samedi 8 octobre 2022

SpinLaunch's Giant Slingshot Fling A NASA Payload Into The Sky


SpinLaunch logo.

Oct. 8, 2022

It's an out-there plan, but it might just work.

Image above: The Suborbital Accelerator is basically half-centrifuge and half-catapult. Image Credit: SpinLaunch.

US-based startup SpinLaunch has teamed up with NASA and a number of other partners to see whether slingshotting objects into the sky could be a viable alternative to chemical-powered rocket launches.

Last week, SpinLaunch completed its tenth successful fling using their Suborbital Accelerator in the New Mexico desert. Their latest launch – which you check out below – saw the start-up fling a number of payloads owned by NASA, Airbus, Cornell University, and satellite delivery company Outpost.

Their chief aim was to see whether the sensitive scientific equipment onboard could survive the intense G-force of the Suborbital Accelerator.

This system essentially spins the object at approximately 8,046 kilometers (5,000 miles) per hour in a vertical 12-meter (39-foot) tall centrifuge. Once the object is up to speed, it’s flung out of the accelerator's chimney and launched into the sky.

Flight Test #10 - The First Payloads

NASA’s payload featured a Data Acquisition Unit (DAQ) equipped with an array of sensors including two accelerometers, a gyroscope, a magnetometer, and sensors for pressure, temperature, and humidity. Upon landing, the DAQ was recovered and researchers will now sift through the data it gathered.

All in all, the mission proved successful, since all of the equipment withstood the hustle and bustle of a spinning sling-shot launch.

“Flight Test 10 represents a key inflection point for SpinLaunch, as we’ve opened the Suborbital Accelerator system externally for our customers, strategic partners, and research groups,” Jonathan Yaney, Founder & CEO of SpinLaunch, said in a statement:

“The data and insights collected from flight tests will be invaluable for both SpinLaunch, as we further the development of the Orbital Launch system, and for our customers who are looking to us to provide them with low-cost, high-cadence, sustainable access to space,” added Yaney.

This inventive system for payload launches has yet to send an object into orbit, although this is their ultimate goal. The company didn’t release any information about the altitude of this latest test run, but previous launches have seen objects reach heights of 7,620 meters (25,000 feet).

It might seem like a bit of zany ambition to launch objects into orbit using an astronomical slingshot in the desert. However, SpinLaunch’s novel launch method holds a clear advantage as requires less fuel and, in turn, costs less money per launch.

All being well, the start-up hopes to start offering customer orbital launches by 2025.

Related article:

Alternative rocket builder SpinLaunch completes first test flight

Related link:


Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: SpinLaunch/IFLSCIENCE/Tom Hale.

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CASC - Long March-11 launches CentiSpace-1 S5/S6, first offshore launch


CASC - Offshore Launch logo.

Oct. 8, 2022

Long March-11 launch vehicle was launched from a sea platform

A Long March-11 launch vehicle launched the CentiSpace-1 S5/S6 satellites, from a sea-based platform in the Yellow Sea, on 7 October 2022, at 13:10 UTC (21:10 local time).

Long March-11 launches CentiSpace-1 S5/S6

According to official sources, the CentiSpace-1 S5/S6 test satellites (微厘空间 S5/S6, Weili-1 05/06, Kongjian Shiyan) have entered their planned orbits and “will be used to monitor the performance of the global navigation satellite system in real time, and carry out navigation augmentation and inter-satellite laser communication tests”.

Long March-11 carrying CentiSpace-1 S5/S6 liftoff

On 7 October 2022, at 13:10 UTC (21:10 local time), a Long March-11 launch vehicle was launched from a sea platform only three kilometres away from the shore. According to the designers of the launch vehicle, Long March-11 can now be regularly launched from the sea.

Long March-11’s first offshore launch

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

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 7 octobre 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 3, 2022


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Oct 7, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Oct. 3 that included evaluating in-space production of optic fibers, examining changes in bacteria in microgravity, and examining the formation of wet foams in microgravity. SpaceX Crew-5 members Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos arrived at the station and began their scientific mission on Oct. 6.

Image above: NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, and Frank Rubio shown inside the space station’s cupola, with Earth visible through the windows. Image Credit: NASA.  

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

High quality fibers

The Space Fibers-3 investigation evaluates a method for in-space production of fiber optic cable from a blend of elements called ZBLAN that produces high-quality glass for fiber optics. Previous studies showed improved properties in fiber drawn in microgravity compared to that fabricated on the ground. Using the space station as a platform for manufacturing increases opportunities for commercial utilization. Higher-quality fibers offer dramatically lower transmission losses and the potential applications on Earth include improved imaging, remote sensing, and next-generation optical communications. During the week, crew members reviewed procedures and gathered materials in preparation for the investigation.

Image above: A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launches NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Onboard are Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos. Image Credit: NASA.

Monitoring the gut microbiome

Rhodium Space Microbiome Isolates characterizes changes induced by spaceflight in individual bacterial species from the human gut microbiome, a complex community of diverse bacterial species. Research shows a connection between alterations in the gut microbiome and multiple diseases. Studies also show that changes occur in the composition and function of the gut microbiome during spaceflight. Results could provide a better understanding of how spaceflight affects the human gut microbiome and lead to strategies to improve human health and function during future missions. A better understanding of how bacterial communities adapt and function in space also could support development of treatments and countermeasures to help maintain human health on Earth. Crew members prepared samples for the experiment during the week.

Behavior of foams

Image above: This image shows a cell sample unit exchange for the Foam Coarsening investigation, which examines bubble size and arrangement for wet foams in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Foam Coarsening, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines bubble size and rearrangement for wet foams. Dispersions of gas into a liquid or solid matrix, foams behave differently in microgravity because drainage does not occur. Drainage is the irreversible flow of liquid through the foam, which leads to accumulation of liquid at the foam bottom and creation of a dry foam. Foams have a number of potential applications in microgravity, including fighting fires, cleaning water, and for creating materials that are lightweight with good mechanical resistance. On Earth, foams also have potential for cleaning water and fighting fires as well as for use in detergents, foods, and medicines. A better understanding of the properties of wet foam could help improve their control and design for these uses. During the week, crew members prepared samples for runs of the investigation.

Other investigations involving the crew:

Animation above: The XROOTS investigation in the space station’s Veggie facility tests growing plants hydroponically and aeroponically instead of using traditional growth media. Animation Credit: NASA.

- 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.

- ESA’s Myotones investigation observes changes in muscle properties during long-term spaceflight. Results could support development of improved countermeasures for future space missions as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments for those experiencing the effects of aging and restricted mobility on Earth.

- Wireless Compose-2, an investigation from ESA, demonstrates an infrastructure for wireless transmission of data and a smart shirt for measuring forces generated by the heart as it moves blood. This technology could help monitor the health of astronauts on future missions, and this investigation also could improve use of the technology on the ground.

- Vascular Aging, an investigation from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), analyzes accelerated aging-like changes astronauts experience in space. Results could help assess the potential risks to crew health on future missions and support development of countermeasures and treatments for the effects of aging in people on Earth.

- Standard Measures collects a set of core measurements, including data on behavioral health and performance, cellular profiles and immunology, the microbiome, biochemistry markers, sensorimotor changes, and cardiovascular health. These data help researchers characterize adaptive responses to living and working in space and monitor the effectiveness of countermeasures.

- 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.

Space to Ground: Einstein's Happiest Thought: 10/07/2022

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 68:

Space Fibers-3:

Rhodium Space Microbiome Isolates:

Foam Coarsening:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 68.


NASA’s InSight Waits Out Dust Storm


NASA - InSight Mars Lander patch.

Oct 7, 2022

InSight’s team is taking steps to help the solar-powered lander continue operating for as long as possible.

Image above: NASA’s InSight Mars lander took this final selfie on April 24, 2022, the 1,211th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The lander’s solar panels have become covered with dust since the lander touched down on Mars in November 2018, which has led to a gradual decline in its power level. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s InSight mission, which is expected to end in the near future, saw a recent drop in power generated by its solar panels as a continent-size dust storm swirls over Mars’ southern hemisphere. First observed on Sept. 21, 2022, by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the storm is roughly 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from InSight and initially had little impact on the lander.

The mission carefully monitors the lander’s power level, which has been steadily declining as dust accumulates on its solar arrays. By Monday, Oct. 3, the storm had grown large enough and was lofting so much dust that the thickness of the dusty haze in the Martian atmosphere had increased by nearly 40% around InSight. With less sunlight reaching the lander’s panels, its energy fell from 425 watt-hours per Martian day, or sol, to just 275 watt-hours per sol.

InSight’s seismometer has been operating for about 24 hours every other Martian day. But the drop in solar power does not leave enough energy to completely charge the batteries every sol. At the current rate of discharge, the lander would be able to operate only for several weeks. So to conserve energy, the mission will turn off InSight’s seismometer for the next two weeks.

“We were at about the bottom rung of our ladder when it comes to power. Now we’re on the ground floor,” said InSight’s project manager, Chuck Scott of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “If we can ride this out, we can keep operating into winter – but I’d worry about the next storm that comes along.”

The team had estimated that InSight’s mission would end sometime between late October of this year and January 2023, based on predictions of how much the dust on its solar panels will reduce its power generation. The lander has long-since surpassed its primary mission and is now close to the end of its extended mission, conducting “bonus science” by measuring marsquakes, which reveal details about the deep interior of the Red Planet.

Image above: The beige clouds seen in this global map of Mars are a continent-size dust storm captured on Sept. 29, 2022, by the Mars Climate Imager camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA’s Perseverance, Curiosity, and InSight missions are labeled, showing the vast distances between them. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Studying Martian Storms

There are signs that this large, regional storm has peaked and entered its decay phase: MRO’s Mars Climate Sounder instrument, which measures the heating caused by dust absorbing sunlight, sees the storm’s growth slowing down. And the dust-raising clouds observed in pictures from the orbiter’s Mars Color Imager camera, which creates daily global maps of the Red Planet and was the first instrument to spot the storm, are not expanding as rapidly as before.

This regional storm isn’t a surprise: It’s the third storm of its kind that’s been seen this year. In fact, Mars dust storms occur at all times of the Martian year, although more of them – and bigger ones – occur during northern fall and winter, which is coming to an end.

Mars dust storms aren’t as violent or dramatic as Hollywood portrays them. While winds can blow up to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour), the Martian air is thin enough that it has just a fraction of the strength of storms on Earth. Mostly, the storms are messy: They toss billowing dust high into the atmosphere, which slowly drops back down, sometimes taking weeks.

On rare occasions, scientists have seen dust storms grow into planet-encircling dust events, which cover almost all of Mars. One of these planet-size dust storms brought NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover to an end in 2018.

Because they’re nuclear-powered, NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers have nothing to worry about in terms a dust storm affecting their energy. But the solar-powered Ingenuity helicopter has noticed the overall increase in background haze.

Besides monitoring storms for the safety of NASA missions on the Martian surface, MRO has spent 17 years collecting invaluable data about how and why these storms form. “We’re trying to capture the patterns of these storms so we can better predict when they’re about to happen,” Zurek said. “We learn more about Mars’ atmosphere with each one we observe.”

More About the Mission

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages InSight for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

InSight Mars Lander & logo. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

JPL also manages MRO and its Mars Climate Sounder instrument for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space built MRO. The Mars Climate Imager camera, or MARCI, was built and is managed by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.

Related links:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS):

Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3):

InSight Mars Lander:

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

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China’s first solar observatory aims to solve mysteries of the Sun’s eruptions



Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) logo.

Oct. 7, 2022

The mission, scheduled to launch on Sunday, will also help to improve forecasts of damaging space weather.

Image above: The observatory, known by the nickname Kuafu-1, will view the Sun from its orbit around Earth. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/SDO.

China is set to launch its first dedicated solar observatory. Astronomers say its trio of instruments will provide insights into how the Sun’s magnetic field creates coronal mass ejections and other eruptions.

The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) is scheduled to lift off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China at 7.43 a.m. local time on 9 October. China has sent satellites with individual sun-gazing instruments into space before, but the 900 million yuan (US$126 million) ASO-S is its first observatory with a suite of tools.

Scientists in China have been waiting a long time for the observatory. They first pitched such a mission in the 1970s, says Weiqun Gan, an astrophysicist at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing, and the mission’s chief scientist. “We always wanted to do something like this,” he says.

Astronomers know that the Sun’s magnetic field causes its energetic emissions, but unravelling the relationship between the two is notoriously complex. ASO-S will be important for understanding these connections because its instruments look across different wavelengths at once, says Eduard Kontar, an astrophysicist at the University of Glasgow, UK, and a member of the mission’s science committee. Studying different aspects of the Sun’s activity simultaneously allows researchers to tie eruptions to their underlying causes.

ASO-S joins a slew of solar missions already in orbit around Earth or the Sun. “These are very exciting times for solar physicists in China and around the world,” says Kontar.

Four-year mission

ASO-S — also known by the nickname Kuafu-1, after a giant in Chinese mythology who sought to catch and tame the Sun — will observe from an orbit 720 kilometres above Earth’s surface, permanently facing the Sun.

The mission will last for at least four years, says Gan, covering the 2024–25 peak of the solar cycle, which lasts 11 years on average. “In these peak years we can observe a lot of eruptions,” he says.

The Sun produces high-energy bursts of radiation, known as solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), slower streams of particles produced in explosions. ASO-S’s main task will be to study the fundamental physics of these eruptions and their origins in energy released by the Sun’s contorting and realigning magnetic field. The process is one of “great scientific importance, with broad implications for understanding similar phenomena throughout the universe”, says Kontar.

Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S). Image Credit: CNSA

Solar flares and CMEs can affect Earth when they reach and interact with the planet’s atmosphere. The resulting ‘space weather’ has the potential to interfere with navigation systems and disrupt power grids. ASO-S can help with forecasting space weather by providing data about the shape of magnetic fields on the Sun’s surface that are most likely to cause eruptions — knowledge that could allow researchers to predict when and where such eruptions will happen, says Gan.

The observatory’s three instruments include a magnetograph to study the Sun’s magnetic field and an X-ray imager for studying the high-energy radiation released by electrons accelerated in solar flares. ASO-S also carries a coronagraph which will peer at the Sun in the ultraviolet and visible range, to scrutinize the plasma produced by flares and CMEs, from the solar surface through to the Sun’s outer atmosphere or ‘corona’.

Unique to ASO-S will be the ability to study an important region known as the middle corona — where solar storms brew — which has never been seen before in its entirety in the ultraviolet spectrum, says Sarah Gibson, a solar physicist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. This will give new clues to the origins of CMEs, she says.

Data sharing

Following the probe’s initial four-to-six-month commissioning phase, ASO-S data will be open for anyone to access and Chinese solar physicists are eager to collaborate, says Jean-Claude Vial, an astrophysicist at Paris-Saclay University.

Data from ASO-S could complement those from other solar observatories. The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, which launched in 2020 and flies close enough to the Sun to sample its atmosphere, carries a coronagraph similar to that on ASO-S. From their different vantage points, the two instruments will produce complementary observations, says Gibson. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, also flies close to the Sun to sample its atmosphere.

X-ray data from ASO-S could also be combined with data from ESA’s Solar Orbiter to provide a stereoscopic view of solar flares, says Kontar. This could lead to the first reliable measurements of ‘directivity’ — how intense solar flares tend to be in a particular direction — which could give clues as to how flares accelerate electrons, a major question in solar physics.

ASO-S is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Strategic Priority Research Program on Space Science that has launched missions such as the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale satellite and the X-ray telescope HXMT. ASO-S is the programme’s first mission that was developed from scratch, so the pressure is on, says Gan. “If our ASO-S mission can do some good work, then maybe it’s possible to extend these programmes and support more missions,” he says.


Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S):

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Nature/Elizabeth Gibney/CNSA/CASSPRP.


Citizen Scientists Enhance New Europa Images From NASA’s Juno


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Oct. 7, 2022

Science enthusiasts have processed the new JunoCam images of Jupiter’s icy moon, with results that are out of this world.

Citizen scientists have provided unique perspectives of the recent close flyby of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. By processing raw images from JunoCam, the spacecraft’s public-engagement camera, members of the general public have created deep-space portraits of the Jovian moon that are not only awe-inspiring, but also worthy of further scientific scrutiny.

Image above: This view of Jovian moon Europa was created by processing an image JunoCam captured during Juno’s close flyby on Sept. 29. Image Credits: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing by Björn Jónsson CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

“Starting with our flyby of Earth back in 2013, Juno citizen scientists have been invaluable in processing the numerous images we get with Juno,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Center in San Antonio. “During each flyby of Jupiter, and now its moons, their work provides a perspective that draws upon both science and art. They are a crucial part of our team, leading the way by using our images for new discoveries. These latest images from Europa do just that, pointing us to surface features that reveal details on how Europa works and what might be lurking both on top of the ice and below.”

JunoCam snapped four photos during its Sept. 29 flyby of Europa. Here’s a detailed look:

Europa Up Close

JunoCam took its closest image (above) at an altitude of 945 miles (1,521 kilometers) over a region of the moon called Annwn Regio. In the image, terrain beside the day-night boundary is revealed to be rugged, with pits and troughs. Numerous bright and dark ridges and bands stretch across a fractured surface, revealing the tectonic stresses that the moon has endured over millennia. The circular dark feature in the lower right is Callanish Crater.

Such JunoCam images help fill in gaps in the maps from images obtained by NASA’s Voyager and Galileo missions. Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson processed the image to enhance the color and contrast. The resolution is about 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) per pixel.

Science Meets Art

Images above: This pair of images shows the same portion of Europa as captured by the Juno spacecraft’s JunoCam during the mission’s Sept. 29 close flyby. The image at left was minimally processed. A citizen scientist processed the image at right, and enhanced color contrast causes larger surface features to stand out. Image Credits: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Navaneeth Krishnan S © CC BY.

JunoCam images processed by citizen scientists often straddle the worlds of science and art. In the image at right, processed by Navaneeth Krishnan, the enhanced color contrast causes larger surface features to stand out more than in the lightly processed version of the image (left). An example of the results can be seen in the lower right of the enhanced image, where the pits and a small block cast notable shadows. Small-scale texturing of the surface in the image needs to be carefully studied to distinguish between features and artifacts from processing, but the image draws us deeper into Europa’s alien landscape.

“Juno’s citizen scientists are part of a global united effort, which leads to both fresh perspectives and new insights,” said Candy Hansen, lead co-investigator for the JunoCam camera at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “Many times, citizen scientists will skip over the potential scientific applications of an image entirely, and focus on how Juno inspires their imagination or artistic sense, and we welcome their creativity.”

Fall Colors

Image above: This highly stylized view of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa was created by reprocessing an image captured by JunoCam during the mission’s close flyby on Sept. 29. Image Credits: Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Kevin M. Gill / Fernando Garcia Navarro CC BY 2.0.

Citizen scientist Fernando Garcia Navarro applied his artistic talents to create this image. He downloaded and processed an image that fellow citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill had previously worked on, producing a psychedelic rendering he has titled “Fall Colors of Europa.”

The processed image calls to mind NASA’s poster celebrating Juno’s 2021 five-year anniversary of its orbital insertion at Jupiter.

More Groovy Details About the Flyby

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

With a relative velocity of about 14.7 miles per second (23.6 kilometers per second), the Juno spacecraft only had a few minutes to collect data and images during its close flyby of Europa. As planned, the gravitational pull of the moon modified Juno’s trajectory, reducing the time it takes to orbit Jupiter from 43 to 38 days. The close approach 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.

Image above: NASA’s groovy celebration of Juno’s five-year anniversary of its orbital insertion at Jupiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Juno’s observations of Europa’s geology will not only contribute to our understanding of Europa, but also complement future missions to the Jovian moon. NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, set to launch in 2024, will study the moon’s atmosphere, surface, and interior, with a primary science goal to determine whether there are places below Europa’s surface that could support life.

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.

Related articles:

NASA’s Juno Gets Highest-Resolution Close-Up of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

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

JunoCam’s raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at:

More information about NASA citizen science can be found at:

More information about Juno is available at: and

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

Best regards,

Inspections Underway for Rocket, Spacecraft Before Setting Launch Date


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Oct. 7, 2022

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are in the process of preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the next launch attempt in November for the Artemis I mission. Check-outs conducted this week will allow NASA to finalize the work schedule before rolling SLS and Orion back to Launch Pad 39B.

Since resuming work after Hurricane Ian, teams have extended work platforms around SLS and Orion to assess the exterior and access internal components. Exterior inspections will note any foam or cork from the thermal protection system on the rocket or spacecraft that might need to be repaired. Teams will replace the flight batteries for the interim cryogenic propulsion stage and the boosters, as well as the batteries for the flight termination system in the boosters and core stage.

Image above: Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Image Credit: NASA.

Work will also include charging the CubeSats that are equipped to be re-charged and have elected to do so. Inside Orion, work will include replenishing the specimens and batteries for the biology investigations riding within the capsule, as well as recharging the batteries associated with the crew seat accelerometers and space radiation experiments.

While teams inside the Vehicle Assemble Building complete check-outs, managers are coordinating with the U.S. Space Force to reserve launch dates on the Eastern Range and working with other parts of the agency to evaluate any potential constraints before NASA sets a target date for the next launch attempt.

Although the Kennedy area received minimal impacts from Hurricane Ian, many team members who live farther west experienced larger effects from the storm and are still recovering. Managers are working with teams to ensure they have the time and support needed to address the needs of their families and homes.

Artemis I Mission Availability

Related articles:

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

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).

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Four New Members Get up to Speed With Station Life


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-5 Mission patch.

October 7, 2022

The 11 crew members now living aboard the International Space Station had a short day on Friday following Thursday’s arrival of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission. The eight astronauts and three cosmonauts had a long night following the docking of the SpaceX Dragon Endurance crew ship.

Image above: The four crew members from the SpaceX Crew-5 mission join the Expedition 68 crew during welcoming remarks inside the space station’s Harmony module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The four Crew-5 members are now officially Expedition 68 flight engineers and will spend the next few days getting used to life on orbit and familiarizing themselves with space station systems. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, along with Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, have a long list of space experiments they will conduct during their stay on the orbital lab. The commercial crew quartet will study microgravity’s affects on the cardiorespiratory system, modeling heart tissue to improve therapies for spaceflight-caused health issues, and the 3D bioprinting of human organs and tissues for implantation, among multiple other types of research.

SpaceX Crew-5 docking

As the new crew gets up to speed with their new home in space, the other seven station crewmates continued their normal station science and lab maintenance activities for half-a-day on Friday.

SpaceX Crew-5 hatch opening

NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Watkins and Frank Rubio worked on a pair of different studies during the afternoon exploring how to grow crops and manufacture products in space. Watkins checked on vegetables growing for the XROOTS space agriculture study that uses hydroponic and aeroponic nourishing techniques. Rubio investigated taking advantage of weightlessness to improve the production and quality of fiber optic cables.

Commander Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) joined NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren collecting and processing their blood samples. Afterward, Lindgren partnered with Mann and transferred emergency hardware from the station into the newly-arrived Endurance crew ship.

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin spent their afternoon on their contingent of space research and life support maintenance in their segment of the space station.

Related articles:

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Launches to International Space Station

What You Need to Know about NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Mission

Related links:

Expedition 68:


Fiber optic cables:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Rocket Lab - Electron launches “It Argos Up From Here” (Argos-4)


Rocket Lab - Electron / “It Argos Up From Here” patch.

Oct. 7, 2022

Electron carrying “It Argos Up From Here” (Argos-4) liftoff

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle launched the “It Argos Up From Here” mission, to deliver to orbit the GAzelle satellite carrying Argos-4 (Advanced Data Collection System, A-DCS) hosted payload, from Launch Complex 1, Pad B, on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, on 7 October 2022, at 17:00 UTC (8 October, at 06:09 NZT).

Electron launches “It Argos Up From Here” (Argos-4)

The mission is Rocket Lab’s 31st Electron launch overall. The Argos-4 payload is part of the international Argos program that collects data from thousands of sensors and transmitters located around the world, used to provide a better understanding of Earth’s physical and biological environment, including its weather and climate, biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as assist with maritime security, offshore pollution, and humanitarian assistance.

Argos-4 satellite

The delivery of Argos-4 to orbit was contracted to General Atomics by the United States Space Force’s (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) under a USSF Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) delivery order, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Rocket Lab:

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

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Ariane 6 takes next step to first flight with upper stage hot fire tests


ESA - Ariane 6 patch.

Oct. 6, 2022

(Article published a day late due to a breakdown at Blogger)

ESA’s flagship Ariane 6 launch vehicle programme has taken a dramatic step towards first flight with the start of a series of hot fire tests of the rocket’s upper stage and its all-new Vinci engine.

Artist's view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64)

These tests, which began on 5 October 2022, represent a significant step forward thanks to the specially-built P5.2 test bench at Germany’s DLR centre for engine and stage testing in Lampoldshausen. The P5.2 test bench subjects the entire upper stage to operating conditions representative of a flight from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, with the exception of vacuum and microgravity.  

Vinci, the upper stage engine of Ariane 6 fed by liquid hydrogen and oxygen, can be stopped and restarted multiple times – a critical capability for the complex missions demanded by launch customers today: placing several satellites into different orbits and de-orbiting the upper stage, to leave an absolute minimum of hazardous debris in space.

In addition to restart capabilities and endurance in space, Vinci has been developed for reliability, simplicity and lower costs

This test series is a critical milestone on a development path that will soon see Ariane 6 replace Ariane 5 as ESA’s heavy launcher. For more than a quarter century, Ariane 5 has been a reliable partner for commercial, institutional and scientific clients – one of its most notable missions was the 25 December 2021 flight that carried the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to its operational outpost in deep space. But Ariane 6 will be an even more versatile vehicle, further strengthening Europe’s autonomy in accessing space.  


Ariane 6 Vinci engine test

The tests being run at Lampoldshausen are also evaluating an innovative Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which works in tandem with the Vinci engine and is instrumental to Ariane 6 upper stage performance. In order to restart in space, earlier engines relied on large quantities of tanked helium to generate the necessary pressure and temperature in the propellant tanks and to ensure there are no bubbles in the fuel lines. But the APU delivers these conditions using only small amounts of the cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen already carried in the main tanks.

This test series is being run by DLR and ArianeGroup, the Ariane 6 launcher prime contractor. When the test series is complete, this upper stage – integrated by ArianeGroup at its facility in Bremen, Germany – will be shipped to ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands for stage separation and acoustic tests.

Ultimately, the Lampoldshausen tests will investigate hardware behaviour and system function of the complete stage with its tanks, engines and avionics. “The preparation for these hot firing tests is even more complex than for an actual launch,” says Ariane 6 launcher programme manager Guy Pilchen, noting that: “Our colleagues in Lampoldshausen have decades of experience in rocket propulsion with extremely advanced test facilities. With ArianeGroup colleagues to control the upper stage and DLR people operating the test bench, we couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Ariane 6 Vinci engine testing at DLR Lampoldshausen

ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander adds that this new engine and the upper stage it powers are indispensable components of Ariane 6 and its objective – to guarantee that Europe maintains independent, competitive and sustainable access to space:

“It’s a fact in the 21st century that Europeans depend on space for safety, prosperity and security. Europe needs to work toward complete autonomy in accessing and operating in space. Ariane 6 is key to this and we are eager to see the liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.”

Related link:

Ariane 6:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/D. Ducros/ESTEC/DLR/ArianeGroup.

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SpaceX Starlink 63 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

Oct. 6, 2022

(Article published a day late due to a breakdown at Blogger)

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 63 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink-63 / Starlink 4-29) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 5 October 2022, at 23:10 UTC (16:10 PDT).

SpaceX Starlink 63 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 5 October 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship,  stationed in the Pacific Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1071) previously supported four missions: NROL-87, NROL-85, SARah-1 and one Starlink mission.

Related links:



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


Station Awaits Arrival of SpaceX Crew-5 Members Today (Oct. 6, 2022)


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

October 6, 2022

(Article published a day late due to a breakdown at Blogger)

Three astronauts and one cosmonaut are headed to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endurance crew ship today. The seven-member Expedition 68 crew worked half-a-day today before sleep-shifting Thursday afternoon to prepare for the rendezvous and docking of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission.

Image above: The SpaceX Endurance crew ship atop the Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida carrying four Crew-5 members to the space station. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Crew-5 Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada, both NASA astronauts, with Mission Specialists Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos, are due to dock to the Harmony module’s forward port at 4:57 p.m. EDT today. About two hours later, the commercial crew quartet will open the vehicle’s hatch and enter the orbiting lab. Finally, all 11 station crew members will gather for welcoming remarks at 8:05 p.m. NASA TV is providing live coverage of the rendezvous, docking, and crew greeting activities on the agency’s app and website.

In the meantime, NASA Flight Engineers Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins spent the morning collecting their blood samples, spinning the samples in a centrifuge, and stowing them in a science freezer for later analysis. Afterward, the pair joined ESA (European Space Agency) Commander Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren and tested wearing a specialized garment that can manage blood pressure in microgravity. The orthostatic intolerance garment may help astronauts quickly adapt to the return to Earth’s gravity. The foursome is due to board the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship and parachute to a landing off the coast of Florida about a week after the Crew-5 mission arrives.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Astronaut Frank Rubio of NASA, just over two weeks into his first spaceflight, spent his morning on human research collecting and stowing his saliva and urine samples for later analysis, taking a hearing test, then completing a periodic health exam. First time cosmonaut Dmitri Petelin replaced electronics and ventilation components in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, on his second station mission, serviced an oxygen generator as part of standard life support maintenance.

Related article:

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Launches to International Space Station

Related links:


Expedition 68:

Harmony module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Satellites detect methane plume in Nord Stream leak


ESA - European Space Agency emblem.

Oct. 6, 2022

(Article published a day late due to a breakdown at Blogger)

Following unusual seismic disturbances in the Baltic Sea, several leaks were discovered last week in the underwater Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, near Denmark and Sweden. Neither pipeline was transporting gas at the time of the blasts, but they still contained pressurised methane – the main component of natural gas – which spewed out producing a wide stream of bubbles on the sea surface.

With the unexplained gas release posing a serious question about the incident’s environmental impact, a suite of complementary Earth observation satellites carrying optical and radar imaging instruments were called upon to characterise the gas leak bubbling in the Baltic.

Nord Stream leak as captured by Pléiades Neo

Although methane partly dissolves in water, released later as carbon dioxide, it is not toxic, but it is the second most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas in our atmosphere causing climate change.

As the pressurised gas leaked through the broken pipe and travelled rapidly towards the sea surface, the size of the gas bubbles increased as the pressure reduced. On reaching the surface, the large gas bubbles disrupted the sea surface above the location of the pipeline rupture. The signature of the gas bubbling at the sea surface can be seen from space in several ways.

Owing to the persistent cloud cover over the area, image acquisitions from optical satellites proved extremely difficult. High-resolution images captured by Pléiades Neo and Planet, both part of ESA’s Third Party Mission Programme, showed the disturbance ranging from 500 to 700 m across the sea surface.

Nord Stream as captured by Planet Dove

Several days later, a significant reduction in the estimated diameter of the methane disturbance was witnessed as the pipelines’ gas emptied. Images captured by Copernicus Sentinel-2 and US Landsat 8 mission confirmed this.

As disturbances such as these cause a ‘roughening’ of the sea surface, this increases the backscatter observed by Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instruments, which are extremely sensitive to changes in the sea surface at such a scale. These include instruments onboard the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and ICEYE constellation – the first New Space company to join the Copernicus Contributing Missions fleet.

ICEYE image from 28 September

ESA’s Scientist for Ocean and Ice, Craig Donlon, said, “The power of active microwave radar instruments is that they can monitor the ocean surface signatures of bubbling methane through clouds over a wide swath and at a high spatial resolution overcoming one of the major limitations to optical instruments. This allows for a more complete picture of the disaster and its associated event-timing to be established.”

One of the ruptures occurred southeast of the Danish Island of Bornholm. Images from Sentinel-1 on 24 September showed no disturbance to the water. However, an ICEYE satellite passing over the area on the evening of 28 September acquired an image showing a disturbance to the sea surface above the rupture.

What about the methane released?

Although optical satellites can provide us with the radius of the methane bubbling over water, they provide little information on how much methane has been released into the atmosphere.

Monitoring methane over water is extremely difficult as water absorbs most of the sunlight in the shortwave infrared wavelengths used for methane remote sensing. This limits the amount of light reaching the sensor, thus making it extremely difficult to measure methane concentrations over the sea at high latitudes.

Gas leak methane enhancement detected by GHGSat

GHGSat, a leader in methane emissions monitoring from space and also part of ESA's Third Party Mission Programme, tasked its satellites to measure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline leak with its constellation of high-resolution (around 25 m) satellites. By tasking its satellites to obtain measurements at larger viewing angles, GHGSat were able to target the area where the sun’s light reflected the strongest off the sea surface – known as the ‘glint spot’.

On 30 September, the estimated emission rate derived from its first methane concentration measurement was 79 000 kg per hour – making it the largest methane leak ever detected by GHGSat from a single point-source. This rate is extremely high, especially considering its four days following the initial breach, and this is only one of four rupture points in the pipeline.

GHGSat Director for Europe, Adina Gillespie, said, “Predictably, the media and the world have turned to space to understand the scale of the Nord Stream industrial disaster. While we await further investigation on the cause, GHGSat responded quickly, measuring 79 000 kg per hour of methane coming from the leaks. We will continue tasking GHGSat satellites for the Nord Stream sites until we no longer detect emissions.”

Claus Zehner, Copernicus Sentinel-5P, Altius and Flex Missions Manager, mentions: “Besides GHGSat, the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite provided methane concentration measurements emitted by this pipeline leak which highlights the feasibility to use both public funded and commercial satellites in a synergistic way.”

Gas leak detected by Copernicus Sentinel-2

Environmental impact

Although closed at the time, the two Nord Stream stems contained enough gas to release 300 000 tonnes of methane – more than twice the amount released by the Aliso Canyon leak in California over several months in 2015-16.

As large as it may be, the Nord Stream release pales in comparison with the 80 million tonnes emitted each year by the oil and gas industry. The latest release is roughly equivalent to one and a half days of global methane emissions.

Methane observations from the Sentinel-5P satellite can observe regions with enhanced methane concentrations from strong point sources all over the world. Satellite observations are a powerful tool for improving estimates of emission strength, seeing how they change over time and can also help detect previously unknown emission sources.

Nordstream pipeline map with shipping traffic

Looking ahead, the upcoming atmospheric Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission (CO2M) will carry a near-infrared spectrometer to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide, but also methane, at a good spatial resolution. This mission will provide the EU with a unique and independent source of information to assess the effectiveness of policy measures, and to track their impact towards decarbonising Europe and meeting national emission reduction targets.

Yasjka Meijer, ESA’s Scientist for Copernicus Atmospheric Missions, commented, “The CO2M Mission will provide global coverage and has a special mode above water to increase observed radiances by looking toward the sunglint spot, however it will be equally limited by clouds."

Related links:

Observing the Earth:

Pléiades Neo:


Copernicus Sentinel-2:

US Landsat 8 mission:

Copernicus Sentinel-1:

ICEYE constellation:


Sentinel-5P satellite:

Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission (CO2M):

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/Pléiades Neo/Planet Labs PBC/ICEYE 2022/GHGSat/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2022), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Best regards,