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  • richardmitnick 12:39 pm on July 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, GAIA Space Observatory   

    From European Space Agency: “Gaia’s biggest operation since launch and commissioning” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    15 July 2019

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    Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way

    On Tuesday 16 July, teams at ESA’s mission control will perform an ‘orbit change manoeuvre’ on the Gaia space observatory – the biggest operation since the spacecraft was launched in 2013.

    Gaia is on a mission to survey more than a billion stars, charting the largest three-dimensional map of our galaxy, the Milky Way. In so doing, the spacecraft is revealing the composition, formation and evolution of our galaxy, and a whole lot more.

    For the last five and a half years, the spacecraft has travelled in an orbit designed to keep it out of Earth’s shadow, the second Lagrange point.

    At 1.5 million km from Earth – four times further than the Moon – the ‘L2’ is a fabulous place from which to do science. As the Sun, Earth and Moon are all in one direction relative to the spacecraft, the rest of the sky is free to observe.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    Placing Gaia in L2 has also ensured the star-catcher’s stability, because to this day it has never passed into Earth’s shadow. This has kept the spacecraft undisturbed by any change in temperature or varying infra-red radiation that would result from an Earth eclipse.

    Although at the end of its planned lifetime, Gaia still has fuel in the tank and a lot more science to do, and so its mission continues. However, its eclipse-dodging path will not. In August and November of this year, without measures to change its orbit, the billion-star hunter will become partially shrouded by Earth’s shadow.

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    Avoiding Earth’s shadow

    These two eclipses would prevent enough of the Sun’s light reaching Gaia’s solar panels that the observatory would shut down. As well as affecting its stability and power, such shade would cause a thermal disturbance, impacting the spacecraft’s scientific data acquisition for weeks.

    Eclipse Avoidance

    To keep Gaia safe from these shady possibilities, operators at ESA’s mission control are planning the ‘Whitehead eclipse avoidance manoeuvre’.

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    On 16 July, Gaia will use a combination of its onboard thrusters to push it in a diagonal direction, away from the shadow, in a special technique known as ‘thrust vectoring’.

    “We’ve named this operation after a great colleague of ours, Gary Whitehead, who sadly passed away last month after serving on the Flight Control Team for more than 11 years,” says David Milligan, Spacecraft Operations Manager for the mission.

    “The manoeuvre will allow us to change Gaia’s orbit without having to turn the spacecraft body, keeping sunlight safely away from its extremely sensitive telescope.”

    __________________________________________________________________
    Four years of Gaia
    20/12/2017

    Four years ago, on 19 December 2013, Gaia was launched from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission’s operations teams led by Spacecraft Operations Manager David Milligan (pictured), followed the event from the control room in Darmstadt, Germany.

    Gaia is charting a 3D map of the Milky Way, accurately measuring and cataloguing the positions, distances and motions of more than a billion stars.

    This ambitious mission aims to reveal the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia instruments are collecting over 10 000 times the data of its Hipparcos predecessor, launched in the late 1980s.

    Measuring stellar positions and motions to the required accuracy is not easy, requiring extreme precision in the stability of the spacecraft, detailed knowledge of its position and unprecedented accuracy in timing.

    This marvel of technology has executed over 1.6 million commands, completed 29 manoeuvres, performed some 1108 billion total measurements, made more than 3100 ground-station contacts and accumulated 47.5 TB of science data.

    Once the data are acquired and downlinked, the work is just starting, as they have to be processed by a large consortium of scientists and engineers across Europe. Astronomers will delve into the data to investigate the present and past history of our Galaxy – a process that will continue for years after the spacecraft has competed its task.

    ESA’s Hipparcos yielded a primary catalogue with positions, distances and motions of about 118 000 stars, and a secondary catalogue with less precise measurements for over two million stars.

    ESA/Hipparcos satellite

    Gaia’s instruments not only collect more data but also provide extremely more accurate information. The data produced during the first five years of Gaia could fill 70 000 CDs.

    In September 2016, Gaia published its first data release, a ‘taster’ catalogue containing more than a billion positions of stars on the sky and, for a subset of two million, also the parallax and proper motion. Next April, a new catalogue will be published containing positions, parallaxes and proper motions for more than a billion stars. This ground-breaking release will also include the brightness and colours of almost all stars, and other astrophysical parameters, such as radial velocity or temperature, for a subset of them.
    __________________________________________________________________

    The world’s most stable space observatory

    Gaia is an incredibly stable spacecraft. In fact, it is many, many times more stable – and therefore precise – than any other spacecraft in operation today.

    “In space, stability takes time to establish,” explains David.

    “Because any temperature change or unusual movement could take weeks to diminish or dampen, we always limit the time where special activities are performed that disturb scientific observations.”

    “As well as the Whitehead manoeuvre, we will perform some maintenance and calibration activities on the spacecraft’s complex subsystems, which would otherwise have disturbed Gaia’s science.”

    Because of its position and unparalleled precision, Gaia is one of the most productive spacecraft out there. Last year alone, more than 800 scientific papers were published based on its observations.

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    Gaia’s sky in colour

    Follow Live

    Follow the manoeuvre in real time via @esaoperations on Twitter, from 08.30UTC (10.30CEST) on 16 July. We’ll be coming direct from ESA’s Main Control Room, sharing the moment that Gaia starts its new life in orbit.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 7:57 am on July 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Aux thrusters are GO", , , , , ESA, European Service Module 2 assembly   

    From European Space Agency: “Aux thrusters are GO” 

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    From European Space Agency

    09/07/2019

    European Service Module 2 assembly

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    The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.

    NASA Orion Spacecraft

    In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.

    Every wire seen in this structure must be correctly connected and configured to ensure the systems providing power, propulsion, oxygen and heat get the spacecraft and its crew of four safely around the Moon and back.

    Partially visible at the bottom of the Service Module are the auxiliary thrusters that have recently been installed. These along with two other types of engines will get Orion to its destination.

    The main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown in space before. The eight auxiliary thrusters come in as backup to this main engine and to provide orbit corrections.

    Lastly, 24 smaller engines grouped into six pods provide attitude control. In fixed positions, they can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions and rotate it into any position.

    ESM-2 is expected to be completed and delivered to NASA in 2020.

    The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in October 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module. The trio are undergoing thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio this summer.

    The recent successful Launch Abort Test that proved the spacecraft’s system can pull astronauts to safety in the event of a launch anomaly has marked another major milestone for Orion’s first exploratory mission.

    Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human has ever travelled.

    On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth.

    The total trip will take around 20 days, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean without the European Service Module – it separates and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

    Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts.

    The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavour.

    Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.

    In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.

    ESA is committed to working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration targeting the Moon and Mars.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 7:37 am on July 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D printing of body parts on long space voyages., , , , , , ESA   

    From European Space Agency: “Upside-down 3D-printed skin and bone, for humans to Mars” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    9 July 2019

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    Bioprinted bone sample. 3D printed human bone sample. Bioprinting human tissue could help keep astronauts healthy all the way to Mars. An ESA project has produced its first bioprinted skin and bone samples. This bone sample was printed with human stem cells using human blood plasma as a nutrient-rich ‘bio-ink’ with the addition of a calcium phosphate bone cement as a structure-supporting material, plus plant- and algae-sourced methylcellullose and alginate added to increase the viscosity of this bio-ink, making it suitable for use in low gravity conditions.

    3D printing human tissue could help keep astronauts healthy all the way to Mars. An ESA project has produced its first bioprinted skin and bone samples.

    These state-of-the-art samples were prepared by scientists from the University Hospital of Dresden Technical University (TUD), part of the project consortium together with OHB System AG as the prime contractor, and life sciences specialist Blue Horizon.

    “Skin cells can be bioprinted using human blood plasma as a nutrient-rich ‘bio-ink’ – which would be easily accessible from the mission crewmembers,” comments Nieves Cubo from TUD.

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    Bioprinted skin sample. Bioprinted human skin sample. 3D printing human tissue could help keep astronauts healthy all the way to Mars. An ESA project has produced its first bioprinted skin and bone samples. This sample was printed with human skin cells using human blood plasma as a nutrient-rich ‘bio-ink’. Plant- and algae-sourced methylcellullose and alginate have been added to increase the viscosity of this bio-ink, making it suitable for use in low gravity conditions.

    “However, plasma has a highly fluid consistency, making it difficult to work with in altered gravitational conditions. We therefore developed a modified recipe by adding methylcellullose and alginate to increase the viscosity of the substrate. Astronauts could obtain these substances from plants and algae respectively, a feasible solution for a self-contained space expedition.

    “Producing the bone sample involved printing human stem cells with a similar bio-ink composition, with the addition of a calcium phosphate bone cement as a structure-supporting material, which is subsequently absorbed during the growth phase.”


    3D printing skin

    To prove that the bioprinting technique was transferable to space, printing of both the skin and bone samples took place upside down. With prolonged access to weightlessness impractical, the challenge of such ‘minus 1 G’ testing represented the next best option.

    The samples represent the first steps in an ambitious end-to-end roadmap to make 3D bioprinting practical for space. The project is looking into the kind of onboard facilities that would be required, in terms of equipment, surgical rooms and sterile environments, as well as the ability to create more complex tissues for transplants – culminating ultimately in the printing of entire internal organs.


    3D printing bone

    “A journey to Mars or other interplanetary destinations will involve several years in space,” comments Tommaso Ghidini, head of ESA’s Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division, overseeing the project.

    “The crew will run many risks, and returning home early will not be possible. Carrying enough medical supplies for all possible eventualities would be impossible in the limited space and mass of a spacecraft.

    “Instead, a 3D bioprinting capability will let them respond to medical emergencies as they arise. In the case of burns, for instance, brand new skin could be bioprinted instead of being grafted from elsewhere on the astronaut’s body, doing secondary damage that may not heal easily in the orbital environment.

    “Or in the case of bone fractures – rendered more likely by the weightlessness of space, coupled with the partial 0.38 Earth gravity of Mars – replacement bone could be inserted into injured areas. In all cases the bioprinted material would originate with the astronaut themselves, so there would be no issue with transplant rejection.”

    4
    Close-up of growing bone. Close-up view of growing bioprinted bone. This bone sample was printed with human stem cells using human blood plasma as a nutrient-rich ‘bio-ink’ with the addition of a calcium phosphate bone cement as a structure-supporting material, subsequently absorbed during the growth phase.

    With 3D bioprinting progressing steadily on Earth, this project is the first to adopt it off the planet, explains Tommaso: “It’s a typical pattern we see when promising terrestrial technologies are first harnessed for space, ranging from cameras to microprocessors. More needs to be done with less, to make things work in the challenging space environment, so various elements of the technology get optimised and miniaturised.

    “Similarly, we hope that the work we do with 3D bioprinting will help accelerate its progress on Earth as well, hastening its widespread availability, bringing it to people even sooner.”

    The 3D Printing of Living Tissue for Space Exploration project is supported through ESA Basic Activities within the Discovery and Preparation element, and led by OHB System AG in Germany in cooperation with the Centre for Translational Bone, Joint and Soft Tissue Research of TU Dresden in Germany.

    4

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 9:19 am on July 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA, , SpaceBok robot   

    From European Space Agency: “Jumping space robot ‘flies’ like a spacecraft” 

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    From European Space Agency

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    Spacebok jumping in simulated lunar gravity

    4 July 2019

    Astronauts on the Moon found themselves hopping around, rather than simply walking. Switzerland’s SpaceBok planetary exploration robot has followed their example, launching all four legs off the ground during tests at ESA’s technical heart.

    SpaceBok is a quadruped robot designed and built by a Swiss student team from ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich. It is currently being tested using robotic facilities at ESA’s

    ESA Estec

    technical centre in the Netherlands.

    Work is proceeding under the leadership of PhD student Hendrik Kolvenbach from ETH Zurich’s Robotic Systems Lab, currently based at ESTEC. The robot is being used to investigate the potential of ‘dynamic walking’ to get around in low gravity environments.

    Hendrik explains: “Instead of static walking, where at least three legs stay on the ground at all times, dynamic walking allows for gaits with full flight phases during which all legs stay off the ground. Animals make use of dynamic gaits due to their efficiency, but until recently, the computational power and algorithms required for control made it challenging to realise them on robots.

    “For the lower gravity environments of the Moon, Mars or asteroids, jumping off the ground like this turns out to be a very efficient way to get around.”

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    Hendrik Kolvenbach with SpaceBok. Work on SpaceBok is proceeding under the leadership of PhD student Hendrik Kolvenbach from ETH Zurich’s Robotic Systems Lab, currently based at ESTEC. The robot is being used to investigate the potential of ‘dynamic walking’ to get around in low gravity environments.

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    Simulating low-gravity conditions

    “Astronauts moving in the one-sixth gravity of the Moon adopted jumping instinctively. SpaceBok could potentially go up to 2 m high in lunar gravity, although such a height poses new challenges. Once it comes off the ground the legged robot needs to stabilise itself to come down again safely – it’s basically behaving like a mini-spacecraft at this point,” says team member Alexander Dietsche.

    “So what we’ve done is harness one of the methods a conventional satellite uses to control its orientation, called a reaction wheel. It can be accelerated and decelerated to trigger an equal and opposite reaction in SpaceBok itself,” explains team member Philip Arm.

    “Additionally, SpaceBok’s legs incorporate springs to store energy during landing and release it at take-off, significantly reducing the energy needed to achieve those jumps,” adds another team member, Benjamin Sun.

    The team is slowly increasing the height of the robot’s repetitive jumps, up to 1.3 m in simulated lunar gravity conditions so far.

    Test rigs have been set up to simulate various gravity environments, mimicking not only lunar conditions but also the very low gravities of asteroids. The lower the gravity the longer the flight phase can be for each robot jump, but effective control is needed for both take-off and landing.

    To simulate the vanishingly low gravity of asteroids, the SpaceBok team made use of the flattest floor in the Netherlands – a 4.8 x 9 m epoxy floor smoothed to an overall flatness within 0.8 mm, called the Orbital Robotics Bench for Integrated Technology (ORBIT), part of ESA’s Orbital Robotics and Guidance Navigation and Control Laboratory.

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    Robot mounted sideways

    SpaceBok was placed on its side, then attached to a free-floating platform to reproduce zero-G conditions in two dimensions. When jumping off a wall its reaction wheel allowed it to twirl around mid-jump, letting it land feet first again on the other side of the chamber – as if it was jumping along a scaled-down single low-gravity surface.

    Hendrik added: “The testing went sufficiently well that we even used SpaceBok to play a live-action game of Pong, the video game classic.”

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    SpaceBok robot

    Testing will continue in more realistic conditions, with jumps made over obstacles, hilly terrain, and realistic soil, eventually moving out of doors.

    Hendrik is studying at ESTEC through ESA’s Networking Partnering Initiative, intended to harness advanced academic research for space applications.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 8:59 am on July 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "ESA’s wandering eye", , , , , ESA, Sitting 2400 m above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife Spain ESA’s Optical Ground Station keeps watch on the skies.   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA’s wandering eye” 

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    From European Space Agency

    ESA Optical Ground Station Observatorien des Instituto Astrofisica Canaris auf Teneriffa nahe dem Vulkan Teide auf 2400 Metern Höhe
    Fotograf: Thorsten Naeser
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    Sitting 2400 m above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife, Spain, ESA’s Optical Ground Station keeps watch on the skies.

    The 1-m telescope nestled within the dome on the left of this image, spends its time surveying Earth’s local environment for artificial debris objects, testing different strategies for observing risky asteroids (near-Earth objects) as well as testing and commissioning optical communication satellites. (The telescope is also used for quantum key distribution and feeder-link experiments.)

    Part of the larger Teide Observatory, the optical ground station can detect artificial debris objects as small as 10-cm travelling in the ‘geostationary ring’ – a volume of space that comprises all geostationary orbits suitable for practical use, and one of the most valuable regions in space for telecommunications and Earth observation.

    The search for fragments in the geostationary ring and a better knowledge of the current debris population are crucial to understand its future evolution, to assess the risk of collisions, and to define suitable and cost-efficient mitigation measures.

    ESA’s Space Safety activities are underpinned by such accurate data from observatories around the globe, not only on space debris and asteroids but on our energetic Sun.

    Find out more about how ESA works to keep people, life and infrastructure safe, here.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 12:12 pm on July 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA, Space Radiation   

    From European Space Agency: “Radiation sensitive” 

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    From European Space Agency

    1 July 2019

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    A particle accelerator to help make spaceflight safer

    There is little known about the effects of space radiation on the human body. Astronauts cannot see or feel it, yet the high doses they are exposed to outside Earth’s cocoon pose health hazards for trips to the Moon and Mars. To help investigate and find out more, European scientists can now accelerate atoms at close to the speed of light to learn how to protect astronauts.

    Space radiation passes through matter and penetrates the human body. Energetic particles impact living tissues, impairing normal function of cells and even killing them. An astronaut on a mission to Mars could receive radiation doses up to 700 times higher than on our planet.

    This type of radiation is a major concern for space agencies – the constant shelling of cosmic rays could damage crews and jeopardise a mission.

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    Cosmic radiation could increase cancer risks during long duration missions. Damage to the human body extends to the brain, heart and the central nervous system and sets the stage for degenerative diseases. A higher percentage of early-onset cataracts have been reported in astronauts.

    Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us from the constant bombardment of galactic cosmic rays – energetic particles that travel at close to the speed of light and penetrate the human body.

    A second source of space radiation comes from unpredictable solar particle events that deliver high doses of radiation in a short period of time, leading to ‘radiation sickness’ unless protective measures are taken.

    “The radiation risk is characterised by high uncertainty and lack of countermeasures. We need to know more,” says Jennifer Ngo-Anh, ESA’s team leader for human research, biology and physical sciences.

    Radiation damage to the human body extends to the brain, heart and the central nervous system.

    ESA is opening the doors to research into the biological effects of space radiation. Experiments should investigate radiation doses that astronauts could cope with while staying safe from cancer or other degenerative diseases during and after a mission.

    Scientists are encouraged to investigate radiation risks and how to stop them with the right countermeasures.

    ESA is offering access to a high-energy accelerator to recreate cosmic radiation by ‘shooting’ atomic particles to speeds approaching the speed of light.

    Experiments will take place at the GSI accelerator facility in Darmstadt, Germany, also known for the discovery of six chemical elements and the development of a new type of tumor therapy using ion beams.

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    Living in space is no easy task, and one of the largest concerns for mission planners cannot even be seen: cosmic radiation poses a risk to the human body in the form of cancer, central nervous system disorders, cardiovascular problems and tissue degeneration.

    Our atmosphere protects us on Earth from the constant barrage of cosmic radiation, but venture 50 km up – the International Space Station circles at around 400 km altitude – and the only thing protecting astronauts is the spacecraft hull or their spacesuits. Risk builds over time so we will need to develop ways of counteracting radiation on long missions to far-away planets.

    To understand the full biological effects of cosmic rays and accurately calculate how much exposure humans can safely withstand is where GSI, the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research, comes in. ESA is inviting researchers to investigate the biological effects of space radiation using GSI’s large particle accelerator in Darmstadt, Germany.

    GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research GmbH, Darmstadt, Germany

    Researchers from all over the world use this facility to gain new insights into the building blocks of matter and the evolution of the Universe, as well as developing new applications in medicine and technology.

    The SIS-18 ring accelerator can shoot ions at targets including biological cells, recreating cosmic radiation. Analysing how the ions interact will help mission designers to develop new ways of minimising the risks of cosmic radiation. The ions are accelerated with magnets to 90% of the speed of light, or 270 000 km/s.

    Sounds interesting? Send a letter of intent by 15 September with your experiment idea, which should contribute to improving the risk assessments of cosmic radiation exposure or to studying countermeasures on cells to allow safe human space exploration.

    Results of such experiments will also have applications for life on Earth. Though well protected, humans are not immune from radiation exposure. Data from these studies inform us of risks of radiation exposure on Earth as well as improve radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 12:37 pm on June 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESA, , ,   

    From European Space Agency: “When CubeSats meet asteroid” 

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    From European Space Agency

    28 June 2019

    ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    “We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.

    “We can go down to a few percent of Earth’s gravity within the test box that we place within the drop tower, containing a model lander and simulated asteroid terrain.

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    APEX and Juventas CubeSats

    “Our team started out with a spherical lander touching down on a sandy surface, but we’ve progressed to cubic shapes more representative of the actual CubeSats. We’ve also been studying the influence of different surface materials, and sought to understand how the landing process varies with different material properties, gravity levels and velocities.

    “This is necessary because each time we go to a different asteroid we end up surprised by what we find. For instance, Japan’s Hayabusa2, currently exploring the Ryugu asteroid, has found much scarcer ‘regolith’ dust and more boulders than researchers had expected.”

    JAXA/Hayabusa 2 Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita

    4
    Lander models inside drop box

    Hera’s Juventas CubeSat will perform the first radar probe of an asteroid, while the APEX CubeSat will perform a multispectral mineral survey of its makeup.

    These two nanosatellites will fly closer to their target asteroid and take more risks than the main Hera spacecraft, and will both end up landing on the surface once their main mission goals are achieved.

    The pull of gravity involved is less than one hundred thousandth of Earth’s, far lower than can be reproduced by the ISAE-Supaero team. This means the touchdown itself will be more like a spacecraft docking than a traditional planetary landing.

    “Imagine, for instance, if the CubeSats are released 200 m from the asteroid surface, then they will take over an hour to cover that brief distance to the surface,” adds Naomi. “Everything moves in a kind of slow motion. Then there is also the possibility of bouncing off again.

    4
    APEX CubeSat above Didymoon

    “The Rosetta comet-chaser’s Philae lander bounced off the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko repeatedly before finally coming to rest. Certainly if you were an astronaut on the surface you would have to walk with incredibly gentle steps to avoid leaving the surface and never coming back.”

    The hope is that both CubeSats survive their descent to return some observations, including close-up views of the surface material. But the main purpose of the ISAE-Supaero testing is to squeeze as much valuable data out of that initial moment of contact.

    5
    Juventas CubeSat coming in for asteroid landing

    “We’ve fitted our test lander with accelerometers similar to those that one of the Hera CubeSats will be carrying,” says Naomi. “We can see for example how the impact dynamics vary based on the material properties, from sand to large gravel, influencing how much we penetrate into the surface and how long the collision lasts.

    “And we are learning how results differ based on how the CubeSats land, whether they come down corner or face first – a face-down landing would give a higher peak acceleration. At the end of our testing we hope to have a set of data to better interpret the actual landings – and prove useful for understanding other missions’ interactions with asteroids as well.”

    Back in 2005 researchers were similarly able to acquire precious knowledge of the frozen methane crust of Saturn’s Moon Titan by the way ESA’s Huygens lander wobbled as it came to rest. The lander’s motion suggests a surface consistency of damp sand, covered with a fluffy dust layer, with dampness just below the surface – and the presence of at least one 1-2 cm sized pebble.

    ISAE-Supaero’s tests so far underline how Hera’s target 160-m diameter, extremely low gravity target asteroid is shaping up to be a truly alien environment. “The surface material is bound to behave differently, because reducing gravity reduces the normal force between particles and therefore also the friction – so it should take less force to penetrate the same sandy material.

    3
    Hera deploying CubeSats

    “The low gravity also means other phenomenon such as van der Waals force, which causes things like flour to stick together, will play a much larger role. The asteroid surface might have a collection of large rocks which end up behaving more like particles of flour. Or electrostatic charging could encourage dust to be levitated and transported across the surface.”

    These landing data should also help reveal scaling laws inherent to collision dynamics, extending all the way up the scale to the impact of NASA’s DART spacecraft with the same asteroid, to test planetary defence techniques.

    The Hera mission will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 8:58 am on June 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA, , , Planetary defence   

    From European Space Agency: “Video: ESA defending Earth” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    25/06/2019
    ESA’s planetary defence mission

    Hera will show us things we’ve never seen before.

    ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft

    Astrophysicist and and Queen guitarist Brian May tells the story of the ESA mission that would be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid.

    The asteroid system – named Didymos – is typical of the thousands that pose an impact risk to our planet, and even the smaller of the two would be big enough to destroy an entire city if it were to collide with Earth.

    Hera will help ESA to find out if it would be possible to deflect such an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The mission will revolutionise our understanding of asteroids and how to protect ourselves from them, and therefore could be crucial for saving our planet.

    First, NASA will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass.

    NASA DART Double Impact Redirection Test vehicle depiction schematic

    Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down.

    2
    ESA APEX CubeSat

    3
    Juventas CubeSat

    Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.

    The Hera mission will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission, as part of the Agency’s broader planetary defence initiatives that aim to protect European and world citizens.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 9:49 am on June 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Comet Interceptor mission, , ESA, New mission to intercept a comet   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA’s new mission to intercept a comet” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    1
    Comet Interceptor has been selected as ESA’s new fast-class mission. It will be the first spacecraft to visit a truly pristine comet or other interstellar object that is only just starting its journey into the inner Solar System. The spacecraft will wait at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, which is 1.5 million kilometres ‘behind’ Earth as viewed from the Sun.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    It will travel to an as-yet undiscovered comet, making a flyby of the chosen target when it is on the approach to Earth’s orbit. The mission comprises three spacecraft that will perform simultaneous observations from multiple points around the comet, creating a 3D profile of a ‘dynamically new’ object that contains unprocessed material surviving from the dawn of the Solar System.

    Its three spacecraft will perform simultaneous observations from multiple points around the comet, creating a 3D profile of a ‘dynamically new’ object that contains unprocessed material surviving from the dawn of the Solar System.

    “Pristine or dynamically new comets are entirely uncharted and make compelling targets for close-range spacecraft exploration to better understand the diversity and evolution of comets,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA’s Director of Science.

    “The huge scientific achievements of Giotto and Rosetta – our legacy missions to comets – are unrivalled, but now it is time to build upon their successes and visit a pristine comet, or be ready for the next ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar object.”

    ESA Giotto

    ESA/Rosetta spacecraft, European Space Agency’s legendary comet explorer Rosetta

    Comet Interceptor is a ‘fast’, or F-class mission. The ‘fast’ refers to the implementation time, with a total development duration from selection to launch readiness of about eight years. F-class missions, which have a launch mass of less than 1000 kg, will share the ride into space with a medium-class mission, taking advantage of additional space in the launcher and the boost to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2 [above], which is 1.5 million kilometres ‘behind’ Earth as viewed from the Sun.

    3
    Location of Lagrangian point (L2). This is an illustration of the L2 point showing the distance between the L2 and the Sun, compared to the distance between Earth and the Sun.

    Comet Interceptor is foreseen for launch as co-passenger with ESA’s exoplanet-studying Ariel spacecraft in 2028.

    UK-led ESA mission ARIEL -Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey

    Both missions will be delivered to L2 and from there Comet Interceptor will journey onwards to the chosen target using its own propulsion system.

    The selection process has also been fast. Following a call for missions in July 2018, 23 pitches were submitted by the space science community, with six teams subsequently invited to provide more detailed proposals. Among them, Comet Interceptor was chosen at today’s Science Programme Committee to move into a more detailed definition phase.

    “We thank the space science community for their excellent proposals, which covered a broad range of novel topics that could be explored within the constraints of the F-class guidelines,” says Director Hasinger.

    “This type of innovative mission will play an important role in supplementing ESA’s Science Programme as we plan for the next decades of scientific exploration of our Universe.

    “We are also happy to maintain the ‘fast’ mission philosophy by selecting Comet Interceptor within a year since the original call for proposals was made.”

    Comet Interceptor comprises three spacecraft. The composite spacecraft will wait at L2 for a suitable target, then travel together before the three modules separate a few weeks prior to intercepting the comet. Each module will be equipped with a complementary science payload, providing different perspectives of the comet’s nucleus and its gas, dust, and plasma environment. Such ‘multi-point’ measurements will greatly improve the 3D information needed to understand the dynamic nature of a pristine comet while it is interacting with the constantly changing solar wind environment.

    The mission’s instrument suite will draw on heritage from other missions, including a camera based on the one currently flying on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, along with dust, fields and plasma instruments, as well as a mass spectrometer, like those that flew on ESA’s Rosetta.

    ESA/ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

    Previous comet missions, including ESA’s pioneering spacecraft Giotto and Rosetta, encountered short-period comets. These are comets with orbital periods of less than 200 years that have approached the Sun many times along their orbits in relatively recent times and as a consequence have undergone significant changes: Rosetta’s comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbits the Sun once every 6.5 years while Comet 1P/Halley, visited by Giotto and other spacecraft in 1986, returns to our skies every 76 years.

    3
    Illustration showing the two main reservoirs of comets in the Solar System: the Kuiper Belt, at a distance of 30–50 astronomical units (AU: the Earth–Sun distance) from the Sun, and the Oort Cloud, which may extend up to 50 000–100 000 AU from the Sun. Halley’s comet is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud, while 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the focus of ESA’s Rosetta mission, hails from the Kuiper Belt. The comet is now in a 6.5-year orbit around the Sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars at its closest and just beyond Jupiter at its furthest.

    Comet Interceptor is different because it will target a comet visiting the inner Solar System for the first time – perhaps from the vast Oort cloud that is thought to surround the outer reaches of the Sun’s realm. As such, the comet will contain material that has not undergone much processing since the dawn of the Sun and planets. The mission will therefore offer a new insight into the evolution of comets as they migrate inwards from the periphery of the Solar System.

    Although much rarer, another example of a potential target is an interstellar interloper from another star system, like the famed ‘Oumuamua that flew past our Sun on a highly inclined orbit in 2017.

    4
    ‘Oumuamua. NASA Solar System Exploration

    Studying an interstellar object would offer the chance to explore how comet-like bodies form and evolve in other star systems.

    In the past, ‘new’ comets have only been discovered a few months to years before they pass through their closest approach to the Sun, which is too short notice to plan, build and launch a space mission, and for it to travel to the specific object before it moves away from the Sun again.

    Recent advances in ground-based surveys mean that the sky can be scanned more deeply and longer notice can be provided. Pan-STARRS is currently the most proliferous comet discovery machine, with more than half of all new comets per year uncovered by the survey.

    Pann-STARS 1 Telescope, U Hawaii, situated at Haleakala Observatories near the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii, USA, altitude 3,052 m (10,013 ft)

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, currently under construction in Chile, will also greatly increase the catalogue of new comets.

    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes, altitude 2,663 m (8,737 ft),

    In any case, the destination for Comet Interceptor does not need to be known while the mission is being prepared; the spacecraft can be ready and waiting in space for a suitable comet encounter, and is expected to complete its mission within five years of launch.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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 8:39 am on June 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Melting a satellite a piece at a time", ESA   

    From European Space Agency: “Melting a satellite, a piece at a time” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    17 June 2019

    1
    Melting satellite part

    Researchers took one of the densest parts of an Earth-orbiting satellite, placed it in a plasma wind tunnel then proceeded to melt it into vapour. Their goal was to better understand how satellites burn up during reentry, to minimise the risk of endangering anyone on the ground.

    Taking place as part of ESA’s Clean Space initiative, the fiery testing occurred inside a plasma wind tunnel, reproducing reentry conditions, at the DLR German Aerospace Center’s site in Cologne.

    The test subject was a 4 by 10 cm section of magnetotorquer, designed to interact magnetically with Earth’s magnetic field to shift satellite orientation.


    Melting a piece of a satellite

    Made of an external carbon fibre reinforced polymer composite, with copper coils and an internal iron-colbalt core, this rod-shaped magnetotorquer was heated to several thousands of degrees Celsius within the hypersonic plasma.

    ESA Clean Space engineer Tiago Soares explains: “We observed the behaviour of the equipment at different heat flux set-ups for the plasma wind tunnel in order to derive more information about materials properties and demisability. The magnetotorquer reached a complete demise at high heat flux level.

    2
    Debris landed in Texas

    We have noted some similarities but also some discrepancies with the prediction models.”

    In theory reentering space hardware is burnt up entirely in the course of plunging through the atmosphere. In practice some pieces can make it all the way down to Earth – some of them big enough to do serious damage.

    In 1997, for instance, Texans Steve and Verona Gutowski were woken by the impact of what looked like a “dead rhinoceros” just 50 m from their farmhouse. It turned out to be a 250 kg fuel tank from a rocket stage.

    3
    Magnetorquer beforehand

    Modern space debris regulations demand that such incidents should not happen. Uncontrolled reentries should have a less than 1 in 10 000 chance of injuring anyone on the ground.

    As part of a larger effort called CleanSat, ESA is developing technologies and techniques to ensure future low-orbiting satellites are designed according to the concept of ‘D4D’ – design for demise.

    Previous studies have identified some satellite elements which are more likely to survive the reentry process. Along with magnetotorquers these include optical instruments, propellant and pressure tanks, the drive mechanisms operating solar arrays and reaction wheels – spinning gyroscopes used to change a satellite’s pointing direction.

    4
    The aftermath

    A big source of uncertainty in the demise process is the tendency for parts to fragment, generating multiple items of debris and driving up the casualty risk. Basically put, the more pieces in play, the higher the overall casualty risk estimation.

    This test activity, carried out with UK-based Belstead Research as well as DLR, is helping fill gaps in knowledge of reentry behaviour with practical simulations. Portuguese company LusoSpace provided a magnetotorquer for testing.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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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