ESA Approves €2.55 billion in Contracts for 6 Copernicus Satellite Missions

Copernicus Sentinel-3 (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Following the financial commitment from ESA Member States at last November’s Council at Ministerial Level Space19+, ESA’s industrial policy committee has approved contracts totalling €2.55 billion [$2.87 million] to forward the development of six new Copernicus satellite missions, each mission comprising two satellites, a development and a recurrent unit. 

The overall package is co-funded by the EU and ESA Member States, and relies on future funding from the EU Multiannual financial framework.

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New Funding Call for UK Earth Observation Sector

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — More than £800,000 [$983,000] is available to the UK space sector as part of European Space Agency (ESA) support for innovative commercial projects related to Earth Observation.

The programme, InCubed, aims to support industry-led initiatives that will open new market opportunities. The call will bring innovative systems and products to market faster and help Earth Observation businesses compete in the global marketplace.

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ESA Awards €1 Million to NanoAvionics to Develop New Satellite Propulsion Technologies

VILNIUS, Lithuania (NanoAvioncs PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) has granted 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to nanosatellite mission integrator NanoAvionics to develop key components for small satellite propulsion systems.

The new propulsion technologies, with a thrust of up to 5N, aim to further reduce the cost of small satellite projects while making each satellite more reliable, propellant supply chains safer, and constellations more economical. Based on those components a new generation of propulsion systems for small satellites will be used in future ESA missions, and available to commercial satellite operators across the world.

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Working Remotely at the German Space Operations Center – New Plasma Crystal Experiments on ISS

PK-4 – a neon tube as an experimental reactor (Credit: MPE)
  • Important milestone – successful completion of the 10th measurement campaign with the PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory on the ISS.
  • For the first time, the German Space Operations Center has taken over the scientific support of the PK experiments.
  • COVID-19 protection measures – DLR scientists from Oberpfaffenhofen maintain contact with the PK-4 Control Centre in Toulouse and the ISS.
  • Unique insights using PK-4 – plasma crystals can form in microgravity. The plasma particles behave like atoms and can be observed individually with the naked eye.

OBERFAFFENHOFEN, Germany (DLR PR) — Under normal circumstances, the researchers would have gone to Toulouse, as only from there can they control the PK-4 plasma crystal laboratory, which has been on board the International Space Station (ISS) since 2015. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has made travelling from Oberpfaffenhofen to the CADMOS Control Centre in France impossible. The experiments under microgravity conditions, which had taken months of preparation, were at risk of being cancelled.

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CNES Conducts R&D Challenge for Future Launch Systems

PARIS (CNES PR) — On Wednesday, 24 June, research laboratories, start-ups, PMEs and other firms presented their work contributing to the launch systems of the future to a top-level audience. In all, €750,000 worth of CNES contracts were awarded to the laureates, which each received €50,000 or €100,000 to develop their solutions.

At its Innovation Day on 7 February in Toulouse, CNES announced a Launchers R&D Challenge under its Connect by CNES initiative, in partnership with ArianeGroup and ESA, designed to ease access to funding for launch systems.

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Job Opening: ESA Looks for a New Leader

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

Do you love space?
Are you European?
Want to run a space agency that spends billions of dollars?

The European Space Agency (ESA) has got a job for you. The ultimate job. See the press release below.

Vacancy for the post of ESA Director General

ESA Council approved yesterday the publication of the position of Director General, to succeed Johann-Dietrich Wörner, whose mandate comes to an end in mid-2021.

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Hera and its Asteroid Target

ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence seen approaching the Dimorphos asteroid moonlet. (Credit: OHB)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence seen approaching the Dimorphos asteroid moonlet, which is destined to become the subject of an audacious deflection experiment.

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ESA Council Approves Lunar Gateway, Mars Sample Return MOUs with NASA

PARIS (ESA PR) — The ESA Council met today in its 290th session and took some important decisions regarding the Executive’s senior management.

Several other decisions were taken in the meeting, in particular:

  • An adaptation of ESA’s decision-making to ensure efficient deliberation and ultimately, business continuity amid the current pandemic, particularly allowing remote participation and voting by Council members
  • The approval of a Memorandum of Understanding with NASA concerning Cooperation on the Civil Lunar Gateway, taking a step towards sending the first European to the Moon 
  • The approval of a Memorandum of Understanding with NASA concerning the Flight elements of the Mars Sample Return Campaign, consolidating the ambitious schedule towards the first-ever ‘round trip’ to Mars with return of pristine martian soil samples
  • In order to prepare the ESA/EU Council at ministerial Level (Space Council) to be held in November 2020, the ESA Council adopted a resolution to set-up a Council Working Group.
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NASA’s First Planetary Defense Mission Target Gets a New Name

DART mission profile (Credit: NASA)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — Nearly two decades ago, a near-Earth asteroid was discovered to have a moon and the binary system was given the name “Didymos”—Greek for “twin,” a loose description of the larger main body and the smaller orbiting moon, which became unofficially known as Didymos B. 

In 2022, that moon will be the target of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the first full-scale demonstration of an asteroid deflection technology for planetary defense. The DART spacecraft will execute a kinetic impact, deliberately crashing into the asteroid to change its motion in space. To mark this historic mission, Didymos B is getting an official name of its own: Dimorphos.

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Airbus Wins Next Study Contract for Martian Sample Fetch Rover

Landing in 2028, the rover will then travel an average of 200 metres a day, over a period of six months to find and pick up the samples. It will collect up to 36 tubes, carry them back to the lander and place them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle which will launch them into orbit around Mars. (Credit: NASA)

Work progresses on joint ESA/NASA mission to bring samples back from Mars

STEVENAGE, UK (Airbus PR) – Airbus Defence and Space has won the next phase of the study contract (Advanced B2) from the European Space Agency (ESA) for the advanced Sample Fetch Rover which will be used to collect samples from the surface of Mars.

Mars Sample Return is a joint NASA and ESA campaign to return samples from the Red Planet. NASA’s 2020 Mars rover mission Perseverance will collect Martian soils and rock samples and leave them on the surface in small metal tubes.

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Watch Vega’s Rideshare Launch Live This Weekend

Shown during the SSMS payload integration process for Arianespace’s Flight VV16 is the ION CubeSat carrier – a platform that will deploy 12 CubeSats after being placed in orbit by the Vega launcher. (Credit: Arianespace)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — Subject to favourable weather conditions, the soonest possible launch date for the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) proof-of-concept flight is Sunday 21 June from 02:36 BST/03:36 CEST (20 June at 22:51 local time in Kourou).

Please check here for updates.

Tune in to ESA Web TV to watch the return to flight of Vega on its debut rideshare mission dedicated to light satellites.

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4,000th Comet Discovered by ESA & NASA Solar Observatory

The 4,000th comet discovered by ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA’s SOHO observatory is seen here in an image from the spacecraft alongside SOHO’s 3,999th comet discovery. The two comets are relatively close at approximately 1 million miles apart, suggesting that they could have been connected together as recently as a few years ago. Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO/Karl Battams

By Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — On June 15, 2020, a citizen scientist spotted a never-before-seen comet in data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO — the 4,000th comet discovery in the spacecraft’s 25-year history.  

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NASA, Partner Space Agencies to Release Global View of COVID-19 Impacts

A unique collection of data from Earth-observing spacecraft managed by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will track the environmental and socioeconomic impacts caused by the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) will unveil a dashboard of satellite data showing impacts on the environment and socioeconomic activity caused by the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during a media teleconference at 9 a.m. EDT Thursday, June 25.

The COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard is a tri-agency collaboration that brings together current and historical satellite observations with analytical tools to create a user-friendly information resource for the public and researchers. The dashboard tracks key indicators of changes in air and water quality, climate, economic activity, and agriculture.

The teleconference participants are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington
  • Josef Aschbacher, director of ESA Earth observation programmes, Frascati, Italy
  • Koji Terada, vice president and director general for the Space Technology Directorate at JAXA, Tsukuba, Japan
  • Shin-ichi Sobue, project manager for JAXA’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2, Tsukuba, Japan
  • Ken Jucks, upper atmosphere research program manager at NASA’s Earth Science Division, Washington
  • Marie-Helene Rio, ocean applications scientist at the ESA Centre for Earth Observation, Frascati, Italy

Members of the media and the public can also submit questions before and during the briefing via social media with the hashtag #AskNASA.

Audio of the teleconference with supporting graphics will stream live at:

http://www.nasa.gov/live

A link to the COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard along with supporting graphics for the briefing will become available at approximately 8 a.m. Thursday, June 25 at:

https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/13647

For more information about NASA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/coronavirus

For more information on NASA’s Earth Science programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/earth

New International Ocean Satellite Completes Testing

Mission team members perform acoustic tests of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite in a chamber outfitted with giant speakers that blast the spacecraft with sound. This is to ensure that the high decibels associated with liftoff won’t damage the spacecraft. (Credit: Airbus)

A team of engineers in the U.S. and Europe subjected the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft to a battery of trials to ready it for liftoff later this year.


Once the state-of-the-art Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches in November, it will collect the most accurate data yet on sea level – a key indicator of how Earth’s warming climate is affecting the oceans, weather and coastlines. But first, engineers need to ensure that the spacecraft can survive the rigors of launch and of operating in the harsh environment of space. That’s where meticulous testing comes in.

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Foam, of Coarse

Foam Coarsening experiment on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

BRUSSELS (ESA PR) — The Foam-Coarsening experiment ran a new batch of cartridges in the Fluid Sciences Laboratory of the European Columbus module.

The experiment began in April to study foams in depth under the more stable conditions afforded by microgravity on the International Space Station.

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