BepiColombo Blasts Off to Explore the Mysteries of Mercury

BepiColombo liftoff (Credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana, 20 October 2018 (ESA PR) — The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

Signals from the spacecraft, received at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via the New Norcia ground tracking station at 02:21 GMT confirmed that the launch was successful.

(more…)

ESA’s Luna Facility to Bring the Moon to Earth

A virtual reality rendering of what the Luna facility at ESA’s Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, might look like once constructed. (Credit: ESA)

COLOGNE, 17 October 2018 (ESA PR) — A facility planned for ESA’s Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, will recreate the Moon’s surface on Earth. ESA project manager for strategic planning and future development Andreas Diekmann shares how the three-part lunar analogue facility, known as Luna, will help Europe go farther in space.

(more…)

Video: An Overview of the BepiColumbo Mission to Mercury

Video Caption: BepiColombo is scheduled for launch at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou.

Final assembly of the two orbiters and transfer module has taken place, ready for the spacecraft to be integrated into its Ariane 5 launcher.

BepiColombo is Europe’s first mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and consists of two scientific orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).

The mission will study all aspects of Mercury, from the structure and dynamics of its magnetosphere and how it interacts with the solar wind, to its internal structure with its large iron core, and the origin of the planet’s magnetic field.

ESA to Launch BepiColombo Mission to Mercury on Saturday

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter (left) and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, with a sunshade module at center. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

BepiColombo is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System. It is the first Mercury mission to send two science orbiters to make complementary measurements of the planet’s dynamic environment at the same time.

A third module will transport the orbiters on the seven year cruise to Mercury, using a combination of solar electric propulsion and nine gravity assist flybys at Earth, Venus and Mercury.

Schedule
Saturday, October 20, 2018
(Times Subject to Change)

03:15 CEST [09:15 p.m. EDT on Friday] Start of live transmission
03:45 CEST [09:45 p.m. EDT on Friday] Liftoff, followed by confirmation of acquisition of signal, expected around 40 minutes after launch
04:30 CEST [10:30 p.m. EDT on Friday] End of live transmission

Construction of ESA’s Exoplanet Hunter Plato Begins

Searching for exo-planetary systems. (Credit: ESA–C. Carreau)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The construction of ESA’s Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germany’s OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.

The announcement was made today at the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, where the contract was formally signed.

(more…)

ESA Choosing CubeSats for Hera Asteroid Mission

Hera CubeSats deployed. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As the world marvels at the hopping mini-rovers deployed on asteroid Ryugu by Japan’s Hayabusa2, ESA is due to decide on the CubeSats planned for delivery to a binary asteroid system by its proposed Hera mission.

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. This week an ESA evaluation board decides which two ‘6-unit’ CubeSat missions will ride with the next-decade Hera mission to the Didymos asteroid system. The CubeSats will be deployed around the smaller of the two bodies for eventual landing.

(more…)

ExoMars Highlights Radiation Risk for Mars Astronauts

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

BERLIN, Germany (ESA PR) — Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed to at least 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for their career during the journey itself to and from the Red Planet, according to data from the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter being presented at the European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC, in Berlin, Germany, this week.

The orbiter’s camera team are also presenting new images of Mars during the meeting. They will also highlight the challenges faced from the recent dust storm that engulfed the entire planet, preventing high-quality imaging of the surface.
(more…)

Orion’s First Service Module Integration Complete

Orion Service Module-1 radiator installation (Credit: ESA–A. Conigli)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — Last week at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany, technicians installed the last radiator on the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft marking the module’s finished integration.

(more…)

Bone Cells Round Trip to Space, Rinse and Repeat

Alexander Gerst exercising on the International Space Station. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

Noordwijk, The Netherelands (ESA PR) — The bones in your body are constantly dissolving – but don’t worry, healthy people naturally create new cells daily to repair and keep your bones strong. This process of disappearing bone is called osteoclast and its rebuilding at the cellular level is called osteoblast.

(more…)

GKN Aerospace Wins ArianeGroup Contract for Ground-breaking Additively Manufactured Rocket Engine Turbines

Rocket engine (Credit: ArianeGroup)

Trollhättan, Sweden (GKN Aerospace PR) — GKN Aerospace will develop and manufacture two full-scale turbines for the Prometheus* low-cost re-usable rocket engine demonstrator on liquid oxygen and methane propellants. The turbines will generate power for the methane fuel system, with the first turbine to be delivered at the end of 2019. Manufacturing will take place in cooperation with partners and at GKN Aerospace’s highly automated engine systems centre of excellence in Trollhättan, Sweden.

The new state of the art turbine with all its challenging loads – including very high pressure, high speed and high temperatures – incorporates the latest additive manufacturing (AM) technologies with higher performance, lower lead times and significant cost reduction. This innovative development will support the next step in AM: the use of this technology for future higher loaded critical components in terms of pressure, temperature and rotational speed.

(more…)

Space is Hard: Tough Testing for 3D Printed Parts

Laser-based 3D printing (Credit: AMAZE – Fraunhofer ILT/Airbus)

HARWELL, UK (ESA PR) — 3D-printed metal parts produced through a Europe-wide collaboration of high-performance industrial sectors have undergone extensive testing for space use – tested to destruction in many cases – by ESA’s specialist advanced manufacturing lab in the UK.

ESA’s Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory based in Harwell, UK, took delivery of the sample parts, produced as an output of the four-year AMAZE programme, harnessing metal 3D printing to produce lighter, cheaper, better products.

(more…)

Understanding the Earth’s Weather: Arianespace Launches Europe’s Aeolus Wind-monitoring Satellite

Ariane 5 launches the Aeolus satellite. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (Arianespace PR) — Arianespace marked another mission accomplished for the Earth’s sustainable development as its light-lift Vega vehicle successfully orbited Europe’s Aeolus – the first satellite designed to profile wind profiles on a global scale.

Lifting off from the Spaceport’s Vega Launch Complex at 6:20:09 p.m. local time in French Guiana – the planned precise moment of launch – Vega lofted its passenger during a flight lasting just under 55 minutes, with Aeolus placed into a Sun-synchronous orbit.

Built by Airbus Defence and Space, the satellite carries a laser Doppler wind LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) system called Aladin that will probe the lowermost 30 km. of the atmosphere in measuring winds around the Earth.
(more…)

Researchers Make Bricks From Simulated Moon Dust


1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration (Credit: ESA)

COLOGNE, Germany (ESA PR) — Lunar masonry starts on Earth. European researchers are working with Moon dust simulants that could one day allow astronauts to build habitats on our natural satellite and pave the way for human space exploration.

The surface of the Moon is covered in grey, fine, rough dust. This powdery soil is everywhere – an indigenous source that could become the ideal material for brickwork. You can crush it, burn it and compress it.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)