samedi 18 mars 2023

SpaceX - Falcon 9 launches SES-18/SES-19


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / SES-18/SES-19 Mission patch.

March 18, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying SES-18/SES-19 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the SES-18 and SES-19 communications satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 17 March 2023, at 23:38 UTC (19:38 EDT). 

Falcon 9 launches SES-18/SES-19 and Falcon 9 first stage landing

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1069) previously supported five missions: CRS-24, Eutelsat HOTBIRD 13F, OneWeb 15 and two Starlink mission.

SES-18 and SES-19 deployment

About SES-18 and SES-19 communications satellites

The two American-made satellites are the fourth and fifth – and final – satellites to be launched as part of SES’s C-band transition plan, following the launch of SES-22 in June 2022 and the tandem launch of SES-20 and SES-21 in October 2022. These satellites are essential parts of SES’s plan to achieve the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) program to clear C-band spectrum to enable wireless operators to deploy 5G services across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) while ensuring that SES’s existing customers continue to enjoy uninterrupted TV, radio, and critical data transmission services to millions of Americans.

Artist rendering of an SES C-band satellite

Since 2020, SES, along with other satellite operators, has been clearing 300 MHz of C-band spectrum and transitioning customer services to the remaining allocated 200 MHz of spectrum by launching new satellites, building new ground stations and sending hundreds of satellite earth station technicians across the country to install new filters on customers’ antennas.

By providing contractual service protections to customers who receive video services in the U.S., SES-18 and SES-19 will enable SES to safely clear C-band spectrum to help accomplish the FCC’s ambitious goals for American 5G innovation. SES-18 is expected to begin operations in June 2023 at 103 degrees West replacing SES-3 C-band payload and SES-19 will be co-located with SES-22 at 135 degrees West.

Related links:



Images, Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SES/Northrop Grumman/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 17 mars 2023

Dragon Cargo Transfer, Installations, and Eye Exams Cap Crew Week


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

March 17, 2023

The Expedition 68 crew members wrapped up their week aboard the International Space Station by removing payloads for a resupply mission, installing equipment for microgravity research, and performing eye exams for a routine checkup.

NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg and Flight Engineer Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) made progress transferring supplies from the SpaceX cargo Dragon. Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen from NASA gathered hardware delivered by the spacecraft for the Heart-Tissue 2 study. The investigation will test whether clinically approved drugs reduce microgravity-induced changes in heart cells and tissues.

Image above: The waxing gibbous Moon is pictured above Earth’s horizon from the International Space Station as it orbited 260 miles above eastern China near the Yellow Sea coast on Feb. 2, 2023. Image Credit: NASA.

Outside of Dragon cargo operations, Rubio migrated double-cold bags for transporting samples from the station’s Microgravity Experiment Research Locker Incubators (MERLIN) to the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL). He also harvested tomatoes from the Veggie Vegetable Production System (Veggie) for the Veg-05 space botany study.

Hoburg performed installations to the Nanoracks Nanod, which provides power and data transfer capabilities for carrying out studies in microgravity. Additionally, he made configurations to the HAM radio used to communicate with students on Earth, cleaned vents and removed cartridges in air quality monitors, and performed an inspection of the station’s bathroom.

Bowen completed a training session that teaches astronauts docking and grappling techniques. He also exercised using the advanced resistive exercise device (ARED) and Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS) device.

Image above: The flight of the Russian participants of the 68th long-term expedition, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin and Andrei Fedyaev, continues at the International Space Station. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

Meanwhile, Alneyadi performed installations to a research facility called ICE Cubes, which hosts different experiments in microgravity with the aid of small, modular containers that slot into a rack drawer. He also recorded a video for a diabetes study inside the facility. Near the end of the day, Alneyadi installed 24 Kubik experiment containers for the ESA (European Space Agency) – Biofilms investigation, which analyzes bacterial biofilm formation and the antimicrobial properties of different metal surfaces in space.

Planning ahead, the cosmonauts aboard the station met for a conference to prepare for next week’s tasks. Later, Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos spent time arranging tools and cleaning smoke detectors. Near the end of the day, Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin completed a routine Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) eye exam, which uses an imaging technique analogous to ultrasound imaging with light instead of sound.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Heart-Tissue 2:

Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL):

Veggie Vegetable Production System (Veggie):


Nanoracks Nanod:

Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization (CEVIS):

ICE Cubes:

Modular containers:

ESA (European Space Agency) – Biofilms:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle/Monika Luabeya.


Messier 55


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

Mar 17, 2023

Image above: This image shows just a portion of M55, the cluster as a whole appears spherical because the stars’ intense gravitational attraction pulls them together. Hubble’s clear view above Earth’s atmosphere resolves individual stars in this cluster. Ground-based telescopes can also resolve individual stars in M55, but fewer stars are visible. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University), and M. Libralato (STScI, ESA, JWST); Image Processing: Gladys Kober.

Even the great observer Charles Messier had trouble seeing this globular cluster when building his Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters. It was originally spotted in 1752 by a French astronomer in what is now South Africa, but it took until 1778 for Messier to catalog it.

This is because, while Messier 55 is large and reasonably bright, it is lacking a dense core and many of its stars are quite faint, making it hard to observe in non-optimal conditions.

Image above: The smaller, ground-based image (lower left) taken by the Digital Sky Survey illustrates the area of Messier 55 that Hubble observed. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Sarajedini (Florida Atlantic University), M. Libralato (STScI, ESA, JWST), and Digital Sky Survey; Image Processing: Gladys Kober.

For northern observers M55 sits low in the sky, so the view is hampered by a thicker layer of atmosphere, as well as water vapor and light pollution. This hindered Messier’s view from his Paris observatory. When he cataloged it, Messier noted that “its light is even and does not appear to contain any star.”

Though this image shows just a portion of M55, the cluster as a whole appears spherical because the stars’ intense gravitational attraction pulls them together. Hubble’s clear view above Earth’s atmosphere resolves individual stars in this cluster. Ground-based telescopes can also resolve individual stars in M55, but fewer stars are visible.

Image above: This star chart for M55 represents the view from mid-northern latitudes for the given month and time. Image Credits: Image courtesy of Stellarium.

Even in skies with low light pollution, viewed through binoculars, the cluster will only appear as a round hazy patch. Small telescopes can begin to resolve individual stars in M55, while larger aperture telescopes will pick out low magnitude stars easily. The star cluster is found in the southern part of the constellation Sagittarius and is easiest to spot in August.

The globular cluster is about 20,000 light-years away and has a diameter of about 100 light-years. It contains an estimated 100,000 stars with 55 variable stars whose brightness changes.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

Related links:

Previous Object: Messier 54 | Next: Messier 56:

Back to Hubble's Messier Catalog:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Images (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/ESA.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 76 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

March 17, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 76 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 52 Starlink satellites (Starlink-76 / Starlink 2-8) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 17 March 2023, at 19:26 UTC (12:26 PDT). 

SpaceX Starlink 76 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing, 17 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 (B1071) previously supported seven missions: NROL-87, NROL-85, SARah-1, SWOT and three Starlink missions.

Related links:



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

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 13, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Mar 17, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of March 13 that included examining how microgravity affects organisms used in biomanufacturing, crystallizing monoclonal antibodies in space, and testing exercise regimens without treadmill sessions. NASA’s 27th SpaceX commercial resupply services (CRS) mission launched to the space station on March 14 carrying new scientific experiments for the crew to conduct.

Image above: The snow-capped volcanos on the island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa (left) and Mauna Kea (right), pictured from the International Space Station as it orbits 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Manufacturing with Microbes in Microgravity

Producing materials, food, and pharmaceuticals in space using microbes – known as biomanufacturing – is one possible way to reduce the cost of taking along all the supplies needed for future long-duration space missions. Rhodium DARPA Biomanufacturing 01, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, examines how gravity affects production of drugs and nutrients from bacteria and yeast. Research shows that microgravity causes changes in microbe cell growth, structure, and metabolic activity that can affect biomanufacturing. This investigation could help improve biomanufacturing in space to supply future missions. During the week, crew members thawed and incubated sample chambers for the study.

Better Crystals, Better Drugs

Monoclonal Antibodies PCG crystallizes and assesses various therapeutic monoclonal antibodies in space. Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created immune system proteins designed to interact with specific targets such as cancer cells. Microgravity enables production of higher quality crystals, which could support less expensive development of drugs that are more stable and easier to administer to patients. The investigation is sponsored by the ISS National Lab. Crew members prepared and loaded plates for the investigation during the week.

Exercise Like This, Not Like That

Image above: Sultan Alneyadi of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) exercises on the International Space Station’s treadmill. These devices take up a lot of space and Zero T2 tests whether a regimen of resistance exercises, rowing, and cycling can adequately protect bone and muscle health in space with a smaller footprint. Image Credit: NASA.

Exercise devices for future long-duration missions need to be small and lightweight. Treadmills currently in use on the station have a large footprint but are the only way to reinforce the motor pattern of walking. The Zero T2 investigation tests whether a variety of resistance exercises, rowing, and cycling could produce results similar to those from regimens that use a treadmill. Results could determine whether other regimens adequately protect bone and muscle health during space travel and support improvement in design of exercise devices to prevent or treat bone, muscle, and cardiovascular issues on Earth. Crew members performed exercise sessions on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) during the week.

Other Investigations Involving the Crew:

- Food Physiology documents the effects of an enhanced diet on human adaptation to spaceflight, including immune function, the gut microbiome, and nutritional status indicators. Results could support development of targeted, efficient dietary interventions to maintain crew health and performance and improve understanding of how complex organisms adapt to spaceflight.

- Immunity Assay, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), tests a new way to monitor how spaceflight stressors affect cellular immune functions during flight. This capability could provide a clearer assessment of the immune changes that happen in flight and help inform development of countermeasures.

Image above: Tomato plants for the Veg-05 continue to grow and produce fruit. The investigation examines how light quality and fertilizer affect fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, and taste acceptability by the crew, and how growing plants enhances the overall living experience for crew members. Image Credit: NASA.

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

- Cardinal Heart 2.0, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, tests whether clinically approved drugs reduce changes in heart cell function that occur in spaceflight. Results could support development of treatments to improve the health of astronauts and patients 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.

Space to Ground: Past, Present, Future: March 17, 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:

Rhodium DARPA Biomanufacturing 01:

Monoclonal Antibodies PCG:

Zero T2:

Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED):

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA Instrument Bound for Titan Could Reveal Chemistry Leading to Life


NASA - Dragonfly Mission logo.

Mar 17, 2023

A new NASA mission to Saturn’s giant moon, Titan, is due to launch in 2027. When it arrives in the mid-2030s, it will begin a journey of discovery that could bring about a new understanding of the development of life in the universe. This mission, called Dragonfly, will carry an instrument called the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer (DraMS), designed to help scientists hone in on the chemistry at work on Titan. It may also shed light on the kinds of chemical steps that occurred on Earth that ultimately led to the formation of life, called prebiotic chemistry.

Image above: This illustration shows NASA’s Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander approaching a site on Saturn’s exotic moon, Titan. Taking advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere and low gravity, Dragonfly will explore dozens of locations across the icy world, sampling and measuring the compositions of Titan's organic surface materials to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment and investigate the progression of prebiotic chemistry. Image Credits: NASA/JHU-APL.

Titan's abundant complex carbon-rich chemistry, interior ocean, and past presence of liquid water on the surface make it an ideal destination to study prebiotic chemical processes and the potential habitability of an extraterrestrial environment.

DraMS will allow scientists back on Earth to remotely study the chemical makeup of the Titanian surface. “We want to know if the type of chemistry that could be important for early pre-biochemical systems on Earth is taking place on Titan,” explains Dr. Melissa Trainer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

Trainer is a planetary scientist and astrobiologist who specializes in Titan and is one of the Dragonfly mission’s deputy principal investigators. She is also lead on the DraMS instrument, which will scan through measurements of samples from Titan’s surface material for evidence of prebiotic chemistry.

To accomplish this, the Dragonfly robotic rotorcraft will capitalize on Titan’s low gravity and dense atmosphere to fly between different points of interest on Titan’s surface, spread as far as several miles apart. This allows Dragonfly to relocate its entire suite of instruments to a new site when the previous one has been fully explored, and provides access to samples in environments with a variety of geologic histories.

Image above: The colorful globe of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings in this true color snapshot from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

At each site, samples less than a gram in size will be drilled out of the surface by the Drill for Acquisition of Complex Organics (DrACO) and brought inside the lander’s main body, to a place called the “attic” that houses the DraMS instrument. There, they will be irradiated by an onboard laser or vaporized in an oven to be measured by DraMS. A mass spectrometer is an instrument that analyzes the various chemical components of a sample by separating these components down into their base molecules and passing them through sensors for identification.

“DraMS is designed to look at the organic molecules that may be present on Titan, at their composition and distribution in different surface environments,” says Trainer. Organic molecules contain carbon and are used by all known forms of life. They are of interest in understanding the formation of life because they can be created by living and non-living processes.

Mass spectrometers determine what’s in a sample by ionizing the material (that is, bombarding it with energy so that the atoms therein become positively or negatively charged) and examining the chemical composition of the various compounds. This involves determining the relationship between the weight of the molecule and its charge, which serves as a signature for the compound.

DraMS was developed in part by the same team at Goddard which developed the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard the Curiosity rover. DraMS is designed to survey samples of Titanian surface material in situ, using techniques tested on Mars with the SAM suite.

Trainer emphasized the benefits of this heritage. Dragonfly’s scientists did not want to “reinvent the wheel” when it came to searching for organic compounds on Titan, and instead built on established methods which have been applied on Mars and elsewhere. “This design has given us an instrument that’s very flexible, that can adapt to the different types of surface samples,” says Trainer.

Dragonfly - Entry, Decent and Landing Animation

DraMS and other science instruments on Dragonfly are being designed and built under the direction of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, which manages the mission for NASA and is designing and building the rotorcraft-lander. The team includes key partners at Goddard, the French space agency (CNES, Paris, France), which is providing the Gas Chromatograph Module for DraMS that will provide an additional separation after leaving the oven, Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, Colorado, NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California's Silicon Valley, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania, Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, California, Honeybee Robotics, Brooklyn, New York, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Cologne, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Tokyo, Japan.

Dragonfly is the fourth mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program. New Frontiers is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate Washington.

Related links:


Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM):

NASA’s New Frontiers program:

Titan (Saturn Moon):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Bill Steigerwald/GSFC/By: Nick Oakes/JHU-APL.

Best regards,

Hubble’s neighbourhood watch


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

March 17, 2023

Image description: A wide band of bluish light extends from the centre of the image to the right side. It is speckled with many tiny stars, and a few small, bright red bubbles of gas, identifying it as a galaxy. The background is black, and has small galaxies and stars spread around. Most are too small to distinguish, except for two oval-shaped galaxies, each having a hazy glow around a bright centre.

UGCA 307 hangs against an irregular backdrop of distant galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The small galaxy consists of a diffuse band of stars containing red bubbles of gas that mark regions of recent star formation, and lies roughly 26 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Corvus. Appearing as just a small patch of stars, UGCA 307 is a diminutive dwarf galaxy without a defined structure — resembling nothing more than a hazy patch of passing cloud.

This image is part of a Hubble project to explore every known nearby galaxy, giving astronomers insights into our galactic neighbourhood. Before this set of observations, almost three quarters of nearby galaxies had been investigated by Hubble in enough detail to spot the brightest stars and build up an understanding of the stars populating each galaxy. This Hubble project set out to explore the remaining quarter of nearby galaxies by taking advantage of short gaps in Hubble’s observing schedule.

This crystal-clear image was captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which was installed on the telescope in 2002 during Servicing Mission 3B. Hubble’s vantage point in low Earth orbit means that it is above atmospheric turbulence, giving it a sharper view of the Universe. However, it is also close enough to Earth that astronauts could visit the telescope to repair and refurbish the telescope. In total, five Space Shuttle missions flew to Hubble and kept it at the forefront of astronomy by installing new instruments. The ACS replaced one of Hubble’s original instruments, the Faint Object Camera, which was built by ESA.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Tully; CC BY 4.0.

Best regards,

NASA Uses 30-Year Satellite Record to Track and Project Rising Seas


NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) logos.

Mar 17, 2023

Observations from space show that the rate of sea level rise is increasing. Knowing where and how much rise is happening can help coastal planners prepare for future hazards.

Image above: Satellite data from 30 years of observations is helping researchers tease apart natural and human-caused drivers of sea level rise. The information will help planners in regions like New Orleans, Louisiana, along the U.S. Gulf Coast to prepare for the future. Image Credit: NASA.

The average global sea level rose by 0.11 inches (0.27 centimeters) from 2021 to 2022, according to a NASA analysis of satellite data. That’s the equivalent of adding water from a million Olympic-size swimming pools to the ocean every day for a year, and is part of a multidecade trend of rising seas.

 Image above: Topex-Poseidon illustration. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Since satellites began observing sea surface height in 1993 with the U.S.-French TOPEX/Poseidon mission, the average global sea level has increased by 3.6 inches (9.1 centimeters), according to NASA’s Sea Level Change science team. The annual rate of rise – or how quickly sea level rise is happening – that researchers expect to see has also increased from 0.08 inches (0.20 centimeters) per year in 1993 to 0.17 inches (0.44 centimeters) per year in 2022. Based on the long-term satellite measurements, the projected rate of sea level rise will hit 0.26 inches (0.66 centimeters) per year by 2050.

Image above: This graphic shows rising sea levels (in blue) from data recorded by a series of five satellites starting in 1993. The solid red line shows the trajectory of rise from 1993 to 2022, illustrating that the rate of rise has more than doubled. By 2040, sea levels could be 3.66 inches (9.3 cm) higher than today. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“We have this clear view of recent sea level rise – and can better project how much and how quickly the oceans will continue to rise – because NASA and Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) have gathered decades of ocean observations. By combining that data with measurements from the rest of the NASA fleet, we can also understand why the ocean is rising,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “These fundamental climate observations help shape the operational services of many other federal and international agencies who are working with coastal communities to mitigate and respond to rising waters.”

The 2022 increase was less than the expected annual rate because of a mild La Niña. During years with an especially strong La Niña climate pattern, average global sea level can even temporarily drop because weather patterns shift in a way that leads to more rainfall over land instead of the ocean.

“With an increasing demand for accurate and timely climate information, NASA is committed to providing annual sea level observations and future projections in order to help vulnerable communities around the world better understand the risks they face in a new climate,” said Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, a NASA program scientist for ocean science. “Timely updates are key to showing which climate trajectory we are on.”

Despite natural influences like La Niña, sea levels continue to rise because of human-caused climate change driven by the excess amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that society pumps into the atmosphere. Climate change is melting Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers, adding more fresh water to the ocean, while warming causes the expansion of seawater. Both of these effects contribute to rising seas, overriding many natural effects on sea surface height.

“Tracking the greenhouse gases that we add to the atmosphere tells us how hard we’re pushing the climate, but sea levels show us how much it’s responding,” said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “These measurements are a critical yardstick for how much humans are reshaping the climate.”

A Long-Term Record

The measurements of sea surface height that began 30 years ago with TOPEX/Poseidon have continued through four subsequent missions led by NASA and partners, including the French space agency CNES, ESA (European Space Agency), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The most recent mission in the series, Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service), consists of two satellites that will extend these measurements through 2030. The first of these two satellites, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, launched in 2020, with the second slated to head to orbit in 2025.

Artist's rendering of Jason-3. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“The 30-year satellite record allows us to see through the shorter-term shifts that happen naturally in the ocean and helps us identify the trends that tell us where sea level is headed,” said JPL’s Ben Hamlington, a sea level researcher who leads NASA’s Sea Level Change science team.

Scientific and technical innovations by NASA and other space agencies have given researchers a better understanding of the current state of the ocean on a global scale. Specifically, radar altimeters have helped produce ever-more precise measurements of sea level around the world. To calculate sea level height, they bounce microwave signals off the ocean’s surface and record the time the signal takes to travel from a satellite to Earth and back, as well as the strength of the return signal.

Image above: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Nov. 21. NASA's Eyes visualization tools lets you track the spacecraft as begins its mission to measure sea level height as it orbits Earth. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

When altimetry data from all ocean basins is combined with more than a century of observations from coastal surface-based sources, together they dramatically expand and improve our understanding of how sea surface height is changing on a global scale. And when those measurements of sea level are combined with other NASA data sets on ice mass, land motion, and other Earth changes, scientists can decipher why and how seas are rising.

Learn more about sea level and climate change:

Related links:



Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich:



Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang.

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-3B launches Gaofen-13 02


CASC - Long March-3B / Gaofen-13 02 (高分十三号02星) patch.

March 17, 2023

 Long March-3B carrying Gaofen-13 02 liftoff

A Long March-3B launch vehicle launched the Gaofen-13 02 satellite (高分十三号02星)  from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, southwest China, on 17 March 2023, at 08:33 UTC (16:33 local time).

Long March-3B launches Gaofen-13 02

According to official sources, the Gaofen-13 02 high-orbit optical remote-sensing satellite entered its planned orbit successfully and “will be mainly used in land surveys, crop yield estimation, environmental governance, meteorological early warning and forecasting, as well as comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation”.

 Gaofen 13 (GF 13) satellite. Image Credit: Gunter's Space Page

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


jeudi 16 mars 2023

Rocket Lab - Electron launches “Stronger Together”


Rocket Lab - Electron / “Stronger Together” Mission patch.

March 16, 2023

 Electron carrying two Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites liftoff

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle launched the “Stronger Together” mission from the Launch Complex 2 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, on 16 March 2023, at 22:38 UTC (18:38 EDT).

Electron launches “Stronger Together”

The mission is Rocket Lab’s 34th Electron launch overall ans the second launch from Virginia, USA. The “Stronger Together” mission will deploy two more Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites for Capella Space.

About Capella Space:

Capella Space is an American space tech company with data and satellite solutions for government and commercial use. A pioneer in the Earth observation industry, Capella is the first U.S. company with a constellation of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites, delivering the best quality, highest resolution SAR imagery commercially available. 

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite

Capella provides easy access to frequent and timely information affecting dozens of industries worldwide, including defense and intelligence, supply chain, insurance, maritime and others. Its market-leading SAR satellites are matched with unparalleled data infrastructure to quickly deliver reliable global insights that sharpen our understanding of the changing world – improving decisions about commerce, conservation, and security on Earth. Headquartered in San Francisco, California with additional locations in Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C., Capella's satellites are operated, designed, and manufactured in the USA.

About Rocket Lab

Founded in 2006, Rocket Lab is an end-to-end space company with an established track record of mission success. We deliver reliable launch services, satellite manufacture, spacecraft components, and on-orbit management solutions that make it faster, easier and more affordable to access space. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, Rocket Lab designs and manufactures the Electron small orbital launch vehicle and the Photon satellite platform and is developing the Neutron 13-ton payload class launch vehicle. 

Electron rocket

Since its first orbital launch in January 2018, Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle has become the second most frequently launched U.S. rocket annually and has delivered 155 satellites to orbit for private and public sector organizations, enabling operations in national security, scientific research, space debris mitigation, Earth observation, climate monitoring, and communications. Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft platform has been selected to support NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as the first private commercial mission to Venus. Rocket Lab has three launch pads at two launch sites, including two launch pads at a private orbital launch site located in New Zealand and a third launch pad in Virginia, USA.

Related links:

Capella Space:

Rocket Lab:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Rocket Lab/Capella Space/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Crew Focus on Cargo Operations, Science, and Maintenance


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

March 16, 2023

The Expedition 68 crew focused on cargo operations, science experiments, and maintenance tasks after the SpaceX Dragon docked to the International Space Station at 7:31 a.m. EDT.

Dragon successfully docked to the forward-facing port of the station’s Harmony module, delivering more than 6,200 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies. Afterward, NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio, Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, and Flight Engineer Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates) spent time unloading cargo from the spacecraft. Alneyadi and Rubio were specifically tasked with unpacking double-cold bags for transporting samples into the station’s Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer, or MELFI.

Image above: The last rays of an orbital sunset fade below Earth’s horizon in this photograph from the International Space Station as it orbited 269 miles above the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of southern Argentina on Feb. 17, 2023. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronauts were occupied with research studies and lab upkeep work as well.  Bowen removed containers from the Kubik temperature-controlled incubator for studying biological samples in microgravity. Hoburg took turns with Bowen setting up equipment to perform a saliva collection.

Alneyadi replaced components in the station’s bathroom, also known as the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, before performing a functionality test. He later retrieved an air sample from inside Dragon for analysis with the ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2) device.

Image above: An orbital sunrise reveals cloud tops above the Pacific Ocean northeast of New Zealand as the International Space Station orbited 260 miles above on Feb. 10, 2023. Astronauts aboard the space station see 16 sunrises and sunsets per day due to their high orbital velocity—17,500 miles per hour. In the more than 20 years that people have been living aboard, the station has circumnavigated Earth tens of thousands of times. Image Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos prepared for a session for the Pilot-T experiment, which assesses the ability of cosmonauts to perform complex tasks at different points during their spaceflight. Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin gathered to review equipment to return in the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. A coolant leak was discovered last December on the Soyuz MS-22, which is slated to undock without crew from the station’s Rassvet Module on March 28.

Related article:

SpaceX Resupply Mission Docks to the Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer (MELFI):


ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA/Heidi Lavelle/Monika Luabeya.

Best regards,

Ranking Atmospheric Rivers: New Study Finds World of Potential


NASA / JPL - Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) patch.

Mar 16, 2023

Like hurricane categories, a scale for atmospheric river storm severity could help communities around the globe compare and prepare.

Image above: Dark clouds roil the sky above Pasadena, California, during an atmospheric river event. A series of nine such storms delivered record amounts of rain and snow to the state and caused multiple deaths between late 2022 and January 2023. Additional atmospheric rivers have inundated California since. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Atmospheric rivers – vast airborne corridors of water vapor flowing from Earth’s tropics toward higher latitudes – can steer much-needed rain to parched lands. But in extreme form, they can also cause destruction and loss of life, as recently occurred in parts of California. Their effects, both hazardous and beneficial, are felt globally.

A new study using NASA data shows that a recently developed rating system can provide a consistent global benchmark for tracking these “rivers in the sky.” Research into atmospheric rivers has largely focused on the west coasts of North America and Europe. The new findings help expand our understanding of how these storms arise, evolve, and impact communities all over the world. In addition, the ratings could help meteorologists better warn people to plan for them.

The findings also revealed an increasing number of atmospheric river events around the world and across all ranks, with peak activity in mid-latitude oceans (temperate belts roughly between 30 and 60 degrees north and south).

To help forecast the potential strength and impacts of the storms as they make landfall on the West Coast of North America, meteorologists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, along with the National Weather Service, introduced an atmospheric river (AR) scale in 2019. By ranking them from 1 to 5, or weakest to strongest, the scientists sought to differentiate between primarily beneficial storms versus primarily hazardous ones. By one estimate, insured losses due to flood damages increase by a factor of 10 with every step up in rank, with AR 5 events linked to a median damage amount of $260 million in the Western U.S.

NASA's AIRS captures atmospheric rivers

Video above: NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured a series of atmospheric rivers that impacted much of Western North America in early 2023, as seen in this animation showing cloud temperatures. Cooler clouds – shown in blue and purple – are associated with very heavy rainfall. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Shaping the Water Cycle

Although the term “atmospheric river” was only coined in 1994, the storms’ impacts were felt well before then. Scientists have estimated some 300 million people worldwide are at risk for flooding due to atmospheric rivers which, on average, transport quantities of water vapor more than double the flow of the Amazon River. A growing body of research is exploring how these storms play a critical role in shaping the global water cycle from the Andes to the Arctic, where moisture from atmospheric rivers has recently been found to melt and slow the seasonal recovery of sea ice.

In the new study, scientists built a database of global atmospheric river events from 1980 to 2020, using a computer algorithm to automatically identify tens of thousands of the events in the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2), a NASA re-analysis of historical atmospheric observations. To rank the events, the study authors then applied the atmospheric river scale, which is based on a storm’s expected duration and maximum rate of water vapor transport.

Across the 40 years studied, higher-ranked storms lasted longer and traveled farther than lower-ranked storms. Mean travel distance was found to be about 400 miles (650 kilometers) with AR 1 and about 2,900 miles (4,700 kilometers) with AR 5, while mean lifetime was about 17 hours for AR 1 and 110 hours for AR 5. Higher-ranked storms (AR 4 and AR 5) were less common and tended to begin their life cycle closer to the tropics while ending in colder, higher-latitude regions.

Additionally, the scientists detected an increase in atmospheric river frequency during strong El Niño years.

NASA AIRS Captures Atmospheric Rivers in 2017

Video above: An atmospheric river system that traveled across the Pacific Ocean in 2017 is captured here in satellite imagery by NASA’s AIRS instrument. Scientists are working to understand how these powerful storms impact regions of the world beyond western North America and Europe. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Diagnosing a Storm

“The current study helps to highlight the global reach of atmospheric rivers, as well as their possible origins, including in less-explored regions where the environmental conditions and societal impacts could be different from where we currently live [in the United States],” said lead author Bin Guan, a scientist at the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE). The institute is a collaboration between University of California, Los Angeles and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

A uniform scale can be useful for diagnosing atmospheric rivers in an era of instant communications, the scientists said. A key advantage is that the ratings minimize possible confusion when comparing the same meteorological phenomenon across languages and cultures. They noted this has not been the case for some more familiar weather events, such as tropical cyclones, which have been categorized using different thresholds in different regions.

Guan and colleagues said that taking the next step and translating the scale into region-specific impacts will require more research that takes into consideration local characteristics. They noted that many factors, from geography to socioeconomics, can influence how a storm is perceived by those who weather it.

Related links:

Research into atmospheric rivers (study):

Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2):

Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE):

NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS):


Image (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang/Written by Sally Younger.


SpaceX Resupply Mission Docks to the Space Station


SpaceX - Dragon CRS-27 Mission patch.

March 16, 2023

While the International Space Station was traveling more than 261 miles over North Eastern China, a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docked to station’s Harmony module at 7:31 a.m. EDT, with NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg monitoring operations from the station.

Image above: SpaceX’s 27th commercial resupply mission docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 7:31 a.m. EDT today as the station was flying 261 miles over northeastern China. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 27th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 8:30 p.m. EDT, March 14, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.

 SpaceX CRS-27 Dragon docking

Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:

Cardinal Heart 2.0

The first Cardinal Heart investigation conducted aboard the space station showed that four weeks of microgravity exposure can cause significant changes in heart cell function and gene expression. Researchers concluded that these changes could lead to long-term medical issues. The Cardinal Heart 2.0 experiment builds on these results, using heart organoids, 3D structures made up of all the different types of cells in a particular organ, to test whether clinically approved drugs reduce these microgravity-induced changes in heart cell function. Results could support the development of effective drug combinations to improve the health of astronauts and patients on Earth.

Engineered Heart Tissues-2

This study continues work with 3D cultured cardiac muscle tissue to assess human cardiac function in microgravity. Previous work with 3D cultures in space detected changes at the cellular and tissue level that could provide early indication of the development of cardiac disease. This investigation tests whether new therapies prevent these adverse spaceflight effects from occurring. The model used in this study has potential use in drug development and other applications related to diagnosing and treating cardiac dysfunction on Earth.

Cardinal Heart 2.0 and Engineered Heart Tissues-2 are the final two experiments comprising the National Institutes for Health and ISS National Lab’s Tissue Chips in Space initiative. Researchers hope to learn more about the impact of microgravity on human health and disease and translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth.

HUNCH Ball Clamp Monopod

NASA’s High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program enables students to fabricate real-world products for NASA as they apply their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills. The HUNCH Ball Clamp Monopod attempts to address astronaut comments on the difficulty of positioning video or still cameras in the middle of a module. The student-manufactured project is composed of an aluminum monopod fitted with a camera shoe and ball clamp that can be attached to a standard space station handrail. The ball clamp serves as a pivoting platform for photography and video.

CapiSorb Visible System

Because microgravity makes it difficult to control the flow of liquids, the space station has been unable to take advantage of carbon dioxide removal methods that use specialized liquids. Liquid-based carbon dioxide removal systems such as those on submarines offer higher efficiency than other types of systems. The CapiSorb Visible System study demonstrates liquid control using capillary forces, the interaction of a liquid with a solid that can draw a fluid up a narrow tube, which are characteristic of liquids that can absorb carbon dioxide. This is an important consideration for future longer-duration space missions where improved efficiency will support crews over many months or years.


Microbial biofilms are combinations of microorganisms that embed themselves in a self-produced slimy matrix. Biofilms are of concern for spaceflight because they can cause damage to equipment, are resistant to cleaning agents, and can harbor microorganisms that might cause infections. The ESA (European Space Agency) – Biofilms investigation studies bacterial biofilm formation and antimicrobial properties of different metal surfaces under spaceflight conditions. Antimicrobial surfaces that can inhibit biofilm growth, such as copper and its alloys with and without laser surface treatment, are used in this study. This project provides additional information to help develop suitable antimicrobial surfaces for future spacecraft.


The JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Tanpopo-5 investigation studies the origin, transportation, and survival of life in space and on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars. The study focuses on exposing a radioresistant bacteria, which are resistant to radiation, and sporophytes of moss, an important piece of the lifecycle of some plants, to the harsh environment of space using the exposed Experiment Bracket Attached on I-SEEP (ExBAS) facility mounted on the outside of station. Results are helping answer key questions of the “panspermia” hypothesis, a theory for the initiation of life on Earth and the transport of life among celestial bodies.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis missions and eventually Mars.

Related article:

SpaceX Resupply Mission Launches to the Space Station

Related links:

Cardinal Heart 2.0:

Engineered Heart Tissues-2:

HUNCH Ball Clamp Monopod:

CapiSorb Visible System:

ESA (European Space Agency) – Biofilms:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,