Home Tags Posts tagged with "ESA"


ESA’s Schiaparelli mission did not behave as expected as it headed down to the surface of Mars on October 19.

According to telemetry data recovered from the probe during its descent, Schiaparelli’s parachute was jettisoned too early.

The rockets it was supposed to use to bring itself to a standstill just above the ground also appeared to fire for too short a time.schiaparelli-lander-mars-landing

The ESA has not yet conceded that the lander crashed but the mood is not positive.

Experts will continue to analyze the data and they may also try to call out to Schiaparelli in the blind hope that it is actually sitting on the Red Planet intact.

In addition, the Americans will use one of their satellites at Mars to image the targeted landing zone to see if they can detect any hardware. Although, the chances are slim because the probe is small.

For the moment, all ESA has to work with is the relatively large volume of engineering data Schiaparelli managed to transmit back to the “mothership” that dropped it off at Mars – the Trace Gas Orbiter.

This shows that everything was fine as the probe entered the atmosphere.

Schiaparelli’s heatshield appeared to do the job of slowing the craft, and the parachute opened as expected to further decelerate the robot.

But it is at the end of the parachute phase that the data indicates unusual behavior.

The European Space Agency’s probe Schiaparelli was supposed to land on Mars on October 19.

The ExoMars mission was hoping to land the module at 3:48PM BST, but no signal from it has been received so far.

The Schiaparelli lander is named after the 19th century Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli. He was born on March, 14, 1835, 181 years to the very day before the launch of the mission that bears his name.

A radio transmission that should have allowed scientists to follow the probe to the surface was not received.

Image source ESA

Image source ESA

Controllers hope that satellites in orbit at Mars will have detected it and will shortly be able to confirm that the probe got down safely.

Landing on Mars is always a daunting prospect.

It is a high-speed approach that has to be got just right or the spacecraft runs the risk of crashing into the ground.

Schiaparelli had a heatshield, a parachute and rocket thrusters to try to get itself to the surface intact.

The ESA will not be rushed to judgement on whether this mission has been a success or a failure.

It will wait on the reports of the satellites. Both European and American orbiters were tasked with tracking the event.

If Schiaparelli is later confirmed as down and safe, it will spend the next few days making measurements of the Martian environment and current weather conditions – at least until its batteries run out.

Rosetta probe has ended its mission to Comet 67P by crash-landing on to the icy object’s surface on September 30.

The impact had occurred when radio contact to Rosetta was lost abruptly, mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, has confirmed.

The assumption is that the probe would have been damaged beyond use.

In the hours before the planned collision, the ageing probe sent back a host of high-resolution pictures and other measurements of the icy dirt-ball.

ESA mission manager Patrick Martin said: “I can announce full success of this historic descent of Rosetta towards Comet 67P.”

“Farewell Rosetta; you’ve done the job. That was space science at its best.”

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase

Researchers expect all the data gathered at Comet 67P in the past two years to keep them busy for decades to come.

The loss of signal, which happened at 11:19 GMT (13:19 CEST), was greeted by muted cheers and handshakes – not so surprising given the bittersweet nature of the occasion.

Some of the scientists watching on here in Darmstadt have spent the better part of 30 years on this project.

The researchers had wanted the descending probe to get a look inside one of the many pits that pockmark the surface.

Some of the images that came back were acquired just seconds before the collision.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is currently heading away from the Sun, limiting the solar energy available to Rosetta to operate its systems.

Rather than put the probe into hibernation or simply let it slowly fade into inactivity, the mission team determined that the venture should try to go out with a bang.

ESA project scientist Matt Taylor said that even if Rosetta was sent to sleep with the intention of waking it up again when 67P next visited the brighter environs of the inner Solar System – there was no guarantee the technology would still be working properly.

Because Rosetta was not designed to land, some of its structures very likely broke on contact with the comet. Controllers left no room for doubt in any case by pre-loading a software sequence that would jump the computers into a shutdown when the probe felt a big jolt.

Rosetta arrived at 67P in August 2014, after a 10-year journey from Earth.

After more than 12 years in space, ESA’s Rosetta mission is set to end its flight.

The Rosetta probe that has been tracking a comet for the past two years is going to deliberately crash itself into the 2.5mile-wide ball of ice and dust.

European Space Agency (ESA) scientists say the satellite has come to the end of its useful life and they want to get some final, ultra-close measurements.

Rosetta is not expected to survive the impact with Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Even if some of its systems remain functional, pre-loaded software on board will ensure everything is shut down on contact.

On September 29, controllers at ESA’s operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, commanded Rosetta to change course.

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase

The maneuver altered the mission’s wide orbit around the duck-shaped icy wanderer and put it on a direct collision course.

It is a 12 mile descent that should lead to the probe hitting the comet’s “head” at roughly walking pace at about 11:20 GMT on September 30.

The crash velocity will be low but Rosetta was never designed to land and so various components will almost certainly be crushed as it dumps down.

Rosetta arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, after a 10-year journey from Earth.

In the 25 months the mission has lived alongside the mountainous object it has acquired more than 100,000 images and instrument readings.

These have provided an unprecedented insight into the behaviur of the comet, its structure and chemistry.

Rosetta even dropped a small robot called Philae on to the surface in November 2014 to gather additional information – a historic first in space exploration.

Comets are thought to be the near-pristine leftovers from the formation of the Solar System, and so all the data sent back from 67P will give scientists a remarkable glimpse into the conditions that existed four and a half billion years ago.

Sarah Brightman has announced she will not be going to the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2015.

The British soprano wrote on her blog that she was postponing the adventure for “personal family reasons”, giving no further explanation.

Sarah Brightman, 54, was due to fly to the ISS on 1 September as a tourist.

When, or even if, Sarah Brightman will get to complete her dream of a 10-day holiday in orbit is not clear.

It is thought such a trip would cost the singer about $50 million.

Photo EPA

Photo EPA

Space Adventures, the company that was organizing Sarah Brightman’s trip, is given only a very limited number of seats on Soyuz rockets to sell to tourists.

Who will take Sarah Brightman’s berth in September is uncertain. It ought to be Sarah Brightman’s back-up – a Japanese executive Satoshi Takamatsu, but Space Adventures has yet to confirm this.

Space Adventures’ Eric Anderson said: “Since 2012, Sarah has shared her story of a lifelong dream to fly to space. Her international fame as the world’s best-selling soprano has enabled her message to circle the globe, inspiring others to pursue their own dreams.

“We’ve seen firsthand her dedication to every aspect of her spaceflight training and to date, has passed all of her training and medical tests. We applaud her determination and we’ll continue to support her as she pursues a future spaceflight opportunity.”

The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen, who was due to join Sarah Brightman in the Soyuz in September, tweeted: “Sad to lose a fantastic crew mate. Best of luck, Sarah.”

Flights to and from the ISS are currently on hold following the failure of a robotic cargo ship in late April.

Scientists have confirmed that the Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of Comet 67P.

Carbon-containing “organics” are the basis of life on Earth and may give clues to chemical ingredients delivered to our planet early in its history.

The compounds were picked up by a German-built instrument designed to “sniff” the comet’s thin atmosphere.

Other analyzes suggest the comet’s surface is largely water-ice covered with a thin dust layer.

The European Space Agency (ESA) craft touched down on the Comet 67P on November 12 after a 10-year journey.

It has not been disclosed which molecules have been found, or how complex they are.

The results are likely to provide insights into the possible role of comets in contributing some of the chemical building blocks to the primordial mix from which life evolved on the early Earth.

Preliminary results from the Mupus instrument, which deployed a hammer to the comet after Philae’s landing, suggest there is a layer of dust 10-20cm thick on the surface with very hard water-ice underneath.

The ice would be frozen solid at temperatures encountered in the outer Solar System – Mupus data suggest this layer has a tensile strength similar to sandstone.

After bouncing off the surface at least twice, Philae came to a stop in some sort of high-walled trap.

Scientists had to race to perform as many key tests as they could before Philae’s battery life ran out at the weekend.

A key objective was to drill a sample of “soil” and analyze it in Cosac’s oven. But, disappointingly, the latest information suggests no soil was delivered to the instrument.

Scientists are hopeful however that as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko approaches the Sun in coming months, Philae’s solar panels will see sunlight again. This might allow the batteries to re-charge, and enable the lander to perform science once more.

The lander’s Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), designed to provide information on the elemental composition of the surface, seems to have partially seen a signal from its own lens cover – which could have dropped off at a strange angle because Philae was not lying flat.

[youtube mMcOy2PpvTc 650]

The Philae robot probe on comet 67P has sent another stream of data back to Earth before losing power.

Everything expected from the Philae lander was delivered, just before low battery power dropped it into standby mode.

The robot is shadowed by a cliff and cannot get enough light on to its solar panels to recharge its systems.

Engineers fear this contact may have been its last – certainly for a while.

A tweet from the official Philae lander account said: “I’ll tell you more about my new home, comet 67P soon… zzzzz.”

Philae descended to the comet’s surface on November 12 – the first time in history that a space mission has made a soft landing on a comet.

The next opportunity to talk to Philae will come at around 11:00 GMT on November 15, when the orbiting Rosetta satellite – which delivered it to the 4km-wide “ice mountain” – comes over the horizon.

With only 1.5 hours of sunshine falling on the robot during the comet’s 12-hour day, it seems doubtful the battery will have recovered enough performance to complete the radio link.

Engineers did manage to maximize the possibility of it happening, though, by sending a command to reorientate the lander.

This involved raising Philae by 4cm and rotating its main housing by 35%. This will ensure the largest solar panel catches the most light.

Even if the probe falls silent over the weekend, researchers say they are thrilled with the amount of data already acquired.

Stephan Ulamec, lander manager, said: “Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence.

“This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”

In the latest tranche of data are the results from the drilling attempt made earlier in the day.

This had been an eagerly anticipated activity. Getting into the surface layers and bringing up a sample to analyze onboard was seen as central to the core mission of Philae.

Controllers say Cosac, the Philae laboratory that was due to receive the sample, downlinked its data, but that its contents had yet to be assessed.

Among other returns, Philae took another picture of the surface with its downward-looking Rolis camera.

It also exercised its Consert instrument. This is an experiment that sees Philae and Rosetta send radiowaves through the comet to try to discern its internal structure.

It has the additional possibility of being used to help triangulate a precise position for Philae on the comet’s surface.

This is still unknown. Although the robot hit the centre of its intended landing zone on Wednesday, it then bounced twice before coming to a stop.

Knowledge of that final resting location would enable engineers better to understand its predicament and the prospects for future contact if lighting conditions somehow change on 67P.

This could happen as the comet moves through space on its journey around the Sun. It will have seasons, just as the Earth does, and this could play to Philae’s advantage by altering the angle, timing and intensity of the sunlight hitting the solar panels.

Philae was launched from Earth, piggybacked to the Rosetta satellite, in 2004.

The pair covered 6.4 billion km to reach Comet 67P out near the orbit of Jupiter.

Scientists hope the investigations at the rubber-duck-shaped ball of ice and dust can provide fresh insights on the origins of the Solar System.

Whatever happens to Philae, Rosetta will continue to make its remote observations of 67P.

[youtube qzlBHJ6i6a0 650]

ESA’s robot probe Philae has made the first, historic landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after descending from its mothership, Rosetta spacecraft.

Philae lander touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 16:05 GMT.

There were cheers and hugs at the control room in Darmstadt, Germany, after the signal was confirmed.

It was designed to shine a light on some of the mysteries of these icy relics from the formation of the Solar System.

ESA’s robot probe Philae has made the first, historic landing on Comet 67P

ESA’s robot probe Philae has made the first, historic landing on Comet 67P

“This is a big step for human civilization,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the director-general of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Shortly after the touchdown was confirmed, Stephan Ulamec, the mission’s lander chief, said: “Philae is talking to us… we are on the comet.”

The robot deployed harpoons to fasten itself to the 2.5-mile-wide ball of ice and dust.

Scientists will use Philae to take pictures of the comet’s landscape and to analyze its chemical composition.

They are hoping its surface materials will hold fresh insights into the origins of our Solar System more than 4.5 billion years ago.

[youtube GpXv8bYf3XA 650]

Two of ESA’s Galileo satellites – Europe’s version of the American GPS satellite navigation system – have not gone into the correct orbit.

However, the European Space Agency says the fifth and sixth satellites – Doresa and Milena – launched from French Guiana on August 22 are under control.

The agency is examining the implications of the anomaly.

Doresa and Milena went up on a Soyuz rocket after a 24-hour delay because of bad weather.

“Observations taken after the separation of the satellites from the Soyuz VS09 (rocket) for the Galileo Mission show a gap between the orbit achieved and that which was planned,” said launch service provider Arianespace, in a statement.

“They have been placed on a lower orbit than expected. Teams are studying the impact this could have on the satellites,” it added.

Galileo satellites Doresa and Milena have not gone into the correct orbit after launch

Galileo satellites Doresa and Milena have not gone into the correct orbit after launch (photo ESA/Arianespace)

Arianespace declined to comment on whether their trajectories could be corrected, the AFP news agency reports.

After years of delay, Galileo is now finally moving towards full deployment.

ESA, which is building the system on behalf of the EU, expects to have a 26-satellite constellation in orbit by 2017.

The EU is investing billions in its satellite navigation project.

It believes Galileo will bring significant returns to European economies in the form of new businesses that can exploit precise timing and location data delivered from orbit.

What is Europe’s Galileo system?

  • A project of the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA)
  • 30 satellites are likely to be launched in batches in the coming years
  • Galileo will work alongside GPS and the Russian Glonass systems
  • Full system promises real-time positioning down to a meter or less
  • It should deepen and extend high-value markets already initiated by GPS
  • Cost to date: 6 billion euros; budget set aside to 2020: 7 billion euros
  • European GDP reliant now on GPS applications: 800 billion euros per annum

Source: EC/ESA

[youtube 8IeE9SdS4M4 650]

European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase.

In a first for space history, the spacecraft was maneuvered alongside a speeding body to begin mapping its surface in detail.

The European spacecraft fired its thrusters for six and a half minutes to finally catch up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

“We’re at the comet!” said Sylvain Lodiot of the ESA operations centre in Germany.

“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion km, we are delighted to announce finally <<we are here>>,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of ESA.

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase

Rosetta probe has arrived at comet 67P after a 10-year chase (photo ESA)

Launched on board an Ariane rocket in March 2004, Rosetta has taken a long route around our Solar System to catch up with comet 67P.

In a series of fly-pasts, the probe used the gravity of the Earth and Mars to increase its speed during the 6 billion km chase.

To save energy, controllers at ESA’s centre in Darmstadt, Germany, put Rosetta into hibernation for 31 months.

In January they successfully woke the craft from its slumber as it began the final leg of the daring encounter.

For the past two months, Rosetta has been carrying out a series of maneuvers to slow the probe down.

The comet is travelling at 55,000km per hour (34,175 mph). The spacecraft’s speed has been adjusted so that in relative terms it will be flying beside the comet at a slow walking pace of 1m/sec (2.2mph).

At a distance of 550 million km from the Earth, messages are taking over 22 minutes to get to Rosetta.

The distances involved are so great that the complex final command sequence for Wednesday’s crucial thruster burn had to be issued on Monday night.

Rosetta will have to continue to fire its thrusters every few days to maintain a hyperbolic orbit at 100km above the rotating rock.

The craft will then travel alongside the comet for the next 15 months, studying it with a range of instruments.

Rosetta has been taking increasingly detailed photographs of 67P as it gets closer. The mysterious comet has been dubbed the “rubber duck”, as some images seem to show the familiar shape as it twirls in space.

[youtube 8vKvGE04tkg 650]

The European Space Agency (ESA) has unveiled plans to “take 3D printing into the metal age” by building parts for jets, spacecraft and fusion projects.

The AMAZE project brings together 28 institutions to develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts.

Additive manufacturing (or “3D printing”) has already revolutionized the design of plastic products.

Printing metal parts for rockets and planes would cut waste and save money.

The layered method of assembly also allows intricate designs – geometries which are impossible to achieve with conventional metal casting.

Parts for cars and satellites can be optimized to be lighter and – simultaneously – incredibly robust.

The AMAZE project brings together 28 institutions to develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts

The AMAZE project brings together 28 institutions to develop new metal components which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts

Tungsten alloy components that can withstand temperatures of 3,000C were unveiled at AMAZE’s launch on Tuesday at London Science Museum.

At such extreme temperatures they can survive inside nuclear fusion reactors and on the nozzles of rockets.

“We want to build the best quality metal products ever made. Objects you can’t possibly manufacture any other way,” said David Jarvis, ESA’s head of new materials and energy research.

“To build a [fusion reactor], like Iter, you somehow have to take the heat of the Sun and put it in a metal box.

“3,000C is as hot as you can imagine for engineering.

“If we can get 3D metal printing to work, we are well on the way to commercial nuclear fusion.”

AMAZE is a loose acronym for Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste and Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products.

The 20 million-euro project brings together 28 partners from European industry and academia – including Airbus, Astrium, Norsk Titanium, Cranfield University, EADS, and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

Factory sites are being set up in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK to develop the industrial supply chain.

AMAZE researchers have already begun printing metal jet engine parts and aeroplane wing sections up to 2m in size.

These high-strength components are typically built from expensive, exotic metals such as titanium, tantalum and vanadium.

Using traditional casting techniques often wastes precious source material.

Europe has taken the final decision regarding Euclid telescope space mission to investigate the “dark universe”.

The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

These phenomena dominate the Universe, and yet scientists concede they know virtually nothing about them.

European Space Agency (ESA) member states made their decision at a meeting in Paris. Euclid should be ready for launch in 2019.

ESA nations had already selected the telescope as a preferred venture in October last year, but Tuesday’s “adoption” by the Science Programme Committee (SPC) means the financing and the technical wherewithal is now in place to proceed.

The cost to ESA of building, launching and operating Euclid is expected to be just over 600 million Euros ($760 million). Member states will provide Euclid’s visible wavelength camera and a near-infrared camera/spectrometer, taking the likely cost of the whole endeavor beyond 800 million Euros.

The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy

The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy

The US has been offered, and will accept, a junior role in the mission valued at around 5%. The American space agency (NASA) will pay for this by picking up the tab for the infrared detectors needed on Euclid. A memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed between the agencies in due course.

“We have negotiated a detailed text with NASA, which both parties consider final, and it is ready for signature,” said Dr. Fabio Favata, Esa’s head of science planning.

“It will mean a small, commensurate number of US scientists will be welcomed into the Euclid Consortium,” he said.

The consortium is the team that will have access to Euclid’s data.

The adoption also will now trigger the release to industry of invitations to tender. Europe’s two big space companies – Astrium and Thales Alenia Space – are certain to bid to build Euclid.

A key task of the telescope will be to map the distribution of dark matter, the matter that cannot be detected directly but which astronomers know to be there because of its gravitational effects on the matter we can see.

Galaxies, for example, could not hold their shape were it not for the presence of some additional “scaffolding”. This is presumed to be dark matter – whatever that is.

Although this material cannot be seen directly, the telescope can plot its distribution by looking for the subtle way its mass distorts the light coming from distant galaxies. Hubble famously did this for a tiny patch on the sky – just two square degrees.

Euclid will do it across 15,000 square degrees of sky – a little over a third of the heavens.

Dark energy represents a very different problem, and is arguably one of the major outstanding issues facing 21st-Century science.

This mysterious force appears to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe. Recognition of its existence and effect in 1998 earned three scientists a Nobel Prize last year.

Euclid will investigate the phenomenon by mapping the three-dimensional distribution of galaxies.

The patterns in the great voids that exist between these objects can be used as a kind of “yardstick” to measure the expansion through time.

Again, ground-based surveys have done this for small volumes of the sky; Euclid however will measure the precise positions of some two billion galaxies out to about 10 billion light-years from Earth.

Euclid was selected as a “medium class” mission, meaning its cost to ESA should be close 475 million Euros. The fact that member states are going 125 million Euros beyond this “guide price” gives an indication of just how highly this mission is regarded.

“ESA have realized this science is so compelling, they just have to do it,” said Prof. Bob Nichol from the University of Portsmouth, UK.

“They’ve got a great design and great team, and bravo to them for getting on with it. Every so often you do things that are revolutionary, and Euclid will be one of those transformational missions.”

Flying Euclid will give Europe an important lead in a key area of astrophysics.

The Americans would dearly love to fly their own version of Euclid, but there is no money in the NASA budget currently to make this happen.

The US agency was recently gifted two Hubble-class spy telescopes by the National Reconnaissance Office, but even with this donation NASA is short of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to turn one of them into a dark mission.

One key design difference between the US concept and Euclid would be the emphasis the American mission would place on using exploded stars, supernovas, as markers to measure the expansion rate of the Universe.

This was the approach used by the Nobel Prize winners (Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess of the US and Brian Schmidt of Australia). It is not a technique in the primary science of Euclid, but Prof. Bob Nichol said it could be deployed at some stage.

“That option is still there and is still being debated,” he said.

“It could be done at the end of the main mission, if we get an extension. We could also do some supernova work during the mission. If certain parts of the sky that we want to look at are not immediately amenable, we could go look for supernovas.

“I believe we could do a fantastic supernova survey, and the Nobel Prize winners are very much involved in how to build such a programme into Euclid. They’re brilliant scientists and it would be awesome to have them on board.”

The instrument will produce pictures of the sky more than 100 times larger than Hubble can. This will minimise the amount of “stitching” of images required to build Euclid’s maps, making it easier to trace some of the subtle effects astronomers are trying to detect.


The European Space Agency (ESA) says it has finally contacted Phobos-Grunt, Russia’s troubled Mars mission.

ESA reports that its tracking station in Perth, Australia, picked up a signal from the Phobos-Grunt probe.

The agency is now working with Russian engineers to see how best to maintain communications with the craft.

Phobos-Grunt has been stuck in Earth orbit since its launch on 9 November, unable to fire the engine that would take it on to Mars.

It raises the hope that Russian controllers can establish what is wrong with the spacecraft and fix it.

The European Space Agency (ESA) says it has finally contacted Phobos-Grunt, Russia's troubled Mars mission

The European Space Agency (ESA) says it has finally contacted Phobos-Grunt, Russia's troubled Mars mission


Phobos-Grunt still has a short window in which to start its journey to Mars before the growing distance from Earth gets too big.

The probe was built to land on the Martian moon, Phobos, and scoop up rock to bring back to Earth.

Such a venture should yield fascinating new insights into the origin of the 27 km-wide moon and the planet it circles.

The mission is also notable because China’s first Mars satellite, Yinghuo-1, has been launched piggy-back on the main Russian spacecraft.