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ESA reentry vehicle on track for flight in 2013

Copyright ESA

ESA and Thales Alenia Space Italia announced an agreement today at the Paris Air & Space Show to begin building the IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle for its mission into space in 2013.

Europe’s ambition for a spacecraft to return autonomously from low orbit is a cornerstone for a wide range of space applications, including space transportation, exploration and robotic servicing of space infrastructure.

This goal will be achieved with IXV, which is the next step from the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator flight of 1998. More manoeuvrable and able to make precise landings, IXV is the ‘intermediate’ element of Europe’s path to future developments with limited risks.

Launched into a suborbital trajectory on ESA’s small Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, IXV will return to Earth as if from a low-orbit mission, to test and qualify new European critical reentry technologies such as advanced ceramic and ablative thermal protection.

The 2 t lifting body will attain an altitude of around 450 km, allowing it to reach a velocity of 7.5 km/s on entering the atmosphere. It will collect a large amount of data during its hypersonic and supersonic flight, while it is being controlled by thrusters [...]

Romania accedes to ESA Convention

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Romania took a step further in its relations with ESA by signing the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention on 20 January 2011, to become the 19th ESA Member State.

The signing ceremony took place at the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest, with the participation of Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Teodor Baconschi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marius-Ioan Piso, President and CEO of the Romanian Space Agency. Other government officials and personalities attended the ceremony, including cosmonaut Dumitru Dorin Prunariu, member of the Board of the Romanian Space Agency.

Romania has a long aerospace tradition and has contributed to more than 30 scientific and technological space missions. During the 1970s and 1980s, Romania was an active member of the Soviet Union’s Interkosmos programme to involve fellow socialist nations in space exploration.

Romania’s cooperation with ESA is long-standing. In 1992, Romania was one of the first Eastern European countries to sign a Cooperation Agreement in the field of the peaceful use of outer space with ESA, paving the way for Romanian participation in several research projects with other European countries. Cooperation between ESA and Romania was strengthened further in October 1999 with the signing [...]

ESA unveils latest map of world’s land cover

ESA unveils latest map of world’s land cover

Copyright ESA

ESA’s 2009 global land cover map has been released and is now available to the public online from the ‘GlobCover’ website. GlobCover 2009 proves the sharpest possible global land cover map can be created within a year.

The map was produced using 12 months of data from Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer at a resolution of 300 m.

ESA and Belgium’s Université catholique de Louvain created the map using software developed by Medias France and Germany’s Brockmann Consult on data collected from 1 January to 31 December 2009. GlobCover 2009 was generated within a year of acquiring the final satellite data.

The map’s legend uses the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Land Cover Classification System.

Some 8000 people have downloaded the previous version, GlobCover 2005. These maps are useful for studying the effects of climate change, conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources.

Building Europe’s vision for space exploration

Copyright ESA

Europe’s vision for launching astronauts and robot explorers out into the Solar System will come into sharper focus on 21 October when the ministers responsible for space activities meet in Brussels to discuss Europe’s goals for space exploration. Events can be followed live on the web.

Ministers from the 29 ESA and EU states will rendezvous in Brussels this week for their second International Conference on Space Exploration as the next step towards creating a future European exploration strategy.

The ministers will build on the debate begun a year ago in Prague during the first high-level conference dedicated to the topic.

Core discussion points during the three main sessions include the new technologies needed, access to space and what infrastructure is needed in low Earth orbits.

The ministers will also have insights at the plans, priorities and programmes of the world’s other space agencies and discuss about opportunities for cooperation.

Events at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels can be followed live via the web stream at webcast.ec.europa.eu

The conference is co-organised by the Belgian Presidency of the EU, the European Commission, the Chair of the ESA Ministerial Council (Italy) and by ESA.

Proceedings will be opened [...]

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 [...]

Romania becomes third ESA European Cooperating State

romania-becomes-third-esa-european-cooperating-state

Copyright ESA

On 17 February 2006 Romania strengthened its relations with ESA by signing the European Cooperating State Agreement, becoming the third European country to join this status. Hungary was the first in April 2003 followed by the Czech Republic in November of the same year.

The ceremony took place in Bucharest with the participation of Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, Prime Minister of Romania, Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General, Anton Anton, Romanian Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Marius-Ioan Piso, President and CEO of the Romanian Space Agency, and cosmonaut Dumitru Dorin Prunariu, Chairman of the Board of the Romanian Space Agency.

The signed agreement defines the legal basis for developing a Plan for European Cooperating State (PECS) Charter, describing activities, projects and budget for Romania’s cooperation with ESA. It is expected that the PECS Charter will be signed within the next 12 months.

Romania has a long aerospace tradition and has contributed to more than 30 scientific and technological space missions. During the 1970s and 1980s Romania was an active member of INTERCOSMOS, the international space programme of the former socialist countries.

Romanian instruments to measure cosmos radiation, as well as magnetometers to acquire data on the Earth’s magnetic field, [...]