samedi 31 décembre 2022

Virgin Orbit receives U.K.'s first orbital launch licence; All launcherone system green for upcoming mission


Virgin Orbit logo.

Dec 31, 2022

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority has issued launch and range control licenses to Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) to undertake the first satellite launch from UK soil. The granting of these licenses represents a major step forward for the historic Start Me Up mission, and reflects the CAA’s concurrence that all reasonable steps have been taken by Virgin Orbit to ensure the desired safety, security, and environmental stewardship of what is expected to be the first orbital launch ever conducted from western Europe.

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system is currently at Spaceport Cornwall in the U.K. and preparing to roll out to mate to its 747-400 carrier aircraft for final launch rehearsals and, ultimately, for the Start Me Up mission itself. In the past week, Virgin Orbit’s engineering and technician team has re-established and verified the system’s health and readiness for spaceflight. Working with the mission’s payload customers, batteries onboard several satellites were re-charged late last week, keeping the nine satellites on the manifest in good condition to launch to orbit and begin operations.

With these licenses in hand, Virgin Orbit is now working in close collaboration across all mission stakeholders with the aim of opening the first orbital launch window in western European history, targeting a window start date in the coming weeks.

In the words of our CEO, Dan Hart, “receiving Virgin Orbit’s range and launch licenses takes us one step closer to the first satellite launch take-off from U.K. soil. This is a major milestone for the CAA, and represents the successful completion of an enormous effort, which has included the construction of new regulations, new processes, and new teams. 

“At this time, all of Virgin Orbit’s systems are green for launch. Our team is laser-focused on execution of final checkouts, launch rehearsal, and ultimately launch, and we will continue working with our friends and partners across agencies and governments to be ready to light this candle once a launch window is finalized.”


Virgin Orbit Holdings, Inc (Nasdaq: VORB) operates one of the most flexible and responsive space launch systems ever built. Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, the Company began commercial service in 2021, and has already delivered commercial, civil, national security, and international satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from a modified 747-400 carrier aircraft that allows Virgin Orbit Holdings, Inc to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Learn more at

Image, Text, Credit: Virgin Orbit. 

Best regards,

China looks to build space partnerships with Gulf nations


China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Dec 31, 2022

China is aiming to grow cooperation with emerging space nations including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Space was named as one of a number of priority areas for the next three to five years during the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit held in Riyadh earlier this month.

Image above: An image of the Earth taken in 2018 by Saudi Arabian optical payload on the Longjiang-2 microsatellite in lunar orbit. Image Credits: Harbin Institute of Technology/KACST.

“China stands ready to work with GCC countries on remote sensing and communications satellite, space utilization, aerospace infrastructure, and the selection and training of astronauts,” according to the text of the keynote speech made by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summit, Dec. 9.

The GCC intergovernmental group comprises Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

“China welcomes GCC astronauts to its space station for joint missions and space science experiments with their Chinese colleagues. China welcomes GCC countries’ participation in payloads cooperation in its aerospace missions, and will consider establishing a China-GCC joint center for lunar and deep space exploration,” the text continued.

While broad in apparent scope and ambition, the words indicate only an initial expression of interest in establishing cooperation in these areas, with no indication of a commitment in terms of funding or practicalities at this point.

China Space Station (CSS)

The speech illustrates that China’s Tiangong space station—which became operational this month with its first crew handover—will be used in engaging countries around the world.

China has spoken frequently of its openness to training astronauts from other countries and sought interest from aboard for international astronauts flying to Tiangong.

The practical elements of how Chinese international astronaut cooperation, such as any requisite language training, will proceed have not been revealed. China launched its first crewed flight in 2003 and its 10th, the six-month-long Shenzhou-15 mission, launched late November.

Shenzhou-15 docking at China Space Station (CSS)

An official with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) recently stated that China is considering expanding the three-module Tiangong station. This would provide greater capacity for hosting astronauts. CAST is also developing a new generation crew spacecraft which will be able to carry up to six astronauts to low Earth orbit.

Lunar exploration is another area in which China is seeking partners, particularly for its vision for an International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Notably, of the six GCC countries, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are already signatories to the U.S.-led Artemis Accords.

In a more concrete related development from the summit, Origin Space, a Shenzhen-based space resource utilization firm, announced it will establish a subsidiary, a research and development center and an exhibition center within the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone, a joint project under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Origin Space has its sights set on asteroid mining and already has other international branches in Luxembourg and Singapore.

Space activity in the Gulf region has increased greatly in recent years. The UAE has had its spacecraft launched to Mars and the moon and is reported to be considering contributing an airlock module to Nasa’s Lunar Gateway and an Emirati astronaut is set to embark on a long-duration mission to the International Space Station through an agreement with Axiom Space.

Two Saudi Arabian astronauts meanwhile will head to ISS on the Ax-2 mission no earlier than Spring 2023.

China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also already established initial space cooperation with China. A small camera from the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) flew on the Longjiang-2 (DSLWP-B) lunar microsatellite launched with a relay satellite for the Chang’e-4 lunar far side landing.

Saudi Arabia will also send an experiment to Tiangong through a cooperation mechanism established by China’s human spaceflight agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The experiment will study the effect of cosmic rays on the performance of the high efficiency solar cells. The Saudisat 5A and 5B satellites were launched by a Long March 2D in 2018.

The UAE and China reached an agreement in September for the Rashid II rover to fly along with the Chang’e-7 lander targeting the lunar south pole. That mission is currently scheduled for 2026.

Related articles:

China Space Station (CSS)

Related links:

China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC):

China Academy of Space Technology (CAST):

International Lunar Research Station (ILRS):

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA):

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: CNSA/CAST/SpaceNews/Andrew Jones/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 30 décembre 2022

Station Crew Wraps Up a Busy Year as Soyuz Review Continues


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Dec 30, 2022

Research and maintenance activities aboard the International Space Station continue into the new year while engineers and managers discuss Soyuz capabilities and potential next steps in response to the Soyuz MS-22’s external cooling loop leak.

The Expedition 68 crew remains in good condition, performing a variety of maintenance and research activities and looks forward to some time off on New Year’s Day. NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Josh Cassada, and Nicole Mann continued work to service the spacesuits used by Rubio and Cassada to install a new International Space Station Roll-out Solar Array.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineers (from left) Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Frank Rubio, all from NASA, and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), pose for a festive portrait on Christmas Day inside the cupola as the International Space Station orbited 270 miles above the southern Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 25, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

On Dec. 29, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata monitored the deployment of eight Cubesats from JAXA’s Kibo module. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina worked on a variety of maintenance and research tasks.

With integrated crews on each other’s spacecraft, NASA and Roscosmos work jointly on any decisions related to crew safety including crew transportation. NASA and Roscosmos are continuing to conduct a variety of engineering reviews and are consulting with other international partners about methods for safely bringing the Soyuz crew home for both normal and contingency scenarios. A final decision on the path forward is expected in January.

Aurora seen from ISS. Animation Credits: NASA/JSC/Hirai Mamoru

As a part of the analysis, NASA also reached out to SpaceX about its capability to return additional crew members aboard Dragon if needed in an emergency, although the primary focus is on understanding the post-leak capabilities of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.

Station teams also are preparing for the undocking and departure of the SpaceX CRS-26 cargo spacecraft on Monday, Jan. 9. The cargo Dragon is scheduled to return valuable scientific research samples through a splashdown off the Florida coast. Undocking is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. EST, with splashdown planned for Wednesday, Jan. 11. Live coverage of the undocking and departure will begin at 4:45 p.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website:

Related articles:

SPORT and petitSat CubeSats to Shed Light on Space Weather Disturbances

Russia plans to send a Soyuz rescue ship to ISS

NASA Spacewalkers Install Station’s Fourth Roll-Out Solar Array

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Artemis I Orion Spacecraft Returns to Kennedy Space Center


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Dec 30, 2022

After its 1.4-million-mile mission beyond the Moon and back, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived back at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Dec. 30. The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11 and was transported by truck across the country from Naval Base San Diego in California to Kennedy’s Multi Payload Processing Facility in Florida.

Image above: At 12:40 p.m. EST, Dec. 11, 2022, NASA’s Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a 25.5 day mission to the Moon. Orion will be recovered by NASA’s Landing and Recovery team, U.S. Navy and Department of Defense partners aboard the USS Portland. Image Credits: NASA/James M. Blair.

Now that Orion is back at Kennedy, technicians will remove payloads from the capsule as part of de-servicing operations, including Commander Moonikin Campos, zero-gravity indicator Snoopy, and the official flight kit. Orion’s heat shield and other elements will be removed for extensive analysis, and remaining hazards will be offloaded.

Artemis I was a major step forward as part of NASA’s lunar exploration efforts and sets the stage for the next mission of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion to fly crew around the Moon on Artemis II.

Related article:

Splashdown! NASA’s Orion Returns to Earth After Historic Moon Mission

Related links:

Artemis I:

Commander Moonikin Campos:

Orion Spacecraft (NASA):

Artemis Program:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Madison Tuttle.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of December 26, 2022


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Dec 30, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Dec. 26 that included testing an ultra-high-resolution Earth imaging camera, examining the effects of spaceflight on blood pressure regulation, and demonstrating technology for faster data processing in space.

Image above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada prepares a roll-out solar array (ROSA) for deployment on the International Space Station as the orbiting lab flies 262 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia. This is the fourth in a planned six of these arrays, which altogether provide a 30% increase in power generation to support research and operations. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Space in high definition

Sphere Camera-1, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, evaluates the performance of a commercial, off-the-shelf, ultra-high-resolution camera in microgravity. Results ultimately could support design and development of cameras with greater resolution, detail, and sharpness for imaging needs on future exploration missions, including to the Moon and Mars. The camera also could be used to identify damage to space structures, reducing the need for potentially risky inspections via spacewalk. Madison Square Garden Entertainment, the investigation developer, plans to display footage captured by the camera to people on Earth. During the week, crew members captured images using the camera.

Under pressure

Astronauts experience bodily changes during spaceflight that can affect their capacity to exercise and maintain blood pressure when standing after return to Earth. CARDIOBREATH, an investigation from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), studies the combined effects of cardiovascular and respiratory adaptations on blood pressure regulation during spaceflight. These changes represent a challenge for future long-duration missions, particularly those that involve activities in different levels of gravity, such as on Mars or the Moon, and that have minimal direct medical support. Results could support development of ways to deal with these risks. Because spaceflight-induced changes to the body parallel many associated with aging, this research may contribute to better health care and improved quality of life for the elderly on Earth. Crew members donned the BioMonitor sensor garment, set up the hardware, and performed an experiment session during the week.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Computing on the edge

Spaceborne Computer-2 explores processing data significantly faster in space using edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Edge computing refers to the practice of having high-powered computing close to the source of data, which significantly reduces time from collection to insight. In addition, it can provide computing capabilities on future deep space missions where Earth-based data processing is no longer an option. Building on previous work, this investigation tests techniques for recovering data or mitigating errors that occur due to solar and galactic cosmic radiation and other events in space. Results could improve the reliability of computational resources in space and minimize radiation risk to computing resources on Earth as well. The investigation is sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Crew members installed the hardware for an investigation run during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines the mechanisms of self-organization of particles in fluids. Results could improve our understanding of fluids with dispersed solid particles, which are used in cooling systems for heat exchangers and solar energy collectors in space as well as in nuclear reactors and electronics on Earth.

Image above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada fills water reservoirs for the Plant Habitat-03 investigation, which explores the genetic changes plants may go through when adapting to microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

- Plant Habitat-03 assesses whether epigenetic adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. Results could provide insight into how to grow repeated generations of crops to provide food and other services on future space missions.

- Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument to measure and quantify the concentration of small and large particles in spacecraft air. Air quality is important for keeping astronauts healthy and comfortable, but currently there are no measurement capabilities to ensure that maximum allowable particulate concentrations are met.

- Four Bed CO2 Scrubber demonstrates an upgrade to technology for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere on the space station. The technology could help maintain the health of crews and ensure the success of future missions and has potential applications for environments on Earth that require removal of carbon dioxide to protect workers and equipment.

- Veg-05 uses the station’s Veggie facility to grow dwarf tomatoes and examine the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits. Growing plants to provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members supports future long-duration missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nicole Mann works on the PFMI-ASCENT investigation, which demonstrates a passive system that could provide cooling for electronic devices in microgravity while using less space and power. Image Credit: NASA.

- PFMI-ASCENT, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, demonstrates a passive cooling system for electronic devices in microgravity. Such a system could reduce the use of space and electrical power needed and support future scientific investigations on the space station.

Space to Ground: 2022

The space station, a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results realized from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

ISS National Lab:

Sphere Camera-1:


Spaceborne Computer-2:


Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 68.

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SPORT and petitSat CubeSats to Shed Light on Space Weather Disturbances


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

Dec 30, 2022

Two CubeSats, or small satellites, are on a quest to provide insight on space weather disturbances and the subsequent impact on communication signals. The dynamic duo, the Plasma Enhancements in the Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite (petitSat) and Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task (SPORT), arrived at the International Space Station on Nov. 27, 2022, as part of SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission for NASA. Both CubeSats deployed from the space station on Dec. 29, 2022, at 8:55 a.m. EST.

Image above: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft atop, soars into the sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:20 p.m. EST on Nov. 26, 2022, for the 26th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. SPORT and petitSat were aboard the spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

Scientists on both missions are most interested in studying a layer in Earth’s upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere. The ionosphere is where the impacts of space weather on our technology are felt most strongly. It's home to many satellites, including the International Space Station. Radio waves and GPS signals travel through the ionosphere, and variations there can interfere with, or even disrupt, our communication signals. Space weather can also create electric currents that can induce electrical charge in orbiting satellites, and, in extreme cases, cause power outages on the ground.

Day in and day out, the ionosphere is cooked by the Sun's radiation into a soup of positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons, called plasma. Fluctuations in the ionosphere cause low-density and high-density regions – bubbles and blobs – to form in the plasma. These bubbles and blobs can scatter radio signals, sometimes sending them crashing into each other in a phenomenon called scintillation. The result is noisy radio signals, which can reduce the reliability of communication and navigation systems, or even disrupt signals completely.

Image above: View of Hurricane Dorian, a weather phenomenon that impacts communications or navigation systems that astronauts utilize. Photo taken on Sept. 2 from the International Space Station. Image Credits: NASA/Christina Koch.

“If you put a pencil into a glass of water that’s half full, the pencil appears broken,” said Linda Habash Krause, the project scientist for SPORT at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “What happens when you have bubbles? Similar to the pencil in the water, the signals go through ample bends.”

Unfortunately, scientists do not understand exactly how the plasma bubbles and blobs arise. Once petitSat and SPORT are launched from the space station, the two CubeSats will use complementary scientific instruments to investigate the conditions that cause these disruptive features to form.

Space Weather As Seen From The ISS (Aurora Borealis). Image Credit: NASA

“The idea is that the science teams will work together and cross compare,” said Jeff Klenzing, the principal investigator of petitSat at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

SPORT is equipped with six instruments to make measurements throughout the ionosphere. It will help determine the conditions that exist just before plasma bubbles form and, ultimately, how their evolution impacts ground-based communications signals. SPORT will transmit data back to the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), where the data will be distributed to researchers at INPE, NASA, and other U.S. partners.

Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite (petitSat). Image Credit: NASA

In a complementary fashion, petitSat will work to determine what triggers plasma blobs, when they appear, or even how large a region they occupy.

Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task (SPORT). Image Credit: NASA

Both petitSat and SPORT will provide improved observations and insights into space weather phenomena which impact communications. These missions will collectively enhance our understanding of our ever-changing space environment and amplify current capabilities of small satellites to directly benefit our society.

The more we learn about space weather – and how to predict it – the better we can protect our astronauts, spacecraft, and technology.

Related links:

Space Weather:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Abbey Interrante/GSFC/By Matina Douzenis/Günter's Space Page.

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SpaceX - Falcon 9 launches EROS C-3


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / EROS C-3 Mission patch.

Dec 30, 2022

Falcon 9 carrying EROS C-3 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched the Israeli Earth Observation (ISI) EROS C-3 satellite to a low-earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 30 December 2022, at 07:38 UTC (29 December, at 23:38 local time).

Falcon 9 launches EROS C-3, Falcon 9 first stage landing and EROS C-3 separation

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

EROS C-3 separation

Falcon 9’s first stage (B1061) previously supported ten missions: Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter-5, Globalstar-2 FM15 and two Starlink missions.

EROS C-3 satellite

Related links:


Israeli Earth Observation (ISI):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/ISI/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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jeudi 29 décembre 2022

HIRISE Spots Martian Crater Deposits


NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

Dec 29, 2022

December 22, 2022

HiRISE images often raise more questions than answers. For example, this image of the northern plains of Arabia Terra shows craters that contain curious deposits with mysterious shapes and distribution.

The deposits are found only in craters larger than 600 meters in diameter and are absent from craters measuring 450 meters and less. The deposits are located on the south sides of the craters but not in the north (although the cutout shows a crater that also has windblown deposits in the north). The deposits have horizontal laminations that could be layers or terraces. The deposits also have radial striations formed by small bright ridges.

We suspect that these features formed by sublimation of ice-rich material. The terraces might represent different epochs of sublimation. Perhaps the larger craters penetrated to a water table between 45 and 60 meters below the surface and were flooded after formation.

The map is projected here at a scale of 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel. (The original image scale is 59.3 centimeters [23.3 inches] per pixel [with 2 x 2 binning]; objects on the order of 178 centimeters [70.1 inches] across are resolved.) North is up.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

The University of Arizona, in Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Related link:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Monika Luabeya/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

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CASC - Long March-3B launches Shiyan-10 02


CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec 29, 2022

Long March-3B carrying Shiyan-10 02 liftoff

A Long March-3B rocket launched the Shiyan-10 02 satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, China, on 29 December 2022, at 04:43 UTC (12:43 local time).

Long March-3B launches Shiyan-10 02

According to official sources, Shiyan-10 02 (试验十号02) was placed into the planned orbit and will be “mainly used for new technologies in-orbit verification experiments, such as space environment monitoring”.

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

Image, Video, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Watch the Latest Water Satellite Unfold Itself in Space




CSA / NASA / CNES / UKSA - Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) logo.

Dec 29, 2022

Cameras on the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft captured the antennas for its main science instrument unfurling in orbit.

KaRIn Antennas Deploy on International SWOT Satellite

Video above: Two cameras aboard the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite captured the large mast and antenna panels of the spacecraft’s main science instrument deploying over four days, a process that was completed on Dec. 22, 2022. The masts, which unfold from opposite sides of the spacecraft, can be seen extending out from the spacecraft and locking in place, but the cameras stopped short of capturing the antennas at the ends of the masts being fully deployed (a milestone the team confirmed with telemetry data). This video places the two camera views side by side. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES.

But before it can do that, the satellite would need to unfold its large mast and antenna panels (see above) after successfully deploying the solar panel arrays that power the spacecraft. The mission monitors and controls the satellite using telemetry data, but it also equipped spacecraft with four customized commercial cameras to record the action.

The solar arrays fully deployed shortly after launch, taking about 10 minutes.

Deployment of SWOT Satellite’s Solar Arrays

Video above: The Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite deployed its solar arrays while in Earth orbit. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES.

The antennas successfully deployed over four days, a process that was completed on Dec. 22. The two cameras focused on the KaRIn antennas captured the mast extending out from the spacecraft and locking in place but stopped short of capturing the antennas being fully deployed (a milestone the team confirmed with telemetry data.)

Thirty-three feet (10 meters) apart, at either end of the mast, the two antennas belong to the groundbreaking Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument. Designed to capture precise measurements of the height of water in Earth’s freshwater bodies and the ocean, KaRIn will see eddies, currents, and other ocean features less than 13 miles (20 kilometers) across. It will also collect data on lakes and reservoirs larger than 15 acres (62,500 square meters) and rivers wider than 330 feet (100 meters) across.

KaRIn will do this by bouncing radar pulses off the surface of water on Earth and receiving the signals with both of those antennas, collecting data along a swath that’s 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide on either side of the satellite.

The data SWOT provides will help researchers and decision-makers address some of the most pressing climate questions of our time and help communities prepare for a warming world.

Image above: This illustration shows the SWOT spacecraft with its antenna mast and solar arrays fully deployed. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

More About the Mission

SWOT was jointly developed by NASA and the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), with contributions from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the UK Space Agency. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the U.S. component of the project. For the flight system payload, NASA is providing the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument, a GPS science receiver, a laser retroreflector, a two-beam microwave radiometer, and NASA instrument operations. CNES is providing the Doppler Orbitography and Radioposition Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) system, the dual frequency Poseidon altimeter (developed by Thales Alenia Space), the KaRIn radio-frequency subsystem (together with Thales Alenia Space and with support from the UK Space Agency), the satellite platform, and ground operations. CSA is providing the KaRIn high-power transmitter assembly. NASA is providing the launch vehicle and the agency’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the associated launch services.

Related article:

NASA Launches International Mission to Survey Earth’s Water

To learn more about SWOT, visit:

Videos (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang.


mercredi 28 décembre 2022

Best Space Station Science Imagery of 2022


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

Dec 28, 2022

The International Space Station continues its scientific journey orbiting over 200 miles above the Earth’s surface.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Spacecraft carried crew from around the world to and from the space station, where they participated in and supported hundreds of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations this past year. From deploying CubeSats to studying fluid dynamics in space, the orbiting lab expanded its legacy of science and discovery for the benefit of humanity.

Look back at some of the best photos of breakthrough science the crew members conducted in 2022.

Understanding microgravity movement

NASA astronaut Bob Hines participates in the GRASP investigation to help researchers better understand if and how gravity acts as a reference for the control of reach-to-grasp movement. The information could provide further insight into the human body’s adaptation to the microgravity environment. Image Credit: NASA.

Converting plant waste into food

A view of Plate Habitat at -20°C prior to insertion into the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL) incubator aboard the International Space Station. The Protein Manufacturing project demonstrates the use of novel bioreactor technology for converting inedible plant materials and other wastes into high-protein, edible fungal biomats in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Growing without soil

NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines work on XROOTS, which uses the space station’s Veggie facility to test hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants rather than using traditional soil. These techniques could enable large-scale crop production for future space exploration. image Credit: NASA.

Party of six

Crew members gather in the Destiny module, the primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads, to participate in an evening conference with mission controllers on the ground to review experiment schedules and receive updates. From front to back are NASA astronaut Josh Cassada; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti; and NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann, and Bob Hines. Image Credit: NASA.

In space for Earth

NASA astronauts (from left) Thomas Marshburn and Mark Vande Hei gaze out the station's cupola windows at Earth below. The Crew Earth Observations investigation provides researchers with key data from the perspective of the International Space Station to understand how the planet is changing over time. Image Credit: NASA.

Three CubeSats start their journey

A trio of CubeSats (TUMnanoSAT, FUTABA, and HSU-SAT1) designed for education and research programs are pictured moments after their deployment from a small satellite deployer (top right) positioned outside the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) as the space station orbits 259 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Calls to seven continents

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren uses the amateur radio in the Columbus module to participate in the annual Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) Field Day. Field Day provides amateur radio operators the opportunity to practice operating their equipment under simulated emergency conditions. During his time on station, Lindgren made ARISS contacts with people on all seven continents, including the space station's first call to Antarctica. Image Credit. NASA.

All about the bones

Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) installs the Osteogenic Cells experiment. This experiment looks at whether bone loss in microgravity is restricted to a particular osteogenic or bone-forming cell type. This research tests the hypothesis that the underlying process results in decreased bone formation rather than increased loss of existing bone. Image Credit: NASA.

Igniting science

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins services components that support the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SOFIE) fire safety experiment inside the International Space Station's Combustion Integrated Rack. The experiment provides hardware to allow for the study and characterization of the ignition and flammability of solid spacecraft materials in realistic atmospheric conditions. Image Credit: NASA.

Let the fluids flow

A view of a transparent FLUIDICS sphere aboard the International Space Station. The investigation covers two aspects of fluid mechanics: the analysis of liquid sloshing phenomena in tanks of spacecraft in microgravity and the wave turbulence phenomena that occurs at the surface of liquids. The investigation could support development of better fuel systems for satellites and may provide a better understanding of how the Earth’s oceans work. Image Credit: NASA.

Unlocking the cotton genome

NASA astronaut Raja Chari performs the final harvest of cotton cell cultures as part of the Plant Habitat-05 investigation (PH-05). This space agriculture study explored genetic expression in cotton cell cultures to learn more about the process of plant regeneration, potentially contributing to improved crop production on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Power up

NASA astronauts (left to right) Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio pictured during a spacewalk installing a roll-out solar array, or iROSA, to the International Space Station's starboard truss structure. Once all six iROSAs are installed, the station’s power generation is expected to increase to a combined total of more than 250 kW, more than a 30% increase, benefiting space station research and operations. Image Credit: NASA.

Space debris removal

A view of an Astrobee ROAM Operations Session 2 in the JEM during Expedition 66. ROAM demonstrates processes for a robotic craft to rendezvous with debris in space. Space debris includes satellites that could be repaired or taken out of orbit, but many of these objects are tumbling, making rendezvous and docking challenging. ROAM uses the space station’s Astrobee robots to observe and understand how targets tumble and uses this information to plan ways to safely reach them. Image Credit: NASA.

Expanding plant growth capabilities

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron checks out plants growing inside the Veggie plant research facility for the Veggie PONDS experiment. The investigation tested ways to grow crops in space, which could be used to support long-term crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Image Credit: NASA.

Space archeology

NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn poses with a ruler and color chart aboard the International Space Station. The ruler and chart are used for SQuARES, which studies how crew members use different objects and spaces on station over time. Results from this study could be used to inform the design of future crewed spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

Sending samples home

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is pictured packing cargo inside the 25th SpaceX Dragon resupply ship before it undocked from the International Space Station on Aug. 19, 2022. The spacecraft carried samples and hardware from multiple investigations, allowing researchers to continue data collection and analysis on the ground. Image Credit: NASA.

A decades-long eruption

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took a sequence of photos of Carrizozo Malpaís, showing a decades-long eruption creating this long strip of basalt in the desert of New Mexico. Crew members on the space station photograph the Earth using handheld cameras for Crew Earth Observations. These photographs record how the planet is changing over time and monitor events needing immediate disaster-level response. Astronauts have been photographing Earth from space since the early Mercury missions beginning in 1961. Image Credit: NASA.

Boiling hot

On Mar. 15, 2022, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei surpassed former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s record by spending 355 days in space. His extended mission aboard the International Space Station provides researchers an opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. In this image, Vande Hei sets up for the Flow Boiling Condensation Experiment (FBCE) investigation, examining a model for a heat management system based on boiling processes. Image Credit: NASA.

Space construction

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer works on the Concrete Hardening experiment, which seeks to provide a better understanding of how concrete hardens without gravity-driven convection, settling, and pressure gradients. Results could support future lunar and planetary construction techniques. Image Credit: NASA.

It’s your destiny

An interior view of the Destiny U.S. Laboratory at night under ambient light with the main lights turned off. The Destiny module supports a variety of life and physical sciences, technology demonstrations, and educational events. In 2022, hardware for the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SOFIE) facility was installed inside Destiny's Combustion Integrated Rack opening opportunities for new combustion studies. Image Credit: NASA.

Best Space Station Science Images of 2022

Related links:


Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL):

Protein Manufacturing:



Destiny module:

Crew Earth Observations:

Small satellite deployer:


Osteogenic Cells:

Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SOFIE):


Plant Habitat-05 investigation (PH-05):

Astrobee ROAM:

Veggie PONDS:


Flow Boiling Condensation Experiment (FBCE):

Concrete Hardening:

Destiny U.S. Laboratory:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Christine Giraldo.

Best regards,