Monthly nr 3

March 2005

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Content of March 2005

Arianespace Flight 164: Successful launch of the heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA

The Ariane 5 ECA launcher successfully orbited two satellites on Saturday, February 12: the XTAR-EUR communications satellite for operator XTAR, and the Sloshsat scientific satellite for the European Space Agency (ESA). The MAQSAT-B2 structure was also integrated in the Ariane 5’s upper composite to validate the launcher’s performance.

Ariane 5 ECA offers record payload capacity

The success of Flight 164 establishes a new standard in commercial space transportation. Ariane 5 ECA offers payload capacity of nearly 10 metric tons into geostationary transfer orbit, giving Arianespace customers even greater performance, flexibility and competitiveness for the world’s best launch service. With the in-flight validation of Ariane 5 ECA’s Vulcain 2 main engine and the ESC-A cryogenic upper state, Arianespace and the entire European space industry have fully demonstrated their ability to upgrade the Ariane 5 launcher. Offering unexcelled reliability and availability, the Ariane launch system continues to set the global standard for all major operators.

Flight 164 at a glance

Flight 164 was carried out by the Ariane 5 ECA from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on Saturday, February 12 at 6:03 pm local time in Kourou (21:03 GMT, 4:03 p.m. in Washington, DC, and 10:03 p.m. in Paris). Provisional parameters at injection of the cryogenic upper stage (ESC-A) were:

  • Perigee: 249.9 km for a target of 249.9 km (±4)
  • Apogee: 35,821 km for a target of 35,918 km (±260)
  • Inclination: 6.98 degrees for a target of 7.00 degrees (±0.07°)

The Flight 164 launcher carried a total payload of 8,312 kg., including 3,772 kg. for the XTAR-EUR and Sloshsat satellites. To validate the launcher’s performance, Ariane 5 also carried the MAQSAT-B2 structure, weighing 3,496 kg. and integrated in the upper composite.

XTAR-EUR, the first commercial satellite to deliver X-band services, will be positioned at 29 degrees East, allowing it to offer coverage from the East Coast of Brazil to Southeast Asia.

Picture provided and copyrighted ARIANESPACE

Built by Space System/Loral of the United States, XTAR-EUR is fitted with 12 high powered X-band transponders. XTAR is a joint venture of Loral and Hisdesat of Spain. The XTAR satellite will provide governmental and military communications, in particular for the United States and Spain.

The MAQSAT-B2 structure is an instrumented model designed to measure the launcher’s behavior during the mission, transmitting both technological measurements as well as images from two onboard DVCAM cameras.

In addition, this structure carried the Sloshsat microsatellite, which will test fluid dynamics in microgravity after its successful separation from MAQSAT-B2 during Flight 164. MAQSAT-B2 was designed and produced by Germany’s Kayser-Threde. Sloshsat, built by the Dutch space agency NLR, is part of a European Space Agency technology program.

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Arianespace to launch the Star One C2 satellite
for Brazil’s telecommunications operator

Alcatel Space and Star One have chosen Arianespace to orbit the Star One C2 spacecraft

Evry, February 12, 2005 – Arianespace announced today that it has signed the Star One C2 satellite launch contract for Brazilian operator Star One. The satellite will be orbited in 2007 by an Ariane 5 from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Eighth launch for Brazil

Star One C2 is the eighth Brazilian satellite to be booked for launch on Ariane, following six Brasilsat satellites and Star One C1 – which is slated for launch in 2006. Star One is the largest regional satellite service operator in Latin America.

The Star One C2 satellite is being built by Alcatel Space at its Cannes and Toulouse facilities using a Spacebus 3000B3 platform. Weighing about 4,100 kg. at liftoff, it will be placed in geostationary orbit at 65 degrees West. It will be fitted with 45 C-, Ku- and X-band transponders to handle both direct TV broadcasts for South America and international and domestic long-distance telephony for Brazil and Mexico.

With this contract, Arianespace now has an backlog of 40 spacecraft to be launched: 35 on Ariane 5 (including nine ATV missions to the International Space Station), three with Soyuz at the Guiana Space Center and two for Soyuz from Baikonur. Its Starsem subsidiary has a backlog of five satellites to be launched.

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Spectacular balloon flights from Esrange to Alaska this spring

In May - June 2005 a spectacular balloon campaign will take place at Swedish Space Corporation’s operational base Esrange near Kiruna in the northern part of Sweden. One large and heavy sub-millimetre-telescope (BLAST) will be launched as well as an engineering test flight of a newly developed ultra-long duration balloon vehicle (ULDB).

The campaign is ordered by NASA and the operation will be supported by The National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF) in cooperation with the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) balloon team at Esrange.

“We are very excited about working with our Swedish colleagues on the upcoming campaign. It will demonstrate a new long duration, heavy payload balloon capability from the northern hemisphere to the international science community. SSC and NASA will combine resources to offer significant new opportunities for US and European scientists to fly sophisticated instruments in near space for periods of up to 10 days at very low cost, says Mr. Danny Ball, Site Manager of the NSFB facility in Palestine, Texas.

“This campaign is a milestone for SSC. Large investments have been made at Esrange, regarding increased infrastructure and facilities. We are well prepared for the mission and the plan is to carry out similar balloon campaigns together with NASA and also European scientists every summer, says Dr. Olle Norberg, Head of Esrange.

Picture provided and copyrighted by Swedisch SPace Company

BLAST will be lifted up by a giant balloon (1.2 million m3) with the objective of carrying the payload across the Atlantic from Sweden to Alaska. The payload (2.700 kg) will reach an altitude of 40 km and the flight will take about 6-9 days. Never before has such a flight been made, regarding payload weight in combination with altitude, duration and flight trajectory.

"BLAST will address some of the most important cosmological and galactic questions regarding the formation and evolution of stars, galaxies and clusters. It makes use of bolometric arrays to achieve highly sensitivity images at three sub-millimetre wavelengths, while at the same time testing technology used in the future ESA sub-millimetre space telescope Herschel to be launched in 2007."

The NASA Balloon Program's capabilities are being expanded with the development of the ULDB developed by Aerostar (formerly Raven). This balloon is made of advanced materials and uses a new pumpkin-shaped balloon design to achieve flights with duration of up to 100 days. The ULDB is completely sealed and pressurized in order to maintain constant altitude day and night. With mission duration of up to several months, this new balloon will significantly increase the amount of data that can be collected in one balloon mission.

Read more about NSBF and SSC and Esrange
Read more about the science: BLAST and ULDB

For more information please contact:
Olle Norberg, Head of SSC Esrange - Phone: +46 980 72042
Mail: [email protected]

Tomas Hedqvist, Campaign Manager, SSC Esrange - Phone: + 46 980 72016
Mail: [email protected]

Johanna Bergström-Roos, Information Manager, SSC Esrange - Phone: +46 980 72024 or +46 70-544 6021
Mail: [email protected]

Danny Ball, Site Manager NSBF - Phone: +1 903 729 0271
Mail: [email protected]

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Les Maires francophones font appel à EUTELSAT,
au groupe La Poste et la société Nationale des Postes du Burkina Faso
pour amener le haut débit par satellite à Sin-Noghin

Paris - le 31 janvier 2005 - Troisième étape d’un projet qui a vu la construction d’un lycée et de son centre sportif, l’arrondissement de Sig-Noghin, situé dans la périphérie de Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), est à présent connecté à l’Internet Haut Débit grâce à un financement de l’AIMF. Cette réalisation est rendue possible grâce au projet de « mise en place de points d’accès facile à l’Internet » initié par l’Union Postale Universelle (UPU) au profit de la SONAPOST et avec l’appui et le savoir-faire du Groupe La Poste et de l’opérateur de satellites Eutelsat.

L’Association Internationale des Maires Francophones (AIMF), présidée par le Maire de Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, a été créée en 1979 sur l’initiative des maires de Paris et de Québec. L’AIMF est aujourd’hui un réseau de 137 villes réparties dans 46 pays, attachées à agir au plus près des citoyens pour promouvoir la bonne gouvernance municipale et le bien-être des populations. Depuis 1990, cette coopération décentralisée entre villes francophones a permis de réaliser près de 400 projets.

Le projet de Sig-Noghin s’inscrit dans un programme global de l’AIMF en faveur du développement durable par la formation. L’objectif du projet était de déconcentrer les équipements scolaires de Ouagadougou afin de réduire les accidents lors des trajets pour rejoindre les établissements situés en centre ville. Ainsi a été décidée la construction d’un lycée et d’un complexe sportif dans l’arrondissement de Sig-Noghin pour un montant de 515 000 euros financé par l’AIMF et les Ministères français des Affaires Etrangères et de l’Education Nationale.

Afin de présenter des conditions de travail identiques à celles des villes modernes en plein essor, l’accès du collège à l’Internet à haut débit était une des composantes importantes du cahier des charges. A défaut de solutions terrestres disponibles, l’AIMF a confié à Eutelsat et au groupe La Poste le déploiement d’une solution locale d’accès au haut débit par satellite s’intégrant dans le projet « Mise en place de bornes d’accès à l’Internet dans les bureaux de poste » de la Société Nationale des Postes du Burkina Faso. Les deux entreprises étaient déjà intervenues conjointement en 2003 au Burkina Faso, aux côtés de la SONAPOST, dans un premier programme d’accès au haut débit à Ouagadougou et à Ziniaré (30 km de Ouagadougou), initié par l’Union Postale Universelle.

A propos de cette nouvelle initiative, M. Simon Campaoré, maire de Ouagadougou a déclaré : « Le nouveau lycée municipal de Sig-Noghin, le plus grand de la ville de Ouagadougou, tout en participant à l’accroissement de l’offre éducationnelle dans la capitale, règle en partie la question du déplacement des scolaires sur l’avenue Yatenga (seule voie d’accès à l’arrondissement de Sig-Nohin) et réduit considérablement les nombreux accidents de la circulation, quelquefois mortels, enregistrés en ces lieux. C’était un défi majeur pour le conseil municipal. Aujourd’hui ce lycée fait la fierté de tous et nous remercions les partenaires qui ont fait de ce rêve une réalité ».

Pour sa part, Monsieur Arthur Kafando, directeur général de la Sonapost a commenté l’arrivée du haut débit à Sig-Noghin ainsi : « Je me réjouis tout particulièrement de l’aboutissement de ce projet qui s’inscrit bien dans la mise en œuvre de la politique du gouvernement burkinabé de réduction des inégalités numériques dans notre pays. La SONAPOST à travers son vaste réseau de bureaux de poste, vise avec ce programme d’Internet à haut débit, à offrir aux populations toutes les possibilités en matière de santé, d’éducation, de formation ou encore d’accès universel à l’information»

Comment marche l’accès au haut débit par satellite à Sig-Noghin :

L’équipement déployé dans l’arrondissement est constitué d’une antenne parabolique pointée vers le satellite W3A d’Eutelsat. Cette antenne dialogue avec la station terrestre de Skylogic Italia (Turin - Italie), filiale d’Eutelsat dédiée à l’exploitation et la commercialisation des services haut débit de l’opérateur. La station de Turin, elle-même connectée à la dorsale Internet par fibre optique, peut établir immédiatement une liaison à haut débit avec l’Internet pour toute antenne située dans la zone de couverture du satellite.

L’antenne parabolique est raccordée à un terminal D-STAR, qui permet d’alimenter le réseau local de la commune avec des débits globaux allant jusqu’à 1 Mbps montant et 40 Mbps descendants. Ces équipements collectifs desservent un ensemble de besoins en haut débit au profit des élus, des entreprises, des professeurs et des étudiants de l’arrondissement. Mutualisés entre le bureau de poste, le centre de santé et le lycée, ils ont permis notamment de créer au sein du lycée une classe dédiée aux Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication mais également, par le biais d’un terminal Cyberkiosque de La SONAPOST (installé au bureau de poste de Tampoui) de faciliter l’information et les démarches administratives des foyers et des entreprises locales auprès des services publics.

Le déploiement de ces équipements à Sig-Noghin marque pour Skylogic, l’entrée en service commercial du service D-STAR/W3A. Utilisant la plate-forme Ku/Ka du nouveau satellite W3A d’Eutelsat, qui associe des faisceaux en bande Ku en Afrique avec des faisceaux en bande Ka en Europe, l’ouverture de ce nouveau service vient doubler les ressources de Skylogic sur le marché de l’accès à l’Internet à haut débit en Afrique sub-saharienne. En outre, l’utilisation de la bande Ku pour ces services haut débit bidirectionnels permet de diviser par trois le coût des terminaux utilisateurs par rapport au prix des terminaux en bande C, ce qui constitue un atout très important pour le succès de cette offre sur le continent africain.

A propos de l’AIMF :
L'AIMF est un réseau de 137 métropoles réparties dans 46 pays attachées à agir au plus près des citoyens pour promouvoir la bonne gouvernance municipale et le bien-être des populations. Elles échangent leur savoir-faire en matière de politique urbaine et la riche expertise de leurs spécialistes dans le cadre de réalisations concrètes. C'est une organisation non gouvernementale qui s'impose au niveau international grâce à son Assemblée de responsables de capitales et de métropoles. Cette spécificité en fait un opérateur privilégié de la Conférence des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement francophones. Pour appuyer les activités et le développement de son réseau, l'AIMF fait principalement appel aux villes de Paris, Liège, Luxembourg ou Lausanne, aux ministères français des Affaires étrangères et de l'Education nationale, aux gouvernements du Canada et du Québec et au Syndicat interdépartemental pour l'assainissement de l'agglomération parisienne (SIAAP). Depuis 1993, son budget est passé de 2 millions à près de 5 millions d'euros, associant, grâce à un dialogue renouvelé, les subventions des Etats et celles des collectivités locales. L'AIMF réalise de très nombreux projets d'intérêt immédiat pour les citoyens et favorise l'amélioration continue de la gouvernance. Elle est invitée aujourd'hui par ses organes directeurs à élargir ses activités et par conséquent à accroître la diversité de ses financements.
Contacts : Pierre Baillet – [email protected] - Tél : 33 + 1 44 88 22 88
Wanda Hoesch – [email protected] - Tél : 33 + 1 44 88 22 88
A propos d’Eutelsat :
Eutelsat S.A. est l'un des grands opérateurs mondiaux de satellites. La société assure une couverture sur quatre continents englobant l'Europe, le Moyen-Orient, l'Afrique, le Sud-Ouest asiatique ainsi que l'Est de l'Amérique du Nord, et l'Amérique du Sud. Cette infrastructure satellitaire confère à Eutelsat une grande flexibilité pour offrir toute une gamme de services comprenant la télédiffusion, la distribution vidéo, les liaisons de contribution, les réseaux d'entreprise, ainsi qu'un portefeuille d'applications IP, de services d'accès à l'Internet à haut débit et de connexion à la dorsale Internet. Eutelsat a notamment développé une gamme de solutions clé en main d'accès Internet haut débit par satellite à destination des collectivités locales, des PME, des professions libérales et des particuliers qui n'ont pas d'accès ADSL. Eutelsat a également créé en Italie Skylogic Italia, filiale entièrement dédiée à l’opération et la commercialisation de ces services IP. A partir de sa position orbitale HOT BIRD™ à 13 degrés Est et d'autres positions de télédiffusion, Eutelsat transmet plus de 1 500 chaînes de télévision et 800 stations de radio à une audience totale de plus de 137 millions de foyers recevant le câble ou le satellite. La société, dont le siège est à Paris, dispose d’un personnel commercial, technique et opérationnel hautement qualifié, composé de 450 hommes et femmes issus de 25 pays. Eutelsat a réalisé un chiffre d’affaires de 760 millions d’euros au cours de l’exercice 2003/2004.
Contacts : Vanessa O’Connor - [email protected] - Frédérique Gautier - [email protected] - Tél : 33 + 1 53 98 38 88
Agence Ogilvy : Cosma Nicolau - [email protected] - Tél : 33 + 1 53 67 12 68

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AIA Backs Aerospace Workforce Recovery Legislation

Arlington, Va. – The Aerospace Industries Association announced Wednesday it is endorsing legislation that would task the federal government with addressing a looming shortage of qualified workers in the sector.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) directs 11 federal agencies, led by the Department of Labor, to form a task force for the purpose of developing strategies to expand public and private aerospace job training programs.

The Ehlers bill (HR 758) specifically requires the task force to report to Congress each year on the status of federal policies and partnerships designed to advance training programs in the areas of science, engineering, technology, mathematics, and skilled vocational trades.

“This legislation would bring together the most talented minds in the federal government to produce a national plan for increasing the number of students who choose aerospace-related scientific or engineering careers,” said AIA President and CEO John W. Douglass.

In its November 2002 report to the president, the bipartisan Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry recommended the establishment of multi-agency strategy panel to counter what it termed “the nation’s apathy toward developing a scientifically and technologically trained workforce.” The commission warned that this apathy could lead to “intellectual and industrial disarmament” and pose a “direct threat to our nation’s capability to continue as a world leader.”

Douglass also pointed out the bill responds to a significant shortage of younger, technically-skilled professionals in the aerospace industry. The average age of the American aerospace employees is now older than 50. In 2008, 27 percent of aerospace workers will become eligible for retirement.

Representative Ehlers introduced H.R. 758 with three co-sponsors, Representatives Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

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Le lanceur ARIANE 5 ECA, un défi technologique et industriel

Ariane 5 ECA et Ariane 5 Générique
Le lanceur Ariane 5 ECA est la version la plus puissante d’Ariane 5 ; elle devrait permettre d’accroître la performance (masse de charge utile lancée) de près de 50 % par rapport à la version générique (6,1t), ce qui devrait en faire un des lanceurs les plus puissants au monde. Ariane 5 ECA pourra lancer simultanément deux gros satellites de télécommunication de nouvelle génération, répondant ainsi aux besoins commerciaux d’Arianespace. Les différences majeures entre Ariane 5 ECA et Ariane5 Générique sont :

  • Un Etage Supérieur Cryotechnique (ESC-A), remplaçant l’Etage à Propergol Stockable (EPS). Cet étage ESC-A utilise le moteur HM7B d’Ariane 4 ayant volé plus de 100 fois ;
  • Le moteur Vulcain 2, opérant l’étage principal, fournissant 20 % de poussée supplémentaire et une impulsion spécifique accrue de 3 s par rapport à son prédécesseur Vulcain 1 ;
  • Une augmentation de plus de 2 400 kg de la masse de propergols des 2 Etages d’Accélération à Poudre (EAP).

Les technologies de propulsion mises en œuvre sont innovantes, permettant ainsi d’atteindre les objectifs de performance visés.

Le retour en vol d’Ariane 5 ECA
La mission vol 164 a pour but de valider la qualification au sol du lanceur Ariane 5 ECA. Ce lancement est l’aboutissement du programme de retour en vol, faisant suite à l’échec du vol inaugural en décembre 2002. En cause, une défaillance mécanique de la tuyère du moteur Vulcain 2 qui avait alors subi des charges thermiques et mécaniques dépassant les limites admissibles malgré toutes les qualifications au sol. Depuis toutes les forces ont été mobilisées, dans un seul but : réussir le retour en vol de ce lanceur lourd.

C’est la Direction des Lanceurs du CNES, Maître d’Ouvrage délégué, qui a piloté, pour le compte de l’Agence Spatiale Européenne (ESA), le programme de retour en vol d’Ariane 5 ECA. Une organisation spécifique a été mise en place pour fédérer au mieux les entités impliquées dans ce programme : ESA, CNES, Industrie (EADS, SNECMA,…) et Arianespace :

  • Travail en plateaux projets intégrés,
  • Reporting Projet et décisions importantes prises au plus haut niveau (Task Force réunissant les dirigeants de l’ESA, du CNES, d’Arianespace et de l’Industrie.)

Plus spécifiquement, le travail de la Direction des Lanceurs du CNES a consisté :

  • à piloter le projet par une approche système, intégrant le véhicule de lancement et le segment sol,
  • à procéder à des vérifications « croisées » sur les sujets critiques faisant appel à l’ensemble des domaines de compétences lanceur, afin d’établir des diagnostics indépendants.

L’Industrie a été fortement responsabilisée dans ce programme au travers de contrats à forfait de résultats.

Résolution de l’anomalie du divergent du moteur VULCAIN 2
Les équipes se sont attachées à apporter une réponse rigoureuse à chacune des recommandations de la commission d’enquête indépendante mise en place au lendemain de l’échec de fin 2002. La cause racine de l’anomalie a été identifiée.

Des actions correctives ont été menées : renforcement du divergent du moteur, et accroissement du débit de refroidissement de celui-ci. Plus de 20 000 secondes d’essais à feu du moteur VULCAIN 2 et des essais mécaniques de flambage du divergent ont permis de valider les calculs puis de prononcer la qualification de ces modifications.

Actions de consolidation
Le programme de retour en vol ne s’est pas limité à la seule correction de l’anomalie Vulcain, les équipes de développement ayant entrepris de « passer au peigne fin » l’ensemble des autres sous-systèmes du lanceur et toutes les phases de vol.

Exploitation approfondie du vol
La lourde tâche des personnels impliqués ne s’arrêtera pas ce soir ; le lanceur est en effet instrumenté de plus de 1400 capteurs ; il s’agira, à l’issue du lancement, d’exploiter finement chacune des mesures qu’Ariane aura transmise, le but étant de confirmer le bon comportement en vol du lanceur et de recaler, si besoin, les modèles de calcul.

Le lanceur Ariane 5 ECA entrera alors en phase d’exploitation pour Arianespace.

Le CNES aura désormais pour rôle de certifier le maintien de la qualification du lanceur tout au long de sa vie opérationnelle.

C’est toute la communauté spatiale européenne,
(EADS, SNECMA Moteurs, …),
qui s’est mobilisée pour ce retour en vol.

Yannick D'Escatha, Président du CNES, exprime sa plus vive satisfaction
à l'annonce du succès de la mission Ariane 5 ECA - Vol 164
et dédie celui-ci à la mémoire d'Hubert Curien
Le lanceur Ariane 5 ECA V164 a parfaitement réussi son vol de qualification et a lancé les satellites XTar-Eur et Sloshat le 12 février 2005 depuis Kourou, en Guyane Française. Yannick d’Escatha, Président du CNES, a déclaré :
« C’est un magnifique succès pour l’Europe, pour la France et pour le CNES. J'adresse mes plus vives félicitations à l'ensemble des équipes du CNES qui ont permis la réussite de ce vol de qualification, les équipes du Centre Spatial Guyanais, Port Spatial de l'Europe, et tout particulièrement les équipes de la Direction des Lanceurs, pour leur rôle primodial dans ce succès.Je tiens aussi à féliciter chaleureusement les équipes de l'ESA, d'Arianespace, ainsi que nos partenaires industriels et les clients XTAR, HISDESAT et LORAL. Cette réussite confirme la maturité technique et opérationnelle du lanceur Ariane 5, lanceur européen de référence qui assure à l'Europe la garantie d'accès à l'Espace qu'elle désire, pour accomplir les ambitions de sa politique spatiale".
"Je ne puis terminer", a ajouté le Président du CNES, "sans évoquer la mémoire d'Hubert Curien. Ce succès, au nom de l'ensemble de la communauté spatiale européenne et française, je souhaite le lui dédier, lui qui fut l'un de ceux à l'origine de l'épopée ARIANE dont nous venons d'écrire ce jour une nouvelle page. Avec cette réussite, ce soir, Hubert Curien est très présent dans nos cœurs et nos mémoires".

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High School Teams from Across the U.S. Build Rockets for Springtime Launch

High school teams from California to Virginia are hard at work on their own plans for space travel. But instead of a journey to the Moon or Mars in the near future, these students are designing rockets they will build and launch toward the heavens this spring.

Today's "rocket boys" and "rocket girls" are getting a hands-on challenge through the Student Launch Initiative -- an education program that gives high school students practical experience in aerospace and engineering activities. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the national competition, and the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, Tenn., co-sponsors the event.

Participating in the competition this year are six new teams and four returning teams from the 2004 event. The new teams are from Edison High School in Fresno, Calif.; Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove, Calif.; Oakton High School in Vienna, Va.; Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash.; Madison West High School in Madison, Wis.; and University School of Milwaukee, Wis. The returning teams are Athens Bible School in Athens, Ala.; Lee High School in Huntsville; Goshen High School in Goshen Ind.; and Manilus Pebble Hill School in DeWitt, N.Y.

Student teams demonstrate proof of concept -- that their rocket design is feasible and will perform as intended. They design and build their own rocket, and develop a Web site to hold an on-line journal of their progress. Students can solicit advice and guidance from engineers in government, business and academia during the design and testing phases. In the course of this experience, they learn problem-solving skills, how to present financial proposals and how to budget.

"The Student Launch Initiative is one way we encourage young people to get hands-on experience in rocket science, engineering and the nuts and bolts effort it takes to design, build and launch a space craft," said Jim Pruitt, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at the Marshall Center. "These young men and women could very well be working on the Vision for Space Exploration that will take us the Moon, on to Mars and beyond."

The Vision calls for Space Shuttles to return to safe flight to complete the International Space Station, and human and robotic exploration of the Solar System.

Student team members get ready to launch their rocket at NASA's 2004 Student Launch Initiative.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Vince Huegele

The teams completed their first step in the competition during preliminary design reviews in December 2004. The next steps include critical design reviews Feb. 8 and flight readiness reviews for their rockets April 8. They will display and launch their vehicles in late spring during "Southern Thunder 2005," a regional rocket launch event in Manchester, Tenn.

Their vehicle must carry a science payload weighing between one-quarter and one-half-pound and reach an altitude of one mile. The rocket and the payload must be recoverable, contain a tracking device and be reusable. The team must collect data from the payload, analyze it and report the results.

NASA engineers and scientists will evaluate each rocket design, including propulsion, materials, payload and safety features. They also will look at the target altitude, formal reviews and Web site designs.

This is the second year schools from outside Alabama have been invited to join Huntsville-area schools in the launch event. The visiting teams were chosen from schools that competed in the May 2004 Team America Rocketry Challenge at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.

The top 10 teams at the 2004 Challenge were invited to submit proposals to participate in the 2005 Student Launch Initiative. Huntsville-area teams chosen to participate in the Student Launch Initiative were selected by NASA scientists, engineers and education specialists. NASA requested proposals from local schools within a 50-mile radius of Huntsville. All teams receive a $2,500 grant to participate in the event.

For more information, visit the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Web page at:

Martin Jensen
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

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Lost and found: X-Ray telescope locates missing matter

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered two huge intergalactic clouds of diffuse hot gas. These clouds are the best evidence yet that a vast cosmic web of hot gas contains the long-sought missing matter - about half of the atoms and ions in the Universe.

Various measurements give a good estimate of the mass-density of the baryons - the neutrons and protons that make up the nuclei of atoms and ions - in the Universe 10 billion years ago. However, sometime during the last 10 billion years a large fraction of the baryons, commonly referred to as "ordinary matter" to distinguish them from dark matter and dark energy, have gone missing.

"An inventory of all the baryons in stars and gas inside and outside of galaxies accounts for just over half the baryons that existed shortly after the Big Bang," explained Fabrizio Nicastro of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and lead author of a paper in the 3 February 2005 issue of Nature describing the recent research. "Now we have found the likely hiding place of the missing baryons."

Nicastro and colleagues did not just stumble upon the missing baryons - they went looking for them. Computer simulations of the formation of galaxies and galaxy clusters indicated that the missing baryons might be contained in an extremely diffuse web-like system of gas clouds from which galaxies and clusters of galaxies formed.

These clouds have defied detection because of their predicted temperature range of a few hundred thousand to a million degrees Celsius, and their extremely low density. Evidence for this warm-hot intergalactic matter (WHIM) had been detected around our Galaxy, or in the Local Group of galaxies, but the lack of definitive evidence for WHIM outside our immediate cosmic neighborhood made any estimates of the universal mass-density of baryons unreliable.

The discovery of much more distant clouds came when the team took advantage of the historic X-ray brightening of the quasar-like galaxy Mkn 421 that began in October of 2002. Two Chandra observations of Mkn 421 in October 2002 and July 2003, yielded excellent quality X-ray spectral data. These data showed that two separate clouds of hot gas at distances from Earth of 150 million light years and 370 million light years were filtering out, or absorbing X-rays from Mkn 421.

The X-ray data show that ions of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and neon are present, and that the temperatures of the clouds are about 1 million degrees Celsius. Combining these data with observations at ultraviolet wavelengths enabled the team to estimate the thickness - about 2 million light years - and mass density of the clouds.

Assuming that the size and distribution of the clouds are representative, Nicastro and colleagues could make the first reliable estimate of average mass density of baryons in such clouds throughout the Universe. They found that it is consistent with the mass density of the missing baryons.

Mkn 421 was observed three times with Chandra's Low-Energy Transmission Grating, twice in conjunction with the High Resolution Camera in May 2000 and July 2003 and once with the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer in October 2002. The distance to Mkn 421 is 400 million light years.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., formerly TRW, Inc., was the prime development contractor for the observatory. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

This illustration shows the absorption of X-rays from the quasar Mkn 421 by two intergalactic clouds of diffuse hot gas, and a portion of the Chandra X-ray spectrum of the quasar. The spectrum provides evidence that three separate clouds of hot gas are filtering out, or absorbing X-rays from Mkn421.

Dips in the X-ray spectrum are produced when some of the X-rays are absorbed by ions of oxygen in the hot gas clouds which are located at various distances from Earth. The orange dips are due to absorption in our Galaxy, or in the Local Group of galaxies. This cloud is at most a few million light years from Earth, and is not shown in the illustration. The green and red dips are from clouds at distances of 150 million and 370 million light years, respectively.

The distant clouds are likely part of a predicted diffuse, web-like system of gas clouds –- the cosmic web -- from which galaxies and clusters of galaxies are thought to have formed. X-ray absorption by ions of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and neon in the clouds was detected in the complete X-ray spectrum. The clouds have a temperature of about one million degrees Celsius. Combining the X-ray data with data from observations at ultraviolet wavelengths allows an estimate of the total number of atoms and ions of all types in the distant clouds. This estimate shows that the clouds have a thickness of about two million light years, and contain an enormous mass of atoms and ions.

The Chandra X-ray spectrum of Mkn 421 provides strong evidence that a large fraction of the atoms and ions in the Universe are located in the cosmic web, and may point to the solution of the "missing matter" problem. The missing mass problem -- not related to dark matter or dark energy -- was discovered when various measurements gave astronomers a good estimate of the number of atoms and ions in the Universe 10 billion years ago. However, inventories of all the atoms and ions in stars and gas inside and outside of galaxies in the present era yields only about half as many as were present 10 billion years ago. Almost half the atoms and ions in the Universe had gone missing!

Assuming that the size and distribution of the intergalactic X-ray absorbing clouds discovered by Chandra are representative, it can be shown that most if not all of the missing atoms and ions are hidden in the hard-to-see cosmic web. (Reference: F. Nicastro et al., 2005, Nature, (Feb. 3 issue); also astro-ph/0412378)

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program. (Credit: CXC/M. Weiss)

For more information, please contact:
Marshall Space Flight Center
Public Affairs Department
(256) 544-0034

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Deux candidats-taïkobautes : Zhai Zhigang et Nie Haisheng
Le savoir-faire médical belge pour les vols spatiaux chinois

La Belgique participera aux prochains vols spatiaux habités de la Chine. Le professeur André Aubert et le Laboratoire de Cardiologie Expérimentale de la KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), qui avaient déjà été très actifs lors de la mission OdISSea du Belge Frank De Winne, mèneront en effet des analyses cardiorespiratoires sur les futurs taïkonautes sélectionnés pour les missions Shenzhou dans l’espace.

Il s’agit de l’expérience Cardiocog qui consiste en l'analyse de données cardiovasculaires et pulmonaires en état de microgravité. Pareille expérience est en cours sur l'équipage russo-américain qui occupe actuellement l’International Space Station (ISS). Ainsi des tests sur le cosmonaute russe Gennady Padalka, qui y a séjourné du 21 avril au 23 octobre 2004.

Deux candidats-taïkobautes : Zhai Zhigang et Nie Haisheng

L’espace à l’heure chinoise avec Yang Liweï, premier taïkonaute
L'équipe du Professeur Aubert devrait pouvoir obtenir, grâce à l’équipement Cardiocog, des mesures cardio-pulmonaires auprès des 14 futurs "taïkonautes" (12 hommes et 2 femmes), qui ont été sélectionnés pour participer aux deux prochains vols habités chinois. Le prochain vol doit être lancé en fin septembre ou début octobre, avec à son bord deux astronautes pour une mission de 5 jours autour de la Terre.

Les Professeurs André Aubert (cardiologie), Jan Wouters (droit international), Christoffel Waelkens (astronomie) et Dirk Vandepitte (production, machines-outils, robotique) ont créé, avec Dr Kevin Madders (Systemics Network International) qui est un spécialiste de « space policy », l’Interdisciplinary Centre for Space Studies (ICSS). Il a été mis en place, à l’occasion de cette année académique, dans le but d’associer et d’intégrer dans des programmes de thématique spatiale, vus sous l’angle interdisciplinaire, les compétences qui sont enseignées en astronomie, en droit, en médecine, dans les sciences appliquées (ingénieur, physicien, chimiste…).

La KUL veut faire de l’ICSS une référence en matière d’études spatiales en Europe, sous les forme d’un Master in Space Studies avec un enseignement axé sur les différentes disciplines qui concernent l’astronautique. L’ICSS est à la recherche de partenaires et de sponsors.

Pour plus d'informations, veuillez contacter:
European Space Agency
Agence spatiale européenne
8-10 rue Mario Nikis
75738 Paris Cedex 15

Illustrations fournies et copyright ESA

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Views from space help oil prospectors see deep underground

It takes seismic force to make the ground give up its secrets. Through the years, those searching for oil and gas have used varied methods to send sound energy into the ground and to record the waves reflected by the geological features beneath the surface.

Modern methods include large vibrator trucks and many thousands of surface sensors called geophones, all precisely located to obtain the most useful information with which to explore for hydrocarbons. Today, seismic surveys planned with satellites are yielding clearer, deeper subterranean views at reduced cost. Often carried out in the remotest parts of the planet, these surveys are almost military in scale and expense; a seismic crew exploring a 500-square-kilometre area can require 400 people with up to 50 small and 15 large vehicles working with up to 600,000 geophones, and carrying out 600 seismic 'shots' daily.

Seismic surveyor WesternGeco, has been working with ESA for the last three years to integrate satellite data into its working practices. What Earth Observation can provide is a detailed preview of a region's topography and geology, valuable for assessing areas that will produce the best and worst seismic quality – meaning the sending and receiving of vibration signals – far in advance of commencing the survey.

"Working on the surface, we deliver imaging and structural characterisation of the subsurface, down to 6000 metres or deeper," says Andreas Laake of WesternGeco. "Technology has moved on since the days of heavy explosives, but the principle remains the same."

Elastic waves are excited at the surface and propagate through the subsurface, partly transmitting, partly reflecting, and partly scattering. The reflected waves are then detected on the surface by a pre-planned array of geophones. Sophisticated processing of these sensor data creates a three-dimensional picture of the underlying geology of the survey area.

"The modern vibroseis technique has spatial resolution sufficient not just to identify oil and gas reservoirs, but also to show internal details such as their fracture geometry," Laake adds. "This is vital, because our customers do not make money for the amount of hydrocarbons theoretically in the ground, but what they actually recover.”

Seismic crew camp in the Middle East

"The vibroseis method uses trucks with heavy masses and baseplates that vibrate the ground to provide a far more controlled source," Laake explains. "Depending on the target, the trucks can be tuned to work across a pre-defined frequency spectrum, providing 'multicoloured' views in terms of elastic waves."

To achieve high-fidelity reservoir characterisation, the surveyors aim to exclude as many variables as possible. Around 80% of acoustic signal distortion comes from propagating through the top 100 metres of ground, with the most problems encountered nearest the surface.

"For satisfactory results, we must achieve very good coupling of both the vibration source and the receivers with the ground," Laake recounts. "The mechanical energy generated by a vibrator truck is only useful if it gets converted into elastic energy in the ground. And elastic energy coming back out of the ground must be converted into electrical signal in order to be measured, so here we must have good coupling of the geophones with the ground as well.

Crew deploying geophones in the Middle East


Problem of coupling the vibrator baseplate to the ground

Vibrators operating in volcanic terrain in South America

"Very hard rock has poor coupling with the baseplate, and the returning signal is low-quality because receivers cannot be placed satisfactorily. Coupling cannot take place on uneven ground. And with soft ground, the baseplate may just sink, or the soft ground may just absorb high frequencies at the receiver end to reduce the potential image resolution.

"But, until we started using satellite imagery, we could only guess at the coupling and data quality in advance of an actual survey. Space-derived topographic information is also important because rises or falls in the landscape delay signal arrival time, and if they are not compensated for, they cause blurring of imagery.

"These two variables set the scene for a broad range of information we require. For example, we must know if there is anywhere we can't go due to steepness and roughness of terrain. Also, we need to know if there are any rivers to cross or infrastructure to avoid such as oil wells or pipelines whose activities may interfere with our signal."

No single space-borne instrument can supply all the data required. Instead, data from a variety of different satellites are collected and combined within a geographic information system to yield information on accessibility, data quality, and source and receiver coupling.

The process begins with a digital elevation model, available from many sources including space shuttle mapping and ESA's ERS-tandem mission. This provides topographic and gradient information for logistics and safety planning. Next comes radar imagery – from spacecraft such as Envisat and ERS – to measure surface roughness, forming the basis of a map of coupling potential.

Visible light images provide infrastructure and land use information that help determine accessibility for vehicles and people. Also, surface vegetation detected in this imagery may indicate sediment-buried water channels that weaken signal propagation.

Inaccessible rough terrain in North Africa

Surface characterisation in basalt areas

The ground reflects short-wave infrared (SWIR) light immediately, revealing the spectral characteristics of minerals at the surface. SWIR imagery, obtained from hyperspectral satellite sensors, is particularly sensitive to carbonates such as limestone and basalt and occurrences of softer materials such as gypsum or quartzite gravel.

Advancing further into the infrared spectra permits surveyors to peer deeper beneath the surface. Thermal infrared (TIR), or heat radiation from the surface, is a delayed response to incoming solar radiation, coming from the top half-metre of subsurface.

"It is important to characterise this area, as this is where most of that 80% of data distortion comes from," says Laake. "In particular, TIR is useful for identifying underlying layers of basalt, which radiate strongly in thermal energy, so much so that we can interpret its presence indirectly from well below a half a metre.

"Basalt is a massive reflector, functioning like a shield between the surface and the hydrocarbon reservoirs. We can't work on surface basalt – the baseplate simply jumps back – but there are optimal design geometries we can use for buried basalt layers using selected angles of incidence for the seismic waves to ensure that not all the signal is reflected and that some goes through."

WesternGeco has so far used remote sensing data for sites in Algeria and Argentina. "We have started with desert areas because they are a relatively simple case with unchanging landscapes," Laake concludes. "But, the technology we are developing here can fully apply to other locations.

"What Earth Observation represents for us is a means of carrying out seismic survey feasibility studies prior to defining survey programmes for our clients, and ensuring enhanced data quality for even the most challenging environments." UK-based Infoterra and WesternGeco have jointly developed a seismic-quality mapping service as part of an ESA Earth Observation Market Development (EOMD) project. EOMD is a programme aimed at strengthening the European and Canadian capacity to provide geoinformation services based mainly on Earth Observation data, with a particular emphasis on addressing the needs of small value-adding companies.

For more information, please contact:
European Space Agency
Agence spatiale européenne
8-10 rue Mario Nikis
75738 Paris Cedex 15

Credits : WesternGeco

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MOSS PROJECT Shows how some plants grow without gravity

Experiments on moss grown aboard two Space Shuttle missions showed the plants didn't behave as scientists expected them to in the near-absence of gravity. The common roof moss (Ceratodon purpureus) grew in striking, clockwise spirals, according to Fred Sack. He is the study's lead investigator and professor of plant cellular and molecular biology at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

The researchers expected random, unorganized growth as seen with every other type of plant flown in space. "We don't know why moss grew non-randomly in space, but we found distinct spiral patterns," Sack said. The findings are reported in the online edition of the journal, Planta.

Common roof moss is a relatively primitive plant in which certain cells, called tip cells, are guided by gravity in their growth. This gravity response is only seen when moss is kept in the dark, as light overrides gravity's effect.

Moss originates from chains of cells with growth only taking place in the tip- most cell of a chain. When grown in the dark, the tip cells grow away from gravity's pull - this gets the cells out of the soil and into the light.

"The way these tip cells respond to gravity is exceptional," Sack said. "In most plants, gravity guides the growth of roots or stems, which are made up of many cells. But in moss, it is just a single cell that both senses and responds to gravity," he added.

Common roof moss was grown in Petri dishes in lockers aboard Shuttle missions in 1997 and 2003. The second mission was the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107), which broke apart during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003. Most of the hardware holding the plants was recovered, and 11 of the recovered moss cultures were usable.

Astronauts followed similar experimental procedures on both flights. They chemically "fixed" the moss cultures before each mission reentered Earth's atmosphere. This process stopped all growth in the moss, capturing their state during flight.

Control studies conducted at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida used hardware and procedures similar to those used aboard each flight. However, these moss cultures were either kept stationary or turned at a slow spin on a clinostat - a machine resembling a record turntable placed on its edge. It is used to negate the effects of gravity.

On Earth, gravity controls the direction of moss growth thoroughly; it grows straight away from the center of the Earth, just like shoots in a field of corn. In space, scientists expected the cells to grow erratically in all directions, since there was no gravity cue.

Instead, the moss grew non-randomly in two successive types of patterns: The first pattern resembled spokes in a wheel. The cells grew outward from where they were originally sown. Later, the tips of the filaments grew in arcs, so the entire culture showed clockwise spirals. The same patterns were found when the moss was grown on a clinostat on the ground.

"The results are unusual, as this is the first time researchers report seeing this kind of plant growth response in space." Sack said. "Unlike the ordered response of moss cells in space, other types of plants grow randomly," he said. "So in moss, gravity must normally mask a default growth pattern. This pattern is only revealed when the gravity signal is lost or disrupted." Sack added.

Sack conducted the study with Volker Kern, who is now at KSC. Kern was at Ohio State during the study; David Reed, with Bionetics Corp. based at KSC; former Ohio State colleagues Jeanette Nadeau, Jochen Schwuchow and Alexander Skripnikov; and with Jessica Lucas, a graduate student in Sack's lab.

For more information, please call:
Holly Wagner
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
(Phone: 614/292-8310)

For information about NASA aeronautics research, visit:

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NASA developed tools for successful Air Travel Progam

After developing several tools used in many of the nation's busiest airports and air traffic control centers, NASA has completed its pioneering Advanced Air Transportation Technologies (AATT) project.

The AATT project was established in 1996 to improve air travel. It focused on technology development to improve the capacity of transportation aircraft operations at and between major airports within the National Airspace System. During the past nine years, the AATT project worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airline industry. It helped develop decision-support tools for air traffic controllers, airline pilots and air operations managers to handle the growing demand for safe and efficient air travel.

"NASA drew upon its aeronautics roots and engineering expertise to venture into a different aspect of aeronautics research," said NASA's Associate Administrator of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, J. Victor Lebacqz. "AATT has established NASA as a technology development leader for the modernization of the National Airspace System. We are building on that expertise, as we continue to work with other agencies like the FAA."

A tool developed by AATT, the Traffic Management Advisor, is operational at eight Air Route Traffic Control Centers including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. These centers control high-altitude aircraft approaching and departing an airport. The tool helps controllers manage air traffic by sequencing aircraft, as they approach their destination airport. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport realized a five percent increase in arrival capacity since the tool's implementation.

nother AATT tool, the Surface Management System, scheduled for transfer to the FAA, is providing benefits for some of the nation's largest cargo carriers. The tool helps airport controllers and company traffic managers coordinate and spread out aircraft departures from the gate to prevent delays at the runway.

Other AATT technologies include tools that help aircraft fly the most direct route to their destinations and help controllers and traffic managers collaboratively manage in-flight aircraft. New communication and visualization technologies also help by increasing understanding of air traffic patterns and future trends.

"Although the AATT Project is officially completed, many technologies and concepts developed by the project will be incorporated into the Next Generation Air Transportation System," added Mike Landis, manager of the AATT Project. The project was managed by NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

NASA continues work to transform the nation's air transportation system to meet the needs of the year 2025, while providing substantial near-term benefits through its role in the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO). The JPDO includes the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, Defense, and Homeland Security; NASA; the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and other experts from the public and private sectors. The JPDO mission is to develop a national plan for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

For more information about the Advanced Air Transportation Technologies Project visit:
For more information about the Joint Planning and Development Office, on the Web, visit:
For more information about NASA, agency programs and the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate on the Web, visit:

Jonas Dino
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
(Phone: 650/604-5612/9000)

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NASA observes one of the brightest Cosmic Explosions

Scientists detected a flash of light from across the Galaxy so powerful; it bounced off the moon and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere.
The flash was brighter than anything ever detected from beyond our Solar System, and it lasted over a tenth of a second.

NASA and European satellites and many radio telescopes detected the flash and its aftermath on December 27, 2004. Two science teams are reporting about this event at a special press conference today at 2 p.m. EST at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

NASA's Swift satellite and the National Science Foundation-funded Very Large Array (VLA) were two of many observatories that observed the event arising from neutron star SGR 1806-20. It is a unique neutron star called a magnetar, about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.

The apparent magnitude was brighter than a full moon and all historical star explosions. The light was brightest in the gamma-ray energy range, far more energetic than visible light or X-rays and invisible to our eyes.

"This might be an once-in-a-lifetime event for astronomers, as well as for the neutron star," said Dr. David Palmer of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. He is lead author on a paper describing the Swift observation. "We know of only two other giant flares in the past 35 years, and the December event was 100 times more powerful," he added.

Dr. Bryan Gaensler of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., is lead author on a report describing the VLA observation, which tracked the ejected material as it flew out into interstellar space.

Other key scientific teams are associated with radio telescopes in Australia, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, India and the United States, as well as with NASA's High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI).

Neutron stars form from collapsed stars. They are dense, fast-spinning, highly magnetic, and only about 15 miles in diameter. Only about 12 magnetars are known among the millions of regular neutron stars in our Galaxy and neighboring galaxies.

SGR 1806-20 is also a soft gamma repeater (SGR) because it randomly flares and releases gamma rays. Only four SGRs are known. The giant flare on SGR 1806-20 was millions to billions of times more powerful than typical SGR flares. For a tenth of a second, the giant flare unleashed more energy than the sun emits in 150,000 years. Magnetic fields around magnetars are responsible for SGR outbursts, but the details remain unclear.

"The next biggest flare ever seen from any soft gamma repeater was peanuts compared to this incredible December 27 event," Gaensler said. "Had this happened within 10 light years of us, it would have severely damaged our atmosphere. Fortunately, all the magnetars we know of are much farther away than this," he added.

During the 1980s scientists wondered whether gamma-ray bursts were star explosions from beyond our Galaxy or eruptions on nearby neutron stars. By the late 1990s it became clear gamma-ray bursts did indeed originate far away. But the extraordinary giant flare on SGR 1806-20 reopens the debate, according to Dr. Chryssa Kouveliotou of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., who coordinated multiwavelength follow-up observations. A small percentage of short gamma-ray bursts, less than two seconds, could be from SGR flares.

"An answer to the short gamma-ray burst mystery could come any day now that Swift is in orbit", said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels.

Scientists around the world have been following the December 27 event. RHESSI detected gamma rays and X-rays from the flare. Drs. Kevin Hurley and Steven Boggs of the University of California, Berkeley, are leading the effort to analyze these data.

For more information about the event on the Internet, visit:

Nancy Neal Jones
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-0039)

Artist conception of the December 27, 2004 gamma ray flare expanding from SGR 1806-20 and impacting Earth’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA

An artist conception of the SGR 1806-20 magnetar including magnetic field lines. After the initial flash, smaller pulsations in the data suggest hot spots on the rotating magnetar’s surface. The data also shows no change in the magentar’s rotation after the initial flash.
Credit: NASA

Radio data shows a very active area around SGR1806-20. The Very Large Array radio telescope observed ejected material from this Magnetar as it flew out into interstellar space. These observations in the radio wavelength start about 7 days after the flare and continue for 20 days. They show SGR1806-20 dimming in the radio spectrum.
Credit: NRAO/CfA/Gaensler & Univ. of Hawaii.

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NASA'S budget enables New Age of Exploration

Statement by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe about the Administration's fiscal year 2006 budget proposal and the Vision for Space Exploration.

"The fiscal 2006 NASA budget reaffirms the President's commitment to the Vision for Space Exploration and provides us the next step in implementing it. The exploration Vision provides a historic opportunity to focus NASA for the long term, and the process is well under way. We are transforming NASA and making great progress.

"We at NASA have embedded a safety culture that both embraces competition -- to bring out the best ideas from industry, universities and NASA centers -- and seeks innovation, to find the best solutions to technical and management challenges. We have enhanced our long-range planning to improve our decision making, and we have built a sound management foundation, based on the President's Management Agenda, to streamline our corporate structure and invigorate our field centers.

"The preparations for returning the Shuttle fleet to flight are continuing. On the International Space Station, we are in our fifth year of continuous presence on orbit. Our programs to explore the solar system continue to amaze us with the new and unexpected information returned from Mars, Saturn's moon Titan and other distant points in the universe.

"We are laying the groundwork for future exploration by beginning the design competition for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will have flight demonstrations in 2008. Building blocks are being placed to return astronauts to the moon. We have awarded more than 100 contracts for exploration technologies, based on 600 proposals and 5000 letters of interest. The more than 17 billion hits to our NASA Web site are a testament to the intense, world-wide public interest in our activities.

"The Vision for Space Exploration remains an Administration priority even in this challenging budget environment. The continued priority for and support of exploration has enabled a gradually growing NASA budget over the next five years. The budget maintains resolute focus on exploration priorities and critical milestones, based on our science priorities.

"The budget supports critical national needs and revolutionary technologies. In our Aeronautics Mission Directorate, it protects aviation safety, security and airspace systems activities. It restructures vehicle systems work to focus on technology breakthroughs and near-term demonstrations.

"The President's fiscal 2006 budget request for the Science Mission Directorate builds on our recent scientific successes and projects a 23 percent increase in the total science budget by 2010. The budget proposal maintains investments in next-generation Earth-observing satellites to support our climate research efforts. In our education endeavors, the budget allows us to continue to inspire the next generation of explorers with programs such as explorer schools and scholarships for service.

For the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, the request includes an 18 percent increase. The budget supports exploration systems' research and technology to enable designs for sustainable exploration; funding for Project Prometheus to test a nuclear reactor in 2008 and fly a demonstration mission within a decade; and more than $800 million for human systems research and technology, directly linked to exploration requirements for human missions to the moon and beyond.

"The budget proposal maintains the return-to-flight of the Space Shuttle fleet as our top priority, and it includes close to $2 billion for the Space Station. This level of funding will enable NASA to meet obligations to international partners. NASA will also proceed with plans to retire the Shuttle in 2010, while ensuring safe missions for the life of the fleet.

"The fiscal 2006 budget assumes an ongoing effort to retool our institution based on best achieving our priorities for the Vision for Space Exploration. This will require adjustments to work-force skill distribution, physical capital, facilities and innovations in management structure. The end result will transform NASA field centers for the coming decade through improved agility and competitiveness.

"The sustainable implementation of the Vision will provide our legacy to future generations. With this budget, the torch is passed from the pioneers, who first took us to the moon, to their heirs, who will take us into deep space to stay."

For information about NASA, programs and the agency budget on the Web, visit:

Glenn Mahone/Sarah Keegan
Headquarters, Washington Feb. 7, 2005
(Phone: 202/358-1898/1902)

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Interview: Shooting the (Atmospheric) Breeze with Dr. David J. Knudsen

Dr. David J. Knudsen is Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary. Since coming to Canada in 1992, he has taken part in five Canadian space missions. He has been responsible for developing instruments and for analyzing data collected during missions. His work centres on the causes and consequences of the aurora.

"An encyclopedia article on the aurora gives the impression that this phenomenon is well understood. However, some basic questions remain unanswered despite decades of research. Such articles usually state that the charged particles causing aurora come from the solar wind, but auroral electrons have thousands of times more energy than those of the solar wind.

"It's also possible that auroral electrons don't originate from the solar wind at all, but are drawn from the cool, dense ionosphere into the magnetosphere, where they are energized through mechanisms that are not yet entirely known.

"Using detectors as well as rocket and satellite measurements, my work is to measure ionospheric temperatures and winds—winds act as tracers of electric fields that power the aurora. We must fully understand the massive electrical circuit that the auroras are part of before we can accurately explain them."

Auroras take on spectacular and dynamic forms-curtains, folds, vortices,
pulsating patches, flickering rays-whose variable structure is poorly understood.
(Photo: © Jouni Joussila)

Dr. Knudsen is involved in the captivating Swarm mission of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Earth Explorer program.

"The Earth's geomagnetic field is changing rapidly, to the degree that the magnetic north pole may leave Canadian territory within the next few decades. There is even speculation that the Earth's magnetic dipole is in the process of flipping, north to south, as geological records show it has done every few hundred thousand years. The Swarm mission will study the geomagnetic field evolution with precision, using a fleet of three satellites orbiting in the ionosphere. ESA has invited Canada to provide all three Swarm satellites with a Canadian electric field instrument (CEFI) based on the suprathermal ion imager (SII)—a Canadian particle detector design that has already proven its capability—in order to gather precise measurements of ion winds."

GEODESIC, a successful Canadian mission launched in Alaska in 2000, had an SII aboard. Dr. Knudsen led that mission, and he and his team made some interesting findings when they analyzed the data of the 15-minute rocket flight.

Missions such as GEODESIC require custom instrumentation. "The SII and similar instruments are so highly specialized that it's impossible to acquire them commercially. In building a device, you become familiar with its capabilities and performance, and this familiarity helps when analyzing the scientific data it collects."

Aurora borealis over Finland. (Photo: © Jouni Joussila)

Swarm is an Earth Explorer Opportunity Mission candidate.
The Swarm constellation will study the dynamics of the Earth's magnetic field and its interactions with the Earth system.
(Image: ESA)

Space launches are incredibly violent, where instruments get a real shake-up, so glitches can be expected. "During SII's first flight, a malfunction caused the booms holding it and its twin to deploy prematurely. Despite the violent deployment, the SII hung on and was able to complete its mission. One of my students trying to make sense of the data realized that everything came into focus if he considered the resulting position of the boom's early deployment."

Dr. Knudsen reflects, "The auroras, at the very threshold of space, are just far enough away to make it a serious challenge to get an instrument there in one piece, yet so tantalizingly close as to make the idea of going back irresistible."

The boom deployment is being tested.
(Photo: Bristol Aerospace, from the archives of the Institute
for Space Research, University of Calgary)

For more information, please contact:

Julie Simard - Communications Advisor, Media Relations
6767, route de l'Aéroport, St-Hubert (Québec) J3Y 8Y9
Tél.: (450) 926-6651 - Cell.: (514) 241-3327

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Odin operations prolonged - 5th year for a unique mission

Swedish Space Corporation has been commissioned with operating its scientific satellite Odin an additional fifth year, until April 2006. Four years of successful operations - twice the design goal lifetime - will be celebrated on February 20.

Odin is unique in its double mission to support both astronomical and atmospheric research. The main instrument, a submillimetre radiometer (SMR) is used for both disciplines and is for atmospheric measurements complemented by an optical spectrograph and infrared imager (OSIRIS). The SMR is based on actively cooled tuneable heterodyne receivers with solid state local oscilllators and Schottky mixers. The receivers are fed by a highly accurate 1.1 metre Gregorian all CFRP telescope.

The fact that the satellite and its instruments still works fine is interesting, in view of the use of a large amount of novel technology such as indium phosphide MMIC amplifiers at 119 GHz in combination with commercial components such as FPGA's. In some cases also commercial production methods were used. An extensive pre-launch test programme was in place to ensure a reliable payload and spacecraft. In total Odin has 14 fully operational active mechanisms including cooler, tuners for the interferometers, switch and calibration devices.

Odin is in a 600 km sun-synchronous polar orbit passing the equator north-bound around 18:00 local time. Its ACS system allows either a celestial staring mode with an absolute pointing accuracy better than 10 arc seconds real-time, or a limb-scanning mode with the reconstructed accuracy better than one arc minute - corresponding to a one kilometre altitude resolution.

The combination of the SMR and OSIRIS instruments makes Odin well adapted for atmospheric studies of higher altitudes. For instance water can be measured as high as 90 km. Odin has already provided a long-term data set, now to be continued. Key trace species related to the ozone destruction process in the stratosphere are studied, among those ClO. Studies are also made of the global dynamics throughout the stratosphere and mesosphere, noctilucent clouds, and high-altitude sub-visual clouds.

Today, SMR is the most sensitive astronomy submillimetre heterodyne receiver in orbit, especially regarding water vapour and molecular oxygen. The study of star forming processes and chemistry in interstellar molecular clouds is a main topic here. Other notable observations concerns the outgassing of different isotopes of water from comets, evaporation of icy bodies - planets or comets - by expanding old stars, and the measurement of water in the atmosphere of Mars. The low limit for the amount of molecular oxygen with this sensitive instrument is crucial, placing it 1000 times lower compared to what was expected from chemical models. Presently on-going are a spectral line survey, presently with 200 lines from 35 different molecules, and a search for specific molecules, like LiH, from the very early universe.

Odin was developed by Swedish Space Corporation, also responsible for the operations, on behalf of Swedish National Space Board and the space agencies of Canada, France and Finland. It serves astronomers and aeronomers of all four partner countries.

For more information, please contact:
Urban Frisk, Odin mission manager,
tel +46 8 627 62 71
mailto:[email protected]
or Fredrik von Schéele, space program development,
tel +46 8 627 63 16
mailto:[email protected]

For further information, please contact:
Anne Ytterskog - Information Manager
Swedish Space Corporation
P.O.Box 4207, S-17104 Solna, Sweden
Tel +46 8 627 62 00 Direct dial +46 8 627 63 18 Fax +46 8 98 70 69
mailto:[email protected]

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Accession to the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters"

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

By taking the opportunity of attending the Earth Observation Summit III to be held in Brussels, Belgium on February 16, 2005, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) signs the "Charter On Cooperation To Achieve The Coordinated Use Of Space Facilities In The Event Of Natural Or Technological Disasters (hereinafter called "The International Charter Space and Major Disasters")" and accedes to the International Disaster Charter for the purpose of promoting its contribution to the disaster management by the earth observation satellites.

The International Charter is an international cooperative framework participated mainly by the space agencies across the world. At the occasion of a large-scale disaster, it aims to contribute to the understanding of its cause, the restoration of affected areas and follow-up management by providing the earth observation satellite-acquired data. It stipulates to provide free data on the request of an Authorized User (it is a national government body in charge of disaster management to which a participating space agency of the International Charter belongs. It will be the Cabinet Office in Japan).

The outline of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters"

Official name:
Charter On Cooperation To Achieve The Coordinated Use Of Space Facilities In The Event Of Natural Or Technological Disasters
Date of effect, Participating Space Agencies (Members) and Space Resources:
Effected on June 20, 2000 with signatures of the Presidents of CNES and ESA
Members Space
European Space Agency (Europe) ERS, ENVISAT
Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (France) SPOT
Canadian Space Agency (Canada) RADARSAT
Indian Space Research Organisation (India) IRS
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA) POES, GOES
Argentina's Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (Argentina) SAC-C
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Japan) Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS)

To contribute to the reduction of crisis arising from disasters, by providing free earth observation satellite data and others based upon the best efforts of participating agencies at the time of major disasters.

Cooperative framework:

  • Constituted by Members and National Government Bodies in charge of disaster management to which Members of the International Charter belong.
  • The financial transfer is not made among the Members
  • The coordination among the Members is made by the Committee consisting of representatives of the Members and by the Secretariat

The earth observation satellite data supplied from JAXA:
The archive data of the earth observation satellites operated by JAXA are supplied. After the launch of the advanced land observing satellite (ALOS), which will be slated for launch in the summer of 2005, the ALOS observation data will be a major one to be supplied.
The advanced land observing satellite (ALOS):
Official website:

Recent Activations:
The activations up to now have been about 70 times. Out of them, 20 times were made in 2004 including the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra and tsunami.

International Charter "Space and Major Disasters":
Official website:

For further information:

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