vendredi 3 février 2023

Spacewalkers Relax, Science Continues as Station Orbits Higher


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Feb 3, 2023

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Two astronauts took the morning off on Friday following a spacewalk the day before while the rest of the Expedition 68 crew conducted the latest space experiments and lab maintenance tasks. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting higher today to get ready for a pair of spaceships arriving this month.

Flight Engineers Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) relaxed Friday morning after conducting a six-hour and 41-minute spacewalk on Thursday. The duo completed the installation of hardware on the station’s Starboard-4 truss readying the orbiting lab for its next roll-out solar array. The pair then went into the afternoon with standard post-spacewalk medical checks before cleaning up the Quest airlock where their spacewalking tools and Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, are stowed.

Image above: Astronaut Nicole Mann is pictured inside the Quest airlock organizing spacewalk tools and hardware on Jan. 31, 2023. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio had their hands full on Friday as they explored how weightlessness affects a wide range of phenomena including biotechnology, agriculture, and physics. The ongoing microgravity studies provide scientists and engineers new insights that could promote state-of-the-art industries both in space and on Earth.

Cassada began his day configuring the BioFabrication Facility, a research device that will investigate the 3-D printing of organ-like tissues in microgravity, in the Columbus laboratory module. Afterward, he was back inside Columbus watering tomato plants growing inside the Veggie space botany facility. The Veg-05 study is studying a continuous fresh-food production system for space missions. Rubio set up the new Particle Vibration experiment inside the Destiny laboratory module’s Microgravity Science Glovebox. The physics study will investigate how particles organize themselves in fluids possibly advancing manufacturing techniques and providing new insights on astrophysics.

Image above: The waxing gibbous Moon stands out in this Jan. 2, 2023, image from the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above the southern Indian Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev assisted Flight Engineer Anna Kikina during her cardiac research early Friday as she attached sensors to herself to monitor her blood circulation in microgravity. Prokopyev then worked inside the Zvezda service module checking its systems. Kikina then spent her day inside Zvezda and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module servicing their ventilation systems. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent all day Friday replacing air purification hardware before transferring filters from the ISS Progress 82 cargo craft to the Unity module.

The space station is orbiting higher, 260 miles above Earth at its highest point and 257.1 miles at its lowest, after the ISS Progress 81 resupply ship fired its engines for nearly fifteen minutes early Friday morning. The new orbiting altitude places the station at the correct altitude for the arrival of the new ISS Progress 83 cargo craft on Feb. 11 and the unpiloted Soyuz MS-23 crew ship on Feb. 21.

Related articles:

The ISS orbit was adjusted for the departure of the Soyuz MS-22 unmanned spacecraft

Spacewalkers Complete Construction Job to Upgrade Station Power

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Starboard-4 truss:

Quest airlock:

BioFabrication Facility:

Columbus laboratory module:



Particle Vibration:

Destiny laboratory module:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

Zvezda service module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Spiral Galaxy Spans Space


NASA - GALEX Mission patch.

Feb 3, 2023

This Jan. 10, 2013, composite image of the giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 combines visible light images from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope with far-ultraviolet data from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and infrared data acquired by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. NGC 6872 is 522,000 light-years across, making it more than five times the size of the Milky Way galaxy; in 2013, astronomers from the United States, Chile, and Brazil found it to be the largest-known spiral galaxy, based on archival data from GALEX.

Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)

Related links:

European Southern Observatory (ESO):

GALEX (Galaxy Evolution Explorer):

Images Credits: NASA/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS/Text Credits: NASA/Monika Luabeya.


The ISS orbit was adjusted for the departure of the Soyuz MS-22 unmanned spacecraft


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Feb 3, 2023

On Friday, February 3, 2023, the orbit of the International Space Station was adjusted to ensure the landing of the unmanned Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.

The engines of the Progress MS-20 cargo spacecraft docked to the Zvezda Service Module of the ISS Russian Segment were switched on at 13:30 Moscow time. They worked 894.2 seconds and gave out an impulse of 1.37 m/s.

According to preliminary data, after the maneuver, the average height of the station's orbit increased by 2.4 km and amounted to 417.8 km.

ISS reboost by Progress cargo spacecraft

For the entire duration of the ISS flight, 332 corrections of its orbital altitude were carried out, including 181 with the help of Progress spacecraft engines.

Landing of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft in unmanned mode is planned for March 2023 southeast of the Kazakh city of Zhezkazgan.

Currently, the crew of the 68th long-term expedition is working on board the ISS, consisting of cosmonauts of the State Corporation Roscosmos Sergey Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin and Anna Kikina, NASA astronauts Francisco Rubio, Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, as well as JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Soyuz MS-22:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Scientists made a new kind of ice that might exist on distant moons


Astrophysics logo.

Feb 3, 2023

The 'amorphous' solid is denser and could be water ‘frozen in time’.

Image above: Milling ordinary ice with steel balls disrupted its crystalline structure and led to a novel, denser version of solid water. Image Credits: Alexander Rosu-Finsen, Christoph Salzmann.

Scientists have created a new type of ice that matches the density and structure of water, perhaps opening a door to studying water’s mysterious properties.

“It might be liquid water frozen in time,” says Martin Chaplin, a specialist in water structure at London South Bank University, who was not involved in the work. “It could be very important.”

The ice is called medium-density amorphous ice. The team that created it, led by Alexander Rosu-Finsen at University College London (UCL), shook regular ice in a small container with centimetre-wide stainless-steel balls at temperatures of –200 ˚C to produce the variant, which has never been seen before. The ice appeared as a white granular powder that stuck to the metal balls. The findings were published today in Science (1).

Haphazard molecules

Normally, when water freezes, it crystallizes and its molecules are arranged into the familiar hexagonal, solid structure that we call ice. Ice is less dense than its liquid form — an unusual property for a crystal. Depending on conditions such as pressure and the speed of freezing, water can also solidify in any of two dozen other regular arrangements. Amorphous ice is different: it has no such order. “You have lots of molecules joining on haphazardly,” says Chaplin.

Two types of amorphous ice have been previously discovered, both in the twentieth century. ‘Low-density’ amorphous ice is the result of water vapour freezing onto a very cold surface, at a temperature lower than –150 ˚C; ‘high-density’ amorphous ice forms by compressing ordinary ice at similar temperatures under high pressure. Although neither type is common on Earth, both are plentiful in space. “Comets are big chunks of low-density amorphous ice,” says Christoph Salzmann, a chemist at UCL and a co-author of the latest work.

The team used a ball mill, a tool normally used to grind or blend materials in mineral processing, to grind down crystallized ice. Using a container with metal balls inside, they shook a small amount of ice about 20 times per second. The metal balls produced a ‘shear force’ on the ice, says Salzmann, breaking it down into a white powder.

Firing X-rays at the powder and measuring them as they bounced off — a process known as X-ray diffraction — allowed the team to work out its structure. The ice had a molecular density similar to that of liquid water, with no apparent ordered structure to the molecules — meaning that crystallinity was “destroyed”, says Salzmann. “You’re looking at a very disordered material.”

The results are “pretty convincing”, says Marius Millot, a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. “This is a great example of how we still have things to understand with water.”

The results matched models produced by scientists on the team at the University of Cambridge, UK, predicting what would happen if regular ice was broken down in this manner. It’s unclear, however, whether the resultant powder truly matches the properties of liquid water, given that it was previously frozen as crystallized ice. Investigating that will require further work.

Big implications

If confirmed, the new form of ice could enable studies of water in a manner that was not possible before. “Liquid water is a strange material,” says Chaplin. “We still don’t know as much about it as we’d like.” For example, it is commonly thought that water is composed of two forms, low-density and high-density water, matching the previously known variants of amorphous ice. The discovery of a medium-density amorphous ice could challenge that idea.

Image above: The ice plates on the surface of Enceladus rub against one another under tidal forces as the moon orbits Saturn. Denser, 'amorphous' ice could form at their boundaries. Image Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

“If medium-density amorphous ice is really connected to liquid water, it would imply that this model is incorrect,” says Salzmann. “It could open up a new chapter in ice research.”

There are implications, too, for understanding other worlds. Some moons in our Solar System, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, have icy surfaces. If two icy areas on such a moon were to rub together because of tidal forces, they could produce medium-density amorphous ice between them through the same shearing process that the researchers used.

The increase in density could create gaps in the surface, producing disruptions on the moons as the ice cracks together. “There would be a massive collapse of the ice,” says Salzmann. “It could have severe implications for the geophysics of the icy moons.”

That could, in turn, have implications for the potential habitability of liquid-water oceans that lie under the ice surfaces on these moons. “One of the key things about those moons is whether you can have an interface between liquid water and the rocks — this is where life could emerge,” says Millot. “Amorphous ice could have a role that we need to understand.”



1. Rosu-Finsen, A. et al. Science 379, 474–478 (2023).

Related links:

University College London (UCL), UK:

University of Cambridge, UK:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California (USA):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Nature/Jonathan O'Callaghan.

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Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 30, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Feb 3, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan 30 that included examining how fuel temperature affects material flammability, evaluating 3D printing of knee cartilage tissue, and observing liquid sloshing and turbulence in space.

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

Not fueling the fire

Image above: NASA astronaut Frank Rubio replaces experiment samples and hardware for SoFIE-Gel, an experiment that studies burning in microgravity, including how fuel temperature affects material flammability. Image Credit: NASA.

SoFIE-Gel studies burning in microgravity, including how fuel temperature affects material flammability. Results could contribute to crew safety on future missions by improving understanding of early fire growth behavior, informing selection of fire-resistant spacecraft cabin materials, validating flammability models, and helping to determine optimal fire suppression techniques. Studying flames in space without the complications of buoyancy also helps improve computer models of combustion for terrestrial applications. Crew members replaced experiment samples and an igniter tip during the week.

Bending the knee

Image above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada sets up the BioFabrication Facility to prepare for BFF-Meniscus-2, an investigation that evaluates using the upgraded facility to 3D print a meniscus, or knee cartilage tissue. Image Credit: NASA.

BFF-Meniscus-2 evaluates using the upgraded BioFabrication Facility (BFF) to 3D print a meniscus, or knee cartilage tissue, using bioinks and cells. On its first trip to space in 2019, the BFF successfully printed a partial human knee meniscus. The facility’s upgrades include the ability to control the temperature of its printheads, which enabled bioink formulations that previously were not possible. Musculoskeletal injuries including tears in the meniscus are a leading health issue in the U.S. military. Microgravity enables the printing of tissue samples of higher quality than those printed on the ground and this investigation could help develop new approaches for treating such injuries. During the week, crew members installed and activated the BFF facility and the ADvanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP) in preparation for investigation operations.

Whole lot of sloshing going on

FLUIDICS, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), evaluates sloshing, turbulence, and other behaviors of liquid in a sphere in microgravity. The spheres serve as models for a spacecraft fuel tank. This investigation could provide insight into measuring fuel volume and may support improvements to the guidance and precision of satellites, improving fuel management and expanding lifespan. This investigation also may help provide a better understanding of Earth’s oceans, including the phenomenon of "rogue waves,” contributing to improved climate prediction systems and optimizing the use of ocean-based renewable energy. Crew members performed runs of the experiment during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

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

- Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA, examines the mechanisms of self-organization of particles in fluids. Results could improve our understanding of fluids with dispersed solid particles, which are used in cooling systems for heat exchangers and solar energy collectors in space and in nuclear reactors and electronics on Earth.

Image above: Thale cress (Arabidopsis) plants growing for Plant Habitat-03, which assesses whether epigenetic adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. Image Credit: NASA.

- 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.

- 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.

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

- Standard Measures uses cognition tests, sleep questionnaires, blood samples, and a variety of other data to examine how crew members adapt to living and working in space. Results also help monitor the effectiveness of countermeasures to maintain crew health and well-being, which supports future long-duration missions.

Space to Ground: Flame On: 02/03/2023

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.

The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022:

Related links:

Expedition 68:



BioFabrication Facility (BFF):

ADvanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP):


ISS National Lab:


Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Hubble’s New View of the Tarantula Nebula


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

Feb 3, 2023

A snapshot of the Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) is featured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The Tarantula Nebula is a large star-forming region of ionized hydrogen gas that lies 161,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and its turbulent clouds of gas and dust appear to swirl between the region’s bright, newly formed stars.

The Tarantula Nebula is a familiar site for Hubble. It is the brightest star-forming region in our galactic neighborhood and home to the hottest, most massive stars known. This makes it a perfect natural laboratory in which to test out theories of star formation and evolution, and Hubble has a rich variety of images of this region. The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope also recently delved into this region, revealing thousands of never-before-seen young stars.

This new image combines data from two different observing proposals. The first was designed to explore the properties of the dust grains that exist in the void between stars that make up the dark clouds winding through this image. This proposal, which astronomers named Scylla, reveals how interstellar dust interacts with starlight in a variety of environments. It complements another Hubble program called Ulysses, which characterizes the stars. This image also incorporates data from an observing program studying star formation in conditions similar to the early universe, as well as cataloging the stars of the Tarantula Nebula for future science with Webb.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Murray, E. Sabbi; Acknowledgment: Y. -H. Chu.

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NASA’s X-57 Maxwell is Major Step Closer to Flight Readiness


NASA -  X-57 Maxwell patch.

Feb 3, 2023

NASA’s X-57 Maxwell all-electric aircraft reached another milestone toward its first flight with the successful thermal testing of its cruise motor controllers.

NASA’s X-57 Maxwell. Image Credits: NASA/Carla Thomas

Thermal testing is important because it validates the design, operability, and workmanship quality of the controllers – critical components for providing power to X-57’s experimental electric motors. These complex systems have temperature-sensitive parts and must be able to withstand extreme conditions during flight.

The cruise motor controllers convert energy stored in the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries to power the aircraft’s motors, which drive the propellers. The controllers use silicon carbide transistors to deliver 98% efficiency during high power take-off and cruise, meaning they do not generate excessive heat and can be cooled off by the air flowing through the motor.

Image above: NASA Glenn’s Susanah Kowalewski prepares a cruise motor controller for testing. Image Credit: NASA.

During a recent test at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, each of the flight motor controllers survived while operating inside a test chamber under the range of temperatures they may encounter during flight with a safety margin applied (minus 11 to 147 degrees Fahrenheit).

Image above: Left to Right: Glenn’s Jarred Wilhite, Emily Belovich, Andrew Smith, and Susanah Kowalewski gather data of the X-57 cruise motor controllers during thermal cycle tests. Image Credit: NASA.

The testing team closely monitored temperature responses of the power components and the control components inside the controllers, making sure they stayed within their allowable temperature range limits of the components. Close monitoring ensures the cruise motor controllers will perform correctly during piloted research flights.

Image Credits: NASA/Jef Janis

Now that ground tests have validated the controllers under the most extreme temperature conditions expected in flight, the X-57 team is one step closer to integrating all of Maxwell’s systems and ensuring that they can work together – one of the biggest challenges for an aircraft, especially a one-of-a-kind X-plane.

An upcoming Flight Readiness Review at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, is the next major step before research flights take place.

Related links:

X-57 Maxwell:

Green Aviation:


Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kelly Sands/Glenn Research Center/Brian Newbacher.


jeudi 2 février 2023

Spacewalkers Complete Construction Job to Upgrade Station Power


EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Feb 2, 2023

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata concluded their spacewalk at 2:26 p.m. EST after six hours and 41 minutes.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineers (middle left to right) Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio, both from NASA, pose with astronauts (far left and right) Nicole Mann from NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, as they prep for a spacewalk on Jan. 20, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

Mann and Wakata completed their major objective for today, which was to complete the construction of a mounting platform on the 1A power channel that was started during a spacewalk on Jan. 20. In addition, they relocated an articulating portable foot restraint from the P6 truss for future spacewalk tasks and deployed cables for the installation of the next pair of International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs).

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is pictured in his Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), or spacesuit, 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.

The installation was part of a series of spacewalks to augment the station’s power channels with new iROSAs. Four iROSAs have been installed so far, and two additional arrays will be mounted to the installed platforms during future spacewalks following their arrival later this year on SpaceX’s 28th commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

Image above: Spacewalkers Koichi Wakata (top) and Nicole Mann (bottom) work on the starboard truss structure to upgrade the space station’s power generation system. Image Credit: NASA TV.

It was the 259th spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades, and maintenance, the second spacewalk of 2023, and the second spacewalk for both astronauts.

Astronauts work outside space station in 2nd spacewalk of 2023

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 to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis missions.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Quest airlock:

Starboard truss structure:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA TV), Text Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.


NASA is Creating an Advanced Air Mobility Playbook


NASA - Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) logo.

Feb 2, 2023

NASA is building the system to make soaring over traffic in air taxis, providing public good missions in the form of medical and emergency response by drone, receiving packages faster, and participating in a sustainable and safe mode of air transportation a reality. This new form of transportation is called Advanced Air Mobility (AAM).

Hear from some of our subject matter experts who are at the forefront of this research to learn about NASA’s important role in the creation of this exciting new industry.

Emergency Response

AAM has the potential to aid in disaster relief, assist in firefighting missions, and provide supplies to hard-to-reach areas during an emergency event. Several projects that support the AAM mission are working on elements to help make AAM a reality in emergency operations.

Episode 1: Misty Davies explains the value and feasibility of how AAM can assist in emergency response:


AAM has the potential to provide medical transport for people and supplies around the world. Several projects under the mission are working on different elements to help make AAM a reality in medical operations.

Episode 2: Davis Hackenberg explains why AAM is well suited for use in healthcare operations:


NASA is researching the automation software that will perform airspace communication, flight path management, avoidance with other vehicles, and more skills needed to operate in a busy airspace.

Episode 3: Kenneth Goodrich points out some of the automation research NASA is doing:


Many AAM aircraft designs will be electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOLs, so they will have the ability to take off and land vertically like helicopters. NASA is researching where these vertiports or vertiplexes, which are multiple vertiports in proximity, will work into existing infrastructure.

Episode 4: Marcus Johnson explains the role that vertiports will play when eVTOLs are flying in our sky:

Travel Time

With the addition of AAM, another dimension of the sky is used for travel below traditional aircraft and above cars, buses, or trains below. NASA is researching how AAM could cut traffic commutes, make travel more sustainable, and make road trips shorter.

Episode 5: Hear from Mike Guminsky as he explains how travel will be positively impacted by the addition of AAM:


NASA is developing design tools that manufacturers of AAM aircraft can use to reduce noise made by their aircraft. Data from NASA testing will help define and optimize flight paths and assist the Federal Aviation Administration in creating policy.

Episode 6: Hear from Susan Gorton as she explains how NASA's research will help inspire quiet and less disruptive aircraft:


NASA is researching how adding new aviation capabilities will affect communities. This includes physical areas of focus – including adding vertiports to existing airports and creating charging stations – and digital areas of focus, how aircraft will communicate with one another and with air traffic control.

Episode 7: Hear from Shivanjli Sharma about how NASA is developing infrastructure solutions, both physical and digital:

Future Airspace

Industry and government partners must develop new air traffic management technologies so new types of aircraft can fly safely with existing aircraft. NASA is helping research new automated navigation systems that will improve airspace coordination.

Episode 8: Hear from William Chan as he explains how NASA’s airspace technology research will enable new aircraft to safely fly with existing aircraft:


Before new types of aircraft can fly in the airspace, the FAA needs to ensure they are safe. NASA is evaluating how the addition of advanced automation systems and improved vehicle design can guarantee this new class of aircraft is safe to operate.

Episode 9: Hear from Natasha Neogi as she explains the ways NASA’s safety research will impact AAM:

Ride Quality

In order to create a viable market for eVTOLs, designers will have to create a comfortable passenger experience. NASA’s research will provide design guidance to industry manufacturers, ensuring passengers will have a smooth ride.

Episode 10: Hear from Carlos Malpica as he explains why NASA’s research in passenger ride quality is important to the future of flight:

Cargo Delivery

Advanced Air Mobility has the potential to revolutionize the cargo transportation industry by providing faster and cleaner modes of moving packages. This will include both large cargo delivery aircraft and small package delivery drones.

Episode 11: Hear from Kurt Swieringa on how NASA is uniquely qualified to find solutions for moving more packages by air:


AAM will connect both urban dwellers and rural residents by adding a new way to travel by air. Like commercial air travel today, accommodations will need to be made to these aircraft to cater to all levels of ability. This could include installing ramps for wheelchair access, specialized seats and seatbelts, and added visual and auditory aids to make the aircraft ADA compliant.

Episode 12: Hear from Nancy Mendonca about how AAM will allow for more accessible ways to travel from city to city and city to rural areas:

Related links:

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM):

Ames Research Center:

Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Image Credit: NASA/Animations Credits: NASA Graphics/Kyle Jenkins/Text Credits: NASA/Ryan Lydon/Armstrong Flight Research Center/Teresa Whiting.

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For The First Time Hubble Directly Measures The Mass of a Lone White Dwarf


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Feb 2, 2023


Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time directly measured the mass of a single, isolated white dwarf star – the surviving core of a burned-out sunlike star.

Researchers found that the white dwarf is 56 percent of the mass of our Sun. This agrees with earlier theoretical predictions of its mass and corroborates current theories of how white dwarfs evolve as the end product of a typical star’s evolution. The unique observation yields insights into theories of the structure and composition of white dwarfs.

Hubble Measures Deflection of Starlight by a Foreground Object

Until now, previous white dwarf mass measurements have been gleaned from observing white dwarfs in binary star systems. By watching the motion of two co-orbiting stars, straightforward Newtonian physics can be used to measure their masses. However, these measurements can be uncertain if the dwarf’s companion star is in a long-period orbit of hundreds or thousands of years. Orbital motion can be measured by telescopes only over a brief slice of the dwarf’s orbital motion.

For this companion-less white dwarf, researchers had to employ a trick of nature, called gravitational microlensing. The light from a background star was slightly deflected by the gravitational warping of space by the foreground dwarf star. As the white dwarf passed in front of the background star, microlensing caused the star to appear temporarily offset from its actual position on the sky.

Hubble Uses Microlensing To Measure the Mass of a White Dwarf

The results are reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The lead author is Peter McGill, formerly of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and now based at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

McGill used Hubble to precisely measure how light from a distant star bent around the white dwarf, known as LAWD 37, causing the background star to temporarily change its apparent position in the sky.

Hubble Uses Microlensing To Measure the Mass of a White Dwarf (Annotated)

Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, the principal Hubble investigator on this latest observation, first used microlensing in 2017 to measure the mass of another white dwarf, Stein 2051 B. But that dwarf is in a widely separated binary system. “Our latest observation provides a new benchmark because LAWD 37 is all by itself,” Sahu said.

The collapsed remains of a star that burned out 1 billion years ago, LAWD 37 has been extensively studied because it is only 15 light-years away in the constellation Musca. “Because this white dwarf is relatively close to us, we’ve got lots of data on it — we’ve got information about its spectrum of light, but the missing piece of the puzzle has been a measurement of its mass,” said McGill.

Hubble Uses Microlensing To Measure the Mass of a White Dwarf (Clean)

The team zeroed-in on the white dwarf thanks to ESA’s Gaia mission, which makes extraordinarily precise measurements of nearly two billion star positions. Multiple Gaia observations can be used to track a star’s motion. Based on these data, astronomers were able to predict that LAWD 37 would briefly pass in front of a background star in November 2019.

Once this was known, Hubble was used to precisely measure over several years how the background star’s apparent position in the sky was temporarily deflected during the white dwarf’s passage.

“These events are rare, and the effects are tiny,” said McGill. “For instance, the size of our measured offset is like measuring the length of a car on the Moon as seen from Earth.”

Gravitational Lensing: White Dwarf Passes In Front of Distant Background Star

Since the light from the background star was so faint, the main challenge for astronomers was extracting its image from the glare of the white dwarf, which is 400 times brighter than the background star. Only Hubble can make these kinds of high-contrast observations in visible light.

"Even when you’ve identified such a one-in-a-million event, it’s still extremely difficult to make these measurements,” said Leigh Smith of the University of Cambridge. “The glare from the white dwarf can cause streaks in unpredictable directions, meaning we had to analyse each of Hubble’s observations extremely carefully, and their limitations, to model the event and estimate the mass of LAWD 37."

“The precision of LAWD 37’s mass measurement allows us to test the mass-radius relationship for white dwarfs,” said McGill. “This means testing the theory of degenerate matter (a gas so super-compressed under gravity that it behaves more like solid matter) under the extreme conditions inside this dead star,” he added.

Pan of LAWD 37

The researchers say their results open the door for future event predictions with Gaia data. In addition to Hubble, these alignments can now be detected with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Because Webb works at infrared wavelengths, the blue glow of a foreground white dwarf looks dimmer in infrared light, and the background star looks brighter.

Based on Gaia’s predictive powers, Sahu is observing another white dwarf, LAWD 66, with Webb. The first observation was made in 2022. More observations will be taken as the deflection peaks in 2024 and then subsides.

“Gaia has really changed the game — it’s exciting to be able to use Gaia data to predict when events will happen, and then observe them happening,” said McGill. “We want to continue measuring the gravitational microlensing effect and obtain mass measurements for many more types of stars.”

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

In his 1915 general theory of relativity, Einstein predicted that when a massive compact object passes in front of a background star, the light from the star would bend around the foreground object because of the warping of space by its gravitational field.

Exactly a century before this latest Hubble observation, in 1919, two British-organised expeditions to the southern hemisphere first detected this lensing effect during a solar eclipse on 19 May. It was hailed as the first experimental proof of general relativity — that gravity warps space. However, Einstein was pessimistic that the effect could ever be detected for stars outside our Solar System because of the precision required. “Our measurement is 625 times smaller than the effect measured at the 1919 solar eclipse,” said McGill.

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The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of Peter McGill (University of Cambridge, UK; University of California Santa Cruz, USA), Jay Anderson (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Stefano Casertano (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Kailash C. Sahu (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Pierre Bergeron (University of Montreal, Canada), Simon Blouin (University of Victoria, Canada), Patrick Dufour (University of Montreal, Canada), Leigh C. Smith (University of Cambridge, UK), N. Wyn Evans (University of Cambridge, UK), Vasily Belokurov (University of Cambridge, UK), Richard L. Smart (INAF – Astrophysical Observatory of Torino, Italy), Andrea Bellini (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Annalisa Calamida (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Martin Dominik (University of St Andrews, UK), Noé Kains (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), Jonas Klüter (Louisiana State University, USA), Martin Bo Nielsen (University of Birmingham, UK; Aarhus University, Denmark; New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), and Joachim Wambsganss (Heidelberg University, Germany).


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ESA/Hubble Word Bank: Gravitational Lensing:

ESA's Hubble website:

ESA’s Gaia mission:

Release on STScI website:

Science paper:

Images Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Feild/NASA, ESA, P. McGill (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz and University of Cambridge), K. Sahu (STScI), J. Depasquale (STScI)/Animation Credit: NASA/ESA/Videos Credits: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI)/NASA, ESA, P. McGill (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz and University of Cambridge), K. Sahu (STScI), J. Depasquale (STScI), N. Bartmann (ESA/Webb)/Music: Mylonite – Breath of my Soul/Text Credits: ESA/Hubble/Bethany Downer/STScI/Kailash Sahu/University of California/Peter McGill.

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ISRO completes investigation into SSLV launch failure


ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation logo.

Feb 2, 2023

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it has identified and corrected the problem that doomed the first flight of a small launch vehicle as it gears up for a second attempt.

Image above: India’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre Aug. 6 on its inuagural flight, but failed to place its payload of two smallsats into the proper orbit. Image Credit: ISRO.

ISRO said Feb. 1 that an investigation into the failed inaugural launch of its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) last August concluded that an unexpectedly strong shock during separation of the second stage saturated accelerometers in the rocket’s guidance system, triggering a “salvage mode” that ended up placing its payload into an unacceptably low orbit.

The SSLV’s inertial navigation system uses six accelerometers that, at the time of second stage separation, measured vibrations that where both stronger and lasted longer than expected from ground testing. That briefly saturated the accelerometers and caused the guidance system to assume that they had malfunctioned. In fact, the accelerometers were not damaged, ISRO stated, and functioned normally for the rest of the flight.

The guidance system then initiated a salvage mode to attempt to place the payloads into orbit without using data from the accelerometers. That included open-loop guidance of the rocket’s third stage without using feedback from those accelerometers. A kick stage called the Velocity Trimming Module (VTM) was not ignited, ISRO said, “since it could be a deterrent to the success of salvage option in some cases.”

That resulted in a velocity shortfall of 56 meters per second along with a loss in pointing accuracy at the time of payload separation, the agency said. The payload, the EOS-02 Earth observation satellite and the student-built AzaadiSAT smallsat, ended up in an orbit with a perigee of only 75.7 kilometers. That orbit caused them to reenter “immediately,” ISRO concluded.

ISRO outlined several corrective actions to prevent a similar problem from repeating. It is changing the stage separation system to one already used for the third stage that produces less shock. It is also shifting to a “more realistic approach” to handling accelerometer data in the guidance system, including waiting longer before concluding the accelerometers have malfunctioned and triggering the salvage mode. That salvage mode will shift to closed-loop guidance using data from NavIC, India’s regional satellite navigation system.

ISRO said that with those measures in place, it is ready to attempt a second SSLV launch. The SSLV-D2 mission will carry the EOS-07 Earth observation satellite and two smallsat secondary payloads. The launch could take place as soon as next week, although ISRO said only that the launch is scheduled for the first quarter.

Related articles:

The first flight of India’s small satellite vehicle results in loss of payload

ISRO - The first launch of SSLV-D1

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Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ISRO/SpaceNews/Jeff Foust.