Category Archives: ESA

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.


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.

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.



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

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

Comet Dust

Dust particles from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for COSIMA Team MPS/CSNSM/UNIBW/TUORLA/IWF/IAS/ESA/ BUW/MPE/LPC2E/LCM/FMI/UTU/LISA/UOFC/vH&S
Dust particles from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko collected by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/MPS for COSIMA Team MPS/CSNSM/UNIBW/TUORLA/IWF/IAS/ESA/ BUW/MPE/LPC2E/LCM/FMI/UTU/LISA/UOFC/vH&S

One of the instruments on board ESA’s Rosetta called COSIMA, short for the COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser one of three dust analysis experiments.

Essentially this instrument has a plate for catching dust grains from the comet at fairly low speeds. The dust grains shown above is two of the grains collected and they have yielded some interesting results.

I’ll let ESA explain:

Two examples of dust grains collected by Rosetta’s COmetary Secondary Ion Mass Analyser (COSIMA) instrument in the period 25–31 October 2014. Both grains were collected at a distance of 10–20 km from the comet nucleus. Image (a) shows a dust particle (named by the COSIMA team as Eloi) that crumbled into a rubble pile when collected; (b) shows a dust particle that shattered (named Arvid).

For both grains, the image is shown twice under two different grazing illumination conditions: the top image is illuminated from the right, the bottom image from the left. The brightness is adjusted to emphasise the shadows, in order to determine the height of the dust grain. Eloi therefore reaches about 0.1 mm above the target plate; Arvid about 0.06 mm. The two small grains at the far right of image (b) are not part of the shattered cluster.

The fact that the grains broke apart so easily means their individual parts are not well glued together. If they contained ice they would not shatter; instead, the icy component would evaporate off the grain shortly after touching the collecting plate, leaving voids in what remained. By comparison, if a pure water-ice grain had struck the detector, then only a dark patch would have been seen.

These ‘fluffy’ grains are thought to originate from the dusty layer built up on the comet’s surface since its last close approach to the Sun, and will soon be lost into the coma.

Be sure to check the Rosetta Blog. The have this and results from six other Rosetta’s science instruments since arriving at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – great stuff!!