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  • richardmitnick 6:58 am on May 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D printing CubeSat bodies for cheaper, , , , , ESA, faster missions, Meteosat, Peek   

    From ESA: “3D printing CubeSat bodies for cheaper, faster missions” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    22 May 2017
    No writer credit found
    No image credits found

    1
    3D-printed CubeSat body

    As a first test of a new printable hard, electrically conductive plastic, ESA has 3D-printed CubeSat structures incorporating their own electrical lines. In future, such miniature satellites could be ready to go once their instruments, circuit boards and solar panels were slotted in.

    “We’ve been looking into 3D printing using ‘polyether ether ketone’ – or PEEK,” explains ESA’s Ugo Lafont.

    “PEEK is a thermoplastic with very good intrinsic properties in terms of strength, stability and temperature resistance, with a melting point up around 370ºC. PEEK is so robust that it can do comparable jobs to some metal parts.

    “We started a project with Portuguese company PIEP and, in a technical first, we made this printable PEEK electrically conductive by adding certain nano-fillers to the material.

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    CubeSats orbiting Earth

    “This kind of customising has taken place for as long as the plastic industry has existed. Plastic has been mixed with different materials to tailor their properties as desired, to make them more resistant for instance, or shinier. In this instance, this ‘doped’ PEEK filament can now be used as a standard feedstock in our 3D printing process.”

    As a demonstration of this breakthrough, Ugo and intern Stefan Siarov from TU Delft in the Netherlands decided to print bodies for CubeSats.

    These are cheap nanosatellites literally in a box: they are based on rugged, stackable electronic boards housed in one or more standardised 10 cm units. First developed as educational tools, CubeSats are increasingly being put to active uses in orbit.

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    Electrical lines in CubeSat body

    “The resulting PEEK CubeSat structures would be capable of flying in space,” comments Stefan. “But these bodies are also functional, because they incorporate electrically conductive lines in place of the wire harness normally connecting up the different CubeSat subsystems.”

    As a next step, the Materials’ Physics & Chemistry team is collaborating with ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration on a space-optimised PEEK printer for initial testing on ‘zero-g’ aircraft flights, then eventually at the service of astronauts on the International Space Station.

    “The vision we have to enable a new maintenance strategy,” adds Ugo. “Rather than just making toys with no added value, PEEK and comparable thermoplastics are robust enough to find a lot of practical uses, plus the added option of electrical functionality.

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    PEEK-printed test part

    “Space Station crews end up needing all kinds of items, all of which currently require transport from Earth: everything from screws and water valves to hermetic containers and water valves. All of these could be 3D-printed instead – even toothbrushes – since PEEK is biocompatible.

    “3D-printing such items in orbit would be cheaper, and would change the equation of recyclability. Because these plastic items can later be recycled, we reduce the scarcity of materials in space and start to make human missions to space more self-sustaining.”

    Stefan meanwhile is now assessing the recyclability of other 3D-printed engineering thermoplastics at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

    “We have been taking a continuing interest into high-performance thermoplastic materials over the last decade,” comments Christopher Semprimoschnig, heading ESA’s Materials’ Physics and Chemistry Section. “The freedom that new processing options such as 3D printing offer are especially intriguing for ESA.”

    Reflecting the relative maturity of this 3D-printed material, a small PEEK-printed structural part is due to fly on the Meteosat Third Generation series of weather satellites at the end of this decade.

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    Meteosat Third Generation. https://www.ohb-system.de/mtg-330.html

    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 1:19 pm on May 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESA, Exploring Underground with a Colliding Drone   

    From ESA: “Exploring Underground with a Colliding Drone” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    22 May 2017
    NO writer credit found

    1
    No image credit found

    ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano last weekend helped to explore the caverns under Sicily using a drone that deliberately bumped into its surroundings in order to build a map.

    ESA has been testing equipment, techniques and working methods for missions with astronauts in inner space for many years. Delving inside Earth and exploring caves often parallels the exploration of outer space, from a lack of sunlight to working in cramped spaces and relying on equipment for safety.

    An extension of ESA’s Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills course, this CAVES-X1 expedition saw Luca join a scientific expedition organised by La Venta Association and the Commissione Grotte Eugenio Boegan in the La Cucchiara caves near Sciacca, Sicily.

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    Collecting samples

    Whereas such activities are arranged specifically for training astronauts, course designer Loredana Bessone says, “We now want astronauts to take part in existing scientific caving and geological expeditions – scientific exploration does not get more real than this.”

    The team arrived on 19 May and spent two days exploring the area, which includes a 100 m-deep abyss. As this cave reaches 37°C, the explorers also tried out cooling vests – another similarity to astronauts in spacesuits.

    3
    Launching the drone

    Luca took geological samples and tried a new way of probing hard-to-reach spaces: a Flyability drone deliberately bumped into walls to learn how to navigate and to map tight areas that are too dangerous for humans.

    ESA’s course coordinator, Francesco Sauro, an experienced caver and field geologist, remarks: “The drone used its thermal camera to map how the cave continued all the way to an unexplored area featuring water, impossible to reach for humans.

    “These tests will help us understand which technologies can be used in future exploration of lava tubes on Mars, for example.”

    ESA’s strategy sees humans and robots working together to explore and build settlements on planetary bodies, as well as improving our understanding of our origins, and the origins of life in our Solar System.

    The short expedition ends today with a conference on the use of novel technologies in underground exploration and scientific research of extreme environments at the University of Palermo in Sicily.

    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 5:37 am on May 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cygnus X-1, ESA, , Extra X-rays, Slew catalogue   

    From ESA: “Extra X-rays” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    Sources in XMM-Newton’s second slew catalogue

    ESA/XMM Newton

    1
    Sources in XMM-Newton’s second slew catalogue
    Released 15/05/2017
    Copyright ESA/XMM-Newton/ R. Saxton / A.M. Read, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    This colourful, seemingly abstract artwork is actually a map depicting all the celestial objects that were detected in the XMM-Newton slew survey between August 2001 and December 2014.

    Orbiting Earth since 1999, XMM-Newton is studying high-energy phenomena in the Universe, such as black holes, neutron stars, pulsars and stellar winds. But even when moving between specific targets, the space telescope collects scientific data.

    The map shows the 30 000 sources captured during 2114 of these slews. Because of overlapping slew paths, some sources have been observed up to 15 times, and 4924 sources have been observed twice or more. After correcting for overlaps between slews, 84% of the sky has been covered.

    The plot is colour-coded such that sources of a lower energy are red and those with a higher energy are blue. In addition, the brighter the source, the larger it appears on the map.

    The plot is in galactic coordinates such that the centre of the plot corresponds to the centre of the Milky Way. High-energy sources along the centre of the Milky Way include the famous black hole Cygnus X-1, and Vela X-1, a binary system comprising a neutron star consuming matter from a supergiant companion.

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    http://snarkbot.net/post/133560858395/an-open-letter-to-binary-star-system-cygnus-x-1

    Several star-and-black hole binary systems are also captured, including objects identified as GRS 1915+105, 4U 1630-47 and V 4641 Sgr.

    Two clusters of sources, one to the top left and one to the bottom right, correspond to the ecliptic poles.

    Objects above and below the plane of our Galaxy are predominantly external galaxies that are emitting X-rays from their massive black holes.

    Technical information about the source catalogue is available here.

    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 11:22 am on May 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, , , Planetary Protection is a “Wicked” Problem   

    From Many Worlds: “Planetary Protection is a “Wicked” Problem” 

    NASA NExSS bloc

    NASA NExSS

    Many Words icon

    Many Worlds

    2017-05-15
    Marc Kaufman
    marc.kaufman@manyworlds.space

    1
    The Viking landers were baked for 30 hours after assembly, a dry heat sterilization that is considered the gold standard for planetary protection.

    NASA/Viking 1 Lander

    Before the baking, the landers were given a preliminary cleaning to reduce the number of potential microbial spores. The levels achieved with that preliminary cleaning are similar to what is now required for a mission to Mars unless the destination is an area known to be suitable for Martian life. In that case, a sterilizing equivalent to the Viking baking is required. (NASA)

    The only time that a formally designated NASA “life detection” mission was flown to another planet or moon was when the two Viking landers headed to Mars forty years ago.

    The odds of finding some kind of Martian life seemed so promising at the time that there was little dispute about how much energy, money and care should be allocated to making sure the capsule would not be carrying any Earth life to the planet. And so after the two landers had been assembled, they were baked at more than 250 °F for three days to sterilize any parts that would come into contact with Mars.

    Although the two landers successfully touched down on the Martian surface and did some impressive science, the life detection portion of the mission was something of a fiasco — with conflict, controversy and ultimately quite a bit of confusion.

    Clearly, scientists did not yet know enough about how to search for life beyond Earth and the confounding results pretty much eliminated life-detection from NASA’s missions for decades.

    But scientific and technological advances of the last ten years have put life detection squarely back on the agenda — in terms of future searches for fossil biosignatures on Mars and for potential life surviving in the oceans of Europa and Enceladus. What’s more, both NASA and private space companies talk seriously of sending humans to Mars in the not-too-distant future.

    With so many missions being planned, developed and proposed for solar system planets and moons, the issue of planetary protection has also gained a higher profile. It seems to have become more contentious and to some seems far less straight-forward as it used to be.

    A broad consensus appears to remain that bringing Earth life to another planet or moon, especially if it is potentially habitable, is a real possibility that is both scientifically and ethically fraught. But there are rumblings about just how much time, money and attention needs to be brought to satisfying the requirements of “planetary protection.”

    In fact, it has become a sufficiently significant question that the first plenary session of the recent Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona was dedicated to it. The issue, which was taken up in later technical sessions as well, was how to assess and weigh the risks of bringing Earth life to other bodies versus the benefits of potentially sending out more missions, more often and more cheaply.

    It is not a simple problem, explained Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University. Indeed, he told the audience of scientists that it was a “wicked problem,” a broadly used terms for issues that are especially complex and involve numerous issues and players.

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    A primary barrier to keeping microbes off spacecraft and instruments going to space is to build them in clean rooms, such as this one at JPL. These large rooms with filtered air do help lower the count of microbes on surfaces, but the bacteria are everywhere and further steps are essential. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    As he later elaborated to me, other “wicked” risk-benefit problems include gene editing and autonomous driving — both filled with great potential and serious potential downsides. Like travel to other planets and moons.

    “This is subjective,” Maynard said, “but I’d put planetary protection on the more wicked end of the spectrum. It combines individual priorities and ethics — what people and groups deeply believe is right — with huge uncertainties. That makes it something never really experienced before and so escalates all factors of wickedness.”

    Those groups include scientists (who very much don’t want Mars or another potentially habitable place to be contaminated with Earth life before they can get there), to advocates of greater space exploration (who worry that planetary protection will slow or eliminate some missions they very much want to proceed), to NASA mission managers (worried about delays and costs associated with planetary protections surprises.)

    And then there’s the general public which might (or might not) have entirely different ethical concerns about the potential for contaminating other planets and moons with Earth life.

    No wonder the problem is deemed wicked.

    We’ll get into the pros and cons, but first some background:

    I asked NASA’s Planetary Protection officer, Catharine Conley, whether Earth life has been transported to its most likely solar system destination, Mars.

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    Catharine “Cassie” Conley has been NASA’s Planetary Protection officer since 2006. There is only one other full-time official in the world with the same responsibilities, and he works for the European Space Agency. (NASA/W. Hrybyk)

    Her reply: “There are definitely Earth organisms that we’ve brought to Mars and are still alive on the spacecraft.”

    NASA/Mars Curiosity Rover

    She said it is quite possible that some of those organisms were brushed off the vehicles or otherwise were shed and fell to the surface. Because of the strong ultraviolet radiation and the Earth life-destroying chemical makeup of the soil, however, it’s unlikely the organisms could last for long, and equally unlikely that any would have made it below the surface. Nonetheless, it is sobering to hear that Earth life has already made it to Mars.

    Related to this reality is the understanding that Earth life, in the form of bacteria, algae and fungi and their spores, can be extraordinarily resilient. Organisms have been discovered that can survive unimagined extremes of heat and cold, can withstand radiation that would kill us, and can survive as dormant spores for tens of thousands of years.

    What’s more, Mars scientists now know that the planet was once much warmer and wetter, and that ice underlies substantial portions of the planet. There are even signs today of seasonal runs of what some scientists argue is very briny surface water.

    So the risk of Earth life surviving a ride to another planet or moon is probably greater than imagined earlier, and the possibility of that Earth life potentially surviving and spreading on a distant surface (think the oceans of Europa and Enceladus, or maybe a briny, moist hideaway on Mars) is arguably greater too. From a planetary protection perspective, all of this is worrisome.

    The logic of planetary protection is, like almost everything involved with the subject, based on probabilities. Discussed as far back as the 1950s and formalized in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the standard agreed on is to take steps that ensure there is less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of a spaceship or lander or instrument from Earth bringing life to another body.

    This figure takes into account the number of microorganisms on the spacecraft, the probability of growth on the planet or moon where the mission is headed, and a series of potential sanitizing to sterilizing procedures that can be used. A formula for assessing the risk of a mission for planetary protection purposes was worked out in 1965 by Carl Sagan, along with Harvard theoretical physicist Sidney Coleman.

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    Deinococcus radiodurans is an extremophilic bacterium, one of the most radiation-resistant organisms known. It can survive cold, dehydration, vacuum, and acid, and is therefore known as a polyextremophile and is considered perhaps the world’s toughest bacterium. It can withstand a radiation dose 1,000 times stronger than what would kill a person. No image credit.

    A lot has been learned since that time, and some in the field say it’s time to re-address the basics of planetary protection. They argue, for instance, that since we now know that Earth life can (theoretically, at least) be carried inside a meteorite from our planet to Mars, then Earth life may have long been on Mars — if it is robust enough to survive when it lands.

    In addition, a great deal more is known about how to sanitize a space vehicle without baking it entirely — a step that is both very costly and could prove deadly to the more sophisticated capsules and instruments. And more is known about the punishing environment on the surface of Mars and elsewhere.

    People ranging from Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin to Cornell University Visiting Scientist Alberto G. Fairén in Nature Geoscience have argued — and sometimes railed — against planetary protection requirements. NASA mission managers have often voiced their concerns as well. The regulations, some say, slow the pace of exploration and science to avoid a vanishingly small risk.

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    Brent Sherwood, planetary mission formulation manager for JPL, is currently overseeing two proposed projects for New Frontiers missions. One is to search for signs of life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus and the other for habitability on the moon Titan. (Brent Sherwood)

    Brent Sherwood, program manager for solar system mission formulation at JPL, spoke at AbSciCon about what he sees as the need for a review and possibly reassessment of the planetary protection rules and regulations. As someone who helps scientists put together proposals for NASA missions in the solar system, he has practical and long considered views about planetary protection.

    He and his co-authors argue that the broad conversation that needs to take place should include scientists, ethicists, managers, and policy makers; and especially should include the generations that will actually implement and live with the consequences of these missions.

    In the abstract for his talk, Sherwood wrote:

    “The (1 chance in 10,000) requirement may not be as logically sound or deserving of perpetuation as generally assumed. What status should this requirement have within an ethical decision-making process? Do we need a meta-ethical discussion about absolute values, rather than an arbitrary number that purports to govern the absolute necessity of preserving scientific discovery or protecting alien life?”
    As he later he told me: “I’m recommending that we be proactive and engage the broadest possible range of stakeholder communities…. With these big, hairy risk problems, everything is probabilistic and open to argument. People are bad at thinking of very small and very big numbers, and the same for risks. They tend to substitute opinion for fact.”
    Sherwood is no foe of planetary protection. But he said planetary protection is a “foundational” part of the space program, and he wants to make sure it is properly adapted for the new space era we are entering.”

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    Elon Musk of SpaceX, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origins and NASA have all talked about potentially sending astronauts to Mars or establishing a colony on Mars in the decades ahead. Many obstacles remain, but planning is underway. (Bryan Versteeg/Spacehabs.com)

    Planetary protection officer Conley contends that regular reviews are already built into the system. She told me that every mission gets a thorough planetary protection assessment early in the process, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, the risks and architecture of the missions are studied within the context of the prevailing rules.

    In addition, she said, the group that oversees planetary protection internationally — the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) — meets every two years and its Panel on Planetary Protection takes up general topics and welcomes input from whomever might want to raise issues large or small.

    “You hear it said that there are protected areas on Mars or Europa where missions can’t go, but that’s not the case,” she said. “These are sensitive areas where life just might be present now or was present in the past. If that’s the case, then the capsule or lander or rover has to be sterilized to the level of the Viking missions.”

    She said that she understood that today’s spacecraft are different from Viking, which was designed and built from scratch with planetary protection in mind. Today, JPL and other mission builders get some of their parts “off the shelf” in an effort to make space exploration less expensive.

    “We do have to balance the goals of exploration and space science with making sure that Earth life does not take hold. We also have to be aware that taxpayer money is being spent. But if a mission sent out returns a signal of life, what have we achieved if it turns out to be life we brought there?

    “I see planetary protection as a great success story. People identified a potential contamination problem back in the 50s, put regulations into place, and have succeeded in avoiding the problem. This kind of global cooperation that leads to the preventing of a potentially major problem just doesn’t happen that often.

    The global cooperation has been robust, Conley said, despite the fact that only NASA and the European Space Agency have a full-time planetary protection officer.

    She cited the planning for the joint Russian-Chinese mission to the Martian moon Phobos as an example of other nations agreeing to very high standards. She and her European Space Agency (ESA) counterpart traveled twice to Moscow to discuss planetary protection steps being taken.

    7
    Andrew Maynard is the director of Arizona State University’s Risk Innovation Lab and is a professor in School for the Future of Innovation in Society. (ASU.)

    So far, she said private space companies have been attentive to planetary protection as well. Some of the commercial space activity in the future involve efforts to mine on asteroids, and Conley said there is no planetary protection issues involved. The same with mining on our moon.

    But should the day arrive that private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin seriously propose a human mission to Mars — as they have said they plan to — Conley said they would have the same obligations as for NASA mission. The US has not yet determined how to ensure that compliance, she said, but companies already would need Federal Aviation Administration approval for a launch, and planetary protection is part of that.

    Risk innovation expert Maynard, however, was not so sure about those protections. He said he could imagine a situation where Elon Musk of SpaceX or Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin or any other space entrepreneur around the world would decide to move their launch to a nation that would be willing to provide the service without intensive planetary protection oversight.

    “The risk of this may be small, but this is all about the potentially outsize consequences of small risks,” he said.

    Maynard said that was hardly a likely scenario — and that commercial space pioneers so far have been supportive of planetary protection guidelines — but that he was well aware of the displeasure among some mission managers and participating scientists about planetary protection requirements.

    Given all this, it’s easy to see how and why planetary protection advocates might feel that the floodgates are being tested, and why space explorers looking forward to a time when Mars and other bodies might be visited by astronauts and later potentially colonized are concerned about potential obstacles to their visions.

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    An artist’s rendering of a sample return from Mars. Both the 2020 NASA Mars mission and the ESA-Russian mission are designed to identify and cache intriguing rocks for delivery to Earth in the years ahead. (Wickman Spacecraft & Propulsion)

    This column has addressed the issue of “forward contamination” — how to prevent Earth life from being carried to another potentially habitable solar system body and surviving there. But there is another planetary protection worry and that involves “backward contamination” — how to handle the return of potentially living extraterrestrial organisms to Earth.

    That will be the subject of a later column, but suffice it to say it is very much on the global space agenda, too.

    The Apollo astronauts famously brought back pounds of moon rocks, and grains of asteroid and comet dust have also been retrieved and delivered. A sample return mission by the Russian and Chinese space agencies was designed to return rock or grain samples from the Martian moon Phobos earlier this decade, but the spacecraft did not make it beyond low Earth orbit.

    However, the future will see many more sample return attempts. The Japanese space agency JAXA launched a mission to the asteroid 162173 Ryugu in 2014 (Hayabusa 2) and it will arrive there next year.

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2

    The plan is collect rock and dust samples and bring them back to Earth. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is also making its way to an asteroid, 101955 Bennu, with the goal of collecting a sample as well for return to Earth.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    And in 2020 both NASA and ESA (with Russian collaboration) will launch spacecraft for Mars with the intention of preparing for future sample returns. Sample return is a very high priority in the Mars and space science communities, and many consider it essential for determining whether there has ever been life on Mars.

    So the “wicked” challenges of planetary protection are only going to mount in the years ahead.

    See the full article here .

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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 8:31 am on April 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, ESA boosting its Argentine link with deep space, Malargüe station Deep Space Network   

    From ESA: “ESA boosting its Argentine link with deep space” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    25 April 2017
    No writer credit

    Thanks to some high-tech improvements, ESA’s radio dish in Argentina will be ready to receive the rising torrent of scientific data beamed back by future missions exploring deep in our Solar System.

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    ESA Malargüe tracking station
    Released 21/08/2015
    Copyright ESA/D. Pazos – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
    Malargüe station supports many of ESA’s most important exploration missions, including Rosetta, Mars Express, ExoMars, LISA Pathfinder and Gaia.

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft

    ESA/Mars Express Orbiter

    ESA/ExoMars

    ESA/LISA Pathfinder

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Since 2012, ESA’s deep-space tracking station at Malargüe, about 1200 km west of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has provided critical links to some of Europe’s most important missions, including ExoMars, Mars Express, Gaia and Rosetta.

    The data-gathering capabilities of upcoming exploration missions is steadily increasing, however, and this means a 10-fold growth, each decade, in the amount of science data that must be downlinked from Mercury, the surface of Mars or the enigmatic moons circling Jupiter.

    To cater for this need, ESA is investing in a series of significant upgrades for its Malargüe station, underscoring the Agency’s long and productive partnership with Argentina and that country’s strong involvement in space science.

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    ESA/Euclid
    Released 25/04/2017
    Copyright ESA/C. Carreau, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
    Euclid is an ESA mission to map the geometry of the dark Universe. Euclid will investigate the distance-redshift relationship and the evolution of cosmic structures. It achieves this by measuring shapes and redshifts of galaxies and clusters of galaxies out to redshifts ~2, or equivalently to a look-back time of 10 billion years. It will therefore cover the entire period over which dark energy played a significant role in accelerating the expansion. The Euclid spacecraft will have a launch mass of around 2100 kg. It will be about 4.5 metres tall and 3.1 metres in ‘diameter’ (with appendages stowed). The nominal mission lifetime is six years.

    Boosting bitrates from deep space

    The upgrades will be spread over two years and include a new main signal-processing system and the addition of a 26 GHz downlink that will enable high-speed data receipt from space.

    “This means our station at Malargüe will be able to download data from ESA’s future Euclid mission, for example, at 150 Mbit/s, 15 times faster than today,” says Michel Dugast, ESA’s station engineer and project manager for the upgrade.

    “It will also support cornerstone ESA missions like ExoMars 2020, BepiColombo and Juice, as well as partner missions from Russia, the US and Japan, among others.”

    The 18 months of work, valued at about €4 million, will start in May.

    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 8:10 am on April 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA, NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft,   

    From ESA: “Countdown to Cassini’s Grand Finale” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    25 April 2017
    Nicolas Altobelli
    ESA Cassini–Huygens Project Scientist



    Tel: +34 91 813 1201




    Email: nicolas.altobelli@esa.int

    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini Spacecraft

    ESA/Huygens Probe from Cassini landed on Titan

    1
    Cassini grand finale. No image credit

    After nearly 13 years in orbit around Saturn, the international Cassini–Huygens mission is about to begin its final chapter: the spacecraft will perform a series of daring dives between the planet and its rings, leading to a dramatic final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September.

    On 22 April, Cassini successfully executed its 127th and final close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

    The manoeuvre put the spacecraft onto its ’grand finale’ trajectory: a series of 22 orbits, each lasting about a week, drawing closer to Saturn and passing between the planet’s innermost rings and its outer atmosphere. The first crossing of the ring plane will occur on 26 April.

    With the repeated dives in this yet unvisited region, the mission will conclude its journey of exploration by collecting unprecedented data to address fundamental questions about the origin of Saturn and its ring system.

    Launched in 1997, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft embarked on a seven-year voyage across the Solar System, eventually reaching Saturn in July 2004. Several months later, the Cassini orbiter released ESA’s Huygens probe, which landed on Titan on 14 January 2005 – the first landing in the outer Solar System.

    The mission has greatly contributed to our understanding of the Saturnian environment, including the giant planet’s system of rings and moons.

    Combining the data collected in situ by Huygens and the observations performed by Cassini during flybys of Titan, the mission revealed the atmospheric processes of this moon and their seasonal evolution, as well as the surface morphology and interior structure, which may include a liquid water ocean.

    Enshrouded by a thick nitrogen-dominated atmosphere and partly covered by lakes and rivers, Titan has a weather and hydrological cycle that bears some interesting similarities to Earth. However, there are important differences: the key component there is not water, like on our planet, but methane, and the temperature is very low, around –180°C at the surface.

    Over its 13-year mission, Cassini will have covered about half of Saturn’s orbit, in which the planet takes 29 years to circle the Sun. This means that the spacecraft has monitored two seasons on Titan, an object that can teach us much on the past and the future of Earth.

    2
    Enceladus plumes
    Released 03/04/2014
    Copyright NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
    Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice out from many locations along the ‘tiger stripes’ near the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The tiger stripes are fissures that spray icy particles, water vapour and organic compounds. More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image, which is a mosaic created from two high-resolution images captured when Cassini flew past Enceladus and through the jets on 21 November 2009. This view was obtained at a distance of about 14 000 km from Enceladus.

    Another of Cassini’s breakthroughs was the detection of a towering plume of water vapour and organic material spraying into space from warm fractures near the south pole of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus. These salt-rich jets indicate that an underground sea of liquid water is lurking only a few kilometres below the moon’s icy surface, as confirmed by gravity and rotation measurements.

    A recent analysis of data collected during flybys of Enceladus with the Cassini Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer also revealed hydrogen gas in the plume, suggesting that rock might be reacting with warm water on the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean. This hydrothermal activity could provide a chemical energy source for life, enabling non-photosynthetic biological processes similar to the ones found near the hydrothermal vents on the Earth’s ocean floor and pointing to the potential habitability of Enceladus’ underground ocean.

    Following over a decade of ground-breaking discoveries, Cassini is now approaching its end. With little fuel left to correct the spacecraft trajectory, it has been decided to end the mission by plunging it into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September 2017. In the process, Cassini will burn up, satisfying planetary protection requirements to avoid possible contamination of any moons of Saturn that could have conditions suitable for life.

    4
    Grand finale orbits
    Released 25/04/2017
    Copyright NASA/JPL-Caltech/Erick Sturm
    Illustration of the trajectory of the Cassini mission between November 2016 and September 2017.
    Following a series of ring-grazing orbits that started in November 2016 (grey), the mission executed its 127th and final close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on 22 April 2017. The orbit of Titan is shown in yellow. This manoeuvre put the spacecraft onto its ‘grand finale’ trajectory: a series of 22 orbits, each lasting about a week, drawing closer to Saturn and passing between the planet’s innermost rings and its outer atmosphere (blue). Eventually, Cassini will plunge and burn up into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September 2017 (orange), satisfying planetary protection requirements to avoid possible contamination of any moons of Saturn that could have conditions suitable for life.

    The grand finale is not only a spectacular way to complete this extraordinary mission, but will also return a bounty of unique scientific data that was not possible to collect during the previous phases of the mission. Cassini has never ventured into the area between Saturn and its rings before, so the new set of orbits is almost like a whole new mission.

    These close orbits will be inclined 63 degrees with respect to Saturn’s equator and will provide the highest resolution observations ever achieved of the inner rings and the planet’s clouds. The orbits will also give the chance to examine in situ the material in the rings and plasma environment of Saturn.

    With its radio science investigation, Cassini will measure Saturn’s gravitational field as close as 3000 km from Saturn’s upper cloud layers, greatly improving the current models of the planet’s internal structure and winds in its atmosphere. Scientists expect the new data will also allow them to disentangle the gravity of the planet from the tiny pull exerted on the spacecraft by the rings, estimating the total mass of the rings to unprecedented accuracy. ESA ground stations in Argentina and Australia will help receive Cassini’s radio science data, providing a series of 22 tracking passes during the grand finale.


    ESA Norcia tracking station
    Published on Aug 2, 2012
    Clip recorded in April 2012 showing ESA’s 35m deep-space tracking station at New Norcia, Australia, swinging into action to conduct a communication pass. DSA-1 is designed for deep-space satellite missions and provides daily support to Mars Express, Rosetta and Venus Express for routine operations. The mechanical movable structure weighs 580 tonnes. Engineers can point it with a speed of 0.4 degrees per second in both axes (horizontal and vertical). Its Servo Control System provides the highest possible pointing accuracy under the site’s environmental, wind and temperature conditions. More details via http://bit.ly/96u55A

    3
    The New Norcia station, DSA 1 (Deep Space Antenna 1), hosts a 35-metre deep-space antenna with transmission and reception in both S- and X-band and is located 140 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia, close to the town of New Norcia. DSA-1 is designed for communicating with deep-space missions and provides support to spacecraft such as Mars Express, Rosetta and Gaia for routine operations.

    4
    Malargue, Mendoza, Argentina – Europe opens state of the art satellite tracking station.ESA’s Malargüe Station

    The grand finale orbits will also probe the planet’s magnetic field at similarly close distances. Previous observations have shown that the magnetic field is weaker than expected, with the magnetic axis surprisingly well aligned with the planet’s rotation. New data to be collected by the Cassini magnetometer will provide insights to understand why this is so and where the sources of magnetic field are located, or whether something in Saturn’s atmosphere has been obscuring the true magnetic field from Cassini until now.

    5
    Cassini between Saturn and the rings. No image credit.

    While crossing the ring plane, Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer will directly sample the composition of dust particles from different parts of the ring system, whereas the Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer will sniff the upper atmosphere layers of Saturn to analyse molecules escaping from the atmosphere as well as water-based molecules that originate from the rings.

    “At last, we have now reached the final and most audacious phase of this pioneering mission, pushing the spacecraft once again into unexplored territory,” says Nicolas Altobelli, ESA Cassini project scientist.

    “We are looking forward to the flow of exciting new data that Cassini will send back in the coming months.”

    Cassini–Huygens is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.

    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 7:23 am on April 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESA, JWST lights out inspection,   

    From ESA: “JWST lights out inspection” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    4.22.17

    1

    After completion of its vibration and acoustic testing in March, the James Webb Space Telescope – JWST – is shown here undergoing a detailed ‘lights out’ inspection in one of NASA’s cleanrooms at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

    This is a special type of visual inspection to check for any forms of contamination. Both bright white LEDs and UV lights are used in order to better search for possible contamination, with the lights inside the cleanroom switched off to improve the contrast.

    The low lighting means the image had to be taken with a longer than normal exposure time. This makes the technicians appear somewhat ghostly as they moved about the cleanroom during the exposure.

    The image shows the segmented and gold-coated primary mirror of the telescope, which has a diameter of about 6.5 m when unfolded. It consists of 18 hexagonal segments, which will work together as one gigantic state-of-the-art mirror.

    In order to fit inside the Ariane 5 rocket that will boost it into space, some segments will be folded, which will then open in orbit.

    By the end of April, the telescope and the instruments will be shipped from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland to Johnson’s Space Center in Texas where, over the course of the summer, it will go through final cryogenic-temperature testing.

    JWST is joint project of NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, and is scheduled for launch in October 2018 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This image was first published on 15 March via the NASA JWST pages.
    Credits: NASA–C. Gunn

    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 1:57 pm on April 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESA, ESA’s Hertz Hybrid European RF and Antenna Test Zone for antenna testing, Ice Cloud Imager, MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG)   

    From ESA: “Small but perfectly formed high-frequency radio testing” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1
    High-frequency near-field scanner. No image credit.

    10 April 2017

    ESA’s antenna test facilities are operating at higher frequencies than ever before, helping to prepare a future instrument targeting a mystery aspect of Earth’s climate.

    The new (Sub)millimetre-wave Scanner Test Facility at ESA’s technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, was used for the first time for early testing of prototype feed horns designed for the highest frequency channel of a ‘radiometer’ to scan Earth’s atmosphere for icy cirrus clouds.

    2
    MetOp Second Generation
    Released 21/11/2012
    Copyright ESA-P. Carril, 2012
    MetOp Second Generation (MetOp-SG) will continue meteorological observations from polar orbit. It will ensure continuity of indispensable observations without data gaps, improve the accuracy and resolution of the measurements and provide new measurement capabilities.

    These high-altitude clouds play a crucial role in global climate. They reflect radiation from the Sun back into space as well as trapping upwelling radiation from below in a natural greenhouse effect. Which of these two competing mechanisms dominates depends on the altitude, the composition of the clouds and the size and shape of the ice crystals making up the clouds.

    As part of the MetOp-Second-Generation payload, the Ice Cloud Imager will continuously observe Earth’s atmosphere in 11 mm and sub-mm channels. Europe’s first MetOp-SG weather satellite is scheduled to be launched into a polar orbit in 2022.

    3
    Scanner beside imager feed horn
    Released 10/04/2017
    Copyright ESA–G. Porter, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
    The new (Sub)millimetre-wave Scanner Test Facility at ESA’s technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands testing a high-frequency feed horn for the Ice Cloud Imager planned to fly on MetOp Second Generation. The feed horn is seen to the right with the Facility’s movable planar near-field scanner, used to build up a detailed signal picture in all directions, to the left.

    “With our new (Sub)mm-wave Scanner we can easily work with frequencies up to 750 GHz,” explains ESA antenna engineer Elena Saenz.
    “The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, and in this case that brings us down to around half of a millimetre – so everything gets very small-scale.”

    4
    Hybrid European RF and Antenna Test Zone
    Released 11/04/2013 12:00 pm
    Copyright ESA-Anneke Le Floc’h
    ESA’s Hertz Hybrid European RF and Antenna Test Zone for antenna testing, formerly known as the Compact Payload Test Range. Metal walls screen outside radio signals while spiky foam interior cladding absorbs radio signals internally to create conditions simulating the infinite void of space.

    “This test bench, equipped to build up a detailed signal picture in all directions, is the functional equivalent of the full-scale Hertz Hybrid European RF and Antenna Test Zone chamber, big enough to encapsulate entire satellites or large antennas, which operates up to 50 GHz.

    “But there are big challenges associated with extending our operating frequencies upwards in this way. First of all, the extreme electronics performance needed to generate the radio signals, and then to ensure the highly precise alignment of the test, using laser measurement systems. The scanner itself rests on a granite block to isolate it from external vibration.”

    ESA’s Antenna Test Facilities are able to meet the needs of future missions, which are set to employ a broader range of radio frequencies.

    The early testing performed for MetOp-SG’s cloud imager will be followed by research beneficial to instruments operating at even higher frequencies, such as the submillimetre sensor for the Juice Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer mission, due to be launched in 2022.

    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 5:53 am on April 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA   

    From ESA: “CubeSats: from educational tools to autonomous space drones” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    31 March 2017
    Roger Walker, Technology CubeSat manager

    1
    Un-named ESA cubesats

    2
    e-st@r team clean their CubeSat before integration

    3
    The technology-testing GomX-3 under construction. A ‘three-unit’ CubeSat, it measures 10x10x30 cm in size with an approximate mass of 3 kg, with payloads to detect signals from aircraft and telecom satellites. (Credit: davidgerhardt.com)

    CubeSats started as a tool for education. Profs Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University and Bob Twiggs of Stanford University wanted students to gain hands-on experience in designing, making and flying nanosatellites, but they needed to do it cheaply.

    That led them to the PC/104 computer standard, with rugged, stackable electronics boards with commercial components to fit within a 10x10x10 cm box (or unit). A container was developed as a standard interface for launch vehicles, with a spring-loaded ‘jack in a box’ deployment system to push out three CubeSats at a time into space. That in turn inspired the idea of a single 3-unit CubeSat, packing in added technology and a payload. The CubeSat standard was born. Within their budgets for the first time, many university engineering facilities worldwide then embraced the concept and gave the chance for students to build something to actually fly in space – how cool is that?

    ESA’s involvement with CubeSats started in 2006, when I was working at the Education Office. There was an opportunity to embark educational CubeSats on the maiden flight of our new Vega launcher. The agreement was signed with the Vega project in 2007, and that led in turn to the first European CubeSat symposium in early 2008. Vega launched seven separate 1-unit CubeSats in the end. Different European universities designed, manufactured and tested the CubeSats and we supported their engineering work, verified their suitability for flight and procured their deployment systems.

    The 2012 launch saw these CubeSats meet with mixed operational success – only two worked for a long period, three for a few weeks and contact was lost with a couple. But they were all successes in educational terms, of course. When universities make a CubeSat for the first time then there’s maybe a 50/50 chance of failure, but for second and third times it’s a lot lower. And the student teams responsible for those pioneer CubeSats formed spin-off companies after graduation.

    These companies have grown exponentially since then, employing dozens of people, manufacturing multiple CubeSats annually as the market has expanded greatly with not only universities, but also government agencies and commercial service start-ups now utilising them.

    ESA’s involvement with educational CubeSats continues to this day and this remains very important, but it was clear back then that CubeSats held wider potential – quick and cheap to develop and launch, they offer an ideal platform for demonstrating promising new technologies. So that’s my current role within TEC, bringing together technology companies and research institutes with CubeSat companies.

    We group payloads together synergistically so each technology CubeSat is more than the sum of its parts. For instance, GomX-3 – our first mission to fly – combined a receiver of ADS-B aircraft signals with a system to map signal quality from telecom satellites, 3-axis pointing control plus an X-band transmitter for rapid data download. Another CubeSat, QARMAN, is focused on reentry technologies and is scheduled to launch later this year. We have another four technology CubeSats in development currently.

    If our really big satellites resemble mainframe computers, and standard satellites are PCs, then CubeSats equal smartphones – highly compact and portable, integrating miniaturised sensors with powerful but low-power computer processors and software radios. Here on Earth, aerial drones are exploiting the same technologies as CubeSats and pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight systems, so I like to think that CubeSats have the potential to become the autonomous drones of space. For instance, we’re looking at similar concepts for CubeSats such as autonomous navigation, close proximity operations, swarm formations as well as on-orbit inspection and assembly techniques, the latter to build up larger structures from basic building blocks.

    And as well as flying in new ways, we want to fly CubeSats to new places –we’ve been looking into deep space missions, and are planning later this year to invite concepts for lunar CubeSats in support of exploration objectives.

    I’m continually impressed by the sheer creativity involved in miniaturising systems to put them in these small boxes – instruments, propulsion systems, radios… European industry and research labs are pushing ahead rapidly with developing new products and we are helping them to get those products into orbit as quickly as possible, so they can maintain a competitive edge.

    Each technology CubeSat project is managed to a standard engineering and product/quality assurance approach with a tailored version of the ECSS standards for CubeSats, focussed on managing risks and maximising probability of mission success within the limited financial budgets. Along with access to the Agency’s technical expertise and facilities, this allows us to offer significant added value to Member States funding these small innovative missions within our Technology Programme.

    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 9:02 am on March 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, Rapid changes point to origin of ultra-fast black hole winds   

    From ESA: “Rapid changes point to origin of ultra-fast black hole winds” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1 March 2017
    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    Michael Parker
    Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK
    Email: mlparker@ast.cam.ac.uk

    Andrew Fabian
    Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK
    Email: acf@ast.cam.ac.uk

    Norbert Schartel
    XMM-Newton project scientist
    Email: Norbert.Schartel@esa.int

    1
    Black hole with ultrafast winds. No image credit

    ESA and NASA space telescopes have made the most detailed observation of an ultra-fast wind flowing from the vicinity of a black hole at nearly a quarter of the speed of light.

    Outflowing gas is a common feature of the supermassive black holes that reside in the centre of large galaxies. Millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun, these black holes feed off the surrounding gas that swirls around them. Space telescopes see this as bright emissions, including X-rays, from the innermost part of the disc around the black hole.

    Occasionally, the black holes eat too much and burp out an ultra-fast wind. These winds are an important characteristic to study because they could have a strong influence on regulating the growth of the host galaxy by clearing the surrounding gas away and therefore suppressing the birth of stars.

    Using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuStar telescopes, scientists have now made the most detailed observation yet of such an outflow, coming from an active galaxy identified as IRAS 13224–3809.

    ESA/XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM Newton

    NASA/NuSTAR
    NASA/NuSTAR

    The winds recorded from the black hole reach 71 000 km/s – 0.24 times the speed of light – putting it in the top 5% of fastest known black hole winds.

    XMM-Newton focused on the black hole for 17 days straight, revealing the extremely variable nature of the winds.

    “We often only have one observation of a particular object, then several months or even years later we observe it again and see if there’s been a change,” says Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, UK, lead author of the paper published in Nature this week that describes the new result.

    “Thanks to this long observation campaign, we observed changes in the winds on a timescale of less than an hour for the first time.”

    The changes were seen in the increasing temperature of the winds, a signature of their response to greater X-ray emission from the disc right next to the black hole.

    Furthermore, the observations also revealed changes to the chemical fingerprints of the outflowing gas: as the X-ray emission increased, it stripped electrons in the wind from their atoms, erasing the wind signatures seen in the data.

    “The chemical fingerprints of the wind changed with the strength of the X-rays in less than an hour, hundreds of times faster than ever seen before,” says co-author Andrew Fabian, also from the Institute of Astronomy and principal investigator of the project.

    “It allows us to link the X-ray emission arising from the infalling material into the black hole, to the variability of the outflowing wind farther away.”

    “Finding such variability, and finding evidence for this link, is a key step in understanding how black hole winds are launched and accelerated, which in turn is an essential part of understanding their ability to moderate star formation in the host galaxy,” adds Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton project scientist.

    The response of relativistic outflowing gas to the inner accretion disk of a black hole,” by M. Parker et al. is published in Nature.

    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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