Category Archives: ESA

Rosetta’s Moment in the Sun

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and its human-made-moon called Rosetta has now passed its closest distance to the Sun in this orbit (perihelion) and is now spending several weeks at peak activity. The activity means the flight operations team must be prepared to react to fast jets of dust and gas erupting from the comet or stray boulders ejected from its surface.

Video from ESA

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The Surface of a Comet

The Philae lander shows us what the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko looks like in this very nice image.  I don’t know what I expected to see, but this is surprisingly familiar. I wonder what the surface make up is.



From ESA:
This image was taken by Philae’s ROsetta Lander Imaging System, ROLIS 9 m above the Agilkia landing site on the small lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was acquired at 15:33:58 GMT on 12 November 2014. The image measures 9.7 m across and the image scale is 0.95 cm/pixel. Part of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in the top corners.

This detailed image reveals the granular texture of the comet’s surface down to the cm scale, with fragments of material of diverse shapes and random orientations seen in clusters or alone. The regolith in this region is thought to extend to a depth of 2 m in places, but seems to be free from very fine-grained dust deposits at the resolution of the images.

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Abell 78


This image from ESA’s Space in Images shows the planetary nebular Abell 78. The faint hydrogen “bubble” of the nebula is around 1.4 light years across, the inner envelope of helium has resumed fusion – it’s reborn.

Copyright ESA/XMM-Newton/J.A. Toalá et al. 2015

ESA’s description:

Beneath the vivid hues of this eye-shaped cloud, named Abell 78, a tale of stellar life and death is unfolding. At the centre of the nebula, a dying star – not unlike our Sun – which shed its outer layers on its way to oblivion has, for a brief period of time, come back to echo its past glory.

Continue reading

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Asteroid Day: Ask the ESA Experts

On Asteroid Day (30 June) ESA experts on Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and asteroids answered the public’s most insightful questions. Respondents include Ian Carnelli, AIM Project Manager, Detlef Koshny, SSA-NEO Segment Manager and Michael Kueppers, AIM Project Scientist.


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Sentinel-2A Launch Replay

Here’s a replay of the launch of Sentinel-2A, the second satellite of Europe’s Copernicus environment monitoring program. Video courtesy of ESA.

From ESA:
Designed as a two-satellite constellation – Sentinel-2A and -2B – the Sentinel-2 mission carries an innovative wide swath high-resolution multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands for a new perspective of our land and vegetation. This information will be used for agricultural and forestry practices and for helping manage food security. It will also provide information on pollution in lakes and coastal waters. Images of floods, volcanic eruptions and landslides contribute to disaster mapping and help humanitarian relief efforts.

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Philae is AWAKE!!


The Philae lander is alive and well on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenk and is sending data packets back to ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt.

The lander has 24 watts available and is “ready for operations” according to DLR Philae Project Manager Dr. Stephan Ulamec.

The transmissions lasted 85 seconds when Philae “spoke” via the Rosetta spacecraft for the first time since 15 November 2014 when Philae shut down after about 60 hours of operation. Rosetta has been listening for signals from Philae since 12 March 2015.

Check out the Rosetta blog for more information. THIS IS EXCELLENT!!!!

The image shows the journey of the Philae lander captured by the Rosetta OSIRIS camera for a 30 minute span. The lander was to have landed and stayed put but that didn’t work as planned and the actual location wasn’t immediately apparent. Link to ESA image description – it’s more complete.

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ESA, France’s space agency CNES and the German aerospace centre DLR inaugurated the Airbus A310 ZERO-G refitted for altered gravity by running 12 scientific experiments this week.

The French company Novespace has conducted “parabolic flights” for more than 25 years. By flying the parabolic patterns at around 50 degrees up and down a brief period of weightlessness is created at the top of the curve. As the plane comes “over the top” forces on everything in the plane (people included) cancels out and weightlessness is achieved for a brief period.

We’ve all see the videos, what I seldom thought about is what happens at the bottom of the curve. When the plane “bottoms out” and starts climbing the forces on everything in the plane is about 2G.

This particular plane is new being acquired in 2014 replacing an Airbus A300. You won’t find many seats in the passenger area, you will find padded walls so people do not get hurt during the weight/weightless cycles, sick maybe, but not hurt.

Image: ESA

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IXV Readies for Launch

The  Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, installed on its payload adapter being readied for the 11 February launch. Credit:  ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2015
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, installed on its payload adapter being readied for the 11 February launch. Credit: ESA–M. Pedoussaut, 2015

February is here and soon ESA’s IXV (Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle) will be put to a big test.

The IXV is about the size of a car and will be lifted by a Vega rocet from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana this month if all goes well. The IXV will reach an altitude of about 420 km / 256 miles and then it will reach a speed of 7.5 km/sec or 16,777 mph as it interfaces with the atmosphere at 120 km / 74 miles.

The idea is to simulate any re-entry from low Earth orbit. YES! This is huge! ESA will open up a whole new set of possibilities with the capability of atmospheric return.

The mission should last only about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
About the IXV from ESA

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