On 26 June 2014 the spacecraft ATV-5 is integrated on its Ariane 5 launcher in the BAF (Final Assembly Building).
ESA’s fifth and last Automated Transfer Vehicle, Georges Lemaître, will deliver more than 2600 kg of dry cargo to the International Space Station; its launch is set for summer 2014 on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Just as children are sorted into age groups at school, so the seeds of new stars can also be found in ‘classes’ of others of similar ages. This is especially true when the birth of stars in a cloud of gas and dust is triggered by an external event, like the explosion of a nearby supernova.
This image from ESA’s Herschel space observatory shows a sequence of star-forming regions in the molecular cloud W48, some 10 000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).
The blue, jellyfish-shaped cloud at the lower left is the oldest stellar nursery in the image. Young and massive stars embedded within it have shaped it into a bubble and heated the diffuse gas, making it shine at the longest wavelengths probed by Herschel.
To its right, another glowing cloud conceals clumps that will evolve into massive stars. These clumps, some of which are visible as bright blotches of light, are also lined up by their age: the older ones at the lower-left and the younger ones to the upper-right. The youngest in this sequence is the small cyan lump at the centre of the image, harbouring the seeds of future massive stars.
Astronomers believe that this sequence of stellar birth is the result of dozens of supernovas that exploded over 10 million years ago in a region called Aquila Supershell, beyond the left edge of this image. Compressing the surrounding material, these supernovas may have initiated a wave of star formation that sparked, one by one, these stellar cribs.
The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red) and spans about one degree on the long side. North is to the upper-left and east is to the lower left. The data were acquired with Herschel’s PACS and SPIRE instruments in September 2010, as part of a larger map of the W48 molecular complex in the HOBYS Key Programme. This was first published in a paper by Q. Nguyen Luong, et al. 2011. A more detailed study of the star-forming regions shown in this image is presented in a paper by K.L.J. Rygl, et al. 2014.
ESA’s team of astronaut trainers spent last week in the caves of Sardinia preparing for CAVES 2014, a two-week course for astronauts to get to grips with living in extreme conditions.
In September, five astronauts will head to the dark and humid caves to explore the underground world, collect scientific data and test equipment and protocols.
From microbiological sampling to measuring carbon dioxide levels, from exploring unknown regions to mapping the caverns, all operations will be performed as though on a space mission.
This year will be even more realistic, following International Space Station-like procedures and testing new ways of performing science. ESA has developed software that will help astronauts to access procedures, collect data and report more effectively.
In addition, the underground explorers will head further into the underground than before, leaving basecamp behind for a whole night as they venture further than previous ‘cavenauts’.
All of this requires careful preparation as the trainers make sure the plan, the operations, the science and the logistics are ready.
More info on CAVES 2014 will follow – keep up to date by following the blog and @ESA_CAVES on Twitter.
An exit hole through Kevlar–Nextel fabric after hypervelocity testing of the multilayer shielding for ESA’s ATV space freighter, simulating an impact by space debris. The good news is that testing confirms the spacecraft's pressure shell would survive such a collision intact.
Testing was carried out for ESA’s Space Environment and Effects section at the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, in Freiburg, Germany, using a high-performance light-gas gun.
A 7.5 mm-diameter aluminium bullet was shot at 7 km/s towards the same ‘stuffed Whipple shield’ design used to protect the ATV and the other International Space Station manned modules.
This represents the upper end of the size of debris the shield is designed to cope with. Multiple layers give greater protection than a single thick aluminium layer.
The debris begins by piercing a blanket of multilayer insulation, followed by a 1 mm-thick aluminium ‘bumper shield’.
This impact makes the solid object break apart into a cloud of fragments and vapour, which becomes easier for the following layers to capture or deflect. Next comes the layer of stuffing seen in this main photo, a weave of lightweight Kevlar and Nextel fabric, which further slows the incoming debris.
The stuffing fabric and a surrounding sheet has been thoroughly shredded by the impact, but the overall mass and energy of the debris has been sufficiently dissipated that it has merely harmlessly scorched the innermost 3-mm-thick aluminium wall.
In orbit, this entire shield measures just 128 mm across.
The stronger-than-steel Kevlar fabric was invented by Stephanie Kwolek of the DuPont company, who died this month.
On Earth, her invention’s ‘killer app’ proved to be bulletproof vests; its use on the Space Station helps to ensure that module hulls could be designed several centimetres thinner than would otherwise be the case.
ESA’s next and final ATV, Georges Lemaître, will be launched to the orbital outpost this summer.
This image over a remote area in southern Iran was acquired by Japan’s ALOS satellite on 10 December 2009.
To the west we can see the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, which lies betweenthe Gulf of Oman to the south and Persian Gulf to the north. The brown areas along the coast are sediments carried from rivers that flow only after erratic rainfall in the interior, usually in the winter months.
On the whole, the area pictured is extremely arid, as evident by the lack of vegetation. But in the upper left and slightly inland, we can see a green area that appears to be standing water from a human-made dam on the river.
The dark zones along the coast are wetlands at the deltas of the Rud-e-Gaz and Rud-e-Hara rivers. This extensive complex of tidal mudflats, creeks, saltmarshes, mangroves, sandbanks and offshore islands is an important site for wintering waterbirds.
This is just one of the over 2000 sites worldwide considered to be wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty for the sustainable use of wetlands.
Dedicated ESA programmes assist the convention by providing satellite data to be used to monitor these important areas. With their repeating global coverage, satellites are ideal for imaging remote areas that require monitoring – like the wetland pictured here.
This picture is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
A new study of the Perseus galaxy cluster, shown in this image, and others using Chandra and XMM-Newton has revealed a mysterious X-ray signal in the data. The signal is also seen in over 70 other galaxy clusters using XMM-Newton. This unidentified signal requires further investigation to confirm both its existence and nature, but one possibility is that it represents the decay of ‘sterile neutrinos’, one proposed candidate to explain dark matter.
Full story: Puzzling X-rays point to dark matter
On the 23 June 2014 a prototype of the suborbital IXV Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle was recovered off the coast of Tuscany, Italy in a practice run for the launch of the real spacecraft in November.
The prototype was carefully hoisted onto the recovery ship Nos Aries.
The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) flight model during the last preparations, on 20 June 2014, at Thales Alenia Space, Torino, Italy, before being delivered to ESA’s ESTEC center in the Netherlands, where it will undergo final testing.
It will be launched by ESA in 2014 on Vega, Europe’s new small launcher, into a suborbital path, from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. It will reenter the atmosphere as if from a low-orbit mission, testing new European reentry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases.
Week In Images
23-27 June 2014