mercredi 7 décembre 2016

Swiss adventurer unveils incredible stratospheric solar plane

SolarStratos logo.

Dec. 7, 2016

Image above: The main goal of the SolarStratos Mission project is to be the first solar flight ever made to perform in 2018, with a climb to more than 75,000 feet, a stratospheric flight. Picture: Laurent Gillieron/Credit: AP.

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

The SolarStratos, a sleek, white two-seater aircraft with long wings covered with 22 square metres of solar panels, is set to become the first manned solar plane to make a stratospheric flight, according to Raphael Domjan, who is behind the project.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer,” he said in a statement, after unveiling the plane at the Payerne air base in western Switzerland.

Image above: Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan poses with the solar-powered plane SolarStratos during the roll out ceremony at the air base in Payerne, Switzerland. Picture: Laurent Gillieron/Credit: AP.

“Electric and solar vehicles are amongst the major challenges of the 21st century,” said the 44-year-old, adding that the SolarStratos “can fly at an altitude of 25,000 metres.”

SolarStratos is scheduled to begin test flights next February, while medium altitude flights are planned for next summer, and the first stratospheric flights should take place in 2018, the statement said.

To keep down the weight, the plane will not be pressurised, and Mr Domjan will wear a spacesuit, also powered by solar energy, which will also mark a world first, it added.


Image above: The invention is set to become the first manned solar plane to make a stratospheric flight. Image Credit: SolarStratos.

The statement also claimed the craft could “reach space”.

“Travelling to the stratosphere will take approximately five hours: 2.5 hours to reach space, 15 minutes of broad daylight and stars, then three hours to return to Earth,” it said.

The stratosphere lies above Earth’s lowest atmospheric layer, called the troposphere.

At middle latitudes, the stratosphere runs from a lower boundary of about 10,000 metres to an upper boundary of about 50,000 metres.

SolarStratos, to the edge of space

Aeronautics engineers use a rough benchmark called the Karman line, located at about 100,000 metres above sea level, for defining the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

The announcement came after two of Domjan’s compatriots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, completed the first-ever round-the-globe trip in a solar plane last July, in a bid to showcase the possibilities for the future of renewable energy.

Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigated the globe in 17 stages, covering a remarkable 43,000 kilometres across four continents, two oceans and three seas, in 23 days of flying without using a drop of fuel.

Domjan meanwhile launched his SolarStratos project in 2014, two years after he became the first person to sail around the world in a fully solar-powered boat.

Image above: The solar-powered plane SolarStratos of Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjanis pictured during the roll out ceremony. Picture: Laurent Gillieron/Credit: AP.

He insisted Wednesday that the new aircraft’s ability to pierce the stratosphere “opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space.” Until now, reaching the stratosphere has until now required large quantities of energy or helium.

But the SolarStratos aircraft, could do so leaving only “the equivalent environmental footprint of an electric car”, Wednesday’s statement said.

The project “opens the door to new scientific knowledge, at an affordable price, exploration and the peaceful use of our stratosphere,” said Roland Loos, who heads SolarXplorers, the organisation in charge of developing the project.

SolarStratos – To the edge of space:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: SolarStratos/AFP.


United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches WGS-8 Mission for the U.S. Air Force

ULA - Delta IV / WGS-8 Mission poster.

Dec. 7, 2016

Delta IV rocket  liftoff (archive image)

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the eighth installment of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite for the United States Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 Dec. 7 at 6:53 p.m. EDT. This is ULA’s 11th launch in 2016 and the 114th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

“Thank you to the U.S. Air Force and industry team whose flawless execution enabled today’s successful launch of the WGS-8 mission,” said Laura Maginnis, ULA vice president of Custom Services. “Last week ULA celebrated our anniversary and 10 years of 100% mission success. This evening’s launch epitomizes why our customers continue to entrust ULA to deliver our nation’s most crucial space capabilities.”

Launch of WGS-8 on Delta IV Rocket from Cape Canaveral

This mission was launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (5, 4) configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) powered by one common booster core and four solid rocket motors built by Orbital ATK. The common booster core was powered by an RS-68A liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine producing 705,250 pounds of thrust at sea level. A single RL10B-2 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine powered the second stage. The booster and upper stage engines are both built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. ULA constructed the Delta IV Medium+ (5,4) launch vehicle in Decatur, Alabama.

WGS-8, the second Block II Follow-on satellite, supports communications links in the X-band and Ka-band spectra. The WGS-8 satellite will be able filter and downlink up to 8.088 GHz of bandwidth. WGS satellites are an important element of a new high-capacity satellite communications system providing enhanced communications capability to our troops in the field.

WGS-8 satellite

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 110 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at Join the conversation at, and

Images, Video, Text, Credits: United Lauch Alliance (ULA)/USAAF.


Mars One - Missions to the Red Planet Postponed

Mars One logo.

Dec. 7, 2016

The British-Dutch company has postponed for several years the dates scheduled for its first missions, with or without passengers. The controversial British-Dutch company Mars One has delayed for several years the dates scheduled for its first missions to the red planet, with or without passengers, said Wednesday.

"In the new Mars One roadmap, the first unmanned mission is now scheduled for 2022" instead of 2018, the company said in a statement, pointing out that the first inhabited mission would now start in 2031, not 2026 as initially predicted.

Animated view of Mars One's human settlement on Mars

The change is explained by a "new financial strategy", said the group, which announced Friday that it has accepted an offer to buy the Swiss company InFin Innovative Finance AG.

Mars One wants to send pioneers to settle permanently on the red planet and is currently in the first stage of a project regularly criticized.

200,000 volunteers

While some 200,000 people from 140 countries had signed up for the project, which wanted to be funded by television, 24 would be selected to move to Mars, divided into six groups of four people .

Mars One permanent base project

Without return, they will have to live in small habitats, find water, produce their oxygen and grow their own food.

So far, there have been only robotic missions on Mars, successfully carried out by NASA, but the United States wants to send astronauts to this planet in about twenty years.

Editor's Note:

In the current state of research, a human mission on Mars is too early, as many technologies used to ensure the survival of the first settlers of Mars are not yet completed. Currently, only salads (lettuce) are grown in the Space Station (ISS), more complex vegetables and fruits are not yet tested or experimented in space, moreover the soil of Mars is sterile and acid, it can not be used without being de-acidified and fertilized with organic fertilizers. There is no guarantee of a varied and balanced diet essential to the survival of a human being. Not to mention various other equipments necessary for their survival will not finalize before a decade.

For more information about Mars One, visit:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: Mars One/AFP/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


TIMED: 15 Years Exploring Our Interface to Space

NASA  -  TIMED Mission patch.

Dec. 7, 2016

Launched Dec. 7, 2001, NASA’s TIMED spacecraft has spent 15 years observing the dynamics of the upper regions of Earth’s atmosphere – comprising the mesosphere, thermosphere and ionosphere. The slice that TIMED studies spans altitudes of about 40 to 110 miles above Earth’s surface. Here, the atmosphere is just a tenuous wash of particles that reacts both to energy inputs from above – from changes in the space environment largely due to the sun – and forcing from below, including terrestrial winds.

Image above: Artist’s impression of the TIMED spacecraft in orbit above Earth. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

TIMED’s 15 years of data has given scientists an unprecedented perspective on changes in the upper atmosphere. The long lifespan has allowed scientists to track the upper atmosphere’s response to both quick-changing conditions – like individual solar storms – throughout the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, as well as longer trends, like TIMED’s detection of unexpectedly fast increases in carbon dioxide in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the TIMED mission for the Heliophysics Division within the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, built and operates the spacecraft for NASA.

Related links:

TIMED’s detection of unexpectedly fast increases in carbon dioxide in Earth’s upper atmosphere:

Timed - The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory:

TIMED / SEE - Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics:

TIMED mission - CCAR:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Sarah Frazier/Rob Garner.


ESA to supply Service Module for first crewed Orion mission

NASA - Orion Spacecraft patch.

7 December 2016

ESA and NASA are extending their collaboration in human space exploration following confirmation that Europe will supply a second Service Module to support the first crewed mission of the Orion spacecraft.


The Service Module provides propulsion, electrical power, water and thermal control as well as maintaining the oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere for the crew.

The mission is set for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, as early as 2021 and will include up to four astronauts – the first time humans have left low orbit since 1972. Crew size and composition will be determined closer to launch.

The mission will see Orion follow three progressively elongated orbits to reach past the Moon and return to Earth, faster than any manned spacecraft has reentered our atmosphere before.

Orion with European Service Module

ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight, Dave Parker, says, “We are excited to be a part of this historic mission and appreciate NASA’s trust in us to help extend humanity’s exploration farther afield into our Solar System.”

The first Orion with the service module will be launched in late 2018 on NASA’s new Space Launch System. The month-long mission will be unmanned and will orbit the Moon before returning to Earth, testing the spacecraft and rocket before carrying astronauts.

Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)

The European Service Module is designed, built and assembled by a team of companies from 11 countries led by Airbus Space & Defence, based on proven technology from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle that flew to the International Space Station five times with supplies.

The mission and collaboration with NASA is part of ESA’s vision to prepare for future voyages of exploration further into the Solar System, and continues the spirit of international cooperation that forms the foundation of the International Space Station. 

Related links:

ESA's Orion blog:

NASA Orion:

Orion at Airbus:

Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/D. Ducros/NASA/Roscosmos/O. Artemyev.

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PSLV-C36 Successfully Launches RESOURCESAT-2A

ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation logo.

Dec 07, 2016

PSLV-C36 carrying RESOURCESAT-2A take off

PSLV-C36 is the thirty eighth flight of ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) placed the 1235 kg RESOURCESAT-2A into an 817 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). PSLV-C36 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. In this flight, the 'XL' version of PSLV with six solid strap-on motors was used.

PSLV-C36 launches Resourcesat-2A. Video Credit: SciNews

PSLV is the ISRO's versatile launch vehicle for launching multiple satellites in polar SSOs, Low Earth Orbits (LEO) as well as Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and sub GTO. With 36 successful launches, PSLV has emerged as the workhorse launch vehicle of ISRO and is offered for launching satellites for international customers. During 1994-2016 period, PSLV has launched a total of 121 satellites, of which 79 satellites are from abroad and 42 are Indian satellites.

RESOURCESAT-2A satellite

PSLV-C36 / RESOURCESAT-2A was successfully launched on December 07, 2016 at 10:25 hrs (IST) from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

Resourcesat 2A Earth observation satellite designed to support agriculture and urban planning, monitor water resources and land use, and help officials respond to natural disasters.

For more information about Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), visit:

Images, Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: ISRO/Günter Space Page/ Aerospace.


Cassini Beams Back First Images from New Orbit

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

December 7, 2016

Image above: This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings during its penultimate mission phase. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn's atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn's northern hemisphere, including the planet's intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

Cassini began its new mission phase, called its Ring-Grazing Orbits, on Nov. 30. Each of these weeklong orbits -- 20 in all -- carries the spacecraft high above Saturn's northern hemisphere before sending it skimming past the outer edges of the planet's main rings.

Cassini's imaging cameras acquired these latest views on Dec. 2 and 3, about two days before the first ring-grazing approach to the planet. Future passes will include images from near closest approach, including some of the closest-ever views of the outer rings and small moons that orbit there.

Image above: This collage of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's northern hemisphere and rings as viewed with four different spectral filters. Images Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

"This is it, the beginning of the end of our historic exploration of Saturn. Let these images -- and those to come -- remind you that we've lived a bold and daring adventure around the solar system's most magnificent planet," said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

The next pass by the rings' outer edges is planned for Dec. 11. The ring-grazing orbits will continue until April 22, when the last close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan will once again reshape Cassini's flight path. With that encounter, Cassini will begin its Grand Finale, leaping over the rings and making the first of 22 plunges through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its innermost ring on April 26.

On Sept. 15, the mission's planned conclusion will be a final dive into Saturn's atmosphere. During its plunge, Cassini will transmit data about the atmosphere's composition until its signal is lost.

Cassini spacecraft around Saturn. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving in 2004 for an up-close study of the planet, its rings and moons. Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indications of hydrothermal activity within the moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

For details about Cassini's ring-grazing orbits, visit:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Related article:

Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and The Cassini imaging team homepage is at and ESA's website

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Preston Dyches.