samedi 30 juillet 2022

NASA Studies Source of Ice Crystals in High Places


NASA - DC-8 Airborne Laboratory patch.

Jul 30, 2022

A team of NASA researchers are once again using NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory to study ice crystals – and more – within the heart of large thunderstorms in a bid to improve jet engine designs and increase flight safety.

Image above: NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory is inspected and secured for the night at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida. NASA’s High Ice Water Content research activity spent July 2022 flying through thunderstorms investigating ice crystal formation and how they affect the performance of aircraft engines. Image Credits: NASA/John Gould.

The work is part of NASA’s High Ice Water Content (HIWC) research activity, which has previously conducted two flight research campaigns: the first out of Florida in 2015, and the second out of Florida, California, and Hawaii in 2018.

Now, the team is back at it again, conducting a flight campaign during July off the southeast coasts of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico.

This time, the team – which includes Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Japanese partners – is using Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, as their base of operations.

“For this campaign we’re doing something a little different. Our priority is to conduct flights in regions with human-made aerosols to better understand what effect they have on the development of high concentrations of ice crystals,” said Thomas Ratvasky, HIWC’s principal investigator from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Aerosols 101

Aerosols are tiny particles in the atmosphere that result from a variety of both naturally occurring and human-made sources. Burning of fossil fuels, industrial emissions, and agricultural activity are just a few examples.

These pollutant aerosols, once released into the air, move through the atmosphere, and eventually can be carried out over the ocean.

Once they interact with convective systems, one theory suggests they can increase the concentrations of ice crystals present in a thunderstorm – although exactly how this complex interaction works is generally unknown.

In these storms, specifically mesoscale convective systems, high concentrations of ice crystals form. When an aircraft flies through them, its jet engines’ power and performance can decrease.

Image above: These tube-shaped instruments on the tip of the DC-8’s wing are used by NASA’s High Ice Water Content research activity to gather data on ice crystals. The isokinetic probe (left) measures total water content in clouds. The other device is a cloud droplet probe that measures smaller cloud particles. Image Credits: NASA/John Gould.

That’s why HIWC researchers have been gathering data on ice crystals, their prevalence, and their effect on jet engines.

With this additional flight campaign attempting to study aerosols, HIWC is bridging a gap in the existing data that regulatory bodies will use to consider new safety standards for mitigating ice crystals.

“We want to make sure that high-aerosol environments are represented in this dataset. Many of today’s engines were not required to demonstrate capability in flying in these ice crystal conditions, but future ones will,” Ratvasky said.

Don’t Cool Your Jets

During the past 30 years, there have been more than 170 reported incidents of power loss and engine damage in commercial transport jets such as airliners when flying through convective systems.

Here’s how it happens: jets fly through an area with a high concentration of ice crystals. Some of the ice crystals enter the core of the engine – where its power is generated.

In some conditions, the ice crystals form a layer of slushy water inside critical components such as the compressor. The transfer of heat from the engine into the icy slush causes ice to build up in the compressor. When this ice sheds, engine power loss or damage may occur.

Elsewhere on the aircraft, instruments collecting important information for pilots, such as the aircraft’s speed, also can be obstructed by ice crystals, leading to erroneous and inaccurate readings in the cockpit.

To learn the role aerosols play in the development of high concentrations of ice crystals affecting an aircraft’s performance, HIWC is utilizing NASA’s DC-8 aircraft, based out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, and flying through storms with a high amount of both ice crystals and aerosols.

Flying Laboratory

The HIWC team has souped-up NASA’s DC-8 with their data-gathering instruments and other technology, allowing onboard researchers to study the environment in real-time.

On the DC-8’s left wing and nose are devices to measure the total water content of the clouds the aircraft flies through, as well as a probe to measure smaller cloud-sized droplets.

Meanwhile, the right wing is home to particle instruments capable of measuring the size and shape of the larger ice particles.

Inside the nose is a modified weather radar, used in collaboration with researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, to detect storm conditions up ahead of the DC-8’s flight path.

Image above: An air-inlet tube sticks out of a modified window aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne science laboratory. As it flies, air enters the tube and is guided inside the aircraft, where instrumentation detects how many aerosols are present in the atmosphere. The work is part of NASA’s High Ice Water Content research activity. Image Credits: NASA/John Gould.

A new instrument added to the aircraft for this flight campaign is the Passive Cavity Aerosol Spectrometer probe. This canister-like device measures the number of aerosols in the air.

Nagoya University in Japan owns and operates this and other aerosol instruments and is collaborating with HIWC in the research.

On the aircraft’s starboard side is an inlet that directs air into the aircraft itself, where it flows through a series of instruments before being exhausted out of the aircraft further downstream.

Inside the DC-8 are racks of monitors, displays, and other stations where researchers sit and view the data as they fly.

Each flight lasts approximately seven hours, and thousands of miles are flown at a variety of speeds and altitudes.

Image above: A look inside NASA’s DC-8 aircraft, facing forward. High Ice Water Content researchers sit at these consoles and operate equipment that gathers data on the outside conditions they are flying through. The aircraft’s flight deck can be seen in the background. Image Credits: NASA/John Gould.

In a typical flight profile, the team flies at the same higher altitudes as airliners to fly through ice crystals. Then, they descend to very low altitudes – even below 1,000 feet – to hunt down aerosols before they have risen into the storm and interacted with cloud and ice crystals.

Rest assured; safety is paramount. The aircraft is in the hands of experts who know what to expect and how to deal with ice crystals.

“We’re not flying anywhere different than an airliner would fly so we can get data that is applicable to normal operations. Our pilots and the entire team are aware of the hazards to engine and air data system performance caused by HIWC and we utilize procedures to minimize those hazards,” said Ratvasky.

High Flying Partnerships

Close cooperation among several organizations who contributed both expertise and project funding make HIWC’s work possible.

“We could not do this without all the collaboration both internal and external to NASA. We have the science group from Langley, the icing group from Glenn, and the airplane from Armstrong. The FAA is supporting instrumentation, and Nagoya University and the Japan Meteorological Agency have provided their expertise and aerosol instrumentation,” said Ratvasky.

Following the flight campaign, the next step is to process the data then pass it on to the FAA and other bodies such as the Ice Crystal Icing Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee.

Once studied, the relatively new standards for jet engine certification will be assessed and could all but eliminate power loss incidents due to ice crystals in convective systems.

Image above: Douglas DC8-62 NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center repaint for Flight Simulator X (FSX) CD's edition, available for free at Made (repaint) by Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Related links:

NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory:

NASA’s Glenn Research Center:

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center:

NASA’s Langley Research Center:


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lillian Gipson/Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate/John Gould.

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NASA’s Mineral Dust Detector Starts Gathering Data


ISS - Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) patch.

July 30, 2022

Newly installed on the space station, the instrument, called EMIT, will help answer questions about how mineral dust from Earth’s arid regions affects climate.

Image above: This image shows the first measurements taken by EMIT on July 27, 2022, as it passed over Western Australia. The image at the front of the cube shows a mix of materials in Western Australia, including exposed soil (brown), vegetation (dark green), agricultural fields (light green), a small river, and clouds. The rainbow colors extending through the main part of the cube are the spectral fingerprints from corresponding spots in the front image. The graph on the right shows spectral fingerprints for a sample of soil, vegetation, and a river from the image cube. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

After being installed on the exterior of the International Space Station, NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission has provided its first view of Earth. The milestone, called “first light,” took place at 7:51 p.m. PDT (10:51 p.m. EDT) on July 27 as the space station passed over Western Australia.

Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, EMIT is focused on mapping the mineral dust composition of Earth’s arid regions to better understand how dust affects climate heating and cooling. The instrument works by measuring the hundreds of wavelengths of light reflected from materials on Earth. Different substances reflect different wavelengths of light, producing a kind of spectral fingerprint that, when collected by an imaging spectrometer and analyzed by researchers, reveal what they are made of.

EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation) Gets Installed on International Space Station

Video above: This time-lapse video shows the Candarm2 robotic arm of the International Space Station maneuvering NASA’s EMIT mission onto the exterior of the station. Extraction from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft began around 5:15 p.m. PDT on July 22 and was completed at 10:15 a.m. PDT on July 24. Portions of the installation have been omitted, while others have been speeded up. Video Credit: NASA.

Ground controllers used the Canadarm2 robotic arm of the space station to remove EMIT from a Dragon spacecraft and install it on the outside of the station, a process that began on July 22 and took more than 40 hours. Engineers powered on the instrument on July 24 and cooled it to its operating temperature over the next 72 hours.

The EMIT team then collected the instrument’s first measurements, creating something called an image cube. The image at the front of the cube shows a mix of materials in Western Australia, including exposed soil (brown), vegetation (dark green), agricultural fields (light green), a small river, and clouds. The rainbow colors extending through the main part of the cube are the spectral fingerprints from corresponding spots in the front image.

Image above: Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) on ISS. Image Credits: NASA/JPL.

While the EMIT instrument can measure the spectral signature of light from such materials as vegetation, rocks, snow and ice, and human-made surfaces, its primary mission, beginning in August, will be to collect measurements of 10 important surface minerals (hematite, calcite, dolomite, and gypsum, for example) in arid, dust-producing regions of Africa, Asia, North and South America, and Australia.

The spectral fingerprints of dust minerals allow scientists to determine its composition. While dark, iron-rich particles strongly absorb the Sun’s energy, light-colored clays reflect it. Right now, scientists don’t know whether mineral dust has a cumulative heating or cooling effect on the planet. The full spectral fingerprints that EMIT collects will help answer that question.

Graphic above: The line graph shows spectral fingerprints for soil, vegetation, and a river. Radiance indicates the amount of each wavelength of light (in nanometers) reflected from a substance. Graphic Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

More About the Mission

EMIT was developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed for the agency by Caltech in Pasadena, California. It launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft carrying more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and other cargo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14. The instrument’s data will be delivered to the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC) for use by other researchers and the public.

To learn more about the mission, visit:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Graphic (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang.


vendredi 29 juillet 2022

Crew Wraps Week with Maintenance Work, Exercise, and Air Sampling Test


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 29, 2022

The Expedition-67 crew members focused on maintenance checks, exercise, and space research as part of their activities aboard the International Space Station today.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren concluded a busy work week by transferring cargo from the SpaceX CRS-25 Dragon spacecraft and completing a fitness test on the exercise cycle. He attached sensors to his chest and pedaled for an hour on the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS) device. Following a heavy cardio session, Lindgren used the Tranquility module’s advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) to perform exercises such as bench presses, squats, and deadlifts. He spent the latter part of his day installing the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) 3015 for return into the launch enclosure of the SpaceX CRS-25 Dragon spacecraft.

Image above: Expedition 67 Flight Engineers (from left) Samantha Cristoforetti from ESA (European Space Agency) and Jessica Watkins of NASA pose together for a fun portrait inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module on May 14, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins focused her day on performing maintenance tasks. Watkins checked out the newly installed In-Flight Refill Units (IRU) on the spacesuits, also known as the Fluid Pumping Unit. She removed and replaced the IRU and dumped water from the tanks inside the spacesuits.

Meanwhile, NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines wrapped up his work week with space research. He studied the effectiveness of detergents in microgravity.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti collected air samples to demonstrate analyzing trace atmospheric contaminants using the ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2) device. Cristoforetti also conducted maintenance checks and transferred supplies from the Dragon spacecraft. As part of her maintenance duties, she worked in the Material Science Laboratory and took necessary steps to remove the processed Low Gradient Furnace (LGA) Sample Cartridge Assembly (SCA) and installed the next SCA that will be processed.

Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and cosmonaut Denis Matveev took turns working out on the VELO ergometer bike. Cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov spent his day inspecting the brakes on the European Robotic Arm manipulator.

Related links:


Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS):

Tranquility module:

Effectiveness of detergents in microgravity:

ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Images a Complex Galactic Trio


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 29, 2022

This luminescent image features multiple galaxies, perhaps most noticeably LEDA 58109, the lone galaxy in the upper right. LEDA 58109 is flanked by two further galactic objects to its lower left – a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus (AGN) called SDSS J162558.14+435746.4 that partially obscures the galaxy SDSS J162557.25+435743.5, which appears to poke out to the right behind the AGN.

Galaxy classification is sometimes presented as something of a dichotomy: spiral and elliptical. However, the diversity of galaxies in this image alone highlights the complex web of galaxy classifications that exist, including galaxies that house extremely luminous AGNs at their cores, and galaxies whose shapes defy the classification of either spiral or elliptical.

The sample of galaxies here also illustrates the wide variety of names that galaxies have: some relatively short, like LEDA 58109, and some very long and challenging to remember, such as the two galaxies to the left. This is due to the variety of cataloging systems that chart the celestial objects in the night sky. No one catalog is exhaustive, and they cover overlapping regions of the sky so that many galaxies belong to several different catalogs. For example, the galaxy on the right is LEDA 58109 in the LEDA galaxy database, but is also known as MCG+07-34-030 in the MCG galaxy catalog and SDSS J162551.50+435747.5 in the SDSS galaxy catalog – the same catalog that also lists the two galaxies to the left.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Jamie Adkins/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Keel.


Embracing a Rejected Star


NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Jul 29, 2022

Zeta Ophiuchi is a star with a complicated past, having likely been ejected from its birthplace by a powerful stellar explosion. A new look by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory helps tell more of the story of this runaway star.

Located about 440 light-years from Earth, Zeta Ophiuchi is a hot star that is 20 times more massive than the Sun. Previous observations have provided evidence that Zeta Ophiuchi was once in close orbit with another star, before being ejected at about 100,000 miles per hour when this companion was destroyed in a supernova explosion over a million years ago. Previously released infrared data from NASA's now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope, seen in this new composite image, reveals a spectacular shock wave (red and green) that was formed by matter blowing away from the star's surface and slamming into gas in its path. Data from Chandra shows a bubble of X-ray emission (blue) located around the star, produced by gas that has been heated by the effects of the shock wave to tens of millions of degrees.

A team of astronomers led by Samuel Green from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in Ireland has constructed the first detailed computer models of the shock wave. They have begun testing whether the models can explain the data obtained at different wavelengths, including X-ray, optical, infrared and radio observations. All three of the different computer models predict fainter X-ray emission than observed. The bubble of X-ray emission is brightest near the star, whereas two of the three computer models predict the X-ray emission should be brighter near the shock wave.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

In the future these researchers plan to test more complicated models with additional physics — including the effects of turbulence, and particle acceleration — to see whether the agreement with X-ray data will improve.

A paper describing these results has been accepted in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics and a preprint is available here. The Chandra data used here was originally analyzed by Jesús Toala from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucia in Spain, who also wrote the proposal that led to the observations.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.

Read more from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory:

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Dublin Inst. Advanced Studies/S. Green et al.; Infrared: NASA/JPL/Spitzer/Animation Credits: NASA/CXC/Text Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon.

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-2D launches Yaogan-35 03 satellites


CASC - CZ-2D Y65 XSLC / Yaogan-35 03 patch.

July 29, 2022

Long March-2D carrying Yaogan-35 03 satellites

A Long March-2D launch vehicle launched the third group of three Yaogan-35 satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, southwest China, on 29 July 2022, at 13:28 UTC (21:28 local time).

Long March-2D launches Yaogan-35 03 satellites

According to official sources, the satellites (遥感三十五号03组卫星A星、B星、C星; Yaogan-35 03 A, B and C) have entered the planned orbits successfully and will be “mainly used in scientific experiments, land and resources surveys, agricultural production estimates, and disaster prevention and mitigation.”

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.


jeudi 28 juillet 2022

Crew Studies Fire in Microgravity, Tests a Medical Device, and Transfers Cargo from Dragon


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 28, 2022

The seven-member Expedition-67 crew split their time studying burning in microgravity, space manufacturing, testing an ultrasound device, and more, in addition to conducting some maintenance work aboard the International Space Station.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins focused on setting up the Combustion Integrated Rack inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module to support the operations for the SoFIE-GEL, or Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction – Growth and Extinction Limit, study. The investigation measures the amount of heating in a fuel sample to determine how fuel temperature affects material flammability. Results could improve understanding of early fire growth behavior and help determine optimal fire suppression techniques, improving crew safety in future space facilities.

Image above: Expedition 67 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins services components that support the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SOFIE) fire safety experiment inside the International Space Station’s Combustion Integrated Rack on June 24, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren opened the Cell Biology Experiment Facility to set up the Rodent Research-22 experiment. He also completed a Robotic On-Board Trainer for Research (ROBoT-r) session as part of the Behavioral Core Measures experiment. Later in the day, Lindgren performed the fourth medical technology demonstration of the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound device, focused on testing the effectiveness of a portable ultrasound device used in conjunction with a mobile device in the space environment. Such commercial off-the-shelf technology could provide essential medical capabilities for future deep space exploration missions.

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti conducted public affairs activities for ESA and moved cargo from the SpaceX CRS-25 Dragon spacecraft. NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines worked on the Genes in Space-9 investigation,  Space Fibers-3 space manufacturing study, and transferred supplies from the Dragon spacecraft.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The station’s three cosmonauts focused mainly on maintenance and exercise. Commander Oleg Artemyev spent his morning searching for leaks in the Zvezda service module while cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov checked the brakes on the European Robotic Arm. Cosmonaut Denis Matveev set up an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour survey of his heart health. He rested for 20 minutes before using the Tranquility module’s advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) to perform exercises such as bench presses, squats, and deadlifts.

Related links:


Combustion Integrated Rack:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction – Growth and Extinction Limit:

Cell Biology Experiment Facility:

Rodent Research-22:

Behavioral Core Measures:

Butterfly IQ Ultrasound:

Genes in Space-9:

Space Fibers-3:

Zvezda service module:

Tranquility module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Readying spacecraft to surf Venus’ atmosphere


ESA / NASA - EnVision Mission patch.

July 28, 2022

EnVision aerobraking in Venus atmosphere

ESA’s EnVision mission to Venus will perform optical, spectral and radar mapping of Earth’s sister planet. But before getting down to work the van-sized spacecraft needs to ‘aerobrake’ – lowering its orbit with thousands of passages through the planet’s hot, thick atmosphere for up to two years. A unique ESA facility is currently testing candidate spacecraft materials to check they can safely withstand this challenging process of atmospheric surfing.


“EnVision as currently conceived cannot take place without this lengthy phase of aerobraking,” explains ESA’s EnVision study manager Thomas Voirin.

“The spacecraft will be injected into Venus orbit at a very high altitude, at approximately 250 000 km, then we need to get down to a 500 km altitude polar orbit for science operations. Flying on an Ariane 62, we cannot afford all the extra propellant it would take to lower our orbit. Instead we will slow ourselves down through repeated passes through the upper atmosphere of Venus, coming as low as 130 km from the surface.”

EnVision needs to 'aerobrake' through Venus' atmosphere

EnVision’s predecessor spacecraft, Venus Express, performed experimental aerobraking during the final months of its mission in 2014, gathering valuable data on the technique. Aerobraking was used operationally for the first time in 2017 by ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) to lower its orbit around the Red Planet over an 11 month period.

Thomas notes: “Aerobraking around Venus is going to be much more challenging than for TGO. To begin with, the gravity of Venus is about 10 times higher than that of Mars. This means velocities about twice as high as for TGO will be experienced by the spacecraft when passing through the atmosphere – and heat is generated as a cube of velocity. Accordingly, EnVision has to target a lower aerobraking regime, resulting in an aerobraking phase twice as long.

Samples for simulated aerobraking

“On top of that, we are also going to be much closer to the Sun, experiencing around double the solar intensity of Earth’s, with the thick white clouds of the atmosphere reflecting a lot of sunlight straight back to space, which additionally needs to be taken into account. Then on top of all that, we realised we had to reckon with another factor over the thousands of orbits we envisage, previously only experienced in low Earth orbit: highly-erosive atomic oxygen.”

This is a phenomenon that remained unknown during the first decades of the space age. It was only when early Space Shuttle flights returned from low orbit in the early 1980s that engineers received a shock: the spacecraft’s thermal blankets had been severely eroded.

Shuttle aglow with atomic oxygen

The culprit turned out to be highly reactive atomic oxygen – individual atoms of oxygen at the fringes of the atmosphere, the result of standard oxygen molecules of the kind found just above the ground being broken apart by powerful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Today, all missions below about 1 000 km need to be designed to resist atomic oxygen, such as Europe’s Earth-watching Copernnicus Sentinels or any hardware built for the International Space Station.

Spectral observations by past Venus orbiters of airglow above the planet confirm that atomic oxygen is widespread at the top of the Venusian atmosphere too, which is more than 90 times thicker than Earth’s surrounding air.

Atomic oxygen generator

Thomas says: “The concentration is quite high, with one pass it doesn’t matter so much but over thousands of times it starts to accumulate and ends up with a level of atomic oxygen fluence we have to take account of, equivalent to what we experience in low-Earth orbit, but at higher temperatures.”

The EnVision team turned to a unique European facility specifically built by ESA to simulate atomic oxygen in orbit. The Low Earth Orbit Facility, LEOX, is part of the Agency’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory, based at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands

Samples exposed to atomic oxygen

ESA materials engineer Adrian Tighe explains: “LEOX generates atomic oxygen at energy levels that are equivalent to orbital speed. Purified molecular oxygen is injected into a vacuum chamber with a pulsing laser beam focused onto it. This converts the oxygen into a hot plasma whose rapid expansion is channelled along a conical nozzle. It then dissociates to form a highly energetic beam of atomic oxygen.

“To work reliably, the laser timing must stay precise to millisecond scale, and directed to an accuracy measured in thousandths of a millimetre, throughout the four-month duration of this current test campaign.

“This isn’t the first time that the facility has been used to simulate an extraterrestrial orbital environment – we have previously performed atomic oxygen testing on candidate solar array materials for ESA’s Juice mission, because telescopic observations suggest atomic oxygen will be found in the atmospheres of Europa and Ganymede. However, for EnVision the heightened temperature during aerobraking poses an additional challenge, so the facility has been adapted to simulate this more extreme Venusian environment.”

Samples seen in infrared

A range of materials and coatings from different parts of the EnVision spacecraft, including multi-layer insulation, antenna parts and star tracker elements are placed within a plate to be exposed to the purple-glowing LEOX beam. At the same time this plate is being heated to mimic the expected thermal flux, up to 350°C.

Thomas adds: “We want to check that these parts are resistant to being eroded, and also maintain their optical properties – meaning they do not degrade or darken, which might have knock-on effects in terms of their thermal behaviour, because we have delicate scientific instruments that must maintain a set temperature. We also need to avoid flaking or outgassing, which lead to contamination.”

This current test campaign is part of a larger panel looking into EnVision aerobraking, including the use of a Venus climate database developed from previous mission results to estimate the local variability of the planet’s atmosphere to set safe margins for the spacecraft.

The results of this test campaign are expected at the end of this year.

About EnVision

EnVision: Understanding why Earth's closest neighbour is so different

EnVision is an ESA-led mission in partnership with NASA, providing its Synthetic Aperture Radar instrument, VenSAR and Deep Space Network support for critical mission phases. EnVision will use an array of instruments to perform holistic observations of Venus from its inner core to upper atmosphere to better understand how Earth’s closest neighbour in the Solar System evolved so differently.

EnVision has been selected by ESA’s Science Programme Committee as the fifth Medium-class mission in the Agency’s Cosmic Vision plan, targeting a launch in the early 2030s.

Related links:



Space Engineering & Technology:

Animation, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/VR2Planets/Damia Bouic/NASA/JAXA/ISAS/DARTS.


‘Everybody is so excited’: South Korea set for first Moon mission


KARI - Korea Aerospace Research Institute emblem.


July 28, 2022

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, or Danuri, has captivated scientists and the public.

Image above: The Danuri probe will use multiple scientific instruments to probe properties of the Moon. Image Credit: KARI.

By this time next week, South Korea’s first lunar probe will be on its way to the Moon. The probe, Danuri, which means ‘enjoy the Moon’, should arrive at its destination by mid-December and orbit for a year.

Researchers are eager for Danuri, which took more than six years to build and cost 237 billion won (US$180 million), to begin revealing insights about aspects of the Moon ranging from its ancient magnetism to ‘fairy castles’ of dust sprinkled across its surface. Researchers also hope that the craft, officially called the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter, will find hidden sources of water and ice in areas including the permanently cold, dark regions near the poles.

Scientists in South Korea say the mission will pave the way for the country’s more ambitious plans to land on the Moon by 2030. Success for Danuri will secure future planetary exploration, says Kyeong-ja Kim, a planetary geoscientist at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources in Daejeon, and principal investigator for one of Danuri’s instruments, a γ-ray spectrometer. “Everybody is so happy and excited,” says Kim, describing the lines of people who waved goodbye to the orbiter — safely packed in a container — on its way to the airport on 5 July.

Danuri was flown from South Korea to the United States, and is now in Cape Canaveral, Florida, preparing to be placed on a Falcon 9 rocket that will take it beyond Earth’s orbit on 2 August.

“The spacecraft is ready to launch,” says Eunhyeuk Kim, project scientist for the mission at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) in Daejeon, but he still sometimes worries about whether the team is truly ready. “Until the time of the launch, we will be checking all the systems over and over and over.”

Within an hour of launching, the 678-kilogram spacecraft will detach from the rocket and KARI will take control of it, extending the craft’s solar panels and deploying its parabolic antenna.

Image above: The Moon seen from International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA.

“It’s just so cool to see more and more countries sending up their own orbiters and adding to the global understanding of what’s going on on the Moon,” says Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, who is part of the science team.

Fairy castles

Danuri will carry five scientific instruments. Among the most exciting is PolCam, which will be the first camera in lunar orbit to map the texture of the Moon’s surface using polarized light. Polarizers are popular for observations of Earth, such as those studying vegetation, but have not been sent to study the Moon, says Klima. By capturing how light reflects off the lunar surface, PolCam will be able to reveal characteristics such as the size and density of grains of dust and rock. This could help researchers to study unusual objects such as the tiny, porous towers of dust called fairy castle structures, says Klima. These structures can’t be reproduced on Earth because of its stronger gravity compared to the Moon, which makes them difficult to study.

“It’s a ground-breaking instrument,” says William Farrand, a planetary geologist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who will be working on PolCam data. Farrand hopes to use the data to study deposits of volcanic ash and improve understanding of the history of explosive eruptions on the Moon.

Another widely anticipated instrument is ShadowCam, a highly sensitive camera provided by NASA that will take images of the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon, devoid of sunlight. The camera will need to rely on scattered light such as that from far-off stars to capture images of the surface topography.

Since shortly after the Moon formed, volatile materials such as water from comets have been bouncing off its surface and becoming trapped in these very cold regions, says Klima. “We’ve got billions of years of Solar System history locked in the layers of these cold traps.” By giving researchers a view of the terrain in these regions, and identifying brighter regions that might be ice deposits, ShadowCam will be able to inform future landing missions to study that history, she says.


Researchers hope that data collected by Danuri’s magnetometer (KMAG) will help solve a mystery. The Moon’s surface displays highly magnetic regions; these suggest that for hundreds of millions of years in the Moon’s past, its core generated a magnetic field almost as powerful as Earth’s, through a process known as a dynamo, says Ian Garrick-Bethell, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who hopes to interpret KMAG data. But scientists are puzzled by how the Moon’s core, which is much smaller and proportionally farther from the surface than Earth’s, could have powered such an intense dynamo, and for so long. KMAG will take precise measurements of the Moon’s magnetic field to help them understand this.

Garrick-Bethell hopes that towards the end of its life, the spacecraft will fly closer to the Moon to get even better measurements of the magnetic field. “The most exciting science would come if we flew closer to 20 kilometres.”

The KARI team has not yet decided whether it will shrink Danuri’s orbit after the one-year mission is complete and eventually crash-land the craft on the Moon, says Eunhyeuk Kim. Alternatively, he says, the team could send the capsule into a higher orbit that could see it glide on for many more years.


Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: KARI/Nature/Smriti Mallapaty.


Vortices Near Jupiter’s North Pole


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Jul 28, 2022

As NASA’s Juno mission completed its 43rd close flyby of Jupiter on July 5, 2022, its JunoCam instrument captured this striking view of vortices — hurricane-like spiral wind patterns — near the planet’s north pole.

These powerful storms can be over 30 miles (50 kilometers) in height and hundreds of miles across. Figuring out how they form is key to understanding Jupiter's atmosphere, as well as the fluid dynamics and cloud chemistry that create the planet’s other atmospheric features. Scientists are particularly interested in the vortices’ varying shapes, sizes, and colors. For example, cyclones, which spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern, and anti-cyclones, which rotate clockwise in the northern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, exhibit very different colors and shapes.

A NASA citizen science project, Jovian Vortex Hunter, seeks help from volunteer members of the public to spot and help categorize vortices and other atmospheric phenomena visible in JunoCam photos of Jupiter. This process does not require specialized training or software, and can be done by anyone, anywhere, with a cellphone or laptop. As of July 2022, 2,404 volunteers had made 376,725 classifications using the Jovian Vortex Hunter project web site at

Juno orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Another citizen scientist, Brian Swift, created this enhanced color and contrast view of vortices using raw JunoCam image data. At the time the raw image was taken, the Juno spacecraft was about 15,600 miles (25,100 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops, at a latitude of about 84 degrees.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at  More information about NASA citizen science can be found at and

More information about Juno is at and For more about this finding and other science results, see


Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Brian Swift © CC BY/Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Text Credit: NASA/Tony Greicius.

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Astraius announces key suppliers at Farnborough International Air Show



Astraius logo.

July 28, 2022

Press release: Astraius announces Northrop Grumman and Exquadrum as key propulsion suppliers.


Astraius, the UK-based, horizontal launch company, has today announced two key suppliers for its innovative launch solution. Northrop Grumman has been selected as the first and second stage motor supplier, and Exquadrum will provide the upper-stage motor. With these best-of-the-best industry leaders, Astraius is on-track for first launch in Spring 2024. The announcement received the support of the UK Space Agency at the Farnborough International Air Show.

Northrop Grumman’s Orion solid rocket motors will boost the Astraius launch vehicle after its extraction from the unmodified C-17 carrier aircraft. Completing the mission, Exquadrum’s bespoke Astraius upper stage will precisely place satellites in their intended orbits.

Boeing C-17 cargo aircraft which will carry and launch the astraius rocket

Sir George Zambellas, Astraius Chairman, made today’s announcement from the Space Scotland pavilion at the Farnborough International Airshow;

“This is a hugely exciting moment for Astraius. We have a winning combination of proven launch and propulsion systems paired with exquisite rocket motor technology to produce a world-class capability. When coupled with Prestwick Spaceport’s state-of-the-art launch vehicle and payload integration facilities, Scotland will be the UK’s leader for responsive space launch.”

Astraius signing ceremony

Kevin Seymour, Astraius CEO, said;

“I am thrilled that Northrop Grumman will play a major role in our program. Their long record of flight success and clear enthusiasm for what we're doing gives us absolute confidence we’ve made the right decision. Northrop Grumman's motors are key enablers for our industry-leading, low risk, responsive, horizontal launch capability.”

Shane Clark, Astraius Vice President, Engineering & Program Execution

Kevin Mahaffy, Exquadrum CEO, attending Farnborough for the announcement, said;

“Exquadrum is excited to be part of the outstanding team that Astraius has put together to bring their unique horizontal launch vehicle to the market. Exquadrum’s controllable solid rocket motor technology, with its throttlability and precise termination ability, is an excellent fit for Astraius’ upper stage application.”

More information about Astraius:

Launch Services

Astraius provides a dependable, affordable and responsive means of launching small satellites.

Our Spaceport

Astraius will base its launch and range operations in the UK at the Prestwick Spaceport in Scotland. The Spaceport, which is at an advanced stage of planning, will provide all necessary ground-based requirements in bespoke, state of the art facilities.

The C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft will operate from the Spaceport, providing our ‘air-launch’ platform. Payload processing, launch vehicle integration, and a new mission/range control centre, will make this one of the most advanced launch facilities of its kind in the world.

Our Technology

Our unique satellite launch capability combines innovative technology and tested delivery platforms.

Astraius Overview

- Our launch vehicle is built upon a system successfully used by the US Government for over 30 complex missions and is capable of launching payloads up to 800kg.

- Our horizontal launch system uses the proven C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft. It is flown by USAF, Royal Air Force and numerous other nations around the globe, with more than 250 aircraft in service.

- Our Horizontal Launch System safely delivers satellites to all Low Earth Orbit inclinations to include Sun-Synchronous Orbit.

Customer Services

“Commitment to our customers is paramount. Our solutions offer the flexibility that satellite companies need. We deliver affordability with the highest standards of service. We’re looking forward to developing a relationship with you.”  Kevin Seymour, CEO

We will begin launching satellites in 2024 for our customers from the UK and across the world, with the likelihood of expanding our global basing footprint starting in 2025.

Talk to us now about your needs and secure a dependable, affordable, low-risk launch to your orbit, on your schedule.

Related links:

Northrop Grumman:



Images, Video, Text, Credits: Astraius/ Aerospace.


mercredi 27 juillet 2022

Crew’s Wednesday Schedule Focuses on Exercise, Science, and Maintenance


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

July 27, 2022

The Expedition 67 crew members focused on exercise, science beneficial to humans on Earth and future crews in space, and routine maintenance checks as part of their activities aboard the International Space Station today.

The seven station residents prioritized space exercise and took turns working out. They used the Tranquility module’s advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) to perform exercises such as bench presses, squats, and deadlifts. Crews workout on average two hours per day in space. Routine exercise helps astronauts counter the bone and muscle loss that accompanies living and working in microgravity.

Image above: Expedition 67 Flight Engineer and NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins works on electrical system components inside the International Space Station’s Harmony module on July 7, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines worked on the new Genes in Space-9 (GIS-9) study. Cell-free technology is a platform for protein production that does not include living cells. GIS-9 evaluates two approaches for using this technology in microgravity: cell-free protein production and biosensors that can detect specific target molecules. The technology could provide a portable, low-resource, and low-cost tool with potential applications for medical diagnostics, on-demand production of medicine and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins checked on the AC inverters in the laboratory and transferred cargo from the SpaceX CRS-25 Dragon spacecraft. Later, Hines and Watkins took turns completing a Robotic On-Board Trainer for Research (ROBoT-r) session as part of the Behavioral Core Measures experiment.

Meanwhile, NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren spent most of his morning installing material sample carriers onto the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock slide table. Lindgren followed up his ARED exercise session with a fitness test on an exercise cycle. He attached sensors to his chest and pedaled for an hour on a device more formally known as the Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization, or CEVIS. He also transferred supplies from the Dragon spacecraft.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti harvested radishes and mizuna greens growing without soil for the XROOTS space gardening study today. The experiment uses hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow edible plants so future crews can sustain themselves on deep space missions.

In the station’s Russian segment, the three cosmonauts exercised and completed maintenance duties. Station Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos replaced hardware in the exercise bike while Flight Engineer Denis Matveev completed monthly maintenance checks of routers in the Zvezda service module. Cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov worked on testing the European Robotic Arm manipulator.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Tranquility module:

Bone and muscle loss:

Genes in Space-9 (GIS-9):

Behavioral Core Measures:



Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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