Focus on the future of space transportation: ESA’s call for ideas

ESA is calling for ideas that will shape the future of space transportation services – to space, in space and returning from space.

“The changing world we live in requires a space agency to anticipate. Now is the time for ESA to reach out to our citizens in the Member States and listen to their ideas and take them on board in Europe’s greatest adventure,” commented Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.

This call for ideas is part of ESA’s drive to encourage open innovation from industry and individuals, from space and non-space sectors, to ensure that Europe can meet future challenges and seize new opportunities.

Proposals are welcome from space- and non-space-based companies, start-ups, universities and institutions, oriented towards private customer services and commercially viable ventures that would complement existing ESA space transportation programmes and activities.

Providing new, affordable transportation services will open up business opportunities, in turn benefiting the European public sector, stimulating employment and economic growth and competitiveness.

New services to space could include low-cost access to space for light satellites to low Earth orbit. New services in orbit and return from orbit could include transportation for exploration missions, Earth–Moon cargo supply services, space logistics or in-orbit servicing.

Submitted ideas can be at any level of technical maturity, but are expected to have a long-term vision of service provision and show a high potential for return on investment, with a financing scheme based on private investments.

Along with submitting their idea, responders to the call can take this opportunity to identify how ESA can help them develop their idea into a fully operational space transportation service.

Closing date for submissions is 14 September.

All eligible entries will receive feedback from an ESA panel of experts, with the most promising ideas being invited for further discussions on how to start developing their idea towards the reality of an operational and commercially successful system. In addition, up to three winning entries will win a trip to witness a launch – and experience European guaranteed access to space at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

“Along with the new space era of increasing private stakes in space, ESA’s early understanding and involvement in emerging space transportation services in Europe will help us spur the environment that supports long-term success, growth and competitiveness,” commented Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s Director of Space Transportation.

This call for ideas is a first step toward identifying promising ideas within Europe for new, privately funded, customer-oriented, commercial space transportation services. This will help ESA prepare and implement the support that these ideas need to get off the ground.

For further information related to this announcement of opportunity, open the folder ‘News’ at:

http://emits.esa.int/

Second Space Station mission for Alexander Gerst begins

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst arrived at the International Space Station this morning together with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev, marking the start of Alexander’s Horizons mission.

The trio were launched into space on 6 June at 11:12 GMT (13:12 CEST) in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

After 34 orbits of Earth over two days, the three astronauts aligned their spacecraft with the 400-tonne International Space Station and approached the orbital outpost for docking. The two days were spent in the cramped orbital module of the Soyuz that is no larger than a car. With limited communications and living space the astronauts had time to adapt to weightlessness and reflect on their mission ahead.

The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft arrived at the 400-tonne International Space Station on 8 June at 13:01 GMT (15:01 CEST) and docked to the Rassvet module. After standard but thorough checks to ensure an airtight connection between the two spaceships the hatches were opened at 15:17 GMT (17:17 CEST) to let Alexander, Serena and Sergei into their home and workplace for the next six months.

During the second part of his mission, Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station, only the second European to do so, after Belgian ESA astronaut Frank de Winne in 2009. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will be the third European commander next year during his mission in 2019 – a show of trust in European know-how and training for space by the Space Station’s international partners.

 

Horizons

The mission is called Horizons as a symbol for the unknown and what lies beyond. The mission further cements ESA’s know-how for living and working off-planet. Alexander will be testing ways of operating and working with robots to develop techniques required for further human and robotic exploration of our Solar System such as commanding rovers while orbiting another planet.

Plans to build an international gateway between the Moon and Earth are being discussed this month with Europe supplying key parts such as a habitation module and the service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft to ferry astronauts, supplies and parts.

An advanced life-support system built in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is set for launch and installation while Alexander is on board. It will allow for humans to live farther away from Earth as it requires less frequent supplies through better recycling of air and water. Next year the Space Station’s communications will get a significant upgrade through a European laser communications system installed outside Columbus that connects to the European Data Relay System.

 

Research in microgravity

Alexander’s Horizons science programme is packed with European research: he will take part in over 50 experiments to deliver benefits to people on Earth as well as prepare for future space exploration. Many of these experiments will take place in Europe’s Columbus laboratory that is celebrating its 10th anniversary in space this year.Easier and continued access to humanity’s micro-gravity laboratory for researchers has been secured with the installation of the first European commercial micro-gravity research service ICE Cubes earlier this week. For a fixed fee any research team can run an experiment inside the European space laboratory Columbus.

 

Preparing the future

All these activities fit within the European exploration strategy that brings new knowledge, innovation and inspiration to European citizens built around international cooperation to bring societies around the world together. ESA is preparing exciting programmes with our international partners to build a low-Earth orbit economy, return humans to the Moon and bring samples back from Mars.

Seventh Sentinel satellite launched for Copernicus

The second Sentinel-3 satellite, Copernicus Sentinel-3B, was launched today, joining its identical twin Sentinel-3A in orbit. This pairing of satellites increases coverage and data delivery for the European Union’s Copernicus environment programme.

The 1150 kg Sentinel-3B satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk, Russia, at 17:57 GMT (19:57 CEST21:57 local time) on 25 April.

Rockot’s upper stage delivered Sentinel-3B into its planned orbit..

Just 92 minutes after liftoff, Sentinel-3B sent its first signals to the Kiruna station in Sweden. Data links were quickly established by teams at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, allowing them to assume control of the satellite.

During the three-day launch and the early orbit phase, controllers will check that all the satellite’s systems are working and begin calibrating the instruments to commission the satellite. The mission is expected to begin routine operations after five months.

“This is the seventh launch of a Sentinel satellite in the last four years. It is a clear demonstration of what European cooperation can achieve and it is another piece to operating the largest Earth observation programme in the world, together with our partners from the European Commission and Eumetsat,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.

With this launch, the first set of Sentinel missions for the European Union’s Copernicus environmental monitoring network are in orbit, carrying a range of technologies to monitor Earth’s land, oceans and atmosphere.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “With Sentinel-3B, Europe has put the first constellation of Sentinel missions into orbit – this is no small job and has required strong support by all involved. It allows us to get a very detailed picture of our planet on a daily basis and provides crucial information for policy makers.

“It also offers lots of opportunities for commercial companies to develop new innovative services. And, the free and open data policy allows every citizen to have updates for their own use.

“When we designed such a satellite constellation 20 years ago not everyone was convinced Europe could do that. I am glad to see this has become reality and that it is now a large European success story.”

Copernicus relies on the Sentinels and contributing missions to provide data for monitoring the environment and for supporting civil security activities. Sentinel-3 carries a series of cutting-edge sensors to do just that.

Over oceans, it measures the temperature, colour and height of the sea surface as well as the thickness of sea ice. These measurements are used, for example, to monitor changes in Earth’s climate and for more hands-on applications such as marine pollution.

Over land, this innovative mission monitors wildfires, maps the way land is used, checks vegetation health and measures the height of rivers and lakes.

Data from the Copernicus Programme are used worldwide and are free of charge.

NEWS CONFERENCE WITH ESA ASTRONAUT ALEXANDER GERST

Media are invited to the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany on 17 April for ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s last news conference in Europe before his second launch into space.

The final countdown for Alexander’s second stay in orbit has begun. The mission is called Horizons to evoke exploring our Universe, looking far beyond our planet and broadening our knowledge. His first mission was called Blue Dot.

Alexander will be launched on 6 June with US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

Alexander will take over command of the International Space Station for the second half of his mission. This is only the second time that a European astronaut will take up this leading position on the space outpost – the first was ESA astronaut Frank De Winne in 2009. Alexander Gerst is the 11th German citizen to fly into space.

The astronaut is now in the last stages of training for his challenging mission. The science programme is packed with European research: more than 50 experiments will deliver benefits to people back on Earth and prepare for future space exploration.

Journalists will have the opportunity to learn more about the Horizons mission, listen to brief contributions from science experts and ask Alexander questions.

Programme (times CEST)

The event will be presented in German and English.

10:30

Welcome by Frank De Winne, Head of ESA’s European Astronaut Centre

“The European Astronaut Corps”, by ESA astronaut Tim Peake

“Horizons experiments”, by Volker Schmid, Head of DLR’s International Space Station team, and Matthias Sperl, DLR scientist

Lightning talks on Horizons science

11:15

Conversation with Alexander Gerst on science, exploration and his role as Station Commander

11:30

Q&A session

12:30

Media opportunity for shared interviews

13:15

End

 

Location

The event will be held at:

ESA/EAC

Linder Hoehe
D-51147 Cologne
Germany

 

Media accreditation

Media representatives with press or social media credentials are requested to register at:  https://se.myconvento.com/public/event_register/do_register/2148144

Latest date for registration is 16 April.

 

Follow online

The event will be livestreamed from 08:30 GMT (10:30 CEST) at: www.livestream.com/ESA/HorizonsNewsConference

 

Further information

EAC Communication Office
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +49 2203 6001 111

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int

For further information, please contact:
ESA Media Relations Office
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99

Action plan approved for next Ariane 5 launches

After the release of the conclusions of the Ariane VA241 Independent Enquiry Commission on 22 February, the findings and recommendations were formally presented to a Steering Board on 28 February. The board included Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation; Stéphane Israël, Arianespace CEO; and Alain Charmeau, ArianeGroup CEO.

As stated in the Arianespace press release of 23 February, the direct cause of the trajectory deviation on 25 January was an incorrect value provided to the launcher’s two Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs). Given the special requirements of this mission, the azimuth required for the IMU alignment was 70º but the usual value for geostationary transfer orbit missions of 90º was erroneously used instead. This difference led to the 20º shift to the south in the trajectory from the first seconds of flight.

The underlying reasons for the direct cause have been clearly identified: a need to strengthen the processes for establishing, verifying and approving the specific operational procedures involving the IMU reference frame.

Recommendations to improve processes and quality control have been made. Furthermore, additional recommendations to enhance end-to-end verifications of mission-specific parameters used during the launch campaign were made.

ArianeGroup and Arianespace presented their action plan in response to the Independent Enquiry Commission findings and recommendations.

ESA Inspector General Toni Tolker-Nielsen expressed his satisfaction with the presented action plan, which not only addresses the current issue, but a general plan to improve processes and end-to-end verifications, in particular of the few parameters that are not verified because of their nature during the test on the Functional Simulator before each launch.

Thanks to the action plan of ArianeGroup and Arianespace, the reliability of the Ariane 5 launch system, which already had an outstanding series of mission successes establishing it as a market leader, will be further increased.

The actions will enable the next flight of this heavy-lift vehicle to be made this month.

The Steering Committee mandated the ESA Inspector General to monitor the satisfactory implementation of the action plan of ArianeGroup and Arianespace.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int

Galileo launch brings navigation network close to completion

Europe has four more Galileo navigation satellites in the sky following their launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. After today’s success, only one more launch remains before the Galileo constellation is complete and delivering global coverage.

Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace under contract to ESA, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 18:36 GMT (19:36 CET15:36 local time), carrying Galileo satellites 19–22. The first pair of 715 kg satellites was released almost 3 hours 36 minutes after liftoff, while the second pair separated 20 minutes later.

They were released into their target 22 922 km-altitude orbit by the dispenser atop the Ariane 5 upper stage. In the coming days, this quartet will be steered into their final working orbits. There, they will begin around six months of tests – performed by the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) – to check they are ready to join the working Galileo constellation.

This mission brings the Galileo system to 22 satellites. Initial Services began almost a year ago, on 15 December 2016.

“Today’s launch is another great achievement, taking us within one step of completing the constellation,” remarked Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General

“It is a great achievement of our industrial partners OHB (DE) and SSTL (GB) for the satellites, as well as Thales-Alenia-Space (FR, IT) and Airbus Defense and Space (GB, FR) for the ground segment and all their subcontractors throughout Europe, that Europe now has a formidable global satellite navigation system with remarkable performance.

Paul Verhoef, ESA’s Director of Navigation, added: “ESA is the design agent, system engineer and procurement agent of Galileo on behalf of the European Commission. Galileo is now an operating reality, so, in July, operational oversight of the system was passed to the GSA.

“Accordingly, GSA took control of these satellites as soon as they separated from their launcher, with ESA maintaining an advisory role. This productive partnership will continue with the next Galileo launch, by Ariane 5 in mid-2018.

“Meanwhile, ESA is also working with the European Commission and GSA on dedicated research and development efforts and system design to begin the procurement of the Galileo Second Generation, along with other future navigation technologies.”

Next year’s launch of another quartet will bring the 24‑satellite Galileo constellation to the point of completion, plus two orbital spares.

 

About Galileo

Galileo is Europe’s civil global satellite navigation system. It will allow users worldwide to know their exact position in time and space with great precision and reliability. Once complete, the system will consist of 24 operational satellites and the ground infrastructure for the provision of positioning, navigation and timing services.

The Galileo programme is funded and owned by the EU. The European Commission has the overall responsibility for the programme, managing and overseeing the implementation of all programme activities.

Galileo’s deployment, the design and development of the new generation of systems and the technical development of infrastructure are entrusted to ESA. The definition, development and in-orbit validation phases were carried out by ESA, and co‑funded by ESA and the European Commission.

GSA is ensuring the uptake and security of Galileo. Galileo operations and provision of services were entrusted to the GSA in July 2017.

Learn more about Galileo at:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Navigation

ALMA and Rosetta detect Freon-40 in space

Using data captured by ALMA in Chile and from the ROSINA instrument on ESA’s Rosetta mission , a team of astronomers has found faint traces of the chemical compound [Freon-40] – (CH3Cl), also known as methyl chloride and chloromethane, around both the infant star system IRAS 16293-2422 [1], about 400 light-years away, and the famous comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G) in our own Solar System. The new ALMA observation is the first detection ever of a stable organohalogen in interstellar space [2].

Organohalogens consist of halogens, such as chlorine and fluorine, bonded with carbon and sometimes other elements. On Earth, these compounds are created by some biological processes — in organisms ranging from humans to fungi — as well as by industrial processes such as the production of dyes and medical drugs [3].

This new discovery of one of these compounds, Freon-40, in places that must predate the origin of life, can be seen as a disappointment, as earlier research had suggested that these molecules could indicate the presence of life.

“Finding the organohalogen Freon-40 near these young, Sun-like stars was surprising,” said Edith Fayolle, a researcher with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA, and lead author of the new paper. “We simply didn’t predict its formation and were surprised to find it in such significant concentrations. It’s clear now that these molecules form readily in stellar nurseries, providing insights into the chemical evolution of planetary systems, including our own.”

Exoplanet research has gone beyond the point of finding planets — more than 3000 exoplanets are now known — to looking for chemical markers that might indicate the potential presence of life. A vital step is determining which molecules could indicate life, but establishing reliable markers remains a tricky process.

“ALMA’s discovery of organohalogens in the interstellar medium also tells us something about the starting conditions for organic chemistry on planets. Such chemistry is an important step toward the origins of life,” adds Karin Öberg, a co-author on the study. “Based on our discovery, organohalogens are likely to be a constituent of the so-called ‘primordial soup’, both on the young Earth and on nascent rocky exoplanets.”

This suggests that astronomers may have had things around the wrong way; rather than indicating the presence of existing life, organohalogens may be an important element in the little-understood chemistry involved in the origin of life.

Co-author Jes Jørgensen from the Niels Bohr Institute at University of Copenhagen adds: “This result shows the power of ALMA to detect molecules of astrobiological interest toward young stars on scales where planets may be forming. Using ALMA we have previously found precursors to sugars and amino acids around different stars. The additional discovery of Freon-40 around Comet 67P/C-G strengthens the links between the pre-biological chemistry of distant protostars and our own Solar System.”

The astronomers also compared the relative amounts of Freon-40 that contain different isotopes of chlorine in the infant star system and the comet — and found similar abundances. This supports the idea that a young planetary system can inherit the chemical composition of its parent star-forming cloud and opens up the possibility that organohalogens could arrive on planets in young systems during planet formation or via comet impacts.

“Our results shows that we still have more to learn about the formation of organohalogens,” concludes Fayolle. “Additional searches for organohalogens around other protostars and comets need to be undertaken to help find the answer.”