Chandrayaan was a failure

Skyweek two point zero

Did a satellite 'see' a definite precursor to the Haiti earthquake?

The concrete forecast of earthquakes - beyond the purely statistical threat to individual regions - is one of the great unsolved problems of geophysics. A significant increase in energy is now said to have been detected in the extremely low-frequency electromagnetic waves (ULF) that the small satellite DEMETER - Detection of Electro-Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions - measured in the 30 days before the severe earthquake in Haiti this January, which could have been related to the 'preparation' of the earthquake in the depths. There are more or less plausible hypotheses for the generation of such radiation (and other EM effects allegedly occurring before earthquakes) - but it is questionable whether this could ever result in an operational specific warning possibility. The mission of the satellite meanwhile ended on December 9th after more than 6 years. (Homepage; Athanasiou & al., Preprint 7., arXiv Blog December 9, 2010) ADDENDUM: The Japan earthquake in 2011 could also have happened.

Venus Express observations call geoengineering idea into question: Perhaps it is not a good idea to artificially introduce sulfuric acid droplets into the earth's atmosphere in order to counteract the anthropogenic rise in temperature - this is suggested by model calculations that explain the formation of a sulfur dioxide layer in the upper Venusian atmosphere that the Venus Express encountered is. The gas evidently arises from the evaporation of the sulfuric acid droplets, whereby the acid molecules are broken up by the solar radiation (and the sulfur cycle of Venus is therefore more complicated than expected). This is exactly what artificial sulfuric acid droplets would probably also bloom in the earth's atmosphere, the introduction of which is often proposed in analogy to the temporary global cooling effect of the Pinatubo eruption in 1991 - in gaseous form, however, the cooling effect is lost. (ESA Release 11/30/2010)

IKAROS passed Venus - with Gravity Assist

On December 8th, the solar sailor IKAROS, launched together with Akatsuki, passed Venus and should have approached the planet up to 80,800 km away. The orbit of the sailor was clearly deflected by the gravity of the planet: the first time that a gravity assist happened to a solar sailor! (Eureka 12/13/2010. [ADDENDUM: another note on this.] And Kyodo on a programming error by Hayabusa, which prevented the pellet cannon from igniting in 2005)

MESSENGER less than 100 days before entering Mercury orbit on March 18, 2011: After 6 planet fly-bys and 5 orbit corrections in between, nothing stands in the way of the decisive maneuver - at least that is what external experts have confirmed to the project. (MESSENGER Mission News December 7, 2010. Also CollectSpace on a US postage stamp on the occasion of the arrival)

11 ESA science missions will be extended

That said the Science Program Committee on 18./19. November decided: The missions of Cluster, Integral, Planck, Mars Express, Venus Express and XMM-Newton as well as the ESA investments in Hinode, Cassini, Hubble, SOHO and Proba 2 will be continued. Every two years, projects that are nearing the end of their regular funding have to be examined in detail: Can further scientific profit be squeezed out of the large investments made in the past? (ESA Release 22., Physics World, Planetary Society Blog 23.11.2010)

Laboratory testing of a crucial technology for the LISA satellites for the measurement of gravitational waves have shown that the noise of their lasers can be suppressed far enough to be able to use interferometry to measure the extremely small displacements of the three satellites to one another when a wave passes through. Specifically, the light phases on the satellites are to be determined, while the actual interferometry only takes place mathematically on the ground - and in the end the relative positions of the satellites are known to the nearest picometer. (JPL Release 11/23/2010)

SOFIA completed all three science flights, and it is already a certain routine. (But not in public relations: no pictures of any of the three flights, including the first two weeks ago, have been made public.) Next year we will continue with a new scientific instrument, GREAT. (365 Days of Astronomy 12th, DLR Blog [with nice impressions from 3rd flight], S. Casey Tweet 8th, Ithaka College Release 7th, Daily Camera December 4th, 2010)

New Millennium Mission EO-1 in use for 10 years: Earth images on order

The corresponding NASA technology program has long since ceased to exist - but one of the few satellites that emerged from it (Article 411) is still working: Earth Observing 1 has been in orbit for 10 years now, although it was actually only designed for one year . After extensive technology tests, the satellite now serves as an earth observer with unusual autonomy, which can be commanded quickly and easily to look at special things from above. And because none of this costs much, the pictures are even available for free! (Homepage; NASA Feature November 22, ASU Press Release December 2, 2010)

CryoSat 2 is now operational: The commissioning of the ice research satellite has now been completed, and on November 19th. Control was ceremoniously handed over to the operation team. (ESA Release November 22nd, UKSA Release December 6th, 2010. [ADDENDUM: some first scientific results from CryoSat.] Also a mission extension for GOCE - and the CubeSats that will accompany Glory)

NASA will probably get $ 18.9 billion in FY2011

as part of a modified Continuing Resolution that the House of Representatives passed, but which has yet to pass the Senate: That would largely correspond to what the Authorization Bill provides and initiate the implementation of Obama's space plans in principle. The Constellation program - so far artificially kept alive by a clause in the FY2010 budget - can finally be wound up, at least the Ares missiles, while work on the Orion capsule continues and the construction of a heavy-lift missile is quickly started (without first after to look for better technologies). However, an explicit approval for an additional shuttle flight after the last two in the manifest is not included. (Space News 7th, Space Politics 8th, Space Policy Online December 9th, 2010. [ADDENDUM: The Senate seems to see it similarly.] Wired and Space Policy Online on the unclear future of the JWST - and Space.com on the sinking of the ISS )

Germany has a new space strategy - and a framework agreement with the USA: The new document is strongly geared towards economic benefits and only provides for basic scientific research projects within the framework of the ESA and in bilateral ventures. You can finally say goodbye to purely German moon flights, which were repeatedly pushed, but a new framework agreement with the USA, which shortly afterwards on December 8th. signed, does not envisage any concrete new projects, but explicitly brings the lunar research of both sides closer together. A common pair of radar satellites also seems possible. (Strategy document; PMn from BMWi and DLR, Welt, Tagesschau November 30th, Nature Blog 1., Deutsche Welle, Alles was Fliegt 2., SpaceMart 6., DLR PM, NASA PR, Spiegel 8., Space News 9., NASA Ames Release 12/13/2010) ADDENDUM: a gloss on the German earth journey strategy ...

South Africa is also getting its own space agency, even if the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) will not be fully operational until April 2012. Several research institutions will be brought together under the new roof and within the framework of a national space program, and mothballed facilities from the apartheid period will also be revived. (Engineering News, Sify 12/9/2010. And the Irish Times on moon plans in, uh, Uganda?)

Too much fuel in the upper level - Proton does not get high enough!

Has there ever been such a reason for a false start in space travel? There is a new model of the DM upper stage (DM-03) on the Proton rocket, which has a larger tank than its predecessor - and the starting team simply fills it up to the mark, as was always done in the past. Too bad that there are now 1 to 2 tons of fuel too much in the tank, the stage too heavy - and the 3rd stage of the Proton did not manage to bring it into orbit with three satellites for the GLONASS navigation system, which instead were in Pacific land. After all, it was not the fault of the Proton, which may start again this year. (Space Today 11., Spaceflight Now, Space News, Novosti, UPI, AFP 10., Space News, TASS, Spiegel 6., Spaceflight Now, Novosti [note the formulation that the satellites in the Pacific “may fail to function as normal “…], BBC, Space Today, Eureka December 5, 2010) ADDENDUM: According to the final report, 1.5 to 2 tons too much oxidizer were pumped into the tanks.

Mysterious damage at launch leaves communications satellite stranded in transfer orbit: It is still unclear how Eutelsat W3B was able to tear the line from the oxidizer tank to the engine during the Ariane 5 launch on October 28, while nothing happened to another satellite on board and there was no sign of anything There were anomalies in Ariane. In any case, due to a lack of propulsion, the satellite can neither lift itself into the graveyard above the geostationary orbit nor be brought to a controlled crash: Eutelsat has at least made it as `` inert '' as possible so that in the event of a possible collision with an old rocket upper stage (otherwise it would be floating the elliptical transfer orbit a little around) does not lead to an explosion. The natural decay of such a railway can hardly be modeled: it will probably take 20 to 30 years until it re-enters. (Space News 3.12., Spaceflight Now 8., Space News November 5, 2010. Also Space News and space travelers on the laborious unfolding of the giant antenna of SkyTerra 1 [ADDENDUM: It is now open])

What will happen to US research satellites after the end of Delta 2which has had numerous starts since 1998 but is no longer manufactured? The Falcon 9 and the Taurus 2, which have been successful twice this year, have been chosen as carriers for smaller scientific satellites, but it typically takes three years for them to be certified for use, especially when it comes to valuable payloads. (Space News 11/24/2010)

Keywords: DEMETER, EO-1, earthquake, ESA, geoengineering, Gravity Assist, Ikaros, LISA, MESSENGER, nasa, Proton rocket, SANSA, SOFIA, venus, Venus Express
Posted in Airborne Astronomy, Earth Observation, In Brief, Planetary Research, Space | 5 Comments »