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Orbital Sciences Corp. will launch its next mission to resupply the International Space Station Monday, Oct. 27, and NASA Television will broadcast live coverage of the event, including pre- and post-launch briefings and arrival at the station.

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NASA has awarded a sole source contract modification to Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, of Azusa, California, for the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) Instrument for flight on the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) mission.

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New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly just off the north and south poles.

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NASA Television will broadcast live the departure of an unpiloted Russian cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) Monday, Oct. 27, as well as the launch and docking of its replacement Wednesday, Oct. 29.

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After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The Webb telescope’s images will reveal the first galaxies forming 13.5 billion years ago. The telescope will also pierce through interstellar dust clouds to capture stars and planets forming in our own galaxy. At the telescope’s final destination in space, one million miles away from Earth, it will operate at incredibly cold temperatures of -387 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Kelvin. This is 260 degrees Fahrenheit colder than any place on the Earth’s surface has ever been. To create temperatures that cold on Earth, the team uses the massive thermal vacuum chamber at Goddard called the Space Environment Simulator, or SES, that duplicates the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space. This 40-foot-tall, 27-foot-diameter cylindrical chamber eliminates the tiniest trace of air with vacuum pumps and uses liquid nitrogen and even colder liquid helium to drop the temperature simulating the space environment.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

> More: NASA Webb’s Heart Survives Deep Freeze Test

Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

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Technology image of the week: the composer of The War of the Worlds, encounters ESA’s real-life equivalent of a Martian heat ray generator

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This mosaic of Sentinel-1A data from 10 October 2014 shows ice drift vectors derived from Sentinel-1A scenes acquired on 9 and 10 October (red), along with  MyOcean ice drift forecasts for 10 October (yellow). The PolarView browser allows the visualisation of Copernicus marine core service MyOcean forecasts, as well as observational data from a large number of satellite data sources.

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Musician Jeff Wayne, composer of the classic album version of The War of the Worlds, encountering a real-life equivalent of a heat-ray generator during a tour of ESA’s technical heart.

In the H.G. Wells tale of alien invasion, martians use heat rays to fight their way across Victorian England. This is a rear view of ESA’s largest solar simulator, which uses 19 IMAX-class xenon lamps to cast a concentrated beam of sunshine into Europe’s largest vacuum chamber: the Large Space Simulator, at the ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Satellites sit inside the chamber for weeks at a time, in the simulated vacuum and temperature extremes of space, including the unfiltered sunlight of Earth orbit – or, with modifications, as experienced around Venus or Mercury.

A long-time space enthusiast, Jeff Wayne took the opportunity to tour ESTEC on 13 October, taking a break from preparing for the live arena version of his musical show in Amsterdam, the last ever in the Netherlands, on 16 December. A fitting way to mark this event!

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The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings.

However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies. The NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope has peeked many times into this galaxy, releasing stunning images of the whirling clouds of gas and sparkling stars (opo9944a, heic1301, potw1408a).

This image shows part of the Tarantula Nebula’s outskirts. This famously beautiful nebula, located within the LMC, is a frequent target for Hubble (heic1206, heic1402). 

In most images of the LMC the color is completely different to that seen here. This is because, in this new image, a different set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which selects the red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. In traditional images, the hydrogen gas appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. Here however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters.

This data is part of the Archival Pure Parallel Project (APPP), a project that gathered together and processed over 1,000 images taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, obtained in parallel with other Hubble instruments. Much of the data in the project could be used to study a wide range of astronomical topics, including gravitational lensing and cosmic shear, exploring distant star-forming galaxies, supplementing observations in other wavelength ranges with optical data, and examining star populations from stellar heavyweights all the way down to solar-mass stars.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA: acknowledgement: Josh Barrington
Text: European Space Agency

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ESA’s French astronaut Thomas Pesquet during a simulation inside the full-scale mockup of the Soyuz capsule, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, in Russia, on 15 October 2014.

Thomas Pesquet has been assigned to be launched on a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 2016 for a long-duration mission to the International Space Station.

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