samedi 11 mars 2023

Dragon Endurance Deorbit Burn Complete and splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-5 Mission patch.

March 11, 2023

Dragon Endurance Deorbit Burn Complete

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance crew ship, carrying four Crew-5 members, approaches the International Space Station 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean southwest of the Hawaiian island chain in this photo from Oct. 6, 2022. Image Credits: NASA/Kjell Lindgren.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina on their return to Earth after a nearly six-month science mission has completed its deorbit burn as expected ahead of splashdown at approximately 9:02 p.m. EST in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida.

Four minutes before splashdown, the drogue parachutes will deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour, and less than a minute later, the main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while the spacecraft is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.

Crew-5 Safely Returns to Earth After Splashdown

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance is seen as it splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, at 9:02 p.m. EST, returning Crew-5 to Earth. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina splashed down safely in the SpaceX Dragon Endurance in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, at 9:02 p.m. EST after 157 days in space. 

SpaceX Crew-5 splashdown

Teams on the Shannon recovery ship, including two fast boats, now are in the process of securing Dragon and ensuring the spacecraft is safe for the recovery effort. As the fast boat teams complete their work, the recovery ship will move into position to hoist Dragon onto the main deck of Shannon  with the astronauts inside. Once on the main deck, the crew will be taken out of the spacecraft and receive medical checks before a helicopter ride to Tampa to board a plane for Houston.   

Related article:

Dragon Endurance Undocks from the Space Station

Related links:

Commercial Crew:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Dragon Endurance Undocks from the Space Station


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-5 Mission patch.

March 11, 2023

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance, which will carry Crew-5 back to Earth, is seen docked to the space station prior to its departure. Image Credit: NASA TV.

At 12:29 a.m. EST, the hatch closed between the Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking and return to Earth of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

SpaceX Crew-5 hatch closure

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina inside undocked from the forward-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 2:20 a.m. EST to complete a nearly  six-month science mission.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance undocked from the space station at 2:20 a.m. EST, beginning Crew-5’s journey back to Earth. Image Credit: NASA TV.     

NASA coverage of Crew-5’s return will continue with audio only, and full coverage will resume at the start of the splashdown broadcast. Real-time audio between Crew-5 and flight controllers at NASA’s Mission Audio stream will remain available and includes conversations with astronauts aboard the space station and a live video feed from the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX Crew-5 undocking and departure

NASA TV coverage will resume at 8 p.m. Saturday until Endurance splashes down at approximately 9:02 p.m. EST near Tampa off the coast of Florida and Crew-5 members are recovered. 

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission launched Oct. 5, 2022, on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station the next day.

Related article:

NASA’s Space-X Crew-5 Scientific Mission aboard the Space Station

Related links:


Harmony module:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


vendredi 10 mars 2023

Light Duty on Station Before Foursome Departs on Saturday


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

March 10, 2023

It was a relaxed Friday aboard the International Space Station as crew swap activities begin winding down ahead of the return to Earth of four crew members on Saturday. Three cosmonauts remained busy at the end of the week, however, working on orbital household maintenance tasks.

Expedition 68 Flight Engineers Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos are in their final full day aboard the space station. The quartet had a light duty day getting in a final exercise session before going to sleep early to prepare for their overnight departure activities.

Image above: The 11-member crew aboard the International Space Station give thumbs up signs in this portrait from March 6, 2023. In the bottom row from left are Flight Engineers Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos, Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Woody Hoburg from NASA. In the middle row from left are Flight Engineers Anna Kikina from Roscosmos, Koichi Wakata from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Nicole Mann from NASA, Dmitri Petelin from Roscosmos, and Frank Rubio from NASA. In the back are Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen from NASA, Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Josh Cassada from NASA. Image Credit: NASA.

The foursome will enter the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance and close the hatch to the vehicle at 12:15 a.m. EST on Saturday. Then at 2:05 a.m. they will undock from the Harmony module’s forward port. Endurance will fire its main engines one last time at 8:25 p.m. on Saturday sending the crew back into the Earth’s atmosphere. Finally, the crew will splashdown off the coast of Florida at 9:19 p.m. where support personnel from NASA and SpaceX will greet them after a five-month space research mission. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, will broadcast the crew return activities live.

The orbiting lab’s four newest crewmates have completed their first week of station orientation and familiarization tasks. New Flight Engineers Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg from NASA, Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Andrey Fedyaev docked to the station aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour on Oct. 3. All but Fedyaev had the day off as they will get up early and support their departing four crewmates when they enter the Crew Dragon Endurance and undock from the station.

Image above: The International Space Station orbits 264 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia and into an orbital sunset marked by the terminator, or the line separating day from night on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Frank Rubio, who has been aboard the station since Sept. 21, also had a light duty day spending just over an hour on the Food Physiology study before going to bed early with his departing crewmates. Rubio will be assisting the homebound crew before their Saturday departure.

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, station commander and flight engineer respectively, spent Friday working their normal shift servicing a variety of station electronics hardware. Fedyaev spent his day troubleshooting power supply systems and cleaning ventilation fans and filters.

Related article (NASA):

Coverage Set as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Prepares to Splashdown

Related links:


Expedition 68:

Harmony module:

Food Physiology:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Spots a Star-Forming Spiral


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

Mar 10, 2023

The irregular spiral galaxy NGC 5486 hangs against a background of dim, distant galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The tenuous disk of the galaxy is threaded through with pink wisps of star formation, which stand out from the diffuse glow of the galaxy’s bright core. While this particular galaxy has indistinct, meandering spiral arms, it lies close to the much larger Pinwheel Galaxy, which is one of the best-known examples of a ‘grand design’ spiral galaxy with prominent and well-defined spiral arms. In 2006, Hubble captured an image of the Pinwheel Galaxy which was, at the time, the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy ever taken with Hubble.

NGC 5486 lies 110 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major. This observation comes from a selection of Hubble images exploring debris left behind by Type II supernovae. As massive stars reach the end of their lives, they cast off huge amounts of gas and dust before ending their lives in titanic supernova explosions. NGC 5486 hosted a supernova in 2004, and astronomers used the keen vision of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to explore the aftermath in the hopes of learning more about these explosive events.

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. Kilpatrick.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 6, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Mar 10, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of March 6 that included recording crew members reading books aloud for an educational program, studying changes to the eyes in space, and testing a new method for monitoring space-induced changes in immune function. Members of NASA’s Crew-5, NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, are scheduled to depart the station on March 11 after a months-long mission conducting multiple scientific investigations.

Image above: The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the International Space Station carrying astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg of NASA, Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Andrey Fedyaev from Roscosmos. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Read Me a Story

For the Story Time from Space educational program, crew members read children’s books on topics related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and complete simple science experiments. The reading and demonstrations are recorded, and video from the event is posted online with accompanying educational materials for use by teachers and others. The program increases awareness of the orbiting laboratory and helps inspire interest in STEM fields, preparing the next generation of explorers. This program is sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Crew members read and recorded a session during the week.

Image above: NASA astronauts Woody Hoburg (foreground) and Frank Rubio (background) organize gear and equipment on the International Space Station in preparation for conducting scientific investigations during the week. Image Credit: NASA.

Protecting Eyes in Space

Microgravity can cause structural changes to the eyes known as Spaceflight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome (SANS). Shifting of blood and cerebrospinal fluid toward the head in microgravity may be an underlying cause. ISAFE measures eye, brain, and blood vessel changes to determine whether SANS varies with mission length, whether changes recover when crew members return to Earth, and how long any potential recovery takes. Results could support development of methods to prevent eye changes on future space missions and provide new insight into the mechanisms underlying eye diseases experienced by some people on Earth. During the week, crew members conducted measurements for the investigation and rescheduled additional measurements due to video issues.

A New Immune Function Test

Immunity Assay, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), tests a new process to monitor how the stress of spaceflight affects immune function. Until now, testing had to be done pre- and postflight on the ground, but the new method enables inflight testing. This capability could provide a much clearer assessment of the immune changes that happen in flight and help direct development of countermeasures. The new test also could be used to monitor stress-related immune performance in settings on Earth. Crew members set up hardware and reviewed procedures for investigation operations during the week.

Other Investigations Involving the Crew:

Animation above: Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) works with the Veg-05 investigation, which grows dwarf tomatoes to examine the effects of light quality and fertilizer on the plants and the overall behavioral health benefits for the crew from having live plants on the station. Animation Credit: NASA.

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

Image above: This sequence of snapshots, taken about 3 seconds apart, shows changes in a flame as the ambient pressure is reduced during a run of SoFIE-GEL. This investigation studies how fuel temperature affects material flammability in microgravity and could help improve crew and spacecraft safety for future exploration missions. Image Credit: NASA.

- SoFIE-GEL studies how fuel temperature affects material flammability in microgravity. Results could improve understanding of early fire growth behavior, inform selection of fire-resistant spacecraft cabin materials, and help to determine optimal fire suppression techniques on future missions.

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

- DOSIS-3D, an ESA investigation, monitors the radiation dose inside the space station using active and passive detectors. Researchers use the data to create a 3D map of distribution and levels of radiation, which could help scientists develop ways to protect crew members.

- 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: Wrapping Up: March 10, 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:

Story Time from Space:

Story Time from Space:


Immunity Assay:

Veggie facility:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-4C launches TianHui-6 A/B


CASC - Long March-4C / TianHui-6 A/B (天绘六号A/B) patch.

March 10, 2023

Long March-4C carrying TianHui-6 A/B liftoff

A Long March-4C launch vehicle launched the TianHui-6 A/B satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, China, on 9 March 2023, at 22:41 UTC (10 March, at 06:41 local time).

Long March-4C launches TianHui-6 A/B

According to official sources, the TianHui-6 A/B (天绘六号A/B) satellites have entered the planned orbit and “will be used for geographic mapping, land resource survey, scientific experiments and other missions”.

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

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


jeudi 9 mars 2023

Foursome Targets Saturday for Return to Earth as Station Ops Continue


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

March 9, 2023

Four Expedition 68 crew members are nearing the end of their stay aboard the International Space Station this weekend. Their replacements are completing their first week aboard the orbital outpost and getting up to speed with life in space.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance with four crewmates is targeted to depart the space station at 2:05 a.m. EST on Saturday and return to Earth less than 24 hours later. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will command and pilot Endurance respectively flanked by Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos. The foursome is due to splashdown off the coast of Florida at 9:19 p.m. on Saturday.

Image above: Expedition 68 Flight Engineers (from left) Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Koichi Wakata, are preparing to return to Earth this weekend. Image Credit: NASA.

The quartet blasted off toward the orbiting lab as the SpaceX Crew-5 mission on Oct. 5, 2022, and docked to the Harmony module’s forward port on Oct. 6. A variety of crew ships and space freighters arrived and departed, numerous spacewalks were conducted, and a multitude of advanced space research took place during Crew-5’s five-month-long stay in space.

The station’s newest crew members are several days into their orbital residency after their arrival on March 3, as the SpaceX Crew-6 mission. The new flight engineers, Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg of NASA, Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos, have already begun a variety of space research and lab maintenance activities.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The four new station residents have started exploring how microgravity affects the human body and picked a small tomato crop growing for a space agriculture study. They also spent Thursday afternoon familiarizing themselves with space station hardware and emergency equipment located throughout the space lab.

Three other space station residents, Commander Sergey Prokopyev, Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, both from Roscosmos, and NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio, have been living in space since Sept. 21. The trio spent the day stowing biological samples in a science freezer, packing cargo inside the Soyuz MS-22 spaceship, and servicing life support components. They will continue their station mission until later this year and return home inside the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship.

Related articles (NASA):

Coverage Set as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Prepares to Splashdown

NASA Sets Coverage for Next SpaceX Resupply Launch to Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Harmony module:

SpaceX Crew-5:

SpaceX Crew-6:

Soyuz MS-23:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


A Future Aircraft Design, Supercomputed


NASA’s Ames Research Center logo.

Mar 9, 2023

No, it’s not hypermodern art. This image, generated by NASA’s high-performance computers, shows a Transonic Truss Braced Wing (TTBW) aircraft concept being tested in a virtual wind tunnel, showing how its wings interact with the air around them.

In this case, the dark red area along the front of the wing represents higher-speed airflow as the TTBW’s wings, which are thinner than those of today’s commercial airliners, pierce the air. The tan-colored area shows the relatively smooth wake generated by the aerodynamic wings.

A TTBW aircraft produces less drag due to its longer, thinner wings supported by aerodynamic trusses. In flight, it could consume up to 10% less jet fuel than a standard airliner.

The Advanced Supercomputing Division of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California created this image as part of an effort by the Transformational Tools and Technologies project to develop computational tools for TTBW research.

In January, NASA selected a TTBW concept from The Boeing Company for its Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project.

To learn more about this supercomputing project, check out this link:

Related links:

NASA’s Ames Research Center:

Transformational Tools and Technologies project:

Future Aircraft:

Green Aviation:


Image Credits: NASA/Oliver Browne/Text Credits: NASA/Lillian Gipson.

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NASA’s Space-X Crew-5 Scientific Mission aboard the Space Station


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-5 Mission patch.

Mar 8, 2023

As the NASA SpaceX Crew-5 mission wraps up after months aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann as well as Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina prepare to return home.

During their time aboard the orbiting laboratory, these crew members contributed to scientific investigations and technology demonstrations to help prepare humans for future space exploration missions and generate benefits for humanity back on Earth.

Look back at Crew-5’s scientific journey aboard the space station:

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada rides the Canadarm2 robotic arm during two separate spacewalks to prepare the space station for an upgrade with an International Space Station roll-out solar array (iROSA) previously tested on station. The iROSA is a new type of solar panel that rolls open in space like a yoga mat and is more compact than previous rigid panel designs. Once all six iROSAs are installed, the station’s power generation is expected to increase to a combined total of more than 250 kW, more than a 30% increase, benefiting space station research and operations.

NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada (middle left to right), assist astronauts Koichi Wakata of JAXA and Nicole Mann of NASA (far left and right) out of their Extravehicular Mobility Units, or spacesuits. The spacewalkers had just finished a seven-hour and 21-minute spacewalk installing a modification kit on the space station's starboard truss structure, preparing the orbital lab for its next roll-out solar array. Cosmonaut Anna Kikina is in the background participating in post-spacewalk photography activities. During their time on station, Crew-5 supported power upgrades for new iROSA installations.

Human health research on station

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata prepares Moderate Temperature PCG samples for return to Earth inside the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. This investigation grows high-quality protein crystals in microgravity that scientists use to develop pharmaceutical drugs and to study unknown enzyme reactions.

Two crew members pose together with dosimeters, or radiation detectors, floating weightlessly in the microgravity environment of the space station. Studying and measuring radiation exposure is critical to keeping crews safe during their time in space.

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata works on the Neural Integration System investigation. The investigation uses nematodes (also known as roundworms) to examine how microgravity affects the nervous system. Previous experiments have shown that the C. elegans nematode experiences muscle atrophy and reduced motor activity and metabolism in microgravity. Research also has shown that space can affect the nervous system, and neural networks may transmit the effects of microgravity throughout the body. Results could support the development of countermeasures to protect crew members on future space missions and contribute to better health for the aging population on Earth.

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada works on the space station’s BioFabrication Facility (BFF). BFF is a steppingstone in long-term plans to manufacture whole human organs in space. After arriving to station in 2019, the facility successfully printed a partial human knee meniscus and a large volume of human heart cells. It returned to Earth in 2020 for maintenance and upgrades, including new temperature-controlled printheads that will allow the use of bioink formulations that were not possible in the previous BFF configuration. During their time on station, Crew-5 reinstalled BFF for continued testing of in-orbit tissue manufacturing.

Preparing for life in deep space

The eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS) uses hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without using soil. The XROOTS system is a scalable alternative to current space-based plant systems and could help sustain crews on long-duration space flights farther away from Earth where resupply missions become less viable. The top photo shows astronaut Koichi Wakata of JAXA checking tomato plants growing inside the space station. During their time on station, Crew-5 harvested tomatoes grown in the soil-free system.

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada works in the space station's Harmony module on the BioNutrients-2 investigation. BioNutrients-2 tests using an on-demand system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage.

Studies have determined that many vitamins degrade in both food and supplements during the expected time frame of future long-duration missions. The ability to produce in-flight vitamins and nutrients could help maintain crew health on these missions while reducing launch mass and volume requirements. The investigation also may provide insight into the on-demand production of other biomolecules, which could have a range of future space applications.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata of JAXA works on JEM Water Recovery System (JWRS) components inside the space station's Kibo laboratory module. JWRS generates potable water from urine. During long-duration space missions, water supply could become a limiting factor. Demonstrating the function of this water recovery system on orbit contributes to updating the Environmental Control and Life Support System to support astronauts on both the space station and future exploration missions.

In the top photo, NASA astronaut Josh Cassada works on the Veg-05 experiment, the next step in efforts to address the need for a continuous fresh-food production capability in space. The experiment uses the space station’s Veggie facility to grow dwarf tomatoes, seen in their early growing stages on station in the bottom photo. The experiment examines the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, and taste acceptability. Growing plants also can enhance the overall living experience for crew members.

JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata installs hardware to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF) for the Liquid Behavior experiment. Liquid Behavior studies how liquids move in a container in simulated lunar gravity to generate data to improve lunar rover designs. The CBEF can create artificial gravity environments simulating the Moon (1/6 g) and Mars (1/3 g) in the Japanese Experiment Module of the space station. A camera captures video images of liquid behavior under these various gravity environments.

Looking to Earth

Chile’s Villarrica volcano emits steam and other volcanic gases in this photo taken from the space station as a part of the Crew Earth Observations (CEO) study. The gases come from a series of minor explosions—called Strombolian eruptions—that have been ongoing at Villarrica since October 2022. Located along Chile’s southern Andes, Villarrica is one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in South America; it typically erupts every three to six years. Photos like these taken by astronauts from the space station play an important role in monitoring and recording Earth’s natural phenomena.

Satellites sent into orbit from station

The top photo shows NASA astronaut Nicole Mann removing a small satellite deployer inside the Kibo laboratory module's airlock. Small satellites are deployed into Earth’s orbit for a variety of scientific studies and technology demonstrations.

The bottom photo shows a set of four CubeSats released from a small satellite deployer on the outside of the Kibo laboratory module. The J-SSOD-23 CubeSat deployment mission included: PEARLAFRICASAT-1, the first satellite developed by Uganda at the Science, Technology, and Innovation Office of the President; ZIMSAT-1, Zimbabwe’s first satellite developed by Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency; TAKA, developed by Kyushu Institute of Technology (Japan); and SpaceTuna1, developed by Mitsui Bussan Aerospace Inc. (Japan). Three of the four satellites were developed as a part of the multinational BIRDS-5 Project sponsored by JAXA.

Space technology

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann works with a pair of Astrobee free-flying robots inside the Kibo laboratory module. The toaster-sized autonomous robots demonstrated using photographic technology for guidance, navigation, and control as part of the Smartphone Vision Guidance Sensor experiment. In general, the autonomous robots are used to assist astronauts with routine chores and give ground controllers additional eyes and ears on the space station.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann swaps samples inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the PFMI-ASCENT study on the space station. PFMI-ASCENT demonstrates a passive cooling system for electronic devices in microgravity. Adding microscopic rachets or teeth to flat heated surfaces may passively enable better heat transfer mechanisms, preventing device damage.  This technology could reduce the size of electronics and the electrical power they require, supporting expanded scientific investigations on and general use of the station.

Visiting resupply vehicles

NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann are pictured inside the cupola. Behind them, Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter approaches the orbiting lab carrying about 8,200 pounds of new science experiments, food, fuel, and supplies to replenish the crew as they orbit 264 miles above southwestern Australia.

SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, loaded with over 7,700 pounds of science, supplies, and cargo, approaches the space station to dock 264 miles above the Atlantic Ocean in between South America and Africa.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-5: A Scientific Mission

Related links:

International Space Station roll-out solar array (iROSA):

Moderate Temperature PCG:

Neural Integration System:

BioFabrication Facility (BFF):

eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS):


JEM Water Recovery System (JWRS):

Kibo laboratory module:


Veggie facility:

Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF):

Liquid Behavior experiment:

Crew Earth Observations (CEO):


Smartphone Vision Guidance Sensor:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:


ISS National Lab:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Christine Giraldo.


SpaceX - OneWeb 17 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / OneWeb 17 (3) patch.

March 9, 2023

Falcon 9 launches OneWeb 17

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 40 OneWeb satellites (OneWeb 17) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 9 March 2023, at 19:13 UTC (14:13 EST).

OneWeb 17 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1062) previously supported twelve missions: GPS III SV04, GPS III SV05, Inspiration4, Axiom-1, Nilesat 301 and seven Starlink missions.

OneWeb satellite

Related links:



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

Best regards,

How does Galileo help other space missions?


ESA - Galileo Navigation Satellites logo.

March 9, 2023

Galileo satellite

In 2023 satnav receivers are everywhere: in our phones, our cars, and drones, in fixed infrastructure, aboard boats, trains and aircraft. They are also in space: more than 95% of all the satellites in low-Earth orbit carry satnav receivers to calculate their position. The additional signals from Europe’s Galileo satellites are providing a big boost to the coverage, availability, redundancy, and accuracy of spaceborne receivers, in turn enlarging the possible scope of future missions, and extending the useful range of satnav much further out into space – to the Moon and beyond.

Galileo boosting satellite positioning precision

The first generation of spaceborne satnav receivers typically made use only of the American GPS system, and sometimes the Russian Glonass. But today the high-quality signals from Europe’s Galileo are increasingly employed alongside GPS, sharpening orbital positioning levels considerably.


“For the vast majority of satellites in low-Earth orbit, their positioning requirements are relaxed, in the order of tens of metres, achieved in real time on-board the satellite with a standard Global Navigation Satellite System, GNSS, receiver,” explains Werner Enderle, heading ESA’s Navigation Support Office at ESA’s Mission Control Centre ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany, tasked with providing independent precise orbit determination for European space missions.

Then there are the satellites with much tighter requirements, such as Earth observation radar missions, where more precise knowledge of the satellite’s position in space enhances the accuracy of the results, because then you can derive the exact distance between the satellite and the ground. There are also upcoming constellation, formation flying, and orbital rendezvous missions planned where accurate knowledge of relative positions will be crucial.

Navigation Facility at ESOC's Navigation Support Office

“What we can say, based on the Precise Orbit Determination we are routinely achieving down to a scale of a few centimetres, is that POD accuracy is no longer the limiting factor that it once was in space missions.”

For instance, Copernicus Sentinel-6 measures sea-surface height by bouncing radar pulses down and back, deriving the distance to the ocean surface to 1-2 cm. But to attain the necessary level of accuracy, the satellite’s position in space must be known as precisely as possible.

Tracking sea-level change

Accordingly, Copernicus Sentinel-6 was one of the first missions to fly a new joint Galileo-GPS capable receiver, with high-quality Galileo dual frequency signals improving its overall positioning capability.

“The results were excellent, based on the final positioning processing we perform here down on the ground. What we’re finding is that there’s a big advantage to combining Galileo and GPS, especially the two frequency bands E1 and L5a, coupled with the obvious fact of much better coverage and availability – meaning there are twice as many satellites to acquire signals from. So, there are more spaceborne receivers on the way, designed to benefit from Galileo’s really outstanding performance.”

Data from Copernicus Sentinel-6 critical for low-lying countries

The Navigation Support Office has been bringing this proven advantage to the attention of ESA mission teams. For instance, Proba-3 is an ambitious precision formation flying mission due to be launched in 2024, involving two satellites which will manoeuvre at a fixed distance of 140 m from each other so that one can blank out the Sun for the other, allowing sustained study of our parent star’s fiery outer atmosphere, or corona. This will require millimetre scale positioning precision – as if the pair were a single rigid spacecraft.

The mission will use a variety of positioning methods, including optical, radio and laser links, but GNSS will be an important element. Werner adds: “So in this case we advised the Proba-3 team to switch to a GPS/Galileo-capable receiver, because that will give us completely new positioning and POD possibilities.


“What we can say, based on the Precise Orbit Determination we are routinely achieving down to a scale of a few centimetres, is that POD accuracy is no longer the limiting factor that it once was in space missions.”

Extending into higher orbital regimes

The other argument for adopting Galileo signals is that of coverage. As missions make use of higher orbital regimes, then the maximum possible signals will be necessary. Above the orbits of the GPS and Galileo constellations themselves, planet Earth can block the bulk of the signals – which are, after all, focused onto Earth.

Instead, higher-orbit missions need to make use of side lobe signals, spillovers from the main signal like sidelight from a flashlight beam, which requires added processing, as does the progressive weakening of these signals with distance, which will eventually become barely distinguishable from noise.

Lunar Pathfinder

Geostationary satellites are already making use of such high-altitude GNSS signals. A more ambitious test comes next year, with the launch of the ESA-supported Lunar Pathfinder into lunar orbit, intended as a communication satellite for future Moon missions. The spacecraft will incorporate a specially designed GPS/Galileo-capable receiver to demonstrate for the first time ever the feasibility of positioning fixes from 400 000 km away, complemented with a NASA-developed laser retroreflector employed to cross-check performance.

“Then as a next step will come ESA’s Moonlight satellites in lunar orbit, delivering a dedicated lunar infrastructure for providing telecommunications and navigation services for Moon missions,” explains Werner. “The Navigation Support Office is involved with defining the necessary lunar reference frame and the associated timescale that will be needed to realise this vision.”

Galileo 'side lobe' signals

Navigation Support Office: into its second decade

The Navigation Support Office has been operating since 2006, spun off from ESOC’s Flight Dynamics division. The foundation of its POD services are the GNSS constellations around Earth, not only Galileo but GPS, Glonass, Beidou and the Indian and Japanese satellites. To derive the positions of European missions, the positions and the clock rates of the satnav satellites used to measure them must first be determined to a high degree of accuracy, down to a few centimetres on an ongoing basis, with observations, obtained every second via a dedicated worldwide real time network of sensor stations – the Office oversees the ESA GNSS Observation Network.

ESA's GNSS Observation Network

Among its other activities, the Office represents ESA in international GNSS, scientific and geodetic-related forums, and maintains the ‘Galileo geodetic reference frame’ – the reference system for the three-dimensional Earth, essential for accurate positioning, navigation, and timing, as well as contributing to the International Terrestrial Reference Frame – the globally agreed equivalent system.

The next challenge

If today’s POD performance is good, Werner adds that it is going to get even better: “Our next challenge is coming in the shape of the new FutureNAV mission GENESIS. GENESIS aims to generate an updated International Terrestrial Reference Frame with an order of magnitude improvement in accuracy. Accurate sub-centimetre POD and clock measurements will be essential to make this happen, while our colleagues from ESA’s Navigation Science Office will be archiving and distributing  the data from this groundbreaking mission.”

Geodetic payloads on GENESIS satellite

About Galileo

Galileo is currently the world’s most precise satellite navigation system, now serving more than four billion users around the globe. All smartphones sold in the European Single Market are now guaranteed Galileo-enabled. In addition, Galileo is making a difference across the fields of rail and maritime transportation, agriculture, financial timing services and rescue operations.   

Galileo is a flagship programmes of the EU Space Programme, managed and funded by the European Union. Since its inception, ESA has been leading the design and development of the space and ground systems, as well as procuring launches. EUSPA (the EU Agency for the Space Programme) acts as the service provider of Galileo, overseeing the market and application needs and closing the loop with users.  

For more info about Galileo:

Related links:

ESA’s Navigation Science Office:

FutureNAV mission GENESIS:

ESA GNSS Observation Network:

ESA’s Moonlight satellites in lunar orbit:

NASA-developed laser retroreflector:

ESA-supported Lunar Pathfinder:

ESA’s Mission Control Centre ESOC:

Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission:



Animation, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/P. Carril/ATG medialab/SSTL.