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SpaceNews is a print and digital publication that covers business and political news in the space and satellite industry. SpaceNews details topics in civil, military and commercial space and the satellite communications business SpaceNews covers important news in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America from NASA, the European Space Agency, and private spaceflight firms such as Arianespace, International Launch Services, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. The magazine regularly features profiles on relevant and important figures within the space industry. These profiles have featured numerous government leaders, corporate executives and other knowledgeable space experts


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NASA TV to Air US Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

Filled with almost 2,700 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo, a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station Tuesday, Aug. 27. NASA Television and the agency’s website will broadcast its departure live beginning at 10:15 a.m. EDT. Robotic flight controllers at mission control in Houston will issue remote commands at 10:42 a.m. to release Dragon from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA will back up the ground controllers and monitor Dragon’s systems as it departs the orbital laboratory. Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station, then execute a deorbit burn around 3:22 p.m. as it heads for a parachute-assisted splashdown around 4:21 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, some 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not air on NASA TV. Dragon launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket July 25 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the space station two days later. Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:
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Bio-Mining in Microgravity The Biorock investigation provides insight into the physical interactions of liquid, rocks and microorganisms in microgravity and improving the efficiency and understanding of mining materials in space. Bio-mining eventually could help explorers on the Moon or Mars get needed materials on site, lessening the need for precious resources from Earth and reducing the amount of supplies explorers must take with them. Mechanisms of Moss in Microgravity Space Moss compares mosses grown aboard the space station with those grown on Earth to determine how microgravity affects its growth, development, and other characteristics. Tiny plants without roots, mosses need only a small area for growth, an advantage for their potential use in space and future bases on the Moon or Mars. This investigation also could yield information that aids in engineering other plants to grow better on the Moon and Mars, as well as on Earth. Improving Tire Manufacturing from Orbit The Goodyear Tire investigation uses microgravity to push the limits of silica fillers for tire applications. A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could provide improvements for increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment. These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations aimed at keeping astronauts healthy during space travel and demonstrating technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, including missions to the Moon by 2024 and on to Mars. Space station research also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth. For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir Available for Last Interviews Before Space Mission

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will be available from 7 to 8:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 4, for her final live satellite interviews before launching on a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. The interviews, originating from Star City, Russia, will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, preceded at 6:30 a.m. by video of Meir’s training. To interview Meir, media must contact Sarah Volkman no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at 281-483-9071 or sarah.e.volkman@nasa.gov. Media participating in the interviews must tune to the NASA TV Media Channel (NTV-3). Satellite tuning information is available at: http://go.nasa.gov/1pOWUhR Meir and her crewmates, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOSs and ROSCOSMOSs spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, are scheduled to launch Sept. 25 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They will arrive at the space station about six hours after launch and join six other crew members currently aboard the orbital outpost: NASA astronauts Nick Hague, Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan; ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano; and ROSCOSMOSs cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin. Meir is scheduled to live and work on the space station until spring 2020. During Expeditions 61 and 62, Meir and her crewmates will support about 250 research experiments not possible on Earth. These pursuits broaden our knowledge of Earth, space, physical and biological sciences in ways that benefit our everyday lives. They also will help enable long-duration exploration into deep space for future Artemis missions to the Moon and eventually on to Mars. Experiments the crew conduct in space also have practical applications on Earth. This will be the first expedition into space for Meir, who grew up in Caribou, Maine, and was selected for astronaut training in 2013. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s degree in space studies from the International Space University and a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Before becoming an astronaut, Meir studied the physiology of animals in extreme environments and participated in diving expeditions to the Antarctic and Belize. At the time of her selection as an astronaut, Meir was working as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.

NASA Administrator to Tour New Colorado Aerospace Complex

Media are invited to accompany NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at 10 a.m. MDT Friday, Aug. 23, during his visit to the University of Colorado Boulder, where he will tour a newly-completed aerospace engineering complex. The 175,000-square-foot building will serve as a collaboration hub and pipeline to Colorado’s rapidly growing aerospace industry, which is actively engaging in NASA’s Artemis program and other agency missions. Bridenstine will tour the facility with university leadership to get an up-close look at, and learn more about, its Payload Operations Center, Indoor Flight and Robotics Testing Facility, Bioastronautics High Bay, and Metal and Composite Machine Shops. Following the tour, Bridenstine will be available to talk to media before a question-and-answer session with university students about NASA’s return to the Moon and on to Mars. This event also is open to media. U.S. media who would like to attend the event should contact Karen Northon at karen.northon@nasa.gov no later than 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 22. Media must arrive at CU Boulder’s Aerospace Complex, located at 3775 Discovery Dr., by 9:45 a.m. MDT Aug 23 with at least one form of government-issued photo identification. NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024 and is partnering with industry and academic institutions like the University of Colorado Boulder to accomplish this mission.

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NASA Television to Broadcast Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the sixth meeting of the National Space Council at 9:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 20, from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. This meeting will address a whole-of-government effort for deep space exploration, prospective cooperation with international partners, and strengthening U.S. commercial space leadership. Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the council, will convene and preside over the meeting, which will include a report out from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The meeting also will include reports from various other council members, an expert panel on innovative space initiatives and human space exploration, and a council discussion, after which the vice president will present policy recommendations for the president.

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NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development

Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.” Bridenstine discussed the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket liquid hydrogen tank structural test article currently being tested. “We greatly appreciate the support shown here today by our representatives in Congress for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the Moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.” Informed by years of expertise in propulsion systems integration.

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NASA Television to Broadcast Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the sixth meeting of the National Space Council at 9:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 20, from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. This meeting will address a whole-of-government effort for deep space exploration, prospective cooperation with international partners, and strengthening U.S. commercial space leadership. Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the council, will convene and preside over the meeting, which will include a report out from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The meeting also will include reports from various other council members, an expert panel on innovative space initiatives and human space exploration, and a council discussion, after which the vice president will present policy recommendations for the president. Smiley face Following SpaceX’s first demonstration mission without humans aboard Crew Dragon targeted for November 2018, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two NASA astronauts to fly in the Dragon spacecraft. This mission, currently targeted for April 2019, will liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the astronauts aboard Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
After Crew Dragon’s demonstration mission with crew is complete, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the first two NASA astronauts to launch aboard Crew Dragon to the International Space Station for a long-duration mission. This mission will mark SpaceX’s first operational crew mission under our current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with NASA.
As Dragon prepares to carry humans for the first time, the spacecraft continues to make regular trips to the International Space Station carrying cargo under SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Currently, Dragon is the only spacecraft flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.


On Tuesday, August 6, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, carrying the AMOS-17 satellite for Spacecom. Liftoff occurred at 7:23 p.m. EDT, or 23:23 UTC and the satellite was deployed approximately 31 minutes after liftoff. This was the third and final flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, having previously supported the Telstar-19 VANTAGE mission in July 2018 and the Es’hail-2 mission in November 2018. You can watch a replay of launch webcast below and learn more about the mission in our press kit.

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Dragon arrived at the International Space Station on July 27, 2019 and was captured at 6:11 a.m. PDT while flying about 267 statute miles over the coast of southern Chile. The spacecraft was then installed on the Harmony module for the duration of its four-week stay at the orbiting laboratory.
Filled with approximately 5,000 pounds of supplies and payloads, Dragon launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on July 25, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft supporting the CRS-18 mission previously supported the CRS-6 mission in April 2015 and the CRS-13 mission in December 2017. Dragon is the only spacecraft currently flying that's capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.

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At 6:01 p.m. EDT, or 22:01 UTC, on Thursday, July 25, SpaceX launched its eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-18) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Dragon separated from Falcon 9’s second stage about nine minutes after liftoff.
The Dragon spacecraft supporting the CRS-18 mission previously supported the CRS-6 mission in April 2015 and the CRS-13 mission in December 2017. Following stage separation, SpaceX recovered Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. You can watch a replay of the launch webcast below and find out more about the mission in our press kit.

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On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Crew Dragon’s design includes two distinct propulsion systems – a low-pressure bi-propellant propulsion system with sixteen Draco thrusters for on-orbit maneuvering, and a high-pressure bi-propellant propulsion system with eight SuperDraco thrusters for use only in the event of a launch escape. After the vehicle’s successful demonstration mission to and from the International Space Station in March 2019, SpaceX performed additional tests of the vehicle’s propulsion systems to ensure functionality and detect any system-level issues prior to a planned In-Flight Abort test.
The initial tests of twelve Draco thrusters on the vehicle completed successfully, but the initiation of the final test of eight SuperDraco thrusters resulted in destruction of the vehicle. In accordance with pre-established safety protocols, the test area was clear and the team monitored winds and other factors to ensure public health and safety.
Following the anomaly, SpaceX convened an Accident Investigation Team that included officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and observers from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and began the systematic work on a comprehensive fault tree to determine probable cause. SpaceX also worked closely with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to secure the test site, and collect and clean debris as part of the investigation. The site was operational prior to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch of STP-2 and landing of two first stage side boosters at Landing Zones 1 and 2 on June 25, 2019. Initial data reviews indicated that the anomaly occurred approximately 100 milliseconds prior to ignition of Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco thrusters and during pressurization of the vehicle’s propulsion systems. Evidence shows that a leaking component allowed liquid oxidizer – nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) – to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing. A slug of this NTO was driven through a helium check valve at high speed during rapid initialization of the launch escape system, resulting in structural failure within the check valve. The failure of the titanium component in a high-pressure NTO environment was sufficient to cause ignition of the check valve and led to an explosion.
In order to understand the exact scenario, and characterize the flammability of the check valve’s titanium internal components and NTO, as well as other material used within the system, the accident investigation team performed a series of tests at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. Debris collected from the test site in Florida, which identified burning within the check valve, informed the tests in Texas. Additionally, the SuperDraco thrusters recovered from the test site remained intact, underscoring their reliability. It is worth noting that the reaction between titanium and NTO at high pressure was not expected. Titanium has been used safely over many decades and on many spacecraft from all around the world. Even so, the static fire test and anomaly provided a wealth of data. Lessons learned from the test – and others in our comprehensive test campaign – will lead to further improvements in the safety and reliability of SpaceX’s flight vehicles. SpaceX has already initiated several actions, such as eliminating any flow path within the launch escape system for liquid propellant to enter the gaseous pressurization system. Instead of check valves, which typically allow liquid to flow in only one direction, burst disks, which seal completely until opened by high pressure, will mitigate the risk entirely. Thorough testing and analysis of these mitigations has already begun in close coordination with NASA, and will be completed well in advance of future flights.
With multiple Crew Dragon vehicles in various stages of production and testing, SpaceX has shifted the spacecraft assignments forward to stay on track for Commercial Crew Program flights. The Crew Dragon spacecraft originally assigned to SpaceX’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station (Demo-2) will carry out the company’s In-Flight Abort test, and the spacecraft originally assigned to the first operational mission (Crew-1) will launch as part of Demo-2.

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At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 25, SpaceX launched the STP-2 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Deployments began approximately 12 minutes after liftoff and ended approximately 3 hours and 32 minutes after liftoff. Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for the STP-2 mission previously supported the Arabsat-6A mission in April 2019. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. You can watch a replay of the launch webcast below and find out more about the mission in our press kit.

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On Wednesday, June 12, SpaceX successfully launched the RADARSAT Constellation Mission for MDA, a Maxar company, from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Falcon 9 lifted off at 7:17 a.m. PDT, or 14:17 UTC with the first of three RADARSAT satellites deploying approximately 54 minutes after launch. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to land on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The first stage for the RADARSAT Constellation mission previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019.You can watch a replay of the launch webcast below and find out more about the mission in our press kit.

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Rokot booster successfully launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome

On August, 30 a Rokot carrier rocket with a military purpose satellite was successfully launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. All the prelaunch operations and the lift off went as expected.
At the expected time the Briz-KM booster put the satellite into the final orbit and was taken under control by the ground means of the Titov Main Test and Space Systems Control Centre.
The carrier rocket and the booster were designed and manufactured by the Khrunichev Center. The Rokot carrier rocket was created as a part of the conversion program based on the decommissioned RS-18 ICBM and is meant to launch spacecraft of up to 2 tons to low-earth orbit.

Soyuz MS-15 crews continue examinational training

The ISS-61/62/EP-19 crews take the second day of examination training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. The cosmonauts and astronauts are to demonstrate their skills and abilities received during the multi-year practical and theoretical course of preflight training. On August 30, 2019the ISS-61/62/EP-19 prime crew consisting of Oleg Skripochka (Russia), Jessica Meir (USA) and Hazza Al Mansouri (UAE) is training using the Soyuz crewed spacecraft, while the backup crew of Sergey Ryzhikov, Thomas Marshburn and Sultan Al Neyadi are training using the Russian ISS segment simulator. On August 29, both crews successfully passed the first examination day. The prime crew was the first to take the training. Traditionally, the crew answered the questions of the media concerning the differences in training processes in the spacecraft simulator and in the station simulator, noting that the spacecraft offers a more dynamic training, while at the station the crew has more time to make a decision. “However, both exams are equally important”, said Oleg Skripochka.

ExoMars-2020 mothership and descent module mated

On August 29, 2019, the Russian and European specialists at Thales Alenia Space Italia finished the mechanical mating of ExoMars-2020 mothership and descent module. The coming days schedule includes finishing the electric integration of the mothership with the descent module, adjusting the precision instruments, installing the technological aerodynamic shield and getting the spacecraft ready for transporting it to Cannes for another stage of the ground experimental development - electric systems testing using the vacuum camera. The ExoMars-2020 mission is the second stage of Roscosmos largest international project together with the European Space Agency to explore Mars, its surface, atmosphere and climate both from the orbit and on the planet surface. The mission is supposed to open the new stage of space exploration for the world scientific community. NPO Lavochkin is the general contractor and coordinator from the Russian side, as well as the designer and manufacturer of the descent module with the landing platform. The mission is planned to launch in July 2020.

GLONASS satellite group status

GLONASS spacecraft are being withdrawn both for scheduled and unplanned repairs. The withdrawal is performed when changing the set of the onboard equipment, in case of prolonged staying inside the orbital eclipse period (the double orbital eclipse period of the Moon and the Earth). The Glonass-M No. 745 withdrawal is scheduled and was inherently connected with the orbital eclipse periods of the Moon and the Earth. The satellite was turned off on August 30, 2019 from 10:28 UTC to 12:03 UTC. Now the satellite is active again. The maintenance works on other two satellites (No. 717 and No. 742) continue.

RSS-designed smart vibration sensor

Russian Space Systems Holding specialists (RSS, part of Roscosmos) designed a digital mini-sized vibration sensor with the self-test mode. The sensor is supposed to be used in various industries as part of digitalization and has already proven its effectiveness and reliability under operating conditions of oil and gas industry. The product isshowcased at the MAKS-2019 Air Show at the RSS booth from August 30 to September 1, 2019. Beside the necessary functions to show the observed value correctly, the smart vibration sensors normalize the signal, adjust the amplitude frequency response and perform self-testing. The sensors are produced by the NPO IT (part of RSS) and used in the oil and gas industry to ensure precise measuring of vibration parameters at various objects under heavy conditions – high power hits, under high and low temperatures, intense electromagnetic and static fields. Beside low price,using the control sensors with a unified digital output ensures high interference protection and independence. Moreover, the vibration sensors have initially been created to measure vibration processes in rocket technology and aircraft that is why they are reliable and precise. According to the NPO IT representative, Transneft company has been successfully using the smart vibration sensors since 2016. A new modification of sensors is being tested now, which is to be used in the Astra universal onboard telemetry system during the carrier rockets and spacecraft launches. Due to the ability to analyze the situation, the new digital sensor self-testing system allows enhancing its effectiveness and reliability”. The sensor is a piezoelectric accelerometer with built-in electronics. The electronic module in the new digital sensors is located inside the head end of the sensor, which allowed substantial downsizing of the unit. The whole system is managed by a microprocessor that transforms the analogous signal into digital one, integrates the observed value, performs digital filtration and distributes the normed signal. The information is transmitted via the RS-485 interface using the Modbus RTUprotocol.

Chandrayaan-2 Successfully enters Lunar Transfer Trajectory

The final orbit raising manoeuvre of Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was successfully carried out today (August 14, 2019) at 02:21 am IST. During this maneuver, the spacecraft's liquid engine was fired for about 1203 seconds. With this, Chandrayaan-2 entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory. Earlier, the spacecraft’s orbit was progressively increased five times during July 23 to August 06, 2019. The health of the spacecraft is being continuously monitored from the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) at ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru with support from Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antennas at Byalalu, near Bengaluru. Since its launch on July 22, 2019 by GSLV MkIII-M1 vehicle, all systems onboard Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft are performing normal. Chandrayaan-2 will approach Moon on August 20, 2019 and the spacecraft's liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Following this, there will be further four orbit maneuvers to make the spacecraft enter into its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.
Tentative plan for future operation after Trans Lunar Injection are as follows,
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Subsequently, Vikram lander will separate from the orbiter on September 02, 2019. Two orbit maneuvers will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent to make a soft landing on the lunar surface on September 07, 2019.
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Press Meet - Briefing by Dr. K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO

A Press Meet was organised today (August 20, 2019) at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru on the occasion of Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) of Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO addressed and interacted with several regional, national and international media persons during the meet. The live telecast of this meet was made available on ISRO website and You tube Channel. In his briefing, Dr. Sivan announced that “The LOI maneuver was performed successfully today morning using the onboard propulsion system for a firing duration of about 29 minutes. This maneuver precisely injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit around the Moon.” He emphasised the unique requirement of 90 degree orbital inclination of Chandrayaan-2 and said that it was achieved by the precise execution of both the Trans Lunar Injection (performed on August 14, 2019) and today’s LOI maneuver. “The satellite is currently located in a lunar orbit with a distance of about 114 km at perilune (nearest point to the Moon) and 18,072 km at apolune (farthest point to the Moon)”, he added. Further, Dr Sivan added that till September 01, 2019, a series of four orbit maneuvers will be performed on Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft to enable it to enter its final orbit passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface.
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Subsequently, on September 02, 2019 the Vikram lander will separate from the Orbiter. Following this, orbit maneuvers will be performed on Vikram to place it in a 100 km X 30 km orbit around the Moon. Following this, Vikram will perform a series of complex braking maneuvers to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N on September 7, 2019. A few hours later, the Rover Pragyaan will roll down from Vikram and will perform in situ exploration of the surrounding lunar surface. The briefing by Chairman, ISRO was followed by a long interactive session with the media during which questions were asked about the scientific objectives of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, challenges and complexities involved during Vikram separation from Orbiter and its soft landing on the Moon, impact of lunar dust on landing and the release of images captured by Chandrayaan-2, mission life of Pragyaan. Chairman, ISRO answered these questions in detail.

GSLV MkIII-M1 Successfully Launches Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft

ndia’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1, successfully launched the 3840 kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an earth orbit today (July 22, 2019). The spacecraft is now revolving round the earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475 km. Today’s flight marks the first operational flight of the GSLV Mk III. After a smooth countdown lasting 20 hours, GSLV MkIII-M1 vehicle majestically lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota at the scheduled launch time of 1443Hrs (2:43 pm) Indian Standard Time (IST) with the ignition of its two S200 solid strap-on motors. All the subsequent flight events occurred as scheduled. About 16 minutes 14 seconds after lift-off, the vehicle injected Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an elliptical earth orbit. Immediately after spacecraft separation from the vehicle, the solar array of the spacecraft automatically got deployed and ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru successfully took control of the spacecraft.
ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan congratulated the launch vehicle and satellite teams involved in this challenging mission. “Today is a historical day for Space Science and Technology in India. I am extremely happy to announce that GSLV MkIII-M1 successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into an orbit of 6000 Km more than the intended orbit and is better.” “Today is the beginning of the historical journey of India towards Moon and to land at a place near south pole to carry out scientific experiments to explore the unexplored. On July 15, 2019 ISRO intelligently observed a technical snag, Team ISRO worked out, fixed and corrected the snag within 24 hours. For the next one and a half day, the required tests were conducted to ensure that corrections made were proper and in right direction. Today ISRO bounced back with flying colours.” Dr. Sivan said. In the coming days, a series of orbit manoeuvres will be carried out using Chandrayaan-2’s onboard propulsion system. This will raise the spacecraft orbit in steps and then place it in the Lunar Transfer Trajectory to enable the spacecraft to travel to the vicinity of the Moon.
GSLV Mk III is a three-stage launch vehicle developed by ISRO. The vehicle has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage. The vehicle is designed to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Chandrayaan-2 is India's second mission to the moon. It comprises a fully indigenous Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). The Rover Pragyan is housed inside Vikram lander. The mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface. On the science front, this mission aims to further expand our knowledge about the Moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon.
After leaving earth orbit and on entering Moon's sphere of influence, the on-board propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired to slow down the spacecraft. This will enable it to be captured into a preliminary orbit around the Moon. Later, through a set of manoeuvres, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularised at 100 km height from the lunar surface. Subsequently, the lander will separate from the Orbiter and enters into a 100 km X 30 km orbit around the Moon. Then, it will perform a series of complex braking maneuvers to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon on September 7, 2019. Following this, the Rover will roll out from the lander and carries out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. The mission life of the lander is also 1 lunar day.The Orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year. The orbiter had a lift-off weight of about 2,369 kg, while the lander and rover weighed 1,477 kg and 26 kg respectively. The rover can travel up to 500 m (half a kilometre) and relies on electric power generated by its solar panel for functioning.
Chandrayaan-2 has several science payloads to facilitate a more detailed understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon. The Orbiter carries eight payloads, the lander carries three, and the rover carries two. Besides, a passive experiment is included on the lander.The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit while the Lander and Rover payloads will perform in-situ measurements near the landing site. The ground facilities constitute the third vital element of Chandrayaan-2mission. They perform the important task of receiving the health information as well as the scientific data from the spacecraft. They also transmit the radio commands to the spacecraft. The Ground Segment of Chandrayaan-2 consists of Indian Deep Space Network, Spacecraft Control Centre and Indian Space Science Data Centre. Today’s successful launch of Chandrayaan-2 is a significant milestone in this challenging mission. A total number of 7500 visitors witnessed the launch live from the Viewer’s Gallery at Sriharikota.

Press Meet - Briefing by Dr. K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO

A Press Meet was organized today, June 12, 2019 at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru on the occasion of the forthcoming launch of India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission to Moon. Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO addressed and interacted with over hundred and fifty regional, national and international media persons during the meet. Dr Sivan outlined ISRO’s vision on space science and interplanetary missions. Understanding the secrets of the inner solar system is an aspiration of both national and international scientific community. Specifically talking about Chandrayaan-2, he announced “The launch of Chandrayaan-2 onboard GSLV MkIII-M1 is planned on July 15, 2019 at 02.51 Hrs from Sriharikota”. Further, he said the soft landing of the Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 on the Moon’s surface is likely to be on September 06, 2019. The briefing included the scientific objectives, challenges and benefits of the mission. He also provided details on the orbiter, lander and rover as well as the challenging tasks of navigating to the Moon and inserting the spacecraft into lunar orbit. Dr Sivan then specially mentioned about the highly demanding task of soft landing on the lunar surface and termed it as “15 terrifying minutes”
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Earlier during the day, the media persons had an opportunity to view Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and lander at ISRO Satellite Integration and Test Establishment (ISITE), Bengaluru. The briefing by Chairman, ISRO was followed by an extensive interactive session with the media.< br>

Space cooperation MoU Signed between India and Tunisia

Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Republic of Tunisia on cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes” was signed today (June 11, 2019) at ISRO Headquarters. Mr. Nejmeddine Lakhal, Ambassador of Tunisia to India and Dr. B. Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary, West Asia & North Africa (WANA) Division of MEA were present during this occasion.
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First Meeting of Gaganyaan National Advisory Council

Today, June 8, 2019, the first meeting of Gaganyaan National Advisory Council was held at ISRO Headquarters, Bengaluru chaired by Dr. K Sivan, Secretary, Department of Space. The meeting was attended by Dr K Kasturirangan, Honorary Distinguished Advisor, ISRO, Prof K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India,Dr B N Suresh, Honorary Distinguished Professor, ISRO, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary Defence R&D, Chairman, DRDO, Dr Shekhar C Mande, Secretary DSIR, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Prof Anurag Kumar, Director, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Shri R Madhavan, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Wing Cdr. (Rtd) Rakesh Sharma, Former Indian Astronaut, Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations (Space), Rear Admiral D S Gujarl, Asst Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy, Inspector General KR Suresh TM, Deputy Director General (Operations and Coastal Security) Indian Coast Guard. During the meeting, Dr Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC), ISRO, made a presentation on the overall project status of Gaganyaan, covering technical details as well as collaboration with various national stake holders.
The council deliberated in detail on various aspects of Gaganyaan and appreciated the efforts made in this regard in the fast track mode and Institutional mechanisms put in place by ISRO. It stressed the need for setting priorities at various National Institutions including Industries to accomplish Gaganyaan. Many essential aspects of Gaganyaan, especially the life support systems and crew selection and training, were discussed in detail. In the end, the council emphasised the urgent need for further accelerating the efforts to realise Gaganyaan in a very demanding time frame of December 2021 amidst formidable challenges.
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KiboCUBE: Team from the Republic of Moldova Selected for Fourth Round

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have been cooperating under the KiboCUBE programme launched in 2015 to provide opportunities to deploy CubeSats from the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” of the International Space Station (ISS). JAXA and OOSA have selected a team from the National Center of Space Technologies of the Technical University of Moldova for the fourth round of KiboCUBE, which called for applications from October 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019. (Reference 1). KiboCUBE contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal 4 “Quality Education” and Goal 9 “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure,” and this programme aims to contribute to the enhancement of space related technology in developing countries. Last year, JAXA and OOSA have agreed to extend the KiboCUBE programme, and we are welcoming many applications for the current fifth round of KiboCUBE.(Reference 2). (Reference 1) Selection of fourth round
(Reference 1) Selection of fourth round
Name of Satellite : TUMnanoSAT
Selected Organization/Country : National Centre of Space Technologies (NCST), Technical University of Moldova
Mission Overview : capacity building and technology demonstration (nano/micro wire sensor, magnetometer, micro-gyroscope, sun sensor, communication protocol, power source)
Size : 1U
Deployment from Kibo : expected in JFY 2020
(Reference 2) Fifth Round of KiboCUBE
Application : March 26th — September 30th, 2019
For more information, please refer to UNOOSA website : http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/psa/hsti/kibocube/kibocube/3.2019.html

ucceeded in Prototyping Integrated Circuits (ICs) with a Small-Volume Production System (Minimal Fab) - JAXA and AIST paving the pathway to minimal fab-produced ICs aboard spacecraft -

• Japan Aerospace eXploration Agency (JAXA) is aiming to produce integrated circuits (ICs) for space applications with a small-volume production system (Minimal Fab) (Figure 1). Using a practical SOI-CMOS with two-layer aluminum wiring process, Technology 2018, developed by National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) (Figure 2), JAXA has designed an IC which contains around 1000 transistors (4bit shift resistor and an I/O circuit) and manufactured a prototype chip (Figure 3) whose operations has been demonstrated successfully (Figure 4). • AIST has built a fully automatic Minimal Fab system, which enables a circuit designer to manufacture a semiconductor device on his own by operating a series of manufacturing equipment. Maneuvered by a JAXA circuit engineer, the new system has proven itself and produced the above ICs. • These prototyping and operational demonstration have opened the way to manufacturing electronic devices aboard spacecraft with a Minimal Fab process, which is expected to broaden the applications of the new process. Overview
JAXA and AIST have been conducting a joint research project concerning the applications of a small-volume production system (Minimal Fab) (Figure 1) to aerospace research and development applications, and have demonstrated for the first time in the world that the new system can realize ICs intended for use in space. AIST has developed a fully Minimal Fab SOI-CMOS with two-layer aluminum wiring process, called “Technology 2018” (Figure 2). Since each piece of technical information and the whole operating procedure of the Technology 2018 process are computerized, the operation of the entire equipment is completely automated, requiring no special skills, which is the outstanding feature of Minimal Fab. Capitalizing on expertise in designing and manufacturing ICs accumulated through many spacecraft development projects, JAXA has designed an IC which contains around 1000 transistors (4bit shift resister and an I/O circuit), prototyped using Technology 2018 (Figure 3), and demonstrated normal functionality of each circuit element (Figure 4). The demonstration has proved the effectiveness of a Minimal Fab system, which can produce a wide variety of ICs for space applications in small batches in short periods. Efforts will be continued to put this technology into practice.AIST will accelerate its efforts in developing application of Minimal Fab not only to spacecraft but to many fields of industry including the production of IoT (Figure 5) devices, which is one of the purposes of this project. Smiley face Smiley face
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Successful Operation of Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa2's SCI

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) separated the SCI (Small Carry-on Impactor), which had been onboard the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2, on April 5, 2019, for deployment to Ryugu, and then put the SCI into operation. As a result of checking the images captured by the Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic (ONC-T) onboard the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2, we have concluded that a crater was created by the SCI. Hayabusa2 is operating normally. Smiley face Smiley face
hese images were captured by the Optical Navigation Camera - Telescopic onboard Hayabusa2. By comparing the two images, we have confirmed that an artificial crater was created in the area surrounded by dotted lines. The size and depth of the crater are now under analysis. Image credit: JAXA, The University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, The University of Aizu, AIST

JAXA and SKY Perfect JSAT Conclude an Agreement on the Transfer of the Small Demonstration Satellite-4

We hereby announce that Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Headquarters Office: Chofu-shi, Tokyo; President: Hiroshi Yamakawa; hereinafter, “JAXA”) and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (Head Office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director, President and Chief Executive Officer: Eiichi Yonekura; hereinafter, “SKY Perfect JSAT”) concluded an agreement on the transfer of the Small Demonstration Satellite-4 (hereinafter, “SDS-4”) today. As a result of evaluating the proposals submitted by competing companies, JAXA selected SKY Perfect JSAT to be the transferee and operator of SDS-41, which has been owned and operated by the Agency. For JAXA, this will be the first transfer of an artificial satellite developed by the Agency to a company in the private sector, and for SKY Perfect JSAT, SDS-4 will be the first low earth orbit (LEO) satellite to be owned by the company. Smiley face
Recently SKY Perfect JSAT has been proactively providing ground station services for LEO satellite operators2 in addition to the conventional geostationary satellite services. In order to promptly transmit the voluminous data delivered from LEO satellites to the customers so that they can make effective use of the data, SKY Perfect JSAT uses its own ground station equipment for LEO satellites located in Hokkaido, Ibaraki and Okinawa. Moreover, it has also partnered with both Japanese and overseas ground station service companies3 to enhance the network infrastructure. The company has decided to own SDS-4 as part of the measures to achieve its vision for the space and satellite business, which has been upheld since fiscal 2018. Among the artificial satellites operated by JAXA, some, such as SDS-4 , have already fulfilled their planned missions, and they are at a later stage for use. If companies in the private sector make proactive use of these satellites, it will help expand the scope of the space industry. JAXA deems the transfer of SDS-4 as the first step to this end. For further promotion of the entire space industry, JAXA and SKY Perfect JSAT will make use of their respective strength as an aerospace explorer and a pioneer in the space business, respectively, referring to the Space Industry Vision 20304 formulated to expand the market of the whole industry.

World's First Loading Arm for Ship-to-Shore Transfer of Liquefied Hydrogen Developed

Tokyo, April 18, 2019 ― Tokyo Boeki Engineering, Ltd. (TEN, President: Hideshige Tsubouchi), Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Kawasaki, President: Yoshinori Kanehana), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, President: Hiroshi Yamakawa), and Japan Ship Technology Research Association (JSTRA, Chairman: Seiichi Tanaka) announced today that they have developed the world's first loading arm for transferring liquefied hydrogen (LH2) from a carrier to an on-shore storage facility, as part of the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP)* led by the Cabinet Office of Japan. Smiley face
Hydrogen has been attracting global attention as an energy source that releases no CO2 when used, just as solar, wind, and other renewable energies do not. Various initiatives are underway to broaden its applications, such as fuel cell cars and hydrogen power generation. Against such a backdrop, Japan has committed itself to achieving low-cost utilization of hydrogen. One such initiative has been construction of an ocean-going LH2 carrier and a handling terminal needed in order to build a global hydrogen supply chain by which mass procurement and distribution of hydrogen will be possible. When completed, the supply chain will provide hydrogen produced from renewable energies, as well as from unused energy resources available outside Japan which integrate CCS (carbon dioxide capture and storage) into the hydrogen production process. Because marine transport of LH2 by a dedicated carrier is unprecedented, the four organizations have developed one of the key components for connecting carriers and on-shore terminals ― a loading arm for LH2 transfer. Since the temperature of LH2 is lower than the liquefaction temperature of air, using loading arms which were designed for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and developed based on earlier technology would run the risk of fire, because during LH2 transfer, liquid oxygen (LO2) may be generated on piping surfaces. To prevent such generation, a structural design has been developed that provides high thermal insulation performance and ensures safety. Following are the three key features of this loading arm: 1. A double-walled vacuum insulation structure that provides high thermal insulation performance
By providing a vacuum between the outer and inner pipes, a high level of insulation is achieved, maintaining the surface temperature of the outer pipe at close to the ambient temperature and precluding LO2 generation.
2. A highly-flexible swivel joint for the piping that permits 360-degree rotation while maintaining high thermal insulation This joint enables piping to be used in ways which do not compromise the double-walled vacuum insulation feature. It also accommodates various berthing positions and/or movement of the vessel, and at the same time achieves a tight seal that prevents hydrogen ― a tiny molecule ― from leaking.
3. An emergency release system (ERS) that safely interrupts LH2 transfer in the event of an emergency An ERS is incorporated in the loading arm to respond to emergency situations such as earthquakes or tsunamis during LH2 transfer by quickly shutting the valves of the pipes and safely disconnecting them from each other so that the carrier can leave shore immediately.
Specifications for the loading arm:
Arm length : 11.5 m
Base riser height : 5.5 m
Material (plumbing) : Stainless steel
Structure (plumbing) : Double-walled vacuum insulation. The outer pipe withstands external forces and the internal pipe maintains internal pressure.
Main components : Arm driving system, swivel joints, emergency release system (ERS)

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EUSA Secretary General Mr Matjaz Pecovnik, EUSA Treasurer Mr Lorenz Ursprung and EUSA Legal Advisor Mr Thomas Loher met on Friday, August 30, 2019 at the EUSA legal seat in Zurich, Switzerland for a working meeting. The second satellite to join the constellation that forms the European Data Relay System (EDRS) was launched by Arianespace on 06 August, 21:30 CEST (19:30 UTC). The satellite was launched on board an Ariane 5, together with a second passenger, Intelsat 39, from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. EDRS enables people to observe Earth almost live, accelerating responses to emergency situations and spurring the development of new services and products, to create jobs and increase prosperity. EDRS – dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’ by its private operator, Airbus – uses innovative laser technology to dramatically cut the time needed for Earth observation satellites, to deliver information to the ground. The latest satellite, called EDRS-C, will operate in geostationary orbit, at 31 degrees East longitude. It will join its sister EDRS-A, launched in January 2016. The satellites can transmit data at a rate of up to 1.8 Gbit/s. The geostationary position, higher than typical low-Earth orbiting observation satellites, will enable the constellation to maintain an almost constant connection with the low-Earth orbiting satellites that could otherwise only transmit their information when in direct line-of-sight with their ground stations, which introduces delays of up to 90 minutes. The EDRS satellites can then beam the information back to Earth in almost real time. Since the end of 2016, EDRS has, on a daily basis, been transmitting images of Earth acquired by the Copernicus programme’s four Sentinel observation satellites. It is also due to relay information from the International Space Station once a new antenna is installed on the outside of Europe’s Columbus laboratory. The EDRS-C satellite has been manufactured by OHB System AG based on a SmallGEO Platform. EDRS-C also hosts a Ka-band payload called HYLAS 3, which is designed to provide satellite communications services over Africa and the Middle-East. HYLAS 3 is owned by Avanti Communications. EDRS is a new, independent European satellite system, and is a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus as part of ESA’s efforts to federate industry around large-scale programmes, stimulating technology developments to achieve economic benefits.
About the European Space Agency The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member. ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement. By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions. ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.


The first round-trip to the Red Planet will see a European orbiter bringing martian samples back to Earth. ESA is opening the door to industry to build the spacecraft that will deliver the precious rocks, dust and gas from Mars – the key to understanding whether life ever existed on our closest planetary neighbour. This ‘take-away’ service is called the Earth Return Orbiter, and will be ESA’s major contribution to the Mars Sample Return campaign. The ESA Orbiter will carry NASA’s Capture and Containment and Return System, which will rely on the ESA-led spacecraft for transit to and from Mars. Three launches from Earth and one from Mars – the first ever from another planet –, two rovers and an autonomous capture in Mars orbit are all part of an ambitious series of missions that ESA is embarking on together with NASA.
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The campaign aims to bring at least 500 grams of samples back from the Jezero crater that once held a lake and contains an ancient preserved river delta. The rocks in the area preserve information about Mars’ diverse geology. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover that is slated for launch in July 2020 will scientifically select the best samples to store in tubes and deposit them onto the martian surface for later retrieval. ESA is also studying concepts for a small ‘fetch’ rover to scurry quickly across the martian surface to locate and recover the stored samples. It would then carry them back to a football-sized canister that would be launched with a NASA Mars Ascent System – a small rocket. The Earth Return Orbiter will capture the canister in orbit and transfer it safely to Earth, a return trip that will take about 13 months.
“We will have the responsibility of finding, capturing and transporting these precious martian treasures home for careful analysis in state-of-the-art labs on our planet,” explains Sanjay Vijendran, ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign coordinator. “It’s an interplanetary treasure hunt!”


New evidence of the impact of the recent planet-encompassing dust storm on water in the atmosphere, and a surprising lack of methane, are among the scientific highlights of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter’s first year in orbit. Two papers are published in the journal Nature today describing the new results, and reported in a dedicated press briefing at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna. A third paper, submitted to the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science, presents the most detailed map ever produced of water-ice or hydrated minerals in the shallow subsurface of Mars. The joint ESA-ROSCOSMOSs ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, or TGO, arrived at the Red Planet in October 2016, and spent more than one year using the aerobraking technique needed to reach its two-hour science orbit, 400 km above the surface of Mars. “We are delighted with the first results from the Trace Gas Orbiter,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s TGO project scientist. “Our instruments are performing extremely well and even within the first few months of observation were already providing exquisite data to a much higher level than previously achieved.” Smiley face Smiley face
Exploiting the dust storm
Two spectrometers onboard – NOMAD and ACS – made the first high-resolution solar occultation measurements of the atmosphere, looking at the way sunlight is absorbed in the atmosphere to reveal the chemical fingerprints of its ingredients. This enabled the vertical distribution of water vapour and ‘semi-heavy’ water – with one hydrogen atom replaced by a deuterium atom, a form of hydrogen with an additional neutron – to be plotted from close to the martian surface to above 80 km altitude. The new results track the influence of dust in the atmosphere on water, along with the escape of hydrogen atoms into space. “In the northern latitudes we saw features such as dust clouds at altitudes of around 25–40 km that were not there before, and in southern latitudes we saw dust layers moving to higher altitudes,” says Ann Carine Vandaele, principal investigator of the NOMAD instrument at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. “The enhancement of water vapour in the atmosphere happened remarkably quickly, over just a few days during the onset of the storm, indicating a swift reaction of the atmosphere to the dust storm.” Methane mystery plot thickens The two complementary instruments also started their measurements of trace gases in the martian atmosphere. Trace gases occupy less than one percent of the atmosphere by volume, and require highly precise measurement techniques to determine their exact chemical fingerprints in the composition. The presence of trace gases is typically measured in ‘parts per billion by volume’ (ppbv), so for the example for Earth’s methane inventory measuring 1800 ppbv, for every billion molecules, 1800 are methane. Methane is of particular interest for Mars scientists, because it can be a signature of life, as well as geological processes – on Earth, for example, 95% of methane in the atmosphere comes from biological processes. Because it can be destroyed by solar radiation on timescales of several hundred years, any detection of the molecule in present times implies it must have been released relatively recently – even if the methane itself was produced millions or billions of years ago and remained trapped in underground reservoirs until now. In addition, trace gases are mixed efficiently on a daily basis close to the planet’s surface, with global wind circulation models dictating that methane would be mixed evenly around the planet within a few months. Smiley face Smiley face

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