Italy Boosts Contribution to ESA Budget

SEVILLE, Spain (ASI PR) — In Seville, Spain, the institutional representatives and heads of the countries that make up the European Space Agency (ESA) have set the course towards new spatial horizons in the coming years. The share of the Italian contribution rises, while Samantha Cristoforetti will return to orbit.

An increase of almost one billion euros [$1.1 billion] compared to the previous Ministerial is what the Italian delegation to the ESA Ministerial Council 2019 has destined as a contribution of our country to the budget of the ESA for the next three to four years. 

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Space Agencies Sign Agreements to Advance Artemis Lunar Program, Commercial Space Activities

Updated Nov. 4, 2019 at 12:45 PST to include agreement between U.S. Department of Commerce and CNES.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The world’s space agencies were busy signing agreements last month to advance lunar exploration and commercial space activities during the International Astronautical Conference in Washington, DC.

NASA signed agreements with the European Space Agency (ESA) and three national agencies in Europe focused on advancing America’s Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.

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Two Weeks of Science and Beyond

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano performs a European experiment called GRIP that studies astronauts’ perception of of mass and movement and how they interface with the human body and change in microgravity. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Over two weeks have flown by since ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano was launched to the International Space Station for his second six-month stay in orbit. His arrival, alongside NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Roscosmos Soyuz commander Alexander Skvortsov, boosted the Station’s population to six and the crew has been busy ever since – performing a wide range of science in space.

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PRISMA Promises Revolution in Earth Observation, Environmental Monitoring

PRISMA spacecraft (Credit: Leonardo)

The Italian Space Agency satellite will observe the Earth using a hyperspectral optical sensor, which can open up new scenarios for the control of the environmental processes of our planet

ROME (Leonardo PR) — We are getting closer to the launch of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) mission PRISMA (Hyperspectral Precursor and Application Mission). The satellite will lift off from the European spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana the night between 8 and 9 March, aboard a VEGA rocket.

From its orbit, at about 620 kilometers of altitude, PRISMA will observe the Earth on a global scale with different eyes, being equipped with an innovative electro-optical instrumentation. The Italian satellite will look at the planet with the most powerful operative hyperspectral instrument in the world, able to work in numerous, narrow and contiguous bands arranged from the visible to the near infrared (VNIR, Visible and Near InfraRed) and up to the infrared shortwave ( SWIR, Short Wave InfraRed).

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Austrian Research Promotion Agency Signs Joint Statement on Institutional Use of Ariane 6, Vega C

Artist’s view of the configuration of Ariane 6 using four boosters (A64) (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS, 30 January 2019 (ESA PR) — This morning, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency added its signature to the joint statement signed by other European institutions (ASI, ESA, CDTI, CNES & DLR) and the Swiss Confederation in October last year in support to the European launcher industry and to Ariane 6 and Vega-C.

Through this Statement, signatories recognise the benefit of aggregating their institutional demand for launch services to ensure an independent, cost-effective, affordable, and reliable access to space for Europe.

Klaus Pseiner, Managing Director at the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft, FFG) signed the joint statement in the presence of Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General, and Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation, at ESA Headquarters in Paris.

Space capacities are strategically important to civil, commercial, security and defence-related policy objectives. Space is an enabler for responding to societal challenges and for stimulating job and growth creation. Europe needs to maintain a leading position in this sector. Europe’s autonomy of action in space is conditional on autonomy in accessing space.











Self Driving Rovers Tested in Mars-like Morocco

SherpaTT rover during Morocco field test. (Credit: DFKI GmbH, Florian Cordes)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Robots invaded the Sahara Desert for Europe’s largest rover field test, taking place in a Mars-like part of Morocco. For two weeks three rovers and more than 40 engineers tested automated navigation systems at up to five different sites.

This marked the end of the first phase of the strategic research cluster on space robotics technologies, a scheme funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

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The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

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NASA Statement on Possible Subsurface Lake near Martian South Pole

Detecting buried water with radar. (Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new paper published in Science this week suggests that liquid water may be sitting under a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole.

The finding is based on data from the European Mars Express spacecraft, obtained by a radar instrument called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding). The Italian Space Agency (ASI) led the development of the MARSIS radar. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the U.S. portion led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Beneath Planet’s South Pole

Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars. (Credit: Context map: NASA/Viking; THEMIS background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018)

PARIS, 25 July 2018 (ESA PR) — Radar data collected by ESA’s Mars Express point to a pond of liquid water buried under layers of ice and dust in the south polar region of Mars.

Evidence for the Red Planet’s watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and gigantic outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.

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Italian Space Agency Signs Letter of Intent for SpaceShipTwo Research Flight

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

BROOMFIELD, Colo., December 18 2017 (Virgin Galactic PR) — At the annual Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, Virgin Galactic and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana, ASI) announced that they had signed a Letter of Intent under which ASI would secure a full suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. ASI’s spaceflight mission is planned to take place in 2019 at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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Updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through Wednesday. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News

Below are updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America based on their tweets.

George Whitesides
CEO
Virgin Galactic
The Spaceship Company

  • good progress on glide test flight program in 2017
  • Six glide flights so far; 1 more SpaceShipTwo glide flight scheduled before powered flight tests begin in 2018
  • a lot of work underway to prepare SpaceShipTwo for powered flights
  • Italian space agency ASI has signed letter of intent to purchase research flight with Italian payload specialist scheduled for 2019
  • suborbital payload capacity is 1,000 lbs. (453.6 kg) w/ 500 cubic feet (14.16 cubic meters) of pressurized usable volume
  • integration of biological payloads within two hours of flight
  • access to payloads within 30 minutes of land, possibly as short as 5 to 10 minutes
  • company will complete facilities at Spaceport America in 2018
  • working on $1 billion investment by Saudi Arabia that was announced in October

Dan Hicks
CEO
Spaceport America

  • Commercial space industry is worth $339 billion annually and is growing
  • Users of Spaceport America benefit from large area of restricted airspace (adjacent to White Sands Missile Range)
  • Developing a infrastructure development plan that will include a payload processing facility with a cafeteria
  • Officials will present plan to New Mexico lawmakers in several months
  • UP Aerospace plans a sounding rocket launch from Spaceport America in January
  • UP Aerospace using a new rocket motor test facility at the spaceport
  • Possibility of conducting orbital launches from Spaceport America that do not involve dropping hardware over land











NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn

Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

“This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Cassini’s discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth.”

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Virgin Galactic, ALTEC Sign MOU to Study Italian Spaceport

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

ROME (ASI PR)– ALTEC S.p.A., the Italian engineering and logistics service provider for the International Space Station, and Virgin Galactic LLC, the US spaceflight company within the Virgin Group, announced the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed to study experimental sub-orbital spaceflight in Italy.

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Is Arca Space to Blame for Failure of ESA’s ExoMars Lander?

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Accusations are flying that ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli lander crashed into the Red Planet due to poor ground testing conducted by a Romanian company named ARCA Space.

ESA released the preliminary conclusions after the Italian Space Agency had accused that the decisive tests for the Sciaparelli lander simulations had been entrusted to an organization “which hadn’t enough expertize”. It’s about Arca Space Romanian company, based in Las Cruces, USA, as La Repubblica reported.

In retort, the Arca Space Corporation manager, Dumitru Popescu warned the Italian space agency to be more careful, as they don’t have proves to support their accusations. “They could pay the price. We are at ease that we did all we could do: to run a specific test we should have flown very closely to the Russian base in Sevastopol. Russia has just annexed Crimea and we risked generating a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” the Romanian manager argued.

ESA said last week that an inertia measurement unit became saturated with data during descent, providing data that made the lander’s computer believe the vehicle was either about to land or had already landed. The computer ordered the release of the parachute even though the lander was still 3.7 km above the martian surface.

Schiaparelli was designed to test the landing system for a rover that ESA plans to place on the surface. Agency officials have said they gained valuable data from the test.

Arca Space has set up operations in Las Cruces, NM, where it is making hover boards.











Italian-made 3D Printer Undergoes Testing on International Space Station

Credit: ASI
Credit: ASI

ROME (ASI PR) –A 3D printer made in Italy on the International Space Station has been activated and is functioned nominally. Astronaut Scott Kelly triggered the Portable 3D Printer on board, which aims to create spare parts and tools in orbit.

During the experiment, which lasted an hour, everything performed in nominal mode.  The printer is designed to use PLA , a biodegradable and biocompatible plastic that, once expelled, permits the creation of 3D shapes. The entire session was filmed through the printer’s transparent window, allowing visual monitoring from the ground. The manufactured object will be compared with another similar printed to the ground, in order to consolidate the structural diversity.

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