Oferte Emag

Next step for ESA’s first Moon lander

Copyright ESA

Mission description: land autonomously with pinpoint precision near the Moon’s south pole, a region full of dangerous boulders and high ridges. The aim of ESA’s proposed precursor is to probe the moonscape’s unknowns and test new technology to prepare for future human landings.

The first mission to visit the south polar region of the Moon took a significant step forward today when a further study contract was signed with EADS-Astrium in Berlin, Germany.

The mission aims to land in the mountainous and heavily cratered terrain of the lunar south pole in 2018. The region may be a prime location for future human explorers because it offers almost continuous sunlight for power and potential access to vital resources such as water-ice.

To reach the surface safely, the lander must precisely navigate its way to a mountain peak or crater rim, carefully avoiding boulders and steep slopes before gently setting down to take in one of the most spectacular views in the Solar System.

The Moon is a favoured target for the human exploration missions outlined in the ‘Global Exploration Strategy’ by 14 space agencies around the world. The strategy supports international space exploration and calls for further [...]

Simulating the formation-flying future of space

Copyright ESA

All space missions are difficult. Docking a pair of spacecraft is tough but flying multiple satellites together in formation is the real cutting edge.

A new simulator is now allowing mission planners to get to grips with multi-satellite missions to come, starting with ESA’s Proba-3.

Several space agencies are preparing formation-flying missions, but it is hard to overstate the difficulty they face: separate expensive pieces of hardware, each one zipping through space at several kilometres per second, may have to manoeuvre to within metres of each other to achieve their goals.

The relative positions of the satellites must be maintained precisely as they close in: lose control of one part of the formation, even momentarily, and the satellites risk destruction. And orbital dynamics dictate the satellites’ orbits will tend to cross as they circle Earth, another worrying factor for their controllers.

Even so, there are specific tasks only formation flying can do – and a new computing resource should help to achieve them.

The Formation Flying Test Bed is a suite of software running across linked computers to simulate all aspects of a formation-flying mission. Overseen by ESA’s Software Systems division at the agency’s ESTEC space [...]

Planck unveils the Universe – now and then

Copyright ESA

ESA’s Planck mission has delivered its first all-sky image. It not only provides new insight into the way stars and galaxies form but also tells us how the Universe itself came to life after the Big Bang.

“This is the moment that Planck was conceived for,” says ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, David Southwood. “We’re not giving the answer. We are opening the door to an Eldorado where scientists can seek the nuggets that will lead to deeper understanding of how our Universe came to be and how it works now. The image itself and its remarkable quality is a tribute to the engineers who built and have operated Planck. Now the scientific harvest must begin.”

From the closest portions of the Milky Way to the furthest reaches of space and time, the new all-sky Planck image is an extraordinary treasure chest of new data for astronomers.

The main disc of our Galaxy runs across the centre of the image. Immediately striking are the streamers of cold dust reaching above and below the Milky Way. This galactic web is where new stars are being formed, and Planck has found many locations where individual stars [...]

ESA’s space hazard programme profiled online

Copyright ESA

A new section in the ESA web site highlights the Agency’s growing activity related to the Space Situational Awareness programme. The full SSA system will protect Europe’s citizens and satellite-based services by detecting space hazards.

The Space Situational Awareness Preparatory Programme was authorised at the November 2008 ESA Ministerial Council and formally launched in 2009. More than ever before, satellites provide critical services to European citizens, governments and industry. Any interruption would seriously affect an enormous range of activities, including travel, navigation, telecommunications, the Internet, broadcasting, defence, climate monitoring and weather forecasting, to name just a few.

Flying unprotected

Today, Europe’s satellites are ‘flying unprotected’ and there are no services available here to detect hazards from collisions with objects orbiting Earth or from space weather. Earth itself is at risk from potential strikes by meteoroids.

The full Space Situational Awareness (SSA) system will enable Europe to detect, predict and assess risks from these hazards and take action.

The objective of the SSA programme is to support Europe’s independent use of, and access to, space through the provision of timely and accurate information, data and services regarding the space environment, and particularly regarding hazards to infrastructure [...]

ESA giving a spare arm to Space Station

Copyright ESA

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on Friday evening with an important hardware delivery from Europe to the International Space Station: spare portions of the European Robotic Arm and the first Russian payloads to use the arm.

The European Robotic Arm (ERA) is the second ‘intelligent’ robot arm for the International Space Station (ISS). The first, used extensively for ISS assembly for almost 10 years, is Canadarm-2 – an iconic part of the ISS photos. The second arm, for launch in 2012, will be based on Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), from where it can ‘walk’ to other locations. “Already now more than a third of the pressurised Station elements are built and designed in Europe and European knowhow is keeping Station in operation,” says Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight.

“Launching the ERA spare arm is an important step in keeping the ability for demanding robotic operations in case of technical failures – these may happen during the prolonged life of the ISS.”

ERA will be used to service the Russian segment of the ISS and to transfer small payloads directly to space via MLM’s special airlock, liberating astronauts from time-consuming, fatiguing and potentially [...]

European competition seeks best satnav ideas

Copyright ESA

Entrepreneurs have the chance to win prizes totalling a million euros in this year’s European Satellite Navigation Competition. ESA will award a special prize of €10 000 for the best idea and support the business start up at one of its four incubation centres.

Now in its seventh year, the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) is boosting ideas for innovative satnav application and services. More than a thousand ideas were submitted over the first six years, many of which have turned into new businesses in Europe.

Since 2005 ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO) has been a partner in the competition and for the past two years it has offered a €10 000 ESA Special Topic Prize.

“We are seeking innovative and creative business ideas with the potential for quick market implementation and high economic growth using satellite navigation in non-space business environments,” explained Frank M. Salzgeber, Head of TTPO.

ESA special prize 2009 winner “The winner may be supported at one of our four ESA Business Incubation Centres (BICs) or at an incubation facility of a member of ESINET, the European Space Incubators Network.

“With the support of one of these facilities, [...]

Second ATV heading to Kourou for launch

Copyright ESA

The second of ESA’s ATV automated cargo craft has been cleared for shipping to the launch site in Kourou. Its launch on an Ariane 5 to the International Space Station is scheduled for late this year.

ATV-2, named after German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, has undergone extensive system testing at EADS Astrium’s site in Bremen, Germany, over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for shipping. It will be dispatched to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in several sections, accompanied by 59 containers with test equipment. In Kourou, it will be assembled and extensively tested before being loaded with cargo and fuelled. The launch is now planned for the end of 2010.

“After an internal review of ATV Johannes Kepler, we have given Astrium ‘consent-to-ship’, which is an important milestone,” says Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director for Human Spaceflight.

“This demonstrates the ability of European industry under the lead of Astrium to provide the requested status of the vehicle on time and with the requested quality.”

“When the US Space Shuttle retires, ATV will be the largest vehicle supplying the ISS. Considering its technological challenges, like automatic rendezvous [...]

Baby stars in the Rosette cloud

Copyright ESA

Herschel’s latest image reveals the formation of previously unseen large stars, each one up to ten times the mass of our Sun. These are the stars that will influence where and how the next generation of stars are formed. The image is a new release of ‘OSHI’, ESA’s Online Showcase of Herschel Images.

The Rosette Nebula resides some 5,000 light years from Earth and is associated with a larger cloud that contains enough dust and gas to make the equivalent of 10,000 Sun-like stars. The Herschel image shows half of the nebula and most of the Rosette cloud. The massive stars powering the nebula lie to the right of the image but are invisible at these wavelengths. Each colour represents a different temperature of dust, from –263ºC (only 10ºC above absolute zero) in the red emission to –233ºC in the blue.

The bright smudges are dusty cocoons hiding massive protostars. These will eventually become stars containing around ten times the mass of the Sun. The small spots near the centre and in the redder regions of the image are lower mass protostars, similar in mass to the Sun.

ESA’s Herschel space observatory collects the infrared light [...]

High ride with Maxus-8

Copyright ESA ESA’s Maxus-8 sounding rocket was launched today from Kiruna in northern Sweden carrying four microgravity research modules on a hectic 12-minute space voyage. The ultimate results may include improved turbine blades for aircraft engines.

At 14:43 CET, Maxus-8 took off from the launch pad at the Esrange Space Centre watched by Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA, Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight, Olle Norberg, Director General of the Swedish National Space Board, and Lars Persson, Director of the Swedish Space Corporation. Witnessing the launch, they paid tribute to the importance of microgravity research in Europe and to the international European cooperation that makes this research possible.

“I am very happy to be back at Esrange to take part of a sounding rocket campaign again,” said Mr Dordain. “The campaign team has done a tremendous job and the researchers are pleased with the results so far. I must say I’m impressed by this extraordinary launch site and proud of having such a facility in Europe. It is a unique complement to International Space Station utilisation for the scientific community”.

“With the Maxus-8 mission, ESA continues its leading role in maintaining autonomous European microgravity [...]

Faster, cheaper chips from space technology

Faster, cheaper chips from space technology

Copyright ESA

Our world is full of integrated semiconductor circuits, commonly known as microchips. Today you find them in computers, cars, mobile phones and in almost every electrical device. Technology from ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope will make these chips much smaller, faster and cheaper.

The demand for faster and more powerful chips requires the use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV). Much smaller semiconductor circuits can be produced, leading to microchips up to 100 times faster and to memory chips with up to 100 times more storage capacity. However, conventional lenses cannot focus EUV rays. Instead, special ‘grazing-incidence mirrors’ must be used, and it is here that space technology comes in.

Italian company Media Lario Technologies has developed grazing-incidence mirrors to make chips by extending the technology originally used for producing the advanced telescope mirrors for Europe’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

Space telescope produced by highly accurate electroforming technology

Since 1999, XMM-Newton’s telescope has been delivering stunning X-ray images of our Universe.

This is above all due to its exceptional mirrors – the most sensitive ever developed – which total 200 sq m covered by ultra-smooth gold. Statistically, no gold atoms stick out from the surface by more than their [...]