ESA Opens Oxygen Plant – Making Air Out of Moondust

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse and Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow preparing to make oxygen and metal out of simulated moondust inside ESA’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory. (Credit: ESA–A. Conigili)

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

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First Spacebus Neo Satellite Launched

Spacebus Neo Konnect in the thermal vacuum test chamber. (Credit: Thales Alenia Space)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Ariane 5’s first launch of 2020 has delivered two telecom satellites, Konnect and GSAT-30, into their planned transfer orbits. Arianespace announced liftoff at 21:05 GMT (22:05 CET, 18:05 local time) this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Konnect, with a launch mass of 3619 kg, was the first to be released after about 27 minutes.

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ExoMars Rover Completes Environmental Tests

ExoMars rover undergoing environmental testing. (Credit: Airbus)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — The Rosalind Franklin rover of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission completed a series of environmental tests at the end of 2019 at Airbus, Toulouse, France. This included final thermal and vacuum tests where the Rover is heated and cooled to simulate the temperatures of its journey through space and on the surface of Mars.

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Watch ESA Director General’s Press Briefing on Wednesday

ESA Director General Jan Woerner opens the ESA-RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory on Harwell Campus, UK. (Credit: STFC-S.Kill)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Follow the ESA Director General’s start-of-the-year press briefing at 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET) on 15 January 2020. 

This briefing, with DG Jan Wörner and ESA Directors, will lay out plans for the new budget committed to by Member States at Space19+ and look ahead at 2020.

In particular this year, we are looking forward to the launches of Solar Orbiter and ExoMars 2020, key missions in Science and Exploration, as well as Sentinel-6A, and the return to flight of Vega. We will welcome back Luca Parmitano from his Beyond mission, and continue to prepare for future exploration in low Earth orbit and at the lunar Gateway. Our new Space Safety Programme will be of vital importance as we monitor and mitigate threats in space and from space.

Space19+ also reinforced our belief that climate change and environmental monitoring are of paramount importance to our Member States. Other space applications are becoming more important by the day such as satellites for 5G and the Internet of Things, as well as new navigation applications, and downstream use of space data to improve life on Earth.

Watch the press briefing on ESA Web TV.

Video: Back to the Moon with ESA

Video Caption: The first flight of the Artemis programme, which will see humans return to the Moon, is scheduled to begin soon.

The lunar spacecraft consists of NASA’s Orion crew module and the European Service Module, or ESM. Developed by ESA and building on technology from its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the ESM will provide propulsion, life support, environmental control and electrical power to Orion.

The Artemis 1 spacecraft modules are undergoing thermal vacuum and electromagnetic interference tests in the world’s largest space simulation vacuum chamber at the Glenn Research Centre’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, USA.

Learn more about Orion: http://bit.ly/ESAOrion

ECMWF Starts Assimilating Aeolus Wind Data

Aeolus is a polar-orbiting satellite which sends laser light into the atmosphere and measures the backscatter to obtain information on winds in the direction perpendicular to the satellite’s path. (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

https://www.ecmwf.int/en/about/media-centre/news/2020/ecmwf-starts-assimilating-aeolus-wind-data

READING, England (ECMWF PR) — The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF ) started assimilating wind data from the European Space Agency’s ground-breaking Aeolus satellite operationally on 9 January 2020 after tests showed that they significantly improve weather forecasts.

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First Spacebus Neo Satellite Set for Launch

The Konnect satellite is placed within the fairing for launch aboard Ariane 5. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — The first satellite developed under an initiative to help European industry deliver competitive satellites for the commercial telecommunications market has entered its final phase before launch.

Konnect will provide broadband services for Europe and Africa, and was built by Thales Alenia Space for Eutelsat, its commercial operator, under an ESA Partnership Project.

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ESA and EDA Joint Research: Advancing into the Unknown

Hera deploying its two CubeSats. (Credit: ESA – Science Office)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA and the European Defence Agency (EDA) are embarking on new cooperative projects for exploring unknown or potentially hazardous environments: harnessing drones for the monitoring of disaster-stricken regions or toxic spill sites and making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to navigate across the surface of asteroids or other terra incognita.

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CubeSat Finds its Way in Space with Galileo Receiver

This Astrocast CubeSat launched in December 2018 included a test satnav receiver. (Credit: Astrocast)

ZURICH (ESA PR) — A miniature CubeSat has become the first satellite to perform Galileo-based position fixes in orbit using a commercial satnav receiver.

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Originally devised for educational uses, they are nowadays being put to commercial and technology testing uses. The Swiss Astrocast company is assembling a constellation based on 3-unit CubeSats to serve the emerging ‘Internet of Things’.

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ESA Signs Contract with Arianespace for Euclid Launch

Arianespace and the European Space Agency (ESA) today announced the signature of a launch services contract for the Euclid satellite – with the mission’s timeframe for liftoff starting in mid-2022 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

Euclid mission will be compatible with Ariane 62 and Soyuz.

Euclid is a medium-class astronomy and astrophysics space mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 scientific program to investigate the history of the expansion of our Universe over the past 10 billion years, looking into the current acceleration of cosmic expansion fueled by a mysterious component referred to as dark energy, and the growth of cosmic structures driven by the presence of dark matter.

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Video: ESA’s Highlights of 2019

Video Caption: As the year comes to a close, it is once again time to look back and reflect on some of the achievements and highlights of European spaceflight.

The new Gaia star catalogue and the launch of Cheops are keeping ESA at the forefront of space science, as will Solar Orbiter, being prepared for launch next year.

The Copernicus programme continues to be the largest Earth observation programme in the world, with ESA preparing even more missions.

On the Space Station, Luca Parmitano became the third European to command an ISS expedition. During his second mission, he made some of the space programme’s most complex and demanding spacewalks.

At the end of 2019, the ESA Space19+ ministerial conference agreed to give ESA its largest budget ever and expressed continued support for Europe’s independent access to space with Ariane 6 and Vega-C.

ESA Reports Promising Progress for ExoMars Parachutes

A series of clips from different angles and at different speeds showing parachute extraction tests using a NASA/JPL test rig powered by compressed air.  The lid of the parachute assembly is pulled along a suspended cable at high speed while the end of the assembly is fixed to a wall. When the release mechanism is activated, the parachute bag is pulled away from the parachute at the target speed, mimicking the extraction as it will be on Mars. At the highest speeds, the tests enable the extraction to take place at more than 200 km/h.

PARIS (ESA PR) — A series of ground-based tests designed to check the extraction of the ExoMars 2020 mission’s parachutes from their bags have started successfully with promising results to keep the mission on track for next year’s launch.

Landing on Mars is a high-risk endeavour with no room for error. In just six minutes, a descent module with its precious cargo cocooned inside has to slow from around 21 000 km/h at the top of the planet’s atmosphere, to a soft landing at the surface controlled by the lander’s propulsion system.

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Solving the Challenges of Long Duration Space Flight with 3D Printing

NASA Astronaut Barry (Butch) Wilmore holds a ratchet wrench created in 2014 with the 3D printer aboard the International Space Station using a design file transmitted from the ground. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The International Space Station has continuously been home to astronauts for more than nineteen years. Astronauts conduct scientific research using dozens of special facilities aboard the space station, which also provides them with a place to eat, sleep, relax and exercise. To make all of this possible requires sending more than 7,000 pounds of spare parts to the station annually. Another 29,000 pounds of spaceflight hardware spares are stored aboard the station and another 39,000 on the ground, ready to fly if needed.

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