European Space Agency

In Brief

SOHO Scientists Discover Massive Jet Streams Inside the Sun

For the last year, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft has been aiming its battery of 12 scientific instruments at the Sun from a position 1.5 million km sunward from the Earth. Scientists using this joint ESA/NASA spacecraft have discovered 'jet streams' or 'rivers' of hot, electrically-charged gas called plasma flowing beneath the surface of the Sun. They have also found features similar to the Earth's tradewinds that transport gas beneath the Sun's fiery surface.

These new findings will help us to under-stand the famous sunspot cycle and associated increases in solar activity that can affect the Earth with power and communications disruptions. The observations are the latest made by the Solar Oscillations Investigation (SOI) group at Stanford University, CA, and build on the many discoveries made by the SOHO science team over the past year. "We have detected motion similar to the weather patterns in the Earth's atmosphere," said Dr. Jesper Schou of Stanford. "Moreover, in what is a completely new discovery, we have found a jet-like flow near the poles. This flow is totally inside the Sun. It is completely unexpected, and cannot be seen at the surface.

Additionally, there are features similar to the Earth's tradewinds on the surface of the Sun. Stanford researchers Schou and Dr. Alexander G. Kosovichev have found that there are belts in the northern and southern hemispheres where currents flow at different speeds relative to each other. Six of these gaseous bands move slightly faster than the material surrounding them. The solar belts are more than 65000 km across and contain 'winds' that move at about 15 km per hour relative to their surroundings. The Stanford researchers have shown that, rather than being superficial surface motion, these belts extend down to a depth of at least 20000 km below the Sun's surface.

"In one way, the Sun's zonal belts behave more like the colourful banding found on Jupiter rather than the region of tradewinds on the Earth," said Stanford's Dr. Craig DeForest. "Somewhat like stripes on a barber pole, they start in the mid-latitudes and gradually move toward the equator during the eleven year solar cycle. They also appear to have a relationship to sunspot formation as sunspots tend to form at the edges of these zones".

The SOHO investigators have also determined that the entire outer layer of the Sun, to a depth of at least 25000 km, is slowly but steadily flowing from the equator to the poles. The polar flow-rate is relatively slow, about 80 km per hour, compared to its rotation speed, about 6000 km/h; however, this is fast enough to transport an object from the equator to the pole in a bit more than a year. Evidence for polar flow had previously been observed at the Sun's surface, but scientists did not know how deep the motion extended.

"At this point, we do not know whether the plasma streams snake around like the jet stream on Earth, or whether it is a less dynamic feature," said Prof. Douglas Gough, of Cambridge University, UK. "It is intriguing to speculate that these streams may affect solar weather like the terrestrial jet stream impacts weather patterns on Earth, but this is completely unclear right now. The same speculation may apply to the other flows we've observed, or they may act in concert. It will be especially helpful to make observations as the Sun enters its next active cycle, expected to peak around the year 2001."

representation surface surface
Graphical representation of the surface flow from the equator to the poles of the Sun. The flow lines overlay an image of the rotation speed at the Sun's surface. The false colours represent speed; red material is rotating faster than the blue material. The lines represent how this motion would appear if you could stand on the surface of the Sun about 30 degrees from the equator. The cutaway on the right of the image represents the observed polar flow beneath the surface and return flow from the poles to the equator (photo courtesy of Stanford University)

Ariane V98 and V99 Successful

Ariane V98, a 44P version launcher, lifted off from Kourou (French Guiana) on 8 August at 03:46 Kourou time 06:46 GMT), carrying the PAS-6 satellite for the US company PanAmSat into geostationary transfer orbit.

The satellite weighed 3420 kg at lift-off and is equipped with 36 100 watt Ku-band transponders. It will provide digital direct broadcast TV coverage to all of South America, in particular Brazil.

The 99th Ariane launch (V99) took place on Tuesday 2 September at 19:21 Kourou time, 22:21 GMT). The 44 LP version launcher placed the telecommunications satellite HOTBIRD 3 (Eutelsat) and the meteorological satellite Meteosat-7 (Eumetsat) into geostationary transfer orbit .

100th Ariane Launch

100th Ariane launch

The 100th Ariane launch (V100) took place successfully on Tuesday 23 September.

An Ariane 42L version launcher (equipped with 2 liquid strap-on boosters) lifted off from the Guiana Space Centre at 20:58 Kourou time (23:58 GMT) and placed Intelsat 803 into geostationary transfer orbit.

Provisional parameters at third-stage injection into geostationary transfer orbit were:

Flight 100 represented a major milestone for Europe, reflecting a record for successful launches: 40 satellites placed into orbit by 29 launches in the last 30 months.

17 "Ariane's" salute the 100th Ariane

17 Ariane
The 17 "Ariane's" in front of the new Ariane-5 launcher at the Guiana Space Centre.
Back row, left to right: Ariane Testuz (CH), Ariana Garcia (E), Ariadna Garcia-Castany (E), Ariana Bauwens (B), Ariane Dekking (NL), Mari Tapiola (FIN), Ariadne van den Bavière (B), Ariane Schoisswohl (A), Ariane Girouard (invited by CSG), Ariane Newlands (UK), Ariane Brophy (IRL).
Front row, left to right: Ariane Nordmann (CH), Christine Bokedal (S), Arianna Curci (I), Ariane Martin (F), Ariane Oligschlager (F), Ariane Soffned (D)

On the occasion of the 100th Ariane launch, ESA Public Relations decided to commemorate the successful launcher programme in a unique and memorable way.

Since the Ariane programme has been the result of a fruitful European cooperation, it was proposed to locate other European "Ariane's" to participate in the 'anniversary' celebration. Various media organisations* within the ESA Member States supported the effort by initiating a search for young ladies with the name Ariane and born on or around Christmas Eve, 1979.

* Le Matin & Die Weltwoche (CH), Radio Nacional (E), Le Soir & BRT (B), Wouters Wondere Wereld - Veronica TV (NL), YLE-Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (FIN), die Presse (A), BBC/Newsround (UK), Radio Telefis Eireann (IRL), Göteborgs Posten (S), La Repubblica (I), France Info (F), Süddeutsche Rundfund (D)

Though not an easy task - Ariane is not a common first name in many of the Member States - 16 young ladies in 12 countries were finally selected based on name and/or birth date. Additionally, the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou invited one extra Ariane. Therefore, a group of 17 young ladies departed for Kourou on Sunday, 21 September.

In Kourou, the "Ariane's" were joined by 50 of the staff who had contributed to the success of the first launch and participated in the development of the Ariane programme. Together they witnessed the 100th launch into a clear evening sky through to the separation of the second stage.

With their participation and the help of the media, ESA hopes to have given the public in each of the Member States the opportunity to discover or re-discover the programme, which after 18 years is still a symbol of spectacular success for the European space effort.

Reiter Qualifies as Soyuz Return Commander

ESA astronauts
ESA astronauts, T. Reiter and C. Fuglesang during a training session in the Soyuz capsule simulator

On 24 July 1997, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter was awarded with the Russian 'Soyuz Return Commander Certificate' at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City near Moscow. He is the first non-Russian astronaut to have earned this certificate which qualifies him to command the three-person Soyuz capsule during its return from space.

The Soyuz is currently used to transport astronauts to and from the Russian space station Mir and will be the main emergency vehicle for astronauts onboard the International Space Station. With Thomas Reiter's new certification, ESA can provide an astronaut qualified to return such a rescue vehicle. The knowledge acquired during his training also provides ESA with valuable input for the European Crew Transport/Crew Rescue Vehicle (CTV/CRV).

Thomas Reiter is no stranger to Russian space systems: he spent 179 days on board the Russian space station Mir in 1995/96 as part of the joint ESA-Russian Euromir 95 mission. During that time, he also performed two Extra Vehicular Activities (EVAs) or 'spacewalks'. To obtain this latest certification, he has completed an in depth course (600 hours) on the Soyuz-TM spacecraft systems which included numerous practical sessions in the Soyuz simulator. He has also undergone a number of oral examinations given by Russian commissions.
Under an agreement between ESA and the German Air Force, Thomas Reiter will now return to the German Air Force for an 18-month period to further his piloting and commander skills. Throughout this time, he will remain available to ESA for specific projects. He will resume his activities at ESA's European Astronauts Centre in March 1999, in preparation for a new assignment to a space mission.

ISU Studies Technology Transfer & Mission to Mars

ISU summer session
This year's ISU Summer Session was hosted by Rice University in Houston, Texas.

'Technology Transfer' and 'Strategies for the Exploration of Mars' were the design projects assigned to the 96 students from 25 nations who attended this year's International Space University (ISU) Summer Session hosted by Rice University in Houston, Texas (in collaboration with NASA Johnson Space Center), from 7 June - 15 August.

Inaugurated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1988, this marked the programme's 10th anniversary. In line with the founders' intention of creating a truly international institution, independent of national or commercial constraints, the ISU Summer Session has been held at a different university around the world each year and now has nearly 1200 international alumni.

The ISU Summer Session is an intensive 10-week programme for post-graduate students and young professionals of all disciplines related to the space sector. During the course, students are exposed to over a dozen academic or research topics including Space Systems Architecture and Mission Design, Space Business and Management, Space Engineering, Space Life Sciences, Space Policy and Law, Space Resources, Robotics & Manufacturing, Satellite Applications, Space Physical Sciences, Space Informatics and Space & Society. Each year, ESA sends a group of European students to the ISU summer course. This year, 14 scholarships were awarded to students from the Agency's 14 Member States in addition to the six ESA staff selected to attend. ESA has also contributed faculty members, design project co-chairs and visiting lecturers.

In the concluding Design Project phase of the Summer Session, students work together to produce a complete conceptual design of an international space project and/or programme which covers all technical, financial, organisational and policy aspects. This element of the Summer Session provides students with the opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the lectures, workshops and other presentations and allows them to experience top-level decision-making processes in a truly multinational and interdisciplinary environment.

Previous ISU Summer Sessions have been held at the following locations:

1988: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

1989: Université Louis Pasteur (ULP), Strasbourg, France

1990: Institute for Space and Terrestrial Sciences (ISTS), Toronto, Canada

1991: Ecole Nationale de l'Aviation Civile (ENAC), FIAS, Toulouse, France

1992: City of Kitakyushu, Japan

1993: University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), Huntsville, Alabama, USA

1994: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), Barcelona, Spain

1995: Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden

1996: Austrian Society for Aerospace Medicine (ASM), Vienna, Austria

One of the two projects developed this year focused on 'Technology Transfer' and investigated strategies, policies and methods to improve the transfer of technologies developed and used by the space sector to other sectors such as medicine, transport or environmental applications. The second design project, called 'Strategies for the Exploration of Mars' was based on the development of a coherent and coordinated set of strategies and associated infrastructure elements (scientific and environmental data acquisition, data-relay infrastructure, space transportation systems, operational resources, etc.) for the international robotic and eventual human exploration of Mars over the next 25 years.

The International Space University is a non-profit, educational institution specialising in multidisciplinary, advanced space studies programmes. Since 1994, the ISU has been based in Strasbourg, France, where it permanently offers an 11-month Master of Space Studies programme.

For further information on

the ISU, contact the Strasbourg Central Campus (tel:+33.3.88.65.54.30, fax:+33.3.88.65.54.47, e-mail: admissions@isu.isunet.edu) or the Education Office of ESA's Personnel Department (tel.:+33.1.53.69.73.60, fax:+33.1.53.69.76.59, e-mail: maileduc@hq.esa.fr). You can also visit ISU's web site at http://www.isunet.edu.

ISO finds Fluoride Molecules in Interstellar Space

Using ESA's Infrared Space Observatory satellite, ISO, a team of astronomers from Germany and the United States has discovered trace amounts of hydrogen fluoride gas in the near vacuum of interstellar space.

Although approximately one hundred different kinds of molecules have been detected in interstellar space over the past 30 years, the discovery of hydrogen fluoride marks the first time that a molecule containing fluorine has been detected in an interstellar gas cloud.

The observations were carried within a giant cloud of interstellar gas located near the centre of the Milky Way galaxy using the Long Wavelength Spectrometer, one of four instruments on board ISO. Looking in the far-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, the astronomers observed the telltale signature of absorption by trace amounts of hydrogen fluoride gas.

"Because the Earth's atmosphere is completely opaque to far-infrared radiation, the observations that we carried out are possible only from space, said Professor David Neufeld of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, leader of the team that reported the finding. "The ISO satellite has opened up an exciting new window on the Universe by allowing us to observe at far-infrared wavelengths. The characteristic wavelength at which hydrogen fluoride molecules absorb radiation is approximately one eighth of a millimetre, much larger than the wave-length of visible light but much smaller than the wavelengths typically used for radio and television communications. In concentrated liquid form, hydrogen fluoride - or hydrofluoric acid as it is known when dissolved in water - is familiar to laboratory chemists as an extremely dangerous and corrosive acid that dissolves glass and severely burns human tissue. The gas cloud in which hydrogen fluoride molecules were discovered lies approximately 20000 light years from Earth, in the southern constellation Sagittarius. Known to astronomers as Sagittarius B2, the gas cloud is composed primarily of hydrogen molecules. As in other clouds of interstellar gas, the environment in Sagittarius B2 is very extreme by terrestrial standards, with temperatures less than minus 220 Celsius, and pressures more than one hundred million times smaller than the atmospheric pressure on Earth. Although the hydrogen fluoride is less than one thousand millionth as abundant as the hydrogen, the sensitivity of the ISO spectrometers made its detection possible.

"This discovery gives us the opportunity to study the chemistry of fluoride molecules in the frigid conditions that characterise the near vacuum of interstellar space, says Neufeld. "One of the key questions is how these molecules were formed. Our analysis suggests that the hydrogen fluoride we detected was produced by direct chemical reactions between fluorine atoms and hydrogen molecules. Unlike most atoms, fluorine atoms are extremely reactive and attack the relatively inert hydrogen molecules that are the principal constituent of the interstellar gas. The result is hydrogen fluoride.

ESOC Celebrates 30th Anniversary

ESA manager board
The ESA Management Board gathered at ESOC on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary celebration.
Back row, left to right: M. Trella (IG), F. Roscian (H/ESRIN), K.-E. Reuter (H/CAB), B. Walker (AD/S), J.-J. Dordain (AD/ISP), H. Kappler (D/IMTP).
Front row, left to right: J. Feustel-Büechl (D/MSM), R. Bonnet (D/SCI), A. Rodotà (DG), D. Dale (D/TOS), D. Sacotte (D/A), F. Engström (D/L). Not in photo: R. Collette (D/APP)

On 8 September, the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) celebrated its 30th year of service as ESA's satellite control centre. Joining in the celebration were ESOC staff members and contractors, the ESA Management Board, two former ESOC Directors, as well as retired ESA staff and guests.

ESOC, formerly the European Space Data Centre (ESDAC) under the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), was established in September 1967 in Darmstadt, Germany. By May 1968 it was fully operational and ready to take over responsibility for the operation of ESRO 2B. Since then, ESOC has been responsible for the operation of over thirty-five spacecraft missions for ESA and later for Eutelsat, Eumetsat and Inmarsat. It has also provided support to eighteen satellites built for various national agencies and administrations. Thanks to advanced technology, ESOC is able to control over fifteen satellites in parallel. It is presently controlling seven satellites from Darmstadt and the associated control centres.

ESOC is also at the forefront of research into orbital debris and coordinates the European effort in this domain. It maintains the DISCOS Database & Information System which has characterised more than 2.1 million orbital elements. Around 25 000 objects are added monthly.
Further information regarding ESOC operations support can be found at http://www.esoc.esa.de

ESOC choir
The ESOC choir entertains staff and guests with songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Space Telescope Helps European Astronomers Study Major Transitions in Early Universe

HST image
HST image of a small sky area in the southern constellation of Phoenix, around the newly discovered, unusually bright quasar HE 2347-4342 (redshift z = 2.885) seen at the very centre of the frame. (courtesy of ESO Online Digitized Sky Survey)

Observations of the bright southern quasar HE 2347-4342 using European Space Observatory (ESO) telescopes and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST), have provided a group of European astronomers with an exceptional glimpse into an early, still unexplored, transition period of the Universe.

At that time, many billions of years ago, some of the enormous gaseous clouds of hydrogen and helium left over from the Big Bang had not yet been fully ionised by the increasingly strong radiation from emerging galaxies and stars. In recent years astronomers have successfully 'looked back' on this period, but the new observations of HE 2347-4342 have homed in on an important transitionary epoch during the evolution of the young Universe.

After many years of careful preparatory work, Dieter Reimers and his colleagues at the University of Hamburg (D) have identified two bright and distant quasars whose light reaches us along relatively unobstructed paths, and which are sufficiently distant to observe intergalactic helium in their lines of sight (only four such quasars are presently known). The very brightest of these (1015 times more luminous than our Sun) is the quasar HE 2347-4342 in the southern constellation of Phoenix. Its redshift is so high that a specific helium-line in the far-ultraviolet spectral region is shifted into a wave- length region that is observable. This places it at a distance which implies a 'look-back' in time of more than 80% of the age of the Universe. Thus we observe it as it was just a few billion years after the Big Bang.

The HST observations of HE 2347-4342 have therefore provided important information, not only about the quasar itself, but also about the conditions in the surrounding intergalactic medium at this early time. For example, one can observe, for the first time, the patchiness of the intergalactic matter at the exact time of this major transition phase in the Universe.

When, in June 1996, the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed towards this quasar, good-quality recordings of its ultraviolet spectrum were obtained during no less than 13 orbital periods. The observed line structure shows adjacent regions of both very high and low absorption - indicative of an intergalactic medium undergoing the final stage of re-ionisation. This first, direct observation of the late stages of the re-ionisation epoch is an important step forward in our understanding of the thermal history of the Universe. Theoretical modelling based on such data should allow us to identify, more precisely, the still unknown epoch when the first galaxies and quasars began to light up and thereby to ionise the intergalactic gas left over from the Big Bang.

Observation of the re-ionisation epoch also provides yet another confirmation of standard Big Bang cosmology.

Legal and Policy Aspects of Cooperation

J.J.Dordain E. Ondracek
Mr Jean-Jacques Dordain of ESA handing over a SOHO model to Prof. E. Ondracek, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic

An international colloquium was held on 11 and 12 September to discuss legal issues and future cooperation between ESA and Central and Eastern European Countries. Topics included:

Held in Prague, the colloquium was co-organised by the Czech Society of International Law (in association with the Faculty of Law, Charles University, Prague), ESA and the European Centre for Space Law.

Successful Launch of Cassini/Huygens Mission

lift-off Cassini/Huygens
Pre-dawn Floridian skies lit up by the lift-off of the Cassini/Huygens mission as it started its seven-year journey to Saturn

ESA's latest and farthest venture into the Solar System began at 04:43 European Daylight Time (EDT), 10:43 Central European Time (CET), from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 15 October.

About 500 representatives of the European scientific, engineering and industrial teams responsible for building the Huygens Probe, witnessed the powerful boosters of the Titan launcher light up the pre-dawn sky.

The Cassini/Huygens launch sequence concluded with the completion of the second firing and separation of the Centaur upper stage rocket at 05:26 EDT. NASA's ground station at Canberra, Australia, obtained good signals from Cassini an hour after launch.

The European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) at Darmstadt will monitor the condition of the Huygens spacecraft throughout its seven-year journey.

The next major event will be the swing-by of Cassini/Huygens at Venus on 21 April 1998. This will be the first of a sequence of 'gravity-assist' operations at Venus, the Earth and Jupiter, used to accelerate the spacecraft.

In 2004, the Huygens probe will plunge into the thick atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

The AWARDS Project

ESA Finance and Technical staff
ESA Finance and Technical staff who will be immediately involved in the development of the AWARDS operational software and their counterparts from Industry who will be responsible for its production. The Prime Contractor is CAP GEMINI (F) with AXYS (F) as principal sub-contractor

On Friday 26 September 1997, the Agency held the kick-off meeting in ESRIN for Phase 2 (the Development Phase) of its AWARDS Project. AWARDS is the title of the ESA project to replace its long-standing Financial System, EFSY. The Agency has adopted a new approach to its financial management by replacing EFSY, a custom-made product now some fourteen years old, with a COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) financial package.

A feasibility study of this new approach started in April 1995 and culminated in the selection of GEAC's SmartStream Financials in mid-1996 to form the basis of the Agency's new financial system, AWARDS, as from January 1999. Phase 1 (the Definition Phase) started in August 1996 and was completed one year later. With a mandate to adopt general financial practices as covered by SmartStream Financials, as far as the Agency's financial regulations will allow, significant simplifications in the Agency's operating procedures are anticipated. Furthermore, the advanced technology of the SmartStream product will provide easy access to non-Finance authorised users and, additionally, enable the establishment of interfaces to both Programme and Administrative systems. This will result in a two-way flow of information of mutual benefit.

ESA project manager
The ESA Project Manager, Mr C.W. Pridgeon (seated centre) shaking hands with Mr J.-P. Gleyse of CAP GEMINI after the executive order for Phase 2 was signed by both parties. Also pictured are (standing, left to right) Mr P. Escande, CAP GEMINI, Mr E. Schreyers, ESAAWARDS Technical Manager, and (seated right) Mr T. Beer, ESA Contracts Officer responsible for AWARDS

First Automatic Parafoil Flight Test

first automatic parafoil flight test
A test vehicle makes the first automatically-guided, parafoil-based descent and landing as part of ESA's Parafoil Technology Demonstration programme through which soft and accurate landing techniques for the planned Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) are being validated. ESA is studying a CTV for the transport of international crew to and from the International Space Station (photo courtesy of ESA-Daimler-Benz Aerospace)

On 25 June 1997, the first automatically-guided, parafoil-based descent and landing of a test vehicle was carried out in support of ESA's development of a Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) that will travel to and from the International Space Station.

The flight test is part of ESA's Parafoil Technology Demonstration (PTD) programme through which landing techniques for the planned CTV are being validated. A large parafoil is used to slow down the craft's velocity and allow it to make a precise landing on unprepared terrain. The system has been qualified for payloads of up to 3200 kg through 10 previous flight tests, including three remotely controlled flights performed in April and May 1997.

This latest, automatically-guided test was performed in Germany using a large parafoil (160 m2) with a payload of more than 1700Êkg. The vehicle's guidance system was based on GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation.

The test vehicle, which includes actuators and avionics equipment to control flight, as well as a sensor package and a telemetry/ telecommand capability, was released from a transport aircraft at an altitude of 1800 m. The opening sequence of the parafoil and the subsequent glide were normal. Following the check-out of all systems, the automatic guidance of the test vehicle was self-initiated and the touchdown was within 200 m of the planned landing area. The landing loads were reduced to a minimum by means of a dynamic flare manoeuvre.

Major elements of ESA's parafoil-based descent and landing system are considered to be excellent candidates for the X-38 programme orbital flight tests, a first step in ESA's cooperation with NASA to develop a family of crew return and transfer vehicles.

Daimler-Benz Aerospace in Munich (D) is the prime contractor for the development and flight testing of the parafoil system, primarily supported by Aerazur (F), Dassault (F), Fokker Space (NL) and APCO (CH).

ESA Invention Flies on Inmarsat-3 Satellites

Inmarsat-3 model
Inmarsat-3 satellite model undergoing antenna tests (photo courtesy of Matra Marconi Space)

One of the key objectives of ESA's R&D activities is to enhance the ability of the European space industry to compete on world markets. This goal has been fulfilled in the case of the Inmarsat-3 communication satellite series, for which European industry won the payload procurement contract.

Matra Marconi Space has delivered five communication payloads to Lockheed Martin for the Inmarsat-3 satellites, four of which have been successfully launched since April 1996, the last on 3 June 1997 from Kourou by an Ariane 44L launcher (V97). These payloads generate a set of L-band spot beams for world-wide voice and data communication services to mobile terminals on ships, aircraft and vehicles, as well as small pocket-size messaging units. They use the latest spot-beam technology providing power-efficient dynamic allocation of communication traffic to the various beams, and allowing greater re-use of the available frequency spectrum. This efficient spot-beam technology relies on a novel antenna front-end invented by ESA's DrÊAntoine Roederer and licensed by the Agency to Matra Marconi Space.

With this semi-active antenna architecture, the excitation of the radiators feeding the reflector can be varied so as to reconfigure the spot-beam coverage, while keeping amplifier power levels virtually constant. This results in optimum DC to RF power conversion efficiency for the payload, thereby maximising satellite channel capacity.

According to Inmarsat, the operational in-flight performance of the antenna has exceeded expectations. The novel ESA technology has been recognised as being outstandingly efficient, in terms of both flexibility and power consumption, and is being adopted for world-wide use in the next generation of geostationary personal communication satellites.

48th IAF Congress

IAF congress
On October 7, during the IAF Congress, Mr Antonio Rodotà (seated, left), ESA's Director General, and Dr Conrado Varotto (seated, right), President of the Comisión Nacional de Activitades Espaciales of Argentina (CONAE), signed an agreement between ESA and CONAE concerning the direct reception, archiving, processing and distribution of ERS-1/2 SAR data. The signing was assisted by Mr Marco Ferrazzani (standing, left), ESA Legal Affairs, and Mr Karl-Egon Reuter (standing, right), ESA Head of Cabinet

Developing Business from Space was the central theme of this year's congress organised by the International Astronautics Federation (IAF), the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) from 6-10 October. The congress was held in Turin, Italy, the centre of Italian domestic and international space activities. As a major international event, the congress attracted 1400 participants and presenters representing major space agencies around the world. In keeping with the theme, the congress also provided opportunities for space agencies and industry to sign agreements for future sevices (see photo).

The opening ceremony was visited by a number of national and international officials, including the President of the Italian Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. The city of Turin opened its doors to all participants, sponsoring a reception and concert of Italian Baroque music as well as visits to its many museums.

An International Exhibition dedicated to Transfer of Technology highlighted the most signifiant aspects of the transfer of space technology to other fields such as the automobile industry, energy generation, sensors, biotechnology and medicine.

The public's interest and enthusiasm for space activities was demonstrated by the some 65 000 visitors to the week-long events and exhibitions.

ESA and NASDA Exchange Hardware

ESA and NASDA exchange hardware
Signing the MOU for the exchange of ISS hardware are (left to right, seated): Mr H. Murayama, Executive Director, Office of Space Utilisation Systems, NASDA and Mr J. Feustel-Büechl, ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity

ESA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Space Agency of Japan (NASDA) agreeing to exchange hardware to be used on the International Space Station (ISS), along with the required support services.

The MOU, signed on 5 November in Paris which, for the first time, does not involve the exchange of funds. According to the terms of agreement, ESA will deliver to NASDA one flight unit of a Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer (MELFI). In return, NASDA will provide ESA with 12 flight-unit International Standard Payload Racks (ISPRs). Both exchanges include associated support equipment and training.

The MELFI facility will be used to store scientific experiment samples at a very low temperature (-80°C) both on board the ISS and during transportation on the US Space Shuttle. The freezer is currently under development by a European consortium led by Matra Marconi Space (see In Brief, Bulletin 89) and is to be delivered to NASDA by the second half of 1999. ESA will also deliver three identical freezers to NASA under a separate ESA/NASA agreement.

The ISPR is a rack accommodating laboratory facilities and experiments to, and on board, the ISS. The structure and its interfaces with Space Station modules are based on a concept that has been agreed by the ISS partners and increases commonality in ISS utilisation support equipment. Deliveries of the ISPRs are scheduled for November 1997 and March 1999.

"Through this exchange of hardware, we have been able to minimise our respective development and procurement costs. We have capitalised on existing industrial development activities in both Europe and Japan" noted J. Feustel-Büechl, ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity.


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Right Left Up Home ESA Bulletin Nr. 92.
Published November 1997.