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Space launch includes 1st flyer from United Arab Emirates

September 25, 2019

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — An American, a Russian and the first space flyer from the United Arab Emirates blasted off Wednesday on a mission to the International Space Station. A Russian Soyuz rocket lifted off at 6:57 p.m. (1357 GMT) from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to lift a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft into orbit.

The ship carrying NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Hazzaa al-Mansoori, a military pilot from the UAE, docked at the International Space Station about six hours later.

It was the third spaceflight for Skripochka and the first for Meir and al-Mansoori, who flew to the station was on an eight-day mission under a contract between the UAE and Roscosmos. Al-Mansoori was the first of two men chosen by the Gulf Arab nation to fly to the space station.

The trio will join two Russians, three Americans and an Italian aboard the space station. Meir and Skripochka will spend more than six months in orbit. Al-Mansoori will return to Earth next week with Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin and NASA’s Nick Hague.

Russian capsule carrying robot fails space station docking

August 24, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian space capsule carrying a humanoid robot has failed to dock as planned with the International Space Station. A statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos said the failure on Saturday was because of problems in the docking system. It said the space station itself and the six-person crew are safe.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said on Twitter that a new docking attempt would be made on Tuesday. The capsule was launched Thursday as part of tests of a new rocket that is expected to replace the Soyuz-FG next year.

It is carrying a robot called Fedor, which will perform two weeks of tests aboard the space station. Vladimir Solovyev, flight director for the Russian segment of the ISS, said the robot had not been taught how to manually conduct a docking.

A Rover for Phobos and Deimos

Le Bourget, France (SPX)

Jun 21, 2019

Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. These are the target of the Japanese Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, which also involves international partners. Scheduled for launch in 2024. it will enter Mars orbit in 2025, and return samples to Earth in 2029. The spacecraft will carry a German-French rover that will land on either Phobos or Deimos and explore the surface in detail for several months.

The scientists hope to gain new insights into the formation and evolution of the solar system. At the International Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the Japanese space agency JAXA and the French space agency CNES agreed to further collaborate on the world’s first exploration of a minor solar system body with a rover.

“The world-first exploration of the Martian moons with a rover is a major technical challenge that we are tackling within the framework of our strong and proven partnership with Japan and France,” says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board. “Together, we want to push the boundaries of what is technically feasible in robotic exploration and expand our knowledge about the origin of the solar system.”

On 18 June 2019, Hansjorg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology, Walther Pelzer, the DLR Executive Board Member responsible for the Space Administration, and Hitoshi Kuninaka, Director General of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) at JAXA, signed a cooperation agreement outlining DLR’s participation in the Japanese-led MMX mission. The contributions that the Franco-German rover will make to the mission are central to this agreement.

In addition, DLR is making scientific findings about Deimos and Phobos available in preparation for the mission and is enabling tests to be conducted at DLR’s Landing and Mobility Test Facility (LAMA) and in the drop tower at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) in Bremen.

On 19 June 2019, the Franco-German cooperation agreement for the development of the rover as part of the MMX mission was signed by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Hansjorg Dittus and CNES President Jean-Yves le Gall. The German-French rover will be designed and built as a joint effort.

DLR will, in particular, be responsible for developing the rover’s casing and its robotic locomotion system, together with a spectrometer and a radiometer that will both be used to determine the characteristics and composition of the surface.

The French space agency CNES is making major contributions with camera systems for spatial orientation and exploration of the surface, as well as the rover’s central service module. Upon landing, the rover will then be operated jointly by CNES and DLR.

The MMX mission follows in the footsteps of the successful predecessor mission Hayabusa2, which explored the asteroid Ryugu. As part of the mission, on 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid and Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander ‘hopped’ across the asteroid’s surface and sent spectacular images of a landscape strewn with boulders, stones and almost no dust back to Earth. On that same day, JAXA, DLR and CNES signed a first memorandum of understanding for cooperation within the MMX mission.

Source: Mars Daily.

Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/A_Rover_for_Phobos_and_Deimos_999.html.

Russian capsule carrying 3 docks with space station

July 21, 2019

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Russian space capsule with three astronauts aboard has docked with the International Space Station after a fast-track trip to the orbiting laboratory. The Soyuz capsule docked at 22:48 GMT Saturday, just six hours and 20 minutes after blasting off from Russia’s launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The launch took place on the 50th anniversary of the day U.S. astronauts landed on the moon. The capsule is carrying Andrew Morgan of the United States on his first spaceflight, Russian Alexander Skvortsov on his third mission to the space station and Italian Luca Parmitano.

They will join Russian Alexey Ovchinin and Americans Nick Hague and Christina Koch have been aboard since March. The crew patch for the expedition echoes the one from Apollo 11’s 1969 lunar mission.

Russia launches major new telescope into space after delays

July 13, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian Proton-M rocket successfully delivered a cutting-edge space telescope into orbit Saturday after days of launch delays, Russia’s space agency said. Roscosmos said the telescope, named Spektr-RG, was delivered into a parking orbit before a final burn Saturday that kicked the spacecraft out of Earth’s orbit and on to its final destination: the L2 Lagrange point.

Lagrange points are unique positions in the solar system where objects can maintain their position relative to the sun and the planets that orbit it. Located 1.5 million kilometers (0.93 million miles) from Earth, L2 is particularly ideal for telescopes such as Spektr-RG.

If all goes well, the telescope will arrive at its designated position in three months, becoming the first Russian spacecraft to operate beyond Earth’s orbit since the Soviet era. The telescope aims to conduct a complete x-ray survey of the sky by 2025, the first space telescope to do so.

The Russian accomplishment comes as the U.S. space agency NASA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. Russian space science missions have suffered greatly since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Budget cuts have forced the Russian space program to shift toward more commercial efforts.

A Russian Mars probe, called Mars 96, failed to leave Earth’s orbit in 1996. A later attempt to send a probe to Mars, called Fobos-Grunt, suffered a similar fate in 2011. Work on Spektr-RG telescope began in the 1980s but was scrapped in the 1990s. Spektr-RG was revived in 2005 and redesigned to be smaller, simpler and cheaper.

In its modern form, the project is a close collaboration between Russian and German scientists, who both installed telescope equipment aboard the Russian spacecraft.

Small satellite concept finalists target Moon, Mars and beyond

Pasadena CA (JPL)

Jun 21, 2019

NASA has selected three finalists among a dozen concepts for future small satellites. The finalists include a 2022 robotic mission to study two asteroid systems, twin spacecraft to study the effects of energetic particles around Mars, and a lunar orbiter managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to study water on the Moon. At least one of these missions is expected to move to final selection and flight.

The missions will contribute to NASA’s goal of understanding our solar system’s content, origin and evolution. They will also support planetary defense, and help fill in knowledge gaps as NASA moves forward with its plans for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

The selected finalists:

* Janus: Reconnaissance Missions to Binary Asteroids will study the formation and evolutionary implications for small “rubble pile” asteroids and build an accurate model of two binary asteroid bodies. A binary asteroid is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common center of mass. The principal investigator is Daniel Scheeres at the University of Colorado. Lockheed Martin will provide project management.

* Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE): This mission’s objective is to characterize (on multiple scales) the acceleration processes driving escape from Mars’ atmosphere, as well as how the atmosphere responds to the constant outflow of the solar wind flowing off the Sun. The principal investigator for this mission is Robert Lillis at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley will also provide project management.

* Lunar Trailblazer will directly detect and map water on the lunar surface to determine how its form, abundance and location relate to geology. The principal investigator is Bethany Ehlmann at Caltech. JPL will provide project management.

“Each of these concepts holds the promise to deliver big science in a small package,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. “Their miniaturized size enables these systems to be developed at reduced overall costs while performing targeted science missions and testing brand new technologies that future missions can use.”

The finalists were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in 2018 through an opportunity called the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx).

Following an extensive and competitive peer review process, these concepts were selected based on their potential science value and feasibility of development plans. They will receive funding for up to one year to further develop and mature the concept designs, concluding with a preliminary design review (PDR). NASA will evaluate the PDR results, and after that expects to select one or more of the mission concepts to proceed into implementation and flight.

Using small spacecraft – less than 400 pounds, or 180 kilograms, in mass – SIMPLEx selections will conduct stand-alone planetary science missions. Each will share their ride to space with either another NASA mission or a commercial launch opportunity.

“The SIMPLEx program provides invaluable opportunities for increasingly innovative ways to conduct planetary science research,” said Lori S. Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Small_satellite_concept_finalists_target_Moon_Mars_and_beyond_999.html.

Russia sends robot into space to test out new booster rocket

August 22, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has sent a humanoid robot to the International Space Station as part of tests on a new rocket that is expected to replace the current vehicle. The Soyuz capsule, which typically carries a space crew, blasted off from the Russia-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan at 8.38 a.m. (0338 GMT) on Thursday carrying the Fedor robot. The capsule was launched by a new Soyuz 2.1a rocket which has only been used to launch unmanned vehicles. The new booster rocket is expected to replace the Soyuz-FG rocket next year.

The robot, which was in the commander’s seat, holding a small Russian flag in its right hand, sent out a tweet shortly after the orbiting saying that the first part of onboard tests went as planned.

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