Orion Heat Shield Attached

The world’s largest heat shield, measuring 16.5 feet in diameter, has been successfully attached to the Orion spacecraft. The heat shield is made from a single seamless piece of Avcoat ablator. It will be tested on Orion’s first flight in December 2014 as it protects the spacecraft from temperatures reaching 4000 degrees Fahrenheit. The uncrewed flight, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1), will test the spacecraft for eventual missions that will send astronauts to an asteroid and eventually Mars. EFT-1 will launch an uncrewed Orion capsule 3,600 miles into space for a four-hour mission to test several of its most critical systems. After making two orbits, Orion will return to Earth at almost 20,000 miles per hour, before its parachutes slow it down for a landing in the Pacific Ocean.

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NASA and Industry Complete First Phase to Certify New Crew Transportation Systems

NASA's Commercial Crew Program and industry have completed the first step in the certification process that will enable American-made commercial spacecraft safely to ferry astronauts from U.S. soil to and from the International Space Station by 2017. The completion of the Certification Products Contracts (CPC) marks critical progress in the development of next-generation American space transportation systems that are safe, reliable and cost-effective.

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Morpheus Prototype Uses Hazard Detection System to Land Safely in Dark

NASA demonstrated that it can land an unmanned spacecraft on a rugged planetary surface in the pitch dark in a May 28, 2014 free-flight test of the Morpheus prototype lander and Autonomous Landing Hazard Avoidance Technology, or ALHAT. The 98-second test began at 10:02 p.m. EDT, with the Morpheus lander launching from the ground over a flame trench and ascending more than 800 feet (244 m) into the dark Florida sky at Kennedy Space Center using only ALHAT's Hazard Detection System for guidance. The Hazard Detection System, assisted by three light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors, located obstacles -- such as rocks and craters -- and safely landed on the lunar-like hazard field a quarter mile away from the NASA Center. Project Morpheus tests NASA’s ALHAT and an engine that runs on liquid oxygen and methane, which are green propellants. These new capabilities could be used in future efforts to deliver cargo to planetary surfaces. The landing facility provides the lander with the kind of field necessary for realistic testing, complete with rocks, craters and hazards to avoid. Morpheus’ ALHAT payload allows it to navigate to clear landing sites amidst rocks, craters and other hazards during its descent. Project Morpheus is being managed under the Advanced Exploration Systems, or AES, Division in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The efforts in AES pioneer new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit. > Read more > Video: Morpheus Completes Nighttime Flight Test Image Credit: NASA/Mike Chambers

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ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst enters the ISS

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst as the hatch opens separating the Soyuz  spacecraft and the International Space Station, his new home for six months.  

The launch of Expedition 40/41 with Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Reid  Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev from Baikonur Cosmodrome in  Kazakhstan took place six hours earlier.  

Their spacecraft, Soyuz TMA-13M was propelled to the International Space  Station at 21:57 CEST.  Alexander has 100 experiments planned for his Blue Dot mission.

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Poyang lake

Image of China’s Poyang lake from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) on the Sentinel-1A satellite, acquired on 12 May 2014 in dual polarisation. The radar gathers information in either horizontal or vertical polarisations, shown here as a composite (HH in red, HV in green and HH-HV in blue).

Poyang is just one of the many project areas of the collaborative Chinese-European Dragon Programme, which marked its ten-year anniversary this week. Read more.

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Lake Constance

The freshwater Lake Constance in Central Europe is pictured in this image from the Sentinel-1A satellite.

Formed by the Rhine Glacier during the last Ice Age, it covers an area of about 540 sq km and is an important source of drinking water for southwestern Germany.

The lake has shorelines in three countries: Germany to the north, Switzerland to the south and Austria at its eastern end. Over the water body, however, there are no borders because there is no legally binding agreement on where they lie.

In the lower-right, we can see where the Rhine river flows into the lake from the south, which then flows out of the lake to the west (left). This and other rivers carry sediments from the Alps, extending the coastline and decreasing the lake’s water depth.

The runways of Germany’s Friedrichshafen Airport are visible in the right section of the image. The Aviation & Aerospace Museum is nearby.

This image was acquired on 10 May in ‘interferometric wide swath mode’ and in dual polarisation.

The radar instrument gathers information in either horizontal or vertical radar pulses, and colours were assigned to the different types. In this image, buildings generally appear pink, while vegetation is green. Areas with lowest reflectivity in all polarisations appear very dark, like the water.

Sentinel-1A’s radar is still being calibrated following its 3 April 2014 launch, but early images like this give us a glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this mission will provide for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.

This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

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The International Space Station is set to light up the night sky

June means long days and short nights for northern hemisphere observers, as we head towards the summer solstice on June, 21. But the solstice season also signals the approach of another phenomena that occurs twice a year. Starting early next week, the International Space Station enters a period of full illumination throughout the length of its orbit for about a week, offering observers worldwide multiple opportunities to spot the station every night.

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The International Space Station is set to light up the night sky

June means long days and short nights for northern hemisphere observers, as we head towards the summer solstice on June, 21. But the solstice season also signals the approach of another phenomena that occurs twice a year. Starting early next week, the International Space Station enters a period of full illumination throughout the length of its orbit for about a week, offering observers worldwide multiple opportunities to spot the station every night.

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