samedi 19 mars 2022

SpaceX Starlink 41 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

March 19, 2022

SpaceX Starlink 41 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink-41) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 19 March 2022, at 04:42 UTC (00:42 EDT).

SpaceX Starlink 41 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 19 March 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1051) previously supported eleven missions: SXM-7, RADARSAT Constellation Mission, Demo-1 (Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission) and eight Starlink missions.

Related links:


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


Soyuz MS-21 hatch opening - cosmonauts trio warmly received aboard ISS


ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-21 Mission patch.

March 19, 2022

Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov on the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at 3:12 p.m. EDT while the station was traveling 260 miles over eastern Kazakhstan.

Soyuz MS-21 hatch opening

The Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft hatch was opened on 18 March 2022, at 21:48 UTC (17:48 EDT; 19 March, at 00:48 MSK). Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov begin a six-and-a-half-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

The trio joins Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, as well as NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer.

Soyuz MS-21 hatch opening

On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov back to Earth. Upon their return, Vande Hei will hold the American record for the longest single human spaceflight mission of 355 days.

Related article:

Russian Trio Launches on Express Trip to Station & Soyuz Trio Docks to Station

Related links:

Prichal module:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

vendredi 18 mars 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 14, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 18, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of March 14 that included analyzing changes in arteries and muscle tone during spaceflight and conducting a ham radio session. NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari conducted a 6 hour 54 minute spacewalk on March 15 to continue preparations for installing new solar arrays that will increase the power available on the space station for scientific research and daily operations. On Tuesday, March 15, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei broke the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American explorer.

Image above: NASA astronaut Kayla Barron (red stripes) waits as fellow astronaut Raja Chari emerges from the space station. The two conducted a spacewalk where they assembled and installed modification kits to support installation of solar array upgrades. Image Credit: NASA.

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.

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

Arteries and aging

Some aging-like changes occur more quickly in space station crew members than they do on Earth. Astronauts experience changes to their carotid arteries, for example, which could present a significant health risk on future long-duration space missions. Vascular Aging, a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) investigation, collects data on vascular changes in astronauts using ultrasound images, blood samples, and wearable sensors. Results could support development of ways to reduce the potential health risks to crew members as well as guide prevention measures and treatments for the effects of aging on Earth. During the week, crew members collected multiple data points for the investigation.

Image above: The sun rises above Earth’s horizon in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 262 miles above the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Image Credit: NASA.  

Muscles and microgravity

Myotones, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), observes properties of muscles such as tone and stiffness during long-term spaceflight. Research suggests that these decrease during spaceflight, particularly in muscles most important for postural support and movement such as running and walking. Inflight exercise seems to improve or even recover these muscle changes. Results from this investigation could improve understanding of human resting muscle tone and lead to the development of new countermeasures for muscle changes on future space missions as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments on Earth. Crew members recorded several measurements for the study during the week.

Q&A with an astronaut

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei sets up the space station’s amateur radio, which is used for ISS Ham Pass events where students on the ground speak directly to crew members. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members conducted an ISS Ham Radio session with the Kids Star Club Sayama in Sayama, Japan. Before the event, the club held an amateur radio licensing seminar and provided lessons about radio waves, electricity, and space for the youth members. ISS Ham Radio engages students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community in direct communication with astronauts via ground-based ham radio units. This experience helps inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- UNIGLO tests how microgravity affects a module for processing various types of complex glasses. This investigation could help establish additional manufacturing capabilities in space and lead to development of novel fibers for optical communication and lasers in a variety of applications in space and on Earth.

- SQuARE studies objects and built spaces and how crew members use them over time. Results could contribute to better design for future spacecraft and habitats.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei conducts operations for Space Biofilms, which examines formation of biofilms in space by analyzing a fungal species grown on different materials. Animation Credit: NASA.
- Space Biofilms characterizes the structure and gene expression of biofilms that form in space by analyzing a fungal species grown on different materials. Biofilm formation can cause equipment malfunction and human illnesses and could be a problem on future long-term human space missions.

- EasyMotion from ESA tests a suit worn during pre- and postflight exercise that provides electro-myo-stimulation or electric current that causes muscle contractions. It could save crew time and improve outcomes of inflight exercise on future space missions and in healthy populations on Earth.

- 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.

- Food Physiology examines the effects of an enhanced spaceflight diet on immune function, the gut microbiome, and nutritional status indicators to document how dietary improvements may enhance adaptation to spaceflight.

- Touching Surfaces, an ESA investigation, tests antimicrobial surfaces to help determine those most appropriate for future spacecraft and habitats as well as for terrestrial applications such as public transportation and clinical settings.

Space to Ground: Taking Another Step: 03/18/2022

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Vascular Aging:


ISS Ham Radio:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Spots Giant Debris Cloud Created by Clashing Celestial Bodies


NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

March 18, 2022

Major smashups between rocky bodies shaped our solar system. Observations of a similar crash give clues about how frequent these events are around other stars.

Image above: This illustration depicts the result of a collision between two large asteroid-sized bodies: a massive debris cloud around a young star. NASA’s Spitzer saw a debris cloud block the star HD 166191, giving scientists details about the smashup that occurred. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Most of the rocky planets and satellites in our solar system, including Earth and the Moon, were formed or shaped by massive collisions early in the solar system’s history. By smashing together, rocky bodies can accumulate more material, increasing in size, or they can break apart into multiple smaller bodies.  

Astronomers using NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope have in the past found evidence of these types of collisions around young stars where rocky planets are forming. But those observations didn’t provide many details about the smashups, such as the size of the objects involved.

In a new study in the Astrophysical Journal, a group of astronomers led by Kate Su of the University of Arizona report the first observations of a debris cloud from one of these collisions as it passed in front of its star and briefly blocked the light. Astronomers call this a transit. Coupled with knowledge about the star’s size and brightness, the observations enabled the researchers to directly determine the size of the cloud shortly after impact, estimate the size of the objects that collided, and watch the speed with which the cloud dispersed.  

“There is no substitute for being an eyewitness to an event,” said George Rieke, also at the University of Arizona and a coauthor of the new study. “All the cases reported previously from Spitzer have been unresolved, with only theoretical hypotheses about what the actual event and debris cloud might have looked like.”

Beginning in 2015, a team led by Su started making routine observations of a 10 million-year-old star called HD 166191. Around this early time in a star’s life, dust left over from its formation has clumped together to form rocky bodies called planetesimals – seeds of future planets. Once the gas that previously filled the space between those objects has dispersed, catastrophic collisions between them become common.

Anticipating they might see evidence of one of these collisions around HD 166191, the team used Spitzer to conduct more than 100 observations of the system between 2015 and 2019. While the planetesimals are too small and distant to resolve by telescope, their smashups produce large amounts of dust. Spitzer detected infrared light – or wavelengths slightly longer than what human eyes can see. Infrared is ideal for detecting dust, including the debris created by protoplanet collisions.

In mid-2018, the space telescope saw the HD 166191 system become significantly brighter, suggesting an increase in debris production. During that time, Spitzer also detected a debris cloud blocking the star. Combining Spitzer’s observation of the transit with observations by telescopes on the ground, the team could deduce the size and shape of the debris cloud.

Their work suggests the cloud was highly elongated, with a minimum estimated area three times that of the star. However, the amount of infrared brightening Spitzer saw suggests only a small portion of the cloud passed in front of the star and that the debris from this event covered an area hundreds of times larger than that of the star.

To produce a cloud that big, the objects in the main collision must have been the size of dwarf planets, like Vesta in our solar system – an object 330 miles (530 kilometers) wide located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The initial clash generated enough energy and heat to vaporize some of the material. It also set off a chain reaction of impacts between fragments from the first collision and other small bodies in the system, which likely created a significant amount of the dust Spitzer saw.

Over the next few months, the large dust cloud grew in size and became more translucent, indicating that the dust and other debris were quickly dispersing throughout the young star system. By 2019, the cloud that passed in front of the star was no longer visible, but the system contained twice as much dust as it had before Spitzer spotted the cloud. This information, according to the paper’s authors, can help scientists test theories about how terrestrial planets form and grow.

“By looking at dusty debris disks around young stars, we can essentially look back in time and see the processes that may have shaped our own solar system,” said Su. “Learning about the outcome of collisions in these systems, we may also get a better idea of how frequently rocky planets form around other stars.”

More About Spitzer

The entire body of scientific data collected by Spitzer during its lifetime is available to the public via the Spitzer data archive, housed at the Infrared Science Archive at IPAC at Caltech in Pasadena, California. JPL, a division of Caltech, managed Spitzer mission operations for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at IPAC at Caltech. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

For more information about NASA’s Spitzer mission, go to:


Image (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.


First spacewalk for Matthias Maurer


EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

March 18, 2022

In brief

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is scheduled to perform his first spacewalk next week, stepping outside the International Space Station on Wednesday 23 March alongside NASA’s Raja Chari. Watch the action live on ESA Web TV:

Raja Chari and Matthias Maurer


The pair will exit the airlock around 13:50 CET and spend approximately six and a half hours working in space. Matthias will be EV-2, wearing an all-white spacesuit, while Raja will be lead spacewalker, known as EV-1, in a white spacesuit with red stripes.

Their tasks include installing hoses on a radiator beam valve module that routes ammonia through the Station’s heat-rejecting radiators to regulate system temperatures, installing a power and data cable on the Bartolomeo science platform outside ESA’s Columbus module, replacing an external camera on the Station’s truss, and conducting other upgrades to Station hardware.

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer during a suit fit check ahead of his first spacewalk

It is a busy schedule that will see Matthias traverse much of the Station’s exterior, something Matthias recently joked about with his colleagues on board.

“I will go out with my dear colleague Raja. He will do some repairs for the cooling system of the Station, and I will walk around or, I should say, crawl around another part of the Station and do different small activities,” Matthias explains.

“I really do have to do a complete tour of the Space Station,” he says. “It is a motley mix and I’m totally looking forward to it.”

Known as US EVA 80, this will be the 248th spacewalk carried out in support of Space Station assembly, upgrades and maintenance. Matthias will be the 12th ESA astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

Bartolomeo connected to Columbus

The Bartolomeo science platform is the first European commercial facility positioned outside of the International Space Station. Built and operated by Airbus, it was installed on the exterior of Columbus and is designed to offer a high-speed data feed and a unique view of Earth and deep space.

The power and data cable that Matthias is expected to install during this EVA is the final step in connecting Bartolomeo, ready for full operations.

Matthias Maurer: training for a spacewalk

Watch full coverage of EVA 80 with ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA astronaut Raja Chari on Wednesday, 23 March live on ESA Web TV:

Related links:

Human and Robotic Exploration:

Science & Exploration:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.

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Hubble Sees the Eye of a Colorful Galaxy


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 18, 2022

This finely detailed image shows the heart of NGC 1097, a barred spiral galaxy that lies about 48 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Fornax. This picture reveals the intricacy of the web of stars and dust at NGC 1097’s center, with the long tendrils of dust seen in a dark red hue. We can see this intricate structure thanks to two instruments on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope: the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The idea that two different cameras can take a single image is not very intuitive. However, it makes far more sense after delving into how beautiful astronomical images like this are composed. Our eyes can detect light waves at optical wavelengths between roughly 380 and 750 nanometers, using three types of receptors, each of which is sensitive to just a slice of that range. Our brain interprets these specific wavelengths as colors. By contrast, a telescope camera like the WFC3 or ACS is sensitive to a single, broad range of wavelengths to maximize the amount of light collected. Raw images from telescopes are always in grayscale, only showing the amount of the light captured across all those wavelengths.

Color images from telescopes are created with the help of filters. By sliding a filter over the aperture of an instrument like the WFC3 or ACS, only light from a very specific wavelength range passes through. One such filter used in this image is for green light around 555 nanometers. This yields a grayscale image showing only the amount of light with that wavelength, allowing astronomers to add color when processing the image. This multicolor image of NGC 1097 is composed of images using seven different filters in total.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Sand, K. Sheth.


Russian Trio Launches on Express Trip to Station & Soyuz Trio Docks to Station


ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-21 Mission patch.

March 18, 2022

Russian Trio Launches on Express Trip to Station

Image above: The Soyuz MS-21 rocket lifts off on time from Kazakhstan carrying three cosmonauts to the space station. Image Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA TV.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov are safely in orbit on the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft after launching at 11:55 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (8:55 p.m. Baikonur time).

Soyuz MS-21 launch

The Soyuz will dock to the station’s Prichal module at 3:05 p.m. About two hours after docking, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open.

Soyuz MS-21 Crew. Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS

Soyuz Trio Docks to Station, NASA Astronaut Nears Departure

Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov on the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at 3:12 p.m. EDT while the station was traveling 260 miles over eastern Kazakhstan. Coverage of hatch opening will air at 5:15 p.m. on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-21 crew ship with three cosmonauts aboard approaches the Prichal module for a docking in this view from the space station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Once on station, the trio will join Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, as well as NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer.

Soyuz MS-21 manual docking

On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov back to Earth. Upon their return, Vande Hei will hold the American record for the longest single human spaceflight mission of 355 days.

Related links:

NASA Television:

Prichal module:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ROSCOSMOS/NASA TV/SciNews.

Best regards,

Standing tall: Moon rocket milestone for Artemis


NASA - Artemis Exploration Mission 1 patch.

March 18, 2022

In brief

The rocket that will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft with the European Service Module to the Moon has been moved to the launchpad in Florida, USA, for its first full test before the Artemis I launch later this year.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen illuminated by spotlights atop a mobile launcher at Launch Complex 39B, Friday, March 18, 2022, after being rollout out to the launch pad for the first time at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ahead of NASA’s Artemis I flight test, the fully stacked and integrated SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will undergo a wet dress rehearsal at Launch Complex 39B to verify systems and practice countdown procedures for the first launch. Image Credit: NASA.


The Space Launch Systems rocket (SLS), with Orion atop it, left the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at around 23:00 CET (22:00 GMT) on 17 March to begin its 6.5 km trip to Launchpad LC39B.

SLS rocket before rollout

The first Artemis mission will send Orion to the Moon and back, farther than any human-rated spacecraft has travelled before. ESA’s European Service Module is the powerhouse that fuels and propels Orion and provides everything needed to keep astronauts alive, including water, oxygen, power and temperature control.

A short but long trip

While the rocket will propel Orion to supersonic speeds, the rocket itself is moved slowly but securely to the launchpad. Traveling at a maximum speed of just 1.3 km/h, the 6.5-km voyage took nearly 12 hours to complete on a specially designed crawler vehicle.

Rocket rollout

Launching Orion and the European Service Module into Earth orbit and onto the Moon requires a huge amount of energy and the size of the mega-Moon rocket SLS is hard to convey in photos.

At 100 m tall, it is roughly the height of the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) in London, UK, or 16 giraffes stacked on top of each other. If you laid the rocket on the ground, it would take over a minute to walk from the engines to the tip of the launch abort system.

Artemis: crawling towards launch

We are going

“Seeing the complete rocket on the launchpad with the ESA and NASA logos on the fairing is an amazing view,” says ESA’s Pierre Boisvert on location, “to think that the European Service Module is inside there, ready to power a human-rated spacecraft to the Moon and back is a spine-tingling moment.

“Many of us in the ESA team have been working for years with our NASA partners on this spacecraft, and to see it on the launchpad is driving it home, we are going forward to the Moon!”

Logos on the Moon rocket

The first Artemis mission will be without astronauts, but it will include two mannequins to chart radiation received during the trip in deep space.

Space Launch System - First Roll to Launch Pad

Meanwhile the second and third Artemis missions are being prepared for their launch. The second European Service Module is undergoing pressure checks to ensure the welds connecting it to the rest of the Orion spacecraft were done correctly. This service module will power the first Artemis mission with astronauts around the Moon.

Moving third European Service Module structure

The third European Service Module is being built up in Bremen, Germany, after the structure arrived from Torino, Italy. Technicians at the Airbus integration hall have started laying kilometres of electric cables, the groundwork for sharing information and sending commands in the advanced Orion spacecraft. It has the honour of powering the Artemis III mission that will send astronauts to the Moon’s surface for the first time in over 60 years.

Artemis I – European Service Module perspective

Related article:

NASA Readies Rocket for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal

Related links:

Orion (spacecraft):

Space Launch System (SLS):

Artemis progam:

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/A. Conigli/NASA/Airbus.


jeudi 17 mars 2022

Station Gets Ready for New Crew and Next Spacewalk


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 17, 2022

A new trio awaits its launch to join the Expedition 66 crew on Friday while two astronauts are preparing for next week’s spacewalk. Human research rounded out the science schedule aboard the International Space Station on Thursday.

Three cosmonauts are counting down to their lift off aboard the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship at 11:55 a.m. EDT on Friday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will lead first-time space-flyers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov on a three-hour and 10-minute ride to the Prichal module where they will dock beginning a six-and-a-half-month mission aboard the station. NASA TV, on the app and the website, will begin its live mission coverage of the crew launch and docking activities at 11:15 a.m. on Friday.

Image above: Astronaut Tom Marshburn of NASA (center) assists NASA astronaut Raja Chari (from left) and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer during their U.S. spacesuit fit check. Image Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile, a second spacewalk is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, for more upgrades at the orbiting lab. Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) will set their spacesuits to battery power at 8:50 a.m. signifying the start of their spacewalk. The duo will spend about six-and-a-half-hours installing new thermal system and electronics components. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk coverage at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

The spacewalking pair was joined Thursday afternoon by NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn reviewing robotics procedures necessary to support the astronauts during next week’s external maintenance job. Chari and Maurer also spent Thursday organizing their spacewalking tools and resizing their U.S. spacesuits.

EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities or spacewalk. Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked inside the Kibo laboratory module setting up a small satellite deployer. In the afternoon, Vande Hei studied the effectiveness of detergents in microgravity then strapped sensors to himself to measure his performance during an exercise study.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov continued evaluating a specialized suit, the lower body negative pressure suit, for its ability to counteract the effects of weightlessness on the human body. Doctors are studying the suit’s ability to offset space-caused head and eye pressure by drawing fluids toward the legs and feet while expanding veins and tissues.

Related links:


Expedition 66:

Prichal module:

Kibo laboratory module:

Effectiveness of detergents in microgravity:

Lower body negative pressure suit:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-4C launches Yaogan-34-02


CASC - CZ-4C / Yaogan-34-02 Mission patch.

March 17, 2022

Long March-4C carrying Yaogan-34-02 liftoff

A Long March-4C launch vehicle launched the second Yaogan-34 remote-sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 17 March 2022, at 07:09 UTC (15:09 local time).

Long March-4C launches Yaogan-34-02

According to official sources, the optical remote sensing satellite Yaogan-34-02 (遥感三十四号02星) will form a network with Yaogan-34-01 and subsequent satellites, that will be “mainly used for the survey of land resources, urban planning, the confirmation of land rights, road network design, crop yield estimation, and disaster prevention and reduction”.

Yaogan-34-02 satellite

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:
Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


NASA Readies Rocket for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal


NASA - Artemis Exploration Mission-1 patch.

March 17, 2022

Engineers will conduct the final test, known as the wet dress rehearsal, of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems before the Artemis I launch at Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rehearsal will run the Artemis I launch team through operations to load propellant into the rocket’s tanks, conduct a full launch countdown, demonstrate the ability to recycle the countdown clock, and also drain the tanks to give them an opportunity to practice the timelines and procedures they will use for launch.

Image above: Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems before the Artemis I launch. Image Credit: NASA.

During the approximately two-day test, teams will start by activating the facilities needed for launch and formally beginning the countdown sequence. Team will staff the Launch Control Center at Kennedy and connect with staff in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Space Force Eastern Range, and the SLS Engineering Support Center at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Launch controllers will power on different rocket and spacecraft systems, along with ground support equipment.

Teams will then load more than 700,000 gallons of cryogenic, or super cold, propellants including liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the rocket at the launch pad on the mobile launcher according to the detailed timeline they will use on the actual launch day. They will practice every phase of the countdown, including weather briefings, pre-planned holds in the countdown, conditioning and replenishing the propellants as needed, and validation checks.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. In this image taken on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, members of the media set up remote cameras to capture the first rollout to Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ahead of NASA’s Artemis I flight test, the fully stacked and integrated SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will undergo a wet dress rehearsal at Launch Complex 39B to verify systems and practice countdown procedures for the first launch. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

During the wet dress rehearsal, once launch controllers reach the point just before the rocket’s RS-25 engines will ignite on launch day, they will recycle back to the T-10 minute point, and then resume the countdown once more after a hold. The team will then deliberately halt the countdown at about 10 seconds before the simulated liftoff to demonstrate stopping a launch and draining the propellants from the rocket. Sometimes called a “scrub,” launch controllers may decide not to proceed with launch if a technical or weather issue arises during or prior to the countdown, so demonstrating the ability to remove propellants will ensure teams are prepared for various launch day scenarios.

(Illustration) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft rollout. Image credit: NASA

Several days after the wet dress rehearsal, the integrated rocket and spacecraft will be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). In the VAB, technicians will extend platforms to reestablish access to several parts of the rocket and spacecraft. They will remove sensors specifically used for monitoring during the wet dress rehearsal, charge Orion and other system batteries, stow late-load cargo into Orion, and run final checkouts on several elements, among other tasks. Orion and SLS will roll to the launch pad for a final time about a week before launch.

NASA will review data from the rehearsal before setting a specific target launch date for the Artemis I launch. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II.

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion Spacecraft:


Kennedy Space Center (KSC):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rachel Kraft.

Best regards,

NASA Mourns Passing of Visionary Heliophysicist Eugene Parker


R. I. P. - Rest In Peace.

Mar 17, 2022

Dr. Eugene N. Parker, visionary of heliophysics and namesake of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, has passed away. He was 94.

Heliophysicist Eugene Parker. Image Credit: NASA

As a young professor at the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s, Parker developed a mathematical theory that predicted the solar wind, the constant outflow of solar material from the Sun. Throughout his career, Parker revolutionized the field time and again, advancing ideas that addressed the fundamental questions about the workings of our Sun and stars throughout the universe.

“We were saddened to learn the news that one of the great scientific minds and leaders of our time has passed,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Dr. Eugene Parker’s contributions to science and to understanding how our universe works touches so much of what we do here at NASA. Dr. Parker’s legacy will live on through the many active and future NASA missions that build upon his work.”

“The field of heliophysics exists in large part because of Dr. Eugene Parker,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science. “Honoring his work by giving Parker Solar Probe his name is one of the proudest accomplishments of my career. My work, my passion for science, and my drive to keep exploring is strongly influenced by this great man. Parker Solar Probe ‘touching the Sun,’ is a fitting accomplishment for his namesake mission.”

Image above: Dr. Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning of Aug. 12, 2018. NASA Director of Heliophysics Dr. Nicky Fox stands behind him. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun and will travel closer to our star than any spacecraft before. Image Credits: NASA/Glenn Benson.

In 2018, Parker became the first person to witness the launch of a spacecraft bearing his name. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe continues its mission today in pursuit of the pioneering questions Parker first envisaged more than a half century ago.

“Anyone who knew Dr. Parker, knew that he was a visionary,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “I was honored to stand with him at the launch of Parker Solar Probe and have loved getting to share with him all the exciting science results, seeing his face light up with every new image and data plot I showed him. I will sincerely miss his excitement and love for Parker Solar Probe. Even though Dr. Parker is no longer with us, his discoveries and legacy will live forever.”

Learn more about Parker Solar Probe and its mission at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Karen Fox.

R. I. P.;

SpaceX rapidly stacks Starship and Super Heavy with ‘Mechazilla’


SpaceX - Starship Super Heavy SN-20 Mission patch.

March 17, 2022

For the second time ever, SpaceX has used Starbase’s ‘Mechazilla’ tower and arms to stack a Starship upper stage on top of a Super Heavy booster.

SpaceX Starship Super Heavy. Animation Credit: SpaceX

This time around, though, SpaceX clearly learned a great deal from its second February 9th Starship stack and was able to complete the stacking process several times faster on March 15th. During the second attempt, depending on how one measures it, it took SpaceX around three and a half hours from the start of the lift to Starship fully resting on Super Heavy. With Stack #3, however, SpaceX was able to lift, translate, lower, and attach Starship to Super Heavy in just over an hour.

Starship is Fully Stacked - SpaceX Boca Chica

Oddly, SpaceX managed that feat without a claw-like device meant to grab and stabilize Super Heavy during stacking operations. For Stack #2, all three arms were fully in play. First, a pair of ‘chopsticks’ – giant arms meant to grab, lift, and even recover Starships and boosters – grabbed Ship 20, lifted it close to 100 meters (~300 ft) above the ground, rotated it over top of Super Heavy, and briefly paused. A third arm – known as the ship quick-disconnect or umbilical arm – swung in and extended its ‘claw’ to grab onto hardpoints located near the top of Super Heavy. Once the booster was secured, the ‘chopsticks’ slowly lowered Ship 20 onto Booster 4’s interstage and six clamps joined the two stages together.

A few hours after the two were clamped together, an umbilical device located on the swing arm extended and connected to Ship 20. It’s unclear if the panel was actually used in any way but the umbilical is designed to connect Starship to ground systems to supply propellant, power, communications, and other consumables. Regardless, the device did appear to connect to Starship. Prior to Stack #3, however, SpaceX removed both of the swing arm’s ‘claws,’ meaning that it had no way to grab onto Super Heavy. That diminished capability clearly appeared to have zero impact on the ease or speed of the stacking process given that it was completed a full three times faster than Stack #2.

Image Above: SpaceX removed the umbilical arm’s claws prior to Stack #3. Photo Credit: Richard Angle.

That could imply that the claw is either completely unnecessary or only needed when attempting stacking operations in extreme winds. What is clear is that the claw removal likely only shaved a handful of minutes off of the full stacking process. What really saved time on Stack #3 was a faster lift and fewer pauses throughout – especially while lowering Starship the last several meters onto Super Heavy. During Stack #2, SpaceX took close to an hour and a half to fully lower Ship 20. The same sequence took just ~20 minutes during Stack #3.

SpaceX de-stacked Starship from atop a Super Heavy booster at their Boca Chica, Texas

Still, after the impressively rapid one-hour stack, it then took SpaceX close to two hours to connect the swing arm’s umbilical to Starship, leaving plenty of room for improvement. Ultimately, assuming SpaceX can speed up the start of the stacking process and replicate its Starship success with Super Heavy, which will also need to be grabbed and installed on an even more complex launch mount, it’s possible that Starbase’s orbital launch integration system is already capable of supporting multiple Starship launches per day. Of course, SpaceX has yet to demonstrate that the orbital launch site can be turned around in a matter of hours after being subjected to the violence and stresses of a Starship launch.

Starship Super Heavy Launch Animation

More significantly, SpaceX has never even attempted an orbital Starship launch, recovery, or reuse. That leaves the company in the unusual position of building and testing expensive, specialized support equipment before it actually knows that the rocket that equipment is designed to support is in any way capable of taking advantage of it. For an orbital spacecraft the size of Starship, only the Space Shuttle comes anywhere close and NASA’s all-time record for orbiter turnaround was 54 days. SpaceX has technically flown two Falcon 9 boosters twice in 27 days but no matter how impressive that feat is, reusing a far smaller suborbital booster is vastly easier than reusing a massive orbital spacecraft.

Image above: SpaceX preparing for third Starship 'full stack' after half a dozen 'cryoproof' tests. Image Credit: SpaceX.

At the end of the day, it’s not really SpaceX’s fault that it’s still waiting for permission to attempt orbital test flights. Nonetheless, the growing gap in maturity between Starship and Super Heavy and the orbital launch site designed to support them continuously raises the risk that SpaceX will have to extensively redesign the rocket, its support equipment, or both if significant problems arise during orbital test flights.

Up next, there’s a chance that SpaceX could attempt to cryoproof Starship while on top of Super Heavy – or perhaps both stages at once. While SpaceX has performed more than half a dozen cryoproofs of Ship 20 and Booster 4 using the orbital launch site’s propellant storage and distribution system, it hasn’t fully tested the hardware needed to route hundreds of tons of propellant hundreds of feet into the air – essential for full-stack testing and launch operations.


Images (mentioned), Videos, Animation, Text, Credits: SpaceX/NASASpaceflight/space googlevesaire/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mercredi 16 mars 2022

Next Crew Launch Set for Friday Following Tuesday’s Spacewalk


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 16, 2022

The International Space Station is set to welcome three new crewmates who are set to launch on Friday and arrive just over three hours later. In the meantime, the seven-member Expedition 66 crew turned its attention to science duties following Tuesday’s successful spacewalk.

Image above: NASA spacewalker Raja Chari is pictured tethered to the space station with the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance behind him and the Atlantic coast of South America 268 miles below. Image Credit: NASA.

The next crew ship to launch toward the orbiting lab has rolled out and now stands at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft is counting down to lift off on Friday at 11:55 a.m. EDT. It will carry three cosmonauts on a three-hour and 10-minute ride to the station where it will dock to the Prichal module. Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, with first-time station visitors Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, will open the hatch about an two-and-a-half hours later and begin a six-and-a-half-month mission aboard the space station. NASA TV, on the app and the website, will begin its live launch coverage at 11:15 a.m. on Friday.

Two NASA astronauts, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari, had a light schedule on Wednesday following Tuesday’s six-hour and 54-minute spacewalk to set up the station for its next roll-out solar array. The pair started the day with standard post-spacewalk medical exams looking at their hands, ears, blood pressure, and temperature. Barron then worked late in the afternoon in the Kibo laboratory module setting up the Confocal Microscope that looks at biological samples using spatial filtering techniques. Chari wrapped up his day charging the U.S. spacesuit’s lithium-ion batteries.

Soyuz FG launch. Animation Credit: Roscosmos

Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) teamed up for a muscle study taking place in the Columbus laboratory module on Wednesday. The astronauts took turns measuring each other’s neck, back, and leg muscles to learn how microgravity affects their biochemical properties. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei serviced microbe samples growing inside a specialized incubator for the Space Biofilms study that could improve spacecraft safety and crew health.

In the station’s Russian segment, two cosmonauts, Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, packed gear and prepared for their return to Earth on March 30. Shkaplerov will lead the ride home flanked by Dubrov and Vande Hei inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship. Vande Hei surpassed NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s single spaceflight record of 340 days on March 15 and will land in Kazakhstan with a NASA record-breaking 355 days in space.

Related links:


Expedition 66:

Prichal module:

Kibo laboratory module:

Confocal Microscope:

Columbus laboratory module:

Biochemical properties:

Specialized incubator:

Space Biofilms:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,