Watch a Satellite Reaction Wheel Melt in a Simulated Orbital Re-Entry

This illustrations shows one of the ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicles burning up during re-entry. Heavier spacecraft components like satellite reaction wheels don't always burn up and constitute a hazard. ESA engineers are working to change that. Image Credit: ESA LICENCE ESA Standard Licence

Most satellites share the same fate at the end of their lives. Their orbits decay, and eventually, they plunge through the atmosphere toward Earth. Most satellites are destroyed during their rapid descent, but not always

Heavy pieces of the satellite, like reaction wheels, can survive and strike the Earth. Engineers are trying to change that.

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Phew, De-Icing Euclid’s Instruments Worked. It’s Seeing Better Now

Artist impression of the Euclid mission in space. Credit: ESA

From its vantage point at the Sun-Earth L2 point, the ESA’s Euclid spacecraft is measuring the redshift of galaxies with its sensitive instruments. Its first science images showed us what we can expect from the spacecraft. But the ESA noticed a problem.

Over time, less light was reaching the spacecraft’s instruments.

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Ice is Starting to Cloud Euclid's Optics

Artist impression of the Euclid mission in space. Credit: ESA

On July 1st, 2023, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Euclid Observatory, a mission that will spend the next six years investigating the composition and evolution of the Universe. In particular, Euclid will observe how the Universe has expanded over the past 10 billion years to test theories about Dark Energy. While fine-tuning and calibrating the telescope’s instruments in preparation for the mission’s first survey, the mission team noticed that a few layers of water ice formed on its mirrors after it entered the freezing cold of space.

While common, this is a problem for a highly sensitive mission like Euclid, which requires remarkable precision to investigate cosmic expansion. After months of research, the Euclid team tested a newly designed procedure to de-ice the mission’s optics. On March 20th, the ESA announced that the team’s de-icing approach worked (so far) and that Euclid’s vision has been restored. If the method proves successful, it will have validated the mission team’s plan to keep Euclid‘s optical system working for the rest of its mission.

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An Astronaut Controls a Robotic Dog From Orbit

DLR's four-legged robot Bert explores and monitors the unfamiliar environment. The Surface Avatar Experiment rehearsed an important scenario for future exploration missions on the Moon and Mars. Bert is being developed at the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics and can walk, trot, gallop, perform a passing gait and even climb. This enables him to cover long distances and at the same time move around in rough terrain or small caves. Credit: DLR.

Swedish astronaut Marcus Wandt took control of a series of robots in Germany while on board the International Space Station, zipping around the Earth at 28,000 kilometers per hour (17,500 mph.) Researchers want to understand how time delays can affect the remote control of robots from an orbiting platform. Future astronauts could control rovers on the Moon’s or Mars’s surface from a spacecraft in orbit. Until now, only wheeled rovers have been part of the tests, but now they have added a dog-like robot called Bert.

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The Ice Sheet on Mars is Even Thicker Than Previously Believed

Map of potential ice thickness in Mars’s Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF). Credit: ESA.

Maybe Mars isn’t as dry as we thought. ESA’s Mars Express has revealed new details about a region near Mars’ equator that could contain a massive deposit of water ice several kilometers deep. If it is indeed ice, there is enough of it in this one deposit that if melted, water would cover the entire planet up to 2.7 meters (almost 9 feet) deep.

But ice is just one explanation for the unusual features detected by the orbital spacecraft. Another is that this is a giant pile of dust several kilometers deep — although the dust would still need to have some ice mixed in.

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This Alien Landscape is Actually a Microscopic View of an Atomic Clock

This looks like the landscape feature called penitentes that form in the icy cold on Pluto. But it's actually a glass surface that's part of an atomic clock. Image Credit: Safran/ESA

Navigation satellites couldn’t accomplish anything without extremely accurate clocks. But a regular clock won’t do. Only atomic clocks are accurate enough, and that’s because they tell time with electrons.

Those atomic clocks wear out over time, and that’s what the image shows.

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ESA Gives Us a Glimpse of its Future Space Exploration Plans with a Cool New Video

Image credit: ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has made incredible contributions to space exploration and space-based science. Last year, the agency launched the Euclid space telescope, which will survey the Universe back to 3 billion years after the Big Bang to measure cosmic expansion and the influence of Dark Energy. After more than a decade of development, the Ariane 6 launch vehicle conducted its first full-scale dress rehearsal, which included an engine fire test. In a recent video, the ESA showcased its plans for the future, which include some new launch vehicles and engine technology.

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Cool New Mission Trailer for Rosalind Franklin Rover

An artist's illustration of the Rosalind Franklin rover on Mars. Image Credit: ESA.

ESA’s Rosalind Franklin Mars rover has been delayed twice due to problems with its parachute deployment and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After ESA formally terminated the mission’s cooperation with Roscosmos in July 2022, Europe found a new partner with NASA and the mission appears to be on track for a 2028 launch.

The agency recently shared a new animated mission trailer showing new details about the rover, including how it will drill two meters into the Martian regolith and examine the samples with its onboard laboratory.

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A Planetary System With Six Sub-Neptunes Locked in Perfect Resonance

SCIENCE & EXPLORATION Orbital geometry of HD110067 29/11/2023 457 VIEWS 19 LIKES 492309 ID LIKE DOWNLOAD XFacebookCopy LinkShare DETAILS RELATED Tracing a link between two neighbour planets at regular time intervals along their orbits, creates a pattern unique to each couple. The six planets of the HD110067 system together create a mesmerising geometric pattern due to their resonance-chain.
Credit: Thibaut Roger/NCCR PlanetS

A team of researchers led by University of Chicago astronomer Rafael Luque analyzed data acquired by both NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (Cheops) and found a unique planetary system. Orbiting a star cataloged as HD110067, this system contains six sub-Neptune planets. Incredibly, all six planets are orbiting in direct resonance with each other. The results of the work were published on November 29 in Nature.

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After Stalling Out for 40 Years, the Largest Iceberg in the World is on the Move

An animation from Copernicus Sentinel-1 images shows iceberg A23a’s movements from 2 November 2023, 14 November 2023 and 26 November 2023. Credit: ESA.

In 1986, a gigantic iceberg separated from the Fichner-Ronne ice shelf in West Antarctica. It was so big that it became grounded, stuck to the seafloor, and remained in position for 40 years. Finally, it has now been pushed off the seafloor and has begun drifting in the Weddell Sea to a region in the South Atlantic called Iceberg Alley. Designated A23a, this monster berg measures 4000 sq km (1,500 square miles) and is about 400 meters (1,300 feet) thick – the world’s largest.

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