Video: YouTube Space Lab Competition Launched

Video Caption: We’re excited to announce YouTube Space Lab, launching with Lenovo and Space Adventures in cooperation with NASA, ESA and JAXA. Watch amazing space and science videos and, if you’re 14 to 18 years old, submit a space experiment idea for your chance to win out-of-this-world prizes. Find out more at Music composed by Aurotone.

Vega Rocket Begins Trip to Kourou

Artist's impression of Vega on the launch pad at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Credit: ESA - J.Huart, 2011

ESA PR — The first elements of Europe’s new Vega small launcher left Italy last Thursday to begin their long journey to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, marking the final step towards its inaugural flight in January.

After several intense weeks of checking the hardware and equipment – and the shipping paperwork – Vega’s Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9 motors and the AVUM fourth stage were carefully packed and left Avio’s facility in Colleferro, where they were built.

During the night, the convoy headed to Livorno Harbour and the stages were loaded onto the MN Colibri, a vessel that is normally used by Arianespace to carry Ariane rocket components on the same route across the Atlantic Ocean.

It then departed on its first leg to Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The fairing, built in Switzerland, the Dutch-built Interstage-1/2 structure that links the first two stages and the LARES laser relativity satellite from Italy’s ASI space agency will be loaded onto the vessel, which is scheduled to set sail on 6 October.

Some 18 days later, the ship will arrive at Dégrad de Cannes Harbour in Cayenne, French Guiana.

From there, the ship’s cargo will be taken by road to Kourou for mating with Vega’s P80 first stage, now undergoing final preparations in the Booster Integration Building.

The P80 solid-propellant motor, also built in Colleferro, awaits insertion of its igniter.

Vega’s first launch campaign

The three-month launch campaign will begin in November following the Flight Readiness Review on 13–14 October.

The first step will move the P80 stage to the pad for final testing of the thrust vector control system. The two solid-propellant second and third stages will then be added.

The campaign will continue with the integration of the AVUM – Attitude & Vernier Upper Module – and its fuelling, and further testing of the electrical systems and software controls.

Finally, the upper composite, comprising the fairing and the payload, will be mated with AVUM.

The payload for Vega’s first launch is the LARES satellite, together with nine small CubeSats from European universities.

ESA, CNES, ASI and industry teams will arrive at Europe’s Spaceport for the launch campaign in November.

“With all of the elements for Vega’s maiden flight in Kourou by mid-October, we are now looking forward to beginning the launch campaign, which will be the final step before the first flight of Europe’s new rocket,” says Stefano Bianchi, Vega Programme Manager.

This first launch, the Vega qualification flight, is planned for January 2012 and will pave the way for five missions that aim to demonstrate the system’s flexibility.

Vega is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations in order to respond to different market opportunities. In particular, it offers configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites.

Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.

Mars500 Crew Enters Final Stretch of Mission

MARS500 PR — 1 September 2011 —  The ‘mission’ to Mars is now generating unique data – nobody has been isolated as long as these six marsonauts. Soon, the communications delay will end and the crew will feel that much closer to opening the hatch on 4 November.

The first full simulation of a mission to Mars and back is proceeding smoothly in the special facility at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow.


Video: Mars500 Crew Makes Other Worldly Pizza

Our brave marsonauts may face the most monotonous phase of their mission, but they’re not bored because they are not boring! Have a look at their inventive cookery to celebrate their one full year in the isolation!

In early June the Mars500 crew celebrated their one full year inside the modules simulating an interplanetary spaceship. They are now flying virtually back to Earth and due to a delay in communications, introduced to make the simulation more real, some material reaches the outside world slowly. As they get nearer to Earth the communications delayed is reduced.

By September the ship will only be be only two months away from the Earth.

ISS Partners Discuss How to Use Station as Technology Test Bed

International Space Station

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) for the International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, July 26, to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for technologies that will enable missions beyond low Earth orbit.

The board will begin identifying several specific technology collaboration initiatives based on possible future missions suggested by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group. These technology developments and demonstrations on the station could support voyages to an asteroid or Mars or the development of lunar habitats.


Robotic Refueling Experiment Installed on Space Station

About three hours, 15 minutes into the spacewalk on Tuesday, Mike Fossum and Ron Garan completed installing the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) experiment onto a platform on Dextre, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator.

Strapped at the end of Canadarm2, Mike Fossum, one of the ISS crew members, grasped the washing machine-sized box from the shuttle’s payload bay and installed it temporarily on Dextre’s workbench. After the end of the mission, the RRM equipment will be transferred, by Canadarm2 and Dextre, to the EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 4.

The RRM gear consists of a toolbox and a customized task box which will be used to test the technology and techniques required for refueling satellites in flight with remotely-operated robots. Dextre, the Canadian robotic handyman on the Space Station, will carry out the demonstration about six to twelve months after the end of STS-135.

The tests will demonstrate that remote-controlled robots can perform refueling tasks in orbit, using commands sent from controllers on Earth. RRM is expected to reduce costs and risks, and lay the foundation for future robotic servicing missions.

ESA Tests Hypersonic Reentry Technology

ESA PR — A spacecraft control flap designed for the super-heated hypersonic fall through Earth’s atmosphere has come through testing in the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel to be ready for its first flight next year.

This flap and its advanced sensors are destined to fly on ESA’s Expert – the European Experimental Reentry Testbed – a blunt-nosed capsule being shot up to the edge of space next spring on a Russian Volna rocket to gather data on atmospheric reentry at 5 km/s.


Move Over Transformers — Meteron is Here!

ESA PR — Meet Justin, an android who will soon be controlled remotely by the astronauts in ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. With this and other intriguing experiments like the Eurobot rover, ESA is paving the way for exploring the Moon and planets with tele-operated robots.

In two to three years, the experimental robot on Earth will faithfully mimic the movements of an astronaut on the Space Station.

By wearing an exoskeleton wearable robot – a combination of arm and glove with electronic aids to reproduce the sensations a human hand would feel – a distant operator can work as though he were there. (more…)

Roscosmos-ESA to Cooperate on Human Launchers

ROSCOSMOS PR — On June 30, Roscosmos Head V. Popovkin and ESA DG J.J. Dordain met at ESA-ESTEC, the Netherlands, to discuss space cooperation issues.

The parties have signed the protocol which defines establishment of two bilateral working groups. The first one will deal with space science. It will investigate feasibility of common missions to Jupiter moon Europe, asteroids, LEO objects, exploration of the other galaxies, etc.

The other working group is to submit proposals on bilateral cooperation in development of space launchers for human missions. For both branches, the agencies will involve industry. Enhancement of cooperation under human spaceflight programs imply involvement in the multilateral working group which includes Roscosmos, ESA, NASA, ASI, DLR, France.

“The protocol confirms intention of Roscosmos and ESA to improve cooperation and represents the evidence of transition to real activities under space initiatives,” Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin stated.

ESA’s ATV Docks at Space Station

ESA PR 09-2011 — Eight days after launch, ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, completed a flawless rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station at 17:08 CET (16:08 GMT)to deliver essential supplies.


Mars500 Diary: Walking on Mars

Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy on one-hour 12-minute Marswalk on Monday, 14 February 2011 at the simulated martian terrain of the Mars500 experiment facility in Moscow. Credits: ESA / IPMB

Mars 500 Diary: Unpacking the Lander and preparing for a hike on Mars
by Romain Charles
9 February 2011

In the latest diary Romain writes about opening the hatches to the cargo-filled Lander, emptying it and preparing for the big event: ‘landing’ on Mars and going out for a walk!



Amazing Photo: ATV Launch as Seen From Space

This remarkable photo was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the ISS on 16 February 2011, just minutes after ATV Johannes Kepler lifted off on board an Ariane 5 from Kourou at 22:50 UTC. It shows the rising exhaust trail of Ariane, still in its initial vertical trajectory. The trail can be seen as a thin streak framed just beneath the Station's remote manipulator arm. Credits: ESA/ NASA

Feb. 17, 2011

Following a spectacular launch on 16 February, Europe’s space freighter is now in its planned orbit. Mission controllers are preparing to match its trajectory with that of the International Space Station, where it will dock seven days from now.

After a one-day launch delay, ESA’s next Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Johannes Kepler, lifted-off yesterday on an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:50 GMT. A few minutes later, the vessel attained its initial operational orbit at 260 km altitude. Mission controllers immediately began checking out the spacecraft and ensuring that programmed sequences – including deployment of ATV’s four large solar wings – had correctly taken place.


Broadcast Schedule for ESA’s ATV Launch

ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, will be launched on Tuesday, 15 February 2011, at 22:13:27 GMT (23:13:27 CET) by an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou to deliver seven tons of critical supplies and reboost the International Space Station. The launch will be shown live on ESA’s website.

NASA TV coverage of the launch from the northern coast of South America will begin at 3:45 p.m. CST. ESA is scheduled to launch the Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2, or ATV2, on an Ariane 5 rocket at 4:13 p.m. (7:13 p.m. in Kourou). NASA TV coverage will continue through the deployment of the cargo ship’s solar arrays about 90 minutes after launch.

If the ATV2 launches Feb. 15 as scheduled, NASA TV will broadcast the final rendezvous and docking beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Feb. 23. Docking is scheduled at approximately 9:20 a.m.

For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:

Sources: NASA and ESA press releases

Mars500 Update: “Astronauts” Walk on “Mars”


Three crewmembers of the virtual flight to Mars have ‘landed’ on their destination planet and two of them today took their first steps on the simulated martian terrain. The highlight of the Mars500 mission lasted for one hour and 12 minutes, starting at 13:00 Moscow time.


Partners Meet to Coordinate Increased Use of ISS for Research

International Space Station


The International Space Station partner agencies met Thursday, Feb. 3, by video conference to discuss coordinating the increased use of the space station as a research laboratory. The agencies want to continue using the station as a test-bed for exploration and find innovative ways to reduce costs while increasing use.

The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) meeting included senior representatives from NASA; the Canadian Space Agency (CSA); the European Space Agency (ESA); the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos); and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). As the senior management board, the MCB meets periodically to ensure coordination of station operations and activities among the partners.