Category Archives: ESA

Larsen C

I’ve seen a few different views of Larsen C and this image from ESA’s Sentinel-1 spacecraft is one of the best and arguably the most interesting.

ESA — On 12 July 2017, Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission returned radar images showing that a lump of ice more than twice the size of Luxembourg had broken off the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then, this large tabular iceberg – known as A68 – has drifted about 5 km from the ice shelf. Images from Sentinel-1 also show that a cluster of more than 11 smaller icebergs has also now formed, the largest of which is over 13 km long. These ‘bergy bits’ have broken off both the giant iceberg and the remaining ice shelf. The image has been compiled using Sentinel-1 acquisitions on 27 July (right) and 30 July (left).

Image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by BAS–A. Fleming.

The Blue Streak Rocket

The Blue Streak developed by Britain started out as a military weapon in 1955. The military aspect of the programme was ended in 1960 and was reassigned to the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) to launch satellites into orbit.

Britain pulled out of the ELDO in 1971, the last (British) Blue Streak programme launch was on 12 Jaunuary 1970 and the last ELDO Blue Streak launch being from French Guyana in 1971.

The entire ELDO project was canceled in 1973 and was replaced the the European Space Agency (ESA) we know today.


This ‘family portrait’ shows a composite of images of Jupiter, including it’s Great Red Spot, and its four largest moons. From top to bottom, the moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Europa is almost the same size as Earth’s moon, while Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System, is larger than planet Mercury.
While Io is a volcanically active world, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are icy, and may have oceans of liquid water under their crusts. Europa in particular may even harbour a habitable environment.
Jupiter and its large icy moons will provide a key focus for ESA’s JUICE mission. The spacecraft will tour the Jovian system for about three-and-a-half years, including flybys of the moons. It will also enter orbit around Ganymede, the first time any moon beyond our own has been orbited by a spacecraft.
The images of Jupiter, Io, Europa and Ganymede were taken by NASA’s Galileo probe in 1996, while the Callisto image is from the 1979 flyby of Voyager.

The JUICE mission sounds like a typical ESA mission — ambitious and well planned.  It should be exciting, even if there is a long tome until launch.  Read more about the JUICE mission here.

Supersonic Parachute

I am always amazed at parachute tests,.  A capsule (see link below) is speeding along at 12 times the speed of sound and then the parachute is deployed creating incredible stresses on the system, in the end designs it all holds together. For some unknown reason this test got me to wondering how much stretch the attaching parachute cord occurs and what the tensile strength is, for that matter what it is made of.   Oh I’m sure the data is out there, I just need to find it.

About the test:
ESA — This parachute deployed at supersonic velocity from a test capsule hurtling down towards snow-covered northern Sweden from 679 km up, proving a crucial technology for future spacecraft landing systems.

Planetary landers or reentering spacecraft need to lose their speed rapidly to achieve safe landings, which is where parachutes come in. They have played a crucial role in the success of ESA missions such as ESA’s Atmospheric Entry Demonstrator, the Huygens lander on Saturn’s moon Titan and the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle spaceplane.

This 1.25-m diameter ‘Supersonic Parachute Experiment Ride on Maxus’, or Supermax, flew piggyback on ESA’s Maxus-9 sounding rocket on 7 April, detaching from the launcher after its solid-propellant motor burnt out.

After reaching its maximum 679 km altitude, the capsule began falling back under the pull of gravity. It fell at 12 times the speed of sound, undergoing intense aerodynamic heating, before air drag decelerated it to Mach 2 at an altitude of 19 km.

At this point the capsule’s parachute was deployed to stabilise it for a soft landing, and allowing its onboard instrumentation and camera footage to be recovered intact.

The experiment was undertaken by UK companies Vorticity Ltd and Fluid Gravity Engineering Ltd under ESA contract.

The data gathered by this test are being added to existing wind tunnel test campaigns of supersonic parachutes to validate newly developed software called the Parachute Engineering Tool (also developed by Vorticity), allowing mission designers to accurately assess the use of parachutes.

LISA Mission Ends

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna or LISA mission ended yesterday.

The LISA Pathfinder mission set out to test the technology needed to detect gravity waves.  The gravity waves were predicted to exist by Einstein a hundred years ago (actually in 1916).  Could they be found?

Thanks to the LISA mission we know, yes they can!  Here’s a new video from ESA that gives a good overview.

BepiColombo Acoustic Test

Very pleased to see a BepiColombo online and at an acoustic test no less. I wondered how they tested for acoustics, was a shake-test enough?  Apparently not.

ESA – The full BepiColombo stack seen in the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF) at ESA’s test centre in June 2017. The walls of the chamber are fitted with powerful speakers that reproduce the noise expected during launch.

From bottom to top: the Mercury Transfer Module (sitting on top of a the cone-shaped adapter), the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (with an antenna facing towards the camera), and the sunshield (top), within which sits the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.

The noise of a launch is incredible! The echo is so strong it could knock tiles off a Space Shuttle. The noise is mitigated so some degree with suppression systems, ever wonder what the water is for during launches, it is noise suppression.

Credit: ESA–C. Carreau, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

ESA Contribution to Orion

Wow,  pretty exciting to see all that effort get to this point.  Good Luck!!

ESA – Set to be shipped to the USA around the New Year, ESA’s contribution to NASA’s Orion spacecraft is taking shape at Airbus in Bremen, Germany. This is no test article: the service module pictured here will fly into space by 2020, past the Moon and farther than any other human-rated spacecraft has ever flown before.

The service module will supply electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen, propulsion and temperature control.

The blue circular frame is the support structure that holds the module as technicians work to get it ready. Yellow ties keep the 11 km of wiring in place as the thousands of components are installed and connected – the ties will be removed before flight. Behind the red support covers are the eight 490 N R-4D-11 thrusters, built by Aerojet.

Technicians are working in three shifts a day to assemble the components that are being shipped from all over Europe to complete this service module in just a few months’ time. In December it will be taken by road to Bremen airport and flown to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to meet its crew capsule.

Read more about the Orion mission and Europe’s involvement on the minisite.

Credit: ESA

Pesquet Peeks

I hope he has a framed copy of this image on his wall.

ESA – ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet looking out of the International Space Station’s Cupola window shortly before the end of his six-month Proxima mission.

Thomas commented: “The day of return is approaching: I can’t wait to be on Earth again and see my loved ones… but I will certainly miss the view”

Credit: ESA