Sunday, March 29, 2015

ESA’s IXV spaceplane Test Flight a Complete Success, Says the Spacecraft Operations Manager

Recovery of ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Galapagos islands. Credit: ESA–Tommaso Javidi, 2015

European Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) was launched on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on Feb. 11. The spacecraft was then released into a suborbital trajectory, and flew autonomously, reentering and splashing down into the Pacific Ocean after 100 minutes. This crucial test for ESA has exceeded scientists’ expectations as IXV behaved flawlessly, responding to conditions so precisely and promptly. “The launch was a complete success, all parameters collected so far confirm that the vehicle behaved well, as planned,” Stephane Dussy, IXV Spacecraft Operations Manager and Avionics System Engineer, told “We extracted the flight recorders from the vehicle and the memory from the infrared camera. All these experimental data will be analyzed in details in the coming months.”

India Successfully Launches IRNSS-1D Navigation Satellite

PSLV-C27 launches with IRNSS-1D satellite on Mar. 28, 2015. Credit: ISRO

ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C27, successfully launched the 1425 kg IRNSS-1D, the fourth satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) on Saturday (Mar. 28, 2015) at 5:19 p.m. (local time) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. This is the twenty eighth consecutively successful mission of the PSLV. The 'XL' configuration of PSLV was used for this mission. Previously, the same configuration of the vehicle was successfully used seven times. “We will now be able to make use of our receivers to locate ourselves independently,” ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said. This is the first launch this year and the first under his chairmanship.

Russia, US to Jointly Prepare Mars, Moon Flight Road Map

Credit: NASA

The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and its US counterpart NASA will jointly hammer out a "road map" program on flights to Mars and the Moon, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on Saturday. Bolden, who is currently on a tour of Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, added that he had discussed joint efforts to send missions to the Red Planet with Roscosmos head Igor Komarov, including time frames and funding. "Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication," Bolden said.

NASA and Roscosmos Agree to Build New Space Station

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos and its US counterpart NASA have agreed to build a new space station to replace the current International Space Station (ISS) when its life cycle expires. The operation of the ISS was prolonged until 2024. "We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station," Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov told a news conference on Saturday. The talks were held at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

One Year Crew Arrives at Space Station

Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka joined their Expedition 43 crewmates Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony. Credit: NASA TV

The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:33 p.m. EDT, over the western coast of Colombia, six hours after its launch from Baikonur space center. "Contact and capture," NASA TV commentator Dan Huot said as the Soyuz spacecraft arrived at ISS. "The one-year crew has arrived." The crew opened the air lock approximately two hours after docking and moved into the ISS. On board the ISS they were welcomed by NASA astronaut Terry Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and ESA's Samantha Christoforetti.

More Evidence for Groundwater on Mars

(B) High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) mosaic of the mapped area. Topographic contours (in white, 500 m spacing) are indicated. (C) Excerpt of the geological map by Scott and Tanaka (1986) on an HRSC mosaic. Geologic units (see text for more details): Npl1—Noachian cratered unit of the plateau sequence; Npl2—Noachian subdued crater unit of the plateau sequence; Hr—Hesperian ridged plains material. (D) Footprints of High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) coverage on an HRSC mosaic. The white fi lling indicates stereo pairs. The area is fully covered by Context Camera (CTX) imagery. Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) scenes used in this study are recognizable by the hourglass shape. Credit:

Monica Pondrelli of the "G. d'Annunzio" University of Chieti-Pescara (Italy) and her colleagues investigated the Equatorial Layered Deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra in Firsoff crater area, Mars, to understand their formation and potential habitability. On the plateau, ELDs consist of rare mounds, flat-lying deposits, and cross-bedded dune fields. Pondrelli and colleagues interpret the mounds as smaller spring deposits, the flat-lying deposits as playa, and the cross-bedded dune fields as aeolian. They write that groundwater fluctuations appear to be the major factor controlling ELD deposition.

Europe Successfully Launches Two Satellites in the Galileo Constellation

The liftoff of Soyuz flight VS11 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana took place as scheduled on 21:46:18 GMT (22:46:18 CET) on Friday 27 March 2015. The launcher was carrying Europe’s seventh and eighth Galileo navigation satellites, due to separate from their Fregat upper stage into their assigned orbit on 3 h 47 min after lift-off.   Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG-G.Barbaste

Arianespace has orbited the two latest satellites “Adam” and “Anastasia”, in the Galileo constellation, the seventh and eighth, for the European Commission, within the scope of a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). The 11th Soyuz launch from the Guiana Space Center took place on Friday, Mar. 27 at 6:46 pm local time. All the Soyuz stages performed as planned, with the Fregat upper stage releasing the satellites into their target orbit close to 23 500 km altitude, around 3 hours 48 minutes after liftoff. The new pair will join the six satellites already launched, in October 2011, October 2012 and August 2014. “The deployment of the Galileo constellation is restarting with this successful launch,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA. “The tests in orbit of satellites 5 and 6 have demonstrated the quality and performance of the satellites, and the production of the following ones is well on track. Good news for Galileo.”