ESA kosmose uudised
Meet the IT Team, see behind the scenes and find out how it is to work for the IT Department at the European Space Agency.
ESA astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti and Matthias Maurer, currently on board the International Space Station, discuss their brief handover with Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, Walther Pelzer, Head of the German Space Agency at DLR, and Giorgio Saccoccia, Head of the Italian Space Agency ASI.
Samantha arrived at the Station with Crew-4 on 28 April 2022, marking the start of her second space mission Minerva. Matthias is coming to the end of his almost six-month-long first mission Cosmic Kiss. He is expected to return to Earth in early May aboard Crew Dragon Endurance as a member of Crew-3.
Week in images: 25-29 April 2022
Discover our week through the lens
Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan, is featured in this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.
This network of long grooves and scratches forms part of a giant fault system on Mars known as Tantalus Fossae, and is shown here as seen by ESA’s Mars Express.
Crew Dragon spacecraft Freedom, carrying ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and her NASA colleagues Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, docked to the International Space Station at 01:37 CEST Thursday 28 April.
If man’s best friend is a dog, then in the future astronauts’ closest companions might well be rovers. A technique allowing astronauts in orbit to control rovers exploring planetary surfaces has been developed by a research team from ESA, the German Aerospace Center DLR and European academia and industry, culminating in an Earth-based rover session commanded from the International Space Station. A paper published in the prestigious Science Robotics journal this week details their results.
The test version of a unique satellite navigation receiver has been delivered for integration testing on the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft. The NaviMoon satnav receiver is designed to perform the farthest ever positioning fix from Earth, employing signals that will be millions of times fainter than those used by our smartphones or cars.
As one of the last milestones before liftoff at the end of the year, the first Meteosat Third Generation weather satellite is being fitted with its Lightning Imager. From geostationary orbit, 36 000 km above Earth’s surface, this state-of-the-art European instrument will continuously monitor lightning over more than 80% of Earth’s disc for early warnings of dangerous storms. Remarkably, it is capable of imaging relatively weak lightning events in full sunlight.
Week in images: 11-15 April 2022
Discover our week through the lens
Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is preparing for the arrival of Ariane 6, ESA’s new heavy-lift rocket. The latest round of testing aims to validate the system of fuel lines and mechanical supporting arms that will keep Ariane 6 topped up with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the critical moments before liftoff. This work is part of the final preparations of the new Ariane 6 launch complex and all the systems necessary for a launch.
With the mobile gantry fully retracted – as for a launch – two articulated arms attached to the upper part of the Ariane 6 mast on the launch pad were separated and retracted while filled with hydrogen that is cooled to its liquid state at cryogenic temperatures. This manoeuvre mimics the seconds before liftoff.
The ‘cryo-arms’ are part of the fluidic connection system which connects to Ariane 6 in the final countdown to launch. They support the upper umbilicals which supply cryogenic top-up fuel, maintain the correct pressurisation of the tanks, cool the engines before ignition and generally keep the upper stage in an optimal condition right up to the point of liftoff. The same umbilicals allow the fuel to be drained safely if a launch is aborted.
Each arm is 13 m long and weighs 20 tonnes. One arm supplies liquid hydrogen at -250°C, the other supplies liquid oxygen at -180°C. When Ariane 6 lifts off, these arms will disconnect from the rocket and then pivot away quickly, in just 2.6 seconds, to avoid interfering with the rocket's ascent.
This manoeuvre requires great precision. Almost simultaneously it is necessary to disconnect the arms, protect the supply hoses from gas ejections from the boosters and allow the launch vehicle to pass while avoiding any contact with it.
A 50-tonne counterweight inside the mast speeds up the retraction of the arms. A smart damping system allows the arms to brake before the end of their swing backwards in order to protect the mechanical links with the mast.
Keeping the fluid supplies connected with the rocket until the moment of liftoff guarantees the best availability and simplification of the interface with the launch vehicle.
The disconnection of the cryo-arms from Ariane 6 is much faster than it is from Ariane 5, where the manoeuvre comes six seconds before liftoff. This means the sequence for Ariane 6 can be triggered at the latest possible moment in the countdown, reducing the chance of unnecessary disconnects in the event of an aborted launch.
Technical qualification tests are continuing. The objective now is to complete the qualification process of the hydrogen and oxygen filling lines and launcher interfaces for the lower, core stage.
The Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission captured this impressive shot of the almost cloud-free Scandinavian Peninsula on 20 March.
A satisfying, audible ‘pop’ marked a successful piercing of the sealed Apollo 17 sample container using the ESA designed and built piercing tool. The tool forms part of a gas sampling system with a gas extraction manifold, designed and built by Washington University St Louis, USA.
Francesca McDonald, science and project lead of ESA’s contribution to the Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) programme, is pictured at the centre of this image with the piercing tool, which contains the pristine sample.
Francesca and colleague, Timon Schild, delivered the ESA piercing tool to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in late 2021 in preparation of the opening of the specially curated Apollo 17 core sample, which had remained sealed under vacuum since its collection in 1972 at the Moon’s surface by Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan.
The job of the tool, jokingly called the “Apollo can opener” amongst the team, was to puncture the Moon sample vacuum container in such a way as to aid capturing trapped lunar gases within.
This was successfully done in February 2022, with the fragile gases then collected in dedicated canisters via an extraction manifold designed by a partner team at Washington University in Saint-Louis, USA.
“The piercing tool was bespoke designed for this Core Sample Vacuum Container (CSVC),” explains Francesca. Even if it’s not used again, she notes that, “there are a lot of lessons learned that we can take for future exploration of the Moon and Mars.”
Combined science and engineering investigations are producing a set of findings on how well the CSVC performed and what can be learnt for improving the sample return chain in the future.
The gas sample canisters are being sent to specialised laboratories around the world, including within Europe, for detailed studies using highly sensitive mass spectrometry analytical techniques to learn about the origin and evolution of volatile species on the Moon and to understand the geologic history of the Apollo 17 landing site.
Follow up work is commencing to assess the full performance of the tool and to attain a set of lessons learned for future volatile-rich sample return, containment and gas sampling, which can inform Artemis and Mars Sample Return.
The gas extraction experiment is part of the larger Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) programme that is coordinating the analysis of several pristine Moon samples from the Apollo era. And for the first time ever, ESA is involved in the opening of soil returned from the Moon.
ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher shares the outcome of the ESA Council extraordinary meeting in this virtual Q&A with journalists. Additional updates are provided on ESA’s main programmes, the overall rollout of Agenda 2025 on the way to the ESA Ministerial Meeting in November 2022 as well as further implications of the current geopolitical situation on ESA’s activities.
An important milestone in the development of ESA’s tenth Earth Explorer satellite mission, Harmony, has been reached thanks to two aircraft flying in tight formation over the Dutch Wadden Islands collecting key data on sea state and currents. The main purpose of this tricky airborne experiment is to mimic the geometry at which the Harmony satellites will measure various aspects of ocean dynamics to understand how air and the ocean surface interact, which, in turn, will improve weather prediction and climate models.
ESA’s Ariane 6 and Vega-C will soon join the family of launch vehicles operating from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to guarantee more opportunities for Europe to reach space. The P120C motor, which will power both Ariane 6 and Vega-C, will soon come into operations with the Vega-C inaugural flight.
Today, the European Commission, ESA, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat) celebrated the official launch of the Destination Earth initiative: an ambitious project that involves creating a digital replica of Earth to help us move towards a sustainable future.