vendredi 8 juillet 2022

Space Manufacturing, Spacewalk Preps Wrap up Workweek


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 8, 2022

Artificial intelligence, hearing tests, and a microscope setup topped the research agenda aboard the International Space Station on Friday. The seven Expedition 67 crew members also divided their day with ongoing spacewalk preparations, training video recording, and orbital plumbing duties.

The astronauts have been exploring space manufacturing techniques to take advantage of the weightless environment that could advance the production and output of Earth and space industries. The current Intelligent Glass Optics study investigates using artificial intelligence as a way to adapt Earth-bound manufacturing processes for microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins opened up the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) on Friday swapping samples of fiber optic cable for the experiment. NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA then monitored an experiment run drawing fiber inside the MSG for the study potentially benefitting the communications, aerospace, medicine, and astronomy fields.

Image above: Expedition 67 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren checks airflow and water absorption capabilities on spacesuit components at the maintenance work area inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module on May 20, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

Watkins then partnered with NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines and filmed station training videos to familiarize future astronauts with life on orbit. Hines later performed pressure checks on a U.S. spacesuit jet pack as part of regularly scheduled maintenance. The jet pack, also known as SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), provides a spacewalker the ability to return to the station in the unlikely event they become untethered from their worksite.

A major characteristic of life on the space station is the continuously operating gear such as thermal, electronics, and life support systems. The Acoustic Diagnostics study is exploring whether station equipment noise levels and the microgravity environment may create possible adverse effects on astronaut hearing. Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Lindgren both participated in that study today wearing acoustic monitors that measure station sound levels. The acoustic data will help researchers understand the station’s sound environment and may inform countermeasures to protect crew hearing.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Lindgren also continued setting up a specialized microscope that uses spatial filtering techniques to observe cellular and tissue structures inside the Kibo laboratory module. Cristoforetti wrapped up her day working on fluid transfer tasks in the Harmony and Tranquility modules.

Station Commander Oleg Artemyev continued preparing for a spacewalk that he and Cristoforetti will conduct to outfit the European robotic arm attached to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. He joined Flight Engineer Denis Matveev gathering Orlan spacesuit components and other spacewalking gear ahead of the excursion planned for 10 a.m. EDT on July 21. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov explored advanced Earth photography techniques then spent the rest of the day on plumbing tasks and ventilation maintenance.

Related article:

Microgravity Science Glovebox Celebrates 20 Years of Success

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Intelligent Glass Optics:

Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG):

Acoustic Diagnostics:

Specialized microscope:

Kibo laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Tranquility module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of July 4, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

Jul 8, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of July 4 that included testing a device to monitor spacecraft air quality, studying how microgravity affects a person’s grip and arm movements, and assessing possible adverse effects of space station noise on hearing.

Image above: NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren snapped this photo out of the space station’s Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) of the Euphrates River below. Image Credit: NASA.

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

The air we breathe

Maintaining air quality in crewed spacecraft is an important part of keeping astronauts healthy and comfortable. Existing requirements cover maximum allowable concentrations of particulate matter, but currently there is no way to measure whether these requirements are met. The Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument for measuring and quantifying the concentration of both small and large particles in spacecraft air. Researchers plan to create a map of air quality in terms of particles, which could shed light on the sources of such particles. The data also could provide insight into the efficiency of current filtration systems and support design of better hardware for environmental monitoring of vehicles and habitats on future space missions. The ability to count particles also may be useful in future space-based research on aerosol particles or droplets. The technology has applications in environmental monitoring and air pollution studies on Earth as well. During the week, crew members conducted runs of the experiment and downlinked data to the ground.

May the (grip) force be with you

Animation above: NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins performs a session for the ESA (European Space Agency) GRIP experiment. GRIP studies how spaceflight affects a person’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and movement of upper limbs when manipulating objects. Image Credit: NASA.

An investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), GRIP studies how spaceflight affects someone’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and movement of upper limbs when manipulating objects. These abilities evolved in Earth’s gravity and must adapt to the unique conditions of microgravity. Data could help identify potential hazards for astronauts as they move between gravitational environments and contribute to the design and control of interfaces used on future exploration missions. This research also could contribute to a better understanding of how the human nervous system controls movement on the ground. Crew members conducted sessions for the study during the week.

Now hear this

Acoustic Diagnostics, an investigation from ESA, tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess possible adverse effects of noise and microgravity aboard the space station. Researchers compare otoacoustic emissions (OAEs), or sounds naturally generated from within the inner ear, and hearing loss from exposure to noisy environments. A noisy environment can interfere with routine hearing test results, and using OAEs as the investigation technique could avoid this problem. The advanced technology developed for this project also could improve diagnostic power and reduce the time required for OAE-based tests. Such advances may encourage more widespread use of this diagnostic tool for applications in occupational health on Earth. Crew members collected measurements during the week and downlinked results to the ground.

Other investigations involving the crew:

Animation above: Trash is deployed from the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock on Saturday, July 2. The approximately 172 pounds of waste contained packing materials, dirty crew clothing, and used office supplies. Image Credit: NASA.

- The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is the first-ever commercially owned and operated airlock on the International Space Station. The crew worked this past week reinstalling hardware and stowing cargo inside Bishop following its trash disposal and robotic maneuvers last weekend.

- SAMS-II, an ESA investigation, is an ongoing study of the small forces such as vibrations and accelerations on the space station caused by operation of hardware, crew activities, dockings, and maneuvering. The data help indicate whether these forces affect scientific research, crew, and equipment. Understanding the vibration environment can help researchers develop ways to minimize disturbances and even design experiments around the vibration environment.

- ESA Biofilms studies formation of bacterial biofilms and the antimicrobial properties of different surfaces in microgravity. Results could support the development of suitable antimicrobial surfaces for spaceflight and for applications on Earth such as in health care, food production, marine antifouling, and more.

- XROOTS uses hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants without traditional growth media, which could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration.

- 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.

The space station is a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools. Over more than two decades of continuous operation, it has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The orbiting lab conveys benefits to future space exploration, advances basic and applied research on Earth, and provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit.

Space to Ground: Cargo Countdown: 07/08/2022

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM):

GRIP studies:

Acoustic Diagnostics:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animations (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 67.

Best regards,

Hubble Spots a Merging Galactic Gem


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jul 8, 2022

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observation has captured the galaxy CGCG 396-2, an unusual multi-armed galaxy merger which lies around 520 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Orion.

This observation is a gem from the Galaxy Zoo project, a citizen science project involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world who classified galaxies to help scientists solve a problem of astronomical proportions: how to sort through the vast amounts of data generated by telescopes. A public vote selected the most astronomically intriguing objects for follow-up observations with Hubble. CGCG 396-2 is one such object, imaged here by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

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, W. Keel.


Microgravity Science Glovebox Celebrates 20 Years of Success


ISS - Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) patch.

July 8, 2022

Thinking outside the box propels many NASA innovations for missions exploring space and improving life on Earth. But thinking – or working – inside the box makes scientific discoveries possible aboard the International Space Station.

The box is the Microgravity Science Glovebox, or MSG, which celebrated its 20th anniversary aboard the space station July 8. Managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the unique lab is designed to closely simulate working conditions on the ground.

Image above: NASA astronaut Victor Glover works with a payload inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox aboard the International Space Station in 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

Since MSG's installation, space station crews and scientists around the globe have conducted 63 experiments, many operating multiple times. The glovebox has accumulated 70,000 hours of operational time.

“MSG is like a workhorse, a tank,” said Chris Butler, payload integration manager for the glovebox at Marshall, who has worked with the hardware since before it was launched to the space station in 2002. “We’re 10 years past its expected life expectancy, and it’s been certified through 2030.”

MSG is a sealed facility that provides an enclosed space for investigations conducted in the low-gravity, or microgravity, environment created on the space station. The glovebox offers a safe environment for the crew to conduct research with liquids, flames, and particles used as a part of everyday research on Earth. The glovebox features two levels of containment to protect crew members as they conduct investigations 250 miles above Earth. It contains any leaks, and an air filtration system captures aerosols and other potentially harmful particles.

The European Space Agency, or ESA, developed MSG in a joint venture with NASA. The glovebox is roughly 3 feet wide and 2 feet high, with a 9-cubic-foot workspace where crew members use built-in glove ports to safely manipulate research elements. Its integrated power, data acquisition, and communications systems permit researchers to pursue small and midsized investigations in the areas of fluid physics, combustion science, biotechnology, materials science, and more. Crews are trained to operate MSG at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Marshall team oversees all payloads from its Payload Operations Integration Center.

The protection of MSG allows scientists to explore the effects of microgravity in the fields of physical and biological science, making it central hardware for hands-on research. Crews can view their work from a large acrylic window and a camera inside the glovebox makes it possible for scientists on Earth to watch experiments as they are performed.

Image above: A 2016 group photo of the Microgravity Science Glovebox team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Image Credit: NASA.

Space station partners have also commissioned a second dedicated facility, the Life Sciences Glovebox, to ease demand. Marshall also manages the Life Sciences Glovebox, which was built specifically for biological research and installed on the space station in 2018.

The MSG Project Office at Marshall was responsible for technical oversight of ESA’s development effort. NASA handed over management of MSG to the Marshall team after its delivery to the space station. A glovebox at Marshall permits the testing of materials and the evaluation of safety threats before crews conduct experiments in microgravity.

Phillip Bryant, lead test systems engineer for the Marshall team, has worked with the MSG from the development stages, having spent several months in Europe during design and testing. He serves as an around-the-clock resource to answer questions for issues that might arise with the glovebox. Bryant says the 20-year anniversary is more than just a number for him. “I worked with the gloveboxes all the way through development and verifications, and I support all the safety reviews and any issues in orbit,” Bryant said. “These are my babies.”

Future experiments with MSG include studies in fiberoptics, combustion, fluid flow, and semiconductor growth. Scientific investigations on the space station are also crucial as NASA prepares to return human explorers to the Moon and journey on to Mars.

The Human Exploration Development and Operations Office at Marshall held a celebration July 8, commemorating the 20th anniversary of MSG. The anniversary comes less than a month after NASA recognized another extraordinary milestone of a project Marshall manages. EXPRESS Racks – properly known as “EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station” multipurpose payload shelving units – reached 1 million hours of cumulative service on the space station June 14. The racks were developed, built, and tested at Marshall.

Image above: European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti works with the Microgravity Science Glovebox aboard the International Space Station in 2014. Image Credit: NASA.

Ginger Flores, director of Marshall’s Human Exploration Development and Operations Office at Marshall, said the center’s involvement with MSG enables research from scientists that might not have been possible otherwise.

“The project team at Marshall has been responsible for integrating all of the experiments into MSG since 2002,” Flores said, who is also a former MSG project manager. “This is important science for future space exploration and to make life better on Earth. Its success story is a direct result of the decades of dedication of this team.”

More information about the Microgravity Science Glovebox is available online:

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

Related link:


Related articles:

NASA EXPRESS Racks Achieve 1 Million Hours of Service on Space Station

Last of NASA’s Vital, Versatile Science ‘EXPRESS Racks’ Heads to Space Station

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon/Marshall Space Flight Center/Lance D. Davis/By Wayne Smith.

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NASA Helps Decipher How Some Distant Planets Have Clouds of Sand


NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

July 8, 2022

A new study using archival observations by the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope found a common trait among distant worlds where the exotic clouds form.

Image above: Brown dwarfs – celestial objects that fall between stars and planets – are shown in this illustration with a range of temperatures, from hottest (left) to coldest (right). The two in the middle represent those in the right temperature range for clouds made of silicates to form. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Most clouds on Earth are made of water, but beyond our planet they come in many chemical varieties. The top of Jupiter’s atmosphere, for example, is blanketed in yellow-hued clouds made of ammonia and ammonium hydrosulfide. And on worlds outside our solar system, there are clouds composed of silicates, the family of rock-forming minerals that make up over 90% of Earth’s crust. But researchers haven’t been able to observe the conditions under which these clouds of small dust grains form.

A new study appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society provides some insight: The research reveals the temperature range at which silicate clouds can form and are visible at the top of a distant planet’s atmosphere. The finding was derived from observations by NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope of brown dwarfs – celestial bodies that fall in between planets and stars – but it fits into a more general understanding of how planetary atmospheres work.

“Understanding the atmospheres of brown dwarfs and planets where silicate clouds can form can also help us understand what we would see in the atmosphere of a planet that’s closer in size and temperature to Earth,” said Stanimir Metchev, a professor of exoplanet studies at Western University in London, Ontario, and co-author of the study.

Cloudy Chemistry

The steps to make any type of cloud are the same. First, heat the key ingredient until it becomes a vapor. Under the right conditions, that ingredient could be a variety of things, including water, ammonia, salt, or sulfur. Trap it, cool it just enough for it to condense, and voilà – clouds! Of course, rock vaporizes at a much higher temperature than water, so silicate clouds are visible only on hot worlds, such as the brown dwarfs used for this study and some planets outside our solar system.

Although they form like stars, brown dwarfs aren’t massive enough to kick-start fusion, the process that causes stars to shine. Many brown dwarfs have atmospheres almost indistinguishable from those of gas-dominated planets, such as Jupiter, so they can be used as a proxy for those planets.

Before this study, data from Spitzer already suggested the presence of silicate clouds in a handful of brown dwarf atmospheres. (NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be able to confirm these types of clouds on distant worlds.) This work was done during the first six years of the Spitzer mission (which launched in 2003), when the telescope was operating three cryogenically cooled instruments. In many cases, though, the evidence of silicate clouds on brown dwarfs observed by Spitzer was too weak to stand on its own.

For this latest research, astronomers gathered more than 100 of those marginal detections and grouped them by the temperature of the brown dwarf. All of them fell within the predicted temperature range for where silicate clouds should form: between about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,000 degrees Celsius) and 3,100 F (1,700 C). While the individual detections are marginal, together they reveal a definitive trait of silicate clouds.

Image above: Silicate clouds may be visible in brown dwarf atmospheres, but only when the brown dwarf is cooler than about 3,100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,700 degrees Celsius) and warmer than 1,900 F (1,000 C). Too hot, and the clouds vaporize; too cold, and they turn into rain or sink lower in the atmosphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“We had to dig through the Spitzer data to find these brown dwarfs where there was some indication of silicate clouds, and we really didn’t know what we would find,” said Genaro Suárez, a postdoctoral researcher at Western University and lead author of the new study. “We were very surprised at how strong the conclusion was once we had the right data to analyze.”

In atmospheres hotter than the top end of the range identified in the study, silicates remain a vapor. Below the bottom end, the clouds will turn into rain or sink lower in the atmosphere, where the temperature is higher.

In fact, researchers think that silicate clouds exist deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere, where the temperature is much higher than it is at the top, owing to atmospheric pressure. The silicate clouds can’t rise higher, because at lower temperatures the silicates will solidify and won’t remain in cloud form. If the top of the atmosphere were thousands of degrees hotter, the planet’s ammonia and ammonium hydrosulfide clouds would vaporize and the silicate clouds could potentially rise to the top.

Scientists are finding an increasingly varied menagerie of planetary environments in our galaxy. For example, they have found planets with one side permanently facing their star and the other permanently in shadow – a planet where clouds of different compositions might be visible, depending on the side observed. To understand those worlds, astronomers will first need to understand the common mechanisms that shape them.

More About the Mission

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credit: NASA

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. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, managed Spitzer mission operations for the agency’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:

Related links:

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

Spitzer data archive:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield.


jeudi 7 juillet 2022

Nervous System Study and Spacewalk Preps Continue


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 7, 2022

The International Space Station continues hosting an array of advanced science experiments and spacewalk preparations. The seven Expedition 67 residents also ensured the ongoing operation of research gear and electronics equipment while auditing station office supplies.

The lack of an up and down reference in microgravity may affect the human nervous system potentially impacting how crew members interact with spacecraft instrumentation. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines continued working on the GRIP experiment in the Columbus laboratory module on Thursday to study how weightlessness influences an astronaut’s ability to grip and manipulate objects. Watkins and Hines took turns conducting the investigation while lying flat on their backs as scientists monitored from the ground. The pair had performed research operations from a seated position earlier in the week.

Image above: Expedition 67 astronauts (clockwise from bottom) Jessica Watkins, Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Samantha Cristoforetti, pose for a fun portrait inside their individual crew quarters. Image Credit: NASA.

Watkins then spent the rest of the day working on electronics gear and connections inside the Harmony module. Hines swapped air supply hoses ensuring the proper airflow inside the Quest airlock.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren began his morning in the Kibo laboratory module servicing a specialized microscope that uses spatial filtering techniques to observe cellular and tissue structures. Afterward, Lindgren moved on to a space manufacturing study observing a run of the Intelligent Glass Optics study that incorporates artificial intelligence into its methodology.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Two veteran station crew members, ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti and Roscosmos Commander Oleg Artemyev, resumed their preparations today for an upcoming spacewalk. The duo from Italy and Russia will exit the station Poisk airlock at 10 a.m. on June 21 and spend approximately seven hours continuing to outfit the European robotic arm attached to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Denis Matveev inventoried station supplies, including printing paper, ink cartridges, and batteries, throughout the station’s Russian segment. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov configured nanosatellites that will be deployed during the June 21 spacewalk.

Related links:

Expedition 67:


Columbus laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Quest airlock:

Kibo laboratory module:

Specialized microscope:

Intelligent Glass Optics:

Poisk airlock:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Meet NASA’s Orion Spacecraft


NASA - Orion Crew Vehicle patch.

July 7, 2022

On NASA’s Artemis missions, a unique spacecraft will take flight. Orion, NASA’s newest spacecraft built for humans, is developed to be capable of sending astronauts to the Moon and is a key part of eventually sending them on to Mars.

An uncrewed Orion will be tested on Artemis I and travel 40,000 miles past the Moon, farther than any spacecraft built for humans has gone before. This mission will prepare  for a crewed Artemis II mission and subsequent missions that will deliver astronauts to the surface of the Moon and to the lunar Gateway.

Image above: Artemis I Orion spacecraft inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 12, 2020. Image Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak.

Orion’s crew and service module will carry astronauts to deep space. The launch abort system, positioned at the top of the spacecraft, is only used to pull the crew module and the astronauts inside it safely away from the rocket in the event of an emergency, and will be jettisoned after a successful launch and ascent atop the Space Launch System rocket.

Crew Module

Orion’s crew module, sometimes referred to as the capsule, capitalizes on more than 60 years of NASA space exploration experience. Built by main contractor Lockheed Martin, it can provide living space on missions for four astronauts for up to 21 days without docking to another spacecraft. Advances in technology for deep space travel such as life support, avionics, power systems, and state-of-the-art thermal protection will support the crew during launch, landing, and recovery.

Pressure vessel

The underlying structure of the crew module is called the pressure vessel. The pressure vessel consists of seven large aluminum alloy pieces that are joined together using friction-stir welding at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The process produces a strong, yet lightweight, airtight capsule.


Covering the pressure vessel is the protective cover on the cone-shaped sides of the crew module known as the backshell, made up of 1,300 thermal protection system tiles. The tiles are made of a silica fiber material similar to those used for more than 30 years on the space shuttle, and will protect the spacecraft from both the cold of space and the extreme heat of re-entry.

Heat shield

The bottom of the capsule, which will experience the hottest temperatures as Orion returns to Earth, is covered by the world’s largest ablative heat shield, measuring 16.5 feet in diameter. The heat shield will protect Orion as it enters Earth’s atmosphere initially travelling about 25,000 mph and endure temperatures of nearly 5,000°F — about half as hot as the Sun.

The outer surface of the heat shield is made of blocks of a material called Avcoat, a reformulated version of the material used on the Apollo capsules. During descent, the Avcoat ablates, or burns off in a controlled fashion, transporting heat away from Orion.

Forward Bay Cover

The forward bay cover at the top of the crew module protects the top portion of the capsule and Orion’s parachutes during launch, orbital flight, and re-entry. It is covered with the same thermal protection tiles as the backshell. After the spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it is jettisoned at an altitude of approximately 23,000 feet to allow for deployment of the parachute system.

Image above: Technicians install three spacecraft adapter jettison fairings onto the Artemis I Orion spacecraft inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 12, 2020. The fairings are secured around the spacecraft, encapsulating the European Service Module to protect it from harsh environments as the spacecraft is propelled out of Earth’s atmosphere atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Image Credits: NASA/Rad Sinyak.

Reaction Control System Thrusters

The crew module has a propulsion system composed of 12 small engines called reaction control system thrusters. When the crew module separates from the service module for re-entry, the 12 thrusters are used to guide the crew module, ensure that it’s properly oriented with the heat shield facing downward, and keep the spacecraft stable during its descent.


Inside Orion, an aluminum structure of crisscrossing beams called the backbone assembly provides the floor structure where the crew seats will be attached and is where the crew stowage lockers will be located. Most of the equipment the crew will need to live in space on future missions will be stored here.

The four seats in the crew module are designed to accommodate nearly 99% of the human population. The seats are adjustable to ensure that astronauts can reach all the controls while in their pressure suits.

Crew Accommodations

A number of accommodations will help astronauts feel at home. Tanks and a dispenser provide drinking water and a simple way to rehydrate and warm food. Orion’s hygiene bay will have a new compact toilet, with a design that makes use in space easier for both men and women. A built-in exercise device provides both aerobic and strength training for astronauts. In case of a radiation event, such as a solar flare, crew members will shelter themselves in two large stowage lockers on the floor of the capsule, using the dense materials on board as shielding.

Displays and Controls

Astronauts will operate Orion using a sophisticated display and control system that uses advanced software to aid the crew. The crew will be able to command the spacecraft using just three display screens, about 60 physical switches, two rotational hand controllers, two translational hand controllers, and two cursor control devices. Electronic procedures are also programmed into the system to aid the crew in daily and emergency processes, saving the crew time and space and making large paper manuals of system operations obsolete.

Environmental Control and Life Support Systems

Environmental control and life support systems will make the crew module a habitable place for astronauts. A new regenerable system removes carbon dioxide and humidity and keeps the cabin air clean. The system also maintains the spacecraft’s temperature and pressure and detects if the internal environment becomes unsafe. Orion’s Crew Survival System spacesuits interface with life support to keep astronauts alive for up to six days to allow them to return home in the event of cabin depressurization.


The crew module houses Orion’s parachute system. The parachutes ensure a safe landing for astronauts returning to Earth at high speeds in the spacecraft. Earth’s atmosphere acting as a brake on Orion will initially slow the spacecraft down from about 25,000 mph to 325 mph. Then, the system of 11 parachutes must deploy in precise sequence to slow Orion to a relatively gentle 20 mph for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Components of the Orion spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

European Service Module

Below the crew module is Orion’s European Service Module, provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by lead contrac­tor Airbus. The service module is the spacecraft’s powerhouse: supplying it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air, and water.


Orion’s service module provides propulsion capabilities that enable Orion to go around the Moon and back on its missions. The service module has 33 engines of various sizes. The main engine will provide major maneuvering capabilities while in space, including inserting Orion into distant retrograde orbit and leaving the orbit to return to Earth. The 24 reaction control thrusters are used to steer and control Orion while in orbit. Eight auxiliary engines are also used for translational maneuvers, essentially acting as a backup to the main engine. The propulsion system also has the ability to bring the crew home in a variety of emergency situations, including abort scenarios after the launch abort system has already been jettisoned.


The service module’s electrical power system provides power for the entire Orion spacecraft. The system manages the power generated by the module’s four solar array wings, which provide enough electricity to power two three-bedroom homes. A total of 15,000 solar cells on the four arrays are used to convert light into electricity, and the arrays can turn to remain aligned with the Sun for maximum power.

Thermal Control

The thermal control system includes radiators and heat exchangers to keep the astronauts and equipment at a comfortable temperature. The thermal control system includes an active portion, which transfers the heat of the entire spacecraft to the service module radiators, and a passive portion, which protects the service module from internal and external thermal environments.

Consumable Storage

The consumable storage system of the service module provides potable water, nitrogen, and oxygen to the crew module, stored in tanks. Potable water is provided by the water delivery system, covering usable water needs of the crew for the duration of the mission. Oxygen and nitrogen are provided by the gas delivery system, with the amount of gases in each tank adjustable based on the mission profile.

Orion’s crew module will separate from the service module shortly before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. The crew module is the only portion of Orion that will return to Earth at the end of each mission. On early flights, high-value crew module components such as avionics, and environmental control and life support systems will be reused, with plans to reuse more components on later missions.

Orion Components

Through Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term, sustainable lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone for future astronaut missions to Mars.

Learn more about the Orion spacecraft at:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Erika Peters.


Surprise – Again! Asteroid Bennu Reveals its Surface is Like a Plastic Ball Pit


NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

July 7, 2022

After analyzing data gathered when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample from asteroid Bennu in October 2020, scientists have learned something astonishing: The spacecraft would have sunk into Bennu had it not fired its thrusters to back away immediately after it grabbed dust and rock from the asteroid’s surface.

Image above: Side-by-side images from NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft of the robotic arm as it descended towards the surface of asteroid Bennu (left) and as it tapped it to stir up dust and rock for sample collection (right). OSIRIS-REx touched down on Bennu at 6:08pm EDT on October 20, 2020. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

It turns out that the particles making up Bennu’s exterior are so loosely packed and lightly bound to each other that if a person were to step onto Bennu they would feel very little resistance, as if stepping into a pit of plastic balls that are popular play areas for kids.

“If Bennu was completely packed, that would imply nearly solid rock, but we found a lot of void space in the surface,” said Kevin Walsh, a member of the OSIRIS-REx science team from Southwest Research Institute, which is based in San Antonio.

The latest findings about Bennu’s surface were published on July 7 in a pair of papers in the journals Science and Science Advances, led respectively by Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, based at University of Arizona, Tucson, and Walsh. These results add to the intrigue that has kept scientists on the edge of their seats throughout the OSIRIS-REx mission, as Bennu has proved consistently unpredictable.

The asteroid presented its first surprise in December 2018 when NASA’s spacecraft arrived at Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx team found a surface littered with boulders instead of the smooth, sandy beach they had expected based on observations from Earth- and space-based telescopes. Scientists also discovered that Bennu was spitting particles of rock into space.

Image above: This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 19, 2019, was created by combining two images taken on board NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin.

“Our expectations about the asteroid’s surface were completely wrong” said Lauretta.

The latest hint that Bennu was not what it seemed came after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft picked up a sample and beamed stunning, close-up images of the asteroid’s surface to Earth. “What we saw was a huge wall of debris radiating out from the sample site,” Lauretta said. “We were like, ‘Holy cow!’”

Scientists were bewildered by the abundance of pebbles strewn about, given how gently the spacecraft tapped the surface. Even more bizarre was that the spacecraft left a large crater that was 26 feet (8 meters) wide. “Every time we tested the sample pickup procedure in the lab, we barely made a divot,” Lauretta said. The mission team decided to send the spacecraft back to take more photographs of Bennu’s surface “to see how big of a mess we made,” Lauretta said.

Asteroid Bennu’s Surprising Surface Revealed by NASA Spacecraft

Video above: Near-Earth asteroid Bennu is a rubble pile of rocks and boulders left over from the formation of the solar system. On October 20, 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched down on Bennu and collected a sample for return to Earth. During this event the spacecraft’s arm sank far deeper into the asteroid than expected, confirming that Bennu’s surface is loosely bound. Now, scientists have used data from OSIRIS-REx to revisit the sample-collection event and better understand how Bennu’s loose upper layers are held together. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab/SVS.

Mission scientists analyzed the volume of debris visible in before and after images of the sample site, dubbed “Nightingale.” They also looked at acceleration data collected during the spacecraft’s touch down. This data revealed that as OSIRIS-REx touched the asteroid it experienced the same amount of resistance – very little – a person would feel while squeezing the plunger on a French press coffee carafe. “By the time we fired our thrusters to leave the surface we were still plunging into the asteroid,” said Ron Ballouz, an OSIRIS-REx scientist based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Ballouz and the research team ran hundreds of computer simulations to deduce Bennu’s density and cohesion based on spacecraft images and acceleration information. Engineers varied the surface cohesion properties in each simulation until they found the one that most closely matched their real-life data.

OSIRIS-REx taking sample on asteroid Bennu. Animation Credit: NASA

Now, this precise information about Bennu’s surface can help scientists better interpret remote observations of other asteroids, which could be useful in designing future asteroid missions and for developing methods to protect Earth from asteroid collisions.

It’s possible that asteroids like Bennu — barely held together by gravity or electrostatic force — could break apart in Earth’s atmosphere and thus pose a different type of hazard than solid asteroids. “I think we’re still at the beginning of understanding what these bodies are, because they behave in very counterintuitive ways,” said Patrick Michel, an OSIRIS-REx scientist and director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice, France.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator. The university leads the science team and the mission's science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate Washington.

Related link:

OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Svetlana Shekhtman/GSFC/By Lonnie Shekhtman.


Mission Team Determines Cause of Communications Issues for NASA’s CAPSTONE


NASA - CAPSTONE Mission patch.

July 7, 2022

After a thorough review, teams have determined what led to CAPSTONE’s communications issue that began on July 4.  

During commissioning of NASA’s CAPSTONE (short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) spacecraft, the Deep Space Network team noted inconsistent ranging data. While investigating this, the spacecraft operations team attempted to access diagnostic data on the spacecraft’s radio and sent an improperly formatted command that made the radio inoperable. The spacecraft fault detection system should have immediately rebooted the radio but did not because of a fault in the spacecraft flight software.

Image above: CAPSTONE revealed in lunar Sunrise: CAPSTONE will fly in cislunar space – the orbital space near and around the Moon. The mission will demonstrate an innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solution at the Moon from a near rectilinear halo orbit slated for Artemis’ Gateway. Image Credits: Illustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter.

CAPSTONE’s autonomous flight software system eventually cleared the fault and brought the spacecraft back into communication with the ground, allowing the team to implement recovery procedures and begin commanding the spacecraft again.  

While CAPSTONE was out of contact with Earth, the spacecraft autonomously maintained its orientation to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth and allow the solar panels to keep its battery charged. CAPSTONE also used its thrusters to perform a standard maneuver to dump excess momentum from its reaction wheels, which are internal wheels that help the spacecraft rotate and point itself.  

The mission operations team conducted CAPSTONE’s first trajectory correction maneuver at approximately 11:30 a.m. EDT today. Teams are currently reviewing the data to ensure the maneuver was successful, and an update will be provided later. This maneuver will more precisely target the spacecraft’s transfer orbit to the Moon.

Related articles:

Following Communications Recovery, NASA’s CAPSTONE Prepares for First Maneuver

NASA’s CAPSTONE on the way to the Moon

CAPSTONE Launches to Test New Orbit for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions

Related link:

Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sarah Frazier.

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SpaceX Starlink 49 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

July 7, 2022

SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 49 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink-49) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 7 July 2022, at 13:11 UTC (09:11 EDT).

SpaceX Starlink 49 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 7 July 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 (B1058) previously supported twelve missions: Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1, Transporter-3 and seven Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


SIRIUS-21 eight-month isolation study to end in Moscow


SIRIUS-21 Mission patch.

July 7, 2022

Five members of the SIRIUS-21 crew will leave the terrestrial experimental center of the Russian Institute of Medical and Biological Problems after 240 days in isolation

Five members of the SIRIUS-21 crew will leave the terrestrial experimental center of the Russian Institute of Medical and Biological Problems after 240 days in isolation.

The participation of Asgardia’s representative Victoria Kirichenko in the SIRIUS-21 experiment is the first step in the implementation of this agreement.

Image above: Asgardia's Resident, physician Viktoria Kirichenko is the first to exit the containment unit of the IMBP ground test facility.

"The SIRIUS-21 space study will end on July 3, 2022 at 13.00 pm. Five members of the international crew (three men and two women) spent 240 hours within its framework in the environment simulating operation of a real space expedition at a near-Moon orbital station and the Moon’s surface. The crew will leave ‘the spacecraft’ and return to the Earth," the Institute’s press service said.

Researchers-volunteers from Russia, the US and the UAE staged more than seventy experiments during the study in various areas, such as psychology, psychophysiology, physiology, sanitary hygiene, microbiology, biochemistry and so on. Furthermore, the crew performed Moon landing operations, moonwalk and rover control.

Image above: On July 3, a five-member crew, including representatives of Russia, the United States, the Arab Emirates and Asgardia, left the containment module at the test station of the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IMPB RAS). This means the main part of the experiment SIRIUS-21, which started exactly eight months ago, is complete. Now doctors will have to study the data and biomaterials obtained during these 240 days and sum up the results.

The SIRIUS-21 study is the third milestone of the SIRIUS (Scientific International Research in Unique terrestrial Station) international project. The project provides for a series of isolation studies. The next experiment to simulate the long-range space flight will last for a year and will begin in July - November 2023. Three year-long studies are planned by 2028.

Related articles:

Space brings people together on Earth. The end of the SIRIUS-21 experiment

The international experiment SIRIUS-21 starts

European research for interplanetary isolation

Related links:

Asgardia - The Space Nation:


Images, Text, Credits: IMBP RAS/TASS/Asgardia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga (AMP).

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mercredi 6 juillet 2022

Crew Works Space Biology, Preps for Next Spacewalk


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 6, 2022

The Expedition 67 crew continued exploring how humans and plants adapt in microgravity while testing robotic free-flyers on Wednesday. The orbital residents are also preparing for another spacewalk at the International Space Station to continue outfitting a new robotic arm.

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines partnered together during the morning studying how living in space affects dexterous manipulation. The duo took turns during an hourlong session performing gripping and motion tasks while seated in a specialized chair inside the Columbus laboratory module. Observations may provide scientists a deeper understanding of the human nervous system and help engineers design intelligent spacecraft interfaces.

Image above: Astronaut Jessica Watkins enjoys a personal size pizza during dinner time aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

Afterward, Watkins checked on mizuna greens and radishes growing for the XROOTS space botany study demonstrating soilless agricultural methods, such as hydroponic and aeroponic techniques. Hines later activated a pair of toaster-sized Astrobee robotic free-flyers and watched while they navigated autonomously using smartphone technology inside the Kibo laboratory module.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren opened up the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and serviced components inside the biology research device equipped with an artificial gravity generating incubator. Lindgren then spent the afternoon documenting the amount of food stowed aboard the orbiting lab as part of a regularly scheduled audit.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The next spacewalk is expected to take place on July 21 beginning at 10 a.m. EDT with Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency). The pair spent Wednesday morning studying their spacewalk tasks, maneuvers, and safety procedures. Five-time spacewalker Artemyev will lead Cristoforetti on her first spacewalk to continue configuring the European robotic arm for operations during the planned seven-hour excursion.

Flight Engineer Denis Matveev assisted Artemyev with the spacewalk preparations during the afternoon collecting and inspecting tools planned for the upcoming excursion. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov spent his day working on assorted electronics gear and checking ventilation systems in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Dexterous manipulation:

Columbus laboratory module:



Smartphone technology:

Kibo laboratory module:

Cell Biology Experiment Facility:

European robotic arm:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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