Tagged: ESA Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 7:45 am on July 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, Science backing for formation-flying Sun-watcher Proba-3,   

    From ESA: “Science backing for formation-flying Sun-watcher Proba-3” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    17 July 2017
    No writer credit

    1
    Proba-3, ESA’s amazing testbed
    Released 30/03/2013 3:10 pm
    Copyright ESA-P. Carril

    ESA’s Science Programme has agreed to support the technology-demonstrating Proba-3, a double-satellite formation-flying mission tasked with observing a region of the Sun normally hidden from view.

    Set for launch in late 2020, the two satellites making up Proba-3 will fly at a precise separation to cast a shadow across space, blocking out the disc of the Sun to reveal details of its ghostly surrounding ‘corona’ – usually masked by dazzling sunlight.

    Proba-3, like all the missions in the Proba series, is first and foremost a technology demonstrator, exploring precision formation-flying techniques so that future multiple satellites flying together could perform equivalent tasks to a single giant spacecraft.

    But, following a longstanding Proba tradition, the mission has also been given an ambitious scientific goal: returning scientifically useful data is a good way of proving the technology works as planned.

    3
    Proba-3 satellites form artificial eclipse
    Released 12/09/2016. Copyright ESA.

    Proba-3 will offer solar scientists a window on the inner segment of the solar corona – a mysterious region because it is more than a million degrees hotter than the surface of the Sun it surrounds.

    Up until now, the best way to observe the corona has been during a solar eclipse, although stray light through Earth’s atmosphere is a limiting factor.

    As an alternative, space-flown ‘coronagraphs’ create artificial eclipses inside Sun-watching satellites such as SOHO and Stereo, but stray light still bends around their blocking discs, limiting access to the all-important inner corona.

    ESA/NASA SOHO

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    Proba-3 will get around this by flying the disc of its coronagraph on a separate satellite, exactly 150 m apart, lined up with the Sun. This should open up a new view of dynamic regions extremely close to the solar surface, where the solar wind and the eruptions called ‘coronal mass ejections’ are born. Coronal mass ejections are primary sources of disturbed space weather at the Earth.

    4
    Solar eclipses. Released 12/06/2008. Copyright Wendy Carlos & Fred Espenak.

    Proba-3 is funded through ESA’s Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality, but in June the Agency’s Science Programme Committee endorsed the mission for additional backing through the Directorate of Science.

    “It was clear that it would be very beneficial to have this mission supported in the Science programme,” explains Andrei Zhukov of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, serving as Principal Investigator for Proba’s coronagraph.

    “There was widespread enthusiasm in the solar physics community. The Science Programme Committee is advised in turn by its advisory committees composed of scientists from all around Europe, giving independent endorsements, and they recommended Proba-3 be supported as a ‘mission of opportunity’.

    “In plain terms, the running of Proba-3’s Science Operations Centre, which will process and distribute scientific data to scientists across Europe will be funded by the Science programme. This centre will be hosted here in Belgium, with contributions to the data processing pipeline made by Germany, Poland and Romania.

    5
    A fiery solar explosion. Released 16/09/2013. Copyright SOHO (ESA/NASA)/S. Hill.
    A coronal mass ejection observed by the ESA/NASA SOHO space mission on 4 January 2002 has been coloured to indicate the intensity of the matter being ejected by the Sun. White represents the greatest intensity, red/orange somewhat less, and blue the least.

    An extreme-ultraviolet image of the Sun captured by SOHO’s EIT (Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope) instrument is superimposed on the image. The shaded blue disc surrounding the Sun at the centre is a mask in SOHO’s LASCO instrument that blots out direct sunlight to allow study of the details in the Sun’s corona.

    “During each highly elliptical 19.6 hour orbit, Proba-3 will be imaging the corona for about six hours at a time, at a typical rate of one image per minute, although we have the ability to increase this rate to once every two seconds for phenomena of special interest.

    “So we will be returning lots of unique data, increasing scientific knowledge of the Sun and its surrounding corona.”

    Proba-3 project development continues to progress well, with a structural and thermal model version of the coronagraph built, ahead of its critical design review due to take place this autumn, followed by that of the entire mission.

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


    Published on Mar 23, 2015
    Dancing is probably the oldest human artform – and now ESA’s Proba-3 precision formation-flying mission intends to extend the art of dance to space.
    Like dancers, a pair of minisatellites will move around each other, their relative positions maintained to millimetre-scale precision, as if they were both parts of one giant spacecraft.
    Their mission is to cast a shadow from one minisatellite onto another, in order to form an artificial total solar eclipse in space – then study the fine details of the Sun’s wispy atmosphere, the solar corona.
    Franco Ongaro, ESA Director of Technical and Quality Management; Frederic Teston, Head of System and Cost Engineering; Andrea Santovincenzo, ESA engineer and the project’s manager Agnes Mestreau-Garreau, explain how to go about teaching a space mission to dance. Credit: European Space Agency, ESA.

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 11:53 am on July 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, ,   

    From ESA: “Robot meets its masters” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1

    Seen at ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands, BepiColombo has completed its final tests in launch configuration, the last time it will be stacked like this before being reassembled at the launch site next year to begin its mission to Mercury.

    The day before a final media viewing on 6 July 2017, the flight controllers who will operate the robotic explorer had an opportunity to meet ‘their’ spacecraft for the first time.

    The team comprises the engineers and specialists dedicated to BepiColombo. They work at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, where teams of experts design and develop the facilities, networks and systems to send commands and receive scientific data from all types of missions.

    The visit is an important step to allow the controllers to see the spacecraft and receive briefings from the mission scientists and managers with whom they will work closely throughout the life of BepiColombo.

    The team, led by Spacecraft Operations Manager Elsa Montagnon, have been working for the past two years defining flight procedures, building up control systems and conducting the initial tests and rehearsals of procedures that will be used to control BepiColombo during its mission.

    More information.

    BepiColombo operations

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 11:43 am on July 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cryogenic-temperature testing, ESA,   

    From ESA: Webb “Ready for testing” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1

    The James Webb Space Telescope is prepared for cryogenic-temperature testing in Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas.

    Being a ‘cool’ telescope, JWST is designed to operate at very low temperatures (around -230° C). This will give us an unprecedented view of the Universe at near and mid-infrared wavelengths and will allow scientists to study a wide variety of celestial objects, ranging from planets in the Solar System to nearby stars, from neighbouring galaxies out to the farthest reaches of the very distant Universe.

    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.

    More about the cryogenic-temperature testing on NASA’s JWST website.

    More about JWST

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 1:45 pm on July 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, , ,   

    From ESA: “BepiColombo spacecraft modules stacked up in launch configuration” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    10/07/2017
    No writer credit

    1
    ESA–C. Carreau, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    BepiColombo, a joint ESA and JAXA mission to Mercury, has completed its final tests in launch configuration, the last time it will be stacked like this before being reassembled at the launch site next year.

    The image was taken on 6 July, during a dedicated press event where media were invited to see BepiColombo in ESA’s test centre. In the coming weeks, the three spacecraft elements will be separated for a final set of tests.

    The Mercury Transfer Module is seen at the bottom of the stack, with one folded solar array visible to the right. When both solar arrays are deployed they span about 30 m. The module will use solar-electric propulsion as well as gravity assists at Earth, Venus and Mercury to carry two science orbiters to Mercury orbit.

    ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter is seen in the middle of the stack (with the folded solar array towards the left and antenna to the right). JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter sits at the top of the 6 m-high stack. During the cruise to Mercury it will be protected by the Magnetospheric Orbiter Sunshield and Interface Structure (MOSIF), which in this image is sitting on the floor to the right.

    ESA/JAXA BepiColumbo

    After arriving at Mercury, the modules will separate, and from their respective orbits the science orbiters will make complementary measurements of Mercury’s interior, surface, exosphere and magnetosphere, following up on many of the open questions raised by NASA’s Messenger mission.

    NASA/Messenger satellite

    The final tests completed with BepiColombo in the launch configuration – also with the MOSIF in place – were vibration tests to simulate the shaking conditions at launch. In the coming weeks the assembly will be dismantled and the individual modules will undergo final checks following the vibration test, including solar array deployment tests. In addition, the transfer module will undergo a thermal vacuum test to simulate the extreme environmental conditions expected during the cruise.

    The spacecraft is scheduled to leave Europe in March, with a launch from Kourou, French Guiana, anticipated in October 2018, and arrival at Mercury at the end of 2025.

    See here for the latest status update, and our video gallery for examples of some of the recent tests.

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 3:54 pm on July 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESA, , Test-Bed Telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in northern Chile   

    “ESO and ESA Reach Agreement to Site Test-Bed Telescope at La Silla” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    7 July 2017
    Ivo Saviane
    ESO, Paranal
    Tel: +56 55243 4159
    Email: isaviane@eso.org

    Günther Sessler
    European Space Agency
    Robert-Bosch-Str. 5
    64293 Darmstadt, Germany
    Tel.: +49-6151-902432
    Fax: +49-6151-903046
    Email: gunther.sessler@esa.int

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    2
    In August 2015, ESO and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a cooperation agreement setting the terms and conditions for mutual cooperation and the exchange of scientific research information between the two organisations. The first project to be implemented under this cooperation agreement is the deployment of a Test-Bed Telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in northern Chile.

    Operating alongside a similar project in the northern hemisphere, the 56-cm Test-Bed Telescope (TBT) will act as a precursor to a full autonomous optical sensor network which will detect and track an extensive list of near-Earth objects, such as asteroids. The TBT will demonstrate the instrument’s hardware and software capabilities, such as automatic scheduling, remote real-time control, and autonomous data processing.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Visit ESO in Social Media-

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Facebook

    Twitter

    YouTube

    ESO Bloc Icon

    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert

     
  • richardmitnick 9:28 am on June 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, ESA Asteroid Impact Mission, ESA-operated Estrack ground stations, M-ARGO   

    From ESA: “M–ARGO” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    M–ARGO

    1
    M–ARGO
    21/06/2017 7:35 am
    Copyright ©ESA-Jacky Huart

    ESA has designed its first stand-alone CubeSat mission for deep space – aimed at targeting a little- known class of asteroid: small in size and rapidly spinning.

    Studied in the Concurrent Design Facility, ESA’s highly networked facility for designing novel missions, the ‘Miniaturised – Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M–ARGO, is a nano-spacecraft based on the CubeSat design employing standardised 10 cm cubic units within which electronic boards can be stacked and subsystems attached.

    M–ARGO would be a 12-unit CubeSat – with bodily dimensions of 22 x 22 x 34 cm – that would hitch a ride on the launch of a larger space mission whose trajectory takes it close to beyond Earth orbit – such as large astronomy missions to a Sun–Earth Lagrange point.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    The CubeSat would then use its own high-efficiency electric propulsion system to take it into deep space and rendezvous with an asteroid target.

    “CubeSats were originally developed for educational purposes, but they have become a cheap and fast method of demonstrating space technologies,” comments Roger Walker, overseeing ESA’s Technology CubeSats.

    “Having shown their worth in low-Earth orbit we have been studying their use further afield, starting with CubeSats for ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission and then the Moon.

    3
    AIM and CubeSats watch impact

    “But these CubeSat studies assumed the availability of a nearby ‘mothership’ to be relied on for transportation and then communication home. M–ARGO by contrast would be completely stand-alone in nature.

    “Our CDF study shows the concept is promising and would have a high potential of cutting the entry-level cost of deep-space exploration by about a factor of ten.”

    The study confirmed a total of four separate asteroids the CubeSat could reach under its own power – and potentially up to 30 in total – as Roger explains: “They are all less than 50 m in diameter – half the length of a football field – and all rapidly spinning, modelled accordingly to have no remaining surface dust but instead to be monolithic in nature.

    “So this would be a quite new type of planetary body to visit, thereby offering the potential for new scientific discoveries.”

    M–ARGO would spend around six months surveying its target, using two miniaturised instruments: a multispectral imager and a laser altimeter.

    Data would be returned using a specially designed transponder and high-gain antenna array, communicating with existing 15-35 m ESA-operated ‘Estrack’ ground stations, with the potential to be backed up by Italy’s larger 64-m diameter Sardinia Radio Telescope for a greater data return.

    4
    New Norcia station, Australia

    M–ARGO could be ready launch in mid-2021 at the earliest, assuming that some key technology development starts soon. Most of its key technologies are already available, and the study pinpointed other R&D needed to make it possible – including a CubeSat-sized solar array drive mechanism, electric propulsion and X-band communications, plus radiation hardness of components – to be performed within ESA technology programmes.

    The study also considered an alternative mission concept for M–ARGO, as a space weather observatory placed at the Sun–Earth L5 Lagrange Point, hosting a radiation monitor and boom-based magnetometer instrument.

    The next step will be to start the key technology developments and find a suitable flight opportunity. Then afterwards the main mission and system definition phase could commence.

    While the M-ARGO concept is studied, ESA will be marking 30 June, Asteroid Day, and spreading the word on the tiny bodies that Earth shares space with, as both a scientific resource and a potential danger. For more information on Asteroid Day click 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.

    ESA50 Logo large

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

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

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1
    Merging black holes. No image credit

    20 June 2017
    ESA Media Relations Office

    Tel: + 33 1 53 69 72 99

    Email: media@esa.int

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

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

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

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

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

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

    ESA/LISA Pathfinder

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

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

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

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

    Planet-hunter adopted

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

    ESA/PLATO

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

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

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

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

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

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    Missions of opportunity

    3
    Proba-3. No image credit.

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

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

    JAXA/Hitomi telescope lost

    4
    LAXA/NASA XARM future satellite

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 5:03 am on June 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESA, Noble gas xenon, Rosetta finds comet connection to Earth's atmosphere   

    From ESA: “Rosetta finds comet connection to Earth’s atmosphere” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    08 June 2017

    Bernard Marty
    CRPG-CNRS, Université de Lorraine
    Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy Cedex, France
    bmarty@crpg.cnrs-nancy.fr
    +33 383 59 42 22

    Kathrin Altwegg
    Universität Bern
    Switzerland
    altwegg@space.unibe.ch
    +41 31 6314420

    Matt Taylor
    ESA Rosetta Project Scientist
    Directorate of Science
    European Space Agency
    mtaylor@cosmos.esa.int
    +31 71 565 8009

    The challenging detection, by ESA’s Rosetta mission, of several isotopes of the noble gas xenon at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has established the first quantitative link between comets and the atmosphere of Earth. The blend of xenon found at the comet closely resembles U-xenon, the primordial mixture that scientists believe was brought to Earth during the early stages of Solar System formation. These measurements suggest that comets contributed about one fifth the amount of xenon in Earth’s ancient atmosphere.

    2
    Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 15 May 2016. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

    Xenon – a colourless, odourless gas which makes up less than one billionth of the volume of Earth’s atmosphere – might hold the key to answer a long-standing question about comets: did they contribute to the delivery of material to our planet when the Solar System was taking shape, some 4.6 billion years ago? And if so, by how much?

    The noble gas xenon is formed in a variety of stellar processes, from the late phases of low- and intermediate-mass stars to supernova explosions and even neutron star mergers. Each of these phenomena gives rise to different isotopes of the element [1]. As a noble gas, xenon does not interact with other chemical species, and is therefore an important tracer of the material from which the Sun and planets originated, which in turns derives from earlier generations of stars.

    “Xenon is the heaviest stable noble gas and perhaps the most important because of its many isotopes that originate in different stellar processes: each one provides an additional piece of information about our cosmic origins,” says Bernard Marty from CRPG-CNRS and Université de Lorraine, France. Bernard is the lead author of a paper reporting Rosetta’s discovery of xenon at Comet 67P/C-G, which is published today in Science[2].

    Xenon across the Solar System

    3
    The blend of isotopes of the noble gas xenon detected by ESA’s Rosetta mission at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, compared with the mixture of xenon measured in other regions of the Solar System. All abundances are normalised with respect to the abundance observed in the solar wind, the flow of charged particles streaming from the Sun (shown as a yellow line).
    The blend of xenon measured in chondrite meteorites that came from asteroids (grey line) is quite similar to that found in the solar wind, while the one present in the atmosphere of our planet (blue line) contains a higher abundance of heavier isotopes with respect to the lighter ones.
    However, the latter is a result of lighter elements escaping more easily from Earth’s gravitational pull and being lost to space in greater amounts. By correcting the atmospheric composition of xenon for this runaway effect, scientists in the 1970s calculated the composition of the primordial mixture of this noble gas, known as U-xenon, that was once present on Earth. This U-xenon contained a similar mix of light isotopes to that of asteroids and the solar wind, but included significantly smaller amounts of the heavier isotopes.
    Observations from Rosetta revealed that the blend of xenon at Comet 67P/C-G (black data points and line) contains larger amounts of light isotopes than heavy ones, and so it is quite different from the average mixture found in the Solar System. A comparison with the on-board calibration sample (blue data points) confirmed that the xenon detected at the comet is also different from the current mix in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    By contrast, the composition of xenon detected at the comet seems to be closer to the composition that scientists think was present in the early atmosphere of Earth.
    Rosetta’s measurements of xenon at Comet 67P/C-G suggest that comets contributed about one fifth the amount of xenon in Earth’s ancient atmosphere. They also indicate that the protosolar cloud from which the Sun, planets, and small bodies were born was a rather inhomogeneous place in terms of its chemical composition.

    It is because of this special ‘fingerprint’ that scientists have been using xenon to investigate the composition of the early Solar System, which provides important clues to constrain its formation. Over the past decades, they sampled the relative abundances of its various isotopes at different locations: in the atmosphere of Earth and Mars, in meteorites deriving from asteroids, at Jupiter, and in the solar wind – the flow of charged particles streaming from the Sun.

    The blend of xenon present in the atmosphere of our planet contains a higher abundance of heavier isotopes with respect to the lighter ones; however, this is a result of lighter elements escaping more easily from Earth’s gravitational pull and being lost to space in greater amounts. By correcting the atmospheric composition of xenon for this runaway effect, scientists in the 1970s calculated the composition of the primordial mixture of this noble gas, known as U-xenon, that was once present on Earth.

    This U-xenon contained a similar mix of light isotopes to that of asteroids and the solar wind, but included significantly smaller amounts of the heavier isotopes.

    “For these reasons, we have long suspected that xenon in the early atmosphere of Earth could have a different origin from the average blend of this noble gas found in the Solar System,” says Bernard.

    One of the explanations is that Solar System xenon derives directly from the protosolar cloud, a mass of gas and dust that gave rise to the Sun and planets, while the xenon found in the Earth’s atmosphere was delivered at a later stage by comets, which in turn might have formed from a different mix of material.

    With ESA’s Rosetta mission visiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, an icy fossil of the early Solar System, scientists could finally gather the long-sought data to test this hypothesis.

    “Searching for xenon at the comet was one of the most crucial and challenging measurements we performed with Rosetta,” says Kathrin Altwegg from the University of Bern, Switzerland, principal investigator of ROSINA, the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis, which was used for this study.

    Xenon is very diffuse in the comet’s thin atmosphere, so the navigation team had to fly Rosetta very close – 5 km to 8 km from the surface of the nucleus – for a period of three weeks so that ROSINA could obtain a significant detection of all the relevant isotopes.

    Flying so close to the comet was extremely challenging because of the large amount of dust that was lifting off the surface at the time, which could confuse the star trackers that were used to orient the spacecraft.

    Eventually, the Rosetta team decided to perform this operation in the second half of May 2016. This period was chosen as a compromise so that enough time would have passed after the comet’s perihelion, in August 2015, for the dust activity to be less intense, but not too much for the atmosphere to be excessively thin and the presence of xenon hard to detect.

    As a result of the observations, ROSINA identified seven isotopes of xenon, as well as several isotopes of another noble gas, krypton; these brought to three the inventory of noble gases found at Rosetta’s comet, following the discovery of argon from measurements performed in late 2014.

    “These measurements required a long stretch of dedicated time solely for ROSINA, and it would have been very disappointing if we hadn’t detected xenon at Comet 67P/C-G, so I’m really glad that we succeeded in detecting so many isotopes,” adds Kathrin.

    Further analysis of the data revealed that the blend of xenon at Comet 67P/C-G, which contains larger amounts of light isotopes than heavy ones, is quite different from the average mixture found in the Solar System. A comparison with the on-board calibration sample confirmed that the xenon detected at the comet is also different from the current mix in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    A link between xenon at Rosetta’s comet and on Earth

    4
    Date: 08 June 2017
    Satellite: Rosetta
    Copyright: Data from B. Marty et al., 2017 and references therein
    The composition of isotopes of the noble gas xenon in the primordial composition, known as U-xenon, that scientists think was present in the early atmosphere of Earth (shown as blue data points and line). This U-xenon contained a similar mix of light isotopes to that of the solar wind (yellow line), but included significantly smaller amounts of the heavier isotopes.
    The blend of xenon detected by ESA’s Rosetta mission at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko seems to be closer to U-xenon than to the average composition found in the solar wind. This is the first discovery of a candidate for the hypothesised U-xenon.
    Scientists think that the primordial xenon delivered to our planet could derive from a combination of impacting comets and asteroids (grey data points and line), to which comets contributed about 22 percent. This combination also takes into account the excess of one particular isotope of xenon, 129Xe, which is observed in Earth’s atmosphere (black data point).
    Rosetta’s measurements of xenon at Comet 67P/C-G suggest that comets contributed about one fifth the amount of xenon in Earth’s ancient atmosphere. They also indicate that the protosolar cloud from which the Sun, planets, and small bodies were born was a rather inhomogeneous place in terms of its chemical composition.

    By contrast, the composition of xenon detected at the comet seems to be closer to the composition that scientists think was present in the early atmosphere of Earth.

    “This is a very exciting result because it is the first discovery of a candidate for the hypothesised U-xenon,” explains Bernard.

    “There are some discrepancies between the two compositions, which indicate that the primordial xenon delivered to our planet could derive from a combination of impacting comets and asteroids.”

    In particular, Bernard and his colleagues were able to establish the first quantitative link between comets and our planet’s gaseous shroud: based on the Rosetta measurements at Comet 67P/C-G, 22 percent of the xenon once present in Earth’s atmosphere could originate from comets – the rest being delivered by asteroids.

    This result is not in contradiction with the isotopic measurements of water at Rosetta’s comet, which were significantly different to that found on Earth. In fact, given the trace amounts of xenon in Earth’s atmosphere and the much larger amount of water in the oceans, comets could have contributed to atmospheric xenon without having a significant impact on the composition of water in the oceans.

    The contribution inferred from the xenon measurements, instead, agrees with the possibility that comets have been significant carriers of pre-biotic material – such as phosphorus and the amino acid glycine, which were also detected by Rosetta at the comet – that was crucial to the emergence of life on Earth.

    Finally, the difference between the blend of xenon found at the comet – which was incorporated in the nucleus at the time of its formation – and the xenon observed across the Solar System indicates that the protosolar cloud from which the Sun, planets, and small bodies were born was a rather inhomogeneous place in terms of its chemical composition.

    “This conclusion is in accord with previous measurements performed by Rosetta, including the unexpected detections of molecular oxygen (O2) and di-sulphur (S2), and the high deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio observed in the comet water,” adds Kathrin.

    Additional evidence for the inhomogeneous nature of the protosolar cloud came also from anther study based on ROSINA observations, published in May in Astronomy & Astrophysics, which revealed that the mixture of silicon isotopes seen at the comet is different from what is measured elsewhere in the Solar System.

    “As we anticipated last year, now that mission operations are over, the teams can focus on the science,” says Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project Scientist at ESA.

    “The detailed analysis performed in this work, based on specially designed operations, addresses one of the mission’s key scientific goals: to find quantitative clues linking back to the formation and early evolution of our planet and Solar System.”
    Notes

    [1] The lightest isotopes of xenon (124Xe and 126Xe) are produced during supernova explosions; intermediate-mass isotopes (127Xe, 128Xe, 129Xe, 130Xe, 131Xe and 132Xe) are produced during the Asymptotic Giant Branch phase of evolved low- and intermediate-mass stars; the heaviest isotopes (134Xe and 136Xe) are produced during the merger of neutron stars.

    [2] The discovery of xenon by Rosetta at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was announced during a Royal Society meeting in London, UK, and on the ESA Rosetta blog in June 2016, shortly after the scientists had made the detection. This is the first peer-reviewed study based on those measurements.

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 1:28 pm on June 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA, Galileo grows: two more satellites join working constellation   

    From ESA: “Galileo grows: two more satellites join working constellation” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    8 June 2017

    1
    Galileo satellite in orbit

    Two further satellites have formally become part of Europe’s Galileo satnav system, broadcasting timing and navigation signals worldwide while also picking up distress calls across the planet.

    These are the 15th and 16th satellites to join the network, two of the four Galileos that were launched together by Ariane 5 on 17 November, and the first additions to the working constellation since the start of Galileo Initial Services on 15 December.

    The growing number of Galileo users around the world will draw immediate benefit from the enhanced service availability and accuracy brought by these extra satellites.

    The launch into space and the manoeuvres to reach their final orbits still left a lot of rigorous testing before the satellites could join the operational constellation.

    Their navigation and search and rescue payloads had to be switched on, checked and the performance of the different Galileo signals assessed methodically in relation to the rest of the worldwide system.

    This lengthy testing saw the satellites being run from the second Galileo Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, while their signals were assessed from ESA’s Redu centre in Belgium, with its specialised antennas.

    The tests measured the accuracy and stability of the satellites’ atomic clocks – essential for the timing precision to within a billionth of a second as the basis of satellite navigation – as well as assessing the quality of the navigation signals.

    Oberpfaffenhofen and Redu were linked for the entire campaign, allowing the team to compare Galileo signals with satellite telemetry in near-real time.

    Making the tests even more complicated, the satellites were visible for only three to nine hours a day from each site.

    The satellites are now broadcasting working navigation signals and are ready to relay any Cospas–Sarsat distress calls to regional emergency services.

    Now that these two satellites are part of the constellation, the remaining pair from the Ariane 5 launch is similarly being checked to prepare them for service.

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
  • richardmitnick 6:18 am on May 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A compound of silicon and carbon, , , , , ESA, Shaping the Future, SiC   

    From ESA: “Silicon carbide mirror subjected to thermal–vacuum testing” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    1
    Released 24/05/2017. Copyright ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    A strong but lightweight mirror for space, made from silicon carbide ceramic, is being subjected to the temperature levels and vacuum encountered in orbit.

    The 95 cm-diameter mirror consists of three separate petals fused together ahead of grinding and polishing.

    The aim of the test, led for ESA by AMOS in Belgium, was to check if the combination of joints would induce optical distortion when the mirror’s temperature was brought close to –150°C.

    A compound of silicon and carbon, SiC was first synthesised in 1893 in an attempt to make artificial diamonds. The result was not so far off: today, SiC is one of the hardest-known materials, used to make cutting tools, high-performance brakes and even bulletproof vests. Crystalline in nature, it is also used for jewellery.

    Small amounts of SiC have been unearthed inside meteorites – it is relatively common in deep space. Its strong, lightweight nature made it a natural for human-made space projects too.

    ESA produced the largest SiC mirror ever to fly in space for the Herschel telescope, launched in 2009. At 3.5 m in diameter, this reflector had twice the observing area of the Hubble Space Telescope while having one third of its mass.

    Once mastered by ESA, SiC technology has since been used to manufacture a wide variety of space mirrors and optical supports, for missions such as Gaia, Sentinel-2 and the James Webb Space Telescope.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    ESA/Sentinel 2

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Performed through ESA’s General Support Technology Programme, which develops promising technologies for space, the results of the test proved to be perfectly acceptable for optical telescopes. To find out more about ESA research and development projects, check our new Shaping the Future website.

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: