27 August 2018:Two plaques etched with thousands of miniaturised drawings made by children have been unveiled in a dedicated ceremony held today in Switzerland.
Three years ago, thousands of children were inspired by the study of planets beyond our Solar System and translated their imagination into beautiful drawings, which feature a variety of planets and other cosmic settings. Out of the many excellent entries, over 2700 were selected to fly on ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops.
Cheops will make high-precision measurements of stars, monitoring the small changes in brightness due to the transit of a planet across the star’s disc, in order to determine the planet’s size. Combined with known information about the planet’s mass, Cheops will enable the density of the planet to be calculated, and as such determine if it is a rocky, icy, or even a water-world for example – a first step to characterise exoplanets.
“Cheops is ESA’s first small-class science mission and its task is big. The first step characterisation of the Earth-to-Neptune size planets that Cheops will target is an essential step to piecing together what these planets are made of, and towards the long-term search for habitable worlds beyond our own Solar System,”says Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.
“This unique satellite, the product of European collaboration, has already inspired the young generation, seen in the drawings engraved on the plaques unveiled today as Cheops begins its final stages of preparations before moving to the launch site.”
While the satellite was being assembled earlier this year, a team at the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Burgdorf, Switzerland miniaturized the drawings and engraved them onto two titanium plates. Each plaque measures nearly 18 cm across and 24 cm high.
The spacecraft has recently completed a series of tests at RUAG Space in Zurich, Switzerland, and today was presented to media and invited guests with the two plaques now attached.
Cheops will soon travel to ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands where the satellite will undergo acoustic and radio-frequency compatibility tests during September, concluding the environmental test campaign. The spacecraft will then return to Airbus Defence and Space, Spain for final tests before shipment to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The satellite, which is implemented as a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, is on track to complete all planned test activities by the end of the year.
Once in Earth orbit Cheops will begin to characterise some of the many extrasolar worlds already discovered, many of which are similar to those depicted in the inspired artwork that will fly into space with this exciting mission.
The non-profit, all-volunteer group Copenhagen Suborbitals today successfully launched their Nexø II rocket from a floating platform in the Baltic Sea. The liquid fueled propulsion system appeared to work well and the rocket returned via parachute for a soft splashdown. Here is a video of the livestream of the event (the launch happens at around 1:35:33):
[ Update: This video shows the rocket’s flight from three cameras on the vehicle:
The group is working step-by-step towards launching a person to 100 kilometers in a rocket that they will build.
Standing less than a foot tall and weighing a few ounces, the rectangular box doesn’t seem like much but Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics hope it will represent the first step for schools nationwide wanting to conduct zero-gravity experiments in space.
A few aluminum Launchboxes already have been shipped out this summer and more interest is expected as students return to K-12 schools across the nation, said Steven Collicott, professor of aeronautics and astronautics.
Collicott said the Launchboxes allow schools to focus on the experiments they want to send up on private suborbital rockets and also expose students and teachers to Purdue engineering.
“Teachers should be thinking and working with students about what’s going inside the box and the purpose of their experiment, not how to house it on the rocket,” Collicott said. “These Purdue School Launchboxes enable more schools to fly their own original experiments to space by taking this mundane, low-tech stumbling block out of the way for teachers.”
In December, Collicott and his students finished a two-year project working with second-graders from Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette to send up an experiment aboard a Blue Origin rocket launch to determine whether fireflies could light up in space.
Compliments from Blue Origin officials about the box used for the firefly experiment led Collicott to look into possible production. His findings: Launchboxes were so inexpensive that they could be given away to interested schools and other organizations.
“We email the schools some computer files for 3D printing the plastic end caps,” he said. “Then we ship them the pre-formed aluminum for the box plus the fasteners and instructions for assembly.
“It’s a simple solution that stayed simple.”
Once completed, the boxes are 8 inches by 4 inches and allow schools to work within the 1-pound payload limit. The boxes are strong enough to support a 15-pound weight to prove that their strength is sufficient for the stresses of the launch to space.
The Blue Origin New Shepard rocket reaches space at a height of 60 miles in the air, much higher that any balloon or aircraft.
“That flight opportunity is now available to schools all over the world at roughly half the cost of high school football uniforms,” Collicott said. “Any school district in the country that plays football can now afford space flight.
“Just like their athletic booster clubs, schools can finance these flights with a “Rocket Booster Club,” he added.
Schools or other organizations interested in getting a Purdue School Launchbox can email Collicott at email@example.com and include “Purdue School Launchbox” in the subject line.