lundi 21 mai 2018

China will explore the dark side of the moon

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

May 21, 2018

Long March-4C carrying Chang'e 4 satellite launch. Image Credit: Xinhua

A Long March-4C launch vehicle launched Queqiao (鹊桥, "Magpie Bridge"), the satellite relay for the Chang'e-4 lunar mission, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, southwest China, on May 20, 2018, at 21:28 UTC (21 May, at 05:28 local time).

China on Monday launched a relay satellite to provide communications between the Earth and a small robot that should be deployed on the far side of the Moon in 2018, according to the Chinese Space Agency.

A Long March-4C rocket took off at 5:28 am local time (2128 GMT Sunday) from the Xichang launch pad (south-west) with the Queqiao satellite, which is currently continuing into space, on board. Chinese National Space Administration.

Long March-4C launches Queqiao (Chang'e-4 satellite relay)

Upon the arrival of the remote-controlled robot on the Moon, the satellite will be at a place where it can exchange with the Earth, while having in its line of sight the hidden face of the Moon.

"This launch is a crucial step for China to become the first country to send a probe able to smoothly glide and explore the dark side of the moon," said Zhang Lihua, head of the satellite project, quoted by the China New Agency.

Chang'e 4 satellite

The satellite will allow control by technicians left on Earth of the Chang'e-4 robot, which takes its name from a goddess of Chinese mythology.

Second remote controlled vehicle

The hidden face of the Moon refers to the hemisphere of the lunar body that is not visible from Earth. She has been photographed since 1959 but has never been explored.

The dark side of the moon

The robot will be sent by the end of 2018 in the South Pole-Aitken basin, an area supposed to have great potential for research, according to new China.

It will be the second Chinese unmanned vehicle on the moon. In 2013, China had already landed a rover named "Jade Bunny". He had had periods of coma, but had finally been able to survey the lunar surface for 31 months, well beyond its expected life.

Image above: An artist's rendering of the Chang'e 4 satellite relaying data from a lander / rover combo on the moon's far side. Image Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAST).

Another robot (Chang'e-5) is expected to be sent to the Moon in 2019 to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

China invests billions of euros in its space program, coordinated by the army. The country hopes to have an inhabited space station by 2022, and eventually send humans to the moon.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/SciNews/CAST/Xinhua/Günter Space Page/AFP/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


samedi 19 mai 2018

Orbital ATK Antares Rocket Set for Early Monday Morning Launch to Space Station Space Station Research

NASA / Orbital ATK - Cygnus OA-9 Mission patch.

May 19, 2018

Image above: Antares rocket arrival at Pad 0A of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops. Image Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

The Range Control Center at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has forecast 70-percent favorable weather for the May 21 launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Antares rocket being raised at launchpad. Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

The main weather concern for Monday’s launch attempt is sky screen (essentially local visibility conditions). Latest launch forecast puts weather at 70 percent favorable.

Animation above: Time-lapse of Antares rocket being raised at launchpad. Animation Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black.

A weak cold front looks to drop into the region late Sunday afternoon, May 20, providing a chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms through that evening. Shower chances diminish by early Monday, but a weak upper-level impulse drops over the Eastern Shore during the overnight hours Sunday into Monday, providing increased cloud cover and a slight chance for an isolated shower leading up to the projected launch.

Image above: The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, raised at launchpad. Image Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black.

The Antares rocket, with Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft aboard is scheduled to launch no earlier than May 21 at 4:39 a.m. EDT on the company’s CRS-9 resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Image above: The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, is raised at launch Pad-0A, Friday, May 18, 2018, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

The mission, CRS-9, is Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station for NASA. Among the 7,400 pounds of cargo aboard Cygnus are science experiments, crew supplies and vehicle hardware.

Related links:

NASA TV coverage:

Learn more about Orbital ATK’s mission at:

Commercial Resupply:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner.

Best regards,

Hubble Catches a Spiral Galaxy in Disguise

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

May 19, 2018

Resembling a wizard’s staff set aglow, NGC 1032 cleaves the quiet darkness of space in two in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

NGC 1032 is located about a hundred million light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster). Although beautiful, this image perhaps does not do justice to the galaxy’s true aesthetic appeal: NGC 1032 is actually a spectacular spiral galaxy, but from Earth, the galaxy’s vast disk of gas, dust and stars is seen nearly edge-on.

A handful of other galaxies can be seen lurking in the background, scattered around the narrow strip of NGC 1032. Many are oriented face-on or at tilted angles, showing off their glamorous spiral arms and bright cores. Such orientations provide a wealth of detail about the arms and their nuclei, but fully understanding a galaxy’s three-dimensional structure also requires an edge-on view. This gives astronomers an overall idea of how stars are distributed throughout the galaxy and allows them to measure the “height” of the disk and the bright star-studded core.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text: European Space Agency/NASA/Karl Hille.


Jupiter: A New Perspective

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

May 19, 2018

This extraordinary view of Jupiter was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on the outbound leg of its 12th close flyby of the gas giant planet.

This new perspective of Jupiter from the south makes the Great Red Spot appear as though it is in northern territory. This view is unique to Juno and demonstrates how different our view is when we step off the Earth and experience the true nature of our three-dimensional universe.

Juno took the images used to produce this color-enhanced image on April 1 between 3:04 a.m. PDT (6:04 a.m. EDT) and 3:36 a.m. PDT (6:36 a.m. EDT). At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was between 10,768 miles (17,329 kilometers) to 42,849 miles (68,959 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet at a southern latitude spanning 34.01 to 71.43 degrees.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. The view is a composite of several separate JunoCam images that were re-projected, blended, and healed.

Juno orbiting Jupiter

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at:  

More information about Juno is at: and

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran.


vendredi 18 mai 2018

Cygnus Rolls Out to Pad Targeting Monday Launch

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

May 18, 2018

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft that will resupply the Expedition 55 crew on the International Space Station rolled out to its launch pad Thursday night. Cygnus is now targeted to blast off atop the Antares rocket Monday at 4:39 a.m. EDT from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the launch Monday at 4 a.m.

Orbital ATK and NASA managers moved Cygnus’ launch to no earlier than Monday to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions. Monday shows an 80% probability of acceptable weather for launch.

Cygnus is packed with 7,400 pounds of new science experiments, crew supplies and space station hardware. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the space station for its robotic capture at 5:20 a.m. NASA TV will cover the approach and rendezvous activities starting at 3:30 a.m.

Image above: The Antares rocket from Orbital ATK makes its way to the launch pad at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Antares will launch the Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Image Credit: Orbital ATK.

Three NASA astronauts, Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel, have trained for weeks to get ready for Cygnus’ arrival on Thursday. Tingle will be operating the Canadarm2 from inside the Cupola and command the robotic arm to grapple Cygnus. Arnold will back him up on the robotics controls and Feustel will monitor Cygnus and it systems during its approach. Robotics engineers on the ground will then remotely install the commercial space freighter on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.

One of the new experiments being delivered aboard Cygnus to the orbital laboratory will study atoms frozen to a temperature 10 billion times colder than deep space. The Cold Atom Lab will observe the quantum phenomena possibly leading to advanced spacecraft navigation techniques and quantum sensors that can detect gravitational and magnetic fields.

Related articles:

Small Packages to Test Big Space Technology Advances

Science Launching to Space Station Looks Forward and Back

Related links:

Orbital ATK:


Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA’s New Planet Hunter Snaps Initial Test Image, Swings by Moon Toward Final Orbit

NASA - TESS Mission logo.

May 18, 2018

Image above: An illustration of TESS as it passed the Moon during its lunar flyby. This provided a gravitational boost that placed TESS on course for its final working orbit. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA’s next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is one step closer to searching for new worlds after successfully completing a lunar flyby on May 17. The spacecraft passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped TESS sail toward its final working orbit.

As part of camera commissioning, the science team snapped a two-second test exposure using one of the four TESS cameras. The image, centered on the southern constellation Centaurus, reveals more than 200,000 stars. The edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge. TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in this image with its four cameras during its initial two-year search for exoplanets. A  science-quality image, also referred to as a “first light” image, is expected to be released in June.

Image above: This test image from one of the four cameras aboard the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captures a swath of the southern sky along the plane of our galaxy. TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times the amount of sky shown in this image when using all four of its cameras during science operations. Image Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS.

TESS will undergo one final thruster burn on May 30 to enter its science orbit around Earth. This highly elliptical orbit will maximize the amount of sky the spacecraft can image, allowing it to continuously monitor large swaths of the sky. TESS is expected to begin science operations in mid-June after reaching this orbit and completing camera calibrations.

The Unique Orbit of NASA's Planet Hunter

Video above: An animation of the steps TESS must complete before reaching its final orbit. The observatory just completed its lunar flyby and is on track to reach its final science orbit in mid-June. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, TESS is the next step in NASA’s search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. The mission will observe nearly the entire sky to monitor nearby, bright stars in search of transits — periodic dips in a star’s brightness caused by a planet passing in front of the star. TESS is expected to find thousands of exoplanets. NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2020, will provide important follow-up observations of some of the most promising TESS-discovered exoplanets, allowing scientists to study their atmospheres.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. The TESS science instruments were jointly developed by MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Claire Saravia.


Small Packages to Test Big Space Technology Advances

NASA / Orbital ATK - Cygnus OA-9 Mission patch.

May 18, 2018

This weekend, when the next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station lifts off from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, it will be carrying among its supplies and experiments three cereal box-sized satellites that will be used to test and demonstrate the next generation of Earth-observing technology.

NASA has been increasing its use of CubeSats -- small satellites based on several configurations of approximately 4 x 4 x 4-inch cubes -- to put new technologies in orbit where they can be tested in the harsh environment of space before being used as part of larger satellite missions or constellations of spacecraft.

The three CubeSat missions launching on Orbital ATK’s ninth commercial resupply mission represent a broad range of cutting-edge technologies housed in very small packages.

RainCube -- a Radar in a CubeSat -- is just that: a miniaturized precipitation-studying radar instrument that weighs just over 26 pounds. RainCube is smaller, has fewer components, and uses less power than traditional radar instruments. NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO) In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program selected the project to demonstrate that such a diminutive radar can be operated successfully on a CubeSat platform.

Image above: The complete TEMPEST-D spacecraft shown with the solar panels deployed. Image Credits: Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies.

This mission marks the first time an active radar instrument has been flown on a CubeSat.

If successful, RainCube could open the door for lower-cost, quick-turnaround constellation missions, in which multiple CubeSats work together to provide more frequent observations than a single satellite. 

“A constellation of RainCube radars would be able to observe the internal structure of weather systems as they evolve according to processes that need to be better characterized in weather and climate forecasting models,” said RainCube Principal Investigator Eva Peral of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

RainCube will use wavelengths in the high-frequency Ka-band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Ka wavelengths work with smaller antennas (RainCube’s deployable antenna measures at just half a yard, or meter, across) and allow an exponential increase in data transfer over long distances -- making RainCube a demonstration in improved communications as well. JPL developed the RainCube instrument, while Tyvak Inc. developed the spacecraft.

CubeSats can also be used to test new subsystems and techniques for improving data collection from space. Radio frequency interference (RFI) is a growing problem for space-based microwave radiometers, instruments important for studying soil moisture, meteorology, climate and other Earth properties.  As the number of RFI-causing devices -- including cell phones, radios, and televisions -- increases, it will be even more difficult for NASA’s satellite microwave radiometers to collect high-quality data.

Image above: The CubeRRT satellite and Blue Canyon Technologies team members with Principal Investigator Joel Johnson (far left) of The Ohio State University. Image Credits: Credit: Blue Canyon Technologies.

To address this issue, NASA’s InVEST program funded a team led by Joel Johnson of The Ohio State University to develop CubeRRT, the CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology Validation mission. “Our technology,” said Johnson, “will make it so that our Earth-observing radiometers can still continue to operate in the presence of this interference.”

RFI already affects data collected by Earth-observing satellites. To mitigate this problem, measurements are transmitted to the ground where they are then processed to remove any RFI-corrupted data. It is a complicated process and requires more data to be transmitted to Earth. With future satellites encountering even more RFI, more data could be corrupted and missions might not be able to meet their science goals.

Johnson collaborated with technologists at JPL and Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, to develop the CubeRRT satellite to demonstrate the ability to detect RFI and filter out RFI-corrupted data in real time aboard the spacecraft. The spacecraft was developed by Blue Canyon Technologies, Boulder, Colorado.

One of the radiometer-collected weather measurements important to researchers involves cloud processes, specifically storm development and the identification of the time when rain begins to fall. Currently, weather satellites pass over storms just once every three hours, not frequently enough to identify many of the changes in dynamic storm systems. But the development of a new, extremely-compact radiometer system could change that.

Image above: The RainCube 6U CubeSat with fully-deployed antenna. Image Credits: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program selected Steven Reising of Colorado State University and partners at JPL to develop, build, and demonstrate a five-frequency radiometer based on newly available low-noise amplifier technologies developed with support from ESTO. The TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) mission will validate the miniaturized radiometer technology and demonstrate the spacecraft’s ability to perform drag maneuvers to control TEMPEST-D’s low-Earth altitude and its position in orbit. The instrument fits into a Blue Canyon Technologies 6U CubeSat -- the same size CubeSat as RainCube and CubeRRT.

“With a train-like constellation of TEMPEST-like CubeSats, we’d be able to take time samples every five to 10 minutes to see how a storm develops,” said Reising. This would improve upon the three-hour satellite revisit time, especially when collecting data on tropical storms like hurricanes that can quickly intensify and change.

RainCube, CubeRRT and TEMPEST-D are currently integrated aboard Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft and are awaiting launch on an Antares rocket.  After the CubeSats have arrived at the station, they will be deployed into low-Earth orbit and will begin their missions to test these new technologies useful for predicting weather, ensuring data quality, and helping researchers better understand storms.

Related articles:

Science Launching to Space Station Looks Forward and Back

Related links:

Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO):





Small Satellite Missions:

Commercial Resupply:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Steve Cole/Jon Nelson/Earth Science Technology Office/Andrea Martin/JPL/Esprit Smith/Alan Buis.