As ESA engineers work together to design a future space mission, it takes virtual shape before them in three dimensions.
This 3D visualisation system is one of many state-of-the-art networking tools found in the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF), based at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
The CDF’s network of computers, multimedia devices and software tools allow experts from different engineering disciplines to work in close coordination, in the same place at the same time, to complete the most complex designs imaginable – in a matter of a few weeks rather than several months.
The CDF enables ‘concurrent engineering’ based on teamwork and focused on a common design model that evolves iteratively in real time as the different subsystem experts make their contributions. It has proved an influential approach over the CDF’s 15 years of operations, helping to inspire new ways of working for Europe’s hi-tech industries.
Like a swirl from a paintbrush being dipped in water, this image from the Cassini orbiter shows the progress of a massive storm on Saturn. The storm first developed in December 2010, and this mosaic captures how it appeared on 6 March 2011.
The head of the storm is towards the left of the image, where the most turbulent activity is shown in white, but towards the centre you can also see the trace of a spinning vortex in the wake of the storm.
This image, centred at about 0º longitude and 35º N latitude, has had its colours enhanced to help reveal the complex processes in Saturn’s weather. The white corresponds to the highest cloud tops, but to the human eye the storm would appear more as a bright area against a yellow background.
Cassini also monitored the temperature of the storm, showing a rapid spike as energy was released into the atmosphere.
The storm grew so large that on Earth it would easily cover all of Europe. Atmospheric disturbances of this size can be expected once during each of Saturn’s orbits around the Sun, which takes 30 Earth years. However, this particular event surprised scientists by occurring during the northern hemisphere spring, rather than the more typically stormy Saturnian summer.
The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC.
This image was first published in the NASA JPL Image Gallery in January 2013.
It is a scenario nobody wants to experience: a toxic leak or fire on the International Space Station. But astronauts living and working in humanity’s orbital outpost must be prepared for all eventualities.
ESA astronaut Alexander (white t-shirt) and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (blue) are practising dealing with an ammonia leak during training in NASA’s Space Station mock-up in Houston, USA.
This is just one of many simulations in the run-up to their mission, to be launched this May. Reid couldn’t wish for a better crewmate for these types of exercise – Alexander was a volunteer firefighter in his school years.
The city of Jeddah’s seaport on Saudi Arabia’s western coast is pictured in this image from the Kompsat-2 satellite.
The second largest city in the country, Jeddah has a population of over five million people. The city is a gateway to Islam’s holiest city of Mecca, which lies about 60 km to the east, as well to the holy city of Medina, about 320 km north.
It is also an important commercial hub, with its port located in the middle of an important shipping route between east and west. Zooming in, we can see some large container vessels in the port.
Near the bottom of the image, the large circles are the tanks of an oil refinery. The oil industry comprises about 45% of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product, and 90% of export earnings. Saudi Arabia is the world’s number-one oil exporter, and therefore plays a major role in the global energy industry. Its policies on the production and export of oil, natural gas and petroleum products have a major impact on the energy market, as well as the global economy.
The Red Sea’s coral reefs are visible off the coast. In fact, this is one of the few places along this coastline with a gap in the reef, enabling large vessels to approach the coast.
This image, also featured in the Earth from Space video programme, was acquired on 17 March 2013 by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s Kompsat-2 satellite.
EUROCOM (European Spacecraft Communicator) relaying feedback from the Columbus Flight Control Team to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) at the European Astronaut Centre, on January 2014.
Osaka lies to the West of Tokyo and is Japan’s third-largest city. The city runs along the Yodo river and stretches along the coast of Osaka Bay.
Images of our planet at night taken from the International Space Station show that people have settled where the living is easy – along rivers and bays. Artificial lights from human habitation and industry highlight the advantages of settling next to rivers and seas where water provides food, waste disposal, transport and cooling for factories.
The white lights in the centre of this picture correspond to Osaka’s two city centres, Kita and Minami, where businesses, shopping streets and areas of entertainment are concentrated.
To the Northeast, across the river Yodo, lies Itami Airport, the yellow vertical lights to the right of a river running North-South. The airport shares the load of landing aircraft in the Osaka area with Kobe and Kansai airports that were both built on artificial islands in Osaka Bay. The yellow lights of Kobe airport can be seen at the top-left of Osaka Bay in this picture, Kansai airport is just outside the frame.
There is a noticeable difference in the yellower lighting around the centre of Osaka and the more outlying areas that emit a greener hue. Is this difference due to changes in technologies used as Osaka expanded? Can you explain the lighting difference in the comments?
This striking new image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, reveals a star in the process of forming within the Chamaeleon cloud. This young star is throwing off narrow streams of gas from its poles — creating this ethereal object known as HH 909A. These speedy outflows collide with the slower surrounding gas, lighting up the region.
When new stars form, they gather material hungrily from the space around them. A young star will continue to feed its huge appetite until it becomes massive enough to trigger nuclear fusion reactions in its core, which light the star up brightly.
Before this happens, new stars undergo a phase during which they violently throw bursts of material out into space. This material is ejected as narrow jets that streak away into space at breakneck speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second, colliding with nearby gas and dust and lighting up the region. The resulting narrow, patchy regions of faintly glowing nebulosity are known as Herbig-Haro objects. They are very short-lived structures, and can be seen to visibly change and evolve over a matter of years (heic1113) — just the blink of an eye on astronomical timescales.
These structures are very common within star-forming regions like the Orion Nebula, or the Chameleon I molecular cloud — home to the subject of this image. The Chameleon cloud is located in the southern constellation of Chameleon, just over 500 light-years from Earth. Astronomers have found numerous Herbig-Haro objects embedded in this stellar nursery, most of them emanating from stars with masses similar to that of the Sun. A few are thought to be tied to less massive objects such as brown dwarfs, which are "failed" stars that did not hit the critical mass to spark reactions in their centres.
A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt.
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter module consisting of the spacecraft structure, thermal control and propulsion systems was handed over by OHB System to Thales Alenia Space France at a ceremony held 3 February 2014 in Bremen, Germany.
Comprising two missions that will be launched to Mars in 2016 and 2018, respectively, ExoMars will address the outstanding scientific question of whether life has ever existed on Mars by drilling the surface of the planet and analysing in situ the samples. The ExoMars programme will also demonstrate key technologies for entry, descent, landing, drilling and roving on the martian surface.
The Trace Gas Orbiter, or TGO, will be launched in 2016 along with Schiaparelli – the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module.
Read more: ExoMars orbiter core module completed
The first Ariane 5 launch of 2014 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 6 February on its mission to place two telecommunications satellites, ABS-2 & Athena–Fidus, into their planned transfer orbits.
Watch the replay: Ariane 5 flight VA217 liftoff_replay
Read more: Ariane 5's flight launch of 2014
A Gaia test image of the young star cluster NGC1818 in the Large Magellanic Cloud, taken as part of calibration and testing before the science phase of the mission begins. The field-of-view is 212 x 212 arcseconds and the image is approximately oriented with north up and east left. The integration time of the image was 2.85 seconds and the image covers an area less than 1% of the full Gaia field of view.
Gaia’s overall design is optimised for making precise position measurements and the primary mirrors of its twin telescopes are rectangular rather than round. To best match the images delivered by the telescopes, the pixels in Gaia’s focal plane detectors are then also rectangular. In order to produce this image of NGC1818, the image has been resampled onto square pixels. Furthermore, to maximise its sensitivity to very faint stars, Gaia’s main camera does not use filters and provides wide-band intensity data, not true-colour images. The false-colour scheme used here relates to intensity only. The real colours and spectral properties of the stars are measured by other Gaia instruments.
Week in Images
03-07 February 2014