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  • richardmitnick 7:52 am on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA, ESA HERA spacecraft, SCITECH Europa   

    From ESA via SCITECH Europa: “Crash investigation” 

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    European Space Agency

    1

    SCITECH Europa

    21st February 2018
    Ian Carnelli
    Programme Manager
    General Studies Programme (GSP)
    European Space Agency (ESA)

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    ESA HERA

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    Hera will provide humanity’s first view of a binary asteroid system, proceeding to map the entire surface of ‘Didymoon’ down to a size resolution of a few meters and the tenth of the surface surrounding the DART impact to better than 10cm, through a series of daring flybys © ESA – ScienceOffice.org

    ESA’s Hera mission is designed to test deep space technology while exploring a distant asteroid and investigating a unique, man-made crater, testing a deflection method that may one day prove literally Earth-saving.

    If all goes to plan, October 2022 will mark a significant achievement in the life of our species: the first time that Homo sapiens shifts the orbit of a body in the Solar System in a measureable way. The target is an approximately 170-m diameter asteroid – about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza – which is in orbit around another, larger asteroid: the 780m diameter Didymos (Greek for ‘twin’) near-Earth asteroid.The method is a NASA spacecraft called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will autonomously fly itself into the smaller body at 6km/s, nine times faster than a bullet.

    NASA DART Double Imact Redirection Test vehicle

    The result of the collision with this refrigerator-sized DART spacecraft is expected to be an alteration in the tight 11.9-hour orbit of ‘Didymoon’ around its parent asteroid. This shift should be observable from Earth-based telescopes, because the Didymos binary pair will be on an unusually close approach to our planet at that point, coming just 11 million kilometres away at its nearest.

    Didymoon’s degree of orbital shift will give researchers essential insights into the internal structure of asteroids and the potential of deflecting them as a means of planetary defence. But monitoring this historic event from a distance will not be sufficient by itself if we are to learn all its lessons.

    By its very nature the Double Asteroid Redirection Test is a suicide mission, which has some unavoidable drawbacks. The last thing Earth will see in advance of the collision will be a close-up of Didymoon’s surface features – and then nothing. Potentially, DART might also carry a small ‘selfie-sat’ that it deploys beforehand in order to capture imagery of the moment of impact – but even so, past experience suggests nothing will be viewable directly at that point and only very limited data will be available on the surface properties of Didymoon.

    Deep impact

    On 4 July 2005, NASA’s spacecraft shot a 370kg copper impactor into comet Tempel 1.

    NASA Deep Impact spacecraft

    Shifting the orbit of this massive 7.6km × 4.9km body was never on the agenda; instead the aim was to expose the comet’s interior. However, in the impact’s aftermath millions of kilograms of dust and ice continued to outgas from the impact zone for days on end.

    Deep Impact’s follow-on flyby showed nothing; it took a new visit by a separate spacecraft, NASA’s Stardust, in 2011 to finally measure the fresh 150m diameter crater scarring the comet’s surface.

    NASA Stardust spacecraft

    Plus, the distance involved means that terrestrial observatories’ measurement of Didymoon’s altered orbit will be stuck with a 10% residual uncertainty. The only way to improve on this, and really hone our understanding of this grand-scale space experiment, and see how the Double Asteroid Redirection Test impact has affected the surface of Didymoon, is to venture much, much nearer.

    ESA’s Hera mission

    That is the task of ESA’s Hera mission, the optimised design of which benefits from multiple ESA studies of asteroid missions across the last two decades – most recently the proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which was planned in conjunction with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. Hera is a small-scale mission in planetary terms, a large desk-sized spacecraft weighing in at less than 800kg fully fuelled (compared, for instance, to the van-sized, three tonne Rosetta comet-chaser). But it is also a highly agile, ambitious one.

    Europe’s first deep-space CubeSat

    In addition to its primary planetary defence objectives, Hera will demonstrate the ability to operate at close proximity around a low-gravity asteroid with some on-board autonomy similar in scope to a self-driving car, going on to deploy Europe’s first deep-space CubeSat, and potentially also a micro-lander, to test out a new multi-point intersatellite link technology.

    Hera will also provide humanity’s first view of a binary asteroid system, proceeding to map the entire surface of Didymoon down to a size resolution of a few meters and the tenth of the surface surrounding the Double Asteroid Redirection Test impact to better than 10cm, through a series of daring flybys. How large a crater will Double Asteroid Redirection Test end up leaving? Will there be larger morphological effects, such as ground cracking, or stones and dust scattered widely compared to DART’s pre-impact images, implying post-collision quaking?

    Planetary defence

    Precise mapping of Didymoon’s volume will be combined with radio science experiments to assess how Didymoon’s gravity influences the spacecraft’s trajectory, to derive the asteroid’s density and constrain our models of its internal structure. Hera will also be a pioneer in the novel field of planetary defence: by pinpointing the shift in Didymoon’s orbit to a much greater precision than is achievable from Earth, the mission will give the fullest possible insight into the end result of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test collision – serving up hard data that might one day be used to safeguard Earth, demonstrating how to divert an incoming body before it becomes a threat.

    What is Hera’s Asteroid Framing Camera (AFC)?

    Hera’s baseline payload begins with an instrument called the Asteroid Framing Camera (AFC), to be used for guidance and navigation as well as scientific observation, which is an already-existing flight spare of a German contribution to NASA’s Dawn mission to the asteroid belt.

    NASA Dawn Spacescraft

    This camera has been distinguished by returning remarkable images of the largest single asteroid, Ceres, and its mysterious bright spots.

    Now, its sister camera is set to survey the smallest asteroid humankind has visited as well. The AFC is joined by a compact lidar (or ‘laser radar’) instrument to be used for measuring surface altimetry, plus one or more deployable six-unit CubeSat nanosatellites to carry a hyperspectral imager and a second instrument still to be finalised.

    At the time of writing, Hera still has another 40kg of payload capacity available, which could take the shape of a high-frequency radar for measurement of subsurface properties, a mini-impactor proposed by Japan (a twin of the version currently in flight on Japan’s Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission, see below) or a mini-lander, currently under study by Airbus and DLR, the German Aerospace Center (based on a version also in flight aboard Hayabusa-2).

    Space servicing vehicles

    ESA has a long tradition of technology-testing missions being used for ambitious science goals, exemplified since the turn of the century by the Proba series of minisatellites, variously tasked with gathering data for environmental and solar science. Hera follows the same philosophy, even though it will go one better than the Proba family by departing Earth orbit entirely.

    The single most significant technology Hera will demonstrate during its mission to the Didymos binary is intangible in nature, a software algorithm rather than physical hardware, but one seen as essential to a coming class of autonomous ‘space servicing vehicles’.

    Hera’s streamlined nature means it will perform its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) activities through an innovative data fusion strategy, combining inputs from multiple sensors to build up a detailed picture of its surroundings in space. That would mean the bringing together second-by-second of visual tracking of distinctive features on the asteroid surface with altimeter distances plus onboard inertial and star tracker measurements. Future servicing vehicles would need to perform comparable data fusion when it comes to rendezvous and docking with satellites intended to be refurbished, refuelled or potentially deorbited. Any mistake in this scenario would lead to catastrophic collision, and plentiful space debris.

    Failure is not an option

    In the case of Hera, failure will not be an option when it comes to key manoeuvres such as CubeSat (and possibly lander) deployment or close Didymoon flybys, down to a matter of metres above the surface. But what if one or more of the sensor inputs is in error or an actuator delivers the wrong correction to the spacecraft trajectory or attitude? That is where Hera’s ‘Fault Detection, Isolation and Recovery’ (FDIR) technique comes in.

    FDIR is an approach widely applied in space engineering, ranging from protecting individual electronic components to safeguarding the entire spacecraft: for example, modern space computer chips seeking to make up for memory ‘bit flips’ due to space radiation can perform calculations on a multiple, parallel basis, sometimes voting to decide the most likely truthful result. In a similar fashion, Hera’s data-fusion-based GNC FDIR is designed to identify errors in real time through ongoing sensor cross-checks, isolating them and then making up for them by triggering sensor or actuator reconfigurations or even, in case of extreme emergency, triggering an autonomous collision avoidance manoeuvre.

    The combination of GNC and FDIR using vision-based sensing was achieved by ESA for the first time in the relatively straightforward but safety-critical case of semi-autonomous docking by the Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). Expanding the technique to more challenging rendezvouses in space and increasing its degree of autonomy has been worked on for years in the context of this mission, most recently by GMV in Spain. Success will mark a giant leap forward for mission-critical autonomy.

    What new discoveries will asteroid missions make?

    Plenty of new discoveries can be expected from Hera. Each fresh close encounter with an asteroid has led to a fresh transformation in our understanding. A decade ago Europe took its first asteroid close-up, as ESA’s Rosetta probe performed a flyby of 2867 Šteins, a Gibraltar-sized diamond-shaped asteroid in the main Asteroid Belt. Dozens of craters were seen, including a gaping hole at the south pole of Steins – a large impact crater about 2km wide and nearly 300 m deep.

    ESA Rosetta spacecraft

    A chain of several craters ran towards the north pole from this crater. The low density of Šteins suggests it is a ‘rubble pile’ asteroid, broken apart by previous impacts and held together weakly by its gravity – and probably fated to one day break apart. A second Main Belt asteroid flyby took place in 2010, as Rosetta passed the mammoth 100km 21 Lutetia. This higher-density asteroid was similarly studded with craters, confirming that collision is the main shaper of these primitive bodies.

    Europe plays a key role in a new asteroid encounter scheduled for this July, when Japan’s Hayabusa 2 reaches near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu.

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2

    It will put down a micro-lander called the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot), developed by the German Aerospace Center [DLR] (who previously contributed the Philae lander to Rosetta) and French space agency CNES, carrying an infrared spectrometer, a magnetometer, a radiometer and camera. A follow-on version of the Mascot lander, known as Mascot+, is currently under study to be carried by Hera.

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    DLR Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot)

    Additionally Hayabusa 2 will perform its own miniature version of an impactor experiment, called the Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), consisting of a small 2.5kg copper projectile given added force by a high-explosive charge. SCI will strike with a velocity of 2km/s, offering a valuable bridge between the kind of simulated impact tests performed in terrestrial labs and the full-scale Double Asteroid Redirection Test collision, allowing the testing of impact scaling laws. A follow-up SCI payload is also being considered for Hera, not to attempt to change Didymoon’s trajectory any further but to produce a second crater at a different energy level than DART. This experiment will provide invaluable data to fully validate numerical impact algorithms that will be key to designing any future planetary defence missions.

    Exploration of these asteroids, and the many others surveyed so far, have highlighted their striking variety in terms of size, shape, surface characteristics and constituent materials. Similarly, asteroids rotate in various ways, from simple rotation to slow precession or rapid tumbling. It is possible that asteroid rotation is constrained by fundamental ‘spin limits’, beyond which centrifugal acceleration would lead material to escape from the surface of rubble-pile bodies. Indeed, such escapes might explain the origin of many binary asteroid systems, which make up 15% of the known total.

    New light on collisional dynamics

    The internal structure of asteroids remains a blank spot in scientific understanding. Are there large voids within their deep interior, or are they composed of loose regolith or conglomerates of monolithic rock? In particular, there is no way of knowing how an actual asteroid would respond to the specific external stimulus of an impact – short of trying it for real.

    By shedding new light on collisional dynamics, the combination of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test plus Hera will add to our understanding not just of asteroid formation and evolution but the creation and ongoing history of our entire Solar System – a story etched in impacts.

    Down at smaller scales, Hera’s surface observations will reveal the range of physical phenomena other than gravity that govern asteroid surfaces, influence their material properties and keep them bound together. What are the relative roles of electrostatic and Van der Waals forces, for instance? One proposal is that the most finely-grained asteroids might resemble ‘fairy castles’, crumbling to the touch. Such findings would hold relevance for asteroid mining as well as planetary defence, while also offering insight into the very earliest microscopic-scale processes of accretion, right back at the dawn of this and other planetary systems.

    Historic moment

    Hera is currently preparing for its Phase B1 study, along with a set of technology developments. The decision on whether the mission will progress to flight will be taken by Europe’s leaders at the end of next year. But certainly planetary defence is a global responsibility, and ESA is currently readying a new programme to be presented at the next Ministerial Council called Space Safety, that places planetary defence together with related topics such as space debris and space weather.

    DART and Hera were originally conceived as one – the origin of the two missions can be traced back to an ESA 2002 study of a double spacecraft asteroid deflection mission called Don Quijote. If approved, Hera is on track for a 2023 launch, arriving at Didymos for its ‘crime scene investigation’ a couple of years later. The experience of the Stardust crater – as well as the recently discovered crater of ESA’s Smart-1 spacecraft on the Moon – suggests DART’s impact point will be largely unchanged from the moment of collision. Or, in the event of a delay in the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, then the pair might reach Didymos at the same time. Either way, a historic moment is coming in the shape of the DART impact. Humankind will draw maximum benefit from it through a close-up view.

    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 9:17 am on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA, ,   

    From ESA: “Swarm details energetic coupling” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    15 February 2018

    ESA/Swarm

    The Sun bathes our planet in the light and heat it needs to sustain life, but it also bombards us with dangerous charged particles in solar wind. Our magnetic field largely shields from this onslaught, but like many a relationship, it’s somewhat complicated. Thanks to ESA’s Swarm mission the nature of this Earth–Sun coupling has been revealed in more detail than ever before.

    Earth’s magnetic field is like a huge bubble, protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles carried by powerful winds that escape the Sun’s gravitational pull and sweep across the Solar System.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    The trio of Swarm satellites were launched in 2013 to improve our understanding of how the field is generated and how it protects us from this barrage of charged particles.

    Since our magnetic field is generated mainly by an ocean of liquid iron that makes up the planet’s outer core, it resembles a bar magnet with field lines emerging from near the poles.

    The field is highly conductive and carries charged particles that flow along these field lines, giving rise to field-aligned currents.

    Carrying up to 1 TW of electrical power – about six times the amount of energy produced every year by wind turbines in Europe – these currents are the dominant form of energy transfer between the magnetosphere and ionosphere.

    The shimmering green and purple light displays of the auroras in the skies above the polar regions are a visible manifestation of energy and particles travelling along magnetic field lines.

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    Aurora borealis
    Released 21/04/2017
    Copyright Sherwin Calaluan
    The aurora borealis is a visible display of electrically charged atomic particles from the Sun interacting with Earth’s magnetic field.

    The theory about the exchange and momentum between solar wind and our magnetic field actually goes back more than 100 years, and more recently the Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment satellite network has allowed scientists to study large-scale field-aligned currents.

    However, the Swarm mission is leading to exciting new wave of discoveries. A new paper [Journal of Geophysical Research] explores the dynamics of this energetic coupling across different spatial scales – and finds that it’s all in the detail.

    Ryan McGranaghan from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “We have a good understanding of how these currents exchange energy between the ionosphere and the magnetosphere at large scales so we assumed that smaller-scale currents behaved in the same way, but carried proportionally less energy.”

    “Swarm has allowed us to effectively zoom in on these smaller currents and we see that, under certain conditions, this is not the case.

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    Solar corona viewed by Proba-2
    Released 16/03/2015
    Copyright ESA/ROB
    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.

    ESA Proba 2

    As seen in the above 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 Proba-3 mission will study the Sun’s faint corona closer to the solar rim than has ever before been achieved.

    NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter

    ESA Proba 3

    ______________________________________________________________________________________________

    “Our findings show that these smaller currents carry significant energy and that their relationship with the larger currents is very complex. Moreover, large and small currents affect the magnetosphere–ionosphere differently.”

    Colin Forsyth from University College London noted, “Since electric currents around Earth can interfere with navigation and telecommunication systems, this is an important discovery.

    “It also gives us a greater understanding of how the Sun and Earth are linked and how this coupling can ultimately add energy to our atmosphere.

    “This new knowledge can be used to improve models so that we can better understand, and therefore, ultimately, prepare for the potential consequences of solar storms.”

    ESA’s Swarm mission manager, Rune Floberghagen, added, “Since the beginning of the mission we have carried out projects to address the energy exchange between the magnetosphere, ionosphere and the thermosphere.

    “But what we are witnessing now is nothing short of a complete overhaul of the understanding of how Earth responds to and interacts with output from the Sun.

    “In fact, this scientific investigation is becoming a fundamental pillar for the extended Swarm mission, precisely because it is breaking new ground and at the same time has strong societal relevance. We now wish to explore this potential of Swarm to the fullest.”

    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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  • richardmitnick 8:54 am on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA, FAIR, GSI, Space radiation on Earth   

    From ESA: “Space radiation on Earth” 

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    European Space Agency

    14/02/2018

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    Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research. GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH/Jan Michael Hosan 2018.

    The constant ‘rain’ of radiation in space includes cosmic rays, which, despite the name ‘ray’, comprises highly energetic particles arriving from beyond the Solar System. These rays are considered the main health hazard for astronauts conducting future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

    This bad stuff can also play havoc with sensitive spacecraft electronics, corrupting data, damaging circuits and degrading microchips.

    There are many different kinds of cosmic rays, and they can have very different effects on spacecraft and their occupants, depending on the types of particles, the particles’ energies and the duration of the exposure.

    A new international accelerator, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), now under construction near Darmstadt, Germany, at the existing GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI), will provide particle beams like the ones that exist in space and make them available to scientists for studies that will be used to make spacecraft more robust and help humans survive the rigours of spaceflight.

    For example, researchers will be able to investigate how cells and human DNA are altered or damaged by exposure to cosmic radiation and how well microchips stand up to the extreme conditions in space.

    FAIR’s central element will be a new accelerator ring with a circumference of 1100 m, capable of accelerating protons to near-light speeds. The existing GSI accelerators will repurposed to serve as pre-accelerators for the new FAIR facility.

    This image shows the high-tech equipment that generates the particles, which are then injected into the GSI and FAIR accelerator systems.

    On 14 February 2018, ESA and FAIR inked a cooperation agreement that will build on an existing framework of cooperation between the Agency and GSI, and see the two cooperate in the fields of radiation biology, electronic components, materials research, shielding materials and instrument calibration.

    The agreement also includes cooperation in technology and software development and in joint activities in areas such as innovation management.

    More information

    The Universe in the Laboratory: ESA and FAIR form partnership for researching cosmic radiation

    Heavy but fast

    New radiation research programme for human spaceflight

    Cosmic opportunity for radiation research at ESA

    Radiation: satellites’ unseen enemy

    Follow GSI/FAIR

    Instagram @universeinthelab
    Twitter @GSI_en
    Facebook GSIHelmholtzzentrum & FAIRAccelerator

    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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  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on February 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, Kubik on Space Station, Life science experiments in weightlessness,   

    From ESA: “Kubik on Space Station” 

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    European Space Agency

    07/02/2018

    1
    NASA

    A miniaturised laboratory inside the orbital laboratory that is ESA’s Columbus module, this 40 cm cube has been one of its quiet scientific triumphs.

    Kubik – from the Russian for cube – has been working aboard the International Space Station since before Columbus’ arrival in February 2008.

    “Kubik hosts a wide range of life science experiments in weightlessness with minimal crew involvement,” explains Jutta Krause of the payload development team. “Research teams prepare their experiments and make use of existing or custom-built ‘experiment units’, which are each about the size of a box of pocket tissues.

    “Once slotted into Kubik by an astronaut, they are automatically activated through internal electrical connections, running autonomously on a programmed timeline until they are finally retrieved for return to Earth.

    “At the centre of the temperature-controlled Kubik is a centrifuge to simulate gravity, so double experiments can be run with one unit in microgravity plus an Earth-gravity control or intermediate gravity level – giving researchers insight into whether any results they observe might be related to weightlessness or some other environmental factor, such as space radiation.”

    The challenge for researchers is to miniaturise their experiments to fit within the confines of these compact units, adds team member Janine Liedtke: “We aim to refurbish experiment units as much as possible, so in some cases teams can adapt a previously flown unit, or else we can tailor new units to their needs.

    “Why fly biological samples in weightlessness? Because we know many biological systems are partially gravity-dependent, so by ‘taking away’ gravity researchers can gain broader insight into how they work.

    “To give an idea, Kubik has over the years hosted samples of bacteria, fungi, human white blood cells and stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cords, plant seedlings, and swimming tadpoles. A pending payload is designed to examine how microbial biofilms interact with rock surfaces across different gravity levels, from weightlessness to Mars and Earth gravity.”

    Experiment times are limited because the samples are biological – part of the work is carefully planning the mission scenario. Even the hours needed for the ascent and descent of the experiment unit to and from Columbus are carefully accounted for, to ensure that they are back again within a couple of weeks of launch, depending on the sensitivity of the samples.

    “We’ve been using the Soyuz, and now the SpaceX Dragon,” adds Jutta. “Typically, when one vehicle goes up another one comes down. This ensures that experiments can be up- and downloaded rapidly.

    “A fixative is often added to an experiment at its conclusion, so researchers get to examine it as it was in microgravity. Additionally, units can be refrigerated during their return trip.”

    Twelve experiments from ESA and national space agencies have so far been run in Kubik, with ESA planning seven more by the end of this decade. The facility is due to be upgraded with new electronics, to offer more features and keep it fully operational into its second decade.

    Contact Jutta.Krause@esa.int for more information.

    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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  • richardmitnick 8:57 am on February 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA,   

    From ESA: “Where no mission has gone before” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    2 February 2018


    Waspie_Dwarf
    In this animation, ESA’s future space weather satellite is seen positioned away from the Earth–Sun line and monitoring a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. The agency is now studying design options for stationing a dedicated space weather mission at the L5 Lagrange point, where gravity and the orbital motion of the spacecraft, the Sun and our planet combine to create a stable location. From here, the spacecraft would view solar features before they rotate into view of Earth. The spacecraft’s instruments are expected to build on those flown on earlier ESA and joint solar missions, such as SOHO, Stereo, Proba-2 and Solar Orbiter.

    Living near a star is risky business, and positioning a spacecraft near the Sun is a very good way to observe rapidly changing solar activity and deliver early warning of possibly harmful space weather. ESA is now looking at doing just that.

    On most days, our normally calm Sun goes about its business, delivering a steady and predictable amount of heat and light that keeps planet Earth and its humans ticking.

    But just as the Sun drives weather on Earth, solar activity is responsible for disturbances in our space environment, dubbed ‘space weather’.

    Besides emitting a continuous stream of electrically charged atomic particles, the Sun periodically sneezes out billions of tonnes of material threaded with magnetic fields in colossal-scale ‘coronal mass ejections’.

    These immense clouds of matter usually miss Earth, but if one reaches us it can disrupt Earth’s protective magnetic bubble and upper atmosphere, affecting satellites in orbit, navigation, terrestrial power grids, and data and communication networks, among other effects.

    Getting a View of he Action

    Obtaining warnings of such events would be immensely helpful: a recent ESA study estimated the potential impact in Europe from a single, extreme space weather event could be about €15 billion.

    As just one example, even moderate space weather events can affect electrical power grids that supply electricity to homes, hospitals and schools. Improved warning times for larger events would allow grid operators to take measures to protect their networks and ensure continued power delivery.

    “One of the best ways to observe rapidly changing solar activity is to position a dedicated spacecraft slightly away from our direct line to the Sun, so that it can observe the ‘side’ of our star before it rotates into view,” says Juha-Pekka Luntama, responsible for space weather at ESA’s mission control centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

    Virtual Points in Space

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    One of these, the 5th Lagrange point, lags 60º degrees behind Earth in its orbit – an ideal location for monitoring mass ejections from the ‘side’ so as to give early warning and better estimates of the speed and direction.

    Living near a star is risky business, and positioning a spacecraft near the Sun is a very good way to observe rapidly changing solar activity and deliver early warning of possibly harmful space weather. ESA is now looking at doing just that.

    On most days, our normally calm Sun goes about its business, delivering a steady and predictable amount of heat and light that keeps planet Earth and its humans ticking.

    But just as the Sun drives weather on Earth, solar activity is responsible for disturbances in our space environment, dubbed ‘space weather’.

    Besides emitting a continuous stream of electrically charged atomic particles, the Sun periodically sneezes out billions of tonnes of material threaded with magnetic fields in colossal-scale ‘coronal mass ejections’.

    These immense clouds of matter usually miss Earth, but if one reaches us it can disrupt Earth’s protective magnetic bubble and upper atmosphere, affecting satellites in orbit, navigation, terrestrial power grids, and data and communication networks, among other effects.
    ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite shows the aftermath of 18 February 2014’s ‘coronal mass ejection’

    6
    Solar loops after eruption
    Released 21/02/2014
    Copyright ESA/ROB
    ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite shows the aftermath of 18 February 2014’s coronal mass ejection.

    Acquired little more than three hours after the initial eruption, the image demonstrates the Sun’s magnetic field reconnecting in the form of loops. Look down and left of the centre of the solar disc to clearly see this distinctive belt of loops.
    Coronal mass ejections are powered by energy stored in the magnetic field of the Sun’s corona. This energy can be released by ‘reconnection’, in which oppositely oriented field lines are reconfigured to a more relaxed state and stored magnetic energy is converted into the heat and kinetic energy needed to drive huge eruptions.
    Fields that have recently reconnected are heated to many millions of degrees, before cooling to the million degrees that are visible to Proba-2’s SWAP imager. A second Proba-2 sensor, LYRA, measures the Sun’s energy intensity at the same time. Both instruments are operated for ESA by the Royal Observatory of Belgium.
    To see a movie of the 2014 erruption and its aftermath, click here.
    All the latest solar images from ESA and NASA are fed to the Helioviewer website, where you can make your own images and animations – see here.

    Obtaining warnings of such events would be immensely helpful: a recent ESA study estimated the potential impact in Europe from a single, extreme space weather event could be about €15 billion.

    As just one example, even moderate space weather events can affect electrical power grids that supply electricity to homes, hospitals and schools. Improved warning times for larger events would allow grid operators to take measures to protect their networks and ensure continued power delivery.

    “One of the best ways to observe rapidly changing solar activity is to position a dedicated spacecraft slightly away from our direct line to the Sun, so that it can observe the ‘side’ of our star before it rotates into view,” says Juha-Pekka Luntama, responsible for space weather at ESA’s mission control centre, Darmstadt, Germany.

    One of these, the 5th Lagrange point, lags 60º degrees behind Earth in its orbit – an ideal location for monitoring mass ejections from the ‘side’ so as to give early warning and better estimates of the speed and direction.
    Diagram of the Lagrange points associated with the Sun-Earth system.
    The Lagrange points associated with the Sun–Earth system

    “L5 is an excellent spot for a future ESA space weather mission because it gives advance views of what’s happening at the Sun,” says Juha-Pekka.

    “The spacecraft would provide crucial data that will help us spot Earth-arriving ejections, improve our forecasts of the arrival time at Earth and provide advance knowledge of active regions on the Sun as they rotate into view.”

    First Ever Mission to L5

    Today, ESA began studies to examine exactly this concept. Four European industrial and scientific consortiums including leading experts on space systems and instrument design will develop concepts for flying a mission to L5.

    Based on the results, ESA will select a final design in about 18 months.

    This space weather mission would provide data for operational applications such as forecasts and nowcasts of solar activity.

    These are part of ESA’s Space Weather Service Network, which will issue warnings and alerts to scientific, commercial and civil customers when solar activity poses any risk to critical civil and economic activities.

    4
    Proba-2
    Released 04/06/2009
    Copyright ESA/P. Carril
    A rear view of Proba-2 as it looks towards the Sun. The Proba satellites are among the smallest ever flown by ESA, but they are making a big impact on space technology. Altogether, 17 technology developments and four scientific experiments are flying on Proba-2.

    See the full article here .

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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 8:37 am on February 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA, GomX-4B   

    From ESA: “The size of a cereal box: ESA’s first satellite of 2018” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    2 February 2018

    1
    GomX-4 pair
    Released 13/10/2016
    Copyright GomSpace
    ESA’s biggest small satellite yet: the GomX-4B six-unit CubeSat will demonstrate miniaturised technologies, preparing the way for future operational nanosatellite constellations.
    GomX-4B is double the size of ESA’s first technology CubeSat, GomX-3, which was released from the International Space Station in 2015.
    The contract with Danish CubeSat specialist GomSpace is supported through the In-Orbit Demonstration element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme, focused on readying new products for space and the marketplace.
    GomX-4B will be launched and flown together with GomX-4A on 2 February 2018, designed by GomSpace for the Danish Ministry of Defence under a separate contract.
    The two CubeSats will stay linked through a new version of the software-defined radio demonstrated on GomX-3, while their separation on their shared orbit will be controlled up to a maximum 4500 km.
    Such intersatellite links will allow future CubeSat constellations to relay data quickly to users on the ground. The same radio system will also be used for rapid payload data downloads to Earth.

    ESA’s first mission of the year was launched today: GomX-4B is the Agency’s most advanced technology-tester yet, featuring a hyperspectral camera and tiny thrusters to manoeuvre thousands of kilometres from its near-twin to try out their radio link.

    These CubeSats are built around standard 10×10 cm units by GomSpace in Denmark. As ‘six-unit’ CubeSats they are as big as cereal boxes – but double the size of their predecessor GomX-3, released from the International Space Station in 2015.

    “ESA is harnessing CubeSats as a fast, cheap method of testing promising European technologies in orbit,” comments Roger Walker, heading ESA’s technology CubeSat efforts.

    “Unlike GomX-3, GomX-4B will change its orbit using cold-gas thrusters, opening up the prospect of rapidly deploying future constellations and maintaining their separations, and flying nanosatellites in formations to perform new types of measurements from space.”

    The pair was launched at 07:51 GMT (08:51 CET) from Jiuquan, China, piggybacking on a Long March 2D rocket carrying a Chinese satellite to detect electromagnetic disturbances that might offer early warnings of earthquakes.

    The focus of Denmark’s GomX-4A on imaging includes monitoring Arctic territory. It carries no thrusters but the agile GomX-4B will fly behind it, allowing the pair to test their radio link across various distances up to 4500 km.

    “While these two CubeSats are closely related, they have different goals – but by flying them together we all gain extra opportunities demonstrations in space,” adds Roger.

    Some four hours after launch, they flew over their mission control centre – GomSpace’s premises in Aalborg, Denmark – at which point their early operations could begin.

    “Just as in the case of a full-size mission, the two must be switched on and checked ahead of full operations.”

    GomX-4B’s work can then begin for ESA. It will also monitor the performance of off-the-shelf computer parts in the harsh space environment, and test a new startracker for Dutch CubeSat manufacturer ISIS.

    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 8:04 am on January 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA,   

    From ESA: “Space weather effects” 

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    European Space Agency

    1
    Credits: ESA/Science Office, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    2
    ESA

    Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in space as influenced by solar activity.

    In Europe’s economy today, numerous sectors can be affected by space weather. These range from space-based telecommunications, broadcasting, weather services and navigation, through to power distribution and terrestrial communications, especially at northern latitudes.

    One significant influence of solar activity is seen in disturbances in satellite navigation services, like Galileo, due to space weather effects on the upper atmosphere. This in turn can affect aviation, road transport, shipping and any other activities that depend on precise positioning.

    For satellites in orbit, the effects of space weather can be seen in the degradation of communications, performance, reliability and overall lifetime. For example, the solar panels that convert sunlight to electrical power on most spacecraft will steadily generate less power over the course of a mission, and this degradation must be taken into account in designing the satellite.

    In addition, increased radiation due to space weather may lead to increased health risks for astronauts, both today on board the International Space Station in low orbit and in future on voyages to the Moon or Mars.

    On Earth, commercial airlines may also experience damage to aircraft electronics and increased radiation doses to crews (at long-haul aircraft altitudes) during large space weather events. Space weather effects on ground can include damage and disruption to power distribution networks, increased pipeline corrosion and degradation of radio communications.

    More information

    ESA SSA – Space Weather Segment

    See the full article here .

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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 9:31 am on January 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA, Life and Physical Science Laboratory   

    From ESA: “Life and Physical Science Laboratory” 25 April 2017 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    25 April 2017

    Laboratory Manager Robert Lindner
    Robert.Lindner@esa.int

    1
    Workbench. ESA.

    What is its role?

    The Lab supports work on life and physical sciences instrumentation and experiments for microgravity research, life support and environmental control and other exploration related activities, including experimental flight payloads, life support system development or activities for planetary exploration. The Lab can investigate and test a wide variety of factors, including prolonged effects of low- or hyper-gravities.

    But the Lab is more than just a place for testing or rehearsing space mission payloads. Its facilities also support flight projects, such as ATV disinfection and microbiological control campaigns, planetary protection-related activities for ExoMars and technology development activities.

    2
    Large Diameter Centrifuge. ESA–A. Le Floc’h . Scientists interested in hypergravity need to create it for minutes, days or even weeks at a time. Fortunately, ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge does just that. Based at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, the centrifuge is designed not for astronaut training but for scientific research.

    The 8 m-diameter centrifuge can create up to 20 g, with four gondolas holding up to 80 kg of experiments. Two more gondolas can be attached half way along the arm to provide different g-levels at the same time. Its operators observe the centrifuge from behind bulletproof glass, for safety.

    What services does it offer?

    Assessment and verification of experimental instrument design concepts and
    measurement principles in support of both projects and technology R&D

    Verification of the feasibility of new ideas through rapid breadboarding

    Cleaning, detection, disinfection and sterilisation activities for flight projects
    Support to scientific experiments

    Performance of science verification and flight sequence tests

    Preparation of biological samples for flight and ground-based experiments

    Long-term functional testing of flight facility ground reference models

    Analysis of payload malfunctions or hardware failures

    Gravity simulation experiments.

    3
    Life, Physical Sciences and Life Support Laboratory’s 35 sq. m ‘ISO Class 1’ clean room. The Life, Physical Sciences and Life Support Laboratory’s 35 sq. m ‘ISO Class 1’ clean room provides an ultra-clean environment, suitable for working on flight hardware requiring a very high level of cleanliness and sterilisation, such as instruments for Europe’s 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions.
    The clean room is fitted with a dry heat steriliser, ultra-clean gas lines, exhaust line and IT infrastructure, with all its air passing through a two-stage filtering system.
    The chamber’s cleanliness is such that it contains less than 10 smoke-sized particles per cubic metre; an equivalent sample of the outside air could well contain millions. ESA.

    How is it equipped?

    The 720 m2 facility’s state-of-the-art equipment includes high-performance analytical instrumentation for chemistry, microbiology (e.g. inverted and non-inverted microscopes, Diversilab) and water chemistry (e.g. ICP, NPS), a large volume dry-heat steriliser (ISO class 5) as well as all conventional lab items (such as glassware, -18 and 80 freezers) and consumables.

    The overall Lab incorporates four facilities: a microbiology lab, fully equipped with two ISO5 HC laminar flow benches, incubators, microscopes, support equipment etc., an analytical lab for performing microbiological and chemical analysis, including an HPLC-MS system (Agilent ion trap MS 500 coupled to an Infinity 1260 HPLC system) for analysis of organics, VITEK system for genetic identification, ventilation hoods for chemical analysis and preparation including a preparation room and chemical storage.

    4
    Centrifuge gondola. The Large Diameter Centrifuge gondolas are equipped to provide power and data links to the experiments fitted aside. These might include physical, biological, geological and even astrogeological tests – one team investigated how crater impacts vary under higher gravity. Experiments can be spun for up to six months at a time non-stop, at changing g-profiles if needed. After that, the Centrifuge has to stop for routine maintenance.

    Student teams from across Europe are given access to the Centrifuge through regular ‘Spin your Thesis’ campaigns, organised through ESA’s Education Office. Student teams are selected to take part by experts from ESA and the European Low Gravity Research Association. ESA.

    An ISO 1 cleanroom with 35 m2 surface area provides an ultra-clean environment for all hardware activities requiring these high cleanliness levels. The cleanroom is equipped with a Dry Heat Steriliser (ISO 5HC) ultra-clean gas lines, exhaust line and IT infrastructure. A two-stage filter concept HEPA filters and fan filter units (FFU) with ULPA filters plus AMC filters (class A, B C, D) ensure this low particulate environment and AMC-5 environment according to ISO 14644 1-8. The facility can be easily upgraded to AMC-9 or better.

    Last not least, the Gravity Simulation Lab enables testing in microgravity and hypergravity. This facility hosts a small random position machine for microgravity simulation and a large diameter (8 m) centrifuge equipped with four arms carrying up to six gondolas, accommodating payloads up to 80 kg. The maximum possible acceleration is 20 g (with four gondolas), which can be spun continuously for six months or longer.

    5
    Instrumentation, Life, Physical Sciences and Life Support Laboratory. ESA’s Life, Physical Sciences and Life Support Laboratory boasts state-of-the-art equipment includes high-performance analytical instrumentation for chemistry, microbiologyand water chemistry, a large volume dry-heat steriliser as well as all conventional lab items. ESA.

    Who are its customers?

    The Lab’s first large-scale use came in 2007, with more than 80 scientists and technicians preparing and testing 35 life and physical science experiments for flight on ESA’s Foton-M3 mission.

    The Lab has also contributed to other flight projects, such as developing and validating disinfection procedures for ATV. The Lab also supports MELiSSA (Micro- Ecological Life Support System Alternative) activities, developing regenerative life support technologies.

    Customers from industry and international instrument teams use the cleanroom facility to do cleaning and sterilisation process qualification and validation for qualification models and flight hardware for the ExoMars 2016 and 2018 missions.

    Its Gravity Simulation Lab is used by the European Low Gravity Research Association, with the centrifuge – jointly funded by ESA and the Dutch government – regularly accessible to student teams through the ESA Education Office’s ‘Spin Your Thesis’ campaigns.

    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 9:03 am on January 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA, ESA’s Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation Laboratory, Hypergravity   

    From ESA: “Here’s to hypergravity” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    24/01/2018

    1
    ESA – J. van Loon

    A decade ago, as Europe’s Columbus laboratory module was attached to the International Space Station for microgravity research, ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge began offering lengthy experiments in hypergravity.

    The principle is simple: the 8 m-diameter four-arm centrifuge is set spinning at up to 67 revs per minute, creating up to 20 times normal Earth gravity for weeks or even months at a time.

    As part of ESA’s Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation Laboratory at the Agency’s technical centre in the Netherlands, the centrifuge’s development was supported by the Dutch government and its use is encouraged by the European Low Gravity Research Association.

    For the last decade it has been a place of pilgrimage for researchers, including student experimenters on regular Spin Your Thesis campaigns.

    Tomorrow sees a celebration of the centrifuge’s first decade, giving its team the opportunity to hear from their users about desired upgrades and new research ideas.

    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 12:30 pm on January 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESA, Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter   

    From ESA: “CubeSats for hunting secrets in lunar darkness” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    23 January 2018
    No writer credit

    Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do? ESA issued that challenge to European teams last year, and two winners have now been chosen.

    The Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter, or Lumio for short, would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur.

    1
    Lunar Meteoroid Impact Orbiter.

    The other, the Lunar Volatile and Mineralogy Mapping Orbiter, or VMMO, would focus on a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar south pole, searching out deposits of water ice and other volatiles of interest to future colonists, while also measuring lunar radiation.

    “It was a difficult process to select these final winners, because the high quality of all the concept studies we received – and especially our four semi-finalists,” explains Roger Walker, ESA’s technology CubeSat manager.

    European companies, universities and research centres teamed up to design lunar missions to fit within the low-cost CubeSat standard – built up from 10 cm- cubes.

    Roger adds: “The idea behind our lunar CubeSat competition was challenging – up until now CubeSats have operated solely within Earth orbit. However, opportunities should open up to piggyback to the Moon in the coming decade, with circumlunar flights of the NASA–ESA Orion spacecraft and planned commercial flights.”

    The two winners were chosen after final presentations within ESA’s advanced multimedia centre used to design all Agency missions. They now have the chance to work with ESA specialists on mission development during February and March.

    The impact-tracking Lumio is a single 12-unit CubeSat, conceived by a consortium including Politecnico di Milano; TU Delft, EPFL, S[&]T Norway, Leonardo-Finnmeccanica and the University of Arizona.

    Orbiting a special point in space, Lumio’s sophisticated optical camera would detect impacts on the Moon’s far side. Such near-side flashes are mapped by telescopes on Earth during the night, but the Moon’s other face is a blind spot.

    Away from the stray light of the terrestrial environment, very faint flashes should be detectable, improving our understanding of past and present meteoroid patterns across the Solar System. Such an observation system could also develop into a system offering early warning to future settlers.

    VMMO, developed by MPB Communications Inc, Surrey Space Centre, University of Winnipeg and Lens R&D, also adopts a 12-unit CubeSat design. Its miniaturised laser would probe its primary target of Shackleton Crater, adjacent to the South Pole, for measuring the abundance of water ice. The region inside the crater is in permanent darkness, allowing water molecules to condense and freeze there in the very cold conditions.

    Scanning a 10 m-wide path, VMMO would take around 260 days to build a high-resolution map of water ice inside the 20 km-diameter crater. Its laser would also beam high-bandwidth data back to Earth through an optical communications experiment.

    VMMO would also map lunar resources such as minerals as it overflew sunlit regions, as well as monitoring the distribution of ice and other volatiles across darkened areas to gain understanding of how condensates migrate across the surface during the two-week lunar night.

    A secondary radiation-detecting payload would build up a detailed model of the radiation environment for the benefit of follow-on mission hardware – as well as human explorers.

    “This competition – run through ESA’s SysNova Challenge scheme – has helped to bring together lunar and CubeSat specialists,” adds ESA’s Ian Carnelli. “This means Europe’s space sector should be more able to take advantages of such flight opportunities as they arise in future.”

    The runner-up missions were the radiation-analysing MoonCARE and the far-side radio astronomy CLE.

    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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