samedi 1 octobre 2022

Firefly Alpha “To The Black” launch


Firefly Aerospace - Firefly Alpha “To The Black” patch.

Oct. 1, 2022

Firefly Alpha “To The Black” liftoff

Firefly Aerospace launched its second Firefly Alpha launch vehicle (Alpha Flight 2 - FLTA002 - “To The Black”) from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, on 1 October 2022, at 07:01 UTC (01:01 PDT).

Firefly Alpha “To The Black” launch (FLTA002)

For the first time for Firefly, the mission was successful, all the small satellites being deployed into orbit.

Firefly Alpha in orbit

Alpha Flight 2: To The Black is Firefly’s second technology demonstration flight that attempt to launch multiple satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) from our launch site (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Space Force Base. Alpha first insert into an elliptical transfer orbit, coast to apogee, and perform a circularization burn.

Firefly Aerospace:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Firefly Aerospace/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 30 septembre 2022

Expedition 68 Begins, SpaceX Crew Swap Planned for October


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

September 30, 2022

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The Expedition 68 mission is officially underway with seven astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together aboard the International Space Station. The crew swaps aren’t over yet as four SpaceX Crew-5 members count down to their upcoming launch to the orbiting lab.

Commander Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) will lead station operations until she and fellow crewmates Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship in about two weeks. The quartet, who have been aboard the space station since April 27, spent Friday checking their Dragon pressure suits, packing personal items, and reviewing departure and landing procedures.

Image above: NASA astronauts (from left) Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, and Frank Rubio pose for a portrait together inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” Image Credit: NASA.

The homebound commercial crew is waiting for their replacements who are targeting a launch to the orbiting lab for no earlier than noon EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 5. SpaceX Crew-5 Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada, both from NASA, with Mission Specialists Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, are due to arrive at the station one day after launching aboard the Dragon Endurance. They will spend a few days getting used to life on orbit before Cristoforetti and her three Freedom crewmates end their mission and parachute to Earth inside the Freedom crew ship.

Image above: NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission is targeting launch Wednesday, Oct. 5, to the International Space Station from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, to the to the orbital complex for a science expedition mission. Image Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

In the meantime, first time space-flyer Frank Rubio of NASA is in his second week as a space station flight engineer. He arrived at the orbiting lab with fellow flight engineers Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitriy Petelin, both from Roscosmos, on Sept. 21 inside the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship.

Rubio spent the end of the week exploring how to use artificial intelligence to adapt materials manufacturing, such as fiber optics, to the vacuum of space for the Intelligent Glass Optics study. He swapped and observed glass fiber samples being pulled inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox. Petelin and Prokopyev and Petelin partnered together for a study exploring how microgravity affects the heart and blood vessels.

Related article:

Coverage Set for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Events, Broadcast, Launch

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Intelligent Glass Optics:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA’s Legacy of Science, Engineering in Retiring Airborne Observatory


NASA / DLR - SOFIA patch.

Sep 30, 2022

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) was a mission of discovery, revealing unseen – and sometimes unseeable – parts of our universe. As the mission draws to a close, with flights ending on Thursday, Sept. 29, NASA is taking a look back at the scientific accomplishments of SOFIA and some of the feats of engineering that let it fly.

Image above: Boeing 747SP jetliner had to be modified to carry Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). Image Credit: NASA.

“From deepening our understanding of water on the Moon to revealing the invisible forces of cosmic-scale magnetic fields, none of it could have happened without the hundreds of people who contributed their expertise to the SOFIA mission,” said Naseem Rangwala, the mission’s project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

From the start of its development in 1996, SOFIA required engineering ingenuity. A Boeing 747SP jetliner had to be modified to carry the 38,000-pound, 100-inch (more than 17,000-kilogram, 2.5-meter) telescope provided by NASA’s partner on the SOFIA mission, the German Space Agency at DLR.

Engineers at Ames developed a garage door-like mechanism that rolled up to let the telescope observe the skies. In that configuration, it was “one of the largest open ports ever flown on an aircraft,” said Paul Fusco, a NASA engineer, now retired, who helped design the door system, “and the largest certified to fly at all altitudes and speeds with the door open. It was a really thrilling aviation innovation.”

The mission’s pilots couldn’t even feel when the door was open. And the stability of the telescope itself was equivalent to keeping a laser pointer steady on a penny from 10 miles away. SOFIA had achieved a smooth flight and a steady gaze.

And that was only the beginning. By 2014, the observatory had reached its full operational capability, and for eight years SOFIA helped astronomers around the world use infrared light to study an impressive array of cosmic events and objects invisible to other telescopes.

“SOFIA’s unique scientific achievements were the result of the ingenuity of the incredible international community that grew up around the mission,” said Alessandra Roy, SOFIA project scientist for the German Space Agency, “which was only made possible by the collaboration of NASA and DLR.”

Animation above: This three-dimensional view of the Orion Nebula – Earth’s closest star-formation nursery – was created using data from the SOFIA mission. It reveals detailed structure of the nebula, including a "bubble" that has been blown clear of gas and dust by a powerful stellar wind. In this way, massive stars can regulate star formation around them, and SOFIA helped astronomers better understand this effect. Animation Credits: NASA/SOFIA.

A community of high school teachers also came to know SOFIA personally, through the NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. This professional development opportunity included an immersion experience flying aboard SOFIA with scientists and crew members. Participating teachers were able to bring this real-world science content back to their classrooms and reveal diverse STEM-related careers to students.

Now, the observatory is being retired. Science flights have ended, and the team is exploring options for a fitting permanent home for this special aircraft. SOFIA’s data from a total of 732 nights observing over the course of the mission will also be publicly available for scientists to study and conduct further research in the future.

“Infrared astronomy will go on at NASA, most notably with the James Webb Space Telescope,” said Paul Hertz, senior advisor for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, former Astrophysics Division director, and former SOFIA program scientist. “But SOFIA’s many and diverse contributions to science have already left their mark.”

Here are some ways in which SOFIA changed our understanding of the universe. Scroll down to read on, or follow a topic with the links below:

Image above: Composite infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It spans more than 600 lightyears across and is helping scientists learn how many massive stars are forming in the galaxy’s center. Data from SOFIA (blue and green) is combined with data from the Herschel Space Observatory (red) and the Spitzer Space Telescope (white). SOFIA’s view revealed features that had never been seen before. Image Credits: NASA/SOFIA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Herschel.

Discovery of Water on Sunlit Portion of Moon

Although SOFIA’s telescope wasn’t originally configured to look at the Moon, its lunar observations confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This meant water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.

Image above: This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water. Image Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter.

NASA is eager to learn about water on the Moon in advance of sending humans to the lunar surface with the Artemis missions. SOFIA’s data also adds to the work of future Moon missions, such as NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover.

The Moon was not SOFIA’s only target in our solar system. The observatory also studied the circulation of gases within Jupiter’s atmosphere, the possibility that comets delivered carbon to planets like Earth, and, just recently, the asteroid that will be explored by NASA’s Psyche mission – to name a few.

Finally Detected: First Type of Molecule Ever to Form in Universe

After decades of searching by astronomers, SOFIA detected, for the first time in space, the first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe.

Image above: Image of planetary nebula NGC 7027 with illustration of helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe. Image Credits: NASA/ESA/Hubble Processing: Judy Schmidt.

SOFIA’s work in astrochemistry also shed light on one way water gets distributed in the universe. The mission explored the life cycle of materials in space, too: clouds of simple gases that form more complex gases and, ultimately, stars and star systems.

Ultra-Time-Sensitive Observations

SOFIA’s mobility allowed it to capture extremely fleeting events in astronomy over remote locations.

In 2015, Pluto passed directly between a distant star and the Earth, giving scientists a rare chance to analyze its atmosphere while backlit by the star. And the only observatory that could position itself over the open ocean, directly in the center of Pluto’s shadow racing across Earth’s surface, was SOFIA.

Image above: A group of Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors – high-school science teachers participating in a professional development opportunity – plus their flight facilitator aboard SOFIA. From left, Lynne Zielinski, Heidi Steinbrink, Marcella Linahan, Pamela Harman, the Educational Program co-manager for SOFIA, Tom Jenkins, and Vivian Hoette focus in on an observation target. Image Credits: NASA/SOFIA.

SOFIA was nimble, which also helped it provide long-term monitoring – as for a surprisingly long, bright outburst by a protostar in the Cat’s Paw Nebula – and respond quickly, when needed. This was the case in 2014 when an exploding star, a supernova, was spotted – the brightest and closest to Earth in decades.

Images above: The first two images above show the central portions of galaxy M82 prior to the supernova explosion, while the right image shows Supernova SN2014J taken by the FLITECAM instrument on the SOFIA observatory on Feb. 20. Images Credits: NASA/SOFIA/FLITECAM team / Sachindev Shenoy.

Revealing the Magnetic Universe

SOFIA’s most paradigm-shifting contributions may have been in letting astronomers “see” and map magnetic fields on smaller scales than ever before.

Image above: Magnetic fields observed by SOFIA in the galaxy Centaurus A are shown as streamlines over a composite image taken at multiple wavelengths by several observatories. The large-scale magnetic fields, 1,600 light-years across, are parallel to the dust lanes seen in visible light and other wavelengths. However, the fields appear twisted and distorted near the middle – a remnant of the spiral-shaped magnetic field from one of the original galaxies that merged to form Centaurus A. The active, supermassive black hole at its core adds to the distortions. Visible and submillimeter wavelengths are shown in orange, X-ray wavelengths in blue, and infrared in dark red. Credits: Optical: European Southern Observatory Wide Field Imager; Submillimeter: Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy/ESO/Atacama Pathfinder Experiment/A.Weiss et al.; X-ray and Infrared: NASA/Chandra/R. Kraft; JPL-Caltech/J. Keene; SOFIA/L. Proudfit.

One study revealed magnetic fields, once thought to slow star birth by preventing gravity from pulling raw material into a growing star, may sometimes work with gravity to nourish the birth of stars.

SOFIA studied the roles magnetic fields play in the cosmos across a range of scales – from star formation on the “small” end to phenomena shaping entire galaxies, feeding blackholes, and causing whole galaxies to merge.

New Way to Study Earth’s Atmosphere, Climate

Flying at 38,000 to 45,000 feet, SOFIA soared above 99.9% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that obscures infrared observations from the ground. But the telescope still peered through the upper reaches of our atmosphere.

After developing ways to work with SOFIA data on this hard-to-study region, researchers were able to make direct measurements of atomic oxygen in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Image above: Noctilucent or "night shining" clouds forming in the mesosphere as seen from the International Space Station on May 29, 2016. These clouds form between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, near the boundary of the mesosphere and thermosphere, a region known as the mesopause. SOFIA is making direct measurements of atomic oxygen in this region, solidifying some of the basic science of how solar energy is exchanged between the surface and space. Image Credits: ESA/NASA/Tim Peake.

Studying other atmospheres was already in SOFIA’s wheelhouse. Observing the occultation of a star by Neptune’s moon Triton revealed secrets of its atmosphere, while a challenging set of observations of Venus could help shed light on reports of phosphine, a potential biomarker for microbial life, in that planet’s atmosphere.

A Star Is Born – or Not

By observing in infrared light, SOFIA revealed secrets of star formation that would otherwise have remained hidden inside massive clouds of gas and dust.

Image above: The powerful wind from the newly formed star at the heart of the Orion Nebula is creating the bubble (black) and preventing new stars from forming in its neighborhood. At the same time, the wind is pushing molecular gas (color) to the edges, creating a dense shell around the bubble where future generations of stars can form. Image Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Pabst et. al.

One major area of research for SOFIA involved an effect called “feedback,” where stars either help or hinder the creation of more stars in their neighborhood. Using SOFIA’s data, researchers found that a stellar wind in the Orion Nebula is clearing a bubble free of material needed to form new stars, while, in another nebula, the original star is triggering the birth of new generations.

Astronomers learned all these things and many more as SOFIA explored the universe from 40,000 feet. Even as the mission winds down, making way for the next chapter in infrared astronomy, the discoveries made from the observatory’s data will go on. SOFIA’s legacy and that of the entire team who made the mission fly is to have taught humanity more about the cosmos and inspired others to do the same.

SOFIA was a joint project of NASA and the German Space Agency at DLR. DLR provided the telescope, scheduled aircraft maintenance, and other support for the mission. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley managed the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft was maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California. SOFIA achieved full operational capability in 2014 and concluded its final science flight on Sept. 29, 2022.

Related links:

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA):

NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program:

Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Abigail Tabor.

Best regards,

NASA Updates Crew Assignments for First Starliner Crew Rotation Flight


NASA / Boeing - Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) patch.

Sep 30, 2022

NASA has added two astronauts to the agency’s Boeing Starliner-1 launch to the International Space Station, the spacecraft’s first mission following completion of its flight tests and certification.

Image above: Portraits of NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Edward Michael (Mike) Fincke.
Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts Scott Tingle and Mike Fincke of NASA will serve as the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. Both astronauts have previously flown as crew members aboard the space station.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps remains assigned as a mission specialist on Starliner-1. Epps also continues cross-training on the Dragon spacecraft to protect for other flight opportunities.

The agency’s Starliner crew rotation missions to the space station will carry four crew members at a time. Future crew assignments for Starliner-1 will be made following review and approval by the agency and its international partners.

Starliner-1 will launch following the successful completion of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which aims to demonstrate Starliner’s ability to achieve NASA certification and safely fly regular crewed missions to space station.

Boeing is targeting launch of its first test flight with astronauts in early February 2023, pending space station program approval, rocket manifest, and confirmation by the Eastern Range. Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

After a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for future crewed missions to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

For more than 21 years, astronauts have continuously lived and worked aboard the space station, testing technologies, performing science, and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth. Regular commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the station and prepare for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit. As part of Artemis, NASA will send astronauts to the Moon to prepare for future human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at:

Commercial Space:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Roxana Bardan/Joshua Finch/JSC/Dan Huot/KSC/Brittney Thorpe/Jennifer Wolfinger.


Teams Confirm No Damage to Flight Hardware, Focus on November for Launch


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Sept. 30, 2022

Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian. There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations. Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparation for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher as it returns to the Vehicle Assembly Building from Launch Pad 39B, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27. Over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the VAB and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt. Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch.

Artemis I Mission Availability

Related articles:

NASA’s Moon Rocket and Spacecraft Arrive at Vehicle Assembly Building

NASA to Roll Artemis I Rocket and Spacecraft Back to VAB Tonight

NASA Closely Monitoring Weather While Rollback Preparations Continue

Artemis I Managers Wave Off Sept. 27 Launch, Preparing for Rollback

Artemis Cryogenic Demonstration Test Concludes, All Objectives Met

Artemis I Cryogenic Demonstration Test on Track for Wednesday

NASA Adjusts Dates for Artemis I Cryogenic Demonstration Test and Launch; Progress at Pad Continues

Repair Work Underway, Preparations Continue for Next Launch Opportunity

ARTEMIS 1 - Teams Continue to Review Options for Next Attempt, Prepare to Replace Seal

NASA to Stand Down on Artemis I Launch Attempts in Early September, Reviewing Options

Artemis I Launch Attempt Scrubbed (Again)

Second try for the Artemis I Moon flight

Engineers Assess Data After Scrub, Mission Managers to Meet Tuesday Afternoon

ARTEMIS 1 - Launch Attempt Scrubbed

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion spacecraft:

European Service Module (ESM):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of September 26, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

Sep 30, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Sept. 26 that included analyzing vascular changes in astronauts, assessing bone and muscle loss in space, and improving the amount of potable water recovered from wastewater. NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, who arrived at the station Sept. 21, experienced their first full week of conducting scientific investigations.

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

Analyzing Aging

Studies indicate that many crew members experience accelerated aging-like changes in space, including carotid artery stiffening and increased insulin resistance. Vascular Aging, an investigation from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), uses wearable sensors, ultrasounds, and blood samples to analyze these changes, including identifying and detecting biomarkers that could provide early signs of them. Results could help assess the potential risks to the health of astronauts on future missions. The investigation also could support development of countermeasures and treatments for the effects of aging in people on Earth. During the week, crew members performed a breathing volume calibration and collected data using the garment and headband sensors.

Image above: NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines greet NASA astronaut Frank Rubio (center) shortly after his arrival at the International Space Station on Sept. 21. Image Credit: NASA.

Monitoring Body Mass

During spaceflight, bodily changes that astronauts can experience include loss of bone, muscle, and body mass. NutrISS, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), assesses changes in body composition and energy balance. Previous research suggests that a diet that maintains a near-neutral energy balance and an increased protein intake may limit the microgravity-induced loss of bone and muscle. Results from this investigation could provide additional insight and lead to ways to improve physical health and quality of life for astronauts as well as for malnourished, obese, or immobilized patients on Earth. During the week, crew members performed nutritional assessments for the investigation.

Image above: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti conducts the simulated robotic capture of a cargo craft, part of Behavioral Core Measures. This investigation measures a crew member’s ability to perform robotic activities in microgravity, which could inform design of future spacecraft and space habitats. Image Credit: NASA.

Water Recovery

An investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the JEM Water Recovery System (JWRS) generates potable water from wastewater. Wastewater on the space station currently is collected and stored or vented overboard, but long-term space missions could recover more of it to extend water supplies. Water recovery systems in space need to have high recovery rates, compact size, and low power consumption, and JWRS meets these requirements. Demonstration of its function contributes to ongoing development of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), intended to provide basic needs for astronauts on the space station and future space missions. This technology has the potential to improve access to potable water in remote and undeveloped locations on Earth as well. Crew members replaced a pump and flushed the system, the first in a series of activities to prepare for upcoming operations. Additional parts are scheduled to arrive on the NG-18 commercial resupply mission.

Image above: This image shows Hurricane Ian from the International Space Station as it orbits 258 miles above the Caribbean Sea east of Belize. In the foreground (from left), are the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship, docked to the Rassvet module, and the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship, docked to the Prichal module. Image Credit: NASA.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Neural Integration System, a JAXA investigation, uses the nematode C. elegans to examine how microgravity affects the nervous system. Results could support development of countermeasures to protect crew members on future space missions and contribute to better health for Earth’s aging population.

- AMO-EXPRESS 2.5 tests software for automating some spacecraft maintenance and repair activities. On a mission to Mars, due to significant time delays in communications between space and ground, crew members must perform many tasks without assistance from mission control. This technology could help address that issue.

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

- Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument for measuring and quantifying the concentration of small and large particles in spacecraft air. The data could shed light on the sources of particles and help protect air quality in spacecraft to keep astronauts healthy and comfortable on future missions.
- UNIGLO tests the effects of microgravity on processing complex glasses. Results could lead to development of novel fibers with applications in planetary and space-based defense systems, cryptography networks, and space-based X-ray optics astronomy tools.

- ISS Ham Radio sessions engage students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community in direct communication with astronauts via ground-based amateur radio units.
This experience helps inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.

- Behavioral Core Measures collects a suite of measurements that quantify the abilities of crew members to complete telerobotic operations within the first 24 hours after landing. This information could help determine what tasks a crewmember can perform when landing on the surface of Mars after months in weightlessness, for example.

Space to Ground: Assuming Command: 09/30/2020

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.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Vascular Aging:


JEM Water Recovery System (JWRS):

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


China Space Station (CSS) - Wentian relocation


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

Sept. 30, 2022

CSS - Wentian relocation

The Wentian Laboratory Module (问天实验舱) was successfully transferred from the front docking port to the side docking port of the Tianhe Core Module (天和核心舱), the first and main component of the China Space Station (中国空间站), on 30 September 2022, at 04:44 UTC (12:44 China Standard Time).

Wentian relocation

Related articles & link:

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 astronauts second spacewalk

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 astronauts complete first spacewalk

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 astronauts begin first spacewalk

China Space Station (CSS) - Rice grows in the Wentian Laboratory Module

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 astronauts enter Wentian

China Space Station (CSS) - Wentian docking

China Space Station (CSS) - Wentian launch

CSS - Long March-5B ready to launch Wentian & Xuntian space telescope prototype phase

China Space Station (CSS) - Tianzhou-3 undocking

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 hatch opening

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-14 Crew launch & Shenzhou-14 docking

China Space Station (CSS) - Tianzhou-4 docking

China Space Station (CSS) - Tianzhou-4 launch

What’s next for the China Space Station in 2022 and 2023

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:
Image, Video, Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Gateway: ESPRIT


Gateway patch.

Sept. 30, 2022

In brief

ESPRIT is the name for ESA’s elements for the Lunar Gateway, and part of Europe’s contribution to the creation of the international outpost orbiting the Moon. The name is an abbreviation of European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunication, that shows the variety of functions that ESPRIT provides to the lunar Gateway.

Gateway zoom on ESPRIT


The Gateway will be a habitat, refueling and research centre for astronauts exploring our Moon as part of the Artemis programme.

The refueling and infrastructure and the telecommunication functions are provided by two different elements that will reach Gateway at different times. The two elements are:

- The HALO-Lunar Communication System - a communication system installed on NASA’s Habitation and Logistic module (HALO). The HALO-Lunar Communication System will allow the Gateway to communicate with astronauts and rovers on the Moon’s surface, in orbit and when close to the Gateway.

- The European Refueling Module - a habitable space for astronauts with cargo space and fuel tanks to store propellant for the Gateway.

Gateway over Moon

HALO-Lunar Communication System

The HALO-Lunar Communication System (HLCS) is a self-standing tele-communications element with its own computers, radio equipment and antennas. It provides radio links with satellites, rovers and human landers heading to and from the Moon’s surface, as well as spacecraft around the Gateway. Two antennas will be able to follow and maintain communications with multiple targets simultaneously.

What is ESPRIT?

The system will allow for high data speeds that can support live video transmission even when the Gateway will be at the farthest distance from the Moon – 70 000 km from the surface. HLCS will allow for voice and high-definition video links and can calculate information on distance and relative speeds between the Gateway and elements connected to its radio link.


The HALO-Lunar Communication System has two 125-cm dish antennas, each operating simultaneously and independently to keep communication with radio targets.

ESPRIT HALO-Lunar Communication System

Radio frequency bands:

Provides a combination of two simultaneous communication links in S/S, S/K, and K/K radio frequency bands.

Communication speed:

From few Kbps up to 25 Mbps depending on distance.

Ranging capability:

Over S-band.

Overall size:

2.5 m x 2.5 meter.


270 kg.

Power consumption:

Up to 600 W of power.

The design is complete and manufacturing has started using European companies.

ESPRIT Refueling module

The ESPRIT refueling module is part of the Gateway’s core structure. The module is 4.6 m in diameter and 6.4 meter in length. It weighs around 10 tonnes on Earth filled with fuel.

The ESPRIT Refueling Module (ERM) has four main functions: transport cargo to the station, provide storage space once docked at Gateway, provide fuel to propulsion system of Gateway (NASA’s Gateway Power and Propulsion Element), and provide a view of space and the Moon through its windows.

Gateway with ESPRIT module right

The ERM has two main structural elements: the pressurised tunnel where astronauts can float inside (the white cylinder pictured above) and an unpressurised element surrounding part of the pressurised hull.

The pressurised tunnel is a habitable environment used for storage and offering passage between the two docking ports at each end of the tunnel. At launch the ESPRIT module is designed to hold cargo of up to 1.5 tonnes.

ESPRIT refueling module

The pressurised tunnel has six windows and one workstation position, where astronauts can dock their laptops, cameras and other tools to work especially when an outside view is required, such as docking spacecraft or operating robotic arms.

The unpressurised system is a set of external volumes in which the module’s computer and refueling systems are hosted. The unpressurized system is clearly visible as octagonal gold ring around the white tunnel. Batteries are also mounted outside on the surface of the pressurised tunnel, providing power to keep ESPRIT operating at the right temperature on its voyage to the Gateway orbit.

Angelic halo orbit chosen for humankind’s first lunar outpost

The Gateway propulsion system utilises two types of propellants: the standard chemical propellant used by most modern spacecraft, and xenon. Xenon is a noble gas used in electric propulsion systems to generate thrust by first electrically charge and then accelerate with electric fields the gas molecules.  Electric propulsion systems are very “fuel” efficient, requiring less than ten percent of the propellant required by chemical propulsion system for equivalent transfers. Capability to refuel these types of propulsion systems is one of the likely keys to enable human interplanetary mission.  In addition to the propellant ERM will bring to the station, the module also allows a tanker spacecraft to dock with its free port to provide further refills.

Team Gateway Europe

The prime contractor and system designer of both ESPRIT elements is Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France. They are managing a large Industrial consortium supplying the components and services that will make ESPRIT. For the ESPRIT Refueling Module ERM, the design and responsibility is shared with a group of companies that, together with Thales Alenia Space, form the core team:

- OHB in Bremen, Germany, is designing the unpressurised element and the Xenon refueling system /

- Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, is designing and manufacturing the pressurised tunnel /

- Thales Alenia Space in the UK is designing and manufacturing the chemical propellant system /

Testing Comex design for ESPRIT airlock

Related links:

Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France:


Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Thales Alenia Space.


jeudi 29 septembre 2022

Three Soyuz Crewmates Return to Earth, Finish Station Mission


ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-21 Mission patch.

September 29, 2022

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov landed on Earth at 6:57 a.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 29 in Kazakhstan (4:57 p.m. Kazakhstan time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 3:34 a.m.

The trio returns to Earth after 195 days in space that spanned 3,120 orbits of Earth and over 78 million miles.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-21 crew ship with three cosmonauts aboard is seen parachuting to a landing in Kazakhstan less than three-and-a-half hours after undocking from the space station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

During the mission, Artemyev completed five spacewalks totaling 33 hours, 12 minutes. He has now logged 561 days in space on his three flights.

Matveev completed four spacewalks totaling 26 hours, 7 minutes during the mission. He logged 195 days in space on his first flight.

Korsakov also logged 195 days in space on his first flight.

Soyuz MS-21 undocking and departure

The trio will return by Russian helicopters to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, before boarding a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to their training base in Star City, Russia.

Remaining aboard the station is the seven-person crew of Expedition 66 with Station Commander Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.

Soyuz MS-21 landing

In October, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 members – NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina – will join the Expedition 68 members aboard the station. Crew-5 will be the fifth crew rotation mission of SpaceX’s human space transportation system, and its sixth flight with astronauts, to the space station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The International Space Station has surpassed 20 years of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. To date, 260 people from 20 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research investigations from researchers in more than 100 countries and areas.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Commercial Crew Program:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA, SpaceX to Study Hubble Telescope Reboost Possibility


NASA & SpaceX logos.

Sep 29, 2022

NASA and SpaceX signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement Thursday, Sept. 22, to study the feasibility of a SpaceX and Polaris Program idea to boost the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope into a higher orbit with the Dragon spacecraft, at no cost to the government.

There are no plans for NASA to conduct or fund a servicing mission or compete this opportunity; the study is designed to help the agency understand the commercial possibilities.

SpaceX – in partnership with the Polaris Program – proposed this study to better understand the technical challenges associated with servicing missions. This study is non-exclusive, and other companies may propose similar studies with different rockets or spacecraft as their model.

Image above: An astronaut aboard the space shuttle Atlantis captured this image of the Hubble Space Telescope on May 19, 2009. Image Credit: NASA.

Teams expect the study to take up to six months, collecting technical data from both Hubble and the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. This data will help determine whether it would be possible to safely rendezvous, dock, and move the telescope into a more stable orbit.

“This study is an exciting example of the innovative approaches NASA is exploring through private-public partnerships,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “As our fleet grows, we want to explore a wide range of opportunities to support the most robust, superlative science missions possible.”

Image above: This image from April 24, 2021, shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour as it approached the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

While Hubble and Dragon will serve as test models for this study, portions of the mission concept may be applicable to other spacecraft, particularly those in near-Earth orbit like Hubble.

Hubble has been operating since 1990, about 335 miles above Earth in an orbit that is slowly decaying over time. Reboosting Hubble into a higher, more stable orbit could add multiple years of operations to its life.

At the end of its lifetime, NASA plans to safely de-orbit or dispose of Hubble.

“SpaceX and the Polaris Program want to expand the boundaries of current technology and explore how commercial partnerships can creatively solve challenging, complex problems,” said Jessica Jensen, vice president of Customer Operations & Integration at SpaceX. “Missions such as servicing Hubble would help us expand space capabilities to ultimately help all of us achieve our goals of becoming a space-faring, multiplanetary civilization.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington.

Related links:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Karen Fox/Alise Fisher.

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NASA’s Juno Shares First Image From Flyby of Jupiter’s Moon Europa


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Sep 29, 2022

Observations from the spacecraft’s pass of the moon provided the first close-up in over two decades of this ocean world, resulting in remarkable imagery and unique science.

Image above: The complex, ice-covered surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during a flyby on Sept. 29, 2022. At closest approach, the spacecraft came within a distance of about 219 miles (352 kilometers). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS.

The first picture NASA’s Juno spacecraft took as it flew by Jupiter’s ice-encrusted moon Europa has arrived on Earth. Revealing surface features in a region near the moon’s equator called Annwn Regio, the image was captured during the solar-powered spacecraft’s closest approach, on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 2:36 a.m. PDT (5:36 a.m. EDT), at a distance of about 219 miles (352 kilometers).

This is only the third close pass in history below 310 miles (500 kilometers) altitude and the closest look any spacecraft has provided at Europa since Jan. 3, 2000, when NASA’s Galileo came within 218 miles (351 kilometers) of the surface.

Europa is the sixth-largest moon in the solar system, slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. Scientists think a salty ocean lies below a miles-thick ice shell, sparking questions about potential conditions capable of supporting life underneath Europa’s surface.

This segment of the first image of Europa taken during this flyby by the spacecraft’s JunoCam (a public-engagement camera) zooms in on a swath of Europa’s surface north of the equator. Due to the enhanced contrast between light and shadow seen along the terminator (the nightside boundary), rugged terrain features are easily seen, including tall shadow-casting blocks, while bright and dark ridges and troughs curve across the surface. The oblong pit near the terminator might be a degraded impact crater.

With this additional data about Europa’s geology, Juno’s observations will benefit future missions to the Jovian moon, including the agency’s Europa Clipper. Set to launch in 2024, Europa Clipper will study the moon’s atmosphere, surface, and interior, with its main science goal being to determine whether there are places below Europa’s surface that could support life.

As exciting as Juno’s data will be, the spacecraft had only a two-hour window to collect it, racing past the moon with a relative velocity of about 14.7 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second).

“It’s very early in the process, but by all indications Juno’s flyby of Europa was a great success,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “This first picture is just a glimpse of the remarkable new science to come from Juno’s entire suite of instruments and sensors that acquired data as we skimmed over the moon’s icy crust.”

Artist's impression of Juno Europa flyby. Image Credit: NASA

During the flyby, the mission collected what will be some of the highest-resolution images of the moon (0.6 miles, or 1 kilometer, per pixel) and obtained valuable data on Europa’s ice shell structure, interior, surface composition, and ionosphere, in addition to the moon’s interaction with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

“The science team will be comparing the full set of images obtained by Juno with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades,” said Candy Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who leads planning for the camera at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “The JunoCam images will fill in the current geologic map, replacing existing low-resolution coverage of the area.”

Juno’s close-up views and data from its Microwave Radiometer (MWR) instrument will provide new details on how the structure of Europa’s ice varies beneath its crust. Scientists can use all this information to generate new insights into the moon, including data in the search for regions where liquid water may exist in shallow subsurface pockets.

Building on Juno’s observations and previous missions such as Voyager 2 and Galileo, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, slated to arrive at Europa in 2030, will study the moon’s atmosphere, surface, and interior – with a goal to investigate habitability and better understand its global subsurface ocean, the thickness of its ice crust, and search for possible plumes that may be venting subsurface water into space.

The close flyby modified Juno’s trajectory, reducing the time it takes to orbit Jupiter from 43 to 38 days. The flyby also marks the second encounter with a Galilean moon during Juno’s extended mission. The mission explored Ganymede in June 2021 and is scheduled to make close flybys of Io, the most volcanic body in the solar system, in 2023 and 2024.

More About the Mission

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at: and

Related link:

JunoCam (a public-engagement camera):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.