Space & Time

  • Spaceflight wreaks havoc on liver metabolism
    on 2021-12-06 at 16:30

    Researchers have demonstrated that microgravity and other environmental factors in space play different roles in inducing oxidative stress, which, in turn, alters the metabolism of sulfur-containing compounds in the liver of mice. The study highlighted steps that can be taken, such as boosting antioxidant capacity with dietary supplements, to safeguard astronaut health.

  • Astra to perform next launch from Cape Canaveral
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-06 at 15:38

    Small launch vehicle developer Astra Space announced Dec. 6 that it will conduct its next launch from a pad at Cape Canaveral in January, carrying a set of cubesats for NASA. SpaceNews

  • Study investigates young low-mass stellar population of NGC 1893, detects over 100 new stars
    on 2021-12-06 at 15:20

    Using the Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT), Indian astronomers have observed a young star cluster known as NGC 1893. The observational campaign allowed the researchers to investigate hundreds of young low-mass stars in the cluster, resulting in the detection of over 100 new objects of this type. The study was detailed in a paper published November 23 on arXiv.org.

  • Webb fuelled for launch
    on 2021-12-06 at 15:12

    Image: Webb fuelled for launch

  • Arianespace expands Galileo constellation to 28 satellites
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-12-06 at 15:10

    Arianespace successfully launched another two satellites for Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system Dec. 4, growing the constellation to 28 in orbit. SpaceNews

  • European space firm to build small, reusable launcher
    on 2021-12-06 at 15:03

    European space firm ArianeGroup will develop a small, reusable carrier rocket to compete with SpaceX, the pioneer of the technology, France’s economy minister said Monday.

  • Geospace Dynamics Constellation: Exploring the heart of space weather
    on 2021-12-06 at 14:49

    The Geospace Dynamics Constellation mission—or GDC—is a team of satellites that will study Earth’s upper atmosphere and provide the first direct global measurements of our planet’s dynamic and complex interface with the space environment. This boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space is called the ionosphere-thermosphere (I-T) system.

  • Image: Hubble gazes at a dazzling spiral galaxy
    on 2021-12-06 at 14:49

    This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is roughly 120 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 snapped Mrk 1337 at a wide range of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths, producing this richly detailed image. Mrk 1337 is a weakly barred spiral galaxy, which as the name suggests means that the spiral arms radiate from a central bar of gas and stars. Bars occur in roughly half of spiral galaxies, including our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

  • Two new satellites mark further enlargement of Galileo
    on 2021-12-06 at 14:48

    Europe’s largest satellite constellation has grown even bigger, following the launch of two more Galileo navigation satellites by Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 5 December. Galileo satellites 27–28 add to an existing 26-satellite constellation in orbit, providing the world’s most precise satnav positioning to more than 2.3 billion users around the globe.

  • South Korea’s Hanwha to expand space business portfolio with rocket development
    by Brian Berger on 2021-12-06 at 14:12

    Hanwha Aerospace unveiled the plan Dec. 6, saying it recently held a joint meeting with South Korea’s space agency for preliminary requirement review on their envisioned rocket. SpaceNews

  • Phase Four debuts improved thruster
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-06 at 11:49

    Satellite electric propulsion company Phase Four has completed testing of a new thruster that it says offers significantly improved performance. SpaceNews

  • Russia to send Japanese tycoon to ISS in return to space tourism
    on 2021-12-06 at 08:55

    Russia on Wednesday will send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the International Space Station in a move marking Moscow’s return to the now booming space tourism business after a decade-long break.

  • Yusaku Maezawa: irreverent billionaire fascinated by space
    on 2021-12-06 at 08:54

    Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who blasts off for the International Space Station this week, is an irreverent space enthusiast who has made headlines for splashing the cash on modern art.

  • Evidence emerges for dark-matter free galaxies
    on 2021-12-06 at 08:51

    An international team of astronomers led by researchers from the Netherlands has found no trace of dark matter in the galaxy AGC 114905, despite taking detailed measurements over a course of forty hours with state-of-the-art telescopes. They will present their findings in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

  • U.S. was not blindsided by Russia’s anti-satellite test, say officials
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-05 at 11:57

    “These advances in capabilities are concerning, they are not a surprise,” Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations, said Dec. 4 at the Reagan National Defense Forum SpaceNews

  • Two new satellites mark further enlargement of Galileo
    on 2021-12-05 at 05:59

    Europe’s largest satellite constellation has grown even bigger, following the launch of two more Galileo navigation satellites by Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 5 December. Galileo satellites 27-28 add to an existing 26-satellite constellation in orbit, providing the world’s most precise satnav positioning to more than 2.3 billion users around the globe.

  • India’s Chandrayaan-2 maneuvered to avoid close approach to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-05 at 00:07

    India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter maneuvered in October to avoid a close approach to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, a conjunction both agencies have acknowledged but have said little more about. SpaceNews

  • Total solar eclipse plunges Antarctica into darkness
    on 2021-12-04 at 19:42

    A total solar eclipse plunged Antarctica from summer into darkness early Saturday in a rare astronomical spectacle witnessed by a handful of scientists and thrill-seekers—and countless penguins.

  • Changes ahead for Space Force procurement organizations
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-04 at 01:13

    A new senior procurement executive for space programs will oversee the transfer of the Space Development Agency and a restructuring of the Space Systems Command SpaceNews

  • NASA to award SpaceX three more commercial crew flights
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-03 at 23:59

    NASA announced Dec. 3 its intent to purchase three more commercial crew missions from SpaceX as a hedge against further delays in the certification of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. SpaceNews

  • Northrop Grumman wins NASA contract for SLS booster production
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-03 at 23:25

    NASA awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Dec. 2 for the production of several pairs of Space Launch System solid rocket boosters as well as development of a new version of the booster. SpaceNews

  • Breakthrough in understanding cosmic forces that shape Earth’s heliosphere
    on 2021-12-03 at 20:14

    Astrophysicists have made a breakthrough discovery in our understanding of the cosmic forces that shape the heliosphere.

  • Three startups win prize money from U.S. Space Force accelerator
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-03 at 18:58

    Varda Space Industries, SCOUT and Neutron Star Systems were the top three startups in the Hyperspace Challenge SpaceNews

  • Studying our solar system’s protective bubble
    on 2021-12-03 at 18:50

    A multi-institutional team of astrophysicists headquartered at Boston University, led by BU astrophysicist Merav Opher, has made a breakthrough discovery in our understanding of the cosmic forces that shape the protective bubble surrounding our solar system—a bubble that shelters life on Earth and is known by space researchers as the heliosphere.

  • Lightweight space robot with precise control developed
    on 2021-12-03 at 18:40

    Robots are already in space. From landers on the moon to rovers on Mars and more, robots are the perfect candidates for space exploration: they can bear extreme environments while consistently repeating the same tasks in exactly the same way without tiring. Like robots on Earth, they can accomplish both dangerous and mundane jobs, from space walks to polishing a spacecraft’s surface. With space missions increasing in number and expanding in scientific scope, requiring more equipment, there’s a need for a lightweight robotic arm that can manipulate in environments difficult for humans.

  • Tory Bruno: ULA won’t get engines by Christmas, BE-4s coming in early 2022
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-03 at 17:02

    “We’re in the end game now,” Tory Bruno said Dec. 3 on CNBC. SpaceNews

  • Antarctica experiences rare total solar eclipse
    on 2021-12-03 at 16:31

    A rare total solar eclipse in Antarctica this weekend (Saturday 4 December) is giving researchers a unique opportunity to learn more about how solar eclipses affect space weather. The next total eclipse in Antarctica will not be until 2039.

  • Astronomers discover hot, dense planet with eight-hour year
    on 2021-12-03 at 15:42

    In a new study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers show that the planet, which is 31 light years from Earth, is one of the lightest among the nearly 5,000 exoplanets (planets outside our own solar system) that are known today, with half the mass of Earth. It has a diameter of just over 9,000 kilometers—slightly larger than Mars.

  • Exoplanets in debris disks
    on 2021-12-03 at 15:21

    Debris disks around main-sequence stars are tenuous belts of dust thought to be produced when asteroids or other planetesimals collide and fragment. They are common: more than about a quarter of all main-sequence stars have debris disks and, since these disks can be hard to detect, it is likely that the fraction is even higher. Current instruments are only able to detect debris disks in systems that are at least an order of magnitude more luminous than the disk generated by the solar system’s Kuiper Belt (the region extending from the orbit of Neptune at about thirty astronomical units out to about fifty au).

  • ESA’s Mars Express unravels mystery of martian moon using ‘fake’ flybys
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:55

    By performing a series of real and ‘fake’ flybys, ESA’s Mars Express has revealed how Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, interacts with the solar wind of charged particles thrown out by the Sun—and spotted an elusive process that has only been seen at Phobos once before.

  • Video: Rover escapes from sand trap in Mars terrain simulator
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:33

    The ExoMars rover used in the Earth-based Mars Terrain Simulator makes escaping from a sand trap look easy in this exercise.

  • Week in images: 29 November – 3 December 2021
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:32

    Week in images: 29 November – 3 December 2021 Discover our week through the lens

  • Image: Tiny crystal of power as basis for solar cell
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:19

    This crystal of iron pyrite, just four hundredths of a millimeter in size, could function as the light absorbing layer of a tiny solar cell—potentially a promising future source of power on the moon.

  • U.S. Air Force Secretary Kendall: Short-term funding an ‘unfortunate’ reality for defense programs
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-03 at 14:19

    Political fights that delay government funding bills are only helping U.S. adversaries, said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall SpaceNews

  • A new exoplanet: Meet GJ 367b, an iron planet smaller and denser than Earth
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:09

    As our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, small grains of dust and ice swirled around, left over from the formation of the Sun. Through time, they collided and stuck to each other. As they grew in size, gravity helped them clump together. One such rock grew into the Earth on which we live.

  • An upcoming asteroid mission will be able to peer 100 meters under the surface
    on 2021-12-03 at 14:08

    Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended—or at least they only get one shot in space. In the preparation leading up to that final, climactic moment, there are typically thousands of hours of tests run on numerous systems and subsystems. If all goes well, it bodes well for the mission’s overall success, but if problems arise, it’s much easier to address them on the ground than while a spacecraft is already orbiting. A new spacecraft model known as Juventas just completed a significant testing milestone, passing testing in a room known as an anechoic chamber.

  • NASA awards funding to three commercial space station concepts
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-03 at 12:34

    NASA issued awards Dec. 2 valued at more than $400 million to three groups of companies to advance development of commercial space stations, keeping those efforts on track to succeed the International Space Station by the end of the decade despite skepticism from the agency’s inspector general. SpaceNews

  • Rover escapes from sand trap
    on 2021-12-03 at 10:00

    Video: 00:01:09 The ExoMars rover used in the Earth-based Mars Terrain Simulator makes escaping from a sand trap look easy in this exercise.The rover initially has its front two wheels almost completely buried in sand, but easily escapes using its unique wheel-walking mode.It takes about 20 minutes to complete the 2 m drive – slow and careful being the key to getting out of a difficult situation.Rovers on Mars have previously been caught in sand, and turning the wheels dug them deeper, just like a car stuck in mud or snow. To avoid this, the ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin – and its replica – has a unique wheel walking locomotion mode. Similar to leg movements, wheel-walking combines motions of the deployment actuators (the legs) with the rotation of the wheels to progress without slippage. This motion gives very good traction in soft soils and high slopes, such as dunes.“We hope to never need to use wheel walking on Mars to escape dangerous sand traps, but we are glad to have such functionality to potentially safeguard the mission,” comments Luc Joudrier, ESA ExoMars Rover Operations Manager. “From a rover operational point of view, this is really our insurance against difficult terrains.”In the test run seen here, the back wheels drag once the front four wheels have gained good traction on firmer terrain. The reason is that the wheel-walking sequence tested here has rather been optimised for climbing steep slopes with loose soils. In this sequence of commands, a short rotation of the wheel follows each movement of the legs. This is to anchor the wheels, digging them a little bit into the soil, before moving the rest – like when you climb a slope with snow and firm up each step before making a new one. On firmer soils, the anchoring rotation is not as effective (it can create the dragging effect) and therefore can be excluded from the command sequence.The activity took place in the Mars Terrain Simulator at the Rover Operations Control Centre at the ALTEC premises, at Thales Alenia Space facilities in Turin, Italy in November 2021. It is from here that rover science operations will take place once Rosalind Franklin lands on Mars in June 2023. In the meantime, the facility is being used for training rover operators and simulating science operations that will be expected in the main mission.More about ExoMars.Related: ExoMars – Moving on Mars ExoMars – Testing locomotion Moving on Mars

  • Earth from Space: White Nile, Sudan
    on 2021-12-03 at 09:00

    A part of the White Nile state in Sudan is featured in this false-colour image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.

  • NASA awards $415 mn to fund three commercial space stations
    on 2021-12-03 at 07:39

    NASA on Thursday awarded three companies hundreds of millions of dollars to develop commercial space stations it hopes will eventually replace the International Space Station, which is due to retire around the end of the decade.

  • SpaceX breaks annual launch record as it deploys 48 more Starlink satellites
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-12-03 at 01:02

    SpaceX deployed 48 more satellites for its Starlink broadband constellation Dec. 2, along with two remote sensing spacecraft for BlackSky in a mission that breaks the record for Falcon 9 launches in a calendar year. SpaceNews

  • Tiny crystal of power
    on 2021-12-02 at 21:33

    Image: Tiny crystal of power

  • Stellar cocoon with organic molecules at the edge of our galaxy
    on 2021-12-02 at 19:16

    Astronomers have detected a newborn star and the surrounding cocoon of complex organic molecules at the edge of our Galaxy, which is known as the extreme outer Galaxy. The observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array reveal the hidden chemical complexity of our Universe.

  • TESS discovers a planet the size of Mars but with the makeup of Mercury
    on 2021-12-02 at 19:14

    The TESS mission has discovered an ultra-short-period planet (USP) that is also super light. The planet is named GJ 367 b, and it orbits its star in just eight hours. The planet is about the size of Mars, and half as massive as the Earth, making it one of the lightest planets discovered to date.

  • TESS discovers a planet the size of Mars but with the makeup of Mercury
    on 2021-12-02 at 19:00

    Ultra-short-period planets are small, compact worlds that whip around their stars at close range, completing an orbit—and a single, scorching year—in less than 24 hours. How these planets came to be in such extreme configurations is one of the continuing mysteries of exoplanetary science.

  • Study reveals that giant planets could reach ‘maturity’ much earlier than previously thought
    on 2021-12-02 at 17:38

    An international team of scientists, in which researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) participate together with other institutions from Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, UK, and Mexico, has been able to measure the masses of the giant planets of the V1298 Tau system, just 20 million year old. Masses for such young giant planets had not been obtained previously, and this is the first evidence that these objects have already reached their final size at very early stages of their evolution. For this study they have used radial velocity measurements from the HARPS-N spectrographs, at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM), and CARMENES, at the Calar Alto Observatory. The results are published today in the journal Nature Astronomy.

  • Giant planets could reach ‘maturity’ much earlier than previously thought, study reveals
    on 2021-12-02 at 17:30

    Scientists have measured the masses of the giant planets of the V1298 Tau system, just 20 million year old. Masses for such young giant planets had not been obtained previously, and this is the first evidence that these objects have already reached their final size at very early stages of their evolution.

  • Spacewalking astronauts replace antenna after debris scare
    on 2021-12-02 at 17:26

    Spacewalking astronauts replaced a broken antenna outside the International Space Station on Thursday after getting NASA’s all-clear for orbiting debris.

  • Rocket Lab updates Neutron design
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-12-02 at 16:57

    Rocket Lab released new details Dec. 2 of the design of its Neutron medium-class rocket, a vehicle with a unique design the company says is intended to enable frequent and low-cost reuse. SpaceNews

  • The shortest-period gas-giant exoplanet discovered with TESS
    on 2021-12-02 at 15:00

    Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international group of astronomers has detected a new, ultra-hot gas giant exoplanet with an extremely short orbital period. The newfound alien world, designated TOI-2109b is about five times more massive than Jupiter and turns out to be the shortest-period gas giant known to date. The finding is reported in a paper published November 23 on arXiv.org.

  • Test tanks fuelled for ESA’s Themis reusable first stage
    on 2021-12-02 at 14:49

    Recently completed tests of two propellant tanks set a first technological milestone in the ESA reusability roadmap towards the demonstration of a reusable first stage vehicle called Themis.

  • Two versions of a Curiosity selfie: narrow and wide
    on 2021-12-02 at 14:49

    NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took this 360-degree selfie using the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, at the end of its robotic arm. The selfie comprises 81 individual images taken on Nov. 20, 2021—the 3,303rd Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

  • A one-way phone call from Mars
    on 2021-12-02 at 14:47

    This November, ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft carried out a series of experimental communication tests with the Chinese (CNSA) Zhurong Mars rover. Mars Express successfully caught data sent up ‘in the blind’ by the rover and relayed them to Earth where they were forwarded to the Zhurong team in China.

  • New evidence hints at volcanic activity within Venuses’ Idunn Mons
    on 2021-12-02 at 14:40

    An international team of researchers has found evidence that suggests possible volcanic activity involving Venuses’ Idunn Mons. In their paper published in The Planetary Science Journal, the group describes the evidence they found, but also note that their theories cannot be confirmed until new spacecraft are sent to Venus.

  • ESA moves forward with your ideas for 11 pioneering missions
    on 2021-12-02 at 10:06

    You spoke, we listened. Last September, we asked for your ideas for future space missions. Our goal was to tap into the insight, expertise and creativity of European citizens, companies and academia to help us plan for the future. Based on over 200 ideas, ESA Discovery & Preparation is now launching 11 new activities over the course of the coming year, that will together shape the future of space.

  • ESA’s Mars Express unravels mystery of martian moon using ‘fake’ flybys
    on 2021-12-02 at 10:00

    By performing a series of real and ‘fake’ flybys, ESA’s Mars Express has revealed how Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, interacts with the solar wind of charged particles thrown out by the Sun – and spotted an elusive process that has only been seen at Phobos once before.

  • Beads of glass in meteorites help scientists piece together how solar system formed
    on 2021-12-02 at 09:00

    Ever since scientists started looking at meteorites with microscopes, they’ve been puzzled—and fascinated—by what’s inside. Most meteorites are made of tiny beads of glass that date back to the earliest days of the solar system, before the planets were even formed.

  • Beads of glass in meteorites help scientists piece together how solar system formed
    on 2021-12-02 at 01:39

    Scientists have published an analysis laying out how the tiny beads of glass inside many meteorites came to be — and what they can tell us about what happened in the early solar system.

  • Biden administration turns focus to space security
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-12-01 at 23:05

    At the first meeting of the Biden administration’s National Space Council Dec. 1, Vice President Kamala Harris said a top concern is keeping space safe for military, civilian and commercial operations.   SpaceNews

  • Kymeta plans to release OneWeb terminal by next summer
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-12-01 at 22:54

    Antenna maker Kymeta announced a partnership Dec. 1 to jointly develop a flat panel, electronically steered user terminal for stationary land applications on OneWeb’s low Earth orbit broadband network. SpaceNews