vendredi 27 janvier 2023

Muscle Scans, Bone Study Cleanup as Next Spacewalk Nears


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 27, 2023

The Expedition 68 crew members turned their attention toward understanding how muscles adapt to microgravity on Friday after intensive bone studies earlier in the week. The International Space Station residents also continued processing the bone research samples, worked on orbital plumbing, and resumed spacewalk preparations.

NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio were back in the Kibo laboratory module on Friday cleaning up after completing work for an advanced bone healing study. The duo finalized sample processing in Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox, stowed the samples in a science freezer, then cleaned up the research hardware and its components. Those samples will be returned to Earth and compared to a control group to study the effectiveness of a new bone-graft adhesive. Results may improve the healing ability of bone fractures and the treatment of bone defects on and off the Earth.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Anna Kikina and Koichi Wakata pose together aboard the space station. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

The duo later joined Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) configuring spacewalk hardware and reviewing procedures for an upcoming spacewalk. Mann and Wakata will spend about six-and-a-half hours in the vacuum of space in their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, next week. The spacewalkers will continue upgrading the power generation system on the space station’s starboard truss structure beginning at 8:15 a.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Mann and Wakata began their day inside the Columbus laboratory module for the long-running Myotones muscle study. The investigation entails scanning the back, neck, leg, and arm muscles with a specialized device to understand how living in space affects an astronaut’s muscle tone, stiffness, and elasticity. Observations my provide therapeutic insights for muscle conditions in space and on the ground.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Following four days of space physics research, Commander Sergey Prokopyev spent Friday servicing hatch components inside the ISS Progress 81 resupply ship ahead of its departure in early February. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent the first part of his day working on life support hardware before assessing the stowage volume inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina worked throughout the day servicing a variety of life support gear and cleaning ventilation systems.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Kibo laboratory module:

Advanced bone healing study:

Life Science Glovebox:

Starboard truss structure:

Columbus laboratory module:


Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA’s Juno Team Assessing Camera After 48th Flyby of Jupiter


NASA - JUNO Mission to Jupiter logo.

Jan 27, 2023

Engineering data is being evaluated to determine why the majority of images taken by the solar-powered orbiter’s JunoCam were not acquired.

Image above: Jupiter’s southern hemisphere was captured by the JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno orbiter after the camera returned to normal operation following an issue that occurred during its Jan. 22, 2023, flyby. The image was acquired at an altitude of 77,507 miles (124,735 kilometers) at a resolution of 52 miles (84 kilometers) per pixel. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft did not acquire all planned images during the orbiter’s most recent flyby of Jupiter on Jan. 22. Data received from the spacecraft indicates that the camera experienced an issue similar to one that occurred on its previous close pass of the gas giant last month, when the team saw an anomalous temperature rise after the camera was powered on in preparation for the flyby.

However, on this new occasion the issue persisted for a longer period of time (23 hours compared to 36 minutes during the December close pass), leaving the first 214 JunoCam images planned for the flyby unusable. As with the previous occurrence, once the anomaly that caused the temperature rise cleared, the camera returned to normal operation and the remaining 44 images were of good quality and usable.

The mission team is evaluating JunoCam engineering data acquired during the two recent flybys – the 47th and 48th of the mission – and is investigating the root cause of the anomaly and mitigation strategies. JunoCam will remain powered on for the time being and the camera continues to operate in its nominal state.

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 but has proven to be important for science investigations also. The camera was originally designed to operate in Jupiter’s high-energy particle environment for at least seven orbits but has survived far longer.

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

The spacecraft will make its 49th pass of Jupiter on March 1.

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 article:

Juno Spacecraft Recovering Memory After 47th Flyby of Jupiter

More information about Juno is available at: and

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

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 23, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 27, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan 23 that included studying the organization of particles in fluids, monitoring how space changes muscle tone, and examining the formation of plasma crystals.

Space to Ground: Crew-6: 01/27/2023

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

Controlling particles in fluids

Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), studies the self-organization mechanisms of particles in fluids. Vibration could serve as a new technique to manipulate dispersed particles and, unlike using magnetic or electric fields, would not be limited to electrically conductive or active liquids and particles. Results could improve basic understanding of fluids with dispersed solid particles, which have applications in space such as in spacecraft subsystems, cooling systems for heat exchangers, and solar energy collectors and on Earth in cooling systems, solar energy collectors, nuclear reactors, and electronics. A better understanding of dispersed particle behavior even could shed light on the formation of asteroids and planets, which involved mixtures of gas and solid matter in primordial nebulae. During the week, crew members collected and downlinked images for experiment runs. The ground team uses these images to verify that the investigation is operating as expected and to adjust parameters as necessary.

International Space Station (ISS), the orbital laboratory. Animation Credit: ESA

Monitoring muscles

The ESA investigation Myotones monitors changes in the properties of muscles before, during, and after spaceflight to determine the magnitude of muscle deconditioning during flight and recovery once back on the ground. The experiment complements current onboard human health and fitness monitoring and could improve the science team’s understanding of the fundamental principles of the human resting muscle tone on Earth and in space. That understanding could support development of better countermeasures for future space missions as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments for those experiencing the effects of aging and restricted mobility on Earth. Crew members conducted measurements for the investigation during the week.

Peering at plasma particles

A collaboration between ESA and State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS, PK-4 studies complex plasmas or low temperature gaseous mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Plasmas are found throughout the universe, from the interstellar medium to the heat shields of spacecraft re-entering Earth's atmosphere. Understanding formation of plasma crystals in microgravity could lead to new research methods and improved spacecraft designs and lead to advances in industries on Earth that use plasmas. During the week, crew members caught clouds of particles inside the PK-4 chamber as part of campaign 15 experiment operations, then packed hard drives for return to Earth and switched the chamber gas from Neon to Argon.

Other investigations involving the crew:

Image above: These tomato plants grown on the International Space Station for the Veg-05 experiment are beginning to flower. The investigation examines fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits of the plants. 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 as well as 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.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nicole Mann performs her first spacewalk with JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata (out of frame). The pair installed a modification kit on the International Space Station's starboard truss structure to enable the future addition of roll-out solar arrays, which expand station power to support operations and scientific investigations. Image Credit: NASA.

- The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) investigation tested a prototype of new solar arrays, ISS ROSAs (iROSAs), now being installed on the space station. Once installation is complete, the new arrays are expected to increase the power available for station operations and scientific activities by 20 to 30%.

- Sphere Camera-1, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, evaluates the performance of an ultra-high-resolution camera in microgravity. Results could support design and development of cameras with greater resolution, detail, and sharpness for imaging needs on future exploration missions, including to the Moon and Mars.

- Plant Habitat-03 assesses whether epigenetic adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. Results could provide insight into how to grow repeated generations of crops to provide food and other services on future space missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada works on BioNutrients-2, an investigation that uses genetically engineered microbes to produce on-demand nutrients and potentially other compounds and pharmaceuticals in space. Image Credit: NASA.

- BioNutrients-2 tests an on-demand system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage. In-flight production of vitamins and other nutrients could help maintain the health of crew members on these missions while reducing launch mass and volume requirements.

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:

Particle Vibration:



ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Data from the First SLS Flight to Prepare NASA for Future Artemis Missions


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Jan 27, 2023

NASA continues to evaluate data and learn more about the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s debut performance during the agency’s Nov. 16 Artemis I launch. Following an initial data assessment and review that determined the SLS rocket met or exceeded all performance expectations, SLS engineers are now taking a closer look at the Moon rocket’s performance to prepare for the first crewed Artemis missions.

Artemis I Mission liftoff. Image Credit: NASA

Building off the assessment conducted shortly after launch, the preliminary post-flight data indicates that all SLS systems performed exceptionally and that the designs are ready to support a crewed flight on Artemis II. The post-flight analysis team will continue reviewing data and conducting final reporting’s.

“NASA’s Space Launch System rocket has laid the foundation for the Artemis Generation and the future of spaceflight in deep space,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager. “The correlation between actual flight performance and predicted performance for Artemis I was excellent. There is engineering and an art to successfully building and launching a rocket, and the analysis on the SLS rocket’s inaugural flight puts NASA and its partners in a good position to power missions for Artemis II and beyond.”

Image above: The core stage of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has more than 1,000 sensors and 45 miles of cabling. The SLS core stage's base heat shield is roughly 1.3 inches thick and was specially designed to protect the 212-foot-tall stage and its two liquid propellant tanks from launch pad temperatures greater than 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Data indicates the structure was not affected by temperatures that can turn sand to glass. Image Credits: NASA/Chris Coleman and Kevin Dav.

Ahead of launch, teams established benchmarks for the rocket’s performance through a series of pre-flight simulations and test campaigns. As the rocket launched and ascended to space, it experienced dynamic phases, like extreme forces and temperatures, that influenced its operations. The Artemis I flight test was the only way to gather real data on how the rocket performed during events like booster separation.

Engineers in the SLS Engineering and Support Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, collected more than four terabytes of data and on-board imagery from SLS during pre-launch and launch phases. In addition, a total of roughly 31 terabytes of imagery data alone was collected from ground cameras, cameras on the rocket, and aerial cameras that were focused on SLS. By comparison the Library of Congress’ printed material is roughly 20 terabytes.

Image above: Four RS-25 engines and two five-segment solid rocket boosters provide more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust for SLS during liftoff and flight. Thanks in part to development of a new RS-25 engine controller that checks engine health 50 times per second, engineers were able to collect more than 100 measurements on pressures, temperatures, flows, speeds, and vibrations on the four RS-25 engines that helped power Artemis I. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

“The data we got back from Artemis I is critical in building confidence in this rocket to send humanity back to the Moon,” said John Blevins, SLS chief engineer. “The SLS team will use what we learn from this flight test to improve future flights of the rocket, and we are already taking what we’ve learned about operations and assembly and applying it to streamline future missions.”

Cameras and sensors also allowed teams to monitor how the rocket performed during its in-space maneuvers. Seeing launch from the SLS rocket’s “view” involved strategically positioning cameras, sensors, and other measurement tools all along the rocket, the mobile launcher, and the launch pad.

“The numerous views of the Artemis I rocket, including the solid rocket booster separation and interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) separation, provided imagery data that helped us assess how SLS performed from liftoff through the ascent and separation events,” said Beth St. Peter, SLS imagery integration lead.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket delivers propulsion in stages with the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) providing the in-space “push” the Orion spacecraft needs to get to the Moon. During Artemis I, the ICPS performed two successful burns to send Orion to the Moon, including the longest RL10 engine burn in the design’s 50-year-plus history and hundreds of missions. Image Credit: NASA.

Engineers also monitored the extreme temperatures and sounds the rocket experienced just after liftoff. SLS post-flight data have shown the RS-25 engines’ thrust and mixture ratio control valves were within 0.5% of predicted values. The mixture ratio is the ratio of fuel to oxidizer that determines the temperature and thrust coming from the engines throughout their eight minutes of flight time. Other key engine internal pressures and temperatures were within 2% of pre-flight predicted values.

In flight, the SLS core stage successfully executed all of its functions and inserted the ICPS and Orion spacecraft into an initial Earth orbit of 972.1 miles by 16 miles. The insert was just 2.9 miles shy of the perfect bullseye target of 975 miles by 16 miles and well within acceptable parameters. Following a near-perfect trans-lunar injection burn, the ICPS and Orion spacecraft successfully separated – allowing Orion to complete a 25.5-day mission.

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a steppingstone for astronauts on the way to Mars.

For more information on SLS, please visit the SLS Reference Guide:

Related links:

Artemis Program:

Artemis I:

Artemis II:

Space Launch System (SLS):

SLS Engineering and Support Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/By: Alyssa Lee.

Best regards,

What You Need to Know about NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 Mission


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-6 Mission patch.

Jan 27. 2023

A new set of four crew members are preparing to launch to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren "Woody" Hoburg, as well as UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to perform science, technology demonstrations, and maintenance activities aboard the microgravity laboratory.

Image above: The four SpaceX Crew-6 crew members pose for a photo. on the crew access arm at NASA's Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A in Florida. Image Credit: SpaceX.

The flight is the sixth crew rotation mission with SpaceX to station, and the seventh flight of Dragon with people as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Bowen and Hoburg were assigned to the Crew-6 mission in December 2021 and began working and training for their flight on SpaceX’s human spacecraft and their stay aboard the space station. Fedyaev and Alneyadi were added as the third and fourth crew members in July 2022. Crew-6 will spend up to six months at the space station before returning to Earth.

The international crew will fly aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, which previously flew NASA’s Crew-1, Inspiration4, and Axiom Mission-1 astronauts. As part of the refurbishment process, teams are installing new components, including the heat shield, nosecone, trunk and all forward bulkhead and service section Draco engines. These hardware components help the spacecraft withstand reentry heat, support docking and cargo space, and provide steering and thrust to the spacecraft. Previously flown components include pod panels from a previous human spaceflight mission.

As teams progress through Dragon milestones for Crew-6, they also are preparing a first-flight Falcon 9 booster for the mission. Once all rocket and spacecraft system checkouts are complete and all components are certified for flight, teams will mate Dragon to the Falcon 9 rocket in SpaceX’s hangar at the launch site. The integrated spacecraft and rocket will then be rolled to the pad and raised to vertical for an integrated static fire test and dry dress rehearsal with the crew prior to launch.

The Crew

This will be Bowen’s fourth trip into space as a veteran of three space shuttle missions: STS-126 in 2008, STS-132 in 2010, and STS-133 in 2011. Bowen has logged more than 40 days in space, including 47 hours, 18 minutes during seven spacewalks. As mission commander, he will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He will serve as an Expedition 69 flight engineer aboard the station.

Bowen was born in Cohasset, Massachusetts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and a master’s degree in ocean engineering from the Joint Program in Applied Ocean Science and Engineering offered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts. In July 2000, Bowen became the first submarine officer selected as an astronaut by NASA.

The mission will be Hoburg’s first flight since his selection as an astronaut in 2017. As pilot, he will be responsible for spacecraft systems and performance. Aboard the station, he will serve as an Expedition 69 flight engineer.

Hoburg is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. At the time of his selection as an astronaut, Hoburg was an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. Hoburg's research focused on efficient methods for design of engineering systems. He also is a commercial pilot with instrument, single-engine, and multi-engine ratings. Follow @Astro_Woody on Twitter.

Alneyadi will be making his first trip to space, representing the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE. Alneyadi will be the first UAE astronaut to fly on a commercial spacecraft. Once aboard the station, he will become a flight engineer for Expedition 69. Follow @Astro_Alneyadi on Twitter.

Fedyaev will be making his first trip to space, and will also serve as a mission specialist, working to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. He will be a flight engineer for Expedition 69.

SpaceX Crew Dragon docking to ISS. Animation Credit: SpaceX

Mission Overview

Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A on a Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon Endeavour will accelerate its four passengers to approximately 17,500 mph, putting it on an intercept course with the space station.

Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide Endeavour to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module. After several maneuvers to gradually raise its orbit, Endeavour will be in position to rendezvous and dock with its new home in orbit. The spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously, but the crew can take control and pilot manually, if necessary.

After docking, Crew-6 will be welcomed inside the station by the seven-member crew of Expedition 69. The astronauts of NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 mission will undock from the space station and splash down off the coast of Florida several days after Crew-6's arrival.

Crew-6 will conduct new and exciting scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies of how particular materials burn in microgravity, tissue chip research on heart, brain, and cartilage functions, and an investigation that will collect microbial samples from the outside of the space station. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.  

During their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, Crew-6 will see the arrival of cargo spacecraft including the SpaceX Dragon and the Roscosmos Progress. Crew-6 also is expected to welcome the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts and the Axiom Mission-2 crew during their expedition.

At the conclusion of the mission, Dragon Endeavour will autonomously undock with the four crew members aboard, depart the space station and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown just off Florida’s coast, a SpaceX recovery vessel will pick up the crew, who will be helicoptered back to shore.

Commercial crew missions enable NASA to maximize use of the space station, where astronauts have lived and worked continuously for more than 22 years testing technologies, performing science, and developing the skills needed to operate future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit and explore farther from Earth. Research conducted on the space station provides benefits for people on Earth and paves the way for future long-duration trips to the Moon and beyond through NASA’s Artemis missions.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Expedition 69:

Commercial Crew:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


jeudi 26 janvier 2023

Crew Preps for Next Spacewalk, Explores Space Biology and Physics


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 26, 2023

The Expedition 68 astronauts are cleaning up following three days of advanced bone repair studies while getting ready for an upcoming spacewalk. The International Space Station’s three cosmonauts continued their space physics and Earth imagery work, as well as maintained orbital lab systems.

NASA Flight Engineers Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio are cleaning up biology research hardware and finalizing sample processing after three full days of bone healing research. The duo worked inside the Kibo laboratory module servicing the samples then stowing them into science freezers. Those samples will be packed on a future SpaceX Dragon cargo mission for return then analyzed and compared to control samples in laboratories on Earth. The two astronauts also cleaned Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox and its components where the intensive bone investigation work took place this week.

International Space Telescope (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Cassada also worked on space agriculture today collecting leaves from thale cress plants housed inside the Advanced Plant Habitat for stowage and analysis on Earth. He later tended to tomato plants growing inside the Veggie space botany facility for the Veg-05 experiment. Both studies are taking place inside the Columbus laboratory module.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata explored ways to enable on-demand production of nutrients for astronauts on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The technology demonstration uses engineered microbes, or yeast, to ensure a safe and simple food production environment in space and offset the degradation of nutrients stowed over long periods.

Image above: Astronaut Nicole Mann is pictured during a spacewalk on Jan. 20, 2023, upgrading the space station’s power generation system. Image Credit: NASA.

The next spacewalk to continue upgrading the orbiting lab’s power generation system is planned for Feb. 2. Two spacewalkers will exit the Quest airlock in their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, to finish installing a modification kit on the starboard truss structure. The hardware installation job will ready the space station for its next roll-out solar array. Ahead of the upcoming spacewalk, spacesuit gloves and tethers were inspected.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev continued more space physics experiment runs on Thursday as he explored how clouds of highly charged particles, or plasma crystals, behave in microgravity. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos spent his day on life support maintenance before partnering with fellow cosmonaut Anna Kikina for ultrasound eye scans. Kikina resumed her Earth observations using ultraviolet imaging hardware to obtain a map of the nighttime glow of Earth’s atmosphere.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Bone healing research:

Kibo laboratory module:

Life Science Glovebox:

Advanced Plant Habitat:


Columbus laboratory module:

On-demand production of nutrients:

Quest airlock:

Starboard truss structure:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA’s Fermi Detects First Gamma-Ray Eclipses From ‘Spider’ Star Systems


NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

Jan 26, 2023

Scientists have discovered the first gamma-ray eclipses from a special type of binary star system using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. These so-called spider systems each contain a pulsar – the superdense, rapidly rotating remains of a star that exploded in a supernova – that slowly erodes its companion.

An international team of scientists scoured over a decade of Fermi observations to find seven spiders that undergo these eclipses, which occur when the low-mass companion star passes in front of the pulsar from our point of view. The data allowed them to calculate how the systems tilt relative to our line of sight and other information.  

“One of the most important goals for studying spiders is to try to measure the masses of the pulsars,” said Colin Clark, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, who led the work. “Pulsars are basically balls of the densest matter we can measure. The maximum mass they can reach constrains the physics within these extreme environments, which can’t be replicated on Earth.”

A paper about the study was published Jan. 26 in Nature Astronomy:

Image above: An orbiting star begins to eclipse its partner, a rapidly rotating, superdense stellar remnant called a pulsar, in this illustration. The pulsar emits multiwavelength beams of light that rotate in and out of view and produces outflows that heat the star’s facing side, blowing away material and eroding its partner. Image Credits: NASA/Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet.

Spider systems develop because one star in a binary evolves more swiftly than its partner. When the more massive star goes supernova, it leaves behind a pulsar. This stellar remnant emits beams of multiwavelength light, including gamma rays, that sweep in and out of our view, creating pulses so regular they rival the precision of atomic clocks.

Early on, a spider pulsar “feeds” off its companion by siphoning away a stream of gas. As the system evolves, the feeding stops as the pulsar begins to spin more rapidly, generating particle outflows and radiation that superheat the companion’s facing side and erode it.

Scientists divide spider systems into two types named after spider species whose females sometimes eat their smaller mates. Black widows contain companions with less than 5% of the Sun’s mass. Redback systems host bigger companions, both in size and mass, weighing between 10% and 50% of the Sun.

“Before Fermi, we only knew of a handful of pulsars that emitted gamma rays,” said Elizabeth Hays, the Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “After over a decade of observations, the mission has identified over 300 and collected a long, nearly uninterrupted dataset that allows the community to do trailblazing science.”

Image above: NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits Earth in this illustration. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA).

Researchers can calculate the masses of spider systems by measuring their orbital motions. Visible light observations can measure how quickly the companion is traveling, while radio measurements reveal the pulsar’s speed. However, these rely on motion towards and away from us. For a nearly face-on system, such changes are slight and potentially confusing. The same signals also could be produced by a smaller, slower-orbiting system that’s seen from the side. Knowing the system’s tilt relative to our line of sight is vital for measuring mass.

The tilt’s angle is normally measured using visible light, but these measurements come with some potential complications. As the companion orbits the pulsar, its superheated side comes in and out of view, creating a fluctuation in visible light that depends on the tilt. However, astronomers are still learning about the superheating process, and models with different heating patterns sometimes predict different pulsar masses.

Gamma rays, however, are only generated by the pulsar and have so much energy that they travel in a straight line, unaffected by debris, unless blocked by the companion. If gamma rays disappear from the data set of a spider system, scientists can infer that the companion eclipsed the pulsar. From there, they can calculate the system’s tilt into our sight line, the stars’ velocities, and the pulsar’s mass.

PSR B1957+20, or B1957 for short, was the first-known black widow, discovered in 1988. Earlier models for this system, built from visible light observations, determined that it was tipped about 65 degrees into our line of sight and the pulsar’s mass was 2.4 times the Sun’s. That would make B1957 the heaviest-known pulsar, straddling the theoretical mass limit between pulsar and black hole.

By looking at the Fermi data, Clark and his team found 15 missing gamma-ray photons. The timing of the gamma-ray pulses from these objects is so dependable that 15 missing photons over a decade is significant enough that the team could determine the system is eclipsing. They then calculated that the binary is inclined 84 degrees and the pulsar weighs only 1.8 times as much as the Sun.

“There’s a quest to find massive pulsars, and these spider systems are thought to be one of the best ways to find them,” said Matthew Kerr, a co-author on the new paper and research physicist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. “They’ve undergone a very extreme process of mass transfer from the companion star to the pulsar. Once we really get these models fine-tuned, we’ll know for sure whether these spider systems are more massive than the rest of the pulsar population.”

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership managed by Goddard. Fermi was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United States.

Related links:

Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope:

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/GSFC/Claire Andreoli/By Jeanette Kazmierczak.


British Press on Asgardia’s Upcoming Space IVF Mission


Asgardia - The Space Nation logo.

Jan 26, 2023

Inews looks into the Space Nation’s nearest procreation trials in space

After the Space Nation’s successful Space Procreation Webinar held earlier this month - the very first one this new year and already the 16th altogether - the upcoming Asgardian IVF experimental mission is being closely followed by a national British outlet Inews. In his comprehensive article, Cahal Milmo focuses on both: the Space Nation headed by Dr. Ashurbeyli and its target aspirations at large as well as the details on the suborbital test flight thoroughly prepared by the Asgardia’s Member of Parliament Dr. Egbert Edelbroek and his scientific team in particular.

Image above: ARTIS (Assisted Reproduction Technology in Space) module. Image Credit: SpaceBorn United.

Asgardia, a visionary space nation officially established in 2016 by a progressive scientist and prominent public figure Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, thinking far ahead of his time, already counts with a population over 1 million registered Asgardians from all over the world. Deeply concerned with human extinction neared by terrestrial (potentially nuclear) conflicts, climate change, and ultimately, the Sun ceasing to exist, the Nation set ‘the birth of the first human child in space’ as its primary mission in its state Constitution amended just a few months ago.

According to Dr. Egbert Edelbroek, CEO of a Dutch company SpaceBorn United specialising in space embryology and supported by Asgardia, ‘these threats to human life on Earth can be addressed by becoming a post-planetary or multi-planetary species.’ The best way to approach such a large-scale goal is to act literally in baby steps, initially launching mice and rats’ biological materials aboard uncrewed biosatellites. One of these invaluable mini-IVF labs is set to get launched from Canada just around 3 months from now. Human cells, these highly anticipated protagonists of SpaceBorn’s reproductive endeavour, are expected to make this trip within the next 5 years.

The company’s commitment to conducting a series of ARTIS (Assisted Reproductive Technology in Space) missions first off, as opposed to any natural human conception trials right away, is due to the current knowledge vacuum in the field of human reproduction in space. Thus, as fairly noted by the Asgardia Parliament Chair Lembit Ӧpik in his interview to Inews, ‘we simply must identify morally and biologically sustainable solutions for space births; otherwise we’ll never reach other planets – or other star systems.’

To win over the hearts and minds of the authorities in charge of giving the green light to space fertilisation research, Prof. David Cullen and his Cranfield University team advising Dr. Edelbroek on the ARTIS design have been extremely watchful in terms of embryo safety, making sure artificial gravityconditions, ‘as similar to those in an earthbound clinic as possible,’ are recreated on the IVF device thanks to the biocassette rotation. Validation test flights with rodent cells modelling future human studies have sparked interest among volunteers already signing up with SpaceBorn for space IVF experiments.

Of course, recreating Earth gravity to make human fertilisation possible in the space environment is one of the key features conditioning the success of these trials, even though they are meant to take just a few hours. As a prominent Belgian artificial gravity researcher Prof. Floris Wuyts, Asgardia’s Minister of Science, pointed out earlier at the Space Procreation Webinar, ‘we work with an ambitious time window where we only have about 6-8 hours after harvesting the cells from the natural mother to bring them into space and have them fertilised by the sperm.’

Image Credit: SpaceBorn United

With research on human biomaterials in orbit being an unexplored path under the maximum control of designated authorities, on the other side of the scale, it is still worth keeping in mind how vulnerable we are as a species in the face of these turbulent terrestrial times. Speaking of the delicate moral side of spaceborne human conception, Dr. Edelbroek shares his ex adverso point on this matter: ‘It is also an interesting approach to argue that it might be unethical NOT to allow this because of all the threats to human life on Earth. We might not have enough time if we do not accelerate this space science.’

Original article on Asgardia website:

Related links:

Space Procreation Webinar:

British outlet Inews article:

Asgardia Constitution:

Asgardia - The Space Nation:

Images (mentioned), Text Credit: Asgardia.

Best regards, Roland Berga / Asgardian Resident / AMP (aka

SpaceX to launch asteroid mining spacecraft alongside private Moon lander


Asteroid Mining.

Jan 26, 2023

SpaceX customer Intuitive Machines says it will use spare capacity on one of its Moon lander launches to send startup AstroForge’s first asteroid prospector spacecraft into deep space.

Intuitive Machines’ second Nova-C Moon lander

Intuitive Machines’ second Nova-C Moon lander is scheduled to launch no earlier than (NET) Q4 2023 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The IM-2 lander is the primary payload but is only expected to weigh about 1.9 tons (~4300 lb). To take advantage of the rocket performance left on the table by the relatively light payload, Intuitive Machines has opted to include a secondary payload adapter ring (ESPA) located below each lander. That gives companies like AstroForge an opportunity to hitch a ride to high Earth orbit, deep space, and the Moon for a likely unbeatable price.

Built by UK startup Orbital Astronautics, AstroForge’s Brokkr-2 spacecraft will attempt to become the first private vehicle to prospect for resources on an asteroid. It’s also the third rideshare payload announced for Intuitive Machines’ IM-2 mission.

Source: Twitter

Lunar Trailblazer

Coincidentally, the main purpose of the second IM-2 rideshare payload to be announced is to search for resources in space. It isn’t concerned with asteroids, but NASA’s 200-kilogram (440 lb) Lunar Trailblazer spacecraft is designed to find, characterize, and map water ice resources on the Moon. That map could help future missions explore the possibility of turning lunar ice into commodities like breathable oxygen or rocket propellant.

The challenges facing such a concept are extreme, but a rocket propellant depot located on the lunar surface could significantly increase the performance of future Moon landers. Propellant depots in cislunar orbit could also help boost spacecraft further and faster to destinations elsewhere in the solar system.

Lunar Trailblazer. Image Credit: JPL


The first IM-2 rideshare payload to be announced was OrbitFab’s Tanker-002 spacecraft. It’s unclear if OrbitFab is on track to fly Tanker-002 in late 2023, but the spacecraft is meant to be the first geostationary propellant depot ever launched. The Colorado startup has already won a $13.3 million contract from the US military to refuel satellites in geostationary orbit, 36,000 kilometers (~22,250 mi) above Earth’s surface. It’s possible that Tanker-002 is meant to support that refueling mission.

The spacecraft is designed to carry a few hundred pounds of hydrazine monopropellant, potentially enabling it to extend the useful lives of multiple multimillion-dollar satellites by several years. Alongside IM-2, Falcon 9 will launch Tanker-002 on a lunar flyby trajectory. But thanks to the cooperation of startup GeoJump, instead of entering orbit around the Moon, Tanker-002 will slingshot around the Moon to slow itself down. That lunar slingshot will allow the depot to efficiently enter geostationary orbit, where it can begin refueling spacecraft.

Tanker-002. Image Credit: OrbitFab


Brokkr-2 is the second of two AstroForge spacecraft scheduled to launch in 2023. The first, Brokkr-1, will head to low Earth orbit (LEO) as early as April 2023 on SpaceX’s seventh Falcon 9 rideshare launch. Once in orbit, it will attempt to demonstrate technology AstroForge has developed to refine platinum ore in microgravity conditions. Brokkr-2 will then visit an asteroid and search for platinum resources. If enough platinum is discovered, Bloomberg reports that AstroForge will send a third mission to demonstrate the ability to land on the asteroid. As early as 2025, AstroForge’s fourth mission would be the first to attempt to land, gather ore, turn that ore into platinum, and return the precious metal to Earth.

AstroForge has raised $13 million to date. Unlike failed asteroid mining startups Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, the new company intends to exploit increasingly capable off-the-shelf hardware and services to keep its costs as low as possible. In theory, that will allow it to focus most of its resources on developing the unproven technology required to gather and refine space-based resources.

Brokkr-2 will be based on UK startup OrbAstro’s ORB-50 satellite bus


Finally, the IM-2 Nova-C Moon lander’s primary payload is a pair of NASA instruments designed to drill into the lunar surface and analyze the regolith for volatiles. Also known as PRIME-1, the mission will be NASA’s first serious exploration of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) on the Moon.

The mission is a sort of microcosm of the future of space utilization, which may focus heavily on ISRU and refueling to extend the capabilities of chemically-powered rockets and spacecraft. Lunar Trailblazer will map lunar water resources. Brokkr-2 will attempt to prospect an asteroid for extractable metal. IM-2 will test technologies that could help extract resources from the Moon. And Tanker-002 will be a significant step forward for commercial propellant depots, which could eventually create markets for space resources.

Intuitive Machines IM-1 Mission Animation

Related links:


Intuitive Machines:


Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Intuitive Machines/AstroForge/TeslaRati/By Eric Ralph.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 69 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

Jan 26, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 69 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 56 Starlink satellites (Starlink-69 / Starlink 5-2) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 26 January 2023, at 09:32 UTC (04:32 EST).

SpaceX Starlink 69 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 26 January 2023

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1067) previously supported eight missions: CRS-22, Crew-3, Turksat-5B, Crew-4, CRS-25, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13G, O3b mPOWER and one Starlink mission.

Related links:



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


JAXA - H-IIA launches IGS Radar-7


CSIC - IGS Radar Satellite logo.

Jan 26, 2023

H-IIA carrying IGS Radar-7 liftoff

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’s H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 46 (H-IIA F46) launched IGS Radar-7 from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex, at JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center, Japan, on 26 January 2023, at 01:49:20 UTC (10:49:20 JST).

H-IIA launches IGS Radar-7

The Information Gathering Satellite (情報収集衛星, IGS) Radar-7 is a Japanese radar reconnaissance satellite. According to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the satellite was successfully deployed into the planned orbit.

IGS Radar satellite

JAXA - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Credits: JAXA/Mitsubishi Heavy Industries/(c) Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Bone Healing Study Continues as SpaceX Crew-6 Mission Approaches


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 26, 2023

Wednesday was the last full day of research operations aboard the International Space Station to learn how to improve bone healing therapies both on Earth and in space. The Expedition 68 crew members also studied the human heart and plasma physics and set up Earth imagery hardware.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, and Frank Rubio and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata wrapped up three days of continuous research into bone growth. The quartet spent the day inside the Kibo laboratory module studying research samples in the Life Science Glovebox to understand the bone healing process in microgravity. Cassada will work on Thursday and Friday cleaning up the space biology hardware and completing sample processing.

Image above: Astronauts (middle left to right) Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio pose with spacewalkers (far left and right) Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata following the completion of a spacewalk on Jan. 20, 2023. Image Credit: NASA.

Weightlessness inhibits bone tissue regeneration, or bone repair, and the Osteopromotive Bone Adhesive investigation seeks to reverse these effects on stem cells and bone tissue. Insights gained from the biology experiment may help doctors provide advanced treatments for bone injuries that occur in space and improve therapies for conditions on Earth such as osteoporosis.

Cardiac research in space is also very important as two cosmonauts joined each other on Wednesday morning learning how the circulatory system is impacted by long-term microgravity. Commander Sergey Prokopyev attached sensors to himself, with assistance from Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, for the cardiac study. The experiment seeks insights into how the heart adapts to microgravity and to prepare for the effects of returning to Earth’s gravity months later.

Prokopyev also continued this week’s space physics work studying the behavior of plasma crystals, or clouds of highly charged particles, inside a specialized chamber. Petelin studied kept up his observations of fluids exposed to magnetic and electric fields in microgravity. Both studies have the potential to advance space and Earth-bound industries as well as improve fundamental knowledge.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) points the camera toward himself and takes a "space-selfie" during a seven-hour and 21-minute spacewalk to install a modification kit on the International Space Station's starboard truss structure preparing the orbital lab for its next roll-out solar array. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Anna Kikina of Roscosmos began her day pointing a camera outside station windows and photographing the external condition of the Nauka, Zvezda, and Rassvet modules. She finished her shift installing and activating gear that will acquire ultraviolet imagery of Earth’s nighttime atmosphere.

The next SpaceX crewed mission to the space station is soon approaching. The Crew-6 crewmates are Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg, both from NASA, and Mission Specialists Andrey Fedyaev from Roscosmos and Sultan Alnedayi from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The quartet will lift off aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour at 2:07 a.m. EST on Feb. 26 and dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing port just over half-a-day later.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Kibo laboratory module:

Osteopromotive Bone Adhesive:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Zvezda module:

Rassvet module:

Harmony module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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