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  • richardmitnick 2:43 pm on June 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA Gravitational Wave Mission Selected. Planet Hunting Mission Moves Forward, , ESA Proba Mission, ESA/Plato, ,   

    From ESA: “Gravitational Wave Mission Selected. Planet Hunting Mission Moves Forward” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1
    Merging black holes. No image credit

    20 June 2017
    ESA Media Relations Office

    Tel: + 33 1 53 69 72 99

    Email: media@esa.int

    The LISA trio of satellites to detect gravitational waves from space has been selected as the third large-class mission in ESA’s Science programme, while the Plato exoplanet hunter moves into development.

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    These important milestones were decided upon during a meeting of ESA’s Science Programme Committee today, and ensure the continuation of ESA’s Cosmic Vision plan through the next two decades.

    The ‘gravitational universe’ was identified in 2013 as the theme for the third large-class mission, L3, searching for ripples in the fabric of spacetime created by celestial objects with very strong gravity, such as pairs of merging black holes.

    Predicted a century ago by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, gravitational waves remained elusive until the first direct detection by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in September 2015. That signal was triggered by the merging of two black holes some 1.3 billion light-years away. Since then, two more events have been detected.

    Furthermore, ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission has also now demonstrated key technologies needed to detect gravitational waves from space.

    ESA/LISA Pathfinder

    This includes free-falling test masses linked by laser and isolated from all external and internal forces except gravity, a requirement to measure any possible distortion caused by a passing gravitational wave.

    The distortion affects the fabric of spacetime on the minuscule scale of a few millionths of a millionth of a metre over a distance of a million kilometres and so must be measured extremely precisely.

    LISA Pathfinder will conclude its pioneering mission at the end of this month, and LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, also an international collaboration, will now enter a more detailed phase of study. Three craft, separated by 2.5 million km in a triangular formation, will follow Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

    Following selection, the mission design and costing can be completed. Then it will be proposed for ‘adoption’ before construction begins. Launch is expected in 2034.

    Planet-hunter adopted

    In the same meeting Plato – Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars – has now been adopted in the Science Programme, following its selection in February 2014.

    ESA/PLATO

    This means it can move from a blueprint into construction. In the coming months industry will be asked to make bids to supply the spacecraft platform.

    Following its launch in 2026, Plato will monitor thousands of bright stars over a large area of the sky, searching for tiny, regular dips in brightness as their planets cross in front of them, temporarily blocking out a small fraction of the starlight.

    The mission will have a particular emphasis on discovering and characterising Earth-sized planets and super-Earths orbiting Sun-like stars in the habitable zone – the distance from the star where liquid surface water could exist.

    It will also investigate seismic activity in some of the host stars, and determine their masses, sizes and ages, helping to understand the entire exoplanet system.

    Plato will operate from the ‘L2’ virtual point in space 1.5 million km beyond Earth as seen from the Sun.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    Missions of opportunity

    3
    Proba-3. No image credit.

    The Science Programme Committee also agreed on participation in ESA’s Proba-3 technology mission, a pair of satellites that will fly in formation just 150 m apart, with one acting as a blocking disc in front of the Sun, allowing the other to observe the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere in more detail than ever before.

    ESA will also participate in Japan’s X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM), designed to recover the science of the Hitomi satellite that was lost shortly after launch last year.

    JAXA/Hitomi telescope lost

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    LAXA/NASA XARM future satellite

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), 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.

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  • richardmitnick 10:45 am on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESA Proba Mission,   

    From ESA: “Proba-3” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    12 September 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    Proba-3 satellites form artificial eclipse

    By converging in orbit, a pair of small satellites will open a new view on the source of the largest structure in the Solar System: the Sun’s ghostly atmosphere, extending millions of kilometres out into space.

    The two satellites together are called Proba-3, set for launch in late 2019. Through precise formation flying, one will cast a shadow across the second to open up an unimpeded view of the inner area of the ‘corona’, which is a million times fainter than the blindingly brilliant solar disc.

    “When I first heard of the idea I said ‘Wow! That’s just what we need’,” said Andrei Zhukov of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, serving as Principal Investigator for Proba-3’s solar instrument.

    “The best way to observe the corona from the ground is during a solar eclipse, although we still have to cope with stray light – we cannot correct for the influence of Earth’s atmosphere.

    2
    Solar eclipses provide an excellent opportunity to observe the atmosphere of the solar corona which is normally hidden from view. The corona shows quite a simple pattern at solar minimum (left), becoming highly complex at solar maximum (right). Wendy Carlos & Fred Espenak

    “The next best method is by using ‘coronagraphs’ to create an articifical eclipse, either on ground telescopes or inside Sun-watching satellites such as SOHO and Stereo.

    ESA/SOHO
    ESA/SOHO

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft
    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    “The problem is that stray light bending around the edge of the occulting disc limits our view of the most important inner portion of the corona. SOHO’s coronagraph, for instance, can observe no closer in than 1.1 Sun-diameters. Others can see closer, but with strong stray light making detailed observation impossible.

    “With Proba-3 we aim to see extremely close to the solar surface in visible light, by flying the occulter and coronagraph on separate satellites some 150 m apart.

    “This should give us a ringside seat on the most interesting segment of the corona, where a lot of interesting physics is going on, where the solar wind is born and ‘coronal mass ejections’ originate – gigantic solar eruptions with the potential to affect our terrestrial infrastructure.”

    While the Sun’s surface is a comparatively cool 6000ºC, the corona averages a sizzling million degrees. The mystery is how energy travels from the cool Sun to the hot corona, in apparent defiance of the laws of thermodynamics.

    “By mapping the fine structure of the inner corona for a prolonged time – we are targeting around six hours – our hope is that we gain insight into the kind of energy flows that are taking place,” notes Dr Zhukov.

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    Proba-3’s pair of satellites will be in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth, performing formation flying manoeuvres as well as scientific studies of the solar corona. The occulter satellite will have solar panels on its Sun-facing side. ESA – P. Carril, 2013

    “Our standard observing mode will be once per minute, but we could speed that up to a few seconds within a selected field of view, for instance when tracing the rapid evolution of a mass ejection.

    “The ultimate goal is to be able to solve the physics of space weather, in order to forecast coronal mass ejections, which are known to have dramatic effects on terrestrial electricity grids and other infrastructure.”

    Proba-3 is first and foremost a technology demonstration, exploring the potential of precise formation flying in orbit, but achieving meaningful scientific results will also help to prove its approach works.


    Proba-3: Dancing with the stars

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), 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.

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  • richardmitnick 7:45 am on May 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Proba Mission   

    From ESA: “Models of Proba-3 designs” 

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    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    04/05/2016
    G. Porter

    The design evolution of ESA’s Proba-3 double satellite is shown by this trio of 3D-printed models, each pair – from left to right – produced after successive development milestones.

    “These paired models, 3D printed in plastic, were not made for show,” explains Agnes Mestreau-Garreau, ESA’s project manager.

    “Instead, they’re used almost daily. Because Proba-3 will be the first precision formation-flying mission – with the two satellites flying in tandem– these models help the team to visualise their orientation, as well as to explain the mission easily to people. So the models have ended up somewhat battered as a result.

    “The first model set was printed after our System Requirements Review, followed by our Preliminary Design Review and now Mission Consolidation Milestone – with consequent changes in mission mass, volume and design details.“

    The latest member of ESA’s experimental Proba minisatellite family, Proba-3’s paired satellites will manoeuvre relative to each other with millimetre and fraction-of-a-degree precision, intended to serve as the virtual equivalent of a giant structure in space and so open up a whole new way of running space missions.

    As has become traditional with Proba missions, the success of Proba-3’s technology will be proven through acquiring high-quality scientific data. In this case, the smaller ‘occulter’ satellite will blot out the Sun’s fiery disc as viewed by the larger ‘coronagraph’ satellite, revealing mysterious regions of our parent star’s ghostly ‘corona’, or outer atmosphere.

    When in Sun-observing mode, the two satellites will maintain formation exactly 150 m apart, lined up with the Sun so the occulter casts a shadow across the face of the coronagraph, blocking out solar glare to come closer to the Sun’s fiery surface than ever before, other than during frustratingly brief terrestrial solar eclipses.

    The challenge is in keeping the satellites safely controlled and correctly positioned relative to each other. This will be accomplished using various new technologies, including bespoke formation-flying software, GPS information, intersatellite radio links, startrackers, and optical visual sensors and optical metrologies for close-up manoeuvring.

    Fifteen ESA Member States are participating in the Proba-3 consortium, with SENER in Spain as prime contractor for the satellite platforms and Centre Spatial de Liège in Belgium as prime contractor for the coronagraph.

    “This grouping includes several of the newer ESA Member States, including the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania,” adds Agnes.

    “It is a strength of this kind of small but ambitious mission that new entrants to the space sector can find important industrial roles to play on a more flexible basis than in some larger-scale programmes.”

    Proba-3’s next milestone will be the Payload Critical Design Review for its coronagraph, expected in the autumn followed by the System Critical Design Review for the mission. The two satellites will be stacked together for launch in 2019 before separating in orbit.

    See the full article here http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2016/05/Models_of_Proba-3_designs.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), 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.

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  • richardmitnick 8:34 am on March 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA Proba Mission,   

    From ESA: “Solar corona viewed by Proba-2” 

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    European Space Agency

    6/03/2015
    No Writer Credit

    1

    ESA Proba 2
    ESA/Proba 2

    This snapshot of our constantly changing Sun catches looping filaments and energetic eruptions on their outward journey from our star’s turbulent surface.

    The disc of our star is a rippling mass of bright, hot active areas, interspersed with dark, cool snaking filaments that wrap around the star. Surrounding the tumultuous solar surface is the chaotic corona, a rarified atmosphere of super-heated plasma that blankets the Sun and extends out into space for millions of kilometres.

    This coronal plasma reaches temperatures of several million degrees in some regions – significantly hotter than the surface of the Sun, which reaches comparatively paltry temperatures of around 6000ºC – and glows in ultraviolet and extreme-ultraviolet light owing to its extremely high temperature. By picking one particular wavelength, ESA’s Proba-2 SWAP (Sun Watcher with APS detector and Image Processing) camera is able to single out structures with temperatures of around a million degrees.

    As seen in this image, taken on 25 July 2014, the hot plasma forms large loops and fan-shaped structures, both of which are kept in check by the Sun’s intense magnetic field. While some of these loops stay close to the surface of the Sun, some can stretch far out into space, eventually being swept up into the solar wind – an outpouring of energetic particles that constantly streams out into the Solar System and flows past the planets, including Earth.

    Even loops that initially appear to be quite docile can become tightly wrapped and tangled over time, storing energy until they eventually snap and throw off intense flares and eruptions known as coronal mass ejections. These eruptions, made up of massive amounts of gas embedded in magnetic field lines, can be dangerous to satellites, interfere with communication equipment and damage vital infrastructure on Earth.

    Despite the Sun being the most important star in our sky, much is still unknown about its behaviour. Studying its corona in detail could help us to understand the internal workings of the Sun, the erratic motions of its outer layers, and the highly energetic bursts of material that it throws off into space.

    Two new ESA missions will soon contribute to this field of study: Solar Orbiter is designed to study the solar wind and region of space dominated by the Sun and also to closely observe the star’s polar regions, and the PROBA3 mission will study the Sun’s faint corona closer to the solar rim than has ever before been achieved.

    ESA Solar Orbiter
    ESA/Solar Orbiter

    ESA Proba 3
    ESA/ Proba 3

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), 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.

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  • richardmitnick 10:08 am on December 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA Proba Mission   

    From ESA: “Proba-3 Double Satellite Nearer to Space 

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    European Space Agency

    8 December 2014
    No Writer Credit

    A pair of satellites flying in close formation to cast an artificial eclipse is now being turned into space-ready reality by ESA’s industrial partners.

    The latest member of ESA’s Proba minisatellite family will begin its ambitious mission in about four years’ time. Two satellites will be launched together then separate to fly in tandem, going on to experiment with high-precision formation-flying techniques.

    As has become traditional with Proba missions, the success of Proba-3’s technology will be proven through acquiring high-quality scientific data. In this case, the ‘occulter’ satellite will blot out the Sun’s fiery disc as viewed by the ‘coronagraph’ satellite, revealing mysterious regions of our parent star’s ghostly ‘corona’, or outer atmosphere.

    The Sun is a million times brighter than its surrounding corona, so eclipsing it is essential for coronal studies.

    ESA Proba-3
    Proba-3

    “For these studies, the satellites will fly 150 m apart with millimetre and fraction-of-a-degree precision,” explains Agnes Mestreau-Garreau, ESA’s Proba-3 project manager.

    p3
    Proba-3 pair

    “The technical challenge will be keeping them safely controlled and correctly positioned relative to each other.

    “But success would deliver a whole new way of designing and flying space missions, with multiple rigidly controlled satellites able to form giant virtual instruments in space, far larger than anything that could be launched in one piece.”

    s
    Payload contract signing

    Flight data gathered from Proba-3 can then guide the programming of simulators, opening the way to designing and evaluating a wide range of formation-flying missions to do all the tasks of a virtual large single satellite.

    On the scientific side, the shadow cast from one Proba-3 satellite to the other will give a sustained view of close-up regions of the solar corona. Usually, these segments are visible only for brief moments during terrestrial solar eclipses.

    Effectively, the two satellites will form a single ‘giant coronagraph’ in space. Proba-3 offers to address various enigmas, such as the fact that the corona, at upwards of a million degrees in temperature, somehow remains much hotter than the Sun’s 6000°C surface.
    Mission contract signing

    2
    ESA Paris on 11 July hosted the contract signing for the Proba-3 mission, between Franco Ongaro, ESA’s Director of Technical and Quality Management, and Diego Rodriguez, Space Department Director of Spain’s Sener.

    On 27 November, the contract for Proba-3’s scientific payload was signed byFranco Ongaro and Thierry Chantreine, General Manager of Belgium’s Centre Spatial de Liège, at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), 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.

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