ALOS sees Flood in Northern Thailand

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) received a request from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) of the Kingdom of Thailand to observe a flood in the northern area in Thailand. Accordingly, on May 25, 2006 (Japan Standard Time, JST), JAXA observed the flooded area using the Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) aboard the Advanced Land Observing Satellite “Daichi” (ALOS) to provide observation data to the GISTDA.

* The PALSAR was developed by JAXA in corporation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.


Fuse Finds Infant Solar System Awash in Carbon

Scientists using NASA’s Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have discovered abundant amounts of carbon gas in a dusty disk surrounding a young star named Beta Pictoris.

The star and its emerging solar system are less than 20 million years old, and planets may have already formed. The abundance of carbon gas in the remaining debris disk indicates that Beta Pictoris’ planets could be carbon-rich worlds of graphite and methane, or the star’s environs might resemble our own solar system in its early days.

A team led by Aki Roberge of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., presents the observation in the June 8 issue of Nature. The new measurements make Beta Pictoris the first disk of its kind whose gas has been comprehensively studied. The discovery settles a long-standing scientific mystery about how the gas has lingered in this debris disk, yet raises new questions about the development of solar systems.

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NASA Gives ‘Go’ for Discovery’s Launch

NASA senior managers on Saturday cleared the Space Shuttle Discovery for a July 1 flight to the International Space Station.

The decision was announced after a lengthy Flight Readiness Review, a traditional meeting in which top NASA managers and engineers set launch dates, determine whether the shuttle’s complex array of equipment, support systems and procedures are ready for flight and assess any risks associated with the mission.

“We had two full days of an intensive Flight Readiness Review,” said Administrator Michael Griffin. “It was spirited and one of the most open, yet non-adversarial meetings I’ve seen since returning to NASA.”

Commander Steve Lindsey and his six-crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 3:48 p.m. EDT to begin a 12-day mission, designated STS-121. Discovery’s crew will test new hardware and techniques to improve shuttle safety, as well as deliver supplies, make repairs and bring a third crew member to the station.

“We were really careful to evaluate everything as thoroughly as we could,” said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, who chaired the Flight Readiness Review. “But the review of the ice/frost ramp was one of the most vigorously discussed.”

The ice/frost ramps are structures made of insulation foam that cover 34 brackets on the outside of the shuttle’s external fuel tank. The ramps have been cited as a potential source of foam loss, which could cause damage to the shuttle. The Flight Readiness Review board decided the current design does not pose sufficient risk to delay the upcoming mission while design improvements for later flights are under way.

Joining Lindsey aboard Discovery will be pilot Mark Kelly, mission specialists Mike Fossum, Piers Sellers, Lisa Nowak and Stephanie Wilson. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter will launch on Discovery and stay on the station for several months.

Aboard the station, Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, a Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut, and Flight Engineer and NASA Station Science Officer Jeff Williams will greet Discovery and its crew. Vinogradov and Williams began their six-month mission on the station March 31.

For more information on the STS-121 mission, including images and interviews with the crew, visit:

OICETS Optical Communication

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully carried out an optical communication experiment using laser beams between its Optical Inter-orbit Communication Engineering Test Satellite “Kirari” (OICETS), at an altitude of about 600 km, and the optical ground station “OGS-OP” (Optical Ground Station Oberpfaffenhofen) of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR, in Wessling, Bayern) at 10:13 a.m. on June 7, 2006 (Japan Standard Time, JST). JAXA and DLR confirmed that optical communication (downlink from the “Kirari”) was successfully performed for 3 minutes.

The “Kirari” has already performed a bi-directional optical communication experiment successfully with the optical ground station of the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) last March. However, the DLR optical ground station is unique as it is a mobile station. Therefore, the success this time indicates the possibility of establishing a flexible optical communication network with a satellite and a mobile optical ground station.

The “Kirari” is scheduled to continue experiments including an optical communication test with an optical ground station and an inter-orbit optical communication test with the Advanced Relay and Technology Mission (ARTEMIS) of the European Space Agency (ESA) to acquire statistical data.

[Supplementary Information: Outline of the DRL Optical Ground Station]

MetOp 1 mission

The Arianespace Website provides updates on two international activities:

A report from Paris details a press conference and symposium that marked 25 years of Ariane flights in support of the Indian space program. The symposium was timed to mark the first mission for India; an Ariane 1 launch on June 19, 1981, which orbited the country’s Apple experimental satellite. This milestone flight was the world’s first dual launch into geostationary transfer orbit.

Also on the Arianespace Website is an update on preparations for the upcoming MetOp 1 flight on a Soyuz 2-1a vehicle from Baikonur, which will be performed by Arianespace’s Starsem affiliate in July. Soyuz 2-1a is the upgraded version of Russia’s workhorse launcher, and it be used beginning in 2008 for Soyuz missions performed from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana under Arianespace management.

For more details, visit the Arianespace Website at:

Elements in Galaxy Clusters

Deep observations of two X-ray bright clusters of galaxies with ESA’s XMM-Newton satellite allowed a group of international astronomers to measure their chemical composition with an unprecedented accuracy. Knowing the chemical composition of galaxy clusters is of crucial importance to understanding the origin of chemical elements in the Universe.

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