Tagged: Cubesats Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 10:36 am on September 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New cereal box-sized satellite to explore alien planets", , Cubesats, Exoplanets called “hot Jupiters", The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE),   

    From University of Colorado-Boulder (US) : “New cereal box-sized satellite to explore alien planets” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado-Boulder (US)

    Sept. 23, 2021
    Daniel Strain

    A new miniature satellite designed and built at CU Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) is providing proof that “cute” things can take on big scientific challenges.

    The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) is slated to launch into space Sept. 27. The approximately $4 million spacecraft, a smaller-than-usual type of satellite known as a “CubeSat,” is about as large as a “family-sized box of Cheerios,” said LASP researcher Kevin France, principal investigator for the mission.

    But it has mighty goals: Over the course of about 7 months, the mission will track the volatile physics around a class of extremely hot planets orbiting stars far away from Earth. It’s the first CubeSat mission funded by NASA to peer at these distant worlds—marking a major test of what small spacecraft may be capable of.

    Top: Rick Kohnert, systems engineer for CUTE, and Arika Egan pose with the small satellite at LASP. Bottom: A team installs CUTE into its launch system. (Credits: Kevin France; NASA/WFF)

    “It’s an experiment that NASA is conducting to see how much science can be done with a small satellite,” said France, professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences. “That’s exciting but also a little daunting.”

    The mission will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket alongside the Landsat 9 satellite from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Lompoc, California.

    Once CUTE enters into orbit around Earth, it will set its sights on a suite of exoplanets called “hot Jupiters.” As their names suggest, these gaseous planets are both large and scalding hot, reaching temperatures of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. The satellite’s findings will help scientists to better understand how these planets, and many others, evolve and even shrink over billions of years.

    In recent years, LASP has led the development of multiple CubeSat missions to explore everything from the sun’s activity to supernovae in distant galaxies. Unlike larger space missions, which often net a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars, engineers can produce CubeSats on the cheap.

    “As little as a decade ago, many in the space community expressed the opinion that CubeSat missions were little more than ‘toys,’” said LASP Director Daniel Baker. “There was recognition that small spacecraft could be useful as teaching and training tools, but there was widespread skepticism that forefront science could be done with such small platforms. I am delighted that LASP and the University of Colorado have led the way in demonstrating that remarkable science can be done with small packages. CUTE and other CU CubeSat missions are changing the landscape for basic research.”
    Scorching planets

    CUTE, in particular, tackles a hot topic in astrophysics.

    Hot Jupiters, and their even more chaotic cousins ultra-hot Jupiters, are an especially inhospitable class of gaseous worlds. Take KELT-9b: This planet, which sits in a stellar system about 670 light years from our own, has a mass nearly three times larger than Jupiter’s. But KELT-9b also orbits much closer to its home star—so close that temperatures on the planet hit a mind-boggling 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

    “Because these planets are parked so close to their parent stars, they receive a tremendous amount of radiation,” France said.

    That radiation takes a toll on a planet over time. At those temperatures, the atmospheres of hot Jupiters begin to expand like a pufferfish and may even tear away and escape into space.

    Which is where CUTE comes in: Throughout its mission, the spacecraft will measure how fast gases are escaping from a minimum of 10 hot Jupiters, including KELT-9b. It will achieve this feat using its unique, rectangular telescope design, which was pioneered at LASP.

    “Ultimately CUTE has one major purpose, and that is to study the inflated atmospheres of these really hot, pretty gassy exoplanets,” said Arika Egan, a graduate student at LASP who has helped to develop the mission. “The inflation and escape these exoplanetary atmospheres undergo are on scales just not seen in our own solar system.”

    France added that the team’s findings may tell scientists a lot not just about hot Jupiters but about the full range of planets that exist in the galaxy. That includes small and rocky worlds like Earth and its close neighbors. (Mars, for example, also lost much of its atmosphere over nearly 3 billion years, making the planet uninhabitable for humans).

    “The more places we understand atmospheric escape, the better we understand atmospheric escape as a whole,” France said. “We can then apply these findings to different types of planets.”

    Bon voyage

    He noted that CUTE is well-suited for probing the atmospheres of alien worlds. Unlike larger space missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, this satellite only has one job to do: To scan as many hot Jupiters as it can during its short lifespan.

    France said that, after spending four years developing CUTE in Boulder, he and his team are feeling bittersweet about the mission’s upcoming launch. Egan, for her part, is eager for the little craft to make a small dent in questions about Earth’s place in the galaxy.

    “When you look up at the sky and see thousands of stars, that is existential on its own,” she said. “But then you think about the planets we’ve discovered around those stars, thousands of planets. We’ve just barely scratched the surface of characterizing them, of understanding their diversity. How little we know is astounding, and joining the effort to learn more is fulfilling.”

    Science team members on the CUTE mission include researchers from Leiden University [Universiteit Leiden] (NL) and The University of Amsterdam [Universiteit van Amsterdam](NL), The University of Arizona (US), Space Research Institute of The Austrian Academy of Sciences [Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften](AT) and The University of Toulouse [Université de Toulouse] (FR).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado University of Colorado-Boulder (US), founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. It is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (US), a selective group of major research universities in North America, – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    University of Colorado-Boulder (US) has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

    In 2015, the university comprised nine colleges and schools and offered over 150 academic programs and enrolled almost 17,000 students. Five Nobel Laureates, nine MacArthur Fellows, and 20 astronauts have been affiliated with CU Boulder as students; researchers; or faculty members in its history. In 2010, the university received nearly $454 million in sponsored research to fund programs like the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and JILA. CU Boulder has been called a Public Ivy, a group of publicly funded universities considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    The Colorado Buffaloes compete in 17 varsity sports and are members of the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. The Buffaloes have won 28 national championships: 20 in skiing, seven total in men’s and women’s cross country, and one in football. The university has produced a total of ten Olympic medalists. Approximately 900 students participate in 34 intercollegiate club sports annually as well.

    On March 14, 1876, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an amendment to the state constitution that provided money for the establishment of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines(US) in Golden, and the Colorado State University (US) – College of Agricultural Sciences in Fort Collins.

    Two cities competed for the site of the University of Colorado: Boulder and Cañon City. The consolation prize for the losing city was to be home of the new Colorado State Prison. Cañon City was at a disadvantage as it was already the home of the Colorado Territorial Prison. (There are now six prisons in the Cañon City area.)

    The cornerstone of the building that became Old Main was laid on September 20, 1875. The doors of the university opened on September 5, 1877. At the time, there were few high schools in the state that could adequately prepare students for university work, so in addition to the University, a preparatory school was formed on campus. In the fall of 1877, the student body consisted of 15 students in the college proper and 50 students in the preparatory school. There were 38 men and 27 women, and their ages ranged from 12–23 years.

    During World War II, Colorado was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a navy commission.

    University of Colorado-Boulder (US) hired its first female professor, Mary Rippon, in 1878. It hired its first African-American professor, Charles H. Nilon, in 1956, and its first African-American librarian, Mildred Nilon, in 1962. Its first African American female graduate, Lucile Berkeley Buchanan, received her degree in 1918.

    Research institutes

    University of Colorado-Boulder’s (US) research mission is supported by eleven research institutes within the university. Each research institute supports faculty from multiple academic departments, allowing institutes to conduct truly multidisciplinary research.

    The Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG) is a research institute within the Graduate School dedicated to conducting and facilitating research on the genetic and environmental bases of individual differences in behavior. After its founding in 1967 IBG led the resurging interest in genetic influences on behavior. IBG was the first post-World War II research institute dedicated to research in behavioral genetics. IBG remains one of the top research facilities for research in behavioral genetics, including human behavioral genetics, psychiatric genetics, quantitative genetics, statistical genetics, and animal behavioral genetics.

    The Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) at CU Boulder promotes interdisciplinary research and training in cognitive science. ICS is highly interdisciplinary; its research focuses on education, language processing, emotion, and higher level cognition using experimental methods. It is home to a state of the art fMRI system used to collect neuroimaging data.

    ATLAS Institute is a center for interdisciplinary research and academic study, where engineering, computer science and robotics are blended with design-oriented topics. Part of CU Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, the institute offers academic programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and administers research labs, hacker and makerspaces, and a black box experimental performance studio. At the beginning of the 2018–2019 academic year, approximately 1,200 students were enrolled in ATLAS academic programs and the institute sponsored six research labs.[64]

    In addition to IBG, ICS and ATLAS, the university’s other institutes include Biofrontiers Institute, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research (INSTAAR), Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), JILA, Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics (LASP), Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on August 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "ASU scientists use commercial satellite data to determine water flow in Southwestern rivers", , Cubesats   

    From Arizona State University (US) : “ASU scientists use commercial satellite data to determine water flow in Southwestern rivers” 

    From Arizona State University (US)

    July 30, 2021 [Just now in social media.]

    Karin Valentine
    Media Relations & Marketing manager,
    School of Earth and Space Exploration

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US) has funded an Arizona State University project to use commercial CubeSat data to determine the presence of water in arid and semiarid rivers in California and Arizona. CubeSats are small satellites, typically the size of a shoebox, that can orbit the Earth and even travel in deep space.

    The study, led by hydrologist and professor Enrique R. Vivoni of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, will provide data and assessments that can assist Southwestern states in their efforts to manage water resources, impose regulations on pollution and maintain water quality in rivers.

    A Dove satellite from the aerospace company Planet. Doves make up the world’s largest constellation of Earth-imaging satellites and provide fresh Earth images daily. Credit: Planet.

    Traditionally, approaches for determining water in rivers are conducted using ground-based field surveys that use the presence (or absence) of plant or animal species associated with flowing conditions. These approaches are usually labor- and time-intensive and often limited by access to remote areas.

    For this study, Vivoni and Zhaocheng Wang, who is a graduate student in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, developed a new approach to use Earth-observing satellites to detect flowing water in arid rivers.

    “One of the strengths of this approach is the ability to map the streamflow regime of rivers across large arid and semiarid regions at very high spatial and temporal resolution,” Vivoni said. “This is much more difficult, or nearly impossible, to do via ground-based field surveys.”

    Vivoni and Wang are working primarily with remote sensing imagery from two commercial satellite companies: Planet, which has a fleet of nearly 200 Earth-imaging satellites and images the whole Earth land mass on a daily basis; and Maxar, which designs and manufactures satellites and spacecraft components for communications, Earth observation and exploration.

    “Commercially acquired remote sensing data have unprecedented resolution. I think they provide new and exciting insights into Earth science research,” Wang said. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to make innovations happen using those cool datasets in this project.”

    A satellite image of the Hassayampa River near Wickenburg, Arizona. Credit: Planet.

    The study will run through November 2022 and they plan to provide data that can be used for flood forecasting, hazards estimates, determining streamflow status, developing surface-groundwater interaction studies and assessing riverine habitats. The access to satellite imagery is provided by the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition program established by NASA.

    “Our motivation for this study has been the recent changes in the protection of Arizona’s rivers, which removed ephemeral (infrequently flowing) rivers from the waters of the United States designation,” Vivoni said.

    This work builds on a recently completed project with Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in the Hassayampa River of central Arizona. In collaboration with agency scientists, Wang and Vivoni developed a new method to detect when, and how often, water was present in large rivers using changes in the color of the channel sediments.

    “Our partnership with ASU has yielded promising results to document the streamflow status of Arizona’s waters using satellite imagery,” said ADEQ Senior Scientist Patti Spindler. “ADEQ supports the use of this high-quality research and novel methodology to enhance our understanding of the state’s waters.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Arizona State University (US) is a public research university in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Founded in 1885 by the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature, ASU is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the U.S.

    One of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents, ASU is a member of the Universities Research Association (US)and classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity.” ASU has nearly 150,000 students attending classes, with more than 38,000 students attending online, and 90,000 undergraduates and more nearly 20,000 postgraduates across its five campuses and four regional learning centers throughout Arizona. ASU offers 350 degree options from its 17 colleges and more than 170 cross-discipline centers and institutes for undergraduates students, as well as more than 400 graduate degree and certificate programs. The Arizona State Sun Devils compete in 26 varsity-level sports in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference and is home to over 1,100 registered student organizations.

    ASU’s charter, approved by the board of regents in 2014, is based on the New American University model created by ASU President Michael M. Crow upon his appointment as the institution’s 16th president in 2002. It defines ASU as “a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” The model is widely credited with boosting ASU’s acceptance rate and increasing class size.

    The university’s faculty of more than 4,700 scholars has included 5 Nobel laureates, 6 Pulitzer Prize winners, 4 MacArthur Fellows, and 19 National Academy of Sciences members. Additionally, among the faculty are 180 Fulbright Program American Scholars, 72 National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, 38 American Council of Learned Societies fellows, 36 members of the Guggenheim Fellowship, 21 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 3 members of National Academy of Inventors, 9 National Academy of Engineering members and 3 National Academy of Medicine members. The National Academies has bestowed “highly prestigious” recognition on 227 ASU faculty members.


    Arizona State University was established as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe on March 12, 1885, when the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature passed an act to create a normal school to train teachers for the Arizona Territory. The campus consisted of a single, four-room schoolhouse on a 20-acre plot largely donated by Tempe residents George and Martha Wilson. Classes began with 33 students on February 8, 1886. The curriculum evolved over the years and the name was changed several times; the institution was also known as Tempe Normal School of Arizona (1889–1903), Tempe Normal School (1903–1925), Tempe State Teachers College (1925–1929), Arizona State Teachers College (1929–1945), Arizona State College (1945–1958) and, by a 2–1 margin of the state’s voters, Arizona State University in 1958.

    In 1923, the school stopped offering high school courses and added a high school diploma to the admissions requirements. In 1925, the school became the Tempe State Teachers College and offered four-year Bachelor of Education degrees as well as two-year teaching certificates. In 1929, the 9th Arizona State Legislature authorized Bachelor of Arts in Education degrees as well, and the school was renamed the Arizona State Teachers College. Under the 30-year tenure of president Arthur John Matthews (1900–1930), the school was given all-college student status. The first dormitories built in the state were constructed under his supervision in 1902. Of the 18 buildings constructed while Matthews was president, six are still in use. Matthews envisioned an “evergreen campus,” with many shrubs brought to the campus, and implemented the planting of 110 Mexican Fan Palms on what is now known as Palm Walk, a century-old landmark of the Tempe campus.

    During the Great Depression, Ralph Waldo Swetman was hired to succeed President Matthews, coming to Arizona State Teachers College in 1930 from Humboldt State Teachers College where he had served as president. He served a three-year term, during which he focused on improving teacher-training programs. During his tenure, enrollment at the college doubled, topping the 1,000 mark for the first time. Matthews also conceived of a self-supported summer session at the school at Arizona State Teachers College, a first for the school.


    In 1933, Grady Gammage, then president of Arizona State Teachers College at Flagstaff, became president of Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, beginning a tenure that would last for nearly 28 years, second only to Swetman’s 30 years at the college’s helm. Like President Arthur John Matthews before him, Gammage oversaw the construction of several buildings on the Tempe campus. He also guided the development of the university’s graduate programs; the first Master of Arts in Education was awarded in 1938, the first Doctor of Education degree in 1954 and 10 non-teaching master’s degrees were approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in 1956. During his presidency, the school’s name was changed to Arizona State College in 1945, and finally to Arizona State University in 1958. At the time, two other names were considered: Tempe University and State University at Tempe. Among Gammage’s greatest achievements in Tempe was the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed construction of what is Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium/ASU Gammage. One of the university’s hallmark buildings, ASU Gammage was completed in 1964, five years after the president’s (and Wright’s) death.

    Gammage was succeeded by Harold D. Richardson, who had served the school earlier in a variety of roles beginning in 1939, including director of graduate studies, college registrar, dean of instruction, dean of the College of Education and academic vice president. Although filling the role of acting president of the university for just nine months (Dec. 1959 to Sept. 1960), Richardson laid the groundwork for the future recruitment and appointment of well-credentialed research science faculty.

    By the 1960s, under G. Homer Durham, the university’s 11th president, ASU began to expand its curriculum by establishing several new colleges and, in 1961, the Arizona Board of Regents authorized doctoral degree programs in six fields, including Doctor of Philosophy. By the end of his nine-year tenure, ASU had more than doubled enrollment, reporting 23,000 in 1969.

    The next three presidents—Harry K. Newburn (1969–71), John W. Schwada (1971–81) and J. Russell Nelson (1981–89), including and Interim President Richard Peck (1989), led the university to increased academic stature, the establishment of the ASU West campus in 1984 and its subsequent construction in 1986, a focus on computer-assisted learning and research, and rising enrollment.


    Under the leadership of Lattie F. Coor, president from 1990 to 2002, ASU grew through the creation of the Polytechnic campus and extended education sites. Increased commitment to diversity, quality in undergraduate education, research, and economic development occurred over his 12-year tenure. Part of Coor’s legacy to the university was a successful fundraising campaign: through private donations, more than $500 million was invested in areas that would significantly impact the future of ASU. Among the campaign’s achievements were the naming and endowing of Barrett, The Honors College, and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; the creation of many new endowed faculty positions; and hundreds of new scholarships and fellowships.

    In 2002, Michael M. Crow became the university’s 16th president. At his inauguration, he outlined his vision for transforming ASU into a “New American University”—one that would be open and inclusive, and set a goal for the university to meet Association of American Universities criteria and to become a member. Crow initiated the idea of transforming ASU into “One university in many places”—a single institution comprising several campuses, sharing students, faculty, staff and accreditation. Subsequent reorganizations combined academic departments, consolidated colleges and schools, and reduced staff and administration as the university expanded its West and Polytechnic campuses. ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus was also expanded, with several colleges and schools relocating there. The university established learning centers throughout the state, including the ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City and programs in Thatcher, Yuma, and Tucson. Students at these centers can choose from several ASU degree and certificate programs.

    During Crow’s tenure, and aided by hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, ASU began a years-long research facility capital building effort that led to the establishment of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and several large interdisciplinary research buildings. Along with the research facilities, the university faculty was expanded, including the addition of five Nobel Laureates. Since 2002, the university’s research expenditures have tripled and more than 1.5 million square feet of space has been added to the university’s research facilities.

    The economic downturn that began in 2008 took a particularly hard toll on Arizona, resulting in large cuts to ASU’s budget. In response to these cuts, ASU capped enrollment, closed some four dozen academic programs, combined academic departments, consolidated colleges and schools, and reduced university faculty, staff and administrators; however, with an economic recovery underway in 2011, the university continued its campaign to expand the West and Polytechnic Campuses, and establish a low-cost, teaching-focused extension campus in Lake Havasu City.

    As of 2011, an article in Slate reported that, “the bottom line looks good,” noting that:

    “Since Crow’s arrival, ASU’s research funding has almost tripled to nearly $350 million. Degree production has increased by 45 percent. And thanks to an ambitious aid program, enrollment of students from Arizona families below poverty is up 647 percent.”

    In 2015, the Thunderbird School of Global Management became the fifth ASU campus, as the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU. Partnerships for education and research with Mayo Clinic established collaborative degree programs in health care and law, and shared administrator positions, laboratories and classes at the Mayo Clinic Arizona campus.

    The Beus Center for Law and Society, the new home of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, opened in fall 2016 on the Downtown Phoenix campus, relocating faculty and students from the Tempe campus to the state capital.

  • richardmitnick 6:00 am on April 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cubesats, ESA M-ARGO spacecraft,   

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU): “Getting CubeSats moving” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU)

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)


    ESA’s M-Argo mission will be the first CubeSat to traverse interplanetary space under its own power. Due to launch in 2024-5, the suitcase-sized spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid, up to 150 million km away.

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) M-ARGO spacecraft

    CubeSats are small, cheap satellites assembled from standardised parts in 10 cm boxes – M-Argo is a 12-unit CubeSat. Originally intended for educational purposes and technology testing, CubeSats have matured rapidly, and are becoming increasingly attractive to intuitional and commercial users for applications including Earth observation, telecommunications and even exploration.

    Today hundreds of CubeSats are launched each year, while ESA employs them for early in-orbit demonstration of advanced technologies.

    While CubeSats offer increasingly capable payload performance, their natural limits of size, mass and power typically preclude the inclusion of conventional spacecraft propulsion systems. At the same time, such propulsion capabilities are crucial to enable mobility and to enhance the potential of CubeSats, which have started to utilise miniaturised chemical and electric propulsion. This is the subject of a dedicated ESA workshop on Propulsion4CubeSats on 28-29 April. ESA’s annual CubeSat Industry Days will follow in June.

    Credit: ESA-Science Office.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC (NL) in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA’s space flight programme includes human spaceflight (mainly through participation in the International Space Station program); the launch and operation of uncrewed exploration missions to other planets and the Moon; Earth observation, science and telecommunication; designing launch vehicles; and maintaining a major spaceport, the The Guiana Space Centre [Centre Spatial Guyanais; CSG also called Europe’s Spaceport) at Kourou, French Guiana. The main European launch vehicle Ariane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle. The agency is also working with NASA to manufacture the Orion Spacecraft service module that will fly on the Space Launch System.

    The agency’s facilities are distributed among the following centres:

    ESA European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) (NL)in Noordwijk, Netherlands;
    ESA Centre for Earth Observation [ESRIN] (IT) in Frascati, Italy;
    ESA Mission Control ESA European Space Operations Center [ESOC](DE) is in Darmstadt, Germany;
    ESA -European Astronaut Centre [EAC] trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany;
    European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) (UK), a research institute created in 2009, is located in Harwell, England;
    ESA – European Space Astronomy Centre [ESAC] (ES) is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
    European Space Agency Science Programme is a long-term programme of space science and space exploration missions.


    After World War II, many European scientists left Western Europe in order to work with the United States. Although the 1950s boom made it possible for Western European countries to invest in research and specifically in space-related activities, Western European scientists realized solely national projects would not be able to compete with the two main superpowers. In 1958, only months after the Sputnik shock, Edoardo Amaldi (Italy) and Pierre Auger (France), two prominent members of the Western European scientific community, met to discuss the foundation of a common Western European space agency. The meeting was attended by scientific representatives from eight countries, including Harrie Massey (United Kingdom).

    The Western European nations decided to have two agencies: one concerned with developing a launch system, ELDO (European Launch Development Organization), and the other the precursor of the European Space Agency, ESRO (European Space Research Organisation). The latter was established on 20 March 1964 by an agreement signed on 14 June 1962. From 1968 to 1972, ESRO launched seven research satellites.

    ESA in its current form was founded with the ESA Convention in 1975, when ESRO was merged with ELDO. ESA had ten founding member states: Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These signed the ESA Convention in 1975 and deposited the instruments of ratification by 1980, when the convention came into force. During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion. ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975, Cos-B, a space probe monitoring gamma-ray emissions in the universe, which was first worked on by ESRO.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Later activities

    ESA collaborated with National Aeronautics Space Agency on the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), the world’s first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated successfully for 18 years. A number of successful Earth-orbit projects followed, and in 1986 ESA began Giotto, its first deep-space mission, to study the comets Halley and Grigg–Skjellerup. Hipparcos, a star-mapping mission, was launched in 1989 and in the 1990s SOHO, Ulysses and the Hubble Space Telescope were all jointly carried out with NASA. Later scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini–Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.

    As the successor of ELDO, ESA has also constructed rockets for scientific and commercial payloads. Ariane 1, launched in 1979, carried mostly commercial payloads into orbit from 1984 onward. The next two versions of the Ariane rocket were intermediate stages in the development of a more advanced launch system, the Ariane 4, which operated between 1988 and 2003 and established ESA as the world leader in commercial space launches in the 1990s. Although the succeeding Ariane 5 experienced a failure on its first flight, it has since firmly established itself within the heavily competitive commercial space launch market with 82 successful launches until 2018. The successor launch vehicle of Ariane 5, the Ariane 6, is under development and is envisioned to enter service in the 2020s.

    The beginning of the new millennium saw ESA become, along with agencies like National Aeronautics Space Agency(US), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation, the Canadian Space Agency(CA) and Roscosmos(RU), one of the major participants in scientific space research. Although ESA had relied on co-operation with NASA in previous decades, especially the 1990s, changed circumstances (such as tough legal restrictions on information sharing by the United States military) led to decisions to rely more on itself and on co-operation with Russia. A 2011 press issue thus stated:

    “Russia is ESA’s first partner in its efforts to ensure long-term access to space. There is a framework agreement between ESA and the government of the Russian Federation on cooperation and partnership in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and cooperation is already underway in two different areas of launcher activity that will bring benefits to both partners.”

    Notable ESA programmes include SMART-1, a probe testing cutting-edge space propulsion technology, the Mars Express and Venus Express missions, as well as the development of the Ariane 5 rocket and its role in the ISS partnership. ESA maintains its scientific and research projects mainly for astronomy-space missions such as Corot, launched on 27 December 2006, a milestone in the search for exoplanets.

    On 21 January 2019, ArianeGroup and Arianespace announced a one-year contract with ESA to study and prepare for a mission to mine the Moon for lunar regolith.


    The treaty establishing the European Space Agency reads:

    The purpose of the Agency shall be to provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems…

    ESA is responsible for setting a unified space and related industrial policy, recommending space objectives to the member states, and integrating national programs like satellite development, into the European program as much as possible.

    Jean-Jacques Dordain – ESA’s Director General (2003–2015) – outlined the European Space Agency’s mission in a 2003 interview:

    “Today space activities have pursued the benefit of citizens, and citizens are asking for a better quality of life on Earth. They want greater security and economic wealth, but they also want to pursue their dreams, to increase their knowledge, and they want younger people to be attracted to the pursuit of science and technology. I think that space can do all of this: it can produce a higher quality of life, better security, more economic wealth, and also fulfill our citizens’ dreams and thirst for knowledge, and attract the young generation. This is the reason space exploration is an integral part of overall space activities. It has always been so, and it will be even more important in the future.”


    According to the ESA website, the activities are:

    Observing the Earth
    Human Spaceflight
    Space Science
    Space Engineering & Technology
    Telecommunications & Integrated Applications
    Preparing for the Future
    Space for Climate


    Copernicus Programme
    Cosmic Vision
    Horizon 2000
    Living Planet Programme


    Every member country must contribute to these programmes:

    Technology Development Element Programme
    Science Core Technology Programme
    General Study Programme
    European Component Initiative


    Depending on their individual choices the countries can contribute to the following programmes, listed according to:

    Earth Observation
    Human Spaceflight and Exploration
    Space Situational Awareness


    ESA has formed partnerships with universities. ESA_LAB@ refers to research laboratories at universities. Currently there are ESA_LAB@

    Technische Universität Darmstadt
    École des hautes études commerciales de Paris (HEC Paris)
    Université de recherche Paris Sciences et Lettres
    University of Central Lancashire

    Membership and contribution to ESA

    By 2015, ESA was an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states. Member states participate to varying degrees in the mandatory (25% of total expenditures in 2008) and optional space programmes (75% of total expenditures in 2008). The 2008 budget amounted to €3.0 billion whilst the 2009 budget amounted to €3.6 billion. The total budget amounted to about €3.7 billion in 2010, €3.99 billion in 2011, €4.02 billion in 2012, €4.28 billion in 2013, €4.10 billion in 2014 and €4.33 billion in 2015. English is the main language within ESA. Additionally, official documents are also provided in German and documents regarding the Spacelab are also provided in Italian. If found appropriate, the agency may conduct its correspondence in any language of a member state.

    Non-full member states
    Since 2016, Slovenia has been an associated member of the ESA.

    Latvia became the second current associated member on 30 June 2020, when the Association Agreement was signed by ESA Director Jan Wörner and the Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, Ilga Šuplinska in Riga. The Saeima ratified it on July 27. Previously associated members were Austria, Norway and Finland, all of which later joined ESA as full members.

    Since 1 January 1979, Canada has had the special status of a Cooperating State within ESA. By virtue of this accord, the Canadian Space Agency takes part in ESA’s deliberative bodies and decision-making and also in ESA’s programmes and activities. Canadian firms can bid for and receive contracts to work on programmes. The accord has a provision ensuring a fair industrial return to Canada. The most recent Cooperation Agreement was signed on 15 December 2010 with a term extending to 2020. For 2014, Canada’s annual assessed contribution to the ESA general budget was €6,059,449 (CAD$8,559,050). For 2017, Canada has increased its annual contribution to €21,600,000 (CAD$30,000,000).


    After the decision of the ESA Council of 21/22 March 2001, the procedure for accession of the European states was detailed as described the document titled The Plan for European Co-operating States (PECS). Nations that want to become a full member of ESA do so in 3 stages. First a Cooperation Agreement is signed between the country and ESA. In this stage, the country has very limited financial responsibilities. If a country wants to co-operate more fully with ESA, it signs a European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement. The ECS Agreement makes companies based in the country eligible for participation in ESA procurements. The country can also participate in all ESA programmes, except for the Basic Technology Research Programme. While the financial contribution of the country concerned increases, it is still much lower than that of a full member state. The agreement is normally followed by a Plan For European Cooperating State (or PECS Charter). This is a 5-year programme of basic research and development activities aimed at improving the nation’s space industry capacity. At the end of the 5-year period, the country can either begin negotiations to become a full member state or an associated state or sign a new PECS Charter.

    During the Ministerial Meeting in December 2014, ESA ministers approved a resolution calling for discussions to begin with Israel, Australia and South Africa on future association agreements. The ministers noted that “concrete cooperation is at an advanced stage” with these nations and that “prospects for mutual benefits are existing”.

    A separate space exploration strategy resolution calls for further co-operation with the United States, Russia and China on “LEO exploration, including a continuation of ISS cooperation and the development of a robust plan for the coordinated use of space transportation vehicles and systems for exploration purposes, participation in robotic missions for the exploration of the Moon, the robotic exploration of Mars, leading to a broad Mars Sample Return mission in which Europe should be involved as a full partner, and human missions beyond LEO in the longer term.”

    Relationship with the European Union

    The political perspective of the European Union (EU) was to make ESA an agency of the EU by 2014, although this date was not met. The EU member states provide most of ESA’s funding, and they are all either full ESA members or observers.


    At the time ESA was formed, its main goals did not encompass human space flight; rather it considered itself to be primarily a scientific research organisation for uncrewed space exploration in contrast to its American and Soviet counterparts. It is therefore not surprising that the first non-Soviet European in space was not an ESA astronaut on a European space craft; it was Czechoslovak Vladimír Remek who in 1978 became the first non-Soviet or American in space (the first man in space being Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union) – on a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, followed by the Pole Mirosław Hermaszewski and East German Sigmund Jähn in the same year. This Soviet co-operation programme, known as Intercosmos, primarily involved the participation of Eastern bloc countries. In 1982, however, Jean-Loup Chrétien became the first non-Communist Bloc astronaut on a flight to the Soviet Salyut 7 space station.

    Because Chrétien did not officially fly into space as an ESA astronaut, but rather as a member of the French CNES astronaut corps, the German Ulf Merbold is considered the first ESA astronaut to fly into space. He participated in the STS-9 Space Shuttle mission that included the first use of the European-built Spacelab in 1983. STS-9 marked the beginning of an extensive ESA/NASA joint partnership that included dozens of space flights of ESA astronauts in the following years. Some of these missions with Spacelab were fully funded and organizationally and scientifically controlled by ESA (such as two missions by Germany and one by Japan) with European astronauts as full crew members rather than guests on board. Beside paying for Spacelab flights and seats on the shuttles, ESA continued its human space flight co-operation with the Soviet Union and later Russia, including numerous visits to Mir.

    During the latter half of the 1980s, European human space flights changed from being the exception to routine and therefore, in 1990, the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany was established. It selects and trains prospective astronauts and is responsible for the co-ordination with international partners, especially with regard to the International Space Station. As of 2006, the ESA astronaut corps officially included twelve members, including nationals from most large European countries except the United Kingdom.

    In the summer of 2008, ESA started to recruit new astronauts so that final selection would be due in spring 2009. Almost 10,000 people registered as astronaut candidates before registration ended in June 2008. 8,413 fulfilled the initial application criteria. Of the applicants, 918 were chosen to take part in the first stage of psychological testing, which narrowed down the field to 192. After two-stage psychological tests and medical evaluation in early 2009, as well as formal interviews, six new members of the European Astronaut Corps were selected – five men and one woman.

    Cooperation with other countries and organisations

    ESA has signed co-operation agreements with the following states that currently neither plan to integrate as tightly with ESA institutions as Canada, nor envision future membership of ESA: Argentina, Brazil, China, India (for the Chandrayan mission), Russia and Turkey.

    Additionally, ESA has joint projects with the European Union, NASA of the United States and is participating in the International Space Station together with the United States (NASA), Russia and Japan (JAXA).

    European Union
    ESA and EU member states
    ESA-only members
    EU-only members

    ESA is not an agency or body of the European Union (EU), and has non-EU countries (Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) as members. There are however ties between the two, with various agreements in place and being worked on, to define the legal status of ESA with regard to the EU.

    There are common goals between ESA and the EU. ESA has an EU liaison office in Brussels. On certain projects, the EU and ESA co-operate, such as the upcoming Galileo satellite navigation system. Space policy has since December 2009 been an area for voting in the European Council. Under the European Space Policy of 2007, the EU, ESA and its Member States committed themselves to increasing co-ordination of their activities and programmes and to organising their respective roles relating to space.

    The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 reinforces the case for space in Europe and strengthens the role of ESA as an R&D space agency. Article 189 of the Treaty gives the EU a mandate to elaborate a European space policy and take related measures, and provides that the EU should establish appropriate relations with ESA.

    Former Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni, during his tenure as a Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009, stressed the importance of the European Union as a driving force for space exploration, “…since other players are coming up such as India and China it is becoming ever more important that Europeans can have an independent access to space. We have to invest more into space research and technology in order to have an industry capable of competing with other international players.”

    The first EU-ESA International Conference on Human Space Exploration took place in Prague on 22 and 23 October 2009. A road map which would lead to a common vision and strategic planning in the area of space exploration was discussed. Ministers from all 29 EU and ESA members as well as members of parliament were in attendance.

    National space organisations of member states:

    The Centre National d’Études Spatiales(FR) (CNES) (National Centre for Space Study) is the French government space agency (administratively, a “public establishment of industrial and commercial character”). Its headquarters are in central Paris. CNES is the main participant on the Ariane project. Indeed, CNES designed and tested all Ariane family rockets (mainly from its centre in Évry near Paris)
    The UK Space Agency is a partnership of the UK government departments which are active in space. Through the UK Space Agency, the partners provide delegates to represent the UK on the various ESA governing bodies. Each partner funds its own programme.
    The Italian Space Agency A.S.I. – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana was founded in 1988 to promote, co-ordinate and conduct space activities in Italy. Operating under the Ministry of the Universities and of Scientific and Technological Research, the agency cooperates with numerous entities active in space technology and with the president of the Council of Ministers. Internationally, the ASI provides Italy’s delegation to the Council of the European Space Agency and to its subordinate bodies.
    The German Aerospace Center (DLR)[Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V.] is the national research centre for aviation and space flight of the Federal Republic of Germany and of other member states in the Helmholtz Association. Its extensive research and development projects are included in national and international cooperative programmes. In addition to its research projects, the centre is the assigned space agency of Germany bestowing headquarters of German space flight activities and its associates.
    The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA)(ES) (National Institute for Aerospace Technique) is a Public Research Organization specialised in aerospace research and technology development in Spain. Among other functions, it serves as a platform for space research and acts as a significant testing facility for the aeronautic and space sector in the country.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(US)

    ESA has a long history of collaboration with NASA. Since ESA’s astronaut corps was formed, the Space Shuttle has been the primary launch vehicle used by ESA’s astronauts to get into space through partnership programmes with NASA. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Spacelab programme was an ESA-NASA joint research programme that had ESA develop and manufacture orbital labs for the Space Shuttle for several flights on which ESA participate with astronauts in experiments.

    In robotic science mission and exploration missions, NASA has been ESA’s main partner. Cassini–Huygens was a joint NASA-ESA mission, along with the Infrared Space Observatory, INTEGRAL, SOHO, and others. Also, the Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project of NASA and ESA. Future ESA-NASA joint projects include the James Webb Space Telescope and the proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. NASA has committed to provide support to ESA’s proposed MarcoPolo-R mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth for further analysis. NASA and ESA will also likely join together for a Mars Sample Return Mission. In October 2020 the ESA entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NASA to work together on the Artemis program, which will provide an orbiting lunar gateway and also accomplish the first manned lunar landing in 50 years, whose team will include the first woman on the Moon. Astronaut selection announcements are expected within two years of the 2024 scheduled launch date.

    Cooperation with other space agencies

    Since China has started to invest more money into space activities, the Chinese Space Agency(CN) has sought international partnerships. ESA is, beside the Russian Space Agency, one of its most important partners. Two space agencies cooperated in the development of the Double Star Mission. In 2017, ESA sent two astronauts to China for two weeks sea survival training with Chinese astronauts in Yantai, Shandong.

    ESA entered into a major joint venture with Russia in the form of the CSTS, the preparation of French Guiana spaceport for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets and other projects. With India, ESA agreed to send instruments into space aboard the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. ESA is also co-operating with Japan, the most notable current project in collaboration with JAXA is the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

    Speaking to reporters at an air show near Moscow in August 2011, ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain said ESA and Russia’s Roskosmos space agency would “carry out the first flight to Mars together.”

  • richardmitnick 8:39 am on February 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Proba-V’s plus one", , , , , , Cubesats, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU): “Proba-V’s plus one” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU)



    This satellite mockup, seen during antenna testing, shows the shape of ESA’s new Proba-V Companion CubeSat, which is due for launch at the end of this year.

    The mission is a 12-unit ‘CubeSat’ – a small, low-cost satellite built up from standardised 10-cm boxes. It will fly a cut-down version of the vegetation-monitoring instrument aboard the Earth-observing Proba-V to perform experimental combined observations with its predecessor.

    A pair of antennas for the CubeSat, mounted in this ‘structural and thermal model’ underwent testing at ESA’s Compact Antenna Test Range at the ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands.

    “The white patch is a directional high-data rate antenna, needed to downlink large amounts of imagery to users,” explains Xavier Collaud of Aerospacelab in Belgium, developing the mission for ESA. “Then the brown patch is an omnidirectional antenna, that – combined with a similar antenna on the other side – allows the reception and transmission of lower-data rate signals in any direction, enabling the control of the mission.

    “These antennnas are commercial off the shelf equipment, allowing the building up of small satellites in an affordable, modular manner. They are supplied by Syrlinks, in partnership with ANYWAVES, both in France.

    “Testing the antennas in the fully controlled environment of ESA’s CATR gives us the sensitivity we need for top-quality results. We’ve been testing with the antennas mounted within this satellite model because its structure influences the antenna radiation – so for instance we’ve been measuring the signal patterns and strength with the solar panels stowed as well as deployed, to make sure we can communicate with the CubeSat in that configuration.”

    Proba-V satellite

    Launched in 2013, Proba-V was an innovative a ‘gap filler’ mission between the Vegetation instruments monitoring global plant growth aboard the full-size Spot-4 and -5 satellites and compatible imagery coming from Copernicus Sentinel-3, the first of which flew in 2016.

    By combining the views from three adjacent telescopes into one, Proba-V’s Vegetation achieved a continent-spanning swath of 2250 km, allowing to image the entire world’s plant growth in just over a day. But with its operational mission now over, Proba-V has shifted to experimental mode.

    As part of that effort, the Proba-V Companion CubeSat will host a single telescope version of the Vegetation imager, left over from Proba-V development. The two missions will perform joint observations, to evaluate how well the instrument performs on a smaller, lower-cost platform.

    Aerospacelab will also gain operational experience to be applied to its planned constellation of geospatial-information-gathering small satellites.

    “The antenna test campaign took about two weeks,” adds ESA antenna engineer Eric Van Der Houwen. “We obtained spherical near-field patterns of the antennas, both individually and in combination, to measure how much they radiate and in which directions, having begun with a reference antenna in order to determine our setup was optimal.”

    Based on the antenna test results, as well as mechanical testing performed with another CubeSat model, the Proba-V Companion CubeSat mission has now entered its detailed qualification and production ‘Phase D’, on track for launch this year. The mission is supported through the Fly in-orbit testing element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme.

    © ESA-P. de Maagt

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA) (EU), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on February 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "My satellite would fit in a small suitcase.", "The Smallest Lights in the Universe", , , , , Cubesats, , , MIT/NASA JPL/Caltech ASTERIA cubesat developed by Sara Seager of MIT.,   

    From MIT Technology Review: “My satellite would fit in a small suitcase.” 

    From MIT Technology Review

    December 18, 2020 [Just now in social media from MIT]
    by Sara Seager

    Sara Seager with a telescope in her yard, awaiting the darkness of the night sky. Credit: Webb Chappell.

    But it could help us find other worlds.

    Sara Seager has thought long and hard about the math: the odds that Earth harbors the only life in the universe are almost impossible. “The greatest discovery astronomers could possibly make is that we’re not alone,” writes the MIT astrophysicist in her new memoir The Smallest Lights in the Universe.


    “Humanity has searched the heavens for a reflection of ourselves for centuries; to see someone or something else, inhabiting another Earth—that’s the dream.”

    A pioneer in the search for exoplanets, or planets orbiting other stars, she came up with the now-standard practice of studying the atmospheres of planets by analyzing the light that filters through them. Seager, who won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, is the Class of 1941 Professor of Planetary Science and has appointments in the Departments of Physics and Aeronautics and Astronautics as well. She was also the deputy science director of the MIT-led NASA Explorer mission TESS (transiting exoplanet survey satellite) from 2016 to 2020, and a lead for Starshade Rendezvous, a feasibility study for a space-based mission to find and characterize Earth-like exoplanets. In her memoir, she shares her personal story of finding herself widowed at 40, a suddenly single mother of two young sons, while she explains the science of her search for other worlds.

    NASA/MIT Tess

    NASA/MIT Tess in the building.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

    NASA JPL Starshade

    This excerpt, drawn from different sections of her book, chronicles her work to develop the cubesat ASTERIA.

    MIT/NASA JPL/Caltech ASTERIA cubesat, developed by Sara Seager of MIT.

    A satellite the size of a small suitcase, ASTERIA was designed to demonstrate the technology needed for a tiny telescope to search for exoplanets by detecting the minuscule dip in a star’s light when an orbiting planet passes in front of it.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames.

    Seager initiated and developed ASTERIA at MIT, and later served as principal investigator while it was built and operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from November 2017 until December 2019.

    Searching for shadows to find other worlds

    At its essence, astrophysics is the study of light. We know that there are stars other than the sun because we can see them shining. But light doesn’t just illuminate. Light pollutes. Light blinds. Little lights—exoplanets—have forever been washed out by the bigger lights of their stars, the way those stars are washed out by our sun. To find another Earth, we’d have to find the smallest lights in the universe.

    If, for the moment at least, astronomers couldn’t fight the brightness of stars, maybe we could use their power to our advantage. Bodies in transit sometimes align. If we were lucky, a planet might pass between us and its star, creating something like a miniature eclipse. The moon looks giant when it blocks out the sun. The Transit Technique, as it would come to be called, applied the same principle to exoplanets. We would find them not by the light they emitted, but by the light they spoiled. Nothing stands out like a black spot.

    In the fall of 1999, while I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the first transit of a known planet—HD 209458b, a “hot Jupiter”—was announced. It was absolutely fantastic news, in part because the discovery erased the last shred of doubt that exoplanets exist.

    Studying starlight for signs of life

    I had been turning over an idea—a genuinely original one—and the successful use of the Transit Technique gave it a greater urgency. A lot of science, especially pioneering science, relies on intuition. I didn’t have any evidence that my idea would work. But I was doubtless. I had realized that the technique might help reveal something more than the black silhouette of a planet. Immediately around that tiny partial eclipse, the same starlight that was being blocked by an exoplanet would pass through its atmosphere. The starlight would reach us, but not the way regular starlight reaches us. It would be filtered, like water running through a screen, or a flashlight’s beam struggling through a fog. If you look at a rainbow from a distance, its many colors form a perfect union. But if you look at a rainbow more closely, using an instrument called a spectrograph, you can see gaps in the light, minuscule breaks in each wavelength like missing teeth. Gases in the solar atmosphere and Earth’s own thin envelope interrupt the transmission of sunlight, the way power lines cause static in a radio signal. Certain gases interfere in telltale ways. One gas might take a bite out of indigo, while another gas might have an appetite for yellow or blue. Why couldn’t we use a spectrograph to look at the starlight passing through a transiting exoplanet’s atmosphere? That way we could determine what sorts of gases surround that exoplanet. We already knew that large amounts of certain gases are likely to exist only in the presence of life. We call them biosignature gases. Oxygen is one; methane is another. We could start with hot Jupiters, the planets we already know, and their more easily detectable atmospheres. Like a skunk’s spray, their traces of sodium and potassium would stand out amid the company of less potent atoms. I kept my idea to myself, because I knew it was great—I was the first to see the potential of the Transit Technique for studying atmospheres—and I knew, too, that great ideas get stolen. Dimitar Sasselov, my former PhD supervisor, was the only person I told about my theory, and he offered to help me bring it closer to practice. When we had worked out the details, I published a paper [The Astrophysical Journal-Supplemental Series] extolling what Dimitar and I called “transit transmission spectra”—reading the gaps in rainbows.

    My paper received considerable attention. NASA was accepting proposals to use the Hubble Space Telescope; within a few months of publication, one team cited my work and won the rights to study the light that passed through the atmosphere of a transiting hot Jupiter. I was furious not to be included on that team, which chose an older male scientist over me.

    Within two years, their work revealed the first exoplanet atmosphere. It didn’t surround another Earth, but my premise had worked. We had seen our first alien sky.

    Spying on stars with tiny satellites

    One of the great hurdles in looking for exoplanets is the time it takes to find them. The nearest and brightest sun-like stars are scattered all over the sky, which means that no telescope can take in more than a few at a time. But it’s prohibitively expensive, as well as nonsensical, to use something like Hubble or Spitzer to stare at a single star system waiting, hoping, to see the shadows of planets we’re not sure exist. Properly mapping a star system might take years.

    I had been trying to make a long-term plan to find another Earth when I learned about what the community had taken to calling cubesats—tiny satellites designed to a standard form, which supposedly made them cheaper and easier to build and deliver into space. What if I made a constellation of cubesats, each assigned to look at only one star? I dreamed of space telescopes the size of a loaf of bread—not one, but an army, fanning out into orbit like so many advance scouts. Each could settle in and monitor its assigned sun-like star for however long I needed it to; each could be dedicated to learning everything possible about one single light. Hubble, Spitzer, Kepler—they each saw hugely. Maybe now we needed dozens or hundreds of narrower gazes, using the Transit Technique [above] as the principal method of discovery. Cubesats wouldn’t see what larger space telescopes could see, but they would never need to blink.

    This panorama of the northern sky captured by TESS (transiting exoplanet survey satellite) [above] includes an edgewise view of the Milky Way. Sara Seager served as deputy science director of the MIT-led TESS, a NASA Explorer mission, from 2016 to 2020. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS AND ETHAN KRUSE (USRA).

    I talked to David Miller, a colleague and engineering professor who was in charge of what would become one of my favorite classes: a design-and-build class for fourth-year undergraduates. It was revolutionary when it started, because it was so project-based; after a few introductory lectures, the students dived into the challenges of making an actual satellite. I asked David whether I could use his class to incubate my cubesat idea.

    He was enthusiastic from the start. Maybe the best thing about MIT is that no matter how crazy your idea, nobody says it’s not going to work until it’s proved unworkable. And squeezing a space telescope inside something as small as a cubesat was a pretty crazy idea. The main challenge would be in making something small that was still stable enough to gather clear data—a tall order because smaller satellites, like smaller anything, get pushed around in space more easily than larger objects. To take precise brightness measurements of a star, we would need to be able to keep its center of brightness fixed to the same tiny fraction of a pixel, far finer than the width of a human hair. We would have to make something that was a hundred times better than anything that currently existed in the cubesat’s mass class. Imagine making a car engine that runs a hundred times better than today’s best car engine.

    “Let’s do it,” David said.

    Statistics and space hardware

    Cubesats are much cheaper than regular satellites, because they’re smaller and easier to launch; they take up a lot less room in the hold of a rocket, and it costs $10,000 to send a pound of anything into space. Unfortunately, their cheap manufacture makes them prone to failure. Many of them never work. We use the same hopeless term for them that doctors use for patients they never got the chance to save: “DOA.”

    One of our first hurdles, then, was a problem of statistics. (Every problem is a problem of statistics.) To make the cloud of cubesats that would come to be called ASTERIA, we had to figure out how many satellites we would need to give us a reasonable chance of finding another Earth-size planet. Thousands of bright, sun-like stars were worth monitoring, but we wouldn’t be able to build and manage thousands of satellites. We also knew that given the ephemeral nature of transits, the odds of an Earth-size planet transiting a sun-like star were only about 1 in 200. Some of our satellites would also no doubt fail or be lost. If we sent up only a few, we would have to be either very strategic or very lucky to find what we were looking for. There was some optimal number of satellites that, combined with a smart list of target stars, would keep our budget reasonable but still give us a good chance of success.

    I was lucky to have a great group of graduate students and postdocs who I leaned on when my husband, Mike, got sick. I set one to work on ASTERIA’s optics, another on precision pointing, a third on communications. With their help, I’d made progress toward a prototype for my tiny satellites, inventing and testing precision-pointing hardware and software, and perfecting the design of the onboard telescope and its protective baffle. I worked hard to clear the rest of the path for ASTERIA to become real. After we’d laid the groundwork in the design-and-build class, my students and I were joined in our efforts by Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, where researchers work on things like missile guidance systems and submarine navigation. They also do a lot of work on space hardware. We had meetings every week, trying to solve the problems of small telescopes. We could build small enough components, and we could deploy the satellite and tell it what to do, but we still couldn’t figure out how to keep it as stable as we needed it to be. While we tried to solve that issue, I used my ongoing research on biosignature gases to determine what types of exoplanets deserved our focus. I thought we might be able to explore a hundred star systems or so in my lifetime; they had to be the right ones.

    A test in the desert

    Night fell, desert-hard and blacker than black as we huddled together on a big patch of concrete at an old missile site in the middle of New Mexico to test out a new component for ASTERIA. I was more and more certain of its value. It wasn’t Hubble or Spitzer or Kepler, and it might never be something so magnificent.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope.

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared telescope no longer in service. Launched in 2003 and retired on 30 January 2020. Credit: NASA.


    But not every painting should or could be Starry Night. There is room in the universe for smaller work, a different kind of art. Kepler might find thousands of new worlds, but it wouldn’t reveal enough of any single one of them for us to know whether it was somebody’s home. It was sweeping its eye across star fields that were too far away for astronomers to make anything more than assumptions about places like Kepler-22b.

    Kepler-22b. Credit: NASA Exoplanets https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/exoplanet-catalog/1599/kepler-22b/

    But if I could just make ASTERIA work, and then find a way to send up a fleet of satellites, it would combine the best outcomes of NASA’s Kepler space telescope, capable of finding smaller planets around sun-like stars, and the nascent TESS, with its more proximate search and sensitivity to red dwarf stars.

    Engineers test ASTERIA before its 2017 launch. Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH.

    My team built a prototype for a possible camera, one that was promisingly stable and could operate at a warmer temperature than the detectors used in most satellites. (Most have to be cooled, which taxes the machine.) I just wasn’t sure that it would see what we needed it to see. I had a particularly bright and enthusiastic grad student at the time, named Mary Knapp; she had been an undergraduate in the first design-and-build class I taught. She encouraged us to test the camera outside, using it to look at real stars. Mary proposed the deserts of New Mexico as our proving ground. That April, there would be a new moon, casting the already clear desert sky an even pitcher black. That new moon also coincided with school break for my sons, Max and Alex, which meant that I could take them along. As much as I wanted to see the stars, I wanted to see them, too.

    I had asked a local club of amateur astronomers where the best place to test our camera might be. That night they invited us to their star-viewing party, a celebration of the new moon. We arrived at dusk at the old missile site. I looked up at the stars and felt my childlike wonder return. I think the boys felt it too.

    We set up the camera. We would have to wait until we were back at MIT to analyze our data, but our new type of detector, one not yet used for astronomy, seemed to do the trick. We knew at least that our experiment wasn’t a total failure.

    A long-awaited launch

    In August 2017, after years of work and hope and effort, SpaceX prepared to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into space. The rocket didn’t have a crew, but ASTERIA was on board.

    It had been a difficult journey. The camera had made its way from my imagination to our design-and-build class, through drawings and prototypes and an old missile site in New Mexico. Then we’d run out of money at MIT, and Draper Laboratory had liked the technology better for other things. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which had always been interested in the possibilities of cubesats and ASTERIA in particular, picked up where MIT and Draper left off. Three MIT graduates there would play leading roles on the project; they took their work seriously, having seen firsthand how much it mattered. Their passion and expertise made sure that ASTERIA would become everything it could be, that it was built right and lovingly placed, at last, into the hold of a rocket, groaning on the launchpad on a beautiful late-summer day. The rocket would slice into the sky and rendezvous with the International Space Station. The astronauts there would set our little satellite free later in the fall. From a whisper in my dreams to space: I couldn’t believe that we were nearing the end of such a long reckoning.

    I had planned on going to the ASTERIA launch, but it was delayed just long enough for travel and child-care plans to fall through. On the day of the launch, I took the train into Cambridge instead, walked to the Green Building, and took the elevator to my floor. I walked past the travel posters for distant worlds into my office, shut the door, and called up the online video stream. The launch was a big deal; all over the world, eyes were trained on that rocket, still waiting on the pad.

    Every now and then I looked up from the cloudless Florida footage on my screen and out my windows, at my crystalline view of downtown Boston. There were clear skies everywhere I looked. I spent maybe 30 minutes in the quiet, writing thank-you emails to other members of the ASTERIA team. At the last second I decided not to send them. I know that superstition is unscientific. I understand that it doesn’t matter to the universe if a baseball player is wearing his lucky underwear—whether he gets a hit is mostly up to the pitcher and to him. But rockets are delicate, ill-tempered machines. Before the Russians launch rockets from the steppes of Kazakhstan into orbit, they summon an Orthodox priest to throw holy water at the boosters, his beard and cloak and the holy water carried sideways by the wind. I wasn’t going that far, but I wasn’t going to send a couple of emails until we were safely weightless. I was surprised by how nervous I was, watching the countdown clock tick down to launch.

    The engines ignited with a great big ball of pure fire. The launch tower fell away, and the rocket eased its way off the pad, gained speed, and pushed its shining shoulders toward its future orbit. The onboard cameras recorded its arching flight as the sky around it went from blue to purple to black. The rocket had broken through into space. The boosters were jettisoned, and the remainder of the rocket continued its climb into the deepest possible night, the Earth blue and alight behind it, an impossible blackness ahead. It would take a little while for it to catch up with the space station, which was racing its own way through orbit at 17,000 miles an hour, about five miles every second. But the rocket, and our satellite, were well on their way.

    Everything brave has to start somewhere, I thought.

    Do I believe in other life in the universe?

    Yes, I believe.

    The better question: What does our search for it say about us? It says we’re curious. It says we’re hopeful. It says we’re capable of wonder and of wonderful things.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The mission of MIT Technology Review is to equip its audiences with the intelligence to understand a world shaped by technology.

  • richardmitnick 8:32 am on December 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Origami antenna springs up for small satellites", A novel helical antenna that sprang from a container the size of a tuna can is now operational in orbit., , Cubesats, ,   

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU): “Origami antenna springs up for small satellites” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU)


    A novel helical antenna that sprang from a container the size of a tuna can is now operational in orbit. Developed by Oxford Space Systems in partnership with ESA, this origami-inspired antenna is equal in length to the shoebox-sized satellite hosting it, part of a growing constellation of nanosatellites providing Internet of Things services around the globe. The latest operational satellite from UK company Lacuna Space, was launched on 28 September into low Earth orbit. After launch, it underwent a series of in-orbit tests to establish it as part of Lacuna’s Internet of Things network. Credit: Oxford Space Systems.

    CubeSat with helical antenna

    As a 3-unit ‘CubeSat’ built up from standardised 10-cm boxes, the satellite is smaller and cheaper than traditional satellites, but can still pick up signals from battery powered ground-based sensors, small enough to hold in the palm of a hand. The mission is targeting Internet of Things applications such as agricultural and environmental monitoring as well as equipment and freight tracking – aided by its high-performance helical antenna.

    This new antenna took shape through an ESA R&D project, supported by the UK Space Agency through ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP), preparing promising technologies for space and the open market.

    “The Internet of Things is going to be one of the catalysts for the green revolution we all want to see – helping us monitor everything from air and water quality, to assessing pollution levels around factories, rivers and cities,” remarks UK Space Agency Chief Executive Graham Turnock. “These green technologies are being made possible by cutting edge inventions by UK space companies, like this new Oxford Systems antenna.”

    “Until this project, no European-made antenna of this kind was commercially available,” explains project technical officer Benedetta Fiorelli of ESA’s Antennae & Sub-mm Waves section.

    “Having identified this gap in the market we proposed addressing it to various funding schemes, and it was GSTP that gave us the chance to take the idea forward. The result, little more than a year after the project started, is a tangible product already operating in space.”

    CubeSats are growing in popularity because they draw maximum benefit from the latest miniaturised commercial-off-the-shelf components, to do more with less. But antennas are one satellite subsystem that cannot easily be shrunk down in size.

    Vibration testing of helical antenna

    “We hit hard physical laws that link the size of the antenna’s radiating element with the frequency being used,” adds Benedetta. “So it becomes a challenge to accommodate the antenna aboard a small platform and still do useful work. For instance many CubeSats use simple thin wires antennas deploying from satellite bodies.

    “But their performance is not optimal for Internet of Things type applications. Helical antennas are an inherently flexible design with many more parameters that can be tuned precisely as required – the antenna radius, number of spirals, pitch angle and so on.”

    Founded in 2013 and based at ESA’s Harwell space campus, Oxford Space Systems has its focus on small, light satellite booms and antennas, to be folded away tightly before launch then spring to full size in orbit, origami-like.

    “When we started working on deployable helical antennas we looked at which companies might be interested in that, and Oxford Space Systems was high on the list,” says Benedetta. “We engaged on the GSTP side while the company gained the support of their national ESA delegation, allowing the project to happen.

    “It’s a good example of the role ESA should play: we identify a technology gap while industry spots a market opportunity, then we support industry in responding to it. The bulk of the work was done by Oxford Space Systems, including physical properties, radio frequency and deployment testing – slowed down somewhat by this year’s COVID-19 restrictions.”

    19/11/2018. What is the Internet of Things?
    The Internet of Things describes a network of devices connecting and sharing information through 5G. ESA is supporting the development of the unified space-and-ground network your Internet of Things will need, by using satellites to extend the reach, security and reliability of terrestrial 5G networks. Credit:ESA.

    Midway through the project, the company found a customer for their product, in the shape of Lacuna Space, a Harwell neighbour. Since then a second antenna has also flown, aboard another Lacuna CubeSat launched from India earlier this month.

    “Even if it was in our plan since the beginning, I was surprised when they told me,” says Benadetta. “Activity sped up significantly during summer due to this flight opportunity,. In space terms that’s a fast turnaround to go from starting a project to a product working in space, so all involved are proud of it.”

    Sean Sutcliffe, CEO of Oxford Space Systems, comments: “This represents a key milestone for OSS as it continues to execute the strategy to be the leading global deployable antenna company for space. Not only is this our first successful deployment of an antenna, but our second successful hardware deployment this year and our fourth in total. We continue to develop and deliver our range of antenna products which give leading performance capabilities with low launch mass and small stowage volumes.”

    The satellite platform and early operations have been supplied by nanosatellite integrator NanoAvionics, with the payload developed and tested by Lacuna Space.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA) (EU), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

  • richardmitnick 1:47 pm on November 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mini-satellite maker" Kerri Cahoy, Aeronautical Engineering, , Cubesats,   

    From MIT News: “Mini-satellite maker” Kerri Cahoy 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    November 17, 2020
    Jennifer Chu

    With her students, aerospace engineer Kerri Cahoy is developing small, affordable “CubeSats” to monitor weather and search for exoplanets.

    MIT aerospace engineer Kerri Cahoy designs mini satellites for weather monitoring and space exploration. Credit: M. Scott Brauer.

    “I like talking with my students the best,” Cahoy says. “It’s fun to remind them about how awesome they are, to encourage them in being creative and taking risks, seeing what they come up with, and occasionally having to talk some sense into them. But really, it’s a mutual discovery. That’s the best part of the job.” Credit: M. Scott Brauer.

    In early February, Kerri Cahoy packed up her family and caravanned with students from her lab, driving eight hours south of Boston to Wallops Island, Virginia. There, the group watched a backpack-sized spacecraft launch into space aboard an Antares rocket.

    Inside the small probe, named DeMi, was a deformable mirror payload that Cahoy and her students designed, along with a miniature telescope and laser test source. DeMi’s mirror corrects the positioning of either the test laser or a star seen by the telescope. On future missions, these mirrors could be used to produce sharper images of distant stars and exoplanets. Showing the mirror can operate successfully in space is also proof that “nanosatellites” like DeMi can serve as nimble, affordable technology stepping-stones in the search for Earth-like planets beyond our solar system.

    Just a few weeks later, MIT began scaling back its campus operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the challenges of teaching her students remotely while caring for young children at home, Cahoy and her team had to find a way to safely operate a ground station at MIT to communicate with DeMi in space.

    She and her students managed to remotely run a ground station on the roof of Building 37, and in July, after a nailbiting week of radio silence, the receiver finally picked up the satellite’s signals.

    “It had just gone over MIT, almost to the edge of the horizon, and we thought it was another failed pass,” Cahoy says. “But then we saw there were data packets received, and we all got excited.”

    Over the next year, she and her team will analyze DeMi’s data to see how well its mirror focuses the telescope’s images. Cahoy, who heads up the MIT Space Telecommunications, Astronomy, and Radiation (STAR) Lab, is also developing a small fleet of other technology demonstration nanosatellites, with the goal of reducing the cost and risk of space exploration, improving communications, and weather monitoring.

    She was awarded tenure in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) in 2019, and has a joint appointment in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

    Positive environments

    Cahoy grew up in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut, where her father was a factory repairman, and her mother stayed at home taking care of Cahoy and her younger siblings, before later returning to teaching.

    “Things were tight at times, but they gave their kids everything,” says Cahoy, who remembers being her dad’s “right-hand man,” eager to help with his many hands-on electrical and mechanical home projects.

    In middle school, a teacher took her aside after class one day to ask whether she had considered applying to a local, more academically challenging private school.

    “She drove me to the admissions office to pick up an application, and then drove to my house, sat in the kitchen with me until my parents came home, and gave them a piece of her mind as to why I should apply and go,” Cahoy says.

    Her parents were supportive, and after securing financial aid Cahoy enrolled at the new school, where she further developed her interests in the sciences. She then headed to Cornell University, where she majored in electrical engineering — a choice that was inspired by her father, who was a licensed electrician, though he did not have a college degree himself.

    Walking through the engineering department one day at college, Cahoy spotted an advertisement for undergraduates to work on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission, which aimed to land two rovers on Mars. The mission was led by Cornell professor Steve Squyres, who had boundless enthusiasm for the work and for the people in his group.

    “It was a very positive environment, where he genuinely cared about the work and stayed upbeat, and just tried to get things done,” Cahoy recalls. “People who are in aerospace I think are able to stay optimistic, even when things don’t work or even fail miserably.”

    The rovers were a success beyond expectation, landing on Mars in 2004, where they continued exploring the surface, years after their planned 90-day missions. For Cahoy, the experience of working on the project catalyzed a lifelong interest in space exploration and positive collaboration.

    Getting rolling

    In 2000, she headed west to Stanford University, where she earned a PhD in electrical engineering, studying ways in which satellite radio signals could be used to characterize weather on other planets, like Mars.

    Around that time, Professor Robert Twiggs of Stanford and Professor Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University first proposed the idea of CubeSats — shoebox-sized satellites that were a fraction of cost of conventional satellites.

    The CubeSat was then used mostly as a hands-on design-and-build project for students. It was another 10 years before engineers considered CubeSats as useful operational spacecraft. “The whole idea took time to get rolling,” says Cahoy, who kept CubeSats in mind as she graduated, and began a two-year postdoc at NASA Ames Research Center, where she helped design instrumentation for another exciting, emerging field: the search for exoplanets.

    In 2010, Cahoy moved back east to be closer to her mother, who was terminally ill. Her husband, an MD/PhD student, had applied to residencies in Boston and Maryland. As they waited to hear where he would land, Cahoy heard from Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president of research, who at the time was heading up NASA’s GRAIL mission to send twin spacecraft to the moon to map its gravity field. Zuber offered Cahoy a postdoc position, which she could take on either at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, or at MIT.

    Cahoy initially chose the former, as her husband accepted a residency in Maryland. But months earlier, she had also applied for a faculty position in MIT’s AeroAstro department. “We were driving across the country to Baltimore when I got the call with the offer from MIT,” Cahoy recalls.

    After a whirwind of two-body problem-solving, Cahoy accepted the position, and started as an assistant professor at MIT in July 2011. When GRAIL launched later that September, she was able to attend, with her then-7-month-old son.

    “I was in Kennedy Space Center, nursing my baby in one of the back kitchens,” Cahoy says. “I have a picture of him in a blue baby Björn on my chest, out cold during the actual launch.”

    Mutual discovery

    At MIT, Cahoy looked for ways to collaborate with students on hands-on engineering projects. She teamed up with colleagues at AeroAstro and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, who were teaching students to design CubeSats with weather sensors — an enhancement that pushed the CubeSat beyond an educational exercise to something that could potentially be used as a practical spacecraft.

    “That’s where things really started to come together,” says Cahoy, who saw an opportunity to advance space exploration with more nimble, affordable nanosatellites. “It was going to be another 30 years before we would see big, next-generation telescopes. This was something we could do faster, hands-on, and with students.”

    Cahoy has since worked on improving the performance and reliability of nanosatellites, and tailoring them for specific missions. She has developed spacecraft to improve data downlink and communication, as well as probes like DeMi, that improve images of distant stars and exoplanets. She is also designing constellations of nanosatellites that work together to track weather patterns on Earth.

    Throughout her career, Cahoy has been inspired and sustained by the creativity and enthusiasm of her students.

    “I like talking with my students the best,” she says. “It’s fun to remind them about how awesome they are, to encourage them in being creative and taking risks, seeing what they come up with, and occasionally having to talk some sense into them. But really, it’s a mutual discovery. That’s the best part of the job.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 12:04 pm on November 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Sky is Not the Limit", , Cubesats, Measuring cosmic radiation in space., , TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite, , Tel Aviv University (IL) Builds and Launches a Nanosatellite into Space.   

    From Tel Aviv University (IL): “The Sky is Not the Limit” 

    Tel Aviv University

    From Tel Aviv University (IL)

    02 November 2020

    Tel Aviv University (IL) Builds and Launches a Nanosatellite into Space.

    Last inspections in the clean room. TAU (IL) SAT1

    The TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite was devised, developed, assembled, and tested at the new Nanosatellite Center, an interdisciplinary endeavor of the Faculties of Engineering and Exact Sciences and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. TAU-SAT1 is currently undergoing pre-flight testing at the Japanese space agency JAXA. From Japan, the satellite will be sent to the United States, where it will “hitch a ride” on a NASA and Northrop Grumman resupply spacecraft destined for the International Space Station in the first quarter of 2021. Once at the station, a robotic arm will release TAU-SAT1 into a low-earth orbit (LEO) around the Earth, approximately 400km above the Earth.

    Small satellite – a big step

    “This is a nanosatellite, or miniature satellite, of the ‘CubeSat’ variety,” explains Dr. Ofer Amrani, head of Tel Aviv University’s miniature satellite lab. “The satellite’s dimensions are 10 by 10 by 30 cm, the size of a shoebox, and it weighs less than 2.5 kg. TAU-SAT1 is the first nanosatellite designed, built and tested independently in academia in Israel.”

    TAU-SAT1 is a research satellite, and will conduct several experiments while in orbit. Among other things, Tel Aviv University’s satellite will measure cosmic radiation in space.

    “We know that that there are high-energy particles moving through space that originate from cosmic radiation,” says Dr. Meir Ariel, director of the university’s Nanosatellite Center. “Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation, and to measure the flux of these particles and their products. It should be understood that space is a hostile environment, not only for humans but also for electronic systems. When these particles hit astronauts or electronic equipment in space, they can cause significant damage. The scientific information collected by our satellite will make it possible to design means of protection for astronauts and space systems. To this end, we incorporated a number of experiments into the satellite, which were developed by the Space Environment Department at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.”

    Satellite station on the roof of the faculty building

    A challenge that presented itself was how to extract the data collected by the TAU-SAT1 satellite. At an altitude of 400 km above sea level, the nanosatellite will orbit the earth at a dizzying speed of 27,600 km per hour, or 7.6 km per second. At this speed, the satellite will complete an orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes. “In order to collect data, we built a satellite station on the roof of the engineering building,” says Dr. Amrani. “Our station, which also serves as an amateur radio station, includes a number of antennas and an automated control system. When TAU-SAT1 passes ‘over’ the State of Israel, that is, within a few thousand kilometer radius from the ground station’s receiving range, the antennas will track the satellite’s orbit and a process of data transmission will occur between the satellite and the station. Such transmissions will take place about four times a day, with each one lasting less than 10 minutes. In addition to its scientific mission, the satellite will also serve as a space relay station for amateur radio communities around the world. In total, the satellite is expected to be active for several months. Because it has no engine, its trajectory will fade over time as the result of atmospheric drag – it will burn up in the atmosphere and come back to us as stardust.”

    And this is just the beginning

    But launching the TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite is only Tel Aviv University’s first step on its way to joining the “new space” revolution. The idea behind the new space revolution is to open space up to civilians as well. Our satellite was built and tested with the help of a team of students and researchers. Moreover, we built the infrastructure on our own – from the cleanrooms, to the various testing facilities such as the thermal vacuum chamber, to the receiving and transmission station we placed on the roof. Now that the infrastructure is ready, we can begin to develop TAU-SAT2. The idea is that any researcher and any student, from any faculty at Tel Aviv University, or outside of it, will be able to plan and launch experiments into space in the future – even without being an expert in the field.

    In the last few years Tel Aviv University has been working on establishing a Nanosatellite Center to build small “shoebox” size satellites for launch into space. “We are seeing a revolution in the field of civilian space”, explains Prof. Colin Price, one of the academic heads of the new center. “We call this new space as opposed to the old space where only giant companies with huge budgets and large teams of engineers could build satellites. As a result of miniaturization and modulation of many technologies, today universities are building small satellites that can be developed and launched in less than 2 years, and at a fraction of the budget in the old space”, Price continues. “We have just completed the building of Tel Aviv University’s first nano-satellite, and it is ready for launch.”

    It will have been only two years from the moment that we began all of the above-mentioned activities until the satellite is launched – this is an achievement that would not have been possible without the involvement of many people: the university administration, who supported the project and the setting up of the infrastructure on campus, Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professors Sivan Toledoand Haim Suchowski from the Faculty of Exact Sciences, and, most importantly, the project team that dealt with R&D around the clock: Elad Sagi, Dolev Bashi, Tomer Nahum, Idan Finkelstein, Dr. Diana Laufer, Eitan Shlisel, Eran Levin, David Greenberg, Sharon Mishal, and Orly Blumberg.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Tel Aviv University (TAU) (Hebrew: אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל-אָבִיב‎, Universitat Tel Aviv) is a public research university in Tel Aviv, Israel. With over 30,000 students, it is the largest university in the country. Located in northwest Tel Aviv, the university is the center of teaching and research of the city, comprising 9 faculties, 17 teaching hospitals, 18 performing arts centers, 27 schools, 106 departments, 340 research centers, and 400 laboratories.

    Besides being the largest university in Israel, Tel Aviv University is also the largest Jewish university in the world. It originated in 1956 when three education units merged to form the university. The original 170-acre campus was expanded and now makes up 220 acres (89 hectares) in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv neighborhood. It regularly ranks among the top academic institutions in the world by the THE World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings, and the Shanghai Ranking.

    TAU’s origins date back to 1956, when three research institutes: the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics (established in 1935), the Institute of Natural Sciences (established in 1931), and the Institute of Jewish Studies – joined together to form Tel Aviv University. Initially operated by the Tel Aviv municipality, the university was granted autonomy in 1963, and George S. Wise was its first President, from that year until 1971. The Ramat Aviv campus, covering an area of 170-acre (0.69 km2), was established that same year. Its succeeding Presidents have been Yuval Ne’eman from 1971 to 1977, Haim Ben-Shahar from 1977 to 1983, Moshe Many from 1983 to 1991, Yoram Dinstein from 1991 to 1999, Itamar Rabinovich from 1999 to 2006, Zvi Galil from 2006 to 2009, Joseph Klafter from 2009 to 2019, and Ariel Porat since 2019.

    The university also maintains academic supervision over the Center for Technological Design in Holon, the New Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and the Afeka College of Engineering in Tel Aviv. The Wise Observatory is located in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.

  • richardmitnick 12:16 pm on August 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What is CAPSTONE?", , , , , Cubesats, ,   

    From NASA: “What is CAPSTONE?” 

    From NASA

    July 31, 2020

    Editor: Loura Hall


    A microwave oven–sized CubeSat weighing just 55 pounds will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit as part of NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE).

    NASA CAPSTONE cubesat spacecraft

    As a precursor for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting outpost that is part of NASA’s Artemis program, CAPSTONE will help reduce risk for future spacecraft by validating innovative navigation technologies and verifying the dynamics of this halo-shaped orbit.

    The orbit, formally known as a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO), is significantly elongated. Its location at a precise balance point in the gravities of Earth and the Moon, offers stability for long-term missions like Gateway and requires minimal energy to maintain. CAPSTONE’s orbit also establishes a location that is an ideal staging area for missions to the Moon and beyond. The orbit will bring CAPSTONE within 1,000 miles of one lunar pole on its near pass and 43,500 miles from the other pole at its peak every seven days, requiring less propulsion capability for spacecraft flying to and from the Moon’s surface than other circular orbits.

    After a three-month journey to its target destination, CAPSTONE will orbit this area around the Moon for at least six months to understand the characteristics of the orbit. Specifically, it will validate the power and propulsion requirements for maintaining its orbit as predicted by NASA’s models, reducing logistical uncertainties. It will also demonstrate the reliability of innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solutions as well as communication capabilities with Earth. The NRHO provides the advantage of an unobstructed view of Earth in addition to coverage of the lunar South Pole.

    To test these new navigation capabilities, CAPSTONE has a second dedicated payload flight computer and radio that will perform calculations to determine where the CubeSat is in its orbital path. Circling the Moon since 2009, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will serve as a reference point for CAPSTONE. The intention is for CAPSTONE to communicate directly with LRO and utilize the data obtained from this crosslink to measure how far it is from LRO and how fast the distance between the two changes, which in turn determines CAPSTONE’s position in space.

    This peer-to-peer information will be used to evaluate CAPSTONE’s autonomous navigation software. If successful, this software, referred to as the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System (CAPS), will allow future spacecraft to determine their location without having to rely exclusively on tracking from Earth. This capability could enable future technology demonstrations to perform on their own without support from the ground and allow ground-based antennas to prioritize valuable science data over more routine operational tracking.

    CAPSTONE is scheduled to launch in early 2021 aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It is expected to be the company’s first launch from Wallops with a NASA payload as well as the second spacecraft to launch to the Moon from Virginia (the first being NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission in 2013). With a highly ambitious schedule, CAPSTONE will demonstrate key commercial capabilities. NASA partners will test cutting-edge tools for mission planning and operations, paving the way and expanding opportunities for small and more affordable space and exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and other destinations throughout the solar system.

    Mission objectives:

    Verify the characteristics of a cis-lunar near rectilinear halo orbit for future spacecraft
    Demonstrate entering and maintaining this unique orbit that provides a highly-efficient path to the Moon’s surface and back
    Demonstrate spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation services that allow future spacecraft to determine their location relative to the Moon without relying exclusively on tracking from Earth
    Lay a foundation for commercial support of future lunar operations
    Gain experience with small dedicated launches of CubeSats beyond low-Earth orbit, to the Moon, and beyond


    Advanced Space of Boulder, Colorado, is developing and operating CAPSTONE.
    Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems of Irvine, California, is building the CubeSat platform.
    Stellar Exploration, Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California, is providing CAPSTONE’s propulsion system.
    Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, California, is providing launch services. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
    NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is managing the CAPSTONE project. The program is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
    NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems within the agency’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate is funding the launch and supporting mission operations.
    The development of CAPS is supported by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages LRO.

    Learn more:

    What are SmallSats and CubeSats?
    NASA Funds CubeSat Pathfinder Mission to Unique Lunar Orbit
    NASA Awards Contract to Launch CubeSat to Moon from Virginia
    NASA CubeSats Play Big Role in Lunar Exploration

    For news media:

    Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should get in touch with the SmallSats media contact at NASA’s Ames Research Center, listed here.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on July 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How small satellites are radically remaking space exploration", , , , , , Cubesats   

    From ars technica: “How small satellites are radically remaking space exploration” 

    From ars technica

    Eric Berger

    “There’s so much of the Solar System that we have not explored.”

    An Electron rocket launches in August 2019 from New Zealand.

    At the beginning of this year, a group of NASA scientists agonized over which robotic missions they should choose to explore our Solar System. Researchers from around the United States had submitted more than 20 intriguing ideas, such as whizzing by asteroids, diving into lava tubes on the Moon, and hovering in the Venusian atmosphere.

    Ultimately, NASA selected four of these Discovery-class missions for further study. In several months, the space agency will pick two of the four missions to fully fund, each with a cost cap of $450 million and a launch late within this decade. For the losing ideas, there may be more chances in future years—but until new opportunities arise, scientists can only plan, wait, and hope.

    This is more or less how NASA has done planetary science for decades. Scientists come up with all manner of great ideas to answer questions about our Solar System; then, NASA announces an opportunity, a feeding frenzy ensues for those limited slots. Ultimately, one or two missions get picked and fly. The whole process often takes a couple of decades from the initial idea to getting data back to Earth.

    This process has succeeded phenomenally. In the last half century, NASA has explored most of the large bodies in the Solar System, from the Sun and Mercury on one end to Pluto and the heliopause at the other. No other country or space agency has come close to NASA’s planetary science achievements. And yet, as the abundance of Discovery-class mission proposals tells us, there is so much more we can learn about the Solar System.

    Now, two emerging technologies may propel NASA and the rest of the world into an era of faster, low-cost exploration. Instead of spending a decade or longer planning and developing a mission, then spending hundreds of millions (to billions!) of dollars bringing it off, perhaps we can fly a mission within a couple of years for a few tens of millions of dollars. This would lead to more exploration and also democratize access to the Solar System.

    In recent years, a new generation of companies is developing new rockets for small satellites that cost roughly $10 million for a launch. Already, Rocket Lab has announced a lunar program for its small Electron rocket. And Virgin Orbit has teamed up with a group of Polish universities to launch up to three missions to Mars with its LauncherOne vehicle.

    At the same time, the various components of satellites, from propulsion to batteries to instruments, are being miniaturized. It’s not quite like a mobile phone, which today has more computing power than a machine that filled a room a few decades ago. But small satellites are following the same basic trend line.

    Moreover, the potential of tiny satellites is no longer theoretical. Two years ago, a pair of CubeSats built by NASA (and called MarCO-A and MarCO-B) launched along with the InSight mission. In space, the small satellites deployed their own solar arrays, stabilized themselves, pivoted toward the Sun, and then journeyed to Mars.

    “We are at a time when there are really interesting opportunities for people to do missions much more quickly,” said Elizabeth Frank, an Applied Planetary Scientist at First Mode, a Seattle-based technology company. “It doesn’t have to take decades. It creates more opportunity. This is a very exciting time in planetary science.”

    Small sats

    NASA had several goals with its MarCO spacecraft, said Andy Klesh, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who served as technical lead for the mission.

    JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube

    CubeSats had never flown beyond low-Earth orbit before. So during their six-month transit to Mars, the MarCOs proved small satellites could thrive in deep space, control their attitudes and, upon reaching their destination, use a high-gain antenna to stream data back home at 8 kilobits per second.

    But the briefcase-sized MarCO satellites were more than a mere technology demonstration. With the launch of its Mars InSight lander in 2018, NASA faced a communications blackout during the critical period when the spacecraft was due to enter the Martian atmosphere and touch down on the red planet.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    To close the communications gap, NASA built the two MarCO 6U CubeSats for $18.5 million and used them to relay data back from InSight during the landing process. Had InSight failed to land, the MarCOs would have served as black box data recorders, Klesh told Ars.

    The success of the MarCOs changed the perception of small satellites and planetary science. A few months after their mission ended, the European Space Agency announced that it would send two CubeSats on its “Hera” mission to a binary asteroid system.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft depiction

    European engineers specifically cited the success of the MarCOs in their decision to send along CubeSats on the asteroid mission.

    The concept of interplanetary small satellite missions also spurred interest in the emerging new space industry. “That mission got our attention at Virgin Orbit,” said Will Pomerantz, director of special projects at the California-based launch company. “We were inspired by it, and we wondered what else we might be able to do.”

    After the MarCO missions, Pomerantz said, the company began to receive phone calls from research groups about LauncherOne, Virgin’s small rocket that is dropped from a 747 aircraft before igniting its engine. How many kilograms could LauncherOne put into lunar orbit? Could the company add a highly energetic third stage? Ideas for missions to Venus, the asteroids, and Mars poured in.

    Polish scientists believe they can build a spacecraft with a mass of 50kg or less (each of the MarCO spacecraft weighed 13.5kg) that can take high-quality images of Mars and its moon, Phobos. Such a spacecraft might also be able to study the Martian atmosphere or even find reservoirs of liquid water beneath the surface of Mars. Access to low-cost launch was a key enabler of the idea.

    Absent this new mode of planetary exploration, Pomerantz noted, a country like Poland might only be able to participate as one of several secondary partners on a Mars mission. Now it can get full credit. “With even a modest mission like this, it could really put Poland on the map,” Pomerantz said.

    Engineers inspect one of the two MarCO CubeSats in 2016 at JPL.

    Engineer Joel Steinkraus stands with both of the MarCO spacecraft. The one on the left is folded up the way it will be stowed on its rocket; the one on the right has its solar panels fully deployed, along with its high-gain antenna on top. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Small rockets

    A few months before the MarCO satellites launched with the InSight lander on the large Atlas V rocket, the much smaller Electron rocket took flight for the first time. Developed and launched from New Zealand by Rocket Lab, Electron is the first of a new generation of commercial, small satellite rockets to reach orbit.

    The small booster has a payload capacity of about 200kg to low-Earth orbit. But since Electron’s debut, Rocket Lab has developed a Photon kick stage to provide additional performance.

    In an interview, Rocket Lab’s founder, Peter Beck, said the company believes it can deliver 25kg to Mars or Venus and up to 37kg to the Moon. Because the Photon stage provides many of the functions of a deep space vehicle, most of the mass can be used for sensors and scientific instruments.

    “We’re saying that for just $15 to $20 million you can go to the Moon,” he said. “I think this is a huge, disruptive program for the scientific community.”

    Of the destinations Electron can reach, Beck is most interested in Venus. “I think it’s the unsung hero of our Solar System,” he said. “We can learn a tremendous amount about our own Earth from Venus. Mars gets all the press, but Venus is where it’s really happening. That’s a mission that we really, really want to do.”

    There are other, somewhat larger rockets coming along, too. Firefly’s Alpha booster can put nearly 1 ton into low-Earth orbit, and Relativity Space is developing a Terran 1 rocket that can launch a little more than a ton. These vehicles probably could put CubeSats beyond the asteroid belt, toward Jupiter or beyond.

    Finally, the low-cost launch revolution spurred by SpaceX with larger rockets may also help. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket costs less than $60 million in reusable mode and could get larger spacecraft into deep space cheaply. Historically, NASA has paid triple this price, or more, for scientific launches.

    Accepting failure

    There will be some trade-offs, of course. One of the reasons NASA missions cost so much is that the agency takes extensive precautions to ensure that its vehicles will not fail in the unforgiving environment of space. And ultimately, most of NASA’s missions—so complex and large and capable—do succeed wonderfully.

    CubeSats will be riskier, with fewer redundancies. But that’s okay, says Pomerantz. As an example, he cited NASA’s Curiosity rover mission, launched in 2011 at a cost of $2.5 billion. Imagine sending 100 tiny robots into the Solar System for the price of one Curiosity, Pomerantz said. If just one quarter of the missions work, that’s 25 mini Curiosities.

    Frank agreed that NASA would have to learn to accept failure, taking chances on riskier technologies. Failure must be an option.

    NASA Mars Curiosity Rover

    What’s better than one Curiosity rover? How about 25 mini missions?

    “You want to fail for the right reasons, because you took technical chances and not because you messed up,” she said. “But I think you could create a new culture around failure, where you learn things and fix them and apply what you learn to new missions.”

    NASA seems open to this idea. Already, as it seeks to control costs and work with commercial partners for its new lunar science program, the space agency has said it will accept failure. The leader of NASA’s scientific programs, Thomas Zurbuchen, said he would tolerate some misses as NASA takes “shots on goal” in attempting to land scientific experiments on the Moon. “We do not expect every launch and landing to be successful,” he said last year.

    At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, too, planetary scientists and engineers are open-minded. John Baker, who leads “game-changing” technology development and missions at the lab, said no one wants to spend 20 years or longer going from mission concept to flying somewhere in the Solar System. “Now, people want to design and print their structure, add instruments and avionics, fuel it and launch it,” he said. “That’s the vision.”

    Spaceflight remains highly challenging, of course. Many technologies can be miniaturized, but propulsion and fuel remain difficult problems. However, a willingness to fail opens up a wealth of new possibilities. One of Baker’s favorite designs is a “Cupid’s Arrow” mission to Venus where a MarCO-like spacecraft is shot through Venus’s atmosphere. An on-board mass spectrometer would analyze a sample of the atmosphere. It’s the kind of mission that could launch as a secondary payload on a Moon mission and use a gravity assist to reach Venus.

    “There’s so much of the Solar System that we have not explored,” Baker said. “There are how many thousands of asteroids? And they’re completely different. Each one of them tells us a different story.”

    Democratizing space

    One of the exciting aspects of bringing down the cost of interplanetary missions is that it increases access for new players—smaller countries like Poland as well as universities around the world.

    “I think the best thing that can be done is to figure out how to lower the price and then make this technology publicly available to everyone,” Baker said. “As more and more countries get engaged in Solar System exploration, we’re just going to learn so much more.”

    Already, organizations such as the Milo Institute at Arizona State University have started to foster collaborations between universities, emerging space agencies, private philanthropy, and small space companies.

    Historically, there have been so few opportunities for planetary scientists to get involved in missions that it has been difficult for researchers to gain the necessary project management skills to lead large projects. With a larger number of smaller missions, Frank said she believes it will increase the diversity of the planetary science community.

    In turn, she said, this will ultimately help NASA and other large space agencies by increasing and developing the global pool of talent for carrying out the biggest and most challenging planetary science missions that still require billions of dollars and big rockets. Because, while some things can be done on the cheap, really ambitious planetary science missions like plumbing the depths of Europa’s oceans or orbiting Pluto will remain quite costly.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
%d bloggers like this: