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Aurora mysteries unlocked with NASA's THEMIS mission
Auroral beads seen from the International Space Station, Sept. 17, 2011 (Frame ID: ISS029-E-6012). Credit: NASA

A special type of aurora, draped east-west across the night sky like a glowing pearl necklace, is helping scientists better understand the science of auroras and their powerful drivers out in space. Known as auroral beads, these lights often show up just before large auroral displays, which are caused by electrical storms in space called substorms. Previously, scientists weren't sure if auroral beads are somehow connected to other auroral displays as a phenomenon in space that precedes substorms, or if they are caused by disturbances closer to Earth's atmosphere.

But powerful new computer models combined with observations from NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms—THEMIS—mission have provided the first strong evidence of the events in space that lead to the appearance of these beads, and demonstrated the important role they play in our near space environment.

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WASHINGTON — The European Space Agency is preparing to select two companies to build the second generation of Galileo navigation satellites under contracts to be signed in early 2021. 

The ESA-led competition, arranged on behalf of the European Commission, pits rising German manufacturer OHB against European heavyweights Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defense and Space, Paul Verhoef, ESA director of navigation, told SpaceNews by email.

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Crew-1 astronauts in Crew Dragon

WASHINGTON — NASA announced Aug. 14 that the first operational SpaceX commercial crew mission to the International Space Station will launch in late October, a delay to accommodate other spacecraft flying to the station.

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Simulations show lander exhaust could cloud studies of lunar ices
An artist’s concept from 1969 depicts a lunar module descending to the Moon’s surface. Because of the Moon's very thin atmosphere, the exhaust expands significantly and can remain in the atmosphere for months. Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center

A new study led by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, shows that exhaust from a mid-sized lunar lander can quickly spread around the Moon and potentially contaminate scientifically vital ices at the lunar poles.

Computer simulations of water vapor emitted by a 2,650-pound (1,200-kilogram) lander—about a quarter of the dry mass of the Apollo Lunar Module—touching down near the Moon's south pole showed exhaust takes only a few hours to disperse around the entire Moon.

Space bricks for lunar habitation

Thursday, 13 August 2020 16:37
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Space bricks for lunar habitation
Credit: Divakar Badal

In what could be a significant step forward in space exploration, a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed a sustainable process for making brick-like structures on the moon. It exploits lunar soil, and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible load-bearing structures. These 'space bricks' could eventually be used to assemble structures for habitation on the moon's surface, the researchers suggest.

"It is really exciting because it brings two different fields—biology and mechanical engineering—together," says Aloke Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc, one of the authors of two studies recently published in Ceramics Internationaland PLOS One.

Space exploration has grown exponentially in the last century. With Earth's resources dwindling rapidly, scientists have only intensified their efforts to inhabit the moon and possibly other planets.

The cost of sending one pound of material to outer space is about $10,000. The process developed by the IISc and ISRO team uses urea—which can be sourced from human urine—and lunar soil as raw materials for construction on the moon's surface.

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WASHINGTON — A startup formed by rocket engineers from the German space agency DLR is targeting late 2022 for the first flight of a small launch vehicle designed around hybrid engines. 

HyImpulse is developing a three-stage rocket capable of sending 500 kilograms to a 400-kilometer low Earth orbit.

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SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Air Force and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) noted significant improvements in numerical weather prediction models with the recent addition of global navigation satellite system radio occultation datasets.

Week in images: 10-14 August 2020

Thursday, 13 August 2020 13:13
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Week in images: 10-14 August 2020

Discover our week through the lens

Galileo next-gen satellites on the horizon

Thursday, 13 August 2020 10:04
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Galileo satellite in orbit

With 26 satellites now in orbit and over 1.5 billion smartphones and devices worldwide receiving highly accurate navigation signals, Europe’s Galileo navigation system will soon become even better, ensuring quality services over the next decades. 

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Orlando FL (SPX) Aug 12, 2020
The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin has flight tested the second AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) on the service's B-52 Stratofortress out of Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Aug. 8, 2020. This captive carry flight was conducted with tactical hardware and fully instrumented to collect thermal, mechanical and digital data from the flight vehicle. This is the first

Physicists cast doubt on neutrino theory

Thursday, 13 August 2020 09:32
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Cincinnati OH (SPX) Aug 12, 2020
University of Cincinnati physicists, as part of an international research team, are raising doubts about the existence of an exotic subatomic particle that failed to show up in twin experiments. UC College of Arts and Sciences associate professor Alexandre Sousa and assistant professor Adam Aurisano took part in an experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in search of steril
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Potsdam, Germany (SPX) Aug 07, 2020
All life needs energy. Where there is not enough energy available, there can be no life. But how much is enough? A new study led by James Bradley of the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and Queen Mary University of London provides a surprising answer: Microbes in the seabed survive on far less energy than has been shown ever before. The international team is publishing its result
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Washington DC (AFNS) Aug 12, 2020
Fewer than eight months after its creation, America's newest military service published its first doctrine, the U.S. Space Force's Space Capstone Publication, entitled Spacepower. The SCP, which is the first articulation of spacepower as a separate and distinct form of military power, serves as a foundation upon which to build additional doctrine as expanding challenges are continually add

VLBA finds planet orbiting small, cool star

Thursday, 13 August 2020 09:32
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Charlottesville VA (SPX) Aug 07, 2020
Using the supersharp radio "vision" of the National Science Foundation's continent-wide Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), astronomers have discovered a Saturn-sized planet closely orbiting a small, cool star 35 light-years from Earth. This is the first discovery of an extrasolar planet with a radio telescope using a technique that requires extremely precise measurements of a star's position
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Baltimore MD (SPX) Aug 07, 2020
Taking advantage of a total lunar eclipse, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have detected Earth's own brand of sunscreen - ozone - in our atmosphere. This method simulates how astronomers and astrobiology researchers will search for evidence of life beyond Earth by observing potential "biosignatures" on exoplanets (planets around other stars). Hubble did not look at Earth di
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