ARISS contact in The Observer newspaper

ARISS UK Team with UKSA's Libby Jackson and Susan Buckle at The Kings School - Credit Goonhilly GES Ltd

ARISS UK Team with UKSA’s Libby Jackson and Susan Buckle at The Kings School – Credit Goonhilly GES Ltd

Carole Cadwalladr writes in The Observer newspaper for Sunday, May 29 about the amateur radio contact between students at The King’s School GB1OSM, Ottery St Mary, Devon and Tim Peake GB1SS on the International Space Station.

She says:

A huge team of volunteers worked flat out to make it happen. The project was initiated by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), enthusiasts who work with space agencies all over the world to inspire children about space and technology. Ciaran Morgan M0XTD, its UK leader, tells me how they approached the European Space Agency and persuaded them to let them do it and how the rest has been down to the volunteers. “All Tim has to do is put on his headphones and press a button. We do everything else.”

Ten people spent three days setting up the equipment, the audio feeds, the video feed and the satellite backup at Goonhilly, down the road in Cornwall. “All amateur means is ‘for the love of it’,” Morgan tells the audience. “As you see, the equipment we’re using is very, very professional.”

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Watch the video of the contact at

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS)

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A golden veil cloaks a newborn star

This young star is breaking out. Like a hatchling pecking through its shell, this particular stellar newborn is forcing its way out into the surrounding Universe.

The golden veil of light cloaks a young stellar object known only as IRAS 14568-6304. It is ejecting gas at supersonic speeds and eventually will have cleared a hole in the cloud, allowing it to be easily visible to the outside Universe.

Stars are born deep in dense clouds of dust and gas. This particular cloud is known as the Circinus molecular cloud complex. It is 2280 light-years away and stretches across 180 light-years of space. If our eyes could register the faint infrared glow of the gas in the cloud, it would stretch across our sky more than 70 times the size of the full Moon. It contains enough gas to make 250 000 stars like the Sun.

IRAS 14568-6304 was discovered with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, launched in 1983 as a joint project of the US, the UK and the Netherlands to make the first all-sky infrared survey from space.

This particular image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It is a combination of just two wavelengths: optical light (blue) and infrared (golden orange). The dark swath running across the image is the Circinus molecular cloud, which is so dense that it obscures the stars beyond.

At longer infrared wavelengths, this darkness is filled with point-like stars, all deeply embedded and which will one day break out like IRAS 14568-6304 is doing.

Indeed, IRAS 14568-6304 is just one member of a nest of young stellar objects in this part of Circinus, each of which is producing jets. Put together, they make up one of the brightest, most massive and most energetic outflows that astronomers have yet observed. In years to come, they will be a beautiful, brightly visible star cloud.

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AIM: Asteroid touchdown

As part of ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission would come the Agency’s next landing on a small body since Rosetta’s Philae lander reached 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014.

In 2022 the Mascot-2 microlander would be deployed from the main AIM spacecraft to touch down on the approximately 170-m diameter ‘Didymoon’, in orbit around the larger 700-m diameter Didymos asteroid.

The 15 kg Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout-2 (Mascot-2) is building on the heritage of DLR’s Mascot-1 already flying on Japan’s Hayabusa-2. Launched in 2014, the latter will land on asteroid Ryugu in 2018.

Mascot-2 would be deployed from AIM at about 5 cm/s, and remain in contact with its mothership as it falls through a new inter-satellite communications system. Didymoon’s gravity levels will only be a few thousandths of Earth’s, so the landing would be relatively gentle, although multiple bounces may take place before it comes to rest.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) would help AIM to pinpoint its microlander’s resting place from orbit. In case of a landing in a non-illuminated area, a spring-like ‘mobility mechanism’ would let the microlander jump to another location. Onboard GNC ‘guidance navigation and control’ sensors would gather details of the landing both for scientific reasons and to determine the microlander’s orientation for deployment of the solar array to keep it supplied with sufficient power for several weeks of surface operations.

As well as a solar array, AIM would also deploy its low frequency radar LFR instrument, while cameras perform visible and thermal surface imaging. LFR would send radar signals right through the body, to be detected by AIM on Didymoon’s far side, to provide detailed subsurface soundings of an asteroid’s internal structure for the first time ever .

Then Mascot-2 would repeat these measurements after Didymoon has been impacted by the NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) probe, to assess the extent of structural changes induced by this impact event. AIM and DART together are known as the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission.

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Venus rising

A timelapse video by European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake taken during his six-month Principia mission on the International Space Station.
 The International Space Station travels at 28 800 km/h meaning that it only takes 90 minutes to circle Earth completely. Each orbit the Station moves around 2200 km to the West in relation to 90 minutes before.
 Astronauts use normal consumer digital cameras to take pictures in their spare time. Setting the camera to take an image every few seconds and then playing the images back quickly creates this timelapse effect.
 The British astronaut commented on this timelapse: "Venus rising behind the aurora. Timelapse video made by taking an image every second for around two and a half minutes"

More about the Principia mission:

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Robertsville Middle School CubeSat Project

Robertsville Middle School students give a CubeSat presentation to NASA Engineers

Robertsville Middle School students give a CubeSat presentation to NASA Engineers

On May 19, 2016, students from Robertsville Middle School, Oak Ridge, Tennessee visited Marshall Space Flight Center and presented their CubeSat project results to NASA engineers.

NASA Explores says: They had been tasked to design a 1U ‪CubeSat‬ with a deployable door using a 3D printer and some mechatronics soft/hardware. The students presented to a panel of NASA engineers and management, including two ‪NEA Scout‬ team members, Adam Burt and Alex Few, who took a few minutes to talk about NEA Scout. The students know what ‪Solar Sails‬ are and how they work!

Oak Ridge Today reported: This is the incredible experience Robertsville Middle School Ram Time participants were given in Todd Livesay’s enrichment course. Todd Livesay began conversations with a fellow Oak Ridge High School graduate, Patrick Hull, who now works for Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Hull explained to Livesay the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, or CSLI, which provides opportunities for small satellite cubes to fly as auxiliary payloads on previously planned missions.

The CubeSat Launch Initiative provides access to a low-cost pathway for conducting research, deploying these small payloads in a ride-share format. Since its inception in 2010, the initiative has selected and launched more than 46 student-created CubeSats. These miniature satellites were chosen from responses to public announcements on NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

NASA will announce another call for proposals in mid-August 2016, possibly allowing Oak Ridge students an extension of the learning they had with their initial project this year, the press release said.

Susan Currie, education specialist from the Marshall Space Flight Center, wrote to Hull in response to the RMS visit saying: “Wow! If that group doesn’t inspire you, nothing will! I was blown away with the level of expertise and professionalism shown by the Oak Ridge students.”

Watch Group 1 Presentation

Watch Group 2 Presentation

Robertsville students have ultimate review panel for year-long project: NASA engineers

NASA Explores

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NASA to Televise Expansion Operations for Bigelow Expandable Activity Module

NASA and Bigelow Aerospace will make a second attempt at 9 a.m. EDT Saturday, May 28, to expand the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), currently attached to the International Space Station. NASA Television coverage will begin at 8:45 a.m.

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ESA Announces Winning Radio Amateurs

12-year-old Matteo Micheletti from Belgium received a special mention from ESA for receiving the OUFTI-1 CubeSat

12-year-old Matteo Micheletti from Belgium received a special mention from ESA for receiving the OUFTI-1 CubeSat

On April 21, 2016, ESA’s Education Office set a challenge for the worldwide radio amateur community to start listening out for three new orbiting CubeSats. The results have now been released.

ESA’s Education Office published the transmission frequencies of the student-built satellites that were about to be launched as part of the Fly Your Satellite! Programme, and invited the radio amateur community to listen out for them.

The first three radio amateurs to send a recorded signal from AAUSAT4, e-st@r-II or OUFTI-1 would receive a prize from ESA’s Education Office. Hundreds of radio amateurs from around the world joined in the friendly competition.

The CubeSats started sending signals after their release from the Soyuz VS-14 rocket and the triggering of their automatic activation sequence. Participants from Russia, USA, Poland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, and more tuned their receivers and listened.

Thanks to skill and patience on the ground, the winners come from Russia, the United States of America, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Contact with the first CubeSat came at 00:53:51 UT on April 26, 2016, within an hour of its separation from the launcher. Dmitri Paschkow R4UAB, Russia, heard the signal from OUFTI-1 using two receiving stations, in Kemerovo and Ruzaevka. Upon hearing OUFTI-1, he communicated the news immediately. “I understand that the students are worried [to hear from their satellite] and decided to please them!” says Paschkow.

Just over an hour after the first signal from OUFTI-1 was recorded, the next CubeSat checked in.

AAUSAT-4 was heard over California, US, by Justin Foley KI6EPH of California Polytechnic State University. He had a personal interest in the mission because some of his colleagues had developed the P-POD deployer that was used to eject the CubeSats into orbit.

He was ready at the receiver from the moment of deployment but heard nothing on that first pass, probably because the activation sequence had not yet completed. The signal came through on the second pass, arriving at 02:02 UT.

“It was extremely exciting to see signals from the newly launched satellite, and witness the beginning of a space mission”, says Foley.

Then the wait began for e-st@r-II. At 05:40:58 UT, something dimly lit the screen of Mike Rupprecht DK3WN in Germany.  But something was not quite right. It certainly looked like a signal from the last remaining CubeSat, but why was the message so faint?  It galvanized the amateur radio community to look harder.

Jan van Gils PE0SAT had to wait until May 2 at 16:38:05 UT to receive a signal from e-st@r-II  that was strong enough to be decoded. Why e-st@r-II was only transmitting weak signals is under investigation, but the most important news is that all three CubeSats are functioning and transmitting, and their signals can be decoded.

A special mention goes to a young radio amateur who scored a personal best. Twelve year-old space enthusiast Matteo Micheletti from Belgium caught the OUFTI-1 signal with a portable log periodic antenna and a portable receiver. His triumph occurred on May 1, 2016 between 17:34 and 17:39 UT.

To mark their success, the radio amateur winners will each receive a Fly Your Satellite! Poster, a goodie bag and a scale 1:1 3D printed model of a CubeSat from ESA’s Education Office.

Read the full ESA story at

Three new CubeSats now in orbit

D-STAR satellite to launch from Kourou

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NASA Updates Time for Today’s Media Briefing on Status of Bigelow Expandable Activity Module

NASA has rescheduled today’s media teleconference, originally scheduled for noon EDT, to 2 p.m. for a discussion on the status of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) installed on the International Space Station. The teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website.

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