European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Cheops solar cells
30-01-2017 01:38 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Cheops solar cells

ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite mission – Cheops – underwent important testing last year to be ready for launch by the end of 2018.

Cheops will operate from a low orbit circling Earth, taking its power from the Sun. As such, an important focus of the prelaunch testing is qualifying the satellite’s solar arrays and their cells.

The image shows part of the 12 solar cell assemblies in the Vacuum Solar Cell Illumination Facility at ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands.

The cells were heated to high temperatures to reflect what the satellite will experience once in space. In fact, the actual temperatures were scaled in order to accelerate the ageing effects experienced in flight, to represent a 3.5 year mission in just a few months.

The cells spent 2000 hours at 140ºC, 2000 hours at 160ºC and 2090 hours at 175ºC. After the tests, the cells’ maximum power and short circuit current had degraded by less than 2%, clearly below the acceptance criterion of 3%.

As a result of these tests, the Cheops solar arrays and their elements are now ready for the mission.

Once in space, Cheops will measure the density of exoplanets with sizes or masses in the super-Earth to Neptune range. Its data will set new constraints on the structure of planets in this mass range, and therefore also on their formation and evolution.

Read more about last year’s tests: Cheops solar arrays tested and built

Credit: ESA – C. Carreau

Larsen crack
30-01-2017 10:17 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Larsen crack

A crack in the Larsen-C ice shelf in on the Antarctic Peninsula first appeared several years ago, but recently it has been lengthening faster than before. Carrying radar that can ‘see’ through the dark, the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites are monitoring the situation. This animation shows that the fissure has opened around 60 km since January last year. And, since the beginning of this January it has split a further 20 km so that the 350 m-thick shelf is held only by a thread. The crack now extends around 175 km.

When the ice shelf calves this iceberg it will be one of the largest ever recorded – but exactly how long this will take is difficult to predict. The neighbouring Larsen-A and Larsen-B ice shelves suffered a similar fate with dramatic calving events in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

These ice shelves are important because they act as buttresses, holding back the ice that flows towards the sea.

The Sentinel-1 two-satellite constellation is indispensable for discovering and monitoring events like these because it continues to deliver radar images when Antarctica is shrouded in darkness for several months of the year.

Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016–17), processed by ESA

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