OPS-SAT is a Flying Laboratory

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 17 December, ESA will launch a first-of-its-kind space laboratory, OPS-SAT. The small, low-cost test satellite has been specifically designed for operational experiments in space, and includes the most powerful flight computer on board any current ESA spacecraft.

Consumer electronics have gone through a revolution over the last 30 years with computers becoming ever faster, smaller and better. But when it comes to million- or even billion-euro satellites, their onboard hardware and software have not seen this revolution because of the risks of testing new technology in flight.

As spacecraft managers dare to fly only tried-and-tested hard and software in the harsh conditions of space, innovation on the operational side of satellites is a very slow-moving process. This is where OPS-SAT steps in, bringing down the barriers to spacecraft operations it provides a chance to safely test out new mission control techniques.

Anyone can apply to become an ‘experimenter’ and test their innovative software and new mission operations techniques in space. Proving technology for future missions and paving the way for satellites to further evolve with minimum risk, OPS-SAT will be launched with ESA’s Cheops satellite from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

ESA to Launch Cheops Exoplanet Satellite on Tuesday

CHEOPS space telescope (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Tune in to ESA Web TV from  08:30 GMT (09:30 CET) Tuesday, 17 December to watch ESA’s exoplanet mission soar into space on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Cheops, the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, is scheduled for liftoff at 08:54 GMT (09:54 CET)  on its exciting mission to study planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. It is ESA’s first mission dedicated to the study of exoplanets.

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Made in Space Europe, Luxembourg Space Agency Win ESA Contract for Robotic Arm

LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — Made In Space Europe and Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) announce a joint contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a robotic arm for space applications.

The contract falls under the LuxIMPULSE programme, Luxembourg’s National Space Programme. Made In Space Europe will lead the technical developments of the project in Luxembourg, which are focused on developing a robotic arm for space, and evaluating the viability of a low cost, scalable robotic arm system for space missions.

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ESA Commissions World’s First Space Debris Removal

ClearSpace-1 (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ClearSpace-1 will be the first space mission to remove an item of debris from orbit, planned for launch in 2025. The mission is being procured as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing, as well as debris removal.

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Helping Heracles EL3 to Survive the Long, Cold, Dark Lunar Nights

Heracles lander and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA has kicked off an activity with Prototec – a NORCE company – and its partners Airbus and Air Liquide to develop alternative technologies for surviving the lunar night

When the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3) lands on the Moon, some of its cargo might require to survive the lunar night that lasts up to two weeks on Earth.

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A Closer Look at ESA’s Budget

Credit: ESA

ESA’s table showing subscriptions for the space agency’s new three-year, 14.4 billion euro budget lists countries alphabetically. While that is certainly diplomatic, the order makes the figures a bit difficult to analyze.

So, I did a little reordering of the table. The results are below.

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Thales Alenia Space Wins ESA EGNOS Contract

Cannes, December 5, 2019 (Thales Alenia Space PR) – Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced today that it has signed a new contract with the European Space Agency (ESA), on behalf of the European Commission, to upgrade Europe’s EGNOS satellite navigation system. Via this contract Thales Alenia Space will develop a new version of EGNOS (version V242B), incorporating new advanced functionalities.

Worth a total of about 78 million euros, this contract includes the following:

  • expansion of the EGNOS SBAS coverage zone;
  • installation of a new generation of reference stations (RIMS);
  • improved algorithms in the computation center (CPF) to boost system performance;
  • enhanced system security.
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Astronauts Wrap Up Third Spacewalk for Cosmic Particle Detector Repairs

Astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan are pictured during a spacewalk to continue upgrading the station’s cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan concluded their spacewalk at 12:33 p.m. EST. During the six hour and two minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed a new cooling system for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS).

The crew completed the primary task to install the upgraded cooling system, called the upgraded tracker thermal pump system (UTTPS), completed the power and data cable connection for the system, and connected all eight cooling lines from the AMS to the new system. The intricate connection work required making a clean cut for each existing stainless steel tube connected to the AMS then connecting it to the new system through a process of metalworking known as swaging.

The astronauts also completed an additional task to install an insulating blanket on the nadir side of the AMS to replace the heat shield and blanket they removed during the first spacewalk to begin the repair work. The flight control team on Earth initiated power-up of the system and confirmed it is receiving power and data.

It is the first long day of a very busy several weeks for the space station crew, with two cargo resupply spacecraft launching to the station loaded with science investigations; a SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to lift off at 12:51 p.m. Wednesday, and a Russian Progress is set to launch Friday at 4:34 a.m. Crew members then will be focused on the spacecrafts’ arrivals and associated work.

Meanwhile, teams on Earth will evaluate the date for the planned fourth spacewalk to conduct leak checks for the spectrometer’s refurbished cooling lines and complete the work to resume operations of the cosmic ray detector.

For more information about the AMS science and spacewalks, listen to the recent podcasts:

Parmitano has now conducted five spacewalks in his career for a total of 26 hours and 53 minutes, and Morgan has logged 39 hours and 32 minutes during six spacewalks since his arrival on the station in July. It was the 11th spacewalk at the station this year.

Space station crew members have conducted a total of 224 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 58 days 15 hours and 43 minutes working outside the station.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station  and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

UKspace Welcomes Government’s Renewed Funding Commitment to ESA

HARWELL, UK, 27 November 2019 (UKspace PR) – UKspace has welcomed today’s announcement by the UK Government that it will increase its funding commitment to the European Space Agency (ESA) by more than 15% from its current contribution to £374 million per year.

The timing of the announcement coincides with the ESA Ministerial Summit which began in Seville today.

“We are extremely encouraged by the UK Government’s renewed investment in ESA and the associated European space programmes,” said UKspace Chair, Graham Peters.

“As we stated in our recently-published UKspace 2020 Manifesto, ESA funding provides the assurance we require to plan and deliver, since space is a long-term business. Previous spending through ESA has always delivered excellent returns for UK business, and this commitment will enable our sector to continue developing and manufacturing the space technologies, capability and supply chains needed to secure the UK’s role in the global space market.”

Graham added: “For the UK space industry to continue its upward curve – which has seen it secure more than 5% of the global space economy in recent years – ongoing Government support is critical. Looking ahead, we hope that this decision will be further backed up by the establishment of a National Space Programme designed to ensure the UK space sector plays an increasingly prominent role in the global space market, building cross-country partnerships and exporting knowledge and equipment.”

Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
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Ireland to Contribute Over €100 million to ESA

SEVILLE, Spain (Irish Government PR) — Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan, T.D., along with Ministers with responsibility for space within the 22 European Space Agency (ESA) Member States and Canada, gathered in Seville, Spain to attend ESA’s  Ministerial Council meeting, Space19+.  The key purpose of the Ministerial meeting is to determine future ESA policies and strategies and to take decisions on Member States’ investment in future space programmes.

During Space19+, Minister Halligan confirmed Ireland’s investment in a number of ESA’s Optional Programmes. Ireland’s investment decisions at Space19+ have been guided by the National Space Strategy for Enterprise 2019-2025, published earlier this year. The national strategy aims to develop a strong and economically sustainable space-active industry in Ireland.

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Watch Third AMS Repair Spacewalk Live on Monday

Spacewalker Luca Parmitano is guided on the Canadarm2 robotic arm toward the work site on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the space station’s cosmic particle detector. (Credit: NASA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and his spacewalking buddy NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan will venture beyond the International Space Station’s airlock for the third time on 2 December as part of a complex series of spacewalks to service the Station’s cosmic ray detector AMS-02.

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CSA Strengthens Long-term Partnership with ESA

SEVILLE, Spain (CSA PR) — The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) took part in the Ministerial Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on  November 27–28, 2019, in Seville, Spain. This high-level meeting is held every two to three years to make important decisions regarding Europe’s future space activities. Canada is the only non-European cooperating state of ESA.

Following broad consultations with Canada’s space sector, the CSA is investing approximately $60 million (€37.2 million) in the ESA  programmes that have been strategically selected as areas most likely to benefit Canadian industry: Earth observation, satellite communications, exploration and technology development.

These investments are aligned with the Space Strategy for Canada. Past investments in ESA have resulted in opportunities for Canadian companies worth almost three times the value of the initial contract.

Canada and ESA have been cooperating in space activities for over 40  years in order to provide Canadian organizations with access to European markets, and to foster collaboration in science. The partnership also provides Canada’s space sector with access to data from ESA missions and infrastructure. In June 2019, Canada renewed its treaty-level  agreement  with ESA until 2030.

Ministers Approve ESA’s Hera Asteroid Mission

SEVILLE, Spain (ESA PR) — Europe’s space ministers gathered at Space19+ in Seville, Spain in November 2019 have approved ESA’s Hera asteroid mission for construction and launch, as part of the Agency’s broader planetary defence initiatives that aim to protect European and world citizens.

Hera will be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid, the Didymos binary system. First, NASA will crash its DART spacecraft into the smaller asteroid – known as Didymoon – before ESA’s Hera comes in to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass.

Hera will carry two CubeSats on board, which will be able to fly much closer to the asteroid’s surface, carrying out crucial scientific studies, before touching down. Hera’s up-close observations will turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defence technique.