Spectacular image captures International Space Station crossing in front of the sun during astronaut spacewalk

Science

CBS News 29 June, 2021 - 06:45am 29 views

A composite image made from seven frames taken by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky shows the silhouette of the ISS last week as it transited the sun at about five miles per second, or about 18,000 miles per hour. The images, which feature the sun as a glowing orange backdrop to the orbiting laboratory, were taken from Nellysford, Virginia, NASA said in a statement Monday.

"This was a fun one to chase down today," Kowsky tweeted after snapping the rare photos. 

A GIF of the composite image shared by NASA also shows the space station's progression across the sun. 

The ISS circles Earth every 90 minutes, meaning the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour period. Despite this common occurrence, capturing the ISS transiting our star is "rare," NASA says. Photographers must also be wearing proper eye protection, since looking directly at the sun is damaging. 

"With a very limited path of visibility along the ground, having clear weather at the identified location is one of the most limiting factors in being able to capture a transit," Kowsky said last year

Currently onboard the space station are Expedition 65 NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy. 

Spacewalkers @Astro_Kimbrough and @Thom_Astro completed installing the second roll out solar array on Friday, June 25, 2021. More pix... https://t.co/vpyst22UrG pic.twitter.com/cWowcomROl

At the time the photos were taken, Kimbrough and Pesquet were spacewalking outside the ISS, working to install the second of six new Roll-Out Solar Arrays on the 4B power channel — making the image extra special. It marked the duo's third spacewalk in just two weeks to continue power system upgrades, as the current solar arrays, designed to last 15 years, have begun to show signs of degradation from over 20 years of use.  

The spacewalk lasted six hours and 45 minutes. It marked the fifth spacewalk for Kimbrough and Pesquet working together, as well as the ninth for Kimbrough and the fifth for Pesquet overall.

Last year, the ISS celebrated a major milestone: 20 years of continuous human presence. In that time, 244 people have spent time onboard, conducting nearly 3,000 research investigations. 

Sophie Lewis is a social media producer and trending writer for CBS News, focusing on space and climate change.

Copyright © 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

Read full article at CBS News

Stunning image shows International Space Station moving across the sun

The Hill 29 June, 2021 - 07:00pm

The image captured by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky shows the ISS as a small shape with visible solar arrays on both sides with the sun as a glowing, bright orange backdrop. 

The images were taken Friday by Kowsky from Nellysford, Va., according to NASA. 

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second while @NASA astronaut @Astro_Kimbrough and @esa astronaut @Thom_Astro performed a spacewalk to upgrade @Space_Station's power supply. See More https://t.co/2cfJ3BbeHl pic.twitter.com/o4zq9orTyE

During the time of the transit, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet were outside on a spacewalk installing a new rollout solar array. 

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo ship departs space station to begin new mission in orbit

Space.com 29 June, 2021 - 01:28pm

The S.S. Katherine Johnson will then safely fall to Earth.

The undocking aired live on NASA TV, with the spacecraft separating from the orbital outpost right on time, enabling the craft to begin a secondary mission before its planned fiery demise. 

Ground controllers remotely unbolted Cygnus from its port on the station and moved it into its release position before using the space station's robotic arm to undock the spacecraft and send it on its way; NASA astronaut Megan McArthur monitored the departure from the space station. 

Related: Wow! NASA spots space station crossing the sun during spacewalk (video)

Typically Cygnus cargo vessels are waste disposal receptacles, and this particular craft is no different. To that end, on Monday (June 28), European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet finished loading the Cygnus with trash before sealing the hatch. After it leaves the space station, the Cygnus burns up in Earth's atmosphere as it falls from space, and all the trash inside with it. 

Shortly after departing the space station, the S.S. Katherine Johnson deployed five small cubesats as part of a secondary mission. The Ionosphere Thermosphere Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS) will study the ionosphere, an enigmatic, electrically charged part of Earth's upper atmosphere, while the MYSAT-2 satellite will help students train to become better engineers, NASA officials wrote in a blog post

Once the Cygnus has deployed all five CubeSats, it will make its journey back to Earth, burning up as it descends through the atmosphere. 

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Spectacular image captures ISS crossing in front of the sun

Yahoo News 29 June, 2021 - 06:45am

A composite image made from seven frames taken by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky shows the silhouette of the ISS last week as it transited the sun at about five miles per second, or about 18,000 miles per hour. The images, which feature the sun as a glowing orange backdrop to the orbiting laboratory, were taken from Nellysford, Virginia, NASA said in a statement Monday.

"This was a fun one to chase down today," Kowsky tweeted after snapping the rare photos.

A GIF of the composite image shared by NASA also shows the space station's progression across the sun.

The ISS circles Earth every 90 minutes, meaning the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour period. Despite this common occurrence, capturing the ISS transiting our star is "rare," NASA says. Photographers must also be wearing proper eye protection, since looking directly at the sun is damaging.

"With a very limited path of visibility along the ground, having clear weather at the identified location is one of the most limiting factors in being able to capture a transit," Kowsky said last year.

Currently onboard the space station are Expedition 65 NASA astronauts Megan McArthur, Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy.

Spacewalkers @Astro_Kimbrough and @Thom_Astro completed installing the second roll out solar array on Friday, June 25, 2021. More pix... https://t.co/vpyst22UrG pic.twitter.com/cWowcomROl

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) June 29, 2021

At the time the photos were taken, Kimbrough and Pesquet were spacewalking outside the ISS, working to install the second of six new Roll-Out Solar Arrays on the 4B power channel — making the image extra special. It marked the duo's third spacewalk in just two weeks to continue power system upgrades, as the current solar arrays, designed to last 15 years, have begun to show signs of degradation from over 20 years of use.

The spacewalk lasted six hours and 45 minutes. It marked the fifth spacewalk for Kimbrough and Pesquet working together, as well as the ninth for Kimbrough and the fifth for Pesquet overall.

Last year, the ISS celebrated a major milestone: 20 years of continuous human presence. In that time, 244 people have spent time onboard, conducting nearly 3,000 research investigations.

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NASA shares stunning view of ISS crossing in front of the sun

CNET 28 June, 2021 - 04:37pm

NASA photographer Joel Kowsky captured a magical few moments on Friday, preserving a glorious view of the International Space Station with the sun as a bright orange backdrop. 

The ISS appears as a small shape with solar arrays visible on either side. "This composite image made from seven frames shows the International Space Station, with a crew of seven on board, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly 5 miles per second," NASA said in a statement on Monday.

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Transits are challenging to photograph. They happen fast and require getting the timing, camera gear and weather conditions to all play nice. "This was a fun one to chase down today," Kowsky tweeted on Friday. 

NASA also tweeted a GIF version of the ISS moving across the sun so you can see the station's progression and direction.

The International Space Station is seen in silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second while @NASA astronaut @Astro_Kimbrough and @esa astronaut @Thom_Astro performed a spacewalk to upgrade @Space_Station's power supply. See More 📷 https://t.co/2cfJ3BbeHl pic.twitter.com/o4zq9orTyE

This was an extra special transit since it happened while NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet were outside on a spacewalk installing a new rollout solar array. The duo had already installed one of the innovative arrays, which will supplement the power supply for the station.

If you like the ISS sun transit, also check out this eye-opening moon transit from 2019. You don't have to be a camera whiz to see the ISS. Visit NASA's Spot the Station site to find out when you can catch the ISS for yourself. 

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.      

Wow! NASA photographer spots space station crossing the sun during spacewalk (video)

Space.com 28 June, 2021 - 01:09pm

In a series of photos, NASA photographer Joel Kowsky captured the station's solar transit, as the event is called, as astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Shane Kimbrough of NASA worked outside to install a new Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) on the orbiting laboratory. NASA combined the images into a time-lapse video and mosaic.

The mosaic image is a composition of seven subsequent frames taken from Nellysford, Virginia, as the space station traversed the face of the sun at the speed of roughly 5 miles per second, which is about 18,000 mph (29,000 kph), according to a NASA photo description.

The six-hour and 45-minute spacewalk was the third for Pesquet and Kimbrough in less than two weeks as they completed work on augmenting the space station's power systems. The iROSA panel deployed on Friday was the second of six new panels to be installed at the station. 

Friday's extravehicular activity (EVA) positioned the second iROSA opposite the first on the far left, or port side of the space station's backbone truss. Now both the 2B and 4B power channels on the port 6 (P6) truss have the new arrays deployed.

There are currently seven astronauts on board the space station. In addition to Pesquet and Kimbrough, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei currently reside on board, together with Japan's Akihiko Hoshide and Russian cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitskiy. 

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Former Astronaut Calls for NASA Collaboration With China

Futurism 28 June, 2021 - 12:48pm

Citing China’s recent “tremendous space capability and cutting-edge technology” after the launch of the country’s new Tiangong-3 space station, Hadfield told the South China Morning Post that he’s optimistic about the future of international collaboration in space — and argues that it would be in every country’s best interest to start working together.

Of course, it will take more than good vibes to broker an agreement between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). An Obama-era law called the Wolf Amendment bars NASA from allocating any funding or resources toward collaborative projects or discussions with China — a status quo that puts NASA in serious risk of losing its status as the global leader in space research and development. As experts said at the time, outlawing cooperation leaves competition as the only option.

Hadfield conceded that things wouldn’t change overnight, telling SCMP that “the inertia of politics including proprietary technology will remain as concerns.”

But he remains optimistic, he added, citing the culture of international collaboration that survives on the International Space Station. Also, there’s the fact that the US and Russia enjoyed a long partnership in space exploration which, while crumbling now, survived the animosity of the Cold War.

“Even when the Cold War was ongoing between the [then] Soviet Union and the United States, they managed to find a way to dock Apollo and Soyuz together,” Hadfield told SCMP. “I think there will definitely be opportunities to work with China.”

READ MORE: World’s space powers should explore ways to work with China: former ISS commander [South China Morning Post]

More on space politics: Congress Bars NASA From Working With China. That’s Likely a Mistake.

Spacewalkers Complete Second Roll Out Solar Array Installation

CleanTechnica 28 June, 2021 - 08:15am

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NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet concluded their spacewalk at 2:37 p.m. EDT [on June 25], after 6 hours and 45 minutes. In the ninth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts installed and deployed a new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) on the far end of the left (port) side of the station’s backbone truss structure (P6). [See more on the ISS’s instagram page.]

Kimbrough and Pesquet successfully removed the array from its position in the flight support equipment, maneuvered it into position, connected the electrical cables, and released it to extend the solar array to its fully deployed position at the 4B power channel. After deployment, Pesquet also retrieved an articulating portable foot restraint (APFR) to bring inside the space station.

During two spacewalks June 16 and 20, Kimbrough and Pesquet installed and deployed a new array on 2B power channel also on the port 6 truss. Both new solar arrays are providing good power generation. Each new iROSA is expected to produce more than 20 kilowatts of electricity.

NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays to ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization.

This was the ninth spacewalk for Kimbrough, the fifth for Pesquet, and the fifth they conducted together. Kimbrough has now spent a total of 59 hours and 28 minutes spacewalking, and Pesquet’s total spacewalking time is 33 hours exactly.

Space station crew members have conducted 241 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 63 days, 7 hours, and 41 minutes working outside the station.

In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed its 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique research and technological demonstrations that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars and also improve life on Earth. In that time, 244 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

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Op-ed | Mind the gap in low Earth orbit - SpaceNews

SpaceNews 27 June, 2021 - 12:35pm

For more than 20 years, the International Space Station (ISS) has supported continuous international crewed operations. An entire generation has never known a world where people aren’t living and working in space.

The success and longevity of the ISS is due in no small part to its international nature. Far too often, we take the ISS partnership for granted, when in fact it represents an unprecedented international collaboration that has proved that global human spaceflight cooperation is both possible and beneficial.

Moreover, for the past two decades, the ISS has proverbially and literally been an outpost on the frontier of science. More than 3,000 experiments have been conducted on the ISS in a diverse array of fields ranging from fundamental physics and Earth observation to biomedical studies and advanced manufacturing demonstrations.

Not only has the ISS supported unique science, the station has also been a singular source of soft power for the United States. America has served as the heart and glue for the station’s international coalition, enabling the U.S. to maintain its role as the world’s preeminent spacefaring nation.

However, in the harsh environment of space, nothing is permanent. Ideally, the ISS could serve as a platform for innovation for another decade and NASA should leverage every bit of utility it can get out of the station for as long as it can. Unfortunately, the ISS will inevitably need to be retired, and it is incumbent upon NASA and the entire American space community to avoid a space station gap.

This has happened before, with America losing the ability to launch astronauts into space and depending exclusively on Russia for crewed transportation for nearly a decade. This capability gap represented a holistic failure of planning and foresight that, thanks to public-private partnerships and commercial space capabilities, the nation is now starting to recover from. Yet, despite having only recently overcome a human space launch gap, the U.S. is already facing a space station gap that could be more pernicious than any other challenge that NASA has faced in the modern era.

If the space industry and relevant policymakers fail to take robust action quickly, the U.S. will experience a crippling and lengthy space station gap. At a time when scientists are only beginning to understand the importance of microgravity research, development and manufacturing, the U.S. will lose access to low Earth orbit (LEO) and all the scientific benefits this unique environment has to offer. Additionally, America’s ability to train astronauts and prepare for long-duration missions to the moon and Mars will be lost, and NASA’s astronaut corps will shrink to a fraction of its current size.

Moreover, a space station gap will result in ceding both LEO and global leadership to China.

In April, China launched the first element of its new 66 metric ton three-module space station. China has learned from our experience with the ISS and is replicating both the capabilities of the station as well as the diplomatic and geopolitical benefits that a crewed LEO platform offers. During the next two years, China will conduct a flurry of activities to build this next-generation orbital outpost. Unless plans for an American commercial space station are executed with alacrity, this Chinese station will soon become the only crewed platform in LEO. In addition to ceding the benefits of microgravity research, development and manufacturing, as well as astronaut training to China, the U.S. will lose its role as the global leader in human spaceflight.

Space has always been closely intertwined with global politics. The Apollo era competition to land humans on the moon of course serves as the primary example of this, but the ISS’s role in geopolitics potentially rivals even that of Apollo. Over the past two decades, the ISS has served as a beacon of global cooperation supporting experiments from more than 100 nations and astronauts from 18. The ISS has deepened existing relationships with longtime American allies while broadening U.S. outreach to countries that are new to human spaceflight. Additionally, under the auspices of American leadership, ISS operations, including launch activities, have been both transparent and safe.

If the U.S. cedes LEO to China, we will abandon not only science and astronautics, but also our values, leaving China to set the agenda for humanity’s future in space. China will become the new global leader in astronautics and will enjoy the nontrivial political and diplomatic benefits that such a position brings. By becoming the only nation with a crewed platform in LEO, China will demonstrate, in both perception and reality, that its technologies and organizational capabilities are superior to the U.S. in this vital arena.

China already weaves space into its overall geopolitical strategy, including satellites and astronaut seats in its trade agreements and treaties. China also wisely leverages space in its relationship with the United Nations and has already selected payloads that will be flown on its space station from a variety of developing countries. A U.S. space station gap wherein China has the only crewed platform in orbit will further a narrative of American decline in the face of Chinese preeminence, the results of which will harm our nation’s global soft power and the perception of the U.S. and the values it stands for.

Lastly, it’s important to note the devastating effect a space station gap will have on the American space launch industry. America has spent billions of dollars developing new cargo and crew systems. These programs have energized the U.S. space launch industrial base and spurred innovations that have allowed America to recapture the commercial space launch market, which had previously been lost to overseas competition. Without a space station, demand for launch services will drop dramatically, jeopardizing not only American capabilities and science in LEO, but also U.S. launch capabilities and competitiveness. The negative effects of the loss of crewed LEO operations will thereby be felt far beyond NASA and will inevitably become a nontrivial threat to national security as well.

The overwhelming cost to the U.S. of a space station gap could not be more clear. Fortunately, the solution is equally apparent. Public-private partnerships and the rise of commercial space is transforming the space world.

Due in no small part to innovative leadership by NASA through initiatives such as the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program and the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts, the private sector has been able to deliver cargo and crew to LEO.

The obvious next step is for commercial firms to provide NASA with not just transportation, but a platform in LEO. A commercial space station could deliver all the benefits generated by the ISS along with renewed global outreach, enhanced affordability and continued scientific innovations. However, even with the private sector’s efficiencies, designing, developing and deploying a commercial space station will require substantial time and resources.

The private sector can meet this challenge, but it cannot do so alone. As in the COTS and CRS programs, NASA has a critical role to play. Specifically, NASA must serve as a catalyst and customer for the new commercial station. The agency must do all that it can to help stimulate demand for microgravity services. This means supporting projects on the ISS now that demonstrate how the microgravity environment can be used to manufacture new substances, produce advanced technologies and develop cutting-edge medical treatments that could transform a variety of fields here on Earth.

NASA should focus its support on activities with the greatest near-term potential to generate revenue that could help pay for the costs of a future commercial space station.

Unfortunately, although important to both space station operations and American competitiveness, profitable on-orbit manufacturing is unlikely to develop in the near future. Therefore, NASA has an immediate and vital role to play as a sophisticated customer for a commercial space station, and the agency’s Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD) project is a step in the right direction.

Over its 60-year history, NASA has been a trailblazer, not just in exploration, but also in technology investment and procurement methodology. Other Transaction Authority, which led to the rise and dominance of the American commercial space industry, was first utilized at NASA through Space Act Agreements (SAAs). SAAs were used for COTS, which garnered substantial private sector investment. Through COTS and other public-private partnerships such as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, NASA has expertly utilized its power as a customer to encourage outside investment. NASA purchasing systems and hardware sends a strong signal to investors and entrepreneurs who subsequently follow the agency’s lead.

In regard to private sector capabilities, buoyed by private equity, SPACs and venture capital generally, the commercial space field has never enjoyed greater financial wherewithal. NASA would be wise to leverage this unprecedented period to further evolve the commercial space paradigm. Under COTS and CRS, the government paid for the private sector to develop services that the government then purchased. This model was wildly successful and saved the taxpayer billions of dollars. For activities that are within the reach of the private sector, NASA has and should continue to enter into public-private partnerships, allowing the agency to focus its resources on the frontiers of exploration and technology.

Despite past success, the existing commercial space paradigm must continue to evolve, and the next step is for the government to serve primarily as a customer. The private sector has the desire and ability to fund the development and deployment of a commercial space station.

However, for companies to access sufficient capital to field a commercial space station, NASA must lean forward as much as it can to reassure industry that it will be a robust and ongoing customer. NASA’s desire to continuously fly two crew members in LEO and perform 200 investigations per year is a good start. If NASA can incorporate such a commitment into the initial CLD SAAs and potentially include additional crew and investigations in the future, such actions will position the private sector for success.

Change is inevitable, but it is also beneficial and necessary for institutions, ideas and even individuals to survive and thrive. The environment in LEO is changing and American capabilities must also change to meet tomorrow’s challenges. China is wisely investing in crewed LEO operations and making strong diplomatic overtures to build a global coalition for its space program. To avoid ceding LEO to China, the U.S. must lean into its traditional strengths, specifically, entrepreneurialism and innovation, both of which are driven by the freedom and diversity that are the twin pillars of American society.

Taking the concept of a commercial space station from idea to reality will require a concerted effort from all of us. NASA, Congress, the executive branch and industry must all work quickly and in unison. Together, we can build a bridge that will allow America to safely and successfully cross over the space station gap, on a path toward a future of peace and prosperity in LEO and beyond for the U.S. and all of humanity to enjoy.

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