samedi 2 avril 2022

Rocket Lab - Electron launches “Without Mission A Beat”


Rocket Lab - Electron / “Without Mission A Beat” Mission patch.

April 2, 2022

Electron launches “Without Mission A Beat”

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle launched the “Without Mission A Beat” mission, two BlackSky satellites, from Launch Complex 1 Pad A on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, on 2 April 2022, at 12:42 UTC (3 April, at 01:41 NZDT).

Electron launches “Without Mission A Beat”

The mission is Rocket Lab’s 25th Electron launch overall. The “Without Mission A Beat” launches from Launch Complex 1 Pad A carrying a pair of BlackSky rapid-revisit, high-resolution Earth-imaging satellites to low Earth orbit, which will expand BlackSky’s constellation to 14 satellites. Rocket Lab has delivered the majority of BlackSky’s constellation to orbit on Electron missions since 2019.

Rocket Lab:
Credits: Photos and video footage courtesy of Rocket Lab/SciNews/Image, Text Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 1 avril 2022

CERN - MoEDAL gets a new detector


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

April 1, 2022

The new detector, known as MAPP, will increase the physics reach of the MoEDAL experiment and the Large Hadron Collider

Image above: Installation of the support structure for the MAPP detector components. (Image: CERN).

The MoEDAL collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is adding a new detector to its experiment, in time for the start of the next run of the collider this coming summer. Named as the MoEDAL Apparatus for Penetrating Particles, or MAPP for short, the new detector will expand the physics scope of MoEDAL to include searches for minicharged particles and long-lived particles.

MoEDAL’s current portfolio of searches for new unknown particles includes searches for magnetic monopoles, theoretical particles with a magnetic charge, and dyons, theoretical particles with both magnetic and electric charge. These searches are conducted using two detector systems, one consisting of detectors that track particles and measure their charge, and another comprising detectors that trap particles for further investigation.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

Using these tracking and trapping detector systems, the MoEDAL team has chalked up several achievements, including narrowing the regions of where to look for point-like magnetic monopoles, the first search at a particle accelerator for dyons, and more recently the first search at a particle collider for Schwinger monopoles, which have a finite size.

The new MAPP detector, which is currently being installed in a tunnel adjacent to the LHC tunnel, consists of two main parts. One part, MAPP-mCP, will search for minicharged particles (mCP) – particles with a fractional charge as small as a thousandth of the electron’s charge – using scintillation bars. Another part of the detector, MAPP-LLP, will search for long-lived particles (LLP) employing so-called scintillator hodoscopes arranged in a ‘Russian doll’ configuration.

“MoEDAL-MAPP will allow us to explore many models of physics phenomena beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, in ways that are complementary to those of the other LHC detectors,” says MoEDAL spokesperson Jim Pinfold.


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

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

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

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):


Schwinger monopoles:

Standard Model:


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

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

Best regards,

Astronauts Relax after Busy March, Cosmonauts Get Used to Station Life


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

April 1, 2022

Four Expedition 67 astronauts, who have been aboard the International Space Station since November, kicked off the weekend with a light duty day today following a pair of spacewalks and a crew swap in March. The orbiting lab’s newest crewmates, three Flight Engineers from Roscosmos, stayed busy with their science and maintenance tasks.

March was a busy month in space that saw two spacewalks, the arrival of three new cosmonauts, and finally the departure of three crewmates officially ending Expedition 66. Three NASA astronauts and one ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut took a well-deserved break on Friday following the intense period aboard the orbiting lab.

Image above: Astronaut Matthias Maurer is pictured during a spacewalk on March 23, to install thermal gear and electronics components on the orbiting lab. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineers Kayla Barron and Raja Chari conducted the first spacewalk on March 15. Chari then joined ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer on March 23 for another spacewalk. The spacewalks were dedicated to preparing the space station for its third roll-out solar array and installing electronics and communications gear.

On March 18, the crew welcomed cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev, when they docked in their Soyuz MS-21 crew ship almost three-and-a-half hours after launching from Kazakhstan. Expedition 66 ended on March 30 when the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship undocked returning NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov back to Earth just four hours later.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

In the station Russian segment today, Artemyev and Matveev set up the Poisk module’s airlock for future spacewalk work planned for the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Korsakov worked in Zvezda service module performing preventative maintenance on the ventilation system. The cosmonauts also continued getting familiar with space station systems two weeks into their six-and-a-half-month mission.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Expedition 67:

Poisk module:

Nauka multipurpose 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,

What Sounds Captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover Reveal About Mars


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

April 1, 2022

A new study based on recordings made by the rover finds that the speed of sound is slower on the Red Planet than on Earth and that, mostly, a deep silence prevails.

Listen closely to sounds from Mars, recorded by NASA’s Perseverance: the rover’s mechanical whine and click in a light Martian wind; the whir of rotors on Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter; the crackling strike of a rock-zapping laser.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Puff, Whir, Zap Sounds from Mars

Video above: The ensemble of sounds in this video captured on Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover includes a dust removal tool for rock analysis, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, and the impact of a laser on rocks. A new study of some of those sounds, captured mostly by the rover’s SuperCam microphone during the first 216 Martian days of the mission, reveals how sound differs on Mars, including traveling slower than on Earth. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

An international team of scientists has done just that, performing the first analysis of acoustics on the Red Planet. Their new study reveals how fast sound travels through the extremely thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere, how Mars might sound to human ears, and how scientists can use audio recordings to probe subtle air-pressure changes on another world – and to gauge the health of the rover.

“It’s a new sense of investigation we’ve never used before on Mars,” said Sylvestre Maurice, an astrophysicist at the University of Toulouse in France and lead author of the study. “I expect many discoveries to come, using the atmosphere as a source of sound and the medium of propagation.”

Most of the sounds in the study, published April 1 in the journal Nature, were recorded using the microphone on Perseverance’s SuperCam, mounted on the head of the rover’s mast. The study also refers to sounds recorded by another microphone mounted on the chassis of the rover. This second microphone recently recorded the puffs and pings of the rover’s Gaseous Dust Removal Tool, or gDRT, which blows shavings off rocks that the rover has scraped in order to examine.

The result of the recordings: a new understanding of strange characteristics of the Martian atmosphere, where the speed of sound is slower than on Earth – and varies with pitch (or frequency). On Earth, sounds typically travel at 767 mph (343 meters per second). But on Mars, low-pitched sounds travel at about 537 mph (240 meters per second), while higher-pitched sounds move at 559 mph (250 meters per second).

The variable sound speeds on the Red Planet are an effect of the thin, cold, carbon dioxide atmosphere. Prior to the mission, scientists expected Mars’ atmosphere would influence sound speed, but the phenomenon had never been observed until these recordings were made. Another effect of this thin atmosphere: Sounds carry only a short distance, and higher-pitched tones carry hardly at all. On Earth, sound might drop off after about 213 feet (65 meters); on Mars, it falters at just 26 feet (8 meters), with high-pitched sounds being lost completely at that distance.

The recordings from SuperCam’s microphone also reveal previously unobserved pressure variations produced by turbulence in the Martian atmosphere as its energy changes at tiny scales. Martian wind gusts at very short timescales also were measured for the first time.

Hear What Familiar Earth Sounds Would Be Like on Mars:

One of the most striking features of the sound recordings, Maurice said, is the silence that seems to prevail on Mars. “At some point, we thought the microphone was broken, it was so quiet,” he added.

That, too, is a consequence of Mars having such a thin atmosphere.

“Mars is very quiet because of low atmospheric pressure,” said Baptiste Chide of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, also a coauthor of the study. “But the pressure changes with the seasons on Mars.”

That means, in the Martian autumn months to come, Mars might get noisier – and provide even more insights into its otherworldly air and weather.

“We are entering a high-pressure season,” Chide said. “Maybe the acoustic environment on Mars will be less quiet than it was when we landed.”

Image above: This illustration indicates the placement of Perseverance’s two microphones. The microphone on the mast is part of the SuperCam science instrument. The microphone on the side of the rover was intended to capture the sounds of entry, descent, and landing for public engagement. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Sounds of the Mission

The acoustic team also studied what the SuperCam microphone picked up from the spinning double rotors of Ingenuity, the Mars helicopter that is the rover’s traveling companion and aerial scout. Spinning at 2,500 revolutions per minute, the rotors produce “a distinctive, low-pitched sound at 84 hertz,” Maurice said, referring to the standard acoustic measure of vibrations per second and the rotation rate for both rotors.

On the other hand, when SuperCam’s laser, which vaporizes bits of rock from a distance to study their composition, strikes a target, it makes sparks that create a high-pitched noise above 2 kilohertz.

Studying sounds recorded by the rover’s microphones not only reveals details of the Martian atmosphere, but also helps scientists and engineers assess the health and operation of the rover’s many systems, just as one might notice a troubling noise when driving a car.

Meanwhile, the key instrument in the study, SuperCam’s microphone, continues to exceed expectations.

“The microphone is now used several times a day and performs extremely well; its overall performance is better than what we had modeled and even tested in a Mars-like environment on Earth,” says David Mimoun, professor at Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO) and lead of the team that developed the microphone experiment. “We could even record the humming of the Mars helicopter at long distance.”

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.

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

For more about Perseverance: and

Video (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 28, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

April 1, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of March 28 that included testing small satellite technology, monitoring the station’s air quality, and analyzing gene expression in cotton plants. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei departed the station on March 30, ending a record-breaking 355 days in space conducting scientific research.

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is shown outside the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after landing with Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov in a remote area in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Vande Hei logged 355 days in space, the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut. During the flight, he worked on hundreds of science experiments and technology demonstrations. 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:

Small satellites

Space Tango - Cubelab Satellite Demonstrator tests an attitude-control technology for small satellites that is energy efficient, lightweight, and not subject to wear and tear caused by friction. This technology could enhance the attitude maneuvering capabilities of small satellites in support of future space missions. This technology has potential in the design of next-generation instruments for space exploration such as telescopes, antennas, radiometers, and gravity-wave detectors. It also could help improve small satellite technology for Earth-based operations such as communications, weather monitoring, comet detection, and climate studies. Crew members activated the CubeSat, took photographs of operations, and then re-stowed it.

Analyzing air

Image above: This preflight image shows hardware for ANITA-2, an ESA investigation that will automatically monitor air quality aboard the space station while crew members go about their work. Image Credit: OHB System AG.

An investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), ANITA-2, uses a compact gas analyzer to automatically quantify 33 trace contaminants in the space station’s atmosphere. The device also can detect the presence of unknown substances that can be evaluated later on the ground. Monitoring atmospheres in closed environments such as spacecraft is essential for future human space exploration missions. The ANITA-2 technology also can be applied in environmental monitoring and monitoring air quality in closed environments on Earth, such as submarines. Crew members took air samples from assigned locations for chemical analysis during the week.

Cotton genes

Image above: NASA astronaut Kayla Barron works inside the Life Science Glovebox conducting Plant Habitat-05. This investigation explores genetic expression in cotton cultures to learn more about the process of plant regeneration and possibly improve crop production on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

The space station hosts a range of studies on growing plants in microgravity. This work could allow astronauts to grow some of their own food on future missions and support engineering of more hardy crops for people Earth. However, the way that commercial crops have been cultivated can make it difficult to engineer varieties with specific traits.  Plant Habitat-05 studies gene expression in certain cotton plant cells to better understand this resistance to genetic engineering and possibly identify ways to create specific qualities such as drought resistance. Results could provide insight into the genetic architecture of plant regeneration and expand use of the space station for similar plant research. This investigation also could support development of controlled conditions to improve growth of crop plants on Earth. The investigation is hosted in the station’s Advanced Plant Habitat. Crew members transferred samples to cold stowage during the week for later genetic analysis.

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.

- The ESA GRASP investigation examines how our central nervous system integrates information from different sensations such as sight and hearing to coordinate grasping an object. This investigation could provide insight into how the body adapts to microgravity and how to best treat the loss of vestibular function on Earth.

- For ESA’s CalliopEO, German school children write software to run experiments on a Calliope mini-computer aboard the space station. The experience helps motivate students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields and become the next generation of explorers.

- Veggie Monitoring collects microbial samples from the surface of the station’s Veggie plant production system. This investigation could help establish requirements that protect plant growth systems, plants, and crew from contamination on future long-duration missions.

- ESA’s Retinal Diagnostics tests a commercially available lens that attaches to a mobile device to capture images of astronauts’ retinas. Such a lightweight, non-invasive imaging device could provide a way to detect Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) to help protect astronauts from its effects and could be a useful telemedicine tool in space exploration and remote areas on Earth.

- ISS Ham Radio provides students, teachers, parents, and others the opportunity to communicate with astronauts using amateur 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.

- ESA’s FLUIDICS uses three liquid-filled spheres to observe and analyze sloshing and wave turbulence. A better understanding of liquid sloshing in a tank in microgravity could improve the guidance and precision of satellites and optimize lifetime of these craft through better fuel management.

Space to Ground: Shipping and Receiving: 02/25/2022

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Space Tango - Cubelab Satellite Demonstrator:


Plant Habitat-05:

Advanced Plant Habitat:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

SpaceX Transporter-4 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Transporter Mission patch.

April 1, 2022

SpaceX Transporter-4 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Transporter-4, SpaceX’s fourth dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission with 40 small spacecraft, from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on 1 April 2022, at 16:24 UTC (12:24 EDT).

SpaceX Transporter-4 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing

Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1061) previously supported six missions: Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE and one Starlink mission.

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


Webb Completes First Multi-Instrument Alignment


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

April 1, 2022

The sixth stage of aligning NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s mirrors to its scientific instruments so they will create the most accurate and focused images possible has concluded. While the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) continues its cooldown, optics teams have successfully aligned the rest of the observatory’s onboard instruments to Webb’s mirrors. Previous alignment efforts were so accurate that the team concluded no additional adjustments to the secondary mirror are necessary until the seventh and final stage, which will involve MIRI when it has fully cooled.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

“As a general rule, the commissioning process starts with coarse corrections and then moves into fine corrections. The early secondary mirror coarse corrections, however, were so successful that the fine corrections in the first iteration of Phase Six were unnecessary,” said Chanda Walker, Webb wavefront sensing and control scientist, Ball Aerospace. “This accomplishment was due to many years of planning and great teamwork among the wavefront sensing team.”

Throughout the majority of the alignment process, Webb’s 18 hexagonal mirrors and secondary mirror were focused into alignment to the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument only. Upon completing this most recent step, the observatory is now aligned to the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), the Near-Infrared Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), and the Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec) as well as NIRCam.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) light path. Animation Credit: NASA

Once MIRI fully cools to its cryogenic operating temperature in the weeks ahead, a second multi-instrument alignment will occur to make final adjustments to the instruments and mirrors if needed. When the telescope is fully aligned and able to deliver focused light to each instrument, a key decision meeting will occur to confirm the end of aligning the James Webb Space Telescope. The team will then transition from alignment efforts to commissioning each instrument for scientific operations, which are expected to begin this summer.

Related links:

Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI):

Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam):

Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS):

Near-Infrared Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS):

Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRSpec):

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Thaddeus Cesari.


jeudi 31 mars 2022

Expedition 67 Begins and Stays Focused on Human Research


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

March 31, 2022

Expedition 67 is officially underway following Wednesday’s undocking of three International Space Station crew members. Meanwhile, the seven orbital residents had a full schedule of human research and lab maintenance tasks on Thursday.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Houston today following his landing in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 7:28 a.m. EDT with cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio undocked from the station’s Rassvet module in their Soyuz MS-19 crew ship just over four hours earlier officially ending the Expedition 66 mission.

Image above: The seven-member Expedition 67 crew with (top from left) astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and (bottom from left) cosmonauts Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev, and Denis Matveev. Image Credit: NASA.

The station’s new commander, NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, assumed command of the station from Shkaplerov the day before and will lead Expedition 67 until his departure. He started his day turning on the Astrobee robotic free flyers to capture video imagery inside the station. He also joined his SpaceX Dragon crewmates, astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron of NASA, and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency), for a conference with mission managers on the ground. The quartet also called down to the SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts slated to join them in late April.

Chari was in charge of eye checks today as he scanned the eyes of Marshburn and Maurer using medical imaging gear. Chari also partnered with Barron and studied how the central nervous system adapts to the lack of traditional up and down cues in microgravity. Maurer spent the afternoon configuring and monitoring the Astrobee robotic helpers to explore their ability to conduct autonomous maintenance tasks.

Astrobee. Animation Credit: NASA

Three cosmonauts are continuing to get up to speed with life in space while working on their array of science and lab upkeep tasks. Veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev unpacked cargo from inside the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and serviced hardware in the station’s Russian segment. First time space-flyers Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev spent the day maintaining a variety of communications and ventilation gear while getting familiar with space station systems.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Rassvet module:


Central nervous system:

Autonomous maintenance tasks:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne Complete Testing for Modernized RS-25 Engine


NASA - Space Launch System (SLS) logo.

March 31, 2022

NASA completed developmental engine testing March 30 with a full-duration RS-25 hot fire, to support future engines that will launch Space Launch System (SLS) astronauts deeper into space than ever.

Operators fired RS-25 engine No. 0525 for about eight-and-a-half minutes (500 seconds) and up to 111% power level on the Fred Haise Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The March 30 hot fire completed the fourth developmental test series and sets Aerojet Rocketdyne, lead contractor for NASA’s SLS engines, on pace to produce new RS-25s for future use.

Image above: NASA conducts a full-duration RS-25 engine test on the Fred Haise Test Stand at Stennis Space Center on March 30. The hot fire marked completion of developmental testing as lead contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne prepares to manufacture new RS-25 engines for use on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. Image Credits: NASA/SSC.

“We’ve conducted a total of 25 tests during this remarkable development test program to modernize manufacturing, on-ramp additive manufacturing, and reduce cost of the RS-25 engines for the Space Launch System,” said Johnny Heflin, manager for the SLS Liquid Engines Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “These tests are helping us ensure the success of not only the upcoming flight of Artemis I but also of future missions that will lead to long-term exploration of the Moon.

NASA is building SLS to return humans, including the first woman and the first person of color, to the Moon as part of Artemis and to power future missions to Mars. Four RS-25 engines will help launch SLS missions. The first four missions, including the upcoming uncrewed Artemis I flight test to the Moon, will use modified space shuttle main engines, all of which have been tested for flight.

For future SLS missions beyond the first four, Aerojet Rocketdyne is modernizing production of new RS-25 engines, while also reducing costs by 30 percent. The new engines will include components manufactured with state-of-the-art fabrication techniques, such as additive manufacturing or 3D printing. These new components have been tested during the developmental series completed at Stennis today.

Images Credits: NASA/SSC

“As we modernize the engines, we need to ensure that they are as robust and as reliable as the original space shuttle engines,” said Jeff Zotti, Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 program director. “We ran the new components under the same conditions and profiles they will see during flight to ensure the engines perform as they should. This was the last step before we combine all the new, more affordable components and existing heritage components into our design certification engine.”

This latest test series concludes a thorough testing campaign for NASA and its engine contractor. The agency conducted an initial series of 18 RS-25 hot fires as Aerojet Rocketdyne completed modifications to adapt the existing space shuttle main engines needed for early SLS missions. This included tests of two RS-25 flight engines.

SLS RS-25 Engine Test, 30 March 2022

Four test series, using a pair of RS-25 developmental engines, followed the initial adaptation hot fires:

- The first series included four hot fire tests of RS-25 engine No. 0528 for a total of 1,390 seconds. Operators fired the engine at 111% of the original space shuttle main engine power level, the same level new RS-25 engines will need to help launch SLS. They also reached the 113% power level for the first time during the series, demonstrating a margin of operational safety. The series included tests of three new engine controllers, which work as the RS-25 “brain” to help the engine communicate with the SLS rocket, as well as a 3D-printed pogo accumulator assembly. Aerojet Rocketdyne also demonstrated use of a new ablative material designed to help protect RS-25 nozzles.

- A second series featured nine successful hot fires of engine No. 0525 for a total of 4,016 seconds. Operators fired the engine at 113% power level for a total of 628 seconds during the series. The series featured tests of nine new engine controllers and several new engine components, including a main combustion chamber fabricated using a hot isostatic pressure bonding technique. The series also demonstrated various new engine operation procedures.

- The third developmental series included seven hot fires of RS-25 engine No. 0528 for a cumulative 3,650 seconds. The series continued testing of new engine components and featured a pair of gimbal tests. Gimbaling involves pointing the engine nozzle in the direction needed to steer the rocket during flight.

- The latest series involved five hot fire tests of RS-25 developmental engine No. 0525 for a total of 2,500 seconds. The series featured a new low-pressure fuel turbopump, flex ducts, restart sensors and ignition components, as well as 3D-printed valves and rigid ducts not previously tested. Fifty percent of the new 3D-printed components to be used on the new RS-25 engines were tested in the series. Other 3D-printed components are located on the new engine nozzle and will be validated during certification testing later this summer.

“This latest hot fire closes a great chapter in Stennis testing history,” said Chip Ellis, Stennis RS-25 test project manager. “Completion of the retrofit series could not have occurred without the dedicated, highly skilled workforce at Stennis Space Center. The test team has done an outstanding job getting us through this development period, and we look forward to continuing to test engines that will fly on SLS missions.”  

With developmental testing completed, NASA plans to begin a series of 12 hot fires this summer on an RS-25 certification engine that is the identical design to future engines being manufactured for flight. It will feature all of the new components, including a new nozzle, in final flight configuration. A follow-up series of 12 tests will be conducted on RS-25 engine No. 0525, once it is modified with new components in final flight configuration as well. The dual series will demonstrate the new engine design is ready to fly.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is under contract to produce 24 new RS-25 engines using the updated design to support future Artemis missions beginning with Artemis V.

Launch Abort Motor Test for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft

Video above: A new hot fire test of the Launch Abort Motor for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft was conducted at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah, on 31 March 2022, at 18:55 UTC (12:55 MDT). This was the third and final qualification test for the Launch Abort Motor, an integral part of the Launch Abort System for NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Video Credits: NASA/Northrop Grumman.

RS-25 tests at Stennis are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.

For information about NASA Stennis Space Center, visit:

Related links:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Artemis I:

Stennis Space Center (SSC):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/LaToya Dean/SSC/C. Lacy Thompson/NASA TV/SciNews.


On the road to cultured meat for astronauts (and Earthlings)


ESA - European Space Agency emblem.

March 31, 2022

Cultured meat could be a game changer for the environment, food security, human health and animal welfare. But some challenges prevent it from reaching its full potential. Now ESA is supporting researchers to explore the possibility of growing cultured meat to feed astronauts. Overcoming the challenges of growing meat in space could also help us find solutions to produce it sustainably and effectively on Earth.

Cultured meat as novel space food

The idea of feeding astronauts on long-duration missions with cultured meat was initially proposed by ESA engineer Paolo Corradi.

Paolo explains: "For long-term human exploration missions far from Earth, we would need to transport a large amount of long-shelf-life food. This comes with the risk of food becoming degraded over time or even lost, which would significantly limit the degree of self-sustainability and resilience of the mission."

"So, if we want to succeed in long-term human exploration far from Earth, we need to rethink our current approach to astronaut nutrition and provide the means to efficiently produce food on board, possibly integrated within the regenerative life support system," continues ESA environment control and life support engineer, Christel Paille, who is working with Paolo on this activity.

Cultured meat for long-term space missions

"And, of course, the conventional production of animal-based food, as meat, in space would be unthinkable," concludes Paolo.

Industry and academia were invited to apply for funding from the Discovery element of ESA's Basic Activities to develop the concept further.

Two teams were selected to work in parallel; one is composed of young German company yuri and Reutlingen University, and the other of UK companies Kayser Space, Cellular Agriculture and Campden BRI.

Paolo is overseeing the projects on behalf of ESA. He explains how they will proceed: "First, the teams will analyse and compare the nutritional value and potential benefits of cultured meat products with those of protein food alternatives for space applications. Then they will establish a set of requirements for growing meat in space based on the nutritional guidelines for astronauts and selected future human spaceflight missions."

Image above: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst installs a new life support system on the International Space Station (ISS).

In this second step, the teams will be supported by ESA experts in astronaut nutrition and human spaceflight. This is one example of how this research will involve cooperation between different ESA groups and experts, including the Space Medicine team and Columbus laboratory engineers.

"Finally, the teams will come up with a preliminary design for a cultured meat production system for space applications, assessing its feasibility and analysing its performance," adds Paolo. "They will compare the system with other potential onboard systems for protein food production, and with the current approach which involves food supplies being transported from Earth. They will also assess the potential commercial interest for a promotional demonstrator for both space and ground applications."

Daniela Bezdan, chief science officer of yuri, explains the benefits of this project: "The research activities of our project team on cultured meat were so far exclusively focused on applications on Earth. This project will widen our focus and allow us to transfer elements of our existing work to space applications in follow-up projects. In addition, the results of the study will help draw our attention and research efforts to the most crucial issues regarding the feasibility of cultured meat production."

Image above: We already grow plants on the ISS – here ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet cares for chilli peppers.

Kayser Space's programme manager Ramón Nartallo adds: "This project provides us with the opportunity to consider the challenges of life support systems operating beyond low-Earth orbit, in long-duration space missions and different gravity environments. It will also help Cellular Agriculture to deliver a first bioprocess design to enable high-quality protein production, and Campden BRI to develop their knowledge in an exciting emerging field."

Meat production is the cause of environmental problems, facilitates potential pandemic diseases, and causes suffering to billions of animals every year. And with the global population growing and the demand for meat increasing, conventional meat production will become more and more unsustainable.

Cultured meat could make conventional meat a thing of the past, but more research into the production technology is needed. By investigating how cultured meat could be produced in space, where resources are very limited, this research could help advance the technology needed to grow cultured meat more efficiently on Earth.

ESA and the Sustainable Development Goals

This contribution to a much-needed food production revolution on Earth fits in with ESA's commitment to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

Related links:

Cultured meat:

Reutlingen University:

Kayser Space:

Cellular Agriculture:

Campden BRI:

Space Medicine:

Columbus laboratory:

Sustainable Development Goals:

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

Best regards,

Blue Origin Successfully Completes Fourth Human Spaceflight


Blue Origin - New Shepard / Mission NS-20 patch.

March 31, 2022

Today, Blue Origin successfully completed its fourth human spaceflight and 20th overall flight for New Shepard. The passenger manifest included: Marty Allen, Sharon Hagle, Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, Gary Lai, and Dr. George Nield.

Image above: The crew of New Shepard NS-20. Pictured from left to right: Gary Lai, Jim Kitchen, Marty Allen, Sharon Hagle, Marc Hagle, and Dr. George Nield.

“Congratulations to our astronauts on today’s mission above the Kármán Line,” said Phil Joyce, Senior Vice President of New Shepard for Blue Origin. “We had the honor of safely flying this crew of six – each person with their own story of mentorship and passion for human spaceflight. We’re looking forward to many more flights this year, and we’re grateful to our astronaut customers for their trust in this amazing team.”

Blue Origin NS-20: New Shepard launch and landing

Blue Origin is planning more crewed and payload flights throughout 2022 and beyond. If you are interested in flying on New Shepard, visit Blue Origin's website.

Blue Origin:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: Blue Origin/SciNews.


mercredi 30 mars 2022

Martian brain freeze


ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

March 30, 2022

New views from ESA’s Mars Express reveal fascinating ice-related features in Mars’ Utopia region – home to the largest known impact basin not only on the Red Planet, but in the Solar System.

Utopia Planitia on Mars

Utopia is one of three major basins in Mars’ northern hemisphere (along with Acidalia and Arcadia) and has a diameter of roughly 3 300 km: just under twice the north-south size of Earth’s Sahara Desert.

This image shows a slice of Utopia Planitia, the plain that fills this colossal and ancient basin.

Utopia Planitia in context

This plain is thought to have formed as the Utopia basin was filled by a mix of sediments, lavas and volatile substances (those that vaporise easily, such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and water), all transported across the martian surface by water, wind or other processes.

Layers of ice

Utopia Planitia is an intriguing and ice-rich region; ice has been spotted lying both at and just below the surface, and at greater depths (detected via observations of fresh craters and pits, and by probing Mars’ deeper layers using radar).

Visible to the left and right of this scene are large, smooth patches of surface known as ‘mantled deposits’. These are thick layers of ice- and dust-rich material that have smoothed the surface and were likely deposited as snow back when Mars’ rotational axis was much more tilted than it is today (as was last the case some 10 million years ago).

Topography of Utopia Planitia

Moving back towards image centre, the two largest impact craters visible here are surrounded by double-layered mounds of material. A similarly layered appearance is also visible in the deposits that have built up within the craters themselves, and in the craters’ thick rims.

Brain terrain

These craters are more interesting still. The second-largest crater in this image (just below-left of centre) showcases a texture known as ‘brain terrain’, where material has become deformed and warped in a concentric pattern that resembles the complex patterns and ridges found on the surface of the human brain.

Brain terrain is associated with the icy material found near the boundary between Mars’ northern plains and its southern highlands, a ‘dichotomy’ located to the south/south-west (upper left) of this scene.

Second perspective view of Utopia Planitia

Just to the right of the brain-textured crater is an especially dark-coloured region, created as the ice-rich ground contracted and cracked at low temperatures. This formed polygonal patterns and fractures that subsequently captured dark dust blown across Mars by wind, leading to the dark appearance seen here.

Additionally, scalloped depressions are omnipresent throughout this image. These have circular to elliptical shapes, depths of several tens of metres, and sizes varying from tens to thousands of metres across.

These features are the result of ground ice either melting or turning to gas, which then causes the surface to weaken and collapse. Upon closer look, layered mantled deposits can also be seen in and around these scalloped depressions.

Perspective view of Utopia Planitia

Just to the right of the brain-textured crater is an especially dark-coloured region, created as the ice-rich ground contracted and cracked at low temperatures. This formed polygonal patterns and fractures that subsequently captured dark dust blown across Mars by wind, leading to the dark appearance seen here.

Additionally, scalloped depressions are omnipresent throughout this image. These have circular to elliptical shapes, depths of several tens of metres, and sizes varying from tens to thousands of metres across.

Mars Express

These features are the result of ground ice either melting or turning to gas, which then causes the surface to weaken and collapse. Upon closer look, layered mantled deposits can also be seen in and around these scalloped depressions.

A diverse surface

Mars Express has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, imaging Mars’ surface, mapping its minerals, identifying the composition and circulation of its tenuous atmosphere, probing beneath its crust, and exploring how various phenomena interact in the martian environment.

Utopia Planitia in 3D

The mission’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), responsible for these latest images, has revealed much about Mars’ diverse surface features, with recent image releases showing everything from wind-sculpted ridges and grooves to geologically rich regions filled with volcanoes, impact craters, tectonic faults, river channels and ancient lava pools. The camera has also captured other views of Utopia Planitia, such as a snapshot of Adamas Labyrinthus.

Related link:

Mars Express:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Team.

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-11 launches Tianping-2A, Tianping-2B and Tianping-2C


CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

March 30, 2022

Long March-11 carrying Tianping-2A, Tianping-2B and Tianping-2C liftoff

A Long March-11 launch vehicle launched three satellites, Tianping-2A, Tianping-2B and Tianping-2C, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 30 March 2022, at 02:29 UTC (10:29 local time).

Long March-11 launches Tianping-2A, Tianping-2B and Tianping-2C

According to official sources, Tianping-2A, Tianping-2B and Tianping-2C (天平二号A, B, C) have entered their planned orbits and will provide services such as “atmospheric space environment survey and orbital prediction model correction”.

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

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


A Record Broken: Hubble Finds the Most Distant Star Ever Seen


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

March 30, 2022

Hubble Finds the Most Distant Star Ever Seen

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has established an extraordinary new benchmark: detecting the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the Universe’s birth in the Big Bang (at a redshift of 6.2) — the most distant individual star ever seen. This sets up a major target for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope in its first year

This find is a huge leap back in time compared to the previous single-star record holder; detected by Hubble in 2018. That star existed when the universe was about 4 billion years old, or 30 percent of its current age, at a time that astronomers refer to as “redshift 1.5.” Scientists use the word “redshift” because as the Universe expands, light from distant objects is stretched or “shifted” to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels toward us.

But the newly detected star is so far away that its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, appearing to us as it did when the universe was only 7 percent of its current age, at redshift 6.2. The smallest objects previously seen at such a great distance are clusters of stars, embedded inside early galaxies.

“We almost didn’t believe it at first, it was so much farther than the previous most distant, highest redshift star,” said astronomer Brian Welch of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of the paper describing the discovery, which is published in the journal Nature. The discovery was made from data collected during Hubble’s RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey) program, led by co-author Dan Coe at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).

The Sunrise Arc Galaxy with Lensed Star Earendel (Annotated)

“Normally at these distances, entire galaxies look like small smudges, the light from millions of stars blending together,” said Welch. “The galaxy hosting this star has been magnified and distorted by gravitational lensing into a long crescent that we named the Sunrise Arc.” After studying the galaxy in detail, Welch determined that one feature is an extremely magnified star that he called Earendel, which means “morning star” in Old English. The discovery holds the promise of opening up an uncharted era of very early star formation.

“Earendel existed so long ago that it may not have had all the same raw materials as the stars around us today,” Welch explained. “Studying Earendel will be a window onto an era of the Universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know. It’s like we’ve been reading a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we will have a chance to see how it all got started,” Welch said.

“There’s a long-standing theoretical prediction that stars that form solely out of the elements that were forged shortly after the Big Bang — hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium — should be more massive than the stars that form today,” added team member Erik Zackrisson, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University in Sweden. “These primordial stars, known as Population III stars, have so far eluded observers, but could be rendered detectable if subject to very high magnification by gravitational lensing, as in the case of the Earendel object.”

The research team estimates that Earendel is at least 50 times the mass of our Sun and millions of times as bright, rivalling the most massive stars known. But even such a brilliant, very high-mass star would be impossible to see at such a great distance without the aid of natural magnification by a huge galaxy cluster, in this case known as WHL0137-08, sitting between us and Earendel. The mass of the galaxy cluster warps the fabric of space, creating a powerful natural magnifying glass that distorts and greatly amplifies the light from distant objects behind it.

Thanks to the rare alignment with the magnifying galaxy cluster, the star Earendel appears directly on, or extremely close to, a ripple in the fabric of space. This ripple, which is known in optics as a “caustic,” provides maximum magnification and brightening. The effect is analogous to the rippled surface of a swimming pool creating patterns of bright light on the bottom of the pool on a sunny day. The ripples on the surface act as lenses and focus sunlight to maximum brightness on the pool floor.

This caustic causes the star Earendel to pop out from the general glow of its home galaxy. Its brightness is magnified a thousandfold or more. At this point astronomers are not able to determine whether Earendel is a binary star, but most massive stars do have at least one smaller companion star.

Astronomers expect that Earendel will remain highly magnified for years to come. It will be observed by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope [1]  later in 2022 [2]. Webb’s high sensitivity to infrared light is needed to learn more about Earendel, because its light is stretched (redshifted) to longer infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the Universe.

Space Sparks Episode 10: Hubble Finds the Most Distant Star Ever Seen

“Webb’s images and spectra will allow us to confirm that Earendel is indeed a star, and to constrain its age, temperature, mass and radius,” explained team member Jose Maria Diego of the Instituto de Física de Cantabria in Spain. “Combining observations from Hubble and Webb will allow us to also learn about microlenses in the galaxy cluster, which could include exotic objects like primordial black holes.”

Earendel’s composition will be of great interest to astronomers, because it formed before the Universe was filled with the heavy elements produced by successive generations of massive stars. If follow-up studies find that Earendel is only made of primordial hydrogen and helium, it would be the first evidence for the legendary Population III stars, which are hypothesised to be the very first stars to form after the Big Bang. While the probability is small, Welch admits it is enticing all the same.

“With Webb, we may see stars even more distant than Earendel, which would be incredibly exciting,” Welch said. “We’ll go as far back as we can. I would love to see Webb break Earendel’s distance record.”


[1] Launched in December 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, Webb is designed and built to offer scientists the capabilities needed to push the frontiers of knowledge in many areas of astronomy. This includes research on our own Solar System, the formation of stars and planets (including planets outside our Solar System — exoplanets), and on how galaxies are formed and evolve, in ways never before possible. The James Webb Space Telescope is an international project led by NASA in partnership with ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

[2] Earendel will be observed with the James Webb Space Telescope as part of the observing programme #2282.

More information:

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

The international team of astronomers who carried out this study consists of B. Welch, D. Coe, J. M. Diego, A. Zitrin, E. Zackrisson, P. Dimauro, Y. Jimenez-Teja, P. Kelly, G. Mahler, M. Oguri, F. X. Timmes, R. Windhorst, M. Florian, S. E. de Mink, R. J. Avila, J. Anderson, L. Bradley, K. Sharon, A. Vikaeus, S. McCandliss, M. Bradac, J. Rigby, B. Frye, S. Toft, V. Strait, M. Trenti, S. Sharma. F. Andrade-Santos, T. Broadhurst.



Images of Hubble:

Hubblesite release:

NASA release:

Science paper:

Images Credits: NASA, ESA, B. Welch (JHU), D. Coe (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI)/Video Credits: Directed by: Bethany Downer and Nico Bartmann/Editing: Nico Bartmann/Web and technical support: Enciso Systems/Written by: Bethany Downer/Music: STAN DART - The Tower of Darkness/Footage and photos: ESA/Hubble, ESA, NASA.

Best regards,