ESA mission name for astronaut Tim Peake: Principia

Tim Peake

18 July 2014When ESA astronaut Tim Peake sets off for his six-month space journey next year, he will be flying under the mission name of Principia.

More than 4000 people replied to the call for a mission name earlier this year and Principia was suggested 20 times. The name refers to Isaac Newton’s world-changing three-part text on physics, Naturalis Principia Mathematica, describing the principal laws of motion and gravity.

Famously pondering why apples fall from trees, Newton wrote down the laws of gravity and laid the basis for working with it, a requirement for spaceflight. Tim Peake will spend six months living in weightlessness, the first time a British–ESA astronaut will visit the International Space Station.

“I am delighted with this name that honours one of Britain’s most famous scientists,” Tim says. “I hope it will also encourage people to observe the world as if for the first time ­– just as Isaac Newton did.

“Our planet Earth is a precious and beautiful place and we all need to safeguard it.”

Tim will be launched from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in November 2015 – and will be able to enjoy Newton’s favourite fruit as supply ships arrive at the international space laboratory. One of his aims is to inspire children during his stay in space, in particular by promoting healthy eating.

The International Space Station is first and foremost a place of science, and the six astronauts there spend much of their time working on experiments that cannot be done anywhere on Earth.

It’s a busy time in space for ESA astronauts, with Alexander Gerst currently working in the Station, Samantha Cristoforetti leaving for it in November this year, and Andreas Mogensen being launched shortly before Tim’s mission for a 10-day stay on the Station.

International Space Station
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Grandson Logan meets U.K. Astronaut Tim Peake

We visited the Farnborough Air Show yesterday. A great day out as always. Chatted to the various staff members on the ESA stand and the UK Space Agency stand. Listened to a lecture by Tim Peake.

He has had a very busy week and all of the media want a bit of him as the mission reaches the next milestone (mission name chosen-check). Space food chosen-check.

The mission patch is to be designed by children through the Blue Peter TV programme later this year.

Our grandson (space mad, but he also has a passion for steam engines and aeroplanes, especially loud ones) met up with Tim Peake at the airshow.

Logan meets Astronaut Tim Peake at Farnborough.

Logan meets Astronaut Tim Peake at Farnborough.

 

Tim Peake’s Mission to the ISS named ‘Principia’

I was one of the twenty people that proposed the mission name……

Earlier this week with only one day’s notice, Bryar and I were invited to a champagne (neither of drink unfortunately) reception in London. We attended the event at the Royal Society for the official mission naming ceremony.

I had entered the naming competition with ‘Principia’ as my suggestion. As it turned out 19 others had also done so. Some ten winners were able to attend, we met Tim and had a chat, posed with him for some photos. He promised we would all receive a signed mission insignia from the ISS upon his return.

We also managed to get close up to a display of some of the original notes and letters handwritten by Sir Isaac Newton to create the Principia. An original telescope, Newton’s death mask and some space flown apple tree wood. Photo to follow!

We were sworn to secrecy as the name was to be officially released at the Farnborough Air Show the following evening, however events that occurred in the skies above Ukraine quite rightly took precedence. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all involved.

Onward and upward for Major Tim.

Astronaut Tim Peake Mission naming reception, Royal Society London. 15/07/14

Astronaut Tim Peake Mission naming reception, Royal Society London. 15/07/14

Helping China to the Moon

Kourou tracking station

29 November 2013Shortly after China’s Chang’e-3 spacecraft departs Earth to land on the Moon, ESA’s network of tracking stations will swing into action, providing crucial support for the vessel’s five-day lunar cruise.

China’s Chang’e-3, named after the mythological goddess of the Moon, is scheduled for lift off on 1 December from the Xichang launch base in China’s Sichuan province on a journey to deposit a lander and a six-wheeled rover on the lunar surface.

The landing, in the Sea of Rainbows on 14 December, will be the first since Russia’s Luna-24 in 1976.

Immediately after liftoff, ESA’s station in Kourou, French Guiana, will start receiving signals from the mission and uploading commands on behalf of the Chinese control centre.

The tracking will run daily throughout the voyage to the Moon. Then, during descent and after landing, ESA’s deep-space stations will pinpoint the craft’s path and touchdown.

“We are proud that the expertise of our ground station and flight dynamics teams and the sophisticated technologies of our worldwide Estrack network can assist China to deliver a scientifically important lander and rover to the Moon,” says ESA’s Thomas Reiter, Director for Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“Whether for human or robotic missions, international cooperation like this is necessary for the future exploration of planets, moons and asteroids, benefitting everyone.”

The effort is being run from the Estrack Control Centre in ESA’s European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Following lunar mission progress

Chang’e-3 liftoff is set for around 18:00 GMT on 1 December, and the 15 m-diameter dish in Kourou will pick up the first signals around 18:44 GMT.

Working with Chinese tracking stations, Kourou will support the mission through lunar orbit entry on 6 December continuing until just prior to its descent to the surface, expected around mid-day on 14 December.

The landing and rover operations on the Moon will be commanded via two Chinese tracking stations at Kashi, in the far west of China, and at Jiamusi, in the northeast.

“After the lander and rover are on the surface, we will use our 35 m-diameter deep-space antennas at Cebreros, Spain, and New Norcia, Australia, to provide ‘delta-DOR’ location measurement,” says Erik Soerensen, responsible for external mission tracking support at ESOC.

“Using this delta-DOR technique, you can compute locations with extreme accuracy, which will help our Chinese colleagues to determine the precise location of the lander.”

Cebreros and New Norcia stations watch lunar landing

Together with Cebreros, New Norcia will record Chang’e-3’s radio signals during landing, which will help the Chinese space agency to reconstruct the trajectory for future reference.

A team of engineers from China will be on hand in Darmstadt. “While we’re very international at ESOC, hardly anyone speaks Mandarin, so having Chinese colleagues on site will really help in case of any unforeseen problems,” says Erik.

“Both sides are using international technical standards to enable our stations and ESOC to communicate with their mission and ground systems.”

Spacelab and 30 years of ESA astronauts

Spacelab-1/STS-9 launch

Thirty years ago this week the first European-built Spacelab was launched on the Space Shuttle. ESA’s first astronaut, Ulf Merbold, flew on the mission, marking ESA’s entry into human spaceflight.

On 28 November 1983 at 11:00 local time, the ninth Space Shuttle mission was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA.

The six astronauts on Spacelab-1 worked in two teams on 12-hour shifts, allowing for continuous operations. They performed over 70 experiments in solar physics, space plasma physics, astronomy, Earth observation, material science, technology and life sciences.

After circling Earth 166 times in just over 10 days, Space Shuttle Columbia landed back on Earth on 8 December.

Space laboratory

Spacelab was a cooperation between ESA and NASA, with Europe responsible for funding, designing and building Spacelab and agreeing to deliver free of charge the engineering model, the first flight unit and ground equipment in return for a shared first mission.

In preparation for Spacelab, ESA Member States in 1978 put forward 53 astronaut candidates, and four were selected: Ulf Merbold of Germany, Wubbo Ockels of the Netherlands, Claude Nicollier of Switzerland and Franco Malerba of Italy.

Ulf was selected for the first Spacelab mission, with Wubbo as backup. Wubbo flew on the Spacelab-D1 mission in 1985.

Between 1983 and 1998, Spacelab modules flew on the Space Shuttle 22 times and totalled 244 days in orbit. Experiments surveyed the possibilities of weightless research in many scientific areas that led to space-age metals used in mass-produced smartphones and revealed areas of space research that show promise in treating chronic muscle diseases.

Spacelab evolution

Many of Spacelab’s features live on in space hardware that is flying above us today. The pressure shell was reused for the Harmony and Tranquility modules on the International Space Station, and supply spacecraft, such as ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicles and the commercial Cygnus, reuse Spacelab’s exterior structure.

Europe’s Columbus laboratory on the Station evolved from Spacelab. On the inside, Spacelab used standardised science racks that contributed to its success and were adopted for all of the Station’s laboratory modules.

In the same way that Spacelab was operated by international teams of astronauts, so are today’s European experiments and laboratories on the Station. They are kept running and performing science by the Station’s permanent crew – which now includes European astronauts.

Orion Milestone Set for 2014

22 November 2013

A milestone in developing Europe’s contribution to NASA’s Orion crew vehicle, expected to take human crews beyond Earth orbit later this decade, has been set for next May. The period until then will allow for an in depth design analysis for the proposed European hardware.

Using Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) technology proven in flight, Europe will contribute hardware and expertise to the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

 The activity highlights the major involvement of ESA and European industry in this cornerstone NASA project, and is based on the long-standing partnership of the two Agencies across many areas of human and robotic spaceflight.

Andreas Mogensen set for Soyuz mission to Space Station in 2015

Andreas Mogensen

28 August 2013ESA’s Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen has been assigned to be launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in September 2015 for a mission to the International Space Station.

This 10-day mission will be Andreas’s first flight into space and the first ever space mission by a Danish astronaut.

The flight is directly connected to the new era in ISS operations: two experienced spacefarers from the USA and Russia will work on the Station for one year from May 2015. During his stay onboard the ISS, he will conduct a series of experiments preparing future missions and testing new technologies.

“I’m happy to announce this mission as this is already the fifth flight assignment for the class recruited in 2009,” said Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“With first of the new class, Luca Parmitano, currently working on the Space Station, and three other astronauts already training for their imminent missions, ESA’s new astronauts are very busy.

“Thanks to the decisions of the Member States at the Ministerial Council last November, we will be able to fulfil our commitment to fly all six newly selected astronauts before the end of 2017,” said Mr Reiter.

“This mission is the fulfilment of a life-long dream and the culmination of many years of hard work and training,” said Andreas Mogensen.

“I am excited to be able to participate in ESA’s outstanding programme of science and technology development on board the International Space Station and I am honoured to represent Denmark and Europe in space. The mission is a unique opportunity for Europe to develop and test the technologies necessary for the future of human space exploration.”

New technology and science mission

The launch of the mission will take place on 30 September, 2015 with the launch of Soyuz TMA-18 (44S) and it will end on 10 October, when Andreas will land with Soyuz TMA-16 (42S).

During his flight, Andreas will test novel ways of interaction between the ground and space crews with a mobile device that allows astronauts to operate it hands-free and with several multi-user communication techniques. The system will have also advanced 3D visualisation and augmented reality –features that will be fully exploited with added wearable computers and cameras to allow the general public to follow activities on the ISS ‘through the eyes of an ESA astronaut’ potentially in real time.

Andreas’s short mission is an excellent opportunity for several science studies, particularly in life science. By adding samples and measurements from a short-duration mission astronaut to material gathered and being collected during long-duration missions, the value of the biomedical statistics is increased. All the instrumentation needed for physiology, biology and material science experiments is already available in the Columbus laboratory and samples can be returned quickly back to Earth for further analysis.

A short-duration mission is also perfect for testing a new generation of health sensors, vital measurement devices and electro-muscle-mobility devices. These have direct benefit for future exploration missions and even sooner on Earth, for instance with operators of heavy machinery or with rehabilitation after sports injuries.

Andreas will be specially suited too: he will assess a new ‘skinsuit’ during normal daily activities. This is tight garment made from elastic material mimicking Earth gravity and thus passively mitigating deconditioning of an astronaut’s body during spaceflight.

Along with the Soyuz arrival, the ISS will host up to nine persons for a while – a record that has not been broken since retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011.

Between Luca’s ongoing mission and flight of Andreas in 2015, ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst and Samantha Cristoforetti, are scheduled for launch in 2014 for long-duration missions to the Station. After Andreas, the next European destined for space will be Tim Peake, who will start his long-duration mission on the ISS as a member of the Expedition 46/47 in December 2015.

High-flying engineer

This new technology packed mission will be a dream flight for an aerospace engineer like Andreas. Not only will the mission include many firsts and demonstrations, but also Andreas will fly as the flight engineer in the ‘left seat’ of Soyuz, making him second-in-command of their vehicle.

Andreas was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 2 November 1976, and he received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London, UK, in 1999, followed by a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, USA, in 2007.

He was selected as an ESA astronaut in May 2009 and completed the astronaut basic training programme in November 2010 with the five other astronauts of the 2009 class. Andreas is a qualified Eurocom at the Columbus Control Centre in Munich, where he has been communicating with the astronauts on the International Space Station.

In addition to his training and work activities, Andreas worked for ESA on the Lunar Lander programme at ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where he was involved in the design of the guidance, navigation and control system for a precision lunar landing.

From his homebase at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, Andreas will start his mission training with the partners of the International Space Station. This will take him to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA, and Star City, near Moscow, Russia, as well as Japan and Canada.

Andreas blogs about space exploration and his astronaut training activities in Danish at videnskab.dk/profil/andreas-mogensen.

EDRS space network ready to go ahead

EDRS space network ready to go ahead


 
Artist impression of European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) system
 
 

23 November 2012
 
PR 39 2012 – The design of Europe’s data relay satellite system – EDRS – has been completed and approved. This marks the moment when it moves ahead with a green light from its first customer, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative from the European Union (GMES).
 
EDRS will provide a telecommunications network that is fast, reliable and seamless, making real-time information from satellites available on demand.

EDRS will be the first commercially operated data relay system to deliver services to the Earth observation community.

It is being built through a Public–Private Partnership (PPP) between ESA and Astrium Services, using payloads carried by two satellites in geostationary orbit, hovering 36 000 km above the Equator, where their speed matches Earth’s rotation.

Data transmitted from satellites in lower orbits to either of these EDRS payloads can then be relayed to the ground.

The payload includes a laser terminal developed by TESAT of Germany to transmit up to 1.8 gigabits per second over distances in excess of 40 000 km, between the lower satellites and EDRS in geostationary orbit.

A design review board of senior members from ESA, Astrium and the DLR German Aerospace Center approved the entire system design: from the satellites to the support that will be required from the ground.

The industrial organisation is fully in place with all subcontracts negotiated and ESA’s partner Astrium Services ready to begin production.

“EDRS is a fantastic breakthrough for Europe, from the innovative laser communication terminal technology, which is the heart of EDRS, to the provision of operational services by 2014 through a PPP that combines the best from European space companies with the national and European space institutions,” says Magali Vaissiere, director of ESA’s Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Directorate.

The first of the two EDRS payloads will be carried on the Eutelsat-EB9B satellite, starting operation in 2014, built by Astrium and positioned at 9°E over the Equator.

The second satellite, planned for launch in 2016, will carry the second EDRS payload as well as the Hylas-3 payload from the UK’s Avanti Communications. This satellite will be built by Germany’s OHB using the SmallGEO platform, currently under development by OHB under ESA contract.

Second joint DLR and ESA SpaceTweetup at Berlin airshow

Second joint DLR and ESA SpaceTweetup at Berlin airshow


Astronauts and participants at Spacetweetup 2011
 
Astronauts and participants at SpaceTweetup 2011
 
 

20 July 2012
 
The DLR German Aerospace Center and ESA are again inviting 50 of their followers on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to a Tweetup at the ILA Berlin airshow in September. Applications are now welcome.
 
A Tweetup is an informal gathering of people who use the Twitter social media platform. This time, the selection process includes Facebook and Google+ users.

As with the first European SpaceTweetup in Cologne in September 2011, participants in the #ILAtweetup on Friday, 14 September will be in close and personal contact with European aerospace.

ILA offers a perfect opportunity for this, with over 1000 exhibitors from 47 countries and an extensive flying programme.

 
 

   
Space Pavilion at ILA 2010
 

Among the exhibitors are ESA and DLR, which is presenting itself both as a research centre for the aerospace sector and as a space agency.

With the support of the German Aerospace Industries Association, DLR and ESA are presenting European space research in two venues.

 
 
The Space Pavilion exhibition hall will be filled with fascinating displays. DLR will have its own stand showcasing its aerospace research work.
 
 
The Spacetweeps will have access to both venues. The programme for the #ILAtweetup includes:

  • meeting European astronauts
  • exclusive discussions with DLR and ESA scientists
  • guided tour of the Space Pavilion
  • guided tour of the DLR stand, including the ‘Earth observation island’ and the Robomobil
  • guided tour of DLR’s research aircraft
  • meeting with the social media teams from DLR and ESA as well as other European Spacetweeps
  • Short presentations from and Q&A sessions with scientists and project managers from DLR and ESA

On 14 September, all #ILAtweetup participants will be able to access ILA 2012 free of charge.
 
 

Spacetweetup 2011
   
SpaceTweetup 2011
 

Free WLAN Internet access, beverages and light snacks will also be provided.

Registration now open

Follow the link in the navigation bar at right or below to apply to participate. Applications will be accepted until 3 August.


How to register for the 2012 ILA Tweetup