This image of the Bay of Naples, Italy, captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2B is one of the first set of images delivered via Alphasat, which is in geostationary orbit 36 000 km above Earth. The image is a result of the two satellites using their optical communication instruments to transfer data via laser for fast delivery. This is essential for applications such as helping respond to disasters.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite brings us over northwest India with this false-colour image captured on 4 March 2017.
The Indian city of Bikaner is visible in the lower part of the image, surrounded by a varied landscape of agricultural structures and sand dunes.
The city lies in the Thar Desert, an arid region covering about 320 000 sq km in India and Pakistan. Most of the desert is covered by large, shifting sand dunes, some which are visible in the upper part of the image. The high winds also carry dry soils to neighbouring fertile lands, degrading them.
Archaeological evidence suggested that the region was once lush countryside, but the over-exploitation of land and water resources by humans over thousands of years drastically changed the landscape into what we see today.
In recent times, India has turned its attention to restoring the ecology and curbing the desertification of the region. For example, the Indira Gandhi Canal bringing water to the area pictured was built to keep the desert from spreading to the fertile areas, and to reclaim the land with irrigated planting projects. In this false-colour image, vegetation appears red.
Every year, 17 June marks the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.
ESA helps the UN Convention to Combat Desertification by providing annual global datasets on land cover and land cover changes. ESA also supports the development of operational guidelines for countries to engage in the Convention’s Land Degradation Neutrality initiative.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
This image of Malta, captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite is one of the first set of images delivered via Alphasat, which is in geostationary orbit 36 000 km above Earth. The image is a result of the two satellites using their optical communication instruments to transfer data via laser for fast delivery. This is essential for applications such as helping respond to disasters.
In a beautiful aerial view captured on 17 April 2017, ESA’s mission control can be seen at lower left, sitting on the western edge of the city of Darmstadt, Germany.
In the background, Darmstadt extends to the east, giving way to the forests and farms of the Odenwald region, part of the Bergstrasse-Odenwald Geopark.
The 3500 sq km Geopark provides a unique window into 500 million years of Earth history. It is bounded just to the north of Darmstadt by the UNESCO world heritage Messel Pit fossil site.
This photo is part of a series taken by the Photo Club working with the ESA Aviators Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the control centre.
Since 1967, more than 70 satellites belonging to ESA and its partners have been flown from this European Space Operations Centre. Currently, 11 missions comprising 18 satellites are under control, with almost a dozen more in preparation.
The centre is home to the engineering teams that control satellites, manage ESA’s global tracking station network, and design and build the systems on the ground that support missions.
As part of this year’s celebration of five decades’ service, the centre will open its doors on 8 September for the Long Night of the Stars (more information and tickets).
On 20 May, over a million tonnes of dirt and rock buried part of California’s Highway 1 along the Pacific coastline in the state’s Big Sur region. In addition to cutting off the route, the landslide added some 5 hectares of land to the shoreline.
Sentinel-1’s radar shows that the ground that slid down the mountain was moving in the two years before the landslide.
The radar data were processed using Small Baseline Subset interferometry (SBAS), a technique that can detect and monitor movements over wide areas with high sensitivity. In this image, red dots represent points where the ground was moving away from the satellite at a rate of more than 70 mm per year. Green dots show stable ground in the surrounding area.
Spanning 14 m from the spacecraft body, this impressive solar wing is one of two attached to ESA’s BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module.
The solar wing deployment mechanisms were tested last month at ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands as part of final checks ahead of the mission’s October 2018 launch from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
During testing, the five panels were supported from above to simulate the weightlessness of space.
The wings will be folded against the spacecraft’s body inside the Ariane 5 launch vehicle and will only open once in space. Mechanisms lock each panel segment in place. They can be rotated with the solar array drive mechanism attached to the main body.
Despite travelling towards the Sun, the transfer module requires a large solar array. Temperature constraints mean they cannot directly face the Sun for long periods without degrading, so they have to be angled and thus require a greater area to meet BepiColombo’s power demands.
The module will use a combination of electric propulsion and multiple gravity-assists at Earth, Venus and Mercury to carry two scientific orbiters to the innermost planet in our Solar System.
After the 7.2 year journey, ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will separate from the transfer module and enter to their own orbits. They will make complementary measurements of Mercury’s interior, surface, exosphere and magnetosphere.
The data will tell us more about the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star, providing a better understanding of the overall evolution of our own Solar System as well as exoplanet systems.
Set to be shipped to the USA around the New Year, ESA’s contribution to NASA’s Orion spacecraft is taking shape at Airbus in Bremen, Germany. This is no test article: the service module pictured here will fly into space by 2020, past the Moon and farther than any other human-rated spacecraft has ever flown before.
The service module will supply electricity, water, oxygen and nitrogen, propulsion and temperature control.
The blue circular frame is the support structure that holds the module as technicians work to get it ready. Yellow ties keep the 11 km of wiring in place as the thousands of components are installed and connected – the ties will be removed before flight. Behind the red support covers are the eight 490 N R-4D-11 thrusters, built by Aerojet.
Technicians are working in three shifts a day to assemble the components that are being shipped from all over Europe to complete this service module in just a few months’ time. In December it will be taken by road to Bremen airport and flown to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to meet its crew capsule.
Read more about the Orion mission and Europe’s involvement on the minisite.
The full BepiColombo stack seen in the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF) at ESA's test centre in June 2017. The walls of the chamber are fitted with powerful speakers that reproduce the noise during launch.
From bottom to top: the Mercury Transfer Module (seen with one folded solar array to the left, including protective cover), the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (with the radiator seen towards the right), and the sunshield (top), within which sits the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.
ESA’s light-studded Rover Autonomy Testbed vehicle does a twirl during night testing in Tenerife, intended to simulate the low light environment of the lunar poles.
The testbed, operated by a team from GMV in Spain, plus ESA’s Heavy Duty Planetary Rover, overseen by ESA’s planetary robotics team, have travelled to the Canary Islands for day and night testing in the volcanic, Moon-like environment of Teide National Park.
The two rovers carry navigation aids to work in both light and dark, including stereo cameras, lights, GPS, laser rangers and radar-like lidar. They can build digital 3D maps from these various sensors for both autonomous and teleoperated steering.
To follow progress in Tenerife, follow the Twitter hashtag #DarkRover.
Week In Images
12-16 June 2017