Lab Tests and Life Science as Station Orbits Higher Today

ISS – Expedition 55 Mission patch.

April 18, 2018

A docked Russian cargo craft automatically fired its engines this morning boosting the International Space Station’s altitude a little higher. During the rest of the day, the Expedition 55 crew supported life science and swapped out station hardware.

Russia’s Progress 69 resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module fired its thrusters boosting the station’s orbit today. The two-minute, six-second burn establishes the correct orbit when three crew members undock and land in June and a two-orbit rendezvous capability for the Progress 70P resupply craft when it launches in July.

Image above: Mexico, Baja California and the southern coast of the state of California are pictured as the International Space Station orbited above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA crewmates Scott Tingle, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel became lab assistants today as they collected and stowed their own blood, urine and saliva samples in a science freezer. Two long-running human research experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, are basing their results on the analysis of these samples helping scientists understand how microgravity impacts the human body.

Tingle later tested the Miniature Exercise Device-2 for providing a range of motion and resistance exercise while taking up less space aboard the station. Feustel installed new firewall gear in the Harmony module before replacing manifold bottles in the Combustion Integrated Rack. Arnold worked with commercial science hardware then processed samples for a protein crystal growth student experiment.

Image above: Flying over North Pacific Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27’611 Km/h, altitude: 409,52 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam’s from ISS on April 19, 2018 at 01:33 UTC.

Mice are being observed on the orbital lab today to understand the physiological signals that lead to muscle and bone loss in space. Norishige Kanai from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency collected blood samples from the mice to be processed, analyzed and stowed in a science freezer. Scientists are studying the effectiveness of a drug therapy to prevent those stresses and signals that cause weakened bones and muscles.

Related links:

Biochemical Profile:


Miniature Exercise Device-2:

Student experiment:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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NASA Planet Hunter on Its Way to Orbit

SpaceX – TESS Mission patch.

April 18, 2018

Image above: NASA’s next planet-hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 on April 18, 2018. TESS will search for new worlds outside our solar system for further study. Image Credit: NASA Television.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched on the first-of-its-kind mission to find worlds beyond our solar system, including some that could support life.

TESS, which is expected to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.

SpaceX Falcon 9 launches TESS – Falcon 9 first stage landing

“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.”

Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.

“One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit,” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. “Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That’s one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before.”

For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.

Image above: Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC.

TESS will be watching for phenomena called transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of its star from the observer’s perspective, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness. More than 78 percent of the approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets have been found using transits.

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft found more than 2,600 exoplanets, most orbiting faint stars between 300 and 3,000 light-years from Earth, using this same method of watching for transits. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets.

The brightness of these target stars will allow researchers to use spectroscopy, the study of the absorption and emission of light, to determine a planet’s mass, density and atmospheric composition. Water, and other key molecules, in its atmosphere can give us hints about a planets’ capacity to harbor life.

“The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come,” said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”

NASA’s New Planet Hunter: TESS

Video above: This video provides an overview of the TESS mission, which will monitor bright, nearby stars for evidence of orbiting planets. Video Credits: NASA GSFC.

Through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, the worldwide scientific community will be able to conduct research beyond TESS’s core mission in areas ranging from exoplanet characterization to stellar astrophysics, distant galaxies and solar system science.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT and managed by Goddard. George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, serves as principal investigator for the mission. TESS’s four wide-field cameras were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

Related links:

NASA’s Kepler:

TESS Guest Investigator Program:

NASA Astrophysics Explorer:

TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/NASA/Felicia Chou/Karen Northon/Goddard Space Flight Center/Claire Saravia/Kennedy Space Center/Joshua Finch/SciNews.

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Proton-M launches Blagovest military communications satellite


April 18, 2018

Illustration image of Proton-M rocket launch (Amazon-5)

Russia’s Proton-M rocket made its first flight in six months Thursday, on track to deploy a Blagovest military communications satellite. Launch occurred from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 04:12 local time (22:12 UTC on Wednesday), ahead of over nine hours of flight to deployment of its passenger.

Thursday’s launch is carrying the Blagovest No.12L satellite, the second spacecraft in a new series of communications satellites for Russia’s Ministry of Defence. After launch the satellite is likely to be renamed Kosmos 2526 under the designation scheme that Russia uses for its military spacecraft. Few details about the spacecraft have been made public.

Blagovest – meaning Good News – is a project that has been funded by the Russian military. Each satellite carries a payload of Ka and Q-band transponders. Although the satellites are being launched for the Ministry of Defence, they are reportedly equipped for telephony, broadcasting and internet services – which will support a dual-use mission with commercial service as well as linking Russia’s military bases.

Blagovest satellite

The Blagovest spacecraft are built by ISS Reshetnev – the successor to the Soviet-era NPO PM design bureau that was headed by Mikhail Reshetnev. Blagovest is based around the Ekspress 2000 bus that has previously been used for the civilian Ekspress-AM5 and AM6 and Yamal 401 satellites. Once in orbit the satellite will deploy a pair of solar arrays to generate power. It is expected to remain in service for fifteen years.

The Blagovest constellation is expected to consist of at least four satellites in geostationary orbit. It will include spacecraft at longitudes of 45 and 128 degrees East – Kosmos 2520 operates at 45 degrees East.

Thursday’s launch of Blagovest No.12L follows the successful deployment of Blagovest No.11L, the first satellite in the series, last August. Now known as Kosmos 2520, Blagovest No.11L was deployed by a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage flying out of Site 81/24 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Blagovest No.12L is riding to orbit aboard the same type of rocket, flying from the same launch pad.

Images, Text,Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA Graham/Günter Space Page.

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