samedi 21 janvier 2023

NASA Issues Award for Greener, More Fuel-Efficient Airliner of Future


NASA Aeronautics logo.

Jan 21, 2023

NASA announced Wednesday it has issued an award to The Boeing Company for the agency’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, which seeks to inform a potential new generation of green single-aisle airliners.

Under a Funded Space Act Agreement, Boeing will work with NASA to build, test, and fly a full-scale demonstrator aircraft and validate technologies aimed at lowering emissions.

Image above: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson holds a model of an aircraft with a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing during a news conference on NASA’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building in Washington, DC. Through a Funded Space Act Agreement, The Boeing company and its industry team will collaborate with NASA to develop and flight-test a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing demonstrator aircraft. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Over seven years, NASA will invest $425 million, while the company and its partners will contribute the remainder of the agreement funding, estimated at about $725 million. As part of the agreement, the agency also will contribute technical expertise and facilities.

“Since the beginning, NASA has been with you when you fly. NASA has dared to go farther, faster, higher. And in doing so, NASA has made aviation more sustainable and dependable. It is in our DNA,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “It’s our goal that NASA’s partnership with Boeing to produce and test a full-scale demonstrator will help lead to future commercial airliners that are more fuel efficient, with benefits to the environment, the commercial aviation industry, and to passengers worldwide. If we are successful, we may see these technologies in planes that the public takes to the skies in the 2030s.”

Single-aisle aircraft are the workhorse of many airline fleets, and due to their heavy usage, account for nearly half of worldwide aviation emissions. NASA plans to complete testing for the project by the late 2020s, so that technologies and designs demonstrated by the project can inform industry decisions about the next generation of single-aisle aircraft that could enter into service in the 2030s.

Through the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project, Boeing and its industry team will partner with NASA to develop and flight-test a full-scale Transonic Truss-Braced Wing demonstrator aircraft.

The Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept involves an aircraft with extra-long, thin wings stabilized by diagonal struts. This design results in an aircraft that is much more fuel efficient than a traditional airliner due to a shape that would create less drag – resulting in its burning less fuel.

“NASA is working toward an ambitious goal of developing game-changing technologies to reduce aviation energy use and emissions over the coming decades toward an aviation community goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Bob Pearce, NASA associate administrator for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “The Transonic Truss-Braced Wing is the kind of transformative concept and investment we will need to meet those challenges and, critically, the technologies demonstrated in this project have a clear and viable path to informing the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, benefiting everyone that uses the air transportation system.”

NASA’s goal is that the technology flown on the demonstrator aircraft, when combined with other advancements in propulsion systems, materials, and systems architecture, would result in fuel consumption and emissions reductions of up to 30% relative to today’s most efficient single-aisle aircraft, depending on the mission.

Through separate efforts, NASA has worked with Boeing and other industry partners on advanced sustainable aviation concepts, including the Transonic Truss-Braced Wing concept.

Image above: Artist concept of commercial aircraft families with a Transonic Truss-Braced Wing configuration from the Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project. Image Credit: Boeing.

“We’re honored to continue our partnership with NASA and to demonstrate technology that significantly improves aerodynamic efficiency resulting in substantially lower fuel burn and emissions,” said Todd Citron, Boeing chief technology officer. “Boeing has been advancing a multipronged sustainability strategy, including fleet renewal, operational efficiency, renewable energy, and advanced technologies to support the U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan and meet the industry objective of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator builds on more than a decade of NASA, Boeing, and our industry partners’ investments to help achieve these objectives.”

The new Funded Space Act agreement allows NASA to capitalize on private industry knowledge and experience, with Boeing and its partners laying out a proposed technical plan. NASA will provide access to its aeronautics facilities and expertise. NASA will not procure an aircraft or any other hardware for its missions. The agency will obtain access to certain ground and flight data that can be used to validate the airframe configuration and associated technologies.

The Sustainable Flight Demonstrator will help the United States achieve net-zero carbon emissions from aviation by 2050 – one of the environmental goals articulated in the White House’s U.S. Aviation Climate Action Plan. The International Civil Aviation Organization also has set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The project is an activity under NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program and a key element of the Sustainable Flight National Partnership, which focuses on developing new sustainable aviation technologies.

Learn more about NASA’s Sustainable Aviation efforts at:

Related links:



Future Aircraft:

Green Aviation:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Roxana Bardan/Rob Margetta.

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vendredi 20 janvier 2023

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 16, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.


Jan 20, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan. 16 that included supporting student experiments on microgravity, examining fluids on the verge of boiling, and demonstrating technology for passive cooling of heated surfaces.

Image above: This photo shows sunset and cloud shadows over Tanzania, Africa, as the International Space Station orbits 259 miles above. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Students of microgravity

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) hosts several educational investigations designed to highlight Japanese spaceflight activities for the public. For Try Zero-G for Asia, crew members conduct experiments submitted by students in countries in the Asia-Pacific region. These experiments demonstrate the effects and use of microgravity for science, engineering, and the arts and explore human spaceflight. The program connects students to the space station and produces videos widely used in media, lectures, and other presentations, which helps inspire interest in space among young people. The crew prepared equipment and performed several experiments for the student community observing from the ground during the week.

About to boil

Animation above: NASA astronaut Nicole Mann sets up hardware for the DECLIC-ALI-R investigation, which studies liquids at the verge of boiling to help scientists understand how heat flow during boiling events in microgravity differs from this flow on Earth. Animation Credit: NASA.

A fluid has a temperature beyond which its gas and liquid phases coexist, known as its critical point. For water, that temperature is 373.995°C. Prior research determined this precise value using the station’s Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC), developed by the French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). DECLIC-ALI-R uses this facility to study how heat flows in liquids that are just below the critical point in microgravity. This investigation could improve understanding of fluids around their critical point, supporting the development of cooling systems for use in space. Because these fluids can be manipulated by small changes in temperature, results also could lead to development of improved chemical solvents and greener waste combustion methods for use on Earth. During the week, crew members set up the hardware and activated a run of the experiment.

A cooling method with teeth

PFMI-ASCENT, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, demonstrates a passive cooling system for electronic devices in microgravity. When fluid is boiled over a flat heated surface in microgravity, the lack of buoyancy causes formation of vapor bubbles that are larger than those seen on Earth. Larger bubbles transfer heat less effectively, causing unpredictable increases in the temperature of the surface and possible damage to electronic devices. Very small, asymmetrical ratchets or teeth on a surface enable passive movement of vapor bubbles, increasing the rate of heat removal. This technology could reduce the size of electronics and the electrical power they require, supporting expanded scientific investigations on and general use of the space station. Passive heat removal has potential applications in consumer electronics on Earth as well. Crew members repaired a thermocouple on a science ampoule, installed the ampoule, and initiated a run of the experiment during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- SOFIE-GEL studies burning in microgravity, including how fuel temperature affects material flammability. Results could improve understanding of early fire growth behavior and help determine optimal fire suppression techniques, improving crew safety in future space facilities.

Image above: This dwarf tomato plant is growing for the Veg-05 investigation, which examines fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits of growing plants to provide fresh food in space. Image Credit: NASA.

- Veg-05 uses the station’s Veggie facility to grow dwarf tomatoes and examine the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits. Growing plants to provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members supports future long-duration missions.

- J-SSOD is a JAXA facility that provides launching capability for individual small satellites.

- ISS Medical Monitoring is an ongoing investigation that collects medical data from all crew members before, during, and after flight. By supporting overall crew health and safety, these data contribute to mission productivity and on-orbit operations.

- The JEM Water Recovery System (JWRS), a JAXA investigation, generates potable water from urine, which could help address challenges of adequate water supply on future long-term space missions.

- ISS Ham Radio provides students, teachers, parents, and others the opportunity to communicate with astronauts using amateur radio units. Before a scheduled call, students learn about the station, radio waves, and other topics, and prepare a list of questions based on the topics they have researched.

Space to Ground: First Timers: 01/20/2023

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:

Try Zero-G for Asia:

Device for the Study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC):



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.


Spacewalkers Wrap Up First Spacewalk of 2023


EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Jan 20, 2023

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata concluded their spacewalk at 3:35 p.m. EST after 7 hours and 21 minutes.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are pictured on Jan. 12, 2023, during a fit check of their spacesuits inside the Quest airlock ahead of a planned spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station's power generation system. Image Credit: NASA.

Mann and Wakata completed work left over from a previous spacewalk for a platform on which a set of International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs) for the station’s 1B power channel will be installed later this year, as well as most of the work to install a similar mounting platform for a set of iROSAs for the 1A power channel. Due to time constraints, plans to bolt a final strut for the second platform were deferred until a future spacewalk. There is no impact to station operations.

Spacewalk begins to prep space station for new solar arrays

The installation is part of a series of spacewalks to augment the International Space Station’s power channels with new iROSAs. Four iROSAs have been installed so far, and two more will be mounted to the platforms installed during this spacewalk in the future.

Image above: Spacewalkers (from left) Koichi Wakata and Nicole Mann are pictured installing hardware on the space station preparing the orbiting lab for its next roll-out solar array. Image Credit: NASA TV.

It was the 258th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades, and maintenance, the first spacewalk of 2023, and the first spacewalk for both astronauts.

Mann and Wakata are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Captures Cosmic Treasure Trove


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

Jan 20, 2023

A host of astronomical objects are scattered across this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Background galaxies ranging from stately spirals to fuzzy ellipticals are strewn across the image, while a smattering of bright foreground stars are closer to home. In the center of the image, the vague shape of the small galaxy UGC 7983 appears as a hazy cloud of light. UGC 7983 is around 30 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. It is a dwarf irregular galaxy – a type thought to be similar to the very earliest galaxies in the universe.

This image also reveals a relatively nearby astronomical interloper. A minor asteroid in our own solar system streaks across the upper left-hand side of the image. The asteroid’s trail is visible as four streaks of light separated by small gaps. These streaks of light represent the four separate exposures that were combined to create this image. The small gaps between each observation reflect filter changes inside Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys between exposures.

Capturing an asteroid was a fortunate side effect of a larger effort to observe every known galaxy close to the Milky Way. Hubble had imaged roughly 75% of all the Milky Way’s near galactic neighbors, when a group of astronomers proposed using the gaps between longer Hubble observations to capture images of the remaining 25%. The project was an elegant efficient way to fill gaps in Hubble's observing schedule and in our knowledge of nearby galaxies.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Advanced Camera for Surveys:

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


What’s happened to China’s first Mars rover?


CNSA - Tianwen-1 (天問-1) Mission to Mars logo.

Jan 20, 2023

Zhurong was supposed to wake from its slumber last month, but there have been no reports on its status.

Image above: Zhurong (pictured, centre) spent a year exploring Mars before it went into hibernation last May. Image Credits: CNSA/Xinhua.

Is something amiss with Zhurong, China’s first Mars rover? The vehicle was supposed to come out of its months-long hibernation last month, but the Chinese space agency has been tight-lipped about its status, leading some researchers to speculate that it might not have survived the harsh Martian winter and dust storms.

“It wouldn’t be surprising for the rover to fail to come out of hibernation because it is solar-powered, and there’s a long history of solar-powered landers and rovers on Mars running out of power,” says David Flannery, an astrobiologist at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He is part of the team working on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, which runs on nuclear power. Last month, researchers said goodbye to NASA’s solar-powered InSight lander, which succumbed to a dust storm.

But others remain optimistic that Zhurong will wake up in the next few months as temperatures warm up enough to charge its battery and as dust storms settle down. “I want to be optimistic that the rover will wake up,” says Baptiste Chide, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who is also part of the Perseverance team.

Tianwen-1 orbiter. Image Credit: CNSA

Zhurong jettisoned from the orbiter Tianwen-1 and plunged down to the vast Utopia Planitia impact basin in Mars’s northern hemisphere on 15 May 2021. It travelled nearly 2 kilometres from its landing site over the space of a year, exceeding its original mission goal of three months. The rover scoped out rocks, craters, sand dunes and even found evidence of past flooding from below the planet’s surface (1).

Dust storm

Last May, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that it had powered Zhurong down because a major dust storm was heading its way. Dust swirling around the atmosphere reduces the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface of Mars. And dust that settles on the rover’s solar panels can also reduce the amount of sunlight it receives, affecting its power generation, says Chide.

Zhurong’s solar panels are made of dust-repellent materials and can be angled to prevent dust settling. But combating dust is an ongoing problem for many Martian missions. “That typically is what finishes a solar-powered mission in the end on Mars,” says Gregory Michael, a planetary scientist at the Free University of Berlin. Sometimes, whirlwinds known as dust devils, can come along and clear the dust off the panels, but that depends on luck, he says.

In May, the CNSA said that temperatures would drop to –20 °C during the day and –100 °C at night, and were expected to fall further. Cold temperatures mean that Zhurong needs more energy to keep its battery warm and prevent it from failing. To save energy, engineers typically shut off all scientific instruments, keeping only the communications system on for the rover to alert Earth when it wakes up. Chinese engineers have faced this problem before, says Chide — China’s solar-powered Yutu-2 rover has survived many long, cold nights on the lunar surface.

China's Mars rover Zhurong goes dormant to survive sand, dust storms

In September, a member of the Chinese team said they expected Zhurong to make contact when its energy levels had risen to 140 watts and the temperature of its components rose above –15 °C. They had initially expected that to happen by late December, at the end of the Martian winter and dust-storm season.

Researchers often develop models of the Martian atmosphere that can be used to predict when solar-powered spacecraft will revive, but they have lots of uncertainties, says Chide. “It is too soon to say that there is something wrong,” he says.

But the absence of an official update “is strange”, says a Chinese researcher and member of Zhurong’s science team, who requested anonymity to avoid repercussions from talking publicly before an official announcement. The last batch of images from Zhurong was received in June.

If the rover does eventually make contact, scientists will be ready. They hope that it will trundle to unusual geological formations nearby, including a barely visible ghost crater and a possible mud volcano. Together with laser instruments on Curiosity and Perseverance, Zhurong had been collecting data on the chemical make-up of Martian rocks. “I hope it will continue its traverse,” says Chide.



1. Li, C. et al. Nature 610, 308–312 (2022).

Related articles:

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and rover appear to be in trouble

NASA Retires InSight Mars Lander Mission After Years of Science

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

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: Nature/Smriti Mallapaty/CNSA/CGTN.

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45 Years Ago: Progress 1 Begins the Era of Space Station Resupply


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

Jan 20, 2023

Long-duration orbital platforms like the International Space Stations rely on regular resupply from the ground to maintain a continuous human presence in space. Today, a fleet of vehicles keeps the space station and its crews safe and able to conduct world-class research. The first resupply spacecraft, Progress 1, lifted off on Feb. 20, 1978, to maintain the Soviet Union’s Salyut 6 space station and its two-person resident crew. Progress 1 not only brought consumables and experiment hardware for the cosmonauts but also refueled the station, replenished its atmosphere, boosted its orbit, and removed unwanted trash by burning it up on reentry. Updated versions of Progress cargo vehicles continue to be a mainstay in the fleet of spacecraft that regularly resupply the International Space Station.

Above: Engineers at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Kazakhstan perform ground tests on the Salyut-type space station that became known as Kosmos 557 following its on-orbit thruster failure. Below: The Salyut 4 space station during ground testing at Baikonur. Images Credit: Images courtesy of RKK Energia.

The Soviet Union’s main design bureau for human spaceflight, known then by its Russian acronym TsKBEM and now RKK-Energia, began design work on what became the Progress resupply ship in mid-1973, completing it in February 1974. The concept of using uncrewed spacecraft to resupply and refuel space stations in low Earth orbit arose from two sources. In May 1973, a Salyut space station suffered an anomaly during its first orbit during which one of its attitude control thrusters failed open, depleting the station’s fuel supply. Because the failure prevented any cosmonauts from ever occupying the station, the Soviets gave it the cover name Kosmos 557. Soviet planners realized they needed to design a system for in-orbit refueling and resupply of future stations. This dove-tailed with their plans to build a next-generation Salyut space station to conduct ever longer flights. By equipping this future station with two docking ports, a resupply craft could dock at the same time that a crew resided aboard the facility. Soviet engineers based the Progress design on the Soyuz crew transport vehicle, using essentially the same propulsion and service module at the rear of the spacecraft, using the front orbital compartment to carry dry cargo, and replacing the middle crew descent module with pressurized tanks to refuel the station with propellant and tanks to replenish its atmosphere. Unlike the Soyuz that separated into its three components for reentry, the Progress remained intact. The Soviets tested some systems needed for long-duration flights of both Soyuz and Progress spacecraft during the 90-day uncrewed Soyuz 20 mission that remained docked at Salyut 4 between November 1974 and February 1975. They readied the first production Progress spacecraft for launch in November 1977 to support the first long-duration expedition to Salyut 6, the first Soviet space station equipped with two docking ports.

Above: Launch of the Progress 1 cargo resupply vehicle in January 1978. Middle: The Progress 1 cargo ship approaches the Salyut 6 space station. Below: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri V. Romanenko unloads equipment delivered to Salyut 6 by Progress 1. Image Credit: Images courtesy of RKK Energia.

The launch of Progress 1 took place on Feb. 20, 1978, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Kazakhstan. Following a two-day rendezvous profile, Progress 1 automatically docked at Salyut 6’s aft port. The spacecraft brought 5,100 pounds of cargo to the space station, including 2,200 pounds of propellent and oxygen, and 2,900 pounds of food, replacement parts, scientific instruments, and other supplies. The onboard crew of cosmonauts Yuri V. Romanenko and Georgi M. Grechko opened the hatches to the Progress and began unloading its contents, beginning with personal mail, newspapers, and fresh fruit. The science equipment delivered included the Splav furnace for materials processing experiments. Once emptied, the cosmonauts began filling Progress with trash and unneeded equipment. The first transfer of fuel from Progress to Salyut began on Feb. 2 and finished the next day. On Feb. 5, Progress fired its engines to raise the station’s orbit, and purged the fuel lines with pressurized nitrogen to prevent any toxic propellant spills during the undocking that occurred the next day. The spacecraft drifted away to a distance of about 5-6 miles, then approached the station to test its backup rendezvous control system. On Feb. 8, Progress 1 fired its engines for the deorbit burn for a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean, having successfully demonstrated the first resupply and refueling of a space station during its 19-day mission. The supplies brought by Progress 1 enabled Romanenko and Grechko to complete their then record-breaking 96-day flight.

Mockup of the Salyut 6 space station, with an attached Progress cargo vehicle, left, and a Soyuz crew vehicle, right, on display in Moscow. Image Credit: Image courtesy of Mark Wade.

Above: Soviet cosmonaut Aleksandr I. Ivanchenkov plays an acoustic guitar delivered to
Salyut 6 by Progress 3 in 1978, as his crewmate Vladimir V. Kovalenok looks on. Below: The KRT-10 radio telescope deployed by Progress 7 upon its departure from Salyut 6. Credit: Images courtesy of RKK Energia.

Above: Progress M18 departs from Mir in July 1993, photographed by the approaching crew
of Vasili V. Tsibliyev, Aleksandr A. Serebrov, and Jean-Pierre Haigneré aboard Soyuz
TM17, awaiting their turn to dock with the orbiting complex. Progress M17 is visible
at top right and Soyuz TM16 at bottom. Below: A Raduga reentry capsule. Image Credit: Images courtesy of RKK Energia.

The first 12 Progress missions resupplied Salyut 6 between 1978 and 1981, including the first – Progress 8 in 1980 – to dock with an uncrewed station. An additional 13 docked with its successor Salyut 7 between 1982 and 1985. These missions enabled progressively longer cosmonaut stays in space, up to seven months in duration. With the advent of the modular Mir space station in 1986, 18 of the original versions of Progress resupplied the new complex until 1990, by which time an updated variant called Progress-M began to fly. Forty-three vehicles of that variant, incorporating upgraded flight control systems and the use of two solar panels for power generation, resupplied Mir between 1989 and 2000. Ten of the missions carried a Raduga reentry vehicle used to return up to 330 pounds of samples to the ground. In 2000, the Russians introduced an upgraded variant called Progresss-M1, designed primarily for the International Space Station, and incorporating larger fuel tanks and a new digital flight control system. This version flew three missions to Mir, including the final one used to deorbit the complex in March 2001. These Progress resupply missions enabled Mir to remain occupied for most its 15-year on-orbit life.

Above: Progress M1-3, the first cargo resupply vehicle to the International Space Station, docked at its Service Module aft port, left, photographed by the departing STS-106 crew in September 2000. Below: The International Space Station in 2021. Images Credit: NASA.

The first resupply mission to the International Space Station, Progress M1-3, launched in August 2000 to a still unoccupied facility. A combination of 24 Progress M and eight Progress M1 vehicles resupplied the space station until the introduction of the Progress M-M variant, carrying an updated and lighter digital flight control system, in November 2008. A total of 29 Progress M-M vehicles resupplied the station until 2015, when the Progress MS, the newest variant carrying an updated rendezvous system and other upgrades, entered service, continuing to this day. This modernized version allows a launch-to-docking transit time as short as three-and-a-half hours, versus the traditional two-day rendezvous and docking profile. In addition, three custom Progress M variants contributed to the space station’s assembly by delivering modules to the facility – Pirs in 2001 (Progress MS-16 undocked and deorbited it in 2021), Poisk in 2009, and Prichal in 2021.

Above: The Pirs docking module approaches the International Space Station in 2001. Middle first: The Poisk module shortly after its arrival at the station in 2009. Middle second: Progress MS-16 undocks with the Pirs module from the space station in 2021. Below: The Prichal module shortly after its arrival in 2021. Images Credit: NASA.

Since the first launch in January 1978, Progress vehicles have had a very high success rate. Of the 174 vehicles launched to date, only three have failed to reach their destination, the International Space Station, due to launch vehicle malfunctions. A few on-orbit mishaps occurred with Progress vehicles over the decades, such as infrequent initial docking failures – all of them eventually successful – a minor collision in 1994, and the most famous, the collision of Progress M34 with Mir in June 1997 during a redocking attempt that caused the depressurization of the Spektr module.

Above: A TKS resupply vehicle, with a reentry capsule at left, during ground testing. Credit: Image courtesy Middle: The Salyut 7 spacestation with the Kosmos 1686 TKS vehicle at left. Credit: Image courtesy of RKK Energia. Below: The Mir space station, with four TKS-derived modules in a cross-shaped pattern – clockwise from upper right, Spektr, Kristall, Kvant-2, and Priroda, with the smaller Kvant module at top, partially hidden by a Spektr solar array. Image Credit: NASA.

In addition to the Progress cargo vehicle, in the 1970s the Soviet Union developed a larger resupply spacecraft for their short-lived military Almaz space station program. Known by the Russian acronym TKS, these vehicles could carry nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo and could include a reentry capsule capable of returning not only cargo but also crew, although the Soviets never exercised that latter capability. After a solo test flight in 1977, a TKS vehicle designated Kosmos 1267 docked with Salyut 6 in June 1981, following the departure of its last crew. The module remained docked until the complex reentered the Earth’s atmosphere in February 1978. The next two TKS spacecraft, Kosmos 1443 and Kosmos 1686, docked with Salyut 7 in March 1983 and September 1985, respectively, while long-duration crews resided aboard the station. The first employed a landing capsule that returned 770 pounds of material to the ground. The Soviets modified the TKS resupply spacecraft to serve as permanent modules of the Mir space station, such as Kvant, Kvant-2, Kristall, Spektr, and Priroda, each designed for a special operational or scientific purpose. A modified TKS became the Zarya FBG module, the first element of the International Space Station launched in 1998, while its backup reached the space station as the Nauka MLM research module in 2021.

Above: The International Space Station in 2011, with the space shuttle Endeavour docked at left. Middle: The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle approaches the space station. Below: The space station’s robotic arm about to grapple the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H-II Transport Vehicle. Images Credits: NASA/ESA/JAXA.

The International Space Station is a complex orbital outpost that requires a fleet of spacecraft for its continued safe and productive operations. Each type of vehicle provides a unique set of capabilities that as an aggregate ensure the safety of the station’s occupants and provide the necessary infrastructure to maintain the ongoing world-class research aboard the laboratory. Between 1998 and 2011, the space shuttle enabled the construction and outfitting of the orbital facility, performed numerous crew rotations, and had the largest return capability of any visiting vehicle. Since the beginning of space station operations, the Soyuz spacecraft has provided for crew transport to and from the various orbital facilities while additionally providing a modest up and down cargo capability. The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)flew five missions to the space station between 2008 and 2014. The uncrewed ATV could transport 17,000 pounds of cargo to the station and since it docked at the aft end of the Service Module, could also serve to reboost the complex. The large size of the H-II Transport Vehicle (HTV), provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, enabled it to bring refrigerator-sized research racks and external payloads to the station after the retirement of the space shuttle. Nine HTV’s resupplied the station between 2009 and 2020, each with a cargo capability of up to 13,700 pounds. Neither the ATV nor the HTV provided a return capability.

Above: The space station’s robotic arm grapples a SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft. Middle first: The robotic arm grapples an early standard variant of the Cygnus cargo vehicle. Middle second: The robotic arm grapples an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft. Below: A Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft departs the space station. Images Credit: NASA.

To partially fulfill that return requirement, in 2005, NASA initiated the commercial cargo resupply program for the space station. The first contract with the SpaceX Corporation led to the development of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft that since the first demonstration flight has flown 26 missions to the space station, with only one launch failure. The Dragon spacecraft can launch pressurized cargo in the capsule and unpressurized payloads in its trunk, and can return pressurized cargo and science samples to Earth. The Cargo Dragon evolved into the Crew Dragon spacecraft that now provides regular crew transportation to and from the space station. The second contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation, now Northrup Grumman, developed the Cygnus spacecraft to supply pressurized cargo to the space station. Since 2013, 18 Cygnus spacecraft have provided cargo resupply services to date, with only one launch failure.

Above: The Tianzhou 2 cargo resupply craft during preflight processing. Middle: The Tiangong China Space Station seen from the departing Tianzhou 4 cargo resupply vehicle in November 2022. Below: The departing Tianzhou 4 seen from the Tiangong space station.

To maintain their Tiangong space station, Chinese space officials rely on the Tianzhou resupply vehicle. Derived from the earlier Tiangong 1 and 2 experimental space stations, each Tianzhou spacecraft can carry up to 15,200 pounds of cargo and can also refuel the new space station by docking at the aft port of the Tianhe core module. Tianzhou 1 docked with the Tiangong 2 space station in April 2017, remaining docked for five months, and performing a refueling of the station. Tianzhou 2 docked with the new Tianhe core module in May 2021, remaining docked until March 2022. On Nov. 12, 2022, Tianzhou 5 docked with Tiangong just over two hours after launch, a record unmatched by any other resupply vehicle.

Related links:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

About China Space Station (CSS):

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

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kelli Mars/JSC/John Uri.


jeudi 19 janvier 2023

Crew Ready for Spacewalk and Conducts Biology, Physics Research


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 19, 2023

The first spacewalk of 2023 will begin on Friday to continue upgrading the International Space Station’s power generation system. The Expedition 68 crew members finalized preparations today for the excursion while continuing advanced space research and orbital lab maintenance.

Image above: Astronaut Koichi Wakata wears virtual reality goggles aboard the space station while training for a spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nicole Mann of NASA are due to spend about six-and-a-half hours working outside the station during a spacewalk on Friday. The two flight engineers will turn the batteries on inside their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, at 8:15 a.m. EST signifying the start of a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. The duo will work on the far end of the station’s starboard truss structure in their EMUs and install a modification kit enabling the future installation of a roll-out solar array. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, will begin its live spacewalk coverage at 7 a.m.

Wakata and Mann were joined on Thursday by NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio for final spacewalk preparations. The two spacewalkers along with Rubio staged tools and hardware inside the Quest airlock during the morning. The trio then spent the afternoon reviewing spacewalk steps and procedures before readying the two spacesuits for operations.

Spacewalk. Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada focused on science activities throughout Thursday conducting biology and physics research. Cassada began his day in the Kibo laboratory module setting up the Life Science Glovebox to observe biological samples and explore new ways to heal bone conditions on and off the Earth. In the afternoon, he moved over to the Destiny laboratory module exchanging samples inside the Materials Science Research Rack for a study exploring semiconductor crystal growth in space.

The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts kept up their schedule of ongoing microgravity research and lab upkeep on Thursday. Commander Sergey Prokopyev packed the ISS Progress 81 resupply ship with trash and discarded gear before more conducting more tests on a 3-D printer monitoring the device for excessive noise. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent all day Thursday servicing life support hardware and electronics gear. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina began her day with a hearing assessment then checked radiation detectors before finally studying future spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques on a computer.

Related links:

Expedition 68:


Starboard truss structure:

Quest airlock:

Kibo laboratory module:

Life Science Glovebox:

Heal bone conditions:

Destiny laboratory module:

Materials Science Research Rack:

Semiconductor crystal growth:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Juno Spacecraft Recovering Memory After 47th Flyby of Jupiter


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Jan. 19, 2023

UPDATED Jan. 19, 2023: Data received from Juno indicates the first four of 90 images taken by the spacecraft’s JunoCam outreach camera during its most recent flyby of Jupiter (Perijove 47) were degraded: two were unusable and two had a high level of image noise. The JunoCam team believes the loss of these images is due to an anomalous temperature rise that occurred when the camera power was turned on in preparation for the flyby. Subsequent images – captured after the instrument returned to normal temperatures – were not degraded. The team plans to leave the instrument turned on after the next flyby, Perijove 48, rather than powering it off and then on again before Perijove 49.

JunoCam is a color, visible-light camera designed to capture pictures of Jupiter’s cloud tops. It was included on the spacecraft specifically for purposes of public engagement; although its images have been helpful to the science team, it is not considered one of the mission’s science instruments. The camera was originally designed to operate in Jupiter’s high-energy particle environment for at least seven orbits but has survived far longer. The spacecraft will make its 48th pass of the planet on Jan. 22.

Image above: This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft soaring over Jupiter’s south pole. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

UPDATED Jan. 10, 2023: Juno returned to nominal operations Dec. 29, 2022, after going into safe mode on Dec. 17 in response to the onboard computer memory anomaly that occurred during its Dec. 14 close pass of Jupiter. As expected, the majority of the science data collected during the flyby (including all data related to Jupiter’s moon Io) was successfully received and only a small portion was corrupted by the anomaly. Instrument recovery activities are now complete, and the spacecraft is functioning nominally. Juno’s next flyby of Jupiter will occur on Sunday, Jan. 22.

The science data from the solar-powered spacecraft’s most recent flyby of Jupiter and its moon Io appears to be intact.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft completed its 47th close pass of Jupiter on Dec. 14. Afterward, as the solar-powered orbiter was sending its science data to mission controllers from its onboard computer, the downlink was disrupted.

The issue – an inability to directly access the spacecraft memory storing the science data collected during the flyby – was most likely caused by a radiation spike as Juno flew through a radiation-intensive portion of Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its mission partners successfully rebooted the computer and, on Dec. 17, put the spacecraft into safe mode, a precautionary status in which only essential systems operate.

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

As of Dec. 22, steps to recover the flyby data yielded positive results, and the team is now downlinking the science data. There is no indication that the science data through the time of closest approach to Jupiter, or from the spacecraft’s flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io, was adversely affected. The remainder of the science data collected during the flyby is expected to be sent down to Earth over the next week, and the health of the data will be verified at that time. The spacecraft is expected to exit safe mode in about a week’s time. Juno’s next flyby of Jupiter will be on Jan. 22, 2023.

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

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Naomi Hartono/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.