samedi 29 avril 2023

SpaceX- Falcon 9 launches SES O3b mPOWER 3 & 4 satellites


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / SES O3b mPOWER 3 & 4 patch.

April 29, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying SES O3b mPOWER 3 & 4 satellites liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched SES’s third and fourth O3b mPOWER satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, on 28 April 2023, at 22:12 UTC (18:12 EDT). 

Falcon 9 launches SES O3b mPOWER 3 & 4 satellites 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 (B1078) previously supported the Crew-6 mission.

The second pair of O3b mPOWER satellites will join the first two satellites launched in December 2022, which have arrived at their target medium earth orbit (MEO) and are currently undergoing in-orbit check out. The O3b mPOWER system will offer high-performance network services delivering industry-best throughput, predictable low latency, and ultra-reliable service availability.

O3b mPOWER satellites

Comprising an initial constellation of 11 high-throughput satellites built by Boeing, the O3b mPOWER ecosystem is easily scalable and requires just six MEO satellites to provide high performance connectivity services around the globe. Additionally, SES is working closely with some of the best ground system partners in the world to virtualise and standardise a variety of platforms on the O3b mPOWER network to serve mobility, telecom, government, and enterprise customers more efficiently and effectively.

Related links:



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


vendredi 28 avril 2023

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of April 24, 2023


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

April 28, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of April 24 that included examining the effect of impurities on protein crystal growth, deploying student satellite projects, and demonstrating radiation-sensing technologies.

Image above: The Canadarm2 robotic arm grips Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter as the International Space Station orbits 262 miles above the north Atlantic Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Tracking Crystal Impurities

Advanced Nano Step, an investigation from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), monitors and records how specific impurities affect the development and quality of protein crystals. The NanoStep test equipment allows researchers to directly observe the growth interface of protein crystals in space for the first time, which allows them to measure specific growth parameters and crystal surface structure. The crystals will return to Earth for in-depth analysis. Results could simplify efforts to exclude some impurities before launch. This capability could support additional research on and production of materials and drugs in space and be useful for certain crystallization trials on Earth. During the week, crew members installed cartridges for investigation operations.

Six Student Satellites

Image above: NASA astronaut Frank Rubio installs the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer in preparation for deploying six student satellite projects. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members used the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer to deploy six different student satellite projects during the week. Interacting directly with a satellite generates excitement about the exploration and use of space, and participants gain tangible knowledge about space, satellites, and related concepts.

- NEUDOSE measures and maps the real-time radiation dose received by astronauts during spacewalks. Such measurements provide data critical for accurately projecting the risk to crew members.

- YukonSat uses student-designed satellites to display art and audio recordings from Canadian Northern Peoples and a world-wide game where amateur radio operators work together to decipher coded messages.

- AuroraSat provides open-source satellites and ground stations and worldwide games and collaboration to support design and development of projects by Indigenous and Inuit students in Canada.

- Ex-Alta 2 demonstrates using student-designed and developed satellites to predict, monitor, and assess wildfires, which could help improve preparedness for these events.

- LightCube includes a flash bulb activated by amateur radio operators on the ground to produce a brief flash of light visible to people on Earth.

- ARKSat-1 demonstrates ground tracking of a CubeSat via an LED light that measures atmospheric material between spacecraft. The system could be used to study atmospheres of other planets and moons in the solar system.

Toward Better Radiation Shielding

Understanding and overcoming the human risks from space radiation is one of the major challenges facing future space exploration. RadMap Telescope, an investigation sponsored by the ISS National Lab, demonstrates compact radiation-sensing technologies for applications in autonomous and crewed spacecraft. Results could provide detailed knowledge about the effectiveness of radiation shielding material combinations, crucial for the design of new spacecraft, habitats, surface vehicles, and spacesuits for future deep space missions. The underlying technology has potential applications in settings on Earth that require precise radiation characterization, such as the medical field. Crew members installed and activated the instrument during the week.

Image above: NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen prepares for a spacewalk to continue preparations for installing new solar arrays, part of ongoing work to increase power for space station research and operations. Image Credit: NASA.

Other Investigations Involving the Crew:

- Actiwatch, a device worn on the wrist, detects body movement and light intensity to evaluate individual daily sleep-wake cycles. Understanding the effects of spaceflight on these cycles could support development of measures to improve sleep and contribute to better health and productivity among crew members on future missions and people with sleep issues on Earth.

- 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, 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.

- JEM Water Recovery System from JAXA demonstrates technology to generate potable water from urine. The system could contribute to life support systems on the space station and future exploration missions.

- Zero T2 examines the effects on physical and sensorimotor health and performance when crew members do not exercise on a treadmill. Treadmills reinforce a walking motor pattern but are too bulky for future long-duration space missions. Results could help determine exercise regimens that are adequate to maintain physical health 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.

- Food Physiology documents the effects of an enhanced diet on human adaptation to spaceflight. 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.

Space to Ground: Checkmate: April 28, 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 69:

Advanced Nano Step:

Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer:


RadMap Telescope:

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 69.

Best regards,

China is Planning to Land Humans on the Moon by 2030


CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo.

April 28, 2023

China is Planning to Land Humans on the Moon by 2030 as Part of its Ambitious Lunar Agenda

Image above: Image from a video animation showing the lunar research station discussed by the CLEP Chief Designer, Weiren Wu. Image Credit: China Media Group.

Weiren Wu, the Chief Designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP), recently announced an ambitious plan to put Chinese footprints on the lunar surface by 2030. This announcement came just prior to this year’s Space Day of China, an annual event celebrated on April 24th meant to showcase the space industry achievements of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

“By 2030, the Chinese people will definitely be able to set foot on the moon. That’s not a problem,” Wu said in an interview with China Media Group (CMG). This most recent announcement comes less than a year after CLEP was given state permission by China to begin Phase-4 of CLEP, whose program structure consists of four phases of robotic lunar exploration, with the first three phases having achieved a flawless success rate.

China to "Definitely" Perform Crewed Lunar Landing Before 2030, Says Chief Designer

Phase 1 consisted of two missions, the first of which, the Chang’e-1 lunar orbiter, was the first Chinese lunar mission and was launched in October 2007. After a successful mission it intentionally crashed into the Moon in March 2009. The second mission was the Chang’e-2 lunar orbiter that was launched in October 2010, and after a successful primary mission in lunar orbit the mission was extended to explore the asteroid, 4179 Toutatis, which it successfully conducted in December 2012. Contact with the spacecraft was lost in 2014.

Phase 2 consisted of three missions, the first of which was combination lunar lander and rover, Chang’e-3, that launched in December 2013 and is currently active. The second mission was Queqiao-1, which was launched in May 2018 to serve as a relay satellite sent to the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange Point for communications relay with Chang’e-4, which was launched in December 2018 and was a combination lunar lander and rover, the latter of which was dubbed Yutu-2. This also marked the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon in history.

Image above: Yutu-2 rover traversing away from the Chang’e-4 lander in January 2019. Image Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Phase 3 consisted of two missions, the first the experimental test flight, Chang’e-5 T1, which was launched in October 2014 and was designed to test the various rendezvous and capsule technologies that would be required for a lunar sample return mission, which was accomplished with Chang’e-5 in late 2020 as it successfully returned 1731 grams of lunar regolith to the Earth.

Phase 4 will consist of four missions, the first of which will be the Queqiao-2 relay satellite that is scheduled to be launched in 2024 and will act in the same manner as its predecessor for remaining Phase 4 lunar missions, Chang’e-6, -7, and -8, which are scheduled to be launched in May 2024, 2026, and 2028, respectively.

“There’s a relay satellite up there, whose main function is to solve the communication problem between the Earth and them, and also support Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8, as they will land in different locations,” said Wu.

Wu also discussed how Chang’e-6, slated to be another lunar sample return mission, will be both collecting and returning lunar samples from the far side of the Moon in 2024. He notes this will be the first time in history that lunar samples from the far side of the Moon will be returned to Earth. The Chang’e-7 mission will travel to the south pole of the Moon with the primary objective of searching for hints of water that might be located there.

Chang’e-7 to include “flying detector”

“We hope to find water there. If water is ever found, it would be great news for human survival on the moon,” said Wu.

“The international lunar research station built by China is open (to international partners),” Wu said. “We welcome the participation of developed countries such as the United States and European countries. We also hope that BRICS countries and some underdeveloped African countries will join us. We have put forward an initiative for all to sign contracts, deals or strategic agreements of intent.”

Along with making incredible strides in lunar exploration, China also has an active space station, Tiangong, which will be a four-module platform in low Earth orbit when fully-assembled, with the third and most recent module, Mengtian, having been launched in October 2022, and the final module, Xuntian, currently scheduled to launch in 2024.

Related articles:

China unveils lunar lander to put astronauts on the Moon

Related links:

Chinese Academy of Sciences:

China National Space Administration (CNSA):

China space white paper:

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: CNSA/CAS/CCTV/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Hubble Captures an Elusive Galaxy Cluster


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

April 28, 2023

A menagerie of interesting astronomical finds are visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In addition to several large elliptical galaxies, a ring-shaped galaxy is lurking on the right of the image. A pair of bright stars are also visible at the left of the image, notable for their colorful crisscrossing diffraction spikes. This collection of astronomical curiosities is the galaxy cluster ACO S520, located in the constellation Pictor and captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

ACO S520 represents one of a series of Hubble observations searching for massive, luminous galaxy clusters that had not been captured by earlier surveys. Astronomers took advantage of occasional gaps in Hubble's busy schedule to capture images of these barely explored galaxy clusters, revealing a wealth of interesting targets for further study with Hubble and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.

Galaxy clusters are among the largest known objects in the universe. Studying these objects can provide insights into the distribution of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up most of the mass of a galaxy cluster.

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, H. Ebeling.

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Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk for Station Power Upgrades


EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

April 28, 2023

NASA astronaut Steve Bowen and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi concluded their spacewalk at 4:12 p.m. EDT after 7 hours and 1 minute.

Image above: Astronauts (from left) Stephen Bowen and Sultan Alneyadi try on and test out the their spacesuits ahead of a spacewalk planned for Friday, April 28. Image Credit: NASA.

Bowen and Alneyadi laid cables and installed insulation on mounting brackets on the starboard truss of the station for the installation of the next pair of International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs). The astronauts were unable to free up an electronics box located on the truss associated with a degraded S-band communications antenna. The antenna removal was deferred to a future spacewalk ahead of its planned return to Earth.

UAE's Sultan AlNeyadi becomes first Arab astronaut to conduct spacewalk

The installation is part of a series of spacewalks to augment the International Space Station’s power channels with new International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs). Four iROSAs have been installed so far, and two more will be mounted to the platforms installed during this spacewalk in the future.

Image above: The Earth begins illuminating during an orbital sunrise as spacewalkers (lower right) Sultan Alneyadi and Stephen Bowen  work outside the space station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

It was the 261st spacewalk in support of space station assembly, upgrades, and maintenance, the eighth spacewalk for Bowen, and the first for any UAE astronaut.

Bowen and Alneyadi are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis program.


NASA Successfully Extracts Oxygen from Lunar Soil Simulant


NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

April 28, 2023

As NASA works toward sending astronauts to the Moon through Artemis missions, one of the agency’s primary goals is to establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface. Resources like oxygen are crucial building blocks for making that vision a reality. In addition to using oxygen for breathing, it can also be used as a propellant for transportation, helping lunar visitors stay longer and venture farther.

Image above: A high-powered laser and carbothermal reactor located inside the testing chamber of NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Image Credits: NASA/Brian Sacco.

During a recent test, scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston successfully extracted oxygen from simulated lunar soil. Lunar soil refers to the fine-grained material covering the Moon’s surface. This was the first time that this extraction has been done in a vacuum environment, paving the way for astronauts to one day extract and use resources in a lunar environment, called in-situ resource utilization.

NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) team conducted the test in conditions similar to those found on the Moon by using a special spherical chamber with a 15-foot diameter called the Dirty Thermal Vacuum Chamber. The chamber is considered “dirty” because unclean samples can be tested inside.

The team used a high-powered laser to simulate heat from a solar energy concentrator and melted the lunar soil simulant within a carbothermal reactor developed for NASA by Sierra Space Corp., of Broomfield, Colorado. A carbothermal reactor is where the process of heating and extracting the oxygen takes place. Carbothermal reduction has been used for decades on Earth to produc.e items like solar panels and steel by producing carbon monoxide or dioxide using high temperatures.

Image above: Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) test team in front of the vacuum chamber used to conduct the test. From left: Bill Heausler (JSC), Bill Holton (JSC), Matt Green (JSC), Maggie Meller (JSC), Wayne Smith (JSC), Desmond O’Connor (JSC), Todd Peters (JSC), John Lauterbach (JSC), Anastasia Ford (JSC), Janine Captain (KSC), Te’Sean Pemberton (JSC), Aaron Paz (JSC), David  Rinderknecht (KSC), Jeff Michel (JSC), Malay Shah (KSC), Mike Reddington (JSC), Nilab Azim (KSC).

After the soil was heated, the team was able to detect carbon monoxide using a device called the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo). A similar device will fly on two upcoming exploration missions to the Moon’s South Pole - the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1 in 2023 that will help scientists search for water, and NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) in November 2024 that will explore Mons Mouton, a large flat-topped mountain, to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice and other potential resources.

“This technology has the potential to produce several times its own weight in oxygen per year on the lunar surface, which will enable a sustained human presence and lunar economy,” said Aaron Paz, NASA senior engineer and CaRD project manager at Johnson.

To apply this process to oxygen production on the Moon, a carbothermal reactor needs to be able to hold pressure to keep gases from escaping to space, while still allowing lunar material to travel in and out of the reaction zone. Operating the reactor in a vacuum environment for the CaRD test simulated the conditions at the lunar surface and increased the technical readiness level of the reactor to a six, which means the technology has a fully functional prototype or representational model and is ready to be tested in space.

“Our team proved the CaRD reactor would survive the lunar surface and successfully extract oxygen,” said Anastasia Ford, NASA engineer and CaRD test director at Johnson. “This is a big step for developing the architecture to build sustainable human bases on other planets.”

Image above: Illustration of a construction technology system on the Moon. Image Credits: ICON/BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.

The Game Changing Development (GCD) program within the Science Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) sponsored the test in order to build the technology needed to extract oxygen from lunar soil, which was identified as a critical technology gap.

CaRD is part of STMD's Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII). Through LSII, NASA is developing the essential capabilities required for humans and systems to successfully live and operate in multiple environments on the lunar and other planetary body surfaces.

The same technology that was proved by the CaRD test could be applied to Artemis missions, and one day to journeys deeper into our solar system. With the successful completion of this demonstration test, NASA has established that oxygen can be extracted from existing lunar material to provide humans with resources critical for survival and transportation on extraterrestrial worlds.

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

Related links:

Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo):

Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment-1:

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER):

Game Changing Development (GCD) program:

Moon to Mars:

Artemis Program:

Johnson Space Center (JSC):

Kennedy Space Center (KSC):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kelli Mars/By Rebecca Wickes.

Best regards,

Zhurong still in sleep mode


CNSA - Tianwen-1 (天問-1) Mission to Mars logo.

April 28, 2023

According to Zhang Rongqiao (chief designer of the Tianwen-1 mission), the Zhurong rover is still in sleep mode. In May 2022, the Zhurong rover has been switched to sleep mode, in order to cope with a dust storm and the Martian winter.

Zhurong still in sleep mode

It hasn’t resumed operations since. Tianwen-1 (天问一号) is China’s first Mars exploration mission with an orbiter, a lander and a rover named Zhurong (祝融).

The mystery is, perhaps, solved: China explains the reasons for the hibernation state of its rover on Mars that has been stopped since May 2022.

Zhurong rover position. Image Credit: CNSA

The fully robotic Chinese rover has been in a longer-than-expected state of lockdown, since approximately May 2022. For months, China has not given an explanation. Via Weixin (WeChat), it is learned that the vehicle has likely encountered an excessive accumulation of sand and dust, breaking months of silence on the robot’s status.

The website states that “The Tianwen-1 mission team found that the patrol area of ​​the Martian rover “Zhurong” experienced a dust storm process through the medium-resolution images obtained by the orbiter. Scientists compared the typical landforms (especially the impact crater rim) in the 120m-resolution images of the “Zhurong” inspection area on March 16 and April 30, 2022, the change of the generation current of vehicle’s reflected solar wing energy can determine that the local area is experiencing a strong time of sand and dust.

Zhurong rover. Image Credit: CNSA

At present, the Mars rover inspection area has entered winter, and the maximum temperature during the day has dropped below minus 20°C, and the minimum temperature at night has dropped to minus 100°C. Martian winter, with solstice in mid-July. In response to the reduced power generation capacity of the solar wings caused by sand and dust and extremely low ambient temperature in winter, according to the design plan and flight control strategy, the rover entered standby mode on May 18, 2022. Suspension. “

The motorized rover Zhurong, named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, was expected to wake up in December after going into a scheduled sleep mode in May 2022, when the fall in solar radiation with the onset of winter reduced the production of energy. An unexpected accumulation of dust likely affected Zhurong’s energy production and ability to awaken. Chinese state television reported on Tuesdayand, citing Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s Mars exploration program.

Image above: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) images of the position of Zhurong rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The statement follows the release of images taken by the camera aboard a NASA probe (MRO), in orbit around Mars, which show that the Chinese rover hasn’t moved since at least September, according to official images. The Zhurong rover, which weighs 240 kg and is equipped with six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topographic camera, was tasked with studying the planet’s soil and atmosphere after landing without incident in May 2021.

Powered by the ‘solar power, Zhurong also searched for signs of life, including water and ice underground, using ground-penetrating radar. The rover explored the Martian surface for 358 days and traveled 1,921 meters (2,100 yards), Zhang said, far exceeding the mission’s original duration of three months. In addition to Zhurong, two other robotic rovers have been operating on Mars: NASA’s Perseverance and Curiosity, the former has been exploring the planet’s surface for more than two years, and the latter for more than a decade.

Related articles:

Chinese scientists hold out hope for silent Zhurong Mars rover

NASA Mars orbiter reveals China’s Zhurong rover has not moved for months

China silent on fate of Zhurong Mars rover on 2nd anniversary of Tianwen-1 mission

What’s happened to China’s first Mars rover?

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and rover appear to be in trouble

Related link:

China National Space Administration (CNSA):
Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona/SciNews/Weixin/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


jeudi 27 avril 2023

Crew GO for Friday U.S. Spacewalk, Preps for Next Roscosmos Spacewalk


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

April 27, 2023

The Expedition 69 crew is ready for a spacewalk set to begin on Friday to upgrade the International Space Station’s power generation system. In the meantime, fitness evaluations and robotic tests rounded out the schedule aboard the orbital outpost on Thursday.

Image above: Astronaut Stephen Bowen poses for a picture during a spacewalk on March 2, 2011, when he was conducting hardware maintenance on the outside of the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineers Stephen Bowen of NASA and Sultan Alneyadi of UAE (United Arab Emirates) are finalizing their tool collections and Quest airlock configurations the day before their six-and-a-half hour spacewalk begins. They staged their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), or spacesuits, inside Quest and finished studying the procedures they will use to route power cables and retrieve an antenna on the station’s starboard truss structure. The external hardware work will ready the space station for its next set of roll-out solar arrays due to be installed after their delivery on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

Bowen and Alneyadi will set their EMUs to battery power at around 9:15 am. EDT on Friday signifying the beginning of their spacewalk. This will be Bowen’s eighth career spacewalk, Alneyadi’s first, and the fourth of 2023. NASA TV, on the agency’s app and website, will begin its live spacewalk coverage 7:45 a.m.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg participated in today’s final spacewalk preparations joining the spacewalkers for a procedures review, tool checks, and a conference with engineers on the ground. Rubio and Hoburg, on Friday, will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their spacesuits, maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm, and monitor the activities.

Two cosmonauts took turns pedaling on an exercise cycle for a fitness evaluation on Thursday morning. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin attached sensors to themselves measuring their heart activity and blood pressure then exercised for about an hour. The fitness study ensures the pair is in good shape ahead of a spacewalk planned to start at 4:05 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 3. Prokopyev and Petelin will exit the station in their Orlan spacesuits and spend about six hours moving an experiment airlock from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module.

Image above: Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin conduct a six-hour and 25-minute spacewalk in their Orlan spacesuits to transfer a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module for future installation. The duo is pictured tethered to the Rassvet module with the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship docked at top. Image Credit: NASA.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev spent his day inside the Nauka module testing operations with the European robotic arm (ERA). He practiced grappling the experiment airlock and maneuvering techniques with the ERA, the same maneuvers he will use to assist the Roscosmos spacewalkers during next week’s logistics spacewalk.

Related article (NASA):

NASA Updates Coverage of Roscosmos Spacewalks at Space Station

Related links:


Expedition 69:

Quest airlock:

Truss structure:

Canadarm2 robotic arm:

Rassvet module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA’s Quesst: Reassessing a 50-Year Supersonic Speed Limit


NASA - X-59 QueSST patch.

April 27, 2023

Fifty years ago, the federal government banned all civilian supersonic flights over land.

Image above: NASA’s X-59, seen in this illustration, is designed to fly faster than sound but generate quieter sonic “thumps” rather than booms. To test the public’s perception of this noise, part of the Quesst plan includes flying the X-59 over several communities to survey how people react. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

The rule prohibits non-military aircraft from flying faster than sound so their resulting sonic booms won’t startle the public below or concern them about potential property damage.

Officially put into effect on April 27, 1973, the ban’s introduction was strongly influenced by public opinion surveys in cities where supersonic military jets were flown overhead, and many folks said they didn’t like what they heard or the way their windows rattled because of the sonic booms.

Although some research suggested ways to soften the impact of sonic booms, aeronautical technology during the 1960s and early 1970s wasn’t sophisticated enough to fully solve the problem in time to prevent the rule from being enacted.

But today, NASA is working on a solution.

“It’s a rule that many people today aren’t aware of, yet it’s at the heart of what our Quesst mission with its quiet supersonic X-59 airplane is all about,” said Peter Coen, NASA’s Quesst mission integration manager.

NASA’s X-59 is designed to fly faster than sound, but with drastically reduced noise – people below would hear sonic “thumps” rather than booms, if they hear anything at all. To test the public’s perception of this noise, part of the Quesst plan includes flying the X-59 over several communities to survey how people react.

NASA will deliver the results to U.S. and international regulators, who will consider new rules that would lift the ban that has been in place for so long. The goal is for a regulatory shift that focuses on the sound an aircraft creates, instead of a speed limit.

“We’re definitely ready to write a new chapter in the history of supersonic flight, making air travel over land twice as fast, but in a way that is safe, sustainable, and so much quieter than before,” Coen said.

Boom Boom

The origins of the federal ban on supersonic flight go back to 1947, the first time the rocket-powered XS-1 airplane broke the sound barrier and initiated the heroic era of faster-than-sound research.

At first, it was all about learning to fly X-planes faster and higher. No one gave the sonic booms a second thought, mostly because few people lived where the research was taking place.

Image above: An Air Force B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber like this one was one of many military jets used during the 1960s to generate sonic booms over U.S. cities to see how the public would react to the sound. The research helped lead to a ban on civilian faster-than-sound flight over land beginning in 1973. Image Credit: Air Force.

Despite early interest in what was then a mysterious phenomenon created as an airplane flies faster than the speed of sound and generate atmospheric shock waves we hear as sonic booms, there were few tools and only limited data available to help understand what was happening.

But as the Air Force and Navy began to deploy large numbers of supersonic jets at bases around the nation, interest in sonic booms quickly grew as more of the public became exposed to the often-alarming noise.

Beginning in 1956 and continuing well into the 1960s, the Air Force, Navy, NASA, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employed resources to study how sonic booms formed under various conditions, what their effects might be on buildings, and how the public would react in different locations.

Through those years, using many types of supersonic jets, residents of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis, among others, all were exposed to sonic booms from military fighter jets and bombers flying overhead at high altitude.

Two concentrated studies – one over St. Louis in 1961 and the other over Oklahoma City in 1964 (dubbed Bongo and Bongo II, respectively) – left no doubt the public was not fully supportive of routine sonic booms coming down from above.

The tests generated national news and fueled strongly negative sentiment about supersonic flight.

The Supersonic Transport

As this work to better understand and predict sonic boom formation continued and gave rise to the first notions of how to minimize a sonic boom by changing an airplane’s shape, the U.S. government began to work with industry in an attempt to develop the Supersonic Transport, or SST.

The announcement of the SST by President John F. Kennedy in June 1963 raised interest in studying and mitigating sonic booms from a technical standpoint, turning the research into a top priority.

Image above: NASA’s Quesst mission graphic displays stylized supersonic shockwaves encircling the research aircraft, above a community of homes. The imagery highlights the ground-breaking research that will be conducted across several U.S. cities during this mission. Image Credit: NASA.

The SST project aimed to produce the prototype for a new commercial supersonic airliner, capable of carrying as many as 300 passengers anywhere in the world at speeds as great as three times the speed of sound.

(Note that the speed of sound varies depending on things like temperature and altitude. At sea level and 68 degrees Fahrenheit it is 768 mph)

The aviation community was racing to develop its understanding of supersonic shockwaves to reduce the SST’s potential sonic boom noise levels. But those researchers couldn’t outpace the speed at which environmental concerns and policy discussions were cropping up, threatening to ground the aircraft before it was even built.

Three events during the summer of 1968 demonstrated this:

- On May 31, during a ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, an F-105 Thunderchief fighter jet broke the sound barrier flying 50 feet over the school grounds. The sonic boom blew out 200 windows on the side of the iconic Air Force Chapel and injured a dozen people.

- A week later, on June 8, the New York Times published an editorial using the incident in Colorado to underscore the danger sonic booms presented to the nation’s peace and well-being, claiming many are “scared to death of it.”

- This was followed on July 21 with Congress directing the FAA to develop standards for the “Control and Abatement of Aircraft Noise and Sonic Boom.”

Within a couple of years, the FAA formally proposed a rule that would restrict operation of civil aircraft at speeds greater than Mach 1. Then in May of 1971 Congress cancelled the SST program and the rule banning civil supersonic flights over land went into effect two years later.

During this same time, Great Britain and France were developing and test flying the Concorde, which went on to provide commercial supersonic air travel between 1976 and 2003. There were many reasons for its demise, including a deadly crash in 2000, but economic and environmental issues top the list. Restrictions against flying faster than sound over land due to the ban in the U.S. and elsewhere greatly limited its revenue-generating options.

Speed vs. Sound

Moving ahead, to lift the ban and enable a viable market for supersonic air travel over land, the idea is that regulators would base new rules on a different standard than before.

The speed limit created in 1973 didn’t consider the possibility that an airplane could fly supersonic yet did not create sonic booms that could affect anyone below. It was a fair assessment at the time because the technology required to make that happen didn’t exist yet.

“And now it does,” Coen said. “So, instead of a rule based solely on speed, we are proposing the rule be based on sound. If the sound of a supersonic flight isn’t loud enough to bother anyone below, there’s no reason why the airplane can’t be flying supersonic.”

Image above: NASA’s X-59 sits in support framing while undergoing the installation of its lower empennage, or tail section, at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, California in late March. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

During the past half-century, NASA’s aeronautical innovators methodically worked through the challenge of quieting the boom. Quesst’s X-59 is on the path to proving that technology, with community overflights and the all-important public surveys to follow soon after.

Still, public acceptance of supersonic aircraft flying overhead today goes far beyond sonic boom noise.  Airport noise, emissions, and climate impact are all factors that still need to be addressed.

With its government, industry, and academic partners, NASA is working to solve those challenges as well. But none of that will matter until the first step – lifting the half-century-old ban on supersonic flight over land – is accomplished.

“We are very excited to be making this big step forward, but we recognize that more needs to be done,” Coen said.

Much of this article is based on the work of Lawrence Benson, who wrote the official NASA history book “Quieting the Boom: The Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator and the Quest for Quiet Supersonic Flight.” Read it here:

Related links:



Supersonic Flight:


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lillian Gipson/Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate/Jim Banke.


Partners Extend International Space Station for Benefit of Humanity


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

April 27, 2023

The International Space Station partners have committed to extending the operations of this unique platform in low Earth orbit where, for more than 22 years, humans have lived and worked for the benefit of humanity, conducting cutting-edge science and research in microgravity. The United States, Japan, Canada, and the participating countries of ESA (European Space Agency) have confirmed they will support continued space station operations through 2030 and Russia has confirmed it will support continued station operations through 2028. NASA will continue to work with its partner agencies to ensure an uninterrupted presence in low Earth orbit, as well as a safe and orderly transition from the space station to commercial platforms in the future.

Image above: The International Space Station was pictured Oct. 4, 2018, from the departing Expedition 56 crew during a flyaround aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft. Image Credits: Roscosmos/NASA.

“The International Space Station is an incredible partnership with a common goal to advance science and exploration,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Extending our time aboard this amazing platform allows us to reap the benefits of more than two decades of experiments and technology demonstrations, as well as continue to materialize even greater discovery to come.”

Since its launch in 1998, the International Space Station has been visited by 266 individuals from 20 countries. The space station is a unique scientific platform where crew members conduct experiments across multiple disciplines of research, including Earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences and technology demonstrations that could not be done on Earth. The crew living aboard the station are the hands of thousands of researchers on the ground conducting more than 3,300 experiments in microgravity. Now, in its third decade of operations, the station is in the decade of results when the platform can maximize its scientific return. Results are compounding, new benefits are materializing, and innovative research and technology demonstrations are building on previous work.

The space station is one of the most complex international collaborations ever attempted. It was designed to be interdependent, relies on contributions from across the partnership to function, and no partner currently has the capability to operate the space station without the other.

With a continued foothold in low Earth orbit, NASA’s Artemis missions are underway, setting up a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration.

Related links:


International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 80 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

April 27, 2023

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 80 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 46 Starlink satellites (Starlink-80 / Starlink 3-5) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 27 April 2023, at 13:40 UTC (06:40 PDT). 

SpaceX Starlink 80 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing, 27 April 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 (B1061) previously supported twelve missions: Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter-5, Globalstar-2 FM15, EROS C-3 and three Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


mercredi 26 avril 2023

Crew Works Ongoing Spacewalk Preps and Advanced Space Research


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

April 26, 2023

As spacewalk preparations are under way aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 69 crew is continuing its advanced microgravity research while maintaining orbital lab systems.

Image above: Astronauts (from left) Stephen Bowen and Sultan Alneyadi try on and test out the their spacesuits ahead of a spacewalk planned for Friday, April 28. Image Credit: NASA.

Two astronauts are readying their tools today for a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk planned to start at 9:15 a.m. EDT on Friday. NASA Flight Engineer Stephen Bowen will be going on his eighth career spacewalk with first-time spacewalker and astronaut Sultan Alneyadi from UAE (United Arab Emirates). The duo will work in the vacuum of space on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure routing power cables and retrieving a communications antenna. The cable work is being done in advance of the installation of the station’s fourth roll-out solar array. The iROSA, or International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array, is due to be delivered on the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.

After the morning tool work, Bowen and Alneyadi had a standard pre-spacewalk health checkup measuring each other’s heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. The pair then split up for science work in the afternoon, as Bowen first swapped samples inside a fluorescence microscope then reconfigured a biology research incubator that generates artificial gravity. Alneyadi collected air samples from the Destiny and Columbus laboratory modules for analysis before cleaning the Veggie space botany facility.

Astronaut spacewalk on the starboard side of the station’s truss structure. Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg also had their hands full on Wednesday conducting science operations and ensuring the upkeep of the orbital outpost. Rubio started his day servicing protein crystal samples for a biochemistry study then tested his proficiency as an operator of the Canadarm2 robotic arm on a computer. Hoburg serviced orbital plumbing and oxygen generator components throughout the day and finally installed a new radiation-sensing telescope in the Tranquility module.

In the Roscosmos side of the space station, the crew’s three cosmonauts were back to work following an off-duty day on Tuesday. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin began Wednesday training for an unlikely emergency scenario of evacuating the station inside the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship. Prokopyev then studied futuristic planetary piloting techniques while Petelin worked on the Nauka science module’s ventilation system. Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev spent his day repairing plumbing gear and replacing dust filters.

Related links:


Expedition 69:

Truss structure:

Fluorescence microscope:

Biology research incubator:

Destiny Module:

Columbus Module:

Biochemistry study:

Canadarm2 robotic arm:

Radiation-sensing telescope:

Tranquility module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Creating New and Better Drugs with Protein Crystal Growth Experiments


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

April 26, 2023

For more than two decades, the International Space Station has provided a platform for growing and studying protein crystals. In the early days of microgravity research, scientists discovered that they protein crystals grown in space were more uniform and larger than those grown in Earth’s gravity. Since then, drug companies and academic researchers have conducted hundreds of protein crystal growth (PCG) experiments on the space station – by far the largest single category of experiments conducted on the orbiting lab.

Proteins are involved in every aspect of our lives, including as essential components of our immune system and as parts of viruses that can make us sick. When we take a medication, it binds to a specific protein in the body. This process changes the protein’s function – and if it works properly, that can make us well.

Image above: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin pose with canister bags from the Protein Crystallization Research Facility (PCRF) during Kristallizator operations. Image Credit: NASA.

In many diseases, the proteins that can trigger the disease state fit into very specific locations, like a biological keyhole. The protein of a potential drug for treating that disease must be designed to fit that keyhole. A good key and keyhole fit results in a more effective medicine with fewer side effects, but to achieve that fit, scientists need detailed knowledge of the structure of both proteins. One of the best ways to analyze a protein structure is to grow it in crystalline form.

Since 2005, the Kristallizator program from the State Space Corporation Roscosmos has created single protein crystals especially suited for analysis using X-ray diffraction.  One outcome of these studies was identifying the structure of a target for anti-tuberculosis drugs, which could help scientists develop a treatment.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) has been active in protein crystal growth research in microgravity, accounting for about two-thirds of all PCG experiments on the station. A series of studies, JAXA PCG, has provided precise structures of many protein types and has led to the discovery of potential drugs.

Image above: Protein crystals form in microgravity in the space station’s Kibo Module. Image Credit: JAXA.

One of these studies examined the crystal structure of a protein associated with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a currently incurable genetic disorder. The work provided hints for compounds that could inhibit the disease, leading to several promising compounds, including one called TAS-205. The research team estimates the drug may slow the progression of DMD by half, increasing the lifespan of many patients. A clinical trial in human patients was completed in 2017. Co-investigator Mitsugu Yamada of JAXA says a larger Phase 3 trial to examine the effectiveness of TAS-205 in situations similar to actual clinical use began in December 2020 and will continue until 2027.

JAXA Moderate Temperature PCG continued this work, producing high quality crystals to advance basic biochemical knowledge and support drug discovery.

In addition to creating completely new treatments, PCG research on station can lead to drug formulations that are easier to store and last longer – such as those stable at room temperature that eliminate the need for refrigeration. This modification lowers the cost and simplifies distribution of drugs.

Image above: JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata prepares Moderate Temperature PCG samples to ride the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft back to Earth for additional analysis. Image Credit: NASA.

PCG-5, work sponsored by the ISS National Lab, focused on how drugs known as monoclonal antibodies are given to patients. Monoclonal antibodies do not dissolve easily in liquid and typically are delivered intravenously, requiring a patient to spend hours in a clinic setting. High-quality crystalline suspensions produced by PCG-5 could enable delivery by injection, making treatment more convenient for patients and caregivers and significantly reducing cost.

Merck Research Laboratories, developer of a series of PCG experiments, produced simple hardware and processes that scientists from other disciplines can use to conduct microgravity research. JAXA has worked to increase interest in PCG research in microgravity as well, developing a technology for membrane protein crystallization, for example. Other studies have advanced the field of protein crystallization by producing new processes for growing high-quality crystals aboard the space station.

Space-Grown Crystals Offer Clarity on Parkinson's Disease

By providing a platform for PCG research, the space station plays a key role in bringing people on Earth new and better treatments for diseases.

Related links:

Kristallizator program:

Protein crystal growth:


Moderate Temperature PCG:


ISS National Lab:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Resources for Additional Learning

Related Experiments:

Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (CASIS PCG 16):

Structural and Crystallization Kinetics Analysis of Monoclonal Antibodies (Monoclonal Antibodies PCG):

Screening and Batch Manufacture of Complex Biotherapeutics in Microgravity (Monoclonal Antibodies PCG-2):

Monoclonal Antibody Stability in Microgravity-Formulation Study (CASIS PCG 19):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Carrie Gilder.