Getting IXV Ready

ESA is getting ready to launch the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle or IXV. This will test technologies and critical systems for Europe’s autonomous reentry for return missions from low Earth orbit. The IXV is said to be about the size of a car being 5 m long, 1.5 m high, 2.2 m wide and weighs almost 2 tons.

The IXV is to be launched atop a Vega rocket from the Europe’s Spaceport (French Guiana) in November. The flight will collect an immense amount of data during the 1 hour and 40 minute flight to the Pacific Ocean.

The flight will be short in duration and will have HUGE implications for ESA’s ambition of autonomous reentry and the possibilities that will present not to mention a U.K. Spaceport.

ESA’s IXV web page.

U.K. — The Place for Space?

U.K Spaceport concept.  Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

U.K Spaceport concept. Image: U.K. Space Agency via Spaceref

The UK is considering to open a spaceport and do it by 2018. The idea is for the UK to become a leader in the growing space market.

Business Secretary Vince Cable:

“Space is big business for the UK. It already contributes £11.3 billion to the economy each year, supporting nearly 35,000 jobs. That’s why it’s important for us to prepare the UK for new launcher technology and take steps towards meeting our ambition of establishing the first British spaceport by 2018.”

Exploring the opportunities that commercial spaceflight presents, and potentially making strategic investments in this area, will support the growth of this thriving industry and underpin the economy of tomorrow, making the UK the place for space

He and the government are very likely correct, a spaceport will provide a focal point for investment, provided they can get established early on and now is the time.

So how do they plan on getting a spaceport up and running by 2018? It won’t be as difficult as you might expect because existing facilities can be adapted. A recent civil Aviation Authority report named eight existing airfields that might be able to host an spaceport and not just any place will do because in addition to meteorological, environmental and economic criteria a few physical factors come into play:

- an existing runway which is, or is capable of being extended to, over 3000 metres in length
- the ability to accommodate dedicated segregated airspace to manage spaceflights safely
- a reasonable distance from densely populated areas in order to minimise impact on the uninvolved general public

The eight possibilities:

- Campbeltown Airport (Scotland)
- Glasgow Prestwick Airport (Scotland)
- Llanbedr Airport (Wales)
- Newquay Cornwall Airport (England)
- Kinloss Barracks (Scotland)
- RAF Leuchars (Scotland)
- RAF Lossiemouth (Scotland)
- Stornorway Airport (Scotland)

Will the UK become “The Place for Space”? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Hubble Shows Us NGC 121

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) shows us NGC 121.  Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgment: Stefano Campani

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) shows us NGC 121. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgment: Stefano Campani

This is one of those “southern gems” I cannot see. Not far away is NGC 104 and the bright NGC 292 among a host of others in an around the Small Magellanic Cloud.

It’s little wonder I like globulars. I found some of the images I took in the back yard, I’ll post some, nothing like this Hubble image though.

Here is a nice tutorial on Globular Clusters from SEDS.

The NASA caption:

This image shows NGC 121, a globular cluster in the constellation of Tucana (The Toucan). Globular clusters are big balls of old stars that orbit the centers of their galaxies like satellites — the Milky Way, for example, has around 150.

NGC 121 belongs to one of our neighboring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). It was discovered in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel, and in recent years it has been studied in detail by astronomers wishing to learn more about how stars form and evolve.
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The Crescent Saturn

Cassini sees a crescent on Saturn from 2 million km.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini sees a crescent on Saturn from 2 million km. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini treats us to a view we would otherwise not get, a crescent Saturn. The view is from the unilluminated side of the rings and was taken in green light.

The angle us just right at 43 degrees below the ringplane so the rings don’t appear to interrupt the crescent. You may notice the “dark” area outside the crescent is faintly illuminated and that is from “ringshine”.

Get a full res version here at JPL’s Cassini site.

Moon Eclipses Saturn

Moon eclipses Saturn. Copyright: Carlo Di Nallo

Moon eclipses Saturn. Copyright: Carlo Di Nallo

This photo taken from Buenos Aires, presumably by Carlo Di Nallo – my hat is off to him. Bravo!

Here’s the caption from ESA:

What happened to half of Saturn? Nothing other than Earth’s Moon getting in the way. As pictured above on the far right, Saturn is partly eclipsed by a dark edge of a Moon itself only partly illuminated by the Sun. This year the orbits of the Moon and Saturn have led to an unusually high number of alignments of the ringed giant behind Earth’s largest satellite. Technically termed an occultation, the above image captured one such photogenic juxtaposition from Buenos Aires, Argentina that occurred early last week. Visible to the unaided eye but best viewed with binoculars, there are still four more eclipses of Saturn by our Moon left in 2014. The next one will be on August 4 and visible from Australia, while the one after will occur on August 31 and be visible from western Africa at night but simultaneously from much of eastern North America during the day.

Tire Wear

The wheel wear on the rover Curiosity.  Credit: JPL / NASA

The wheel wear on the rover Curiosity. Credit: JPL / NASA

Driving around on Mars is tough. I’ve been watching the wheel wear since I noticed what I thought was unusual wear back in November 2013. I know NASA is watching also, they are taking regular images of the wheels and possibly watching the substrate under the rover too (I think I read that at some point but I could be wrong too).

So just to keep you updated, this particular image was taken a couple of days ago on 17 July (Sol 691) and you can plainly see the wear. Hard to say if things are getting worse or not, I’m going with not.  The treads look good and the in-between parts would be less of a concern if the inner and outer parts of the wheel were tied into the treads somehow and they could be.  So, I’ll stay optimistic, but I’m still surprised at the extent of the wear.

One Year to Go

Only a year before we arrive at Pluto.

Only? Don’t worry there is so much going on in space science the time will pass quickly I think. Next up Rosetta and if you have not seen the new animation of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko do check it out. Weird shape, kind of like a boot, we will see a clear image shortly. Is it one chunk or two stuck together?

Source

Rosetta Getting Close

Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta uses the OSIRIS imaging system to get a look at its destination. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta is getting close and Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looks to be a very good choice. The since the previous image release on 4 July, Rosetta as reduced its distance to the comet by 25,000 km (to 12,000 km from 35,000 km).

BE SURE to check out the link in the description below – Great site!

Description from ESA:

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was imaged on 14 July 2014 by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, from a distance of approximately 12 000 km. This image has been processed using ‘sub-sampling by interpolation’, a technique that removes the pixelisation and makes a smoother image. It does not, however, reveal hidden detail and it is therefore important to note that the comet’s surface is not very likely to be as smooth as the processing implies. The image suggests that the comet may consist of two parts: one segment seems to be rather elongated, while the other appears more bulbous.

Read more via the blog: The dual personality of comet 67P/C-G