With the assembly of the International Space Station now complete and all ISS partner laboratories in operation, we have laid a solid and steady foundation for a wide range of research on the Station for at least a decade.
japan_dan writes: The ESA Twitter account (@esaoperations) says this came about after a tip-off from a NASA station engineer at DSS-14 (Goldstone), who noted an 84-second signal loss from Mars Express on 14 April.
"On Monday, 30 April, Mars Express mission controllers at ESOC will take advantage of a rare alignment of the spacecraft with Phobos and Earth to use radio signals to determine the Martian moon's orbit. If the team's careful planning and preparation pay off, the occultation of Mars Express by Phobos (as seen from Earth) will provide highly accurate data that can be used to determine Phobos's orbit with unprecedented accuracy, possibly improving it by a factor of 2."
japan_dan writes: Looks like ESA's ATV-3 cargo vessel won't lift off on 9 March from Kourou. A bit of cargo seems to be banging about unsecured, and they want to reopen the hatch and lower a tech inside to inspect. No news yet on a fresh launch date — two week delay, maybe?
japan_dan writes: "The TIGO (Transportable Integrated Geodetic Observatory), in Concepcion, Chile, performed the world's first laser ranging to the first Galileo satellite on 27 November, and to the second satellite two days later, using a near-infrared laser beam at 847nm. Note this took place some days before the first location signals were transmitted from the satellites (Saturday 10 December). The laser ranging enables the location of the satellites to be known to within a few centimetres."
japan_dan writes: When ESA's first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) orbited to the International Space Station in 2008, it did so with a NASA waiver as it only had two communication channels: via NASA's TDRSS relay satellites or via ESA's own Artemis relay sat. To provide a third back-up channel and enhance redundancy, ESA have been working for more than a year to reconfigure the ATV's proximity link transceiver — normally used during docking to communicate line-of-sight with the Russian module of the ISS — to enable it to transmit and receive signals from ground stations. ESA choose to implement this as an 'all-European' solution: the stations selected for the new role were ESA's own 15m ESTRACK stations at Maspalomas and Villafranca, Spain, and Redu, Belgium. The engineers also had to devise a method to demonstrate to the ISS partners' satisfaction that the new link worked prior to flight — and that's exactly what happened this evening by running an over-the-air test between ATV Kepler, mounted on top of Ariane 5 in Kourou, and ESA's Kourou station, about 10 kms away. The telemetry was then sent from Kourou station to ESOC in Germany (where the ESTRACK control centre is located) and then back to ATV control centre in Toulouse.
japan_dan writes: The European Space Agency will host a friends, family and media ceremony at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne to mark the completion of basic training for the new class of six European astros recruited in 2008.
japan_dan writes: This week ESA is hosting a closed-door meeting of the Association of Space Explorers, a grouping of ex-astronauts, that will study asteroid impact scenarios. This is one in a series of meetings of the ASE's Mission Planning Operations Group (MPOG) and the ultimate aim is to recommend deflection or destruction mission profiles to UNCOPUOS, given a future threat. Apollo 9 astro Rusty Schweickart will take part; he was also in USA Fox news on Friday commenting on NASA's Advisory Council report proposing five recommendations on how the agency should organize, acquire, investigate, prepare, and lead national and international efforts in planetary defense against near-Earth objects.
japan_dan writes: It looks like two ESA spacecraft will observe 21 Lutetia during Rosetta's flyby on 10 July: Rosetta from 3160 km and Herschel from 450 mn km. Herschel's PACS and SPIRE spectrometers will view Lutetia in far IR, while Rosetta will gather data in a variety of wavelengths. Since the observations will be coordinated during and at closest approach, scientists will later be able to correlate the data to produce a map of the thermal radiation emitted by Lutetia. There are a pair of animations modelling the expected temperature distribution over Lutetia in the Rosetta Blog: http://www.esa.int/blog. The joint observations are part of a series of 8 sessions planned in the next couple of years by Herschel scientists of objects that will be visited by spacecraft.
japan_dan writes: ESA published a report yesterday on their hopes that today's Rosetta earth fly-by may help provide more date for those studying the Earth fly-by anomaly problem: Since 1990, scientists and mission controllers at ESA and NASA have noticed that their spacecraft sometimes experience a strange variation in the amount of orbital energy they exchange with Earth during planetary swingbys. The unexplained variation is noticed as a tiny difference in speed gained or lost during the swingby when comparing that predicted by fundamental physics and that actually measured after the event.
japan_dan writes: An interesting way to enable Earth-Mars communication even when the Sun occults the direct radio line-of-sight: ESA proposes placing a pair of continuous-thrusting relay sats — one in front and ahead, one behind and below — Mars, with both following so-called 'B-orbits' (non-Keplerian). This means the direction of thrust is perpendicular to the satellites' direction of flight, allowing them to 'hover' with both Earth and Mars in view.