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(6 August 2020 – NASA Goddard) NASA’s first asteroid sampling spacecraft is making final preparations to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu’s surface.

Next week, the OSIRIS-REx mission will conduct a second rehearsal of its touchdown sequence, practicing the sample collection activities one last time before touching down on Bennu this fall.

On Aug. 11, the mission will perform its “Matchpoint” rehearsal – the second practice run of the Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection event. The rehearsal will be similar to the Apr. 14 “Checkpoint” rehearsal, which practiced the first two maneuvers of the descent, but this time the spacecraft will add a third maneuver, called the Matchpoint burn, and fly even closer to sample site Nightingale – reaching an altitude of approximately 131 ft (40 m) – before backing away from the asteroid.

This artist’s concept shows the trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Matchpoint rehearsal, which is the final time the mission will practice the initial steps of the sample collection sequence before touching down on asteroid Bennu. (courtesy: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This second rehearsal will be the first time the spacecraft executes the Matchpoint maneuver to then fly in tandem with Bennu’s rotation. The rehearsal also gives the team a chance to become more familiar navigating the spacecraft through all of the descent maneuvers, while verifying that the spacecraft’s imaging, navigation and ranging systems operate as expected during the event.

During the descent, the spacecraft fires its thrusters three separate times to make its way down to the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft will travel at an average speed of around 0.2 mph (0.3 kph) during the approximately four-hour excursion. Matchpoint rehearsal begins with OSIRIS-REx firing its thrusters to leave its 0.5-mile (870-m) safe-home orbit. The spacecraft then extends its robotic sampling arm – the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – from its folded, parked position out to the sample collection configuration. Immediately following, the spacecraft rotates to begin collecting navigation images for the Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) guidance system. NFT allows OSIRIS-REx to autonomously navigate to Bennu’s surface by comparing an onboard image catalog with the real-time navigation images taken during descent. As the spacecraft approaches the surface, the NFT system updates the spacecraft’s predicted point of contact depending on OSIRIS-REx’s position in relation to Bennu’s landmarks.

The spacecraft’s two solar panels then move into a “Y-wing” configuration that safely positions them up and away from the asteroid’s surface. This configuration also places the spacecraft’s center of gravity directly over the TAGSAM collector head, which is the only part of the spacecraft that will contact Bennu’s surface during the sample collection event.

When OSIRIS-REx reaches an altitude of approximately 410 ft (125 m), it performs the Checkpoint burn and descends more steeply toward Bennu’s surface for another eight minutes. At approximately 164 ft (50 m) above the asteroid, the spacecraft fires its thrusters a third time for the Matchpoint burn. This maneuver slows the spacecraft’s rate of descent and adjusts its trajectory to match Bennu’s rotation as the spacecraft makes final corrections to target the touchdown spot. OSIRIS-REx will continue capturing images of Bennu’s landmarks for the NFT system to update the spacecraft’s trajectory for another three minutes of descent. This brings OSIRIS-REx to its targeted destination around 131 ft (40 m) from Bennu – the closest it has ever been to the asteroid. With the rehearsal complete, the spacecraft executes a back-away burn, returns its solar panels to their original position and reconfigures the TAGSAM arm back to the parked position.

During the rehearsal, the one-way light time for signals to travel between Earth and the spacecraft will be approximately 16 minutes, which prevents the live commanding of flight activities from the ground. So prior to the rehearsal’s start, the OSIRIS-REx team will uplink all of the event’s commands to the spacecraft, allowing OSIRIS-REx to perform the rehearsal sequence autonomously after the GO command is given. Also during the event, the spacecraft’s low gain antenna will be its only antenna pointing toward Earth, transmitting data at the very slow rate of 40 bits per second. So while the OSIRIS-REx team will be able to monitor the spacecraft’s vital signs, the images and science data collected during the event won’t be downlinked until the rehearsal is complete. The team will experience these same circumstances during the actual TAG event in October.

Following Matchpoint rehearsal, the OSIRIS-REx team will verify the flight system’s performance during the descent, including that the Matchpoint burn accurately adjusted the spacecraft’s descent trajectory for its touchdown on Bennu. Once the mission team determines that OSIRIS-REx operated as expected, they will command the spacecraft to return to its safe-home orbit around Bennu.

The mission team has spent the last several months preparing for the Matchpoint rehearsal while maximizing remote work as part of its COVID-19 response. On the day of rehearsal, a limited number of personnel will monitor the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space’s facility, taking appropriate safety precautions, while the rest of the team performs their roles remotely. The mission implemented a similar protocol during the Checkpoint rehearsal in April.

On Oct. 20, the spacecraft will travel all the way to the asteroid’s surface during its first sample collection attempt. During this event, OSIRIS-REx’s sampling mechanism will touch Bennu’s surface for approximately five seconds, fire a charge of pressurized nitrogen to disturb the surface and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away. The spacecraft is scheduled to return the sample to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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Mitochondrial changes key to health problems in space

Mitochondrial changes key to health problems in space

(25 November 2020 – NASA Ames) Living in space isn’t easy. There are notable impacts on the biology of living things in the harsh environment of space.

A team of scientists has now identified a possible underlying driver of these impacts: the powerhouse of the cell, called mitochondria, experiences changes in activity during spaceflight.

Recently published in the journal Cell, these results used data collected over decades of experimental research on the International Space Station, including samples from 59 astronauts. Studies such as these are critical to understanding the effects of low gravity, radiation, confined spaces, and more as NASA sends astronauts deep into space for extended missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Valery Boyko, lead of NASA GeneLab’s Sample Processing Lab, is setting up automated liquid handling instrument to quantify the amount of sequencing material in a sample. (courtesy: NASA/Dominic Hart)

“We’ve found a universal mechanism that explains the kinds of changes we see to the body in space, and in a place we didn’t expect,” said Afshin Beheshti the lead author on the paper and a researcher with KBR, which provides contract support to NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Everything gets thrown out of whack and it all starts with the mitochondria.”

The research also made use of a comprehensive database of animal studies collected on the GeneLab platform at Ames, as well as the NASA twin study comparing identical twins Mark and Scott Kelly over the course of a year. The GeneLab platform is the first of its kind to capture large amounts of space biology “omics” data that can be used to characterize and quantify biological molecules – such as DNA, RNA, and proteins – and their systematic effects on the structures and functions of organisms. GeneLab’s Analysis Working Group drew in scientists from all over the world to collaborate on the study and get the most out of the data housed on the open-source platform.

Mitochondria are tiny structures within cells that produce energy for the basic units of biology that make up our bodies. When that energy production breaks down, many of the body’s key organs and its immune system can be put in jeopardy. This new research indicates this breakdown in activity of mitochondria might contribute to health or performance challenges faced by humans in space.

The first clue about the connection between mitochondria and spaceflight came from research using rodents.

“When we started comparing the tissues from mice flown on separate space missions, we noticed that mitochondrial dysfunction kept popping up,” said Beheshti. “Whether we were looking at problems in the eyes or in the liver, the same pathways related to mitochondria were the source of the problem.”

NASA’s data on humans backed this hypothesis up. The changes identified in astronaut Scott Kelly’s immune system during his year in space starting in 2015 may be explained by the changes observed in the activity of his mitochondria as well. Blood and urine samples from dozens of other astronauts showed further evidence that, in various types of cells, being in space led to altered mitochondrial activity.

“This is a big step toward figuring out how our bodies can live healthily off-world,” said Beheshti. “And the good news is, this is a problem we can already start to tackle. We can look at countermeasures and drugs we already use to deal with mitochondrial disorders on Earth to see how they might work in space, to start.”

From issues as wide-ranging as disrupted circadian rhythms to cardiovascular alterations, scientists can now turn to this small but essential structure in cells as a place to continue research and look for solutions. Mitochondria are indeed the powerhouse of the cell, and may also power the future of space biology research – pointing the way toward discoveries that will help astronauts live safely in orbit and beyond.

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Integrasys awarded ESA project for interference cancellation and removal technology

Integrasys awarded ESA project for interference cancellation and removal technology

(25 November 2020 – Integrsys) Integrasys has been awarded a 1.5M€ ESA project for interference cancellation and removal technology.

CDTI, the Spanish Delegation for ESA, has funded a project for developing the first Spanish and European Interference Cancellation Technology for satellite signals without requiring a second antenna or knowing about the interference parameters. This new technology can play a critical role in Government networks, not necessarily only military; CLEANRF Integrasys solution cost is much more affordable than any other solution in the market today, with higher performance and lower physical footprint.

CleanRF interference cancellation and removal (courtesy: Integrasys)

“At Integrasys is a great pleasure to work with ESA and CDTI in CLEANRF project for delivering to ESA the CLEANRF solution and enabling us to have better technology and more affordable prices for our customers. We have proven to be a very reliable partner to more than 60 customers that we currently serve every year, and we look forward to provide more technologies in a reliable, resilient and cost efficient way to our great partners.” said Alvaro Sanchez, Integrays CEO.

“CDTI, as the Spanish Delegation to ESA, regularly opens competitive national calls to allow for the participation of Spanish entities in ESA’s technology programmes, being GSTP (General Support Technology Programme) one of them. The purpose of the national calls is to select among the many projects that are presented, only those of the highest standards in terms of industrial, technological and market criteria. In this frame we are pleased to see the success of Spanish SMEs as Integrasys with its CLEANRF proposal, contributing to the innovation of the outstanding Spanish space industrial landscape” Said Juan Carlos Cortes CDTI

Element 2 of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP)

The activity is funded with Element 2 of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP).  Through the optional Programme ESA, Participating States and Industry work together to convert promising engineering concepts into a broad spectrum of useable products. By supporting market-oriented activities, driven by industry, Element 2 encourages more ideas and partnerships and ultimately leads to the most innovative technologies for European space industry.

CDTI

CDTI-E.P.E. is a Public Business Entity, dependent on the Ministry of Science and Innovation, which promotes innovation and technological development in Spanish companies. It is the entity that channels requests for help and support for R+D+i projects of Spanish companies at national and international levels. The objective of the CDTI is to contribute to the improvement of the technological level of Spanish companies. CDTI also holds the representation of Spain in the European Space Agency among other international organizations.

Integrasys

Integrasys is a privately owned company specialized on engineering and manufacturing Satellite Spectrum Monitoring Systems in the telecommunication and broadcasting markets. Integrasys was founded in 1990 by a group of Hewlett-Packard engineers experts on Automated RF & Microwaves Test Systems and Software and the marquess of Antella. Since then Integrasys has evolved towards today’s company, offering a wide range of signal monitoring products and VSAT Deployment and Maintenance and Link Budget solutions for different telecom and satellite services with the best customer care that our customers deserve.

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US Government awards Gilat additional multi-million-dollar contract for military communications program

US Government awards Gilat additional multi million dollar contract for military communications

(24 November 2020 – Gilat) Gilat Satellite Networks subsidiary Wavestream has received a multi-million-dollar order from the United States Government for a military communication program contract.

With this award, Wavestream achieves an industry record shipment milestone by surpassing 5,000 units of its high-power 50W Ka-band military Block Upconverter (BUC) to be delivered to this military program.

(courtesy: Gilat)

“Wavestream is honored to be the vendor of choice for the US government military communication program and to be reliably supplying its high-power 50W Ka-band BUC for over 14 years. This product is the most widely deployed solid state amplifier built at this power level,” said Bob Huffman, Wavestream’s General Manager. “With this order we have surpassed shipment of 5,000 units, a testament to Wavestream’s unmatched production capacity and product longevity of military-grade high-power Ka-Band SSPA/BUCs.”

About Wavestream

Wavestream, a Gilat subsidiary is the industry leader in the design and manufacture of next generation satellite communications high power transceivers for In Flight Connectivity, Ground Mobility and Gateway markets. Since 2001, we provide system integrators with field-proven, high performance Ka, Ku and X band Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs), Block Upconverters (BUCs), Block Down Converters and Transceivers. We design, manufacture and repair our products in-house and have delivered over 40,000 systems in the past 15 years. Wavestream products provide high quality and reliability under the harshest environmental conditions and we are currently certified to ISO 9001:2008 and AS9100D standards.

About Gilat

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ: GILT, TASE: GILT) is a leading global provider of satellite-based broadband communications. With 30 years of experience, we design and manufacture cutting-edge ground segment equipment, and provide comprehensive solutions and end-to-end services, powered by our innovative technology. Delivering high value competitive solutions, our portfolio comprises of a cloud based VSAT network platform, high-speed modems, high performance on-the-move antennas and high efficiency, high power Solid State Amplifiers (SSPA) and Block Upconverters (BUC).

Gilat’s comprehensive solutions support multiple applications with a full portfolio of products to address key applications including broadband access, cellular backhaul, enterprise, in-flight connectivity, maritime, trains, defense and public safety, all while meeting the most stringent service level requirements. Gilat controlling shareholders are the FIMI Private Equity Funds.

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