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GOLIAT- Nanosatellite for science and operational purposes

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Disaster monitoring

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ROSA hosts the ASTRONET working group
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014   

Today, 19 November 2014, ROSA hosts the ASTRONET meeting with with representatives of the major actors in astronomy in Romania. The organisation was represented at the event by Working Group 3 ASTRONET, which coordinates the new Member States and their involvement in the European astronomy.

The purpose of this ASTRONET visit was to analyze the situation of astronomy research and professionals astronomers in Romania and to discuss how Romania could integrate its research better into the European astronomy strategies, but also join organisations such as ESO or similar.

Dr. Marius Ioan Piso (Romanian Space Agency), along with Mr. Marian Doru Șuran (Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy) and Mr. Ion-Sorin Zgură (Institute of Space Science) presented the research situation in Romania and future plans in this area. In turn, the ASTRONET representatives  exposed their research on the situation of Romanian astronomers. A debate took place, whose objective is to result into a report written by ASTRONET with recommendations for the professional astronomers community in Romania.

Discussions were also held on the needs, obstacles, opportunities and future plans of astronomy in Romania, both as a national community and in relation to joint European efforts, such as the ASTRONET Roadmap, ESO, ESA and funding available at the European level (especially the new Horizon 2020).

More details are available here.

132 years since the birth of Aurel Vlaicu
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014   

Today, 19 November, Romania celebrates the birth of Aurel Vlaicu and also the Researchers' Day, which was marked for the first time in 1994, when the Government Decision no. 764 decided this day to be dedicated to Emil Palade (19 November 1912 - 8 October 2008), the only Romanian who has ever won a Nobel Prize - in 1974 for physiology and medicine.

Aurel Vlaicu was born 132 years ago, on 19 November 1882, in Hunedoara county, in Bintinti, which today bears his name. The future inventor and Romanian and global aviation pioneer went at primary school in his hometown, continued secondary school at Orastie, at the Reformed College of Calvin High School (which in 1919 was named "Aurel Vlaicu High School"), to complete his undergraduate studies at the German High School in Sibiu, where he took the Romanian Baccalaureate exam in 1902.

His professional training began then, when Aurel Vlaicu chose to study engineering at the University of Budapest and then at the prestigious Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitet  in Munich, Germany, where he obtained his engineering diploma few years later, in 1907.

The year 1908 found him working as an engineer at the Opel car factory in Rüsselsheim, but his curious, enterprising nature, didn't allow him to accept the destiny of a simple worker. Thus, in the autumn, Aurel Vlaicu returned home and began to implement the plans for a flying machine, which became reality in 1909. On 17 June 1910, on the Cotroceni field, the engineer Aurel Vlaicu took off onboard of the first airplane designed, built and piloted in Romania: "Vlaicu 1", built with the support of the Romanian Royal House and the Army at the Army Arsenal’s workshops. Our first "national plane," which raised to a height of only 3-4 meters over a distance of 50 meters, placed Romania immediately after the United States and France in the limited category of states on whose territory an original device, built and piloted by a citizen of that country flew. More details about this historic event are available here.

The patent was registered under the name "Arrow-shaped body flew device", and a year later he built a second plane, the famous "Vlaicu II", which bought him international confirmation in 1912, when he won no less than five prizes (1 first prize and 4 second prizes) at the air rally in Aspern, Austria.

In 1913, Aurel Vlaicu was already working on the prototype of "Vlaicu III", which was supposed to be the first metallic fuselage airplane ever. The construction unit was completed later, but by two of his collaborators - Silişteanu C. and G. Magnani - as on 13 September 1913 the young engineer collapsed near Campina onboard of Vlaicu II, for reasons still unclear.

Even though his life ended so soon, Vlaicu left behind undeniable contributions to the aviation field, being remembered today as a pioneer, but also an excellent engineer and inventor. Among his inventions are the wing with variable profile during flight, depending on the angle of flight and device speed, the high stability of the plane and the plane tilt without ailerons, among the first landing system in the world with independent wheels and the almost fully aerodynamic shape and aluminum construction of the A. Vlaicu III fuselage, accomplishments which brought him posthumously on 28 Octomber 1948 the title of honorary member of the Romanian Academy.

Image source: Wikipedia

Announcement of opportunity - 3rd Call for Outline Proposals under the Romanian Industry Incentive Scheme
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Tuesday, 18 November 2014   

The European Space Agency (ESA) has opened the third call for outline proposals in the frame of the Announcement of Opportunity for Outline Proposals under the Romanian Industry Incentive Scheme. The announcement has been already published on EMITS as AO8153 Open Invitation to Tender.

The proposals can be submitted from today, 18 November 2014, until 22 December 2014.

The present Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is addressed only to Romanian companies (including SME) or academic and research organisations. The present AO is part of the Romanian Industry Incentive Scheme aiming at supporting the participation of Romania in ESA mandatory activities (especially the Scientific Programme) and in ESA optional programmes that Romania subscribes to.

A briefing on this AO will take place in Bucharest on 19 November, at the Politehnica University.  Romanian entities will have the possibility to pose questions to the ESA staff directly involved in the Call. Details here.

Philae, probe of the ESA Rosetta mission, lands on a comet for the first time in history
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Thursday, 13 November 2014   

Update 17.11.2014: Rosetta Mission's lander has completed its primary science mission after nearly 57 hours on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Philae returned all of its housekeeping data back to Earth, and by this time the lander's power is depleted. Further details are available here.

ESA’s Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved. Rosetta was launched on 2 March 2004 and travelled 6.4 billion kilometres through the Solar System before arriving at the comet on 6 August 2014, and yesterday it has sent a probe on the comet's surface.

After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET).

The confirmation was relayed via the Rosetta orbiter to Earth and picked up simultaneously by ESA’s ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and NASA’s station in Madrid, Spain. The signal was immediately confirmed at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, and DLR’s Lander Control Centre in Cologne, both in Germany.

The first data from the lander’s instruments were transmitted to the Philae Science, Operations and Navigation Centre at France’s CNES space agency in Toulouse.

You can watch the transmission in replay here.

In this illustration you can see Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where the Philae probe of the Rosetta Mission landed yesterday. The comet is depicted on scale, as compared with Bucharest. With a diametre of 4.1 km, if the comet were to be standing on top of Bucharest, it would extend from the Parliament Building until the Arch of Triumph.

Image credit: ROSA

Graphic components credit: ESA, CNES/Astrium, Landsat, DigitalGlobe, Google Maps

"Our ambitious Rosetta mission has secured a place in the history books: not only is it the first to rendezvous with and orbit a comet, but it is now also the first to deliver a lander to a comet’s surface”, noted Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

“With Rosetta we are opening a door to the origin of planet Earth and fostering a better understanding of our future. ESA and its Rosetta mission partners have achieved something extraordinary today.”

"After more than 10 years travelling through space, we’re now making the best ever scientific analysis of one of the oldest remnants of our Solar System,” said Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

“Decades of preparation have paved the way for today’s success, ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration.”

“We are extremely relieved to be safely on the surface of the comet, especially given the extra challenges that we faced with the health of the lander,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center.

“In the next hours we’ll learn exactly where and how we’ve landed, and we’ll start getting as much science as we can from the surface of this fascinating world.”

“Rosetta’s journey has been a continuous operational challenge, requiring an innovative approach, precision and long experience,” said Thomas Reiter, ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“This success is testimony to the outstanding teamwork and the unique knowhow in operating spacecraft acquired at the European Space Agency over the decades.”

The landing site, named Agilkia and located on the head of the bizarre double-lobed object, was chosen just six weeks after arrival based on images and data collected at distances of 30–100 km from the comet. Those first images soon revealed the comet as a world littered with boulders, towering cliffs and daunting precipices and pits, with jets of gas and dust streaming from the surface.

Following a period spent at 10 km to allow further close-up study of the chosen landing site, Rosetta moved onto a more distant trajectory to prepare for Philae’s deployment.

Five critical go/no-go decisions were made in the night of 11 November and in the next morning, confirming different stages of readiness ahead of separation, along with a final preseparation manoeuvre by the orbiter.

Deployment was confirmed at 09:03 GMT (10:03 CET) at a distance of 22.5km from the centre of the comet. During the seven-hour descent, which was made without propulsion or guidance, Philae took images and recorded information about the comet’s environment.

“One of the greatest uncertainties associated with the delivery of the lander was the position of Rosetta at the time of deployment, which was influenced by the activity of the comet at that specific moment, and which in turn could also have affected the lander’s descent trajectory,” said Sylvain Lodiot, ESA Rosetta Spacecraft Operations Manager.

“Furthermore, we’re performing these operations in an environment that we’ve only just started learning about, 510 million kilometres from Earth.”

Touchdown was planned to take place at a speed of around 1 m/s, with the three-legged landing gear absorbing the impact to prevent rebound, and an ice screw in each foot driving into the surface.

But during the final health checks of the lander before separation, a problem was detected with the small thruster on top that was designed to counteract the recoil of the harpoons to push the lander down onto the surface. The conditions of landing – including whether or not the thruster performed – along with the exact location of Philae on the comet are being analysed.

The first images from the surface are being downlinked to Earth and should be available within a few hours of touchdown.

Over the next 2.5 days, the lander will conduct its primary science mission, assuming that its main battery remains in good health. An extended science phase using the rechargeable secondary battery may be possible, assuming Sun illumination conditions allow and dust settling on the solar panels does not prevent it. This extended phase could last until March 2015, after which conditions inside the lander are expected to be too hot for it to continue operating.

Science highlights from the primary phase will include a full panoramic view of the landing site, including a section in 3D, high-resolution images of the surface immediately underneath the lander, on-the-spot analysis of the composition of the comet’s surface materials, and a drill that will take samples from a depth of 23 cm and feed them to an onboard laboratory for analysis.

The lander will also measure the electrical and mechanical characteristics of the surface. In addition, low-frequency radio signals will be beamed between Philae and the orbiter through the nucleus to probe the internal structure.

The detailed surface measurements that Philae makes at its landing site will complement and calibrate the extensive remote observations made by the orbiter covering the whole comet.

“Rosetta is trying to answer the very big questions about the history of our Solar System. What were the conditions like at its infancy and how did it evolve? What role did comets play in this evolution? How do comets work?” said Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta project scientist.

“Today’s successful landing is undoubtedly the cherry on the icing of a 4 km-wide cake, but we’re also looking further ahead and onto the next stage of this ground-breaking mission, as we continue to follow the comet around the Sun for 13 months, watching as its activity changes and its surface evolves.”

While Philae begins its close-up study of the comet, Rosetta must manoeuvre from its post-separation path back into an orbit around the comet, eventually returning to a 20 km orbit on 6 December.

Next year, as the comet grows more active, Rosetta will need to step further back and fly unbound ‘orbits’, but dipping in briefly with daring flybys, some of which will bring it within just 8 km of the comet centre.

The comet will reach its closest distance to the Sun on 13 August 2015 at about 185 million km, roughly between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Rosetta will follow it throughout the remainder of 2015, as they head away from the Sun and activity begins to subside.

“It’s been an extremely long and hard journey to reach today’s once-in-a-lifetime event, but it was absolutely worthwhile. We look forward to the continued success of the great scientific endeavour that is the Rosetta mission as it promises to revolutionise our understanding of comets,” said Fred Jansen, ESA Rosetta mission manager.

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