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Three more nano-satellites have been launched as part of ESA’s efforts to boost the European space industry, fostering innovation and creating jobs.
ESA is diversifying its online presence with the launch of a Pinterest channel and is reaching out to this highly creative audience to plan a space-themed Halloween party around the launch of the international Webb mission later this year.
As ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence probes the Didymos twin asteroid system, it will be joined by a pioneering pair of breadbox-sized ‘CubeSats’. Juventas will perform radar soundings while Milani will image the bodies in a wider range of colours than the human eye can see, prospecting the mineral makeup of individual asteroid boulders.
An advanced telecommunications satellite that can be completely repurposed in orbit has arrived at its launch site of Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
The latest ESA Impact is out now!
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough performed three spacewalks in the span of 10 days to install two new solar arrays that will generate more electricity on the International Space Station.
Retro meets retrofit: The Novespace Air Zero G aircraft is seen here next to Douglas the 1962 VW Transporter. The two are in Paderborn, Germany for the 76th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign.
The refitted A310 Air Zero G aircraft flies in parabolas that offer teams from various research institutes and universities altered states of gravity to perform experiments and technology demonstrations. Experiments span many disciplines including complex fluidics and human physiology, and this campaign is no exception.
Running from 25 June to 1 July, the 76th campaign features an experiment studying the effect of gravity on hydrodynamics to better protect spacecraft and science instruments from the temperature fluctuations in space; a study on how immune cells flow under the stress of spaceflight; an experiment studying spinal stiffness under microgravity to mitigate lumbar pain for both astronauts and patients on Earth, to name a few.
A typical parabolic flight campaign involves three flights and requires a week of on-site preparation. Each flight offers 31 periods of weightlessness. The aircraft can also fly in arcs that provide lunar or martian gravity levels by adjusting the angle of attack of the wings. Each flight of this particular campaign will split the gravity states, flying one third of parabolas at martian-G, one third at lunar-G, and one third at zero-G.
The aircraft flies close to maximum speed and pulls the nose up to a 45° angle, then cuts the power to fall over the top of the curve. Whilst falling freely the passengers and experiments experience around 20 seconds of microgravity, until the plane is angled 45° nose-down, before pulling out of the dive to level off with normal flight.
These “pull up” and “pull out” manoeuvres before and after the weightless period increase gravity inside the plane up to 2g, but that is just part of the ride, repeated every three minutes for almost two hours.
The campaign is the fourth to take place under Covid-19 restrictions. Despite measures loosening across Europe, participants and coordinators adapted to safety measures: PCR tests were required to enter Germany, as well as rapid antigen or RT LAMP tests each day for every participant. Facilities on the ground as well as on board are adapted to allow for social distancing and cleanliness requirements. Surgical masks are worn at all times, and movement is restricted during the flights.
University students can also take part in a parabolic flight campaign thanks to the ESA Education Office’s Fly Your Thesis! programme. Masters and PhD students can propose their experiment, and upon selection, will be supported in preparing their experiment for the campaign by ESA Academy, ESA and Novespace experts. The 2022 Call for Proposals is now open.
What do astronauts, rockstars, scientists and communicators have in common? You’ll find some of the best at this year’s 5-hour live Asteroid Day broadcast, bringing to life the smallest known worlds in the Solar System – with the potential to make a huge impact here on Earth.
While exploring two exoplanets in a bright nearby star system, ESA’s exoplanet-hunting Cheops satellite has unexpectedly spotted the system’s third known planet crossing the face of the star. This transit reveals exciting details about a rare planet “with no known equivalent”, say the researchers.
Week in images: 21 - 25 June 2021
Discover our week through the lens
The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission takes us over Lake Mar Chiquita – an endorheic salt lake in the northeast province of Córdoba, Argentina.
A snap of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during the second spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power system, taken by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough.
The duo performed the second extra vehicular activity to bolt in place and unfurl an IROSA, or ISS Roll-Out Solar Array, on Sunday 20 June.
The series of spacewalks last week was not without some challenges. During the first spacewalk on 16 June, Shane experienced a small technical problem in his spacesuit that required him to return to the airlock and restart his Display and Control Module. This module provides astronauts with continuous information on pressure, temperature and other vital data during a spacewalk.
Though the restart was successful and Shane was in no danger, it delayed the duo’s work, preventing them from completing installation of the first new solar array as planned.
The duo succeeded in taking the IROSA panel out of its storage area outside the Space Station and passed from spacewalker to spacewalker to the worksite. There the rolled arrays were secured. The spacewalk lasted 7 hours and 15 minutes.
During the second spacewalk, the duo unfolded, bolted and connected the wires. Then they hung out while the panels were unfurled, a sequence that lasted about 10 minutes.
Shane and Thomas then got ahead of the next spacewalk by preparing the next IROSA for installation before cleaning up the worksite and heading back to the airlock. This spacewalk lasted 6 hours and 28 minutes, with only a minor technical snag. Shane’s helmet lights and camera partially detached from his helmet but Thomas used some wire to reattach them as a temporary fix.
Mission planners are working on a third spacewalk on Friday June 25 to install the second pair of new solar arrays. This will go on the P6 truss’ 4B power channel, opposite the first new solar array.
Follow the action on esawebtv.esa.int from 12:30 CEST (11:30 BST).
Thomas now has spent 26 hours and 15 minutes on spacewalks over his two missions on the International Space Station, Proxima and Alpha.
“It was probably the most impressive experience I’ve ever had but it was not easy,” says Thomas.
Valuable data is flowing rapidly from Earth observing satellites back to the planet, thanks to the most sophisticated laser communication network ever built.
Want to learn more about applications to ESA’s astronaut selection? Watch the replay of this media briefing to get an insight into the total number and spread of applications across all ESA Member and Associate Member states. Vacancies for the positions of astronaut and astronaut (with a physical disability) have closed on 18 June 2021, after a two-and-a-half-month-long application period.
Aspiring astronauts from across Europe are awaiting the next step in ESA’s astronaut selection, following the 18 June closure of the Agency’s first application period in 11 years.
ESA’s Space Safety Digital Festival is the first of its kind, giving you the unique opportunity to chat, mingle with and quiz Europe’s top experts working behind the scenes to keep us safe.
Press Release N° 20–2021
After months of constructive negotiations, ESA and EU signed today a new Financial Framework Partnership Agreement (FFPA) in a ceremony to celebrate the launch of the new EU space programme.