vendredi 5 août 2022

Crew Finishes Week Scrubbing Spacesuits, Adjusting Hardware, and Transferring Cargo


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

August 5, 2022

The Expedition 67 crew wrapped up its week aboard International Space Station by scrubbing spacesuits, adjusting hardware, and transferring cargo.

NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines spent portions of the day performing cooling loop scrubs for spacesuits, called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), which enable astronauts to work outside the station. He then reconfigured the EMU loop scrub hardware for iodination. Loop scrubs and iodinates are required to remove contaminants from the EMU transport loop.

Image above: The sun’s rays begin to illuminate the Earth’s atmosphere as the International Space Station flew into an orbital sunrise 261 miles above Texas on July 16, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren and ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti worked together to remove and store sample carriers for a suite of experiments that test how space affects various materials and components*. If these materials can withstand the harsh environment outside the station, they could help improve equipment for future space exploration.

Lindgren and NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins also continued working on cargo operations. The duo took turns packing cargo into Cargo Dragon to prepare for the SpaceX CRS-25 undock on August 18.

Sunrise from the International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The Russian segment of the station largely concentrated on carrying out maintenance tasks. Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos joined Cosmonaut Denis Matveev to route cables and prepare spacesuits. Meanwhile, cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov conducted a health check on video equipment and closed the day performing maintenance work on a ventilation subsystem.

*Related article:

Exposed! International Space Station Tests Organisms, Materials in Space

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Gazes at a Star-Studded Skyfield


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Aug 5, 2022

This star-studded image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the heart of the globular cluster NGC 6638 in the constellation Sagittarius. The star-strewn observation highlights the density of stars at the heart of globular clusters, which are stable, tightly bound groups of tens of thousands to millions of stars. To capture the data in this image, Hubble used two of its cutting-edge astronomical instruments: Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Hubble revolutionized the study of globular clusters. The distortion caused by Earth’s atmosphere makes it nearly impossible to clearly distinguish stars in the cores of globular clusters with ground-based telescopes. Orbiting some 340 miles (550 km) above Earth, Hubble can study what kind of stars make up globular clusters, how they evolve, and the role of gravity in these dense systems without Earth’s atmosphere posing a problem.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will further our understanding of globular clusters by peering into their star-studded interiors. Webb observes at infrared wavelengths, providing unique information about cluster stars that will complement Hubble’s incredible views.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Wide Field Camera 3:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Cohen.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of August 1, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

Aug 5, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Aug 1 that included controlling space station robots with code written by students, using a container-free system to examine formation of amyloid fibrils, and evaluating orbit-to-ground control systems for multiple robots.

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

Fly my code

Animation above: One of the space station’s Astrobee robots performs maneuvers during a run of Astrobee Zero Robotics, an investigation that allows students to write software for controlling the free-flying robots. Animation Credit: NASA.

For Astrobee Zero Robotics, students write software to control one of the space station’s Astrobee free-flying robots. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology team leads an online simulation competition that allows students to learn coding without directly interacting with the station robots. Finalists selected through the competition have their code downloaded to the Astrobee platform and observe its performance. The experience inspires the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers and promotes teamwork, computer literacy, and awareness of opportunities for space-related careers. Zero Robotics also advances understanding of artificial intelligence, systems engineering, and human-robot collaboration. This and other student programs help prepare young people for careers on Earth. Crew members conducted the final runs of the program during the week.

No container needed

The Ring Sheared Drop investigation examines formation of amyloid fibrils using a device that holds liquids together by surface tension rather than a container, which can affect scientific results. Amyloid fibrils form a waxy plaque in the brain and may be involved in development of some neurological diseases. Investigation results may contribute to a better understanding of these diseases and development of potential treatments. This ability to process materials without containers in microgravity could benefit other experiments, including those that grow protein crystals and microorganisms and research on pharmaceuticals. During the week, crew members set up the experiment in preparation for science operations.

Running the robots

Image above: This image shows Rollin’ Justin, a robot used for the ESA Surface Avatar investigation, which evaluates command of a robot on the ground by a crew member on board the space station. Future space missions, including Gateway, plan to use robotic systems for exploration and infrastructure development on other solar system bodies. Image Credit: NASA.

Surface Avatar, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), evaluates a system for orbit-to-ground command of multiple autonomous robots. Using telerobotic systems for exploration and infrastructure development on other solar system bodies could reduce the need for time-consuming and potentially risky human-based extravehicular activities. Such systems are expected to be integral to the lunar Gateway mission. Effective command of these systems from orbit is essential, though, and this investigation could support development of effective orbit-to-ground operations as well as provide insight into the most suitable control regimes for future sample return missions from Mars and asteroids. Some of the technologies also have applications on the ground, such as a humanoid robot from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) deployed as a household assistant for senior citizens. Crew members conducted operations during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- PGTide studies the effectiveness of stain removal ingredients and whether these detergent formulations undergo changes in physical appearance, stability, or performance in microgravity. Results could support development of systems for laundering crew clothing on future missions to the Moon and Mars.

- ANITA-2 from ESA tests a compact device that can analyze and quantify trace contaminants in the space station’s atmosphere and detect the presence of unknown substances. Atmospheric monitoring is an essential function for human exploration systems, and this technology also can be applied in monitoring of air quality in closed environments on Earth.

Image above: NASA astronaut Bob Hines conducts Genes in Space-9, a student-designed investigation to evaluate technology that does not include living cells to synthesize proteins for use in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

- Genes in Space-9 evaluates a technology that does not include living cells to synthesize proteins for use in microgravity. This technology could provide a portable, low-cost tool for medical diagnostics, on-demand production of medicine and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions.

- Space Fibers – 3 evaluates methods for producing fiber optic cable in space. Previous studies showed improved properties in fiber drawn in microgravity compared to that fabricated on the ground, and a higher quality product could improve applications on Earth such as imaging, remote sensing, and next-generation optical communications.

- Fiber Optic Production-2 builds on previous work to develop the technology for manufacturing commercial optical fibers in microgravity. These fibers are difficult to manufacture on Earth due to gravity-induced crystallization and other factors. This investigation could help guide manufacture of optical fiber aboard the space station for commercial use.

- NutrISS, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), assesses body composition and energy balance using wearable sensors. Results could lead to improved physical health and quality of life for astronauts and better clinical management of malnourished, obese, or immobilized patients on Earth.

- Thermal Amine Scrubber tests a method to remove carbon dioxide from air inside the space station. This could help protect crew members and people working in closed environments on Earth from adverse symptoms of carbon dioxide buildup.

- MISSE-16 tests a fabric with imbedded sensors, 3D printed polymers, dried microbes, paraffin wax thermal protection, thin solar cells, and other materials in the harsh environment of space. The samples could help improve equipment and systems for future space exploration.

- SERFE investigates the effect of contamination and corrosion on a spacesuit thermal control system and how microgravity affects the system’s ability to regulate astronaut body temperature under various conditions. Results could support development of spacesuits for future exploration missions and contribute to improvements in technology using evaporation for cooling on Earth.

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

Space to Ground: The Gateway Connection: 08/05/2022

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Astrobee Zero Robotics:

Student programs:

Ring Sheared Drop:

Surface Avatar:

Lunar Gateway:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

10 Years Since Landing, NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Still Has Drive


NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Aug 5, 2022

Despite signs of wear, the intrepid spacecraft is about to start an exciting new chapter of its mission as it climbs a Martian mountain.

Image above: NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this 360-degree panorama at a drill site nicknamed “Avanavero” on June 20, 2022, the 3,509th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. In its decade on the Red Planet, the rover has used the drill on its robotic arm to collect 41 rock and soil samples for analysis. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Ten years ago today, a jetpack lowered NASA’s Curiosity rover onto the Red Planet, beginning the SUV-size explorer’s pursuit of evidence that, billions of years ago, Mars had the conditions needed to support microscopic life.

Since then, Curiosity has driven nearly 18 miles (29 kilometers) and ascended 2,050 feet (625 meters) as it explores Gale Crater and the foothills of Mount Sharp within it. The rover has analyzed 41 rock and soil samples, relying on a suite of science instruments to learn what they reveal about Earth’s rocky sibling. And it’s pushed a team of engineers to devise ways to minimize wear and tear and keep the rover rolling: In fact, Curiosity’s mission was recently extended for another three years, allowing it to continue among NASA’s fleet of important astrobiological missions.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Turns 10: Here’s What It’s Learned

Video above: Learn more about Curiosity’s 10th year on Mars from the mission’s deputy project scientist, Abigail Fraeman. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A Bounty of Science

It’s been a busy decade. Curiosity has studied the Red Planet’s skies, capturing images of shining clouds and drifting moons. The rover’s radiation sensor lets scientists measure the amount of high-energy radiation future astronauts would be exposed to on the Martian surface, helping NASA figure out how to keep them safe.

But most important, Curiosity has determined that liquid water as well as the chemical building blocks and nutrients needed for supporting life were present for at least tens of millions of years in Gale Crater. The crater once held a lake, the size of which waxed and waned over time. Each layer higher up on Mount Sharp serves as a record of a more recent era of Mars’ environment.

Now, the intrepid rover is driving through a canyon that marks the transition to a new region, one thought to have formed as water was drying out, leaving behind salty minerals called sulfates.

“We’re seeing evidence of dramatic changes in the ancient Martian climate,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The question now is whether the habitable conditions that Curiosity has found up to now persisted through these changes. Did they disappear, never to return, or did they come and go over millions of years?”

Poster above: Stay curious with NASA and celebrate the agency’s Curiosity Mars rover’s 10th anniversary on the Red Planet with a two-sided poster that lists some of the intrepid explorer’s inspiring accomplishments. Poster Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Curiosity has made striking progress up the mountain. Back in 2015, the team captured a “postcard” image of distant buttes. A mere speck within that image is a Curiosity-size boulder nicknamed “Ilha Novo Destino” – and, nearly seven years later, the rover trundled by it last month on the way to the sulfate-bearing region.

The team plans to spend the next few years exploring the sulfate-rich area. Within it, they have targets in mind like the Gediz Vallis channel, which may have formed during a flood late in Mount Sharp’s history, and large cemented fractures that show the effects of groundwater higher up the mountain.

How to Keep a Rover on a Roll

What’s Curiosity’s secret to maintaining an active lifestyle at the ripe old age of 10? A team of hundreds of dedicated engineers, of course, working both in person at JPL and remotely from home.

They catalog each and every crack in the wheels, test every line of computer code before it’s beamed into space, and drill into endless rock samples in JPL’s Mars Yard, ensuring Curiosity can safely do the same.

Image above: This scene was captured by Curiosity on Sept. 9, 2015, when NASA’s Mars rover was many miles from its current location. The circle indicates the location of a Curiosity-size boulder that the rover recently drove past. To the left of that is “Paraitepuy Pass,” which Curiosity is now traveling through. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“As soon as you land on Mars, everything you do is based on the fact that there’s no one around to repair it for 100 million miles,” said Andy Mishkin, Curiosity’s acting project manager at JPL. “It’s all about making intelligent use of what’s already on your rover.”

Curiosity’s robotic drilling process, for example, has been reinvented multiple times since landing. At one point, the drill was offline for more than a year as engineers redesigned its use to be more like a handheld drill. More recently, a set of braking mechanisms that allow the robotic arm to move or stay in place stopped working. Although the arm has been operating as usual since engineers engaged a set of spares, the team has also learned to drill more gently to preserve the new brakes.

To minimize damage to the wheels, engineers keep an eye out for treacherous spots like the knife-edged “gator-back” terrain they recently discovered, and they developed a traction-control algorithm to help as well.

The team has taken a similar approach to managing the rover’s slowly diminishing power. Curiosity relies on a long-lived nuclear-powered battery rather than solar panels to keep on rolling. As the plutonium pellets in the battery decay, they generate heat that the rover converts into power. Because of the pellets’ gradual decay, the rover can’t do quite as much in a day as it did during its first year.

Mishkin said the team is continuing to budget how much energy the rover uses each day, and has figured out which activities can be done in parallel to optimize the energy available to the rover. “Curiosity is definitely doing more multitasking where it’s safe to do so,” Mishkin added.

Through careful planning and engineering hacks, the team has every expectation the plucky rover still has years of exploring to ahead of it.

More About the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, built Curiosity for NASA and leads the mission on behalf of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more about Curiosity, visit: and

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.


100 days of Minerva


ESA - Minerva Mission patch.

Aug 5, 2022

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti was launched to the International Space Station on 27 April as a part of Crew-4 for her second mission, Minerva. One hundred days in, mission Minerva is still going strong. From completing cutting-edge research in the world’s only orbiting laboratory to sharing daily life on the Space Station via TikTok, it’s all in a day’s work for an ESA astronaut.

Samantha Cristoforetti prepares for spacewalk

Inspired by the Roman goddess of wisdom, the handicrafts and the arts, the name Minerva is a homage to the competence and sophisticated craftmanship of the women and men all over the world who make human spaceflight possible. It also embodies the toughness and discipline that is required of us, and the wisdom we wish to demonstrate, as we consolidate and expand human presence in space. All these qualities and more have been on display during these first 100 days of the mission.

SpaceX Crew-4, Minerva mission patch, 2022

Making strides in health

Throughout mission Minerva, Samantha has played a vital role in a large number of scientific experiments on the Space Station, both from European states and international partners.

Her participation in audiology investigations during the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment, for example, help us understand how background noise exposure – such as that found on the Space Station – may contribute to hearing difficulties.

Samantha Cristoforetti performs the Acoustic Diagnostics investigation

Similarly, Samantha is taking part in the Myotones experiment, which investigates the regulation of muscle tone in microgravity and will also provide useful findings to improve medical approaches to muscle rehabilitation.

Research studies like these will not only inform medical considerations for future spaceflight, but be translated to healthcare back here in Earth, impacting patients around the globe.

Samantha’s contribution to our understanding of health doesn’t stop at providing data, however. As a passionate advocate for women’s health, she has also conducted outreach alongside the International Osteoporosis Foundation, filming videos on the importance of taking care of our bones – both in space and on the ground - and acting as a role model on how to do that with weightlifting.

Engineering the future

In the first 100 days of Mission Minerva, Samantha has also carried out several investigations that will inform the design of future space vehicles and habitats, as well as provide new materials for use on Earth.

For example, she has carried out experiments which explore the antimicrobial properties of metals and hydrophobic (or water repelling) surfaces in space. The antibacterial materials that result from these investigations will not only keep future space vehicles sanitary and safe for astronauts, but will also be useful in making it easier to maintain sterile medical environments around the world.

Samantha Cristoforetti installing Biofilms in Kubik

In the same vein, results from experiments into the formation and properties of alloy materials – such as Transparent Alloys – will help us understand just what gives alloys their strength, flexibility and longevity.

Samantha has also undertaken experiments such as the Fluid Science Laboratory Soft Matter Dynamics PASTA experiment, which looks at the behaviour of emulsions in microgravity. Emulsions are used in a wide variety of industries on Earth, including food, cosmetics and even medicines; understanding how they form and their dynamics will allow us to develop better, greener and healthier emulsion-based products and processes.

Stepping out

Samantha completed her first spacewalk in the first 100 days of Minerva. Not only was this a first for her, but it was also both the first for a European woman and the first made by a European in an Orlan spacesuit from the International Space Station.

Samantha Cristoforetti on her first spacewalk

Samantha worked alongside cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev on a number of tasks, including releasing nanosatellites into orbit and preparatory installations to the European Robotic Arm.

Inspiring Earthlings

Treading new ground isn’t an unusual task for an astronaut, and that’s exactly what Samantha has done online. With a hefty following on Tiktok, she is the first astronaut to communicate on the platform, providing thousands of viewers around the world intimate insights into life on the Space Station.

Her Twitter account also reaches far and wide, bringing new interest to space endeavours through her stunning Earth photography and playful videos. Combined with her contributions to ESA’s kids outreach program, Paxi, Samantha is inspiring people of all ages into science, engineering and more, as well as educating on the valuable scientific resource that is microgravity.

Mission Minerva continues, and with it will come more valuable data and findings, more inspirational outreach, and more exciting firsts for Europeans in space.

Congratulations on 100 days of Minerva, Samantha.

You can follow along with the rest of Samantha’s Mission Minerva here at our dedicated Minerva portal, or at Samantha’s personal Twitter and TikTok pages:

Related article:

Russian, European Spacewalkers Wrap Up Robotic Arm Excursion

Related links:

PASTA experiment:

European Robotic Arm:

Human and Robotic Exploration:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

jeudi 4 août 2022

SpaceX - Falcon 9 launches KPLO (Danuri) for KARI


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / KPLO (Danuri) Mission patch.

Aug 4, 2022

Falcon 9 carrying KPLO (Danuri) liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the KPLO mission to a ballistic lunar transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 4 August 2022, at 23:08 UTC (19:08 EDT).

Falcon 9 launches KPLO (Danuri) and Falcon 9 first stage landing

The Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), also known as Danuri ( 다누리) is the first lunar probe from the Republic of Korea. 

KPLO separation

The KPLO unmanned lunar probe is expected to carry out the mission of lunar observation while flying at an altitude of 100km over the Moon.

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

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 (B1052) previously supported two Falcon Heavy missions, Arabsat-6A and STP-2, and launched CSG-2 and two Starlink mission.

Related articles:

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

KARI names KPLO as it begins communication testing

Related links:


Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/KARI/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Brega.

Best regards,

2nd launch of China Reusable Experimental Spacecraft


CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Aug 4, 2022

CSSHQ F2 / 2nd launch of the experimental reusable spacecraft on August 04, from Jiuquan at approximately 16:00 UTC. After careful checking of NOTAMs, I "wildly" assume this would be the 2nd launch of the experimental reusable spacecraft (可重复使用试验航天器) by a Long March 2F/T.

Long March 2F/T

Launch from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, no more information about this Chinese military launch, no information on the payload either, just a comment: the Chinese continue to catch up by replicating what the Americans are doing (Boeing X-37), the second space race in aerospace history.

Reusable Experimental Spacecraft (可重复使用试验航天器)

This launch coincides with the Chinese military maneuvers around the island of Taiwan after the visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives to Taiwan.

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

Images, Text, Credits: CASC/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Installations, Inspections, and Training Fill Crew’s Midweek Schedule


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

August 4, 2022

The Expedition 67 crew’s midweek schedule aboard the International Space Station centered on installing equipment, inspecting for leaks, and a training exercise.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins set up the drain for an installed recycling tank for the Environmental Control and Life Support System, a piece of hardware that provides the station with clean water and air. She also made configurations to the Plant Habitat Facility, which monitors plants grown in space.

Image above: The sun’s glint beams off the Coral Sea northeast of Australia as the International Space Station orbited 264 miles above on July 11, 2022. Pictured in the right foreground, are a pair of the station’s main solar arrays and a radiator. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines completed a session for the Cerebral Autoregulation investigation, which assesses how the human brain regulates blood flow in microgravity. The experiment required him to wear electrodes and sensors that measured blood flow in his head and chest. Results of the study may benefit astronauts readjusting to Earth’s gravity upon their return.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren completed a photo survey of fasteners of the station’s airlock close out panel. He later inspected a leak and reconnected parts for the Solid Combustion Experiment Module designed to investigate the oxygen concentration required to sustain a flame over solid fuels.

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti installed a sample into hardware for the Ring Sheared Drop investigation. The experiment examines the formation and flow of a type of protein, called amyloids, in microgravity. Amyloids are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Results of the study could help researchers better understand these diseases and aid the development of advanced materials.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and Cosmonaut Denis Matveev met with specialists to stage spacewalk equipment and tools. Cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov spent time photographing microbial samples stored in petri dishes.

Toward the end of the day, the crew gathered to train on how to respond to an emergency aboard the station. The team practiced communicating, executing procedures, and makings decisions based on cues from simulator displays.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Environmental Control and Life Support System:

Plant Habitat Facility:

Cerebral Autoregulation:

Ring Sheared Drop:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Additional Artemis I Test Objectives to Provide Added Confidence in Capabilities


NASA / ESA - Orion Crew Vehicle patch.

Aug 4, 2022

Orion Earth Moon. Image Credit: NASA

During Artemis I, NASA plans to accomplish several primary objectives, including demonstrating the performance of the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield from lunar return velocities, demonstrating operations and facilities during all mission phases from launch countdown through recovery, and retrieving the crew module for post-flight analysis. As the first integrated flight of the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the exploration ground systems at NASA’s 21st century spaceport in Florida, engineers hope to accomplish a host of additional test objectives to better understand how the spacecraft performs in space and prepare for future missions with crew.

Orion spacecraft description (click on the image for enlarge). Image Credit: NASA

Accomplishing additional objectives helps reduce risk for missions with crew and provides extra data so engineers can assess trends in spacecraft performance or improve confidence in spacecraft capabilities. Some of the additional objectives planned for Artemis I include:

Modal survey

On the European-built service module, Orion is equipped with 24 reaction control system (RCS) thrusters, small engines responsible for moving the spacecraft in different directions and rotating it. The modal survey is a prescribed series of small RCS firings that will help engineers ensure the structural margin of Orion’s solar array wings during the mission. Flight controllers will command several small firings of the engines to cause the arrays to flex. They will measure the impact of the firings on the arrays and evaluate whether the inertial measurement units used for navigation are experiencing what they should. Until the modal survey is complete, large translational burns are limited to 40 seconds.

Optical navigation camera certification

Orion has an advanced guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C) system, responsible for always knowing where the spacecraft is located in space, which way it’s pointed, and where it’s going. It primarily uses two star trackers, sensitive cameras that take pictures of the star field around Orion, the Moon, and Earth, and compares the pictures to its built-in map of stars. The Optical navigation camera is a secondary camera that takes images of the Moon and Earth to help orient the spacecraft by looking at the size and position of the celestial bodies in the image. At several times during the mission, the optical navigation camera will be tested to certify it for use on future flights. Once certified, the camera also can help Orion autonomously return home if it were to lose communication with Earth.

Solar array wing camera Wi-Fi characterization

The cameras affixed to the tips of the solar array wings communicate with Orion’s camera controller through an on-board Wi-Fi network. Flight controllers will vary the positioning of the solar arrays to test the Wi-Fi strength while the arrays are in different configurations. The test will allow engineers to optimize how quickly imagery taken by cameras on the ends of the arrays can be transmitted to onboard recorders.

Crew module/service module surveys

Flight controllers will use the cameras on the four solar array wings to take detailed photos of the crew module and service module twice during the mission to identify any micrometeoroid or orbital debris strikes. A survey conducted early on in the mission will provide images soon after the spacecraft has flown beyond the altitude where space debris resides and a second survey on the return leg will occur several days before reentry.

Large file delivery protocol uplink

Engineers in mission control will uplink large data files to Orion to better understand how much time it takes for the spacecraft to receive sizeable files. During the mission, flight controllers use the Deep Space Network to communicate with and send data to the spacecraft, but testing before flight hasn’t including using the network. The test will help inform engineers’ understanding of whether the spacecraft uplink and downlink capability is sufficient to support human rating validation of end-to-end communication prior to Artemis II, the first flight with astronauts.

Star tracker thermal assessment

Engineers hope to characterize the alignment between the star trackers that are part of the guidance, navigation and control system and the Orion inertial measurements units, by exposing different areas of the spacecraft to the Sun and activating the star trackers in the different thermal states. The measurements will inform the uncertainty in the navigation state due to thermal bending and expansion which ultimately impacts the amount of propellant needed for spacecraft maneuvers during crewed missions.

Radiator loop flow control

Two radiator loops on the spacecraft’s European Service Module help expel heat generated by different systems throughout the flight. There are two modes for the radiators. During speed mode, the radiator pumps operate at a constant speed to help limit vibrations and is the primary mode used during Artemis I and during launch for all Artemis flights. Control mode allows for better control of the radiator pumps and their flow rate, and will be used on crewed missions when more refined control of flow through the radiators is desired. This objective will test control mode to provide additional data about how it operates in space.

Solar array wing plume

Depending on the angle of Orion’s solar array wings during some thruster firings, the plume, or exhaust gasses, from those firings could increase the arrays’ temperature. Through a series of small RCS firings, engineers will gather data to characterize heating of the solar array wings.

Propellant slosh

Liquid propellant kept in tanks on the spacecraft moves differently in space than on Earth because of the lack of gravity in space. Propellant motion, or slosh, in space is hard to model on Earth, so engineers plan to gather data on the motion of the propellant during several planned activities during the mission.

Search acquire and track (SAT) mode

SAT mode is an algorithm intended to recover and maintain communications with Earth after loss of Orion’s navigation state, extended loss of communications with Earth, or after a temporary power loss that causes Orion to reboot hardware. To test the algorithm, flight controllers will command the spacecraft to enter SAT mode, and after about 15 minutes, restore normal communications. Testing SAT mode will give engineers confidence it can be relied upon as the final option to fix a loss of communications when crew are aboard.

Entry aerothermal

During entry of the spacecraft through Earth’s atmosphere, a prescribed series of 19 reaction control system firings on the crew module will be done to understand performance compared to projected data for the sequence. Engineers are interested in gathering this data during high heating on the spacecraft where the aerothermal effects are largest.

Integrated Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) functionality

The SARSAT test will verify connectivity between beacons to be worn by crew on future flights and ground stations receiving the signal. The beacons will be remotely activated and powered for about an hour after splashdown and will also help engineers understand whether the signal transmitted interferes with communications equipment used during recovery operations, including Orion’s built-in tri-band beacon which transmits the spacecraft’s precise location after splashdown.

Ammonia boiler restart

After Artemis I splashdown, Orion’s ammonia boiler will be turned off for several minutes then restarted to provide additional data about the system’s capability. Ammonia boilers are used to help control the thermal aspects of the spacecraft to keep its power and avionics systems cool, and keep the interior of the crew module at a comfortable temperature for future crews. In some potential contingency landing scenarios for crewed missions, crews may need to turn off the ammonia boiler to check for hazards outside the spacecraft, then potentially turn it back on to provide additional cooling.

Orion spacecraft. Animation Credit: ESA

Engineers will perform additional tests to gather data, including monitoring the heatshield and interior components for saltwater intrusion after splashdown. They also will test the GPS receiver on the spacecraft to determine the spacecraft’s ability to pick up the signal being transmitted around Earth, which could be used to augment the spacecraft’s ability to understand its positioning in the event of communications loss with mission controllers.

Collectively, performing additional objectives during the flight provides additional information engineers can use to improve Orion as NASA’s spacecraft that will take humans to deep space for years to come.

Related links:

Artemis I:

Reaction control system (RCS) thrusters:

Advanced guidance, navigation, and control (GN&C):

Solar array wings:

Orion Spacecraft:

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


Exposed! International Space Station Tests Organisms, Materials in Space


ISS - MISSE Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) patch.

Aug 4, 2022

Space may look empty, but it contains extreme temperatures, high levels of background radiation, micrometeoroids, and the unfiltered glare of the Sun. In addition, materials and equipment on the outside of the International Space Station are exposed to atomic oxygen (AO) and other charged particles as it orbits the Earth at the very edge of our atmosphere. Only the hardiest materials, equipment, and organisms can withstand this harsh environment, and scientists conducting research on the orbiting laboratory have identified some of them for a variety of potential uses.

“There are ways to test the various components of space exposure individually on the ground, but the only way to get the combined effect of all of them at the same time is on orbit,” says Mark Shumbera of Aegis Aerospace, which owns and operates the MISSE Flight Facility (MISSE-FF), a platform for space exposure studies on station. “That’s important because combined effects can be very different from individual ones.”

Image above: EXPOSE-R2 flight hardware with dried cells of Chroococcidiopsis sp. 029 mixed with Martian regolith analog to simulate Mars-like conditions for the BIOMEX experiment on response of melanin-containing fungi to space. After exposure, the cells were returned to Earth and rehydrated for DNA sequencing. Image Credits: Roscosmos/ESA.

Missions launch about every six months to MISSE-FF, which is sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Experiments began when the platform was installed in 2018 and will continue for the life of the space station, Shumbera says. A previous MISSE facility operating from 2001 until 2016 hosted the first station-based exposure experiments.

Some of these missions help researchers understand how new technologies react to the space environment. “Before using a technology on an operational satellite or vehicle, you want some confidence that it will perform the way you think it will in the space environment,” he says.

MISSE-FF has high-definition cameras that take periodic photos of all items on its exposure decks and sensors to record environmental conditions such as temperature, radiation, and UV and AO exposure. All test articles are brought back to the ground for postflight analysis as well.

Image above: Atomic oxygen erosion of Teflon fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) after more than 5 years of space exposure. Image Credits: Kim de Groh, NASA Glenn.

NASA scientists have flown multiple missions on the MISSE-FF to analyze the effects of atomic oxygen and radiation on hundreds of samples and devices.

MISSE-9, for example, assessed how polymers, composites, and coatings handled exposure to space. For this and other MISSE missions, Kim de Groh, senior materials research engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, tests two primary environmental degradation effects. The first is how quickly a material erodes due to AO interaction. She measures loss of mass in space-exposed materials and uses that information to compute AO erosion yield values. These values help spacecraft designers determine whether specific materials are suitable for use and how thick those materials need to be.

Materials used as spacecraft insulation can become brittle in space due to radiation and temperature cycling on orbit. This embrittlement can create cracks and cause problems such as a spacecraft component overheating. De Groh also tests the durability of different materials to find those that resist becoming brittle.

Image above: Large cracks in the Hubble Space Telescope Light Shield solar-facing multilayer insulation observed during its second servicing mission after almost 7 years in space. Image Credits: Townsend, High Performance Polymers.

“The ideal situation is to actually expose samples to space, to experience all the harsh environment conditions at the same time,” de Groh says.

The EXPOSE-R-2 facility from ESA (European Space Agency) is another platform that offers scientists the opportunity to test samples in space. ESA investigations that have used the facility include BOSS and BIOMEX, which exposed biofilms, biomolecules, and extremophiles to space and Mars-like conditions. Extremophiles are organisms that can live in conditions intolerable or even lethal for most forms of life.

Increasing autonomy is critical to future missions that travel farther from Earth and cannot rely on resupply missions. Microorganisms that are tolerant of extreme conditions have potential uses in life support systems for such missions, according to Daniela Billi, a professor in the biology department of the University of Rome Tor Vergata and an investigator for BOSS and BIOMEX. For example, cyanobacteria can use available resources to fix carbon (convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbohydrates) and produce oxygen.

Image above: NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain install the MISSE-FF inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module’s airlock before depressurizing the unit to move the facility to the exterior of the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

During exposure on the space station, dried Chroococcidiopsis cells received an ionizing radiation dose equivalent to a trip to Mars. Their response suggests that the bacteria could be transported to the planet and rehydrated on demand. The dried cells also were mixed with a simulant of Martian regolith or dust and received a UV dose corresponding to about 4 hours of exposure on the Martian surface.

“The aim of this study was to verify whether this cyanobacterium could repair DNA damage accumulated during travel to Mars and exposure to unattenuated Mars conditions,” says Billi.

Recently published results suggest that they can: DNA sequencing of cells rehydrated after exposure showed no increase in mutation rate compared to controls grown under Earth conditions. This result increases the potential for using this organism to employ resources available on site to support human settlements.

Image above: The MISSE Flight Facility on the exterior of the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

Another investigation using the EXPOSE-R-2 facility found signs of life in melanin-containing fungi after 16 months of exposure to space. Fungal melanin pigment seems to play a role in cellular resistance to extreme conditions, including radiation, and may have potential for use as radiation protection on future deep space missions. In the experiment, a thin layer of one strain of melanized fungus decreased radiation levels by almost 2% and potentially as much as 5%.

In addition to fungi, researchers used the ESA platform to expose the resting stages of some 40 species of multicellular animals and plants to space for the EXPOSE-R IBMP investigation. Results showed that many of these organisms remained viable and even completed life cycles and reproduction for several generations, suggesting future voyages to other planets could take along terrestrial life forms for use in ecological life-support systems and for creating artificial ecosystems.

As humans explore farther into space and stay there longer, tests performed on the space station’s exposure platforms help ensure the materials and systems they take along are up for the trip.

Related links:

MISSE Flight Facility (MISSE-FF):

ISS National Lab:





Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Melissa Gaskill.

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ULA - Atlas V launches SBIRS GEO-6


ULA - Atlas V / SBIRS GEO-6 Mission poster.

Aug 4, 2022

Atlas V carrying SBIRS GEO-6 liftoff

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 421 launch vehicle launched SBIRS GEO Flight 6 to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 4 August 2022, at 10:29 UTC (06:29 EDT).

Atlas V launches SBIRS GEO-6

SBIRS GEO Flight 6 is the sixth and final Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO 6) spacecraft for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC).

SBIRS GEO-6 Space Vehicle completes production

Built by Lockheed Martin, SBIRS GEO 6 is the final satellite in the current series with powerful scanning and staring sensors that provides continuous global surveillance to detect missile launches and provide early warning for the Unites States and its allies.

This satellite was based on the company's modernized LM 2100 Combat Bus™ -- an enhanced space vehicle that provides even greater resiliency and cyber-hardening against growing threats, as well as improved spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics.

United Launch Alliance (ULA):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin/SciNews/Space Systems Command - Space Force/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


CASC - Long March-4B launches TECIS and two small satellites


CASC - CZ-4B Y40 TSLC / Long March-4B / TECIS patch.

Aug 4, 2022

Long March-4B carrying TECIS and two small satellites liftoff

A Long March-4B launch vehicle launched the Terrestrial Ecosystem Carbon Inventory Satellite (TECIS), and two small satellites: HEAD-2G and Minhang Juvenile Satellite, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 4 August 2022, at 03:08 UTC (11:08 local time).

Long March-4B launches TECIS and two small satellites

TECIS will evaluate forest biomass, measure atmospheric aerosol content and detect photosynthetic fluorescence.

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Carbon Inventory Satellite (TECIS)

TECIS  - the Terrestrial Ecosystem Carbon Inventory Satellite is designed to evaluate forest biomass, measure atmospheric aerosol content and detect photosynthetic fluorescence. TECIS was launched by a Long March-4B launch vehicle on 4 August 2022, at 03:08 UTC (11:08 local time).

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:
Image, Videos, Text, Credits: Du, S.; Liu, L.; Liu, X.; Zhang, X.; Gao, X.; Wang, W. The Solar-Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence Imaging Spectrometer (SIFIS) Onboard the First Terrestrial Ecosystem Carbon Inventory Satellite (TECIS-1): Specifications and Prospects. Sensors 2020, 20, 815. DOI: 10.3390/s20030815/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,