mardi 27 juin 2017

NASA Completes Milestone Toward Quieter Supersonic X-Plane

NASA logo.

June 27, 2017

NASA has achieved a significant milestone in its effort to make supersonic passenger jet travel over land a real possibility by completing the preliminary design review (PDR) of its Quiet Supersonic Transport or QueSST aircraft design. QueSST is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane.

Senior experts and engineers from across the agency and the Lockheed Martin Corporation concluded Friday that the QueSST design is capable of fulfilling the LBFD aircraft’s mission objectives, which are to fly at supersonic speeds, but create a soft “thump” instead of the disruptive sonic boom associated with supersonic flight today. The LBFD X-plane will be flown over communities to collect data necessary for regulators to enable supersonic flight over land in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

NASA partnered with lead contractor, Lockheed Martin, in February 2016 for the QueSST preliminary design. Last month, a scale model of the QueSST design completed testing in the 8-by 6-foot supersonic wind tunnel at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Image above: Illustration of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration aircraft as outlined during the project’s Preliminary Design Review last week. Image Credits: NASA/Lockheed Martin.

"Managing a project like this is all about moving from one milestone to the next,” said David Richwine, manager for the preliminary design effort under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project. “Our strong partnership with Lockheed Martin helped get us to this point. We’re now one step closer to building an actual X-plane.”

After the success of completing the PDR, NASA’s project team can start the process of soliciting proposals later this year and awarding a contract early next year to build the piloted, single-engine X-plane. The acquisition for the LBFD X-plane contract will be fully open and competitive, with the QueSST preliminary design data being made available to qualified bidders. Flight testing of an LBFD X-plane could begin as early as 2021.

Over the next few months, NASA will work with Lockheed on finalizing the QueSST preliminary design effort. This includes a static inlet performance test and a low-speed wind tunnel test at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

For more information about QueSST and LBFD, visit:

For more information about NASA’s aeronautics work, visit:

Supersonic Flight:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/J.D. Harrington/Katherine Brown.


Kennedy Scientists Developing Technology to Remove Martian Dust

NASA - Kennedy Space Center logo.

June 27, 2017

The Martian geology, picture taken by Curiosity rover (MSL). Image Credit: NASA

NASA's Journey to Mars requires cutting-edge technologies to solve the problems explorers will face on the Red Planet. Scientists at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are developing some of the needed solutions.

Dr. Carlos Calle, lead scientist in the center's Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory, and Jay Phillips, a research physicist working there, are developing an electrostatic precipitator to help solve the dust problem.

"Commodities such as oxygen water and methane can be obtained from the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere," Calle said. "Astronauts will need these essentials as they practice in-situ resource utilization."

Image above: Dr. Carlos Calle, lead scientist in the Kennedy Space Center's Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory, left, and Jay Phillips, a research physicist, are modifying an electrostatic precipitator. On Mars the device would allow astronauts to extract useful elements such as oxygen, water and methane. Image Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

In-situ resource utilization, or ISRU, is harvesting and relying on available raw materials as astronauts visit deep-space destinations. Like early European settlers coming to America, planetary pioneers will not be able to take everything they need, so many supplies will need to be gathered and made on site.

An electrostatic precipitator works by capturing the fine dust from a gas stream while it travels between a pair of high-voltage electrodes. The electrodes induce an electrostatic charge on the dust particles that causes them to migrate to an oppositely charged electrode.

Electrostatic precipitators are efficient collectors of small particles and are widely used in industrial applications, such as removing particles from plumes at power plants.

Phillips explained that he and Calle are conducting experiments to adapt an existing technology for use on Mars.

"Electrostatic precipitators will remove dust from the atmospheric gas intakes on the Martian ISRU processing plants," Philips said. "Dust can damage equipment and must be separated from the atmosphere prior to producing the consumables astronauts will require for life support and fuel on Mars."

Image above: In their Swamp Works laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Dr. Carlos Calle and Jay Phillips are testing an electrostatic precipitator using dust that closely approximates the make-up of that on Mars. They upgraded their electrostatic precipitator to fully simulate Martian atmosphere by designing and constructing a dust aerosolization pre-chamber. Image Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

Phillips noted that a Martian version of the electrostatic precipitator technology would need to be highly modified for use there.

"The plan is to send an electrostatic precipitator and other equipment to a landing site to prepare for the arrival of the crew," he said.

In their Swamp Works laboratory, Calle and Phillips are using dust that closely approximates the makeup of that on Mars. They upgraded their electrostatic precipitator to simulate Martian atmosphere by designing and constructing a dust aerosolization prechamber. The atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface averages about 0.6 percent of Earth's mean sea level pressure and is composed mostly of carbon dioxide.

Aerosolization is a process that converts a substance into the form of particles small and light enough to be suspended into the air in a manner similar to an aerosol.

"The challenge on Mars is the much lower atmospheric pressure there compared to the atmospheric pressure on Earth," Calle said.

The end result of the current project is to develop a new generation electrostatic precipitator system capable of removing dust in the environment of the Red Planet, enabling future space pioneers to live off the land.

Related links:

Journey to Mars:

Kennedy Space Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/KSC, by Bob Granath.


lundi 26 juin 2017

Chandra Samples Galactic Goulash

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

June 26, 2017

What would happen if you took two galaxies and mixed them together over millions of years? A new image including data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals the cosmic culinary outcome.

Arp 299 is a system located about 140 million light years from Earth. It contains two galaxies that are merging, creating a partially blended mix of stars from each galaxy in the process.

However, this stellar mix is not the only ingredient. New data from Chandra reveals 25 bright X-ray sources sprinkled throughout the Arp 299 concoction. Fourteen of these sources are such strong emitters of X-rays that astronomers categorize them as “ultra-luminous X-ray sources,” or ULXs.

These ULXs are found embedded in regions where stars are currently forming at a rapid rate. Most likely, the ULXs are binary systems where a neutron star or black hole is pulling matter away from a companion star that is much more massive than the Sun. These double star systems are called high-mass X-ray binaries.

Such a loaded buffet of high-mass X-ray binaries is rare, but Arp 299 is one of the most powerful star-forming galaxies in the nearby Universe. This is due at least in part to the merger of the two galaxies, which has triggered waves of star formation. The formation of high-mass X-ray binaries is a natural consequence of such blossoming star birth as some of the young massive stars, which often form in pairs, evolve into these systems.

This new composite image of Arp 299 contains X-ray data from Chandra (pink), higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR (purple), and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (white and faint brown). Arp 299 also emits copious amounts of infrared light that has been detected by observatories such as NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, but those data are not included in this composite.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

The infrared and X-ray emission of the galaxy is remarkably similar to that of galaxies found in the very distant Universe, offering an opportunity to study a relatively nearby analog of these distant objects. A higher rate of galaxy collisions occurred when the universe was young, but these objects are difficult to study directly because they are located at colossal distances.

The Chandra data also reveal diffuse X-ray emission from hot gas distributed throughout Arp 299. Scientists think the high rate of supernovas, another common trait of star-forming galaxies, has expelled much of this hot gas out of the center of the system.

A paper describing these results appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online. The lead author of the paper is Konstantina Anastasopoulou from the University of Crete in Greece. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Read More from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory:

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Crete/K. Anastasopoulou et al, NASA/NuSTAR/GSFC/A. Ptak et al; Optical: NASA/STScI/Lee Mohon.


Saturnian Dawn

NASA - Cassini International logo.

June 26, 2017

NASA's Cassini spacecraft peers toward a sliver of Saturn's sunlit atmosphere while the icy rings stretch across the foreground as a dark band.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on March 31, 2017.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 620,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 38 miles (61 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and The Cassini imaging team homepage is at and

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.


New catalogues for Herschel legacy archive

ESA - Herschel Mission patch.

26 June 2017

Two new catalogues, based on data from ESA's Herschel Space Observatory, have been released to the scientific community. The point source catalogues are examples of a new type of data product from two of Herschel's instruments, SPIRE and PACS. These catalogues are part of the lasting legacy of the Herschel mission, and will further facilitate data exploitation and drive ongoing research.

Image abovee: Sources in the Herschel SPIRE point source catalogue. Image Credits: ESA/NASA/Herschel/SPIRE.

The SPIRE and PACS point source catalogues are examples of Herschel's highly processed data products, or HPDPs. Data from missions such as Herschel are systematically processed into well calibrated 'standard' products via automatic software pipelines that correct many instrumental signatures and artefacts in the data. Some products can greatly benefit from dedicated processing by instrument experts, to improve both their quality and usefulness. There are also data products that these pipelines cannot produce at all, and these two new point source catalogues are examples of this type, providing astronomers with a valuable resource for research.

Image above: SPIRE map of NGC 4559 and surroundings. Image Credits: ESA/NASA/Herschel/SPIRE.

"The SPIRE maps contain many objects that would perhaps never have been looked at, because the original proposer was just interested in something very specific," says Bernhard Schulz, Senior Staff Scientist at Caltech/IPAC and lead of the SPIRE point source catalogue production. "For this SPIRE point source catalogue we used the knowledge of the top instrument experts to produce the best photometry for all sources that were suitable for automatic processing. Scientists who use these data can now save the time it would have taken to extract their own photometry. Additionally, they can validate their photometric procedures with sources from our catalogue, before applying them to more difficult-to-extract objects, that need very careful analysis, such as very extended sources or multiple, close-together sources that are hard to separate."

Image above: Multiple sources in PACS map. Image Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS.

"One area that highlights a strength of the PACS point source catalogue is how we have treated observations that were made to study Solar System Objects, or SSOs," says Gábor Marton, postdoctoral researcher at the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, who led the PACS point source catalogue production. "These SSO maps are the best examples of PACS maps that were until now investigated only for specific objects, while in practice they are very deep observations of a region of the sky and contain information about many other celestial sources. We looked for the full source content of all these PACS maps and, importantly, the data that we deliver is a result of a homogeneous extraction. In addition, we describe the quality of the sources in a uniform way. All of this makes our products easy for the scientific community to use."

The Herschel Space Observatory launched on 14 May 2009 and spent almost four years observing the skies at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths. Among the early highlights were the spectacular images of previously obscured early phases of star formation deep in galactic molecular clouds, and observations of some of the coldest objects in the Solar System. Since then, scientists have used Herschel data to resolve the cosmic infrared background, to follow the water trail from early phases of star formation to impact on planetary bodies, and to study galaxy evolution throughout the history of Universe. To date, this scientific output has been reported in more than 2000 peer-reviewed journal articles. Although science operations terminated, as anticipated, in April 2013 when the helium coolant was depleted, science investigations will continue for many years, using the data that were accumulated during the operational phase.

Image above: Sources in the Herschel PACS point source catalogue. Image Credits: ESA/Herschel/PACS.

"The newly released SPIRE and PACS point source catalogues will enable investigators to address a multitude of scientific topics, spanning areas as diverse as star formation and galaxy evolution," notes Göran Pilbratt, Herschel Project Scientist at ESA. "In particular, these catalogues will also help investigators not familiar with Herschel data to incorporate this as ancillary data in multi-wavelength studies, and as targets in observing proposals for follow-up studies with other instruments."

"Ever since scientific operations ended in April 2013, the Herschel team has been busy preparing and processing the final products with the goal to leave a lasting legacy of well-calibrated, high-quality data for the scientific community to use," adds Pedro García-Lario, Herschel Mission Manager at ESA. "The catalogues will help bridge the gap between data releases from missions such as Spitzer, Planck, and AKARI, allowing scientists to continue producing vital research in this area of science."

"The two catalogues represent a significant collaborative effort between scientists and staff in Europe and the US, and we hope that their existence will inspire and encourage astronomers from all shades of the electromagnetic spectrum to dig into, and mine, the rich legacy of the Herschel observatory, and its archive, "comments Phil Appleton, Task Lead and Project Scientist for the NASA Herschel Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena USA.

Herschel Space Telescope (actually out of service). Image Credit: ESA

The production of the SPIRE point source catalogue was led by the NASA Herschel Science Centre in Pasadena, USA, with important contributions from Konkoly Observatory, the ESA Herschel Science Centre at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), Eötvös Loránd University, Cardiff University, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

The PACS point source catalogue was led by Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, Hungary, with important contributions from the ESA Herschel Science Centre at ESAC and the NASA Herschel Science Center at Caltech/IPAC.

The new SPIRE point source catalogue, with about 1.6 million sources, and the PACS point source catalogue, containing about 500 000 sources, are available from the Herschel Science Archive through ESASky and Virtual Observatory (VO) tools, such as TopCat, and from the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive. These tools come with a variety of ways to query the data and they are compliant with VO standards.

Related links:

ESA Herschel:

Herschel Science Archive:


NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive:

About the SPIRE Point Source Catalogue:

About the PACS Point Source Catalogue:

Herschel astronomers' website:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/Herschel/SPIRE.

Best regards,

Artificial brain helps Gaia catch speeding stars

ESA - Gaia Mission patch.

26 June 2017

With the help of software that mimics a human brain, ESA’s Gaia satellite spotted six stars zipping at high speed from the centre of our Galaxy to its outskirts. This could provide key information about some of the most obscure regions of the Milky Way.

Our galactic home, the Milky Way, houses more than a hundred billion stars, all kept together by gravity. Most are located in a flattened structure – the Galactic disc – with a bulge at its centre, while the remaining stars are distributed in a wider spherical halo extending out to about 650 000 light-years from the centre.

Stars speeding through the Galaxy

Stars are not motionless in the Galaxy but move around its centre with a variety of velocities depending on their location – for example, the Sun orbits at about 220 km/s, while the average in the halo is of about 150 km/s.

Occasionally, a few stars exceed these already quite impressive velocities.

Some are accelerated by a close stellar encounter or the supernova explosion of a stellar companion, resulting in runaway stars with speeds up to a few hundred km/s above the average.

A new class of high-speed stars was discovered just over a decade ago. Swooping through the Galaxy at several hundred of km/s, they are the result of past interactions with the supermassive black hole that sits at the centre of the Milky Way and, with a mass of four million Suns, governs the orbits of stars in its vicinity.

“These hypervelocity stars are extremely important to study the overall structure of our Milky Way,” says Elena Maria Rossi from Leiden University in the Netherlands, who presented Gaia’s discovery of six new such stars today at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Prague, Czech Republic.

Catching speeding stars with Gaia

“These are stars that have travelled great distances through the Galaxy but can be traced back to its core – an area so dense and obscured by interstellar gas and dust that it is normally very difficult to observe – so they yield crucial information about the gravitational field of the Milky Way from the centre to its outskirts.”

Unfortunately, fast-moving stars are extremely difficult to find in the stellar haystack of the Milky Way, as current surveys list the speed of at most a few hundred thousand stars.

To find them, scientists have been looking for young, massive stars that would stand out as interlopers in the old stellar population of the Galactic halo. Given away by their out-of-place age, these stars are likely to have received an extra kick to reach the halo. Further measurements of their speeds and estimates of their past paths can confirm if they are indeed hypervelocity stars that were shoved away from the centre of the Milky Way.

So far, only 20 such stars have been spotted. Owing to the specific selection of this method, these are all young stars with a mass 2.5 to 4 times that of the Sun. However, scientists believe that many more stars of other ages or masses are speeding through the Galaxy but remain unrevealed by this type of search.

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way

The billion-star census being performed by Gaia offers a unique opportunity, so Elena and her collaborators started wondering how to use such a vast dataset to optimise the search for fast-moving stars.

After testing various methods, they turned to software through which the computer learns from previous experience.

“In the end, we chose to use an artificial neural network, which is software designed to mimic how our brain works,” explains Tommaso Marchetti, PhD student at Leiden University and lead author of the paper describing the results published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“After proper ‘training’, it can learn how to recognise certain objects or patterns in a huge dataset. In our case, we taught it to spot hypervelocity stars in a stellar catalogue like the one compiled with Gaia.”

As part of Elena's research project to study these stars, the team started developing and training this program in the first half of 2016, in order to be ready for the first release of Gaia data a few months later, on 14 September.

Besides a map of over a billion stellar positions, this first release included a smaller catalogue with distances and motions for two million stars, combining observations from Gaia’s first year with those from ESA’s Hipparcos mission, which charted the sky more than two decades ago. Referred to as the Tycho–Gaia Astrometric Solution, or TGAS, this resource is a taster for future catalogues that will be based solely on Gaia data.

Gaia’s first sky map

“On the day of the data release, we ran our brand new algorithm on the two million stars of TGAS,” says Elena.

“In just one hour, the artificial brain had already reduced the dataset to some 20 000 potential high-speed stars, reducing its size to about 1%.

“A further selection including only measurements above a certain precision in distance and motion brought this down to 80 candidate stars.”

The team looked at these 80 stars in further detail. Since only information on the star's motion across the sky are included in the TGAS data, they had to find additional clues to infer their velocity, looking at previous stellar catalogues or performing new observations.

“Combining all these data, we found that six stars can be traced back to the Galactic Centre, all with velocities above 360 km/s,” says Tommaso.

Most importantly, the scientists succeeded at probing a different population from the 20 stars that were already known: the newly identified stars all have lower masses, similar to the mass of our Sun.

One of the six stars seems to be speeding so fast, at over 500 km/s, that it is no longer bound by the gravity of the Galaxy and will eventually leave. But the other, slightly slower stars, are perhaps even more fascinating, as scientists are eager to learn what slowed them down – the invisible dark matter that is thought to pervade the Milky Way might also have played a role.

While the new program was optimised to search for stars that were accelerated at the centre of the Galaxy, it also identified five of the more traditional runaway stars, which owe their high speeds to stellar encounters elsewhere in the Milky Way.

“This result showcases the great potential of Gaia opening up new avenues to investigate the structure and dynamics of our Galaxy,” says Anthony Brown from Leiden University, a co-author on the study and chair of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium.

The scientists are looking forward to using data from the next Gaia release, which is planned for April 2018 and will include distances and motions on the sky for over a billion stars, as well as velocities for a subset.

Dealing with a billion stars, rather than the two million explored so far, is an enormous challenge, so the team is busy upgrading their program to handle such a huge catalogue and to uncover the many speeding stars that will be lurking in the data.

“The sheer number of stars probed by Gaia is an exciting but also challenging opportunity for astronomers, and we are glad to see that they are happily embracing the challenge,” says Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.

Notes for Editors:

“An artificial neural network to discover Hypervelocity stars: Candidates in Gaia DR1/TGAS,” by T. Marchetti et al, is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

These results were presented today at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Prague, Czech Republic:

For more information about Gaia mission, visit:

Gaia overview:

Gaia factsheet:

Gaia Data Release 1 Media Kit:

Frequently asked questions:

Related articles:

How many stars are there in the Universe?:

The billion-pixel camera:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/ATG medialab; background: ESO/S. Brunier/Gaia/DPAC.

Best regards,

dimanche 25 juin 2017

SpaceX - Iridium-2 Mission success

SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Iridium-2 Mission patch.

June 25, 2017

Falcon 9 rocket launches Iridium-2

On Sunday, June 25 at 1:25 p.m. PDT, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium, a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications.

Iridium-2 Launch Webcast

This is the second set of 10 satellites in a series of 75 total satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium® NEXT.

Iridium’s next generation global satellite

Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 successfully landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship stationed in the Pacific Ocean, despite challenging weather conditions.

For more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Thales Alenia.


MUSES Facility Enables Investigation Opportunities For Future Users

ISS - International Space Station logo.

June 25, 2017

Artist's view of MUSES Facility on ISS. Image Credit: NASA

The Multiple User System for Earth Sensing Facility (MUSES) will inspire and enable numerous branches of research and science through its ability to support many different kinds of investigations and hardware aboard the International Space Station. Providing a platform for payloads such as high-resolution digital cameras and hyperspectral imagers, MUSES provides precision pointing and other accommodations for various kinds of research and science.

Orbiting approximately 250 miles above the Earth, the MUSES platform offers researchers a unique vantage point from the outside of the station for tasks like Earth observation, disaster response, maritime domain awareness, agricultural/land use applications, food security, air quality, oil and gas exploration, mining, atmospheric investigations, and fire detection.

Image above: The first investigation to be hosted aboard the MUSES platform will be the DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS) (shown above attached to the MUSES platform in a digital mock-up), on Expeditions 51/52 and 53/54. Image Credit: Teledyne Brown Engineering.

“The space station’s path is ideal for Earth science,” said Paul Galloway, the project’s manager and lead systems engineer. “The repeated exposure to the Earth’s land masses gives you a good revisit time for target areas. MUSES’ ability to point and track ground targets also enhances the revisit opportunities and viewing angles.”

The space station’s orbit cover’s 90% of the Earth’s inhabited surfaces and allows for both day and nighttime passes, allowing a variety of observation and data collection times.

MUSES will provide Earth imagery data to NASA’s SERVIR team to provide disaster response information to aid in the team’s humanitarian missions, improving environmental decision-making among developing nations. The MUSES payload data can be used in response to disasters world-wide.

Image above: The MUSES platform accommodates up to four instruments simultaneously. Each instrument can be installed and removed robotically by the ISS robotic arm operators on the ground. Image Credit: Teledyne Brown Engineering.

Instruments flying aboard the platform will be able to detect phenomenon like flooding, coastal erosion, water pollution, red tide, and landslides. Space-based imagery is one of many tools used in the disaster response decision-making process.

The MUSES platform is a U.S. National Laboratory sponsored pointing system and can accommodate up to four instruments at a time. Each instrument can be installed and removed robotically. These payloads can be operated simultaneously, triggering a system that can communicate with all the systems aboard the space station and store and transmit large amounts of data back to the ground.  The system will be operated from the Teledyne Operations Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Developed in a cooperative agreement between Teledyne Brown Engineering and NASA, MUSES will provide many commercial companies the opportunity to conduct their science and research in space.

Image above: The MUSES platform includes a Star Tracker and Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit which are used to generate precise pointing knowledge information to be used by the hosted payloads. MUSES also uses the ISS External Wireless Communications system for image data transfer via custom built electronics and a NASA-provided antenna. Image Credit: Teledyne Brown Engineering.

MUSES provides low-cost access to space for instrument developers.  MUSES and the ability to return payloads from the space station to Earth provides an excellent platform for technology demonstration and the space qualification of hardware.

 “Unlike the Earth views from ISS’s internal viewing windows which are somewhat limited by surrounding structure, the view to the Earth from the ISS truss is essentially unobstructed,” said Galloway

The first investigation to be hosted aboard the MUSES platform will be the DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS), on Expeditions 51/52 and 53/54, and is planned for launch later this year. DESIS is a hyperspectral imager operating in the 400-1000 nanometer spectral range. “The German Space Agency, DLR, will use the DESIS imagery for scientific purposes.  Teledyne Brown Engineering will use the imagery for commercial purposes,” according to Galloway.

“MUSES was designed to interface with every possible data network on ISS and take maximum utilization of the downlink capability from ISS to ground to achieve our goal of getting large amounts of image and scientific data down from these instruments,” said Galloway.  

For more information about the science happening aboard the orbiting laboratory, follow

Related links:

Multiple User System for Earth Sensing Facility (MUSES):


U.S. National Laboratory:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/JSC/Jenny Howard.


samedi 24 juin 2017

Soyuz 2-1v conducts secret military launch


June 24, 2017

On June 23, 2017 Russia undertook a low-key launch of a Soyuz-2-1v rocket with a military payload. The launch, out of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northwest Russia, took place at 21:04 local time (18:04 UTC).

Image (above) archive of Soyuz 2-1v rocket during second successful flight. Image Credit:  Russian Ministry of Defense.

A Russian Soyuz 2-1v rocket launches a payload designated 14F150. Details on the payload’s mission are unavailable.

For reading very informative article from my friend Anatoly Zak, visit:

Soyuz-2-1v launches a secret satellite

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 23 juin 2017

The future of the LHC takes shape

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

June 23, 2017

While the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is at the start of a new season of data taking, scientists and engineers around the world are already looking ahead, and working hard to develop its upgrade, the High-Luminosity LHC. This upgrade is planned to start operation in 2026, when it will increase the number of collisions by a factor of five to ten. Physicists will be able to take full advantage of this increased number of collisions to study the phenomena discovered at the LHC in greater detail.

This major upgrade to the machine requires installation of new equipment in 1.2 kilometres of the 27km-long-accelerator. Among the key components that will be installed are a set of new magnets: around 100 magnets of 11 new types are being developed.

Image above: View of a short-model magnet for the High Luminosity LHC quadrupole. (Image: Robert Hradil, Monika Majer/

More powerful superconducting quadrupole magnets will be installed at each side of the ATLAS and CMS detectors. Their purpose is to squeeze the particles closer, increasing the probability of collisions at the centre of the two experiments. These focusing magnets will exploit an innovative superconducting technology, based on the niobium-tin compound, which makes the quadrupoles’ magnetic field far greater, 50% higher than current LHC superconducting magnets based on niobium-titanium.

The magnets are now in the prototype phase – shorter models, on which tests are run to assess the stability of the design and the mechanical structure. Last year, two 1.5 metre-long short model quadrupoles were tested at CERN and at Fermilab, in the US. A third short model will soon be tested at CERN.

The LHC's future, part 1: The High-Luminosity quadrupole magnet

(Video: Noemi Caraban Gonzalez/CERN)

In January 2017, a full-length 4.5 metre-long coil – a world record-breaking length, for that kind of magnet – has been tested at the US Brookhaven National Laboratory and reached the nominal field value of 13.4 T. Meanwhile at CERN, winding the 7.15-metre-long coils for the final magnets has already begun.

The new magnets are being developed through a collaboration between CERN and the LHC-AUP (LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project) consortium, which involves three US laboratories.

This article is an excerpt from a feature article published here:


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

High-Luminosity LHC:



Large Hadron Collider:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Corinne Pralavorio/written by Stefania Pandolfi.

Best regards,

Crew Explores Cardiac Research and Tiny Satellites Today

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 23, 2017

The Expedition 52 trio worked throughout Friday on human research studying cardiac biology and the microbes that live on humans. Tiny satellites inside the International Space Station were also investigated for future remote or autonomous use in space.

NASA astronaut Jack Fisher collected microbe samples from his body and stowed them inside a science freezer for later analysis on Earth. He also activated an ultrasound and scanned his legs for the Vascular Echo study that is exploring how veins and arteries adapt during a spaceflight mission.

Image above: Expedition 52 crew members Fyodor Yurchikhin (middle foreground) and Jack Fischer were inside the Zvezda service module monitoring the docking of a Russian Progress 67 cargo ship on June 16, 2017. Image Credit: NASA.

Three-time station crew member Peggy Whitson retrieved stem cell samples for observation to determine if living in space speeds up the aging process. Whitson then set up the SPHERES Halo experiment that is exploring the possibility of using satellites to clean up space debris and assemble objects such as space telescopes and habitats.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin worked in the station’s Russian segment maintaining life support systems. The veteran cosmonaut also explored pain sensation in space then wrapped up the work day with Earth photography documenting human and natural impacts across the globe.

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Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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Mars Rover Opportunity on Walkabout Near Rim

NASA - Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) patch.

June 23, 2017

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater for signs that they may have been either transported by a flood or eroded in place by wind.

Those scenarios are among the possible explanations rover-team scientists are considering for features seen just outside the crater rim's crest above "Perseverance Valley," which is carved into the inner slope of the rim.

The team plans to drive Opportunity down Perseverance Valley after completing a "walkabout" survey of the area above it. The rover's drives now use steering motors on only the rear wheels, following a temporary jam of the left-front wheel's steering actuator this month. Opportunity has not used its right-front wheel's steering actuator since 2005, the year after it landed on Mars.

Image above: The Pancam on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the component images of this enhanced-color scene during the mission's "walkabout" survey of an area just above the top of "Perseverance Valley," in preparation for driving down the valley. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

The mission has been investigating sites on and near the western rim of Endeavour Crater since 2011. The crater is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) across.

"The walkabout is designed to look at what's just above Perseverance Valley," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. "We see a pattern of striations running east-west outside the crest of the rim."

A portion of the crest at the top of Perseverance Valley has a broad notch. Just west of that, elongated patches of rocks line the sides of a slightly depressed, east-west swath of ground, which might have been a drainage channel billions of years ago.

"We want to determine whether these are in-place rocks or transported rocks," Arvidson said. "One possibility is that this site was the end of a catchment where a lake was perched against the outside of the crater rim. A flood might have brought in the rocks, breached the rim and overflowed into the crater, carving the valley down the inner side of the rim. Another possibility is that the area was fractured by the impact that created Endeavour Crater, then rock dikes filled the fractures, and we're seeing effects of wind erosion on those filled fractures."

In the hypothesis of a perched lake, the notch in the crest just above Perseverance Valley may have been a spillway. Weighing against that hypothesis is an observation that the ground west of the crest slopes away, not toward the crater. The science team is considering possible explanations for how the slope might have changed.

A variation of the impact-fracture hypothesis is that water rising from underground could have favored the fractures as paths to the surface and contributed to weathering of the fracture-filling rocks.

Close examination of the rock piles along the edges of the possible channel might help researchers evaluate these and other possible histories of the site. Meanwhile, the team is analyzing stereo images of Perseverance Valley, taken from the rim, to plot Opportunity's route. The valley extends down from the crest into the crater at a slope of about 15 to 17 degrees for a distance of about two football fields.

On June 4, during the walkabout survey, the steering actuator for Opportunity's left-front wheel stalled with the wheel turned outward more than 30 degrees. Each of the rover's six wheels has its own drive motor, which all still work after about 27.9 miles (44.9 kilometers) of driving on Mars. Each of the four corner wheels also has an independent steering actuator -- including motor and gearbox. The rover has driven about 25 miles (40 kilometers) since losing use of right-front wheel steering in April 2005.

Mars Exploration Rover "Opportunity". Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Diagnostic testing on June 17 succeeded in straightening out the left-front wheel, a more favorable orientation than it had been in for nearly two weeks.

"For at least the immediate future, we don't plan to use either front wheel for steering," said Opportunity Project Manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "We can steer with two wheels, just like a car except it's the rear wheels. We're doing exactly what we should be doing, which is to wear out the rover doing productive work -- to utilize every capability of the vehicle in the exploration of Mars."

The team has operated Opportunity on Mars for more than 50 times longer than the originally planned mission duration of three months.

Opportunity and the next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, plus three active NASA Mars orbiters are part of ambitious robotic exploration to understand Mars, which will continue with NASA missions to be launched in 2018 and 2020. The robotic missions help lead the way for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, built Opportunity and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about Opportunity, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Tony Greicius/JPL/Guy Webster.

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SpaceX - BulgariaSat-1 Mission Success

SpaceX - BulgariaSat-1 Mission patch.

June 23, 2017

Falcon 9 carrying BulgariaSat 1 launch. Image Credit: SpaceX

On June 23, 2017, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the BulgariaSat-1 satellite into orbit—the first geostationary communications satellite in Bulgaria’s history. This mission marked the second reflight of a Falcon 9 first stage, having previously supported the Iridium-1 mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in January of this year. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center was at 15:10 Eastern Daylight Time (19:10 UTC).

BulgariaSat-1 Launch Webcast

Following stage separation, the first stage of Falcon 9 successfully landed on SpaceX’s East Coast droneship “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This marks the first time a Falcon 9 first stage has landed on both SpaceX’s East and West coast droneships, having previously landed on “Just Read the Instructions” in the Pacific Ocean.

BulgariaSat 1 satellite. Image Credit: SSL

BulgariaSat 1 will provide direct-to-home television broadcast and data communications services over southeast Europe for Bulsatcom. The payload will be the first geostationary communications satellite owned by a Bulgarian company.

For more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credit: Spacex.


PSLV-C38 successfully launches Cartosat-2 series satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites

ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation logo.

June 23, 2017

PSLV-C38 carrying Cartosat-2 and 30 co-passenger launch

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 40th flight (PSLV-C38), launched the 712 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation and 30 co-passenger satellites together weighing about 243 kg at lift-off into a 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). PSLV-C38 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the seventeenth flight of PSLV in 'XL' configuration (with the use of solid strap-on motors). The launch occured at 03:59 GMT on 23rd (11:59 p.m. EDT on 22nd).

PSLV-C38 Liftoff and Onboard Camera Video

The co-passenger satellites comprise 29 Nano satellites from 14 countries namely, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, United Kingdom and United States of America as well as one Nano satellite (NIUSAT) from India. The total weight of all these satellites carried on-board PSLV-C38 is about 955 kg.

Cartosat-2 series satellite

The 29 International customer Nano satellites were launched as part of the commercial arrangements between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), a Government of India company under Department of Space (DOS) and the commercial arm of ISRO and the International customers.

PSLV-C38/Cartosat-2 Series Satellite Mission was launched on June 23, 2017 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

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Why No One Under 20 Has Experienced a Day Without NASA at Mars

NASA - Mars Pathfinder Mission patch.

June 22, 2017

Image above: This portion of a classic 1997 panorama from the IMP camera on the mast of NASA's Mars Pathfinder lander includes "Twin Peaks" on the horizon, and the Sojourner rover next to a rock called "Yogi." Image credits: NASA/JPL.

As the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft approached its destination on July 4, 1997, no NASA mission had successfully reached the Red Planet in more than 20 years.

Even the mission team anxiously awaiting confirmation that the spacecraft survived its innovative, bouncy landing could not anticipate the magnitude of the pivot about to shape the Space Age.

In the 20 years since Pathfinder's touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on Mars or in orbit around Mars.

NASA at Mars: 20 years of 24/7 exploration

The momentum propelled by Pathfinder's success is still growing. Five NASA robots and three from other nations are currently examining Mars. The two decades since Pathfinder's landing have taken us about halfway from the first Mars rover to the first astronaut bootprint on Mars, proposed for the 2030s.

"Pathfinder initiated two decades of continuous Mars exploration bringing us to the threshold of sample return and the possibility of humans on the first planet beyond Earth," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Sojourner Rover

Pathfinder's rover, named Sojourner for the civil-rights crusader Sojourner Truth, became the best-known example of the many new technologies developed for the mission. Though Sojourner was only the size of a microwave oven, its six-wheel mobility system and its portable instrument for checking the composition of rocks and soil were the foundation for the expanded size and capabilities of later Mars rovers.

"Without Mars Pathfinder, there could not have been Spirit and Opportunity, and without Spirit and Opportunity, there could not have been Curiosity," Pathfinder Project Scientist Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said of the subsequent generations of Mars rovers. JPL is now developing another Mars rover for launch in 2020.

NASA planned Pathfinder primarily as a technology demonstration mission, but it also harvested new knowledge about Mars, from the planet's iron core to its atmosphere, and from its wetter and warmer past to its arid modern climate.

The space agency was shifting from less-frequent, higher-budget missions to a strategy of faster development and lower budgets. Pathfinder succeeded within a real-year, full-mission budget of $264 million, a small fraction of the only previously successful Mars lander missions, the twin Vikings of 1976.

"We needed to invent or re-invent 25 technologies for this mission in less than three years, and we knew that if we blew the cost cap, the mission would be cancelled," said JPL's Brian Muirhead, flight system manager and deputy project manager for Pathfinder. "Everybody who was part of the Mars Pathfinder Project felt we'd done something extraordinary, against the odds."

Crucial new technologies included an advanced onboard computer, the rover and its deployment system, solid-fuel rockets for deceleration, and airbags inflating just before touchdown to cushion the impact of landing. NASA re-used most of the Pathfinder technologies to carry out the Mars Exploration Rover Project, which landed Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004.

Landing Day on Independence Day

"On the morning of July Fourth, 1997, we were in our tiny mission-control area waiting to see the signal that would confirm Pathfinder had survived its atmospheric entry and landing, and that it was transmitting from the surface of Mars," Muirhead said. "We saw that tiny spike in the signal coming through the Deep Space Network, and we knew."

Pathfinder quickly provided the first fresh images from Mars directly available to the public over the still-young World Wide Web. The mission set a web-traffic record at the time with more than 200 million hits from July 4 to July 8, 1997.

The lander and rover operated for three months -- triple the planned mission for the lander and 12 times the rover's planned mission of one week. This longevity enabled Pathfinder to overlap the Sept. 12, 1997, arrival of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. That orbiter, in turn, operated at Mars for more than nine years, overlapping with arrivals of two later orbiters -- Mars Odyssey in 2001 and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2006, which are both still active -- and the 2004 landings of two rovers, one of which -- Opportunity -- is still active. Subsequent successful NASA missions of the post-Pathfinder era have been the Phoenix lander, Curiosity rover and MAVEN orbiter.

Twenty straight years of studying Mars have yielded major advances in understanding active processes on modern Mars, wet environments favorable for life on ancient Mars, and how the planet changed. These two decades of continuous robotic presence have built on the science and engineering gains from NASA's Mars Mariner and Viking missions of the 1960s and '70s.

The advances in understanding Mars during the past two decades have set the stage for even greater advances in the next two decades, particularly in efforts to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars and to put humans on Mars. For more information about past, present and future exploration of Mars, visit:

For more information about the Mars Pathfinder mission, see:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/JPL/Guy Webster.

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Witness Cassini's Finale at Saturn Live from JPL

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

June 22, 2017

Image above: Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize waits for the spacecraft's signal at the start of the "Grand Finale" mission phase with the operations team in mission control at JPL on April 26, 2017. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Social media users may apply for access to a two-day event culminating in the triumphant end of NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn after nearly 20 years in space. Up to 25 selected participants for the September 14-15, 2017, event will tour, explore and share their experiences from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Writers, vloggers, photographers, educators, students, artists and other curious minds who use social media to engage specific audiences are encouraged to apply.

Selected attendees will tour JPL, including a visit to mission control and the Spacecraft Assembly Facility; meet Cassini mission scientists and engineers; and share in the final moments of the Cassini mission, live from the JPL media site, as the spacecraft makes a fateful plunge into Saturn's atmosphere on Sept. 15, ending its long and discovery-rich mission.

Cassinis Grand Finale. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA Social applications may be submitted through June 29, 2017. To apply, visit:

During its journey, Cassini has made many discoveries, including a global ocean with hydrothermal activity within Saturn's moon Enceladus, and vast seas of liquid methane on the planet's largest moon, Titan. Cassini began the final, dramatic phase of its mission, called the Grand Finale, on April 26, with the first of planned 22 dives between Saturn and its rings. The finale orbits bring the spacecraft closer to Saturn than ever before, providing stunning, high-resolution images and new insights into the planet's interior structure and the origins of the rings. During its final plunge into Saturn, Cassini will send data about the atmosphere's composition until its signal is lost.

NASA at Saturn: Cassinis Grand Finale

More information about Cassini's Grand Finale, including multimedia, is available at:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

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Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Jason Townsend/JPL/Stephanie L. Smith.