Plans Underway for New European Polar Ice and Snow Topography Mission

CRISTAL satellite (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Monitoring the cryosphere is essential to fully assess, predict and adapt to climate variability and change. Given the importance of this fragile component of the Earth system, today ESA, along with Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, have signed a contract to develop the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission, known as CRISTAL.

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ESA Awards Airbus €300 Million Copernicus Satellite Contract

CRISTAL satellite (Credit: ESA)
  • CRISTAL will measure sea ice thickness and ice sheet elevations
  • Airbus in Germany will lead the industrial consortium
  • Contract is worth € 300 million

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany, 21 September 2020 – The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus to develop and build the Copernicus polar ice and snow topography mission (CRISTAL). With two satellites the CRISTAL mission will ensure the long-term continuation of radar altimetry ice elevation and change records. It is one of six new missions to expand the current capabilities of the Copernicus space component for the benefit of all European citizens. The contract is worth € 300 million [$352 million].

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SSTL Demonstrates New GNSS-R Capabilities

4 Delay Doppler Maps (DDMs) collected by DoT-1 that show signal reflections from 4 GPS satellites. (Credit: Surrey Satellite Technology)

GUILDFORD, UK (SSTL PR) — Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has successfully demonstrated GNSS-Reflectometry (GNSS-R) from its 18kg DoT-1 satellite. SSTL has pioneered the new field of GNSS-R with successful payloads on board TechDemoSat-1 and the CYGNSS constellation, and is continuing to develop the technology and data analysis in pursuit of this new science.

The latest GNSS-R payload on-board the DoT-1 satellite is incorporated within the new small form factor Core Avionics module integral to all SSTL’s future satellite platforms. This innovation paves the way for any SSTL satellite that can accommodate a nadir pointing antenna to become part of a GNSS-R small-sat constellation.

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ESA Develops Breakthrough Mesh Reflector for Shaped Radio Beams

A prototype 2.6-m diameter metal-mesh antenna reflector. (Credit: Leri Datashvili/Large Space Structures GmbH)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (ESA PR) — This prototype 2.6-m diameter metal-mesh antenna reflector represents a big step forward for the European space sector: versions can be manufactured to reproduce any surface pattern that antenna designers wish, something that was previously possible only with traditional solid antennas.

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ESA Signs 2 Contracts with Exotrail for Delivery of Electric Propulsion Solutions

An artistic rendering of a satellite firing with a Exotrail ExoMG cluster of four thrusters. (Credit: Exotrail)

LUXEMBOURG (ESA PR) — ESA has signed two contracts with Exotrail under which the company will build and deliver engineering, qualification, and flight models of its ExoMG™ – nano  and ExoMG™ – micro electric propulsion systems. These contracts will allow Exotrail to develop new features on both products ready to be demonstrated in space.

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IG Audit: NASA Planetary Program Faces Major Financial, Managerial Challenges

Dragonfly flying over the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) faces a series of managerial, financial and personnel challenges as it prepares to conduct a series of ever more ambitious missions to the moon and planets, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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ESA Awards Contract for Hera Planetary Defense Mission

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

PARIS, 15 September 2020 (ESA PR) — Today ESA awarded a €129.4 million contract covering the detailed design, manufacturing and testing of Hera, the Agency’s first mission for planetary defence. This ambitious mission will be Europe’s contribution to an international asteroid deflection effort, set to perform sustained exploration of a double asteroid system.

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UK-built Nanosatellites Ready for Launch

Four shoebox-sized, British-funded satellites will join a global fleet in orbit in the next two months

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Government-backed ‘nanosatellites’ – built in Glasgow – will launch later this month, joining a fleet of more than 100 objects in low Earth orbit that predict global trade movements.

Two of four nanosatellites, made by Spire Global UK and backed by over £6 million of Government investment, will take off on the Russian Soyuz launcher on 24 September. The other two nanosatellites will be aboard an Indian PSLV launcher, due for launch on 1 November.

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ESA Launches First AI Earth Observation Satellite, Selects a Second

Vega begins its ascent from the Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying CubeSats and microsatellites on a flight to validate Europe’s innovative Small Spacecraft Mission Service. (Credit: Arianespace)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Following the successful launch of ɸ-sat-1 – Europe’s first artificial intelligence Earth observation mission – plans are already underway for the next innovative state-of-the-art technology, ɸ-sat-2.

ɸ-sat-1, an enhancement of the Federated Satellite Systems mission, was launched onboard a Vega rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 3 September at 02:51 BST/03:51 CEST (22:51 on 2 September, Kourou local time). ɸ-sat-1, pronounced PhiSat-1, will demonstrate how satellite data, coupled with advanced onboard digital technologies, can bring benefits to business, industry and science.

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ESAIL Maritime Satellite Launched

The ESAIL satellite mounted on Arianespace’s new launch adapter. (Credit: ESA)

KOUROU, French Guiana (ESA PR) — The ESAIL microsatellite for tracking ships worldwide – developed under ESA’s Partnership Projects programme – has been launched aboard an Arianespace Vega from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The launch took place at 02:51 BST (03:51 CEST) on 3 September.

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Plasma Propulsion for Small Satellites

Rest firing of Europe’s Helicon Plasma Thruster. (Credit: SENER)

A test firing of Europe’s Helicon Plasma Thruster, developed with ESA by SENER in Spain. This compact, electrodeless and low voltage design is ideal for the propulsion of small satellites, including maintaining the formation of large orbital constellations.

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What’s On Board Vega Booster

The European Vega rocket that launched this evening was carrying 53 satellites on its first rideshare mission as part of the Small Spacecraft Mission Service Proof of Concept Flight.

The payloads included 14 Flock 4V Earth imaging satellites from Planet, 12 SpaceBEE Internet of Things spacecraft from Swarm Technologies, and 8 maritime monitoring satellites from Spire.

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Canadian Institute Urges United Nations Agreement on Use of Outer Space Resources

Thermal mining of ices on cold solar system bodies (Credit: George Sowers)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a challenge to the United States’ position that extraterrestrial resources can be legally extracted and utilized under existing law, The Outer Space Institute (OSI) is urging the United Nations to quickly begin work on an international agreement to govern these activities.

“It is our opinion that the speed and scale of developments relating to the exploration, exploitation and utilization of space resources require more affirmative and urgent action,” OSI said in an open letter to UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent earlier this month.

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ESA Welcomes 6 Tech Start-ups to Business Incubation Program

HARWELL, UK (ESA PR) — ESA is continuing to use space to boost innovation in the UK by welcoming six exciting tech starts-ups to its world-leading business incubation programme.

With the help of the ESA Business Incubation Centre UK (ESA BIC UK), the fledgling companies are working in a wide range of areas to develop game-changing solutions – from augmented reality applications to novel spacecraft propulsion systems.

Routemasters is using space technology to create a planning platform that will support more efficient transport networks in emerging cities, and Sociate AI is developing an artificial intelligence training tool to get the most from Earth observation data for the benefit of British agriculture.

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Meet the Experts: A Laboratory in Space

Video Caption: Flying 400km above our heads, the International Space Station (ISS) is the world’s laboratory in space. But what kind of research is done there and how does it affect our lives on Earth? ESA expert Dr. Jason Hatton discusses notable research from the ISS and how the unique location of this facility allows us to explore never-before-seen phenomena in this episode of Meet the Experts.

Find more episodes in the series here: https://www.esa.int/Education/Expedit…