vendredi 3 mars 2023

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of Feb. 27, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Mar 3, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Feb. 27 that included tracking how the human body adapts to space, examining the effects of light and fertilizer on dwarf tomato plants, and testing a microscope to analyze particles on the space station. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission launched to the station on March 2, starting a six-month mission for NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

Image above: This image from the International Space Station shows a cloud-covered Earth at night. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Measuring Adaptation to Space

For the Standard Measures investigation, crew members complete cognition tests and sleep questionnaires and collect blood, saliva, and urine samples for various analyses, including immune function and microbiome health. Other measures include artery ultrasounds and sensorimotor tests. These data, collected over the life of the space station, enable researchers to examine how crew members adapt to living and working in space and to monitor countermeasure effectiveness in support of future long-duration missions. During the week, crew members completed questionnaires and collected samples for the investigation.

Testing Tomatoes

Image above: Tomatoes and blooms are visible on dwarf tomato plants growing in the International Space Station’s Veggie facility for the Veg-05 investigation. The study examines the effects of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, nutritional value, and taste acceptability of the tomatoes and the benefits to crew members from having live plants in space. Image Credit: NASA.

Growing plants in space could provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members on future long-duration missions. Veg-05 grows dwarf tomatoes in the station’s Veggie facility to examine the effects of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability, and overall behavioral health benefits. The hardware is similar to a miniature greenhouse and could be adapted to provide fresh produce for those without access to a yard on Earth and for horticultural therapy for elderly or disabled individuals. Crew members inspected, watered, and photographed plants and filled root mats during the week.

Miniature Microscope for Petite Particles

Mochii is a miniature scanning electron microscope that conducts real-time imaging and analysis of particles on the space station. Particles can cause vehicle and equipment malfunctions. Before installation of Mochii, samples were returned to Earth for analysis, creating delays that can put equipment and crew at risk. The ability to analyze small and microscopic particles becomes especially important on deep space exploration missions that cannot send samples back to the ground for analysis. During the week, crew members disconnected and powered down the device after operations.

Image above: NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata during a press conference prior to the Crew-5 departure from the station, scheduled for the week of March 6. Image Credit: NASA.

Other Investigations Involving the Crew:

- Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), 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.

- Myotones, an investigation from ESA, monitors changes in the properties of muscles during spaceflight. Results 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.

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

- Cerebral Autoregulation, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) investigation, tests whether this ability improves in microgravity. A better understanding of how blood flow changes in space could lead to improved treatments and possible countermeasures for space-related lightheadedness.

- PK-4, a collaboration between ESA and State Space Corporation Roscosmos, studies complex plasmas, low-temperature mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Results could shed light on plasma phenomena in space and lead to new research methods and improvement in spacecraft designs and industries that use plasmas on Earth.

Space to Ground: Night Launch: March 3, 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.

ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022:

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Standard Measures:




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.

Best regards,

Sun Releases Strong X-class Solar Flare


NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

March 3, 2023

The Sun emitted a strong (X-class) solar flare, peaking at 12:52 p.m. EST on March 3, 2023. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event.

Animation above: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the upper right – on March 3, 2023. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares, and which is colorized in orange. Animation Credits: NASA/SDO.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact high-frequency (HF) radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

This flare is classified as an X2.1 flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Image Credit: NASA

To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Related links:

NASA's Space weather:

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Denise Hill.


Expedition 68 Welcomes Crew-6 Members Aboard Station


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

March 3, 2023

NASA astronauts, Mission Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Woody Hoburg, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev aboard the SpaceX Dragon, named Endeavour, have arrived at the International Space Station.

Image above: The four SpaceX Crew-6 members joined the seven Expedition 68 crew members aboard the space station expanding its population to 11. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Crew-6 joins the Expedition 68 crew of NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann, and Josh Cassada, as well as Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin, and Anna Kikina.

SpaceX Crew-6 hatch opening

The crew members first opened the hatch between the space station and the pressurized mating adapter at 3:45 a.m. EST then opened the hatch to Dragon.

Related articles:

SpaceX Crew-6 Mission Docks to Station’s Harmony Module

Crew-6 Aboard Endeavour Spacecraft Reaches Orbit, on way to ISS

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Commercial Crew:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 75 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

March 3, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 75 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 51 Starlink satellites (Starlink-75 / Starlink 2-7) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 3 March 2023, at 18:38 UTC (10:38 PST).

SpaceX Starlink 75 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 3 March 2023

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship,  stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship

Falcon 9’s first stage (B1061) previously supported eleven missions: Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter-5, Globalstar-2 FM15, EROS C-3 and two Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


Latest news from ongoing operations and experiments aboard CSS


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

March 3, 2023

The first combustion experiment onboard the China Space Station (中国空间站)

The first combustion experiment onboard the China Space Station (中国空间站) was conducted in the Mengtian Laboratory Module (梦天实验舱), on 16 February 2023.

The first combustion experiment onboard the China Space Station (CSS)

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the experiment used methane as fuel and lasted for about 30 seconds.

Shenzhou-15 astronauts complete second spacewalk

Shenzhou-15 astronauts complete second spacewalk

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the second extravehicular activity of the Shenzhou-15 (神舟十五) mission took place on 2 March 2023. Astronauts Junlong Fei (费俊龙, commander) and Lu Zhang (张陆) “successfully completed all the planned tasks and safely returned to the Wentian Laboratory Module” (问天实验舱).

Information about China’s human spaceflight activities are however often closely guarded. Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut in space and a deputy chief designer at CNSA, recently told Chinese state media that two crews and backups had been chosen for the Shenzhou-16 and Shenzhou-17 missions due to launch in May and November respectively.

Yang Liwei former taikonaut (astronaut), deputy chief designer at CNSA

No names were provided, however, in contrast to more open and transparent practices around the world. China typically only reveals the identities of the crews a day ahead of launch at carefully staged press conferences.

Individuals recruited in a third taikonaut (astronaut) selection round in 2020 have also yet to be revealed. The new taikonauts (astronauts) may have now completed basic training and be available for selection for upcoming missions.

The new recruits for the first time include engineers and payload specialists, whereas earlier rounds were solely drawn from air force pilots. A fourth selection round got underway late last year.

China is also preparing to expand its Tiangong outpost and has begun a process to select the first international astronauts to visit the space station.

In broader terms, China does publish once-every-five-year white papers which outline civilian plans and priorities for the years ahead.

Related article:

CSS - Shenzhou-15 taikonauts (astronauts) conduct secretive second spacewalk

Related links:

China space white paper:

China National Space Administration (CNSA):

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Loss of flight VV22: Independent Enquiry Commission announces conclusions


Arianespace - Vega-C / Flight VV22 Mission patch.

March 3, 2023

On Tuesday 20 December 2022, Arianespace announced the loss of the Vega-C VV22 mission after its launch at 22h47 local time in French Guiana (2h47 CET/1h47 GMT on 21 December 2022). The mission was carrying two payloads, Pléiades Neo 5 and 6 Earth observation satellites for Airbus Defence and Space.

Arianespace (the launch service provider) and the European Space Agency (ESA – the launch system development authority) immediately set up an Independent Enquiry Commission, which concluded that after the nominal functioning of the Vega-C first stage P120C and nominal ignition of the second stage (Zefiro 40), a progressive decrease in the chamber pressure was observed 151 seconds after lift-off, leading to the loss of the mission.

The Independent Enquiry Commission tasked with analysing the loss of the Vega-C Flight VV22 mission, shared its findings in a briefing on 3 March. Watch the replay: media briefing on the loss of of the Vega-C Flight VV22 mission.

Initial investigations, conducted right after the launch with the available flight data, confirmed that the launcher’s sub-systems reacted to the events as designed, and that the cause of the failure was a gradual deterioration of the Zefiro 40’s nozzle. More precisely, the Commission confirmed that the cause was an unexpected thermo-mechanical over-erosion of the carbon-carbon (C-C) throat insert of the nozzle, procured by Avio in Ukraine. Additional investigations led to the conclusion that this was likely due to a flaw in the homogeneity of the material.

The anomaly also revealed that the criteria used to accept the C-C throat insert were not sufficient to demonstrate its flightworthiness. The Commission has therefore concluded that this specific C-C material can no longer be used for flight. No weakness in the design of Zefiro 40 has been revealed. Avio is implementing an immediate alternative solution for the Zefiro 40’s nozzle with another C-C material, manufactured by ArianeGroup, already in use for Vega’s Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9 nozzles.

Considering the nature of the VV22 anomaly, the Commission emphasizes that its conclusions on Zefiro 40 do not affect the Vega launcher which is relying on the Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9 motors. In this context, Arianespace decided to adapt its launch schedule to reassign a mission to one of its two remaining Vega launchers with a targeted launch date before the end of summer 2023.

The Independent Enquiry Commission has formulated a series of recommendations aiming at restoring confidence in the Vega and Vega-C launcher systems through the establishment of robust recovery plans to ensure a reliable return to flight and robust commercial exploitation.

The main strands of work based on the recommendations are:

- To complement the findings of the Commission with additional testing and analysis in order to ensure the robustness of the qualification of the alternative C-C material selected for Zefiro 40;

- To implement an additional qualification phase of the Zefiro 40 engine with the alternative C-C material;

- To implement a set of actions, aiming at guaranteeing a long-term reliable and sustainable launcher production.

Vega-C a European rocket - Origin of the components

A task force steered by ESA and Arianespace has started implementing the roadmap proposed by the Commission and will thoroughly follow the implementation of the actions by Vega’s prime contractor Avio, in order to ensure a reliable and robust return to flight of Vega-C. The targeted launch date is end of 2023.

ESA, as launch system qualification authority, Arianespace, as launch service provider and Avio, as design authority and prime contractor of the Vega launcher, will join their efforts to achieve the common objective of a robust exploitation of the Vega launch system, for the benefit of their institutional and commercial customers.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, said: "The Independent Enquiry Commission stands for ESA’s commitment to the highest safety standards. It has drawn a set of recommendations that once implemented should ensure a robust, reliable return to flight of the Vega-C launcher.

ESA will fully engage its engineering and project management expertise to support Avio in the implementation of actions required to regain confidence in the launcher system. Restoring Europe’s independent access to space is ESA’s priority, and I am therefore glad that we can proceed with Vega launch campaigns while preparing Vega-C to safely return to flight."

“Thanks to their hard work, the members of the Commission have identified the immediate cause of the loss of the mission VV22 and of its lessons learnt, and proposed the relevant corrective actions,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “Their recommendations already are under implementation by Avio, under the supervision of Arianespace and ESA, in order to allow a successful return to flight of Vega-C and to guarantee its continuous reliability.”

Media briefing on the loss of the Vega-C Flight VV22 mission

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia are Associate Members.

ESA has established formal cooperation with four Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

Learn more about ESA at

About Arianespace

Arianespace uses Space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited over 1,100 satellites since 1980. Arianespace is responsible for operating the new-generation Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers, developed by ESA, with respectively ArianeGroup and Avio as industrial primes. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the Ariane and Vega European launcher industry, and ESA and CNES as censors.


Related articles:

Flight VV22 failure: Arianespace and ESA appoint an independent inquiry commission

Flight VV22 failure: Arianespace and ESA appoint an independent inquiry commission

Arianespace - Vega-C / Flight VV22: Failure of the mission

Related link:

Original article on ESA website:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: European Space Agency (ESA).

Best regards,

Galactic seascape


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

March 3, 2023

Image description: A spiral galaxy lies just off-centre. It has large, faint, reddish spiral arms and a bright, reddish core. These lie over two brighter blue spiral arms. These are patchy, with blotches of star formation. Long trails of these bright blotches trail down from the lower spiral arm, resembling tendrils. The background is black, lightly scattered with small galaxies and stars, and a larger elliptical galaxy in one corner.

A jellyfish galaxy with trailing tentacles of stars hangs in inky blackness in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. As Jellyfish galaxies move through intergalactic space they are slowly stripped of gas, which trails behind the galaxy in tendrils illuminated by clumps of star formation. These blue tendrils are visible drifting below the core of this galaxy, and give it its jellyfish-like appearance. This particular jellyfish galaxy — known as JO201 — lies in the constellation Cetus, which is named after a sea monster from ancient Greek mythology. This sea-monster-themed constellation adds to the nautical theme of this image.

The tendrils of jellyfish galaxies extend beyond the bright disc of the galaxy core. This particular observation comes from an investigation into the sizes, masses and ages of the clumps of star formation in the tendrils of jellyfish galaxies. Astronomers hope that this will provide a breakthrough in understanding the connection between ram-pressure stripping — the process that creates the tendrils of jellyfish galaxies — and star formation.

This galactic seascape was captured by Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), a versatile instrument that captures images at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths. WFC3 is the source of some of Hubble’s most spectacular images, from a view of Jupiter and Europa to a revisit to the Pillars of Creation.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Gullieuszik; CC BY 4.0.


SpaceX Crew-6 Mission Docks to Station’s Harmony Module


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-6 Mission patch.

March 3, 2023

Image above: SpaceX Dragon Endeavour in the docking phase at the Harmony module of ISS. Image Credits: NASA TV/ Aerospace.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, as the SpaceX Dragon, named Endeavour, docked to the complex at 1:40 a.m. EST while the station was 260 statute miles over the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Somalia.

Image above: The four SpaceX Crew-6 members (from left) Andrey Fedyaev, Woody Hoburg, Stephen Bowen, and Sultan Alnedayi, are pictured inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour prior to launching. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Docking was delayed slightly as mission teams completed troubleshooting of a faulty docking hook sensor on Dragon. The NASA and SpaceX teams verified that all of the docking hooks were in the proper configuration, and SpaceX developed a software override for the faulty sensor that allowed the docking process to successfully continue.

SpaceX Crew-6 docking

Following Dragon’s link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard the Dragon and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening which took place at 3:18 a.m.

SpaceX Crew-6 hatch opening

Crew-6 join the Expedition 68 crew of NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann, and Josh Cassada, as well as Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin, and Anna Kikina. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-5 departs.

Related article:

Crew-6 Aboard Endeavour Spacecraft Reaches Orbit, on way to ISS

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Commercial Crew:

Harmony module:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

jeudi 2 mars 2023

LHCb begins using unique approach to process collision data in real-time


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

March 2, 2023

Using a new system called real-time analysis, the LHCb collaboration has made filtering and analysing experiment data simpler and faster

Image Credit: CERN

Current technology does not allow all Large Hadron Collider (LHC) proton–proton collision data to be stored and analysed. It is therefore necessary to filter out the data according to the scientific goals of each experiment. Physicists call this selection process the “trigger”. Thus, data taking and analysis at the LHC has traditionally been performed in two steps. In the first, which physicists call “online”, the detector records the data, which is then read out by fast electronics and computers, and a selected fraction of the events is stored on disks and magnetic tapes. Later, the stored events are analysed “offline”. In offline analysis, important data taken from the online process is used to determine the parameters with which to adjust and calibrate LHCb’s subdetectors. This whole process takes a long time and uses a large amount of human and computing resources.

In order to speed up and simplify this process, the LHCb collaboration has made a revolutionary improvement to data taking and analysis. With a new technique named real-time analysis, the process of adjusting the subdetectors takes place online automatically and the stored data is immediately available offline for physics analysis.

In LHC Run 2, LHCb’s trigger was a combination of fast electronics (“hardware trigger”) and computer algorithms (“software trigger”) and consisted of multiple stages. From the 30 million proton collisions per second (30 MHz) happening in the LHCb detector, the trigger system selected the more interesting collision events, eventually reducing the amount of data to around 150 kHz. Then, a variety of automatic processes used this data to calculate new parameters to adjust and calibrate the detector.

For Run 3 and beyond, the whole trigger system has changed radically: the hardware trigger has been removed and the whole detector is read out at the full LHC bunch-crossing rate of 40 MHz. This allows LHCb to use real-time analysis for the full selection of data, making it much more precise and flexible.

The real-time reconstruction allows LHCb to not only cherry-pick interesting events but also compress the raw detector data in real time. This means there is tremendous flexibility to select both the most interesting events and the most interesting pieces of each event, thus making the best use of LHCb’s computing resources. In the end, around 10 gigabytes of data are permanently recorded each second and made available to physics analysts.

Images above: The event display images shown were taken during the first Run 3 proton–proton collisions on 5 July (left) and the first lead–argon collisions on 18 November (right). The event display program used real-time analysis. Images Credit: CERN.

The success of real-time analysis was only possible thanks to the extraordinary work of the online and subdetector teams during the construction and commissioning of this brand new version of the LHCb detector. More information about LHCb’s new trigger system and the team behind it can be found on the collaboration’s website:


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

LHCb collaboration:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/By LHCb collaboration.


NASA’s Quantum Detector Achieves World-Leading Milestone


Quantum Physics logo.

Mar 2, 2023

A new JPL- and Caltech-developed detector could transform how quantum computers, located thousands of miles apart, exchange huge quantities of quantum data.

Image above: This close-up photograph shows an exquisitely sensitive single Performance-Enhanced Array for Counting Optical Quanta (PEACOQ) detector, which is being developed at JPL to detect single photons – quantum particles of light – at an extremely high rate. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Quantum computers hold the promise of operating millions of times faster than conventional computers. But to communicate over long distances, quantum computers will need a dedicated quantum communications network.

To help form such a network, a device has been developed by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech that can count huge numbers of single photons – quantum particles of light – with incredible precision. Like measuring individual droplets of water while being sprayed by a firehose, the Performance-Enhanced Array for Counting Optical Quanta (PEACOQ) detector is able to measure the precise time each photon hits it, within 100 trillionths of a second, at a rate of 1.5 billion photons per second. No other detector has achieved that rate.

“Transmitting quantum information over long distances has, so far, been very limited,” said PEACOQ project team member Ioana Craiciu, a postdoctoral scholar at JPL and the lead author of a study describing these results. “A new detector technology like the PEACOQ that can measure single photons with a precision of a fraction of a nanosecond enables sending quantum information at higher rates, farther.”

Image above: This photograph shows several PEACOQ detectors shortly after they’d been printed on a silicon wafer. The inset image shows the detail of a single PEACOQ. Each PEACOQ detector is a little smaller than a dime. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Dedicated Network Required

Conventional computers transmit data through modems and telecommunication networks by making copies of the information as a series of 1s and 0s, also called bits. The bits are then transmitted through cables, along optical fibers, and through space via flashes of light or pulses of radio waves. When received, the bits are reassembled to re-create the data that was originally transmitted.

Quantum computers communicate differently. They encode information as quantum bits – or qubits – in fundamental particles, such as electrons and photons, that can’t be copied and retransmitted without being destroyed. Adding to the complexity, quantum information transmitted through optical fibers via encoded photons degrades after just a few dozen miles, greatly limiting the size of any future network.

Image above: Matt Shaw, who leads JPL’s superconducting detector work, is shown here inspecting a PEACOQ mounted to a cryostat, which is used to maintain the extremely low temperatures required for the detector to work. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

For quantum computers to communicate beyond these limitations, a dedicated free-space optical quantum network could include space “nodes” aboard satellites orbiting Earth. Those nodes would relay data by generating pairs of entangled photons that would be sent to two quantum computer terminals hundreds or even thousands of miles apart from each other on the ground.

Pairs of entangled photons are so intimately connected that measuring one immediately affects the results of measuring the other, even when they are separated by a large distance. But for these entangled photons to be received on the ground by a quantum computer’s terminal, a highly sensitive detector like PEACOQ is needed to precisely measure the time it receives each photon and deliver the data it contains.

Superconducting Plumage

The detector itself is tiny. Measuring only 13 microns across, it is composed of 32 niobium nitride superconducting nanowires on a silicon chip with connectors that fan out like the plumage of the detector’s namesake. Each nanowire is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

Image above: Members of the PEACOQ team stand next to a JPL cryostat that was used to test the detector. From left, Alex Walter, Sahil Patel, Andrew Mueller, Ioana Craiciu, Boris Korzh, Matt Shaw, and Jamie Luskin. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Funded by NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program within the agency’s Space Operations Mission Directorate and built by JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory, the PEACOQ detector must be kept at a cryogenic temperature just one degree above absolute zero, or minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 272 degrees Celsius). This keeps the nanowires in a superconducting state, which is required for them to be able to turn absorbed photons into electrical pulses that deliver the quantum data.

Although the detector needs to be sensitive enough for single photons, it is also designed to withstand being hit by many photons at once. When one nanowire in the detector is hit by a photon, it is momentarily unable to detect another photon – a period called “dead time” – but each superconducting nanowire is designed to have as little dead time as possible. Moreover, PEACOQ is equipped with 32 nanowires so that others can pick up the slack while one is “dead.”

“In the near term, PEACOQ will be used in lab experiments to demonstrate quantum communications at higher rates or over greater distances,” said Craiciu. “In the long term, it could provide an answer to the question of how we transmit quantum data around the world.”

Image above: Ioana Craiciu, who led the study, stands next to the cryostat that was used to test PEACOQ at temperatures as low as a degree above absolute zero. At this temperature, the detector is in a superconducting state, allowing its nanowires to turn absorbed photons into electrical pulses. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Deep Space Test

Part of a wider NASA effort to enable free-space optical communications between space and the ground, PEACOQ is based on the detector developed for NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration. DSOC will launch with NASA’s Psyche mission later this year to demonstrate, for the first time, how high-bandwidth optical communications between Earth and deep space could work in the future.

While DSOC won’t communicate quantum information, its ground terminal at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in Southern California requires the same extreme sensitivity in order to count single photons arriving via laser from the DSOC transceiver as it travels through deep space.

“It’s all kind of the same technology with a new category of detector,” said Matt Shaw, who leads JPL’s superconducting detector work. “Whether that photon is encoded with quantum information or whether we want to detect single photons from a laser source in deep space, we’re still counting single photons.”

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages DSOC for the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and SCaN.

Related links:

Quantum computers:

JPL study:

Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN):

NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate:

JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory:

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC):

NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Ian J. O’Neill.

Best regards,

CSS - Shenzhou-15 taikonauts (astronauts) conduct secretive second spacewalk


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

March 2, 2023

A pair of Chinese taikonauts (astronauts in Chinese) conducted their second extravehicular activity in recent days, with China for the first time providing no advance indication nor details of the event.

China’s human spaceflight agency CNSA announced March 2 that Shenzhou-15 mission taikonauts (astronauts) Fei Junlong and Zhang Lu had “recently” carried out a spacewalk outside the Tiangong space station.

Image above: A Shenzhou-15 Taikonauts (astronaut) wearing a Feitian EVA suit with red markings emerges from the Wentian module, as imaged by a camera on the Tiangong robotic arm. Image Credit: CNSA.

The activity was supported by crewmate Deng Qingming from within Tiangong and teams on the ground. No further details were provided, beyond Fei and Zhang using the Wentian science module airlock for egress and ingress.

Rumors on Chinese social media had suggested an EVA was taking place Feb. 28.

The secrecy surrounding the spacewalk is in contrast to previous Tiangong EVA, for which CNSA has issued albeit vague notices that such activities would take place in the near future.

Space space authorities issued reports on timings of key EVA events and listed tasks for the first Shenzhou-15 spacewalk just three weeks ago, Feb. 9. Chinese state media have previously provided video footage of EVA (Extra Vehicular Activities).

It is unclear why CNSA has not published details of the latest action. The agency is overseen by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and as such has traditionally closely guarded even basic information about its taikonaut (astronaut) corps.

Image above: Fei Junlong, an astronaut of Shenzhou-15, waves after successfully second spacewalk. Image Credits: CNSA/Xinhua.

The lack of transparency may be seen by other space actors as troublesome.

“The Chinese authorities are not doing themselves any favors by not providing much transparency about their crewed spaceflight operations,” Bleddyn Bowen, an associate professor specializing in space policy and military uses of outer space at the University of Leicester, told SpaceNews.

“If they want to be seen as a more normal space power, everyday crewed spaceflight operations — which have little to no security and military importance — can be more openly reported and talked about.

“The Chinese authorities also need to get more used to talking honestly about delays and unforeseen challenges as some other space powers have done.”

Astrophysicist and spaceflight observer Jonathan McDowell concurred, noting that even the Soviets always gave start time and duration for their spacewalks. “There is no sensible reason for China to be so secretive,” McDowell said via email.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated at the International Astronautical Congress in September last year that a lack of transparency was an issue regarding China’s space activities.


China is undergoing a reshuffle of key government positions ahead of its annual parliamentary session, the National People’s Congress, which opens on Sunday. Sensitivity to upcoming changes could play a role in secrecy in this instance.

Information about China’s human spaceflight activities are however often closely guarded. Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut in space and a deputy chief designer at CNSA, recently told Chinese state media that two crews and backups had been chosen for the Shenzhou-16 and Shenzhou-17 missions due to launch in May and November respectively.

No names were provided, however, in contrast to more open and transparent practices around the world. China typically only reveals the identities of the crews a day ahead of launch at carefully staged press conferences.

Individuals recruited in a third astronaut selection round in 2020 have also yet to be revealed. The new astronauts may have now completed basic training and be available for selection for upcoming missions.

Shenzhou-15 Astronauts Complete Their Second Spacewalk

The new recruits for the first time include engineers and payload specialists, whereas earlier rounds were solely drawn from air force pilots. A fourth selection round got underway late last year.

China is also preparing to expand its Tiangong outpost and has begun a process to select the first international astronauts to visit the space station.

In broader terms, China does publish once-every-five-year white papers which outline civilian plans and priorities for the years ahead.

Meanwhile on Mars, China’s Zhurong rover was expected to resume activities in Utopia Planitia in December, following a period of hibernation during winter time in the northern hemisphere.

Related articles & links:

China unveils lunar lander to put astronauts on the moon

Shenzhou-15 Taikonauts take their 1st spacewalk outside China Space Station (CSS)

China space white paper:

China National Space Administration (CNSA):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: CNSA/CCTV/SpaceNews/Andrew Jones/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


ESA ground stations to support first commercial Moon landing


ESA - Moonlight Programme patch.


March 2, 2023

In brief

UPDATE: ispace's HAKUTO-R Mission 1 launched successfully on 11 December 2022.

• Japan’s ispace will launch its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 on 30 November* on its journey to the Moon. It is aiming to be the first mission by a private company to land on the lunar surface.

• Under a commercial contract with ispace EUROPE S.A., ESA is responsible for ensuring communication between the spacecraft and its teams on Earth throughout the mission.

• The Agency’s global network of tracking stations will be used to transmit commands to the spacecraft and receive scientific data and status information from Mission 1 and the experiments carried out on the Moon.

ESA's Malargüe tracking station


Mission 1 is the first mission of the HAKUTO-R lunar exploration programme from the company ispace, based in Tokyo, Japan, with offices in Luxembourg and the US. It will be launched into a low-energy transfer orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the Moon.

The journey will take three to five months and see the spacecraft venture out to deep space and back again. Once on the Moon, it will conduct a host of experiments in cooperation with various commercial and agency entities on Earth.

“This is exactly the future of lunar exploration that we are working towards,” says Rolf Densing, ESA Director of Operations.

“The mission will also provide ESA’s ground station teams with valuable experience for upcoming ESA and partner missions going to the Moon, such as Lunar Pathfinder and those of ESA’s Moonlight initiative.”

Flight Profile of HAKUTO-R Mission 1 (click on the image for enlarge)

“We are pleased to be working with ESA and utilising their extensive tracking station network in support of our Mission 1 operations,” said Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace.

“I believe this kind of international collaboration is vital to building a robust cislunar economy, as it opens the doors for companies like ours to contribute expertise to the future of commercialised space.”

The crucial link

Following launch and separation, the spacecraft will be operated from the HAKUTO-R Mission Control Center in central Tokyo, Japan. The Center will monitor the lunar lander’s vital signs – its attitude, temperature, and other conditions – send commands to the spacecraft and receive the data gathered by the lander’s various instruments and experiments during transit to the Moon and during their time on the lunar surface.

But how will mission controllers get their commands to the spacecraft and its experiments' data back to Earth from deep space and eventually from the Moon’s surface? That’s where ESA comes in.

ESA tracks ispace commercial Moon landing

From the dawn of the mission until dusk on the Moon

ESA's tracking station network – Estrack – is a global system of ground stations providing links between satellites across the Solar System and ESA’s ESOC mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Our tracking stations enable satellite operators to communicate with their spacecraft, transmit commands and receive scientific data and spacecraft status information.

The lunar lander will be supported by ESA’s largest deep space antennas – three 35-metre dishes located in New Norcia, Western Australia, Cebreros, Spain, and Malargüe, Argentina. Two smaller ESA antennas located in Kourou, French Guiana, and New Norcia will also provide support, as will the commercial Goonhilly Earth Station in the UK, as part of the ‘Estrack extended network’.

ESA New Norcia station - November 2022

ESA’s first contact with the lander after launch – known as ‘acquisition of signal’ – will take place over the New Norcia station in Australia. This crucial moment allows ispace to check that the lander is healthy, survived the rigors of launch, and is on the right path.

The Estrack and Goonhilly stations will then follow the lander as it ventures out into deep space and back again on a sweeping trajectory designed to reduce the amount of fuel the spacecraft needs to carry.

It will reach as far as 1.5 million km from Earth at its farthest point – roughly four times the distance between Earth and the Moon. The spacecraft will enter lunar orbit for around one month before the whole craft descends to perform lunar landing.

Surface operations will last for approximately two weeks, with the landing timed as close to the lunar dawn at the landing site as possible, in order to maximise mission time.

ESA’s stations will again be on hand to receive vital data during the descent and confirm a successful landing. During these two weeks, science data will stream down from the Moon to the experiment teams on Earth via ESA’s antennas.

ESA enables commercial activity at the Moon

Reflecting on deep space

ESA aims to boost Europe’s commercialisation of space. In this international collaboration with ispace, ESA is taking part in new emerging commercial space activities, gaining ground in lunar exploration and paving the way for the Agency’s future Moonlight initiative.

The support provided to ispace, via its Luxembourg office (ispace EUROPE), where the company operates its secondary mission control centre, will be the first time that ESA has provided the sole ground station support for a commercial space mission and the first time that its ground stations have supported a commercial Moon landing.

What is ESA’s Moonlight initiative?

“Companies such as ispace will provide important services and are the future of commercial lunar exploration, but they do not yet have the large ground station and antenna infrastructure required to get the science data from their commercial and government experiments back to their teams on Earth,” says Géraldine Naja, ESA Director of Commercialisation, Industry and Procurement.

“International cooperation is key for lunar exploration. Besides this, support to European commercial space activities is a new priority for ESA. Both international cooperation and support to commercialisation will help reduce the entry barrier to lunar exploration for newcomers.”

ESA is now constructing a fourth 35 m-diameter antenna in order to meet the rising demand for communication bandwidth as the Agency prepares and launches a new generation of its own deep-space and space safety missions.

Support from ESA and commercial European ground stations such as Goonhilly will be essential for future Agency missions and collaborations in the coming years, particularly at the Moon.

*Subject to change depending on weather and other conditions.

Related articles:

ESA to touch Moon from wheels of UAE Rashid rover

ispace - Hakuto-R Lunar Lander Successfully Performs Maneuver

SpaceX - Falcon 9 launches HAKUTO-R M1 and Lunar Flashlight

Related links:

ESA’s Moonlight:

ESA's tracking station network – Estrack:


Goonhilly Earth Station:

Japan’s ispace:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/U. Kugel/Nathanial Bradford/Goonhilly Earth Station/ispace.


mercredi 1 mars 2023

Crew-6 Aboard Endeavour Spacecraft Reaches Orbit, on way to ISS


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-6 Mission patch.

March 2, 2023

Liftoff! Crew-6 Lights Up the Florida Early Morning Sky

Image above: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft atop, lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.

SpaceX Crew-6 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft roared off of Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:34 a.m. EST! Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, Sultan Alneyadi, and Andrey Fedyaev have successfully begun their approximate 24.5-hour journey to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket has reached first stage main engine cutoff (MECO). The first and second stages have separated.

The positive call came in from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 Commander Stephen Bowen that trajectory is nominal. The first stage has started its descent.

Stage 1 Successfully Lands on SpaceX Drone Ship

Stage 1 of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket completed its descent and successfully landed on SpaceX’s drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, off the coast of Florida.

Image above: SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavour spacecraft separates from the second stage during NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Image Credit: NASA.

The Dragon Endeavour spacecraft has separated from the second stage. The spacecraft is traveling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour.

SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour interior view

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour, carrying NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, commander; Warren Hoburg, pilot; and mission specialists UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev to the International Space Station, has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

Crew Dragon docking at International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: SpaceX

After an approximate 24.5-hour transit, the crew will dock to the space-facing port of the microgravity laboratory’s Harmony module about 1:17 a.m. Friday, March 3. Hatch opening is targeted for approximately 3:27 a.m., followed by the welcome ceremony about 3:40 a.m. Arrival coverage on NASA TV and the agency’s website begins Thursday, March 2, at 11:30 p.m.

Related articles:

NASA, SpaceX Move Forward with March 2 Launch to Space Station

Crew-6 ‘Go’ for Launch Following Successful Launch Readiness Review

NASA’s Crew-6 Heads to Space Station to Conduct Scientific Studies

Ground Systems Issue Scrubs Crew-6 Launch

Related links:


Commercial Crew:

SpaceX Crew-6:

Harmony module:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images not mentioned by Aerospace/Roland Berga via NASA TV, Text Credits: NASA/James Cawley/Video Credits: NASA TV/SciNews.

Best regards,