corrections to get Webb into its halo orbit around the second Lagrange point, L2 (1,5 millions kilometers). To hear more about these important maneuvers, here is Randy Kimble, the Webb Integration, Test, and Commissioning Project Scientist, at NASA Goddard:

In sending the Webb Observatory into its orbit around the Sun-Earth L2 point, the vast majority of the energy required was provided by the Ariane 5 rocket. After release of the observatory from the rocket, several small tweaks to the trajectory are planned, to ease the observatory into its operating orbit about one month after launch.

The largest and most important mid-course correction (MCC), designated MCC-1a, has already been successfully executed as planned, beginning 12.5 hours after launch. This time was chosen because the earlier the course correction is made, the less propellant it requires. This leaves as much remaining fuel as possible for Webb’s ordinary operations over its lifetime: station-keeping (small adjustments to keep Webb in its desired orbit) and momentum unloading (to counteract the effects of solar radiation pressure on the huge sunshield).

The burn wasn’t scheduled immediately after launch to give time for the flight dynamics team to receive tracking data from three ground stations, widely separated over the surface of the Earth, thus providing high accuracy for their determination of Webb’s position and velocity, necessary to determine the precise parameters for the correction burn. Ground stations in Malindi Kenya, Canberra Australia, and Madrid Spain provided the necessary ranging data.  There was also time to do a test firing of the required thruster before executing the actual burn. We are currently doing the analysis to determine just how much more correction of Webb’s trajectory will be needed, and how much fuel will be left, but we already know that the Ariane 5’s placement of Webb was better than requirements.

Image above: Webb’s orbit is around L2—a point of gravitational balance on the other side of Earth from the Sun—but it does not reside exactly at the L2 point. Right at that point, Earth’s shadowing of the Sun would be large enough to greatly reduce the amount of power available for Webb’s solar arrays, without greatly simplifying the cooling challenges. In addition, when Webb’s communication antennas point at Earth to receive commands, they would be blinded by the huge radio emission of the Sun in the same direction. Instead, as the diagram indicates, Webb operates in a very loose orbit (many hundreds of thousands of km in diameter) around L2, in constant sunlight and with clean communications with the ground stations. Image Credit:  NASA.

One interesting aspect of the Webb launch and the Mid-Course Corrections is that we always “aim a little bit low.” The L2 point and Webb’s loose orbit around it are only semi-stable. In the radial direction (along the Sun-Earth line), there is an equilibrium point where in principle it would take no thrust to remain in position; however, that point is not stable. If Webb drifted a little bit toward Earth, it would continue (in the absence of corrective thrust) to drift ever closer; if it drifted a little bit away from Earth, it would continue to drift farther away. Webb has thrusters only on the warm, Sun-facing side of the observatory. We would not want the hot thrusters to contaminate the cold side of the observatory with unwanted heat or with rocket exhaust that could condense on the cold optics. This means the thrusters can only push Webb away from the Sun, not back toward the Sun (and Earth). We thus design the launch insertion and the MCCs to always keep us on the uphill side of the gravitational potential,  we never want to go over the crest – and drift away downhill on the other side, with no ability to come back.

Therefore, the Ariane 5 launch insertion was intentionally designed to leave some velocity in the anti-Sun direction to be provided by the payload. MCC-1a similarly was executed to take out most, but not all, of the total required correction (to be sure that this burn also would not overshoot). In the same way, MCC-1b, scheduled for 2.5 days after launch, and MCC-2, scheduled for about 29 days after launch (but neither time-critical), and the station-keeping burns throughout the mission lifetime will always thrust just enough to leave us a little bit shy of the crest. We want Sisyphus to keep rolling this rock up the gentle slope near the top of the hill – we never want it to roll over the crest and get away from him. The Webb team’s job, guided by the Flight Dynamics Facility at NASA Goddard, is to make sure it doesn’t.

Related article & link:

Webb liftoff on Ariane 5 to unlock secrets of the Universe

Track the Webb Telescope and Follow Its Deployment:

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

Text Credits: Randy Kimble, JWST Integration, Test, and Commissioning Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Video Credits: Arianespace/NASA/SciNews.

Best regards,

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete second spacewalk


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

Dec 27, 2021

On 26 December 2021, the Shenzhou-13 crew conducted an extravehicular activity (EVA, spacewalk). At 10:44 UTC (18:44 China Standard Time), astronaut Ye Guangfu opened the hatch of the Tianhe core module, starting starting his first spacewalk and the second extravehicular activity for the Shenzhou-13 (神舟十三) mission.

Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete second spacewalk

During the spacewalk, astronauts Zhai Zhigang (翟志刚) and Ye Guangfu(叶光富) adjusted the panoramic camera, installed hardware for future use and evaluated the spacesuits, while astronaut Wang Yaping (王亚平) provided support from inside, including operation of the robotic arm. At 16:55 UTC, on 26 December 2021(27 December, at 00:55 China Standard Time), the astronauts successfully completed all the planned tasks. The Tianhe core module (天和核心舱) is the first and main component of the China Space Station (中国空间站), informally known as Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace).

Related articles & link:

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission’s second spacewalk begins

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 crew space lecture highlights

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete first spacewalk

China Space Station - Astronaut Wang Yaping begins first spacewalk

What’s next for the China Space Station (CSS)

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-13 hatch opening

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission

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

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


dimanche 26 décembre 2021

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission’s second spacewalk begins


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

Dec 26, 2021

Taikonaut Ye Guangfu starting the second EVA

On 26 December 2021, at 10:44 UTC (18:44 China Standard Time), astronaut (taikonaut) Ye Guangfu opened the hatch of the Tianhe core module, starting the second extravehicular activity for the Shenzhou-13 (神舟十三) mission.

Shenzhou-13 mission’s second spacewalk begins

During the spacewalk, astronauts Zhai Zhigang (翟志刚) and Ye Guangfu(叶光富) will work outside the core module of the China Space Station (中国空间站), while astronaut Wang Yaping (王亚平) will provide support from inside, including operation of the robotic arm. The Tianhe core module (天和核心舱) is the first and main component of the China Space Station (中国空间站), informally known as Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace).

Related articles & link:

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 crew space lecture highlights

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete first spacewalk

China Space Station - Astronaut Wang Yaping begins first spacewalk

What’s next for the China Space Station (CSS)

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-13 hatch opening

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission

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

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

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-4C launches ZY-1 02E


CASC - Long March-4C / ZY-1 02E Mission patch.

Dec 26, 2021

Long March-4C carrying ZY-1 02E liftoff

A Long March-4C launch vehicle launched ZY-1 02E and one small satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 26 December 2021, at 03:11 UTC (11:11 local time).

Long March-4C launches ZY-1 02E

ZY-1 02E (Ziyuan 1-02E,  资源一号02E星) is an Earth-observation satellite that “will provide observation data for natural resources asset management, ecological monitoring, disaster prevention and control, environmental protection, urban construction, transportation and contingency management”.

Ziyuan 1-02E (资源一号02E星) satellite

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

Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/Günter's Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Comet Hartley


Moscow Planetarium logo.

Dec 26, 2021

Comet Hartley has a fairly short orbital period around the Sun - just over 6.4 years. Despite the fact that it was observed in 1991, 1997 and 2004, its return in 2010 was one of the most successful to study.

Position of Comet Hartley in the Solar System on October 20, 2010

The approaching comet was first noticed back in May 2008 by the astronomers of the Paranal Observatory in Chile. In August of the same year, it was studied by the Spitzer orbiting telescope in the infrared range. In 2011, the comet was explored by the Herschel Space Observatory. Thus, comet Hartley became the fifth comet visited by a spacecraft.

Studies have shown that the comet's nucleus is highly elongated and consists of two parts with a bar. Its length along the long axis is 2.2 km. The nucleus rotates along a complex trajectory with a period of 18 hours, which is possibly due to its unusual shape and uneven heating of different parts of the comet. The surface topography turned out to be very heterogeneous. A smooth bridge is adjacent to a hilly surface on two halves of the comet, which are covered with huge boulders up to 90 meters in size, with three times higher albedo than the surrounding surface.

Close-up photography of the Deep Impact probe, November 4, 2010

The core consists of frozen water mixed with ice, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. At the same time, the concentration of ice on the comet is uneven. Water vapor is released in the middle, and carbon dioxide degasses most intensively in the edge parts of the comet.

Analysis of the water showed that the ratio between heavy water and ordinary water is the same as in the oceans of the Earth. The main feature of Hartley's comet is its high activity during its approach to the Sun, when it loses thousands of tons of mass in a very short time. According to scientists, after 700 years, it will cease its cometary activity.

Source: Moscow Planetarium.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Moscow Planetarium:


Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/Moscow Planetarium/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


samedi 25 décembre 2021

Webb liftoff on Ariane 5 to unlock secrets of the Universe


Arianespace - Ariane 5 / Flight VA-256 / JWST poster.

Dec 25, 2021

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Webb liftoff on Ariane 5

Following launch and separation from the rocket, Webb’s mission operations centre in Baltimore, USA confirmed Webb deployed its solar array and is in good condition, marking the launch a success.

In the coming month, Webb, an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will travel to its destination: the second Lagrange point (L2), where it will study the Universe in infrared.

Webb’s journey to L2

“Launching Webb is a huge celebration of the international collaboration that made this next-generation mission possible. I want to thank everyone involved with the design, construction, and launch of this ambitious telescope, for making this day a reality. We are close to receiving Webb’s new view of the Universe and the exciting scientific discoveries that it will make,” says Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General.

Liftoff replay - Webb on Ariane 5

“The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel us forward into the future,” says NASA administrator Bill Nelson. “The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our Universe. I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”

“CSA is proud to have contributed critical instruments to this large‑scale international partnership as part of a global effort to spur the next great scientific leap. Canadian astronomers are excited to use Webb’s data and benefit from the tremendous science opportunities offered by this one-of-a-kind observatory,” says CSA President Lisa Campbell.

Webb mission trailer

Webb’s journey to space

The Webb observatory had to be carefully folded into the specially adapted Ariane 5 fairing for launch, which jettisoned away about three minutes after liftoff. Ariane 5 then began a special roll manoeuvre to protect Webb from the Sun’s radiation. After 27 minutes the telescope was released and the upper stage boosted away.

“I am very happy and proud that the versatility and reliability of Ariane 5 have enabled the launch of such a ground-breaking mission. This is a tribute to the skill and dedication of all the teams involved,” says Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.

Webb and Ariane 5: a fit made perfect

ESA’s ESTRACK network of ground stations played a key role in tracking Ariane 5 and Webb following liftoff until separation.

Now in space and on its way to L2, Webb will undergo a complex unfolding sequence. In the months after, the instruments will be turned on and their capabilities tested. After half a year in space, Webb will start its routine science observations.

JWST – A new view of the Universe

Seeing farther

Webb will see farther into our origins: from the Universe's first galaxies, to the birth of stars and planets, to exoplanets with the potential for life, and our own Solar System.

“The idea for Webb started with the dream of astronomers to observe the birth of the first galaxies in the early Universe, but the telescope will be able to do so much more than everyone had hoped for,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.

Webb science

ESA contributed to two of the four scientific instruments on board Webb: NIRSpec and MIRI. “It is down to the excellence of the European industry and scientific community that the development of these complex instruments was made possible,” Günther adds.

“We are now looking forward to the beautiful images and spectra that Webb will obtain. The European astronomical community is excited to see the results of the 33% available observing time they competitively won for Webb's first year,” says Antonella Nota, ESA Webb Project Scientist.

Impression of Webb’s journey to space

For the entire duration of the Webb mission, 15 ESA astronomers will be working on telescope operations.

More about Webb:

Webb news updates:

ESA launch kit (available in 6 languages):

ESA interactive brochure (available in 6 languages):


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace.

Best regards, Happy Christmas, (Roland Berga)

vendredi 24 décembre 2021

Correction of the ISS orbit altitude


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Dec 24, 2021

The orbital altitude of the International Space Station was adjusted in order to form the initial ballistic conditions before the launch of the Soyuz MS-21 manned spacecraft into orbit and the landing of the Soyuz MS-19 descent vehicle in 2022. According to preliminary data, after the maneuver, the ISS orbital altitude decreased by 1.89 km.

International Space Station (ISS)

On Friday, December 24, 2021, at 04:18 Moscow time, a command was issued and the engines of the Progress MS-18 cargo vehicle docked to the Russian segment of the ISS were turned on. They worked for 544 seconds, and the impulse value was 1.02 m / s. According to the updated data from the ballistic and navigation support service of the Flight Control Center of TsNIIMash, the parameters of the ISS orbit after the evasion maneuver were:

- Circulation period: 92.86 minutes;

- Orbital inclination: 51.66 degrees;

- Minimum orbital altitude: 415.63 km;

- Maximum orbital altitude: 433.15 km.

Earlier, the station's orbital altitude was adjusted on December 3 in order to evade "space debris" - a stage fragment of the American Pegasus launch vehicle launched from the US in 1994.

The launch of the Soyuz MS-21 manned transport vehicle with the crew of the 67th long-term expedition is scheduled for March 18, 2022. For the first time, the transport vehicle should dock to the Prichal nodal module, which in November 2021 became part of the Russian segment of the ISS. The landing of the Soyuz MS-19 descent vehicle with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Peter Dubrov, as well as NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, is scheduled for late March.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:


RSC Energia:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


jeudi 23 décembre 2021

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of December 20, 2021


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Dec 23, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Dec. 20 that included examining formation of amyloid fibrils, analyzing the effect of impurities in protein crystals, and studying adaptation of muscle tissues. The 24th SpaceX cargo resupply services mission arrived at the space station on Dec. 22 delivering new scientific research and technology demonstrations.

24th SpaceX cargo resupply services mission arrive at the space station. Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS

The space station, continuously inhabited by humans for 21 years, has supported many scientific breakthroughs. A robust microgravity laboratory with dozens of research facilities and tools, the station supports investigations spanning every major scientific discipline, conveying benefits to future space exploration and advancing basic and applied research on Earth. The orbiting lab also provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit that includes research, satellite services, and in-space manufacturing.

Image above: Dec. 22, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon vehicles, and Russia’s Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and Progress 79 resupply ship. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Look Ma, no container

Gravity forces and interactions between liquids and the containers that hold them can affect some scientific research. For NASA’s Ring Sheared Drop investigation, which studies protein aggregations called amyloid fibrils, scientists created a device that uses surface tension rather than a solid container to hold liquids. Amyloid fibrils form a waxy plaque in the brain and are believed to be involved in development of some neurological diseases. Results may contribute to a better understanding of these diseases and development of potential treatments. This ability to process materials without containers in microgravity could benefit other experiments, including those that grow protein crystals and microorganisms and research on pharmaceuticals. During the week, crew members set up and conducted operations for the experiment.

Impacts of impurities

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is shown installing the Advanced Nano Step cartridge in the station’s Solution Crystallization Observation Facility (SCOF). This JAXA investigation monitors how the incorporation of specific impurity molecules affect the development and quality of protein crystals. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew exchanged specimen cells for the Advanced Nano Step experiment during the week. This investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) monitors and records how specific impurity molecules affect the development and quality of protein crystals grown aboard the station. The research aims to improve the success rate for growing protein crystals and to shorten the sample preparation period. Results could advance capabilities for research on and production of materials and drugs in space and may be useful in crystallization trials conducted on Earth.

What we have here is a failure to contract

Image above: Samantha Jones at the Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool, assembles the experimental unit for MicroAge. This ESA investigation helps identify the mechanisms behind loss of skeletal muscle mass in microgravity and could lead to better exercise regimens and nutritional or pharmacological interventions. Image Credits: University of Liverpool.

MicroAge, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines adaptation of muscles in microgravity, and whether this adaptation is similar to that seen in elderly subjects on Earth. A failure of muscles to adapt their contractile activity may be the cause of loss of muscle mass from aging or space exposure. The investigation uses 3D engineered skeletal muscle tissues that are exposed to electrical stimulation to induce repeated contractions. The tissues are returned to Earth for analysis. Results could help identify the mechanisms behind loss of muscle mass in space and in aging populations on Earth and support development of appropriate prevention measures. Crew members installed the experiment containers and initiated the investigation during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- EasyMotion from ESA tests a suit worn during pre- and postflight exercise that provides Electro-Myo-Stimulation (EMS). It could save crew time and improve outcomes of inflight exercise on future space missions and in otherwise healthy populations on Earth.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Raja Chari works on the Combustion Integration Rack, which hosts Flame Design, a study of the production and control of soot in oxygen-enriched combustion and the design of soot-free flames. Animation Credit: NASA.

- Flame Design studies the production and control of soot in oxygen-enriched combustion and the design of soot-free flames. This research may lead to cleaner and more efficient burner designs for combustion applications on Earth and aid the development of future space-based combustion devices for tasks such as solid waste processing or to improve spacecraft fire safety.

- NutrISS, an investigation from ESA, periodically assesses body composition and measures long-term energy balance modification over time. Results may improve understanding of the mechanisms behind body composition changes during spaceflight and help lead to ways to mitigate any negative effects of those changes.

- InSPACE-4 studies magnetic assembly of structures from colloids, or particles suspended in a liquid in microgravity. Results could lead to more advanced materials for space applications, including thermal shields, protection from micrometeorites, energy production, and sensors for robotic and human missions.

- Touching Surfaces tests laser-structured antimicrobial surfaces as a method for reducing microbial contamination aboard the space station. Results from this ESA investigation could help determine the most suitable design for antimicrobial surfaces for spacecraft and habitats as well as for terrestrial applications such as public transportation and clinical settings.

- ISS Ham Radio provides students, teachers, parents, and others the opportunity to communicate with astronauts using ham radio units. Before a scheduled call, students learn about the station, radio waves, and other topics, and prepare a list of questions on topics they have researched.

Season’s Greetings from NASA

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Ring Sheared Drop:

Advanced Nano Step:


ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Carrie Gilder/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 66.

Best regards, Happy Holidays, (Roland Berga)