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Sunny side of GOCE, which has been dubbed the 'Ferrari of space'  (Image: ESA–AOES-Mediala...

ESA announced on Monday that its Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has ended its extended mission to map the Earth’s gravitational field. Orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 224 km (139 mi), the unmanned probe, known as the “Ferrari of space” because of its streamlined shape, has run out of fuel for the ion engine that kept it in orbit and is expected to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere within two weeks.  Read More

Bridget spent six 'Martian' days in the desert (Image: ESA)

ESA’s Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER) has completed six “Martian days” of tests roaming Chile’s Atacama Desert. Nicknamed "Bridget," the prototype of the space agency’s ExoMars rover is part of a program to gain experience in building and operating planetary rovers in anticipation of the 2018 ESA Mars mission.  Read More

The AMAZE logo printed in metal using an additive manufacturing 3D printing technique that...

3D printers have already migrated from factories to the home and are now set to journey into space, where the cost of delivering replacement tools, components and structures can cost in the millions. The AMAZE (Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products) from the ESA and the European Commission aims to deliver the first 3D metal printer to the International Space Station (ISS) to allow astronauts to print custom objects on demand.  Read More

SAFER field test rover (Image: ESA, Michel van Winnendael)

The Atacama desert in Chile is so dry that parts of it are utterly devoid of life down to bacteria. That and its sandy, rock-strewn terrain makes it so similar to Mars that it's a perfect spot for ESA to trial its Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover (SAFER), which will this week carry out tests related to navigation, remote control and the use of scientific instruments. The agency’s goal is the latest in a series of tests to develop technologies and gain practical experience in anticipation of ESA’s launch of the ExoMars rover to the Red Planet in 2018.  Read More

Artist's impression of a robot snake and a rover on Mars (Image: James Steidl/Shutterstock...

Mars is essentially one big desert, and what do you tend to find in deserts? Snakes. There’s a reason for this, so the European Space Agency-funded SERPEX project is conducting a feasibility study on how robot snakes could one day be used to explore the Red Planet.  Read More

The Swarm constellation will provide the most accurate survey of the Earth's magnetic fiel...

The first of three satellites designed to undertake a comprehensive study the Earth’s magnetic field left Munich airport on Tuesday aboard an Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft bound for Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. This first Swarm satellite will be followed by two identical craft and more than 60 tons of support equipment before all three are launched into polar orbit in November.  Read More

The penetrator hitting the ice target as part of efforts to develop a way to deliver instr...

Normally, a spacecraft slamming into a planet’s surface at the speed of sound is considered a bad thing, but the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to do just that. As part of its Core Technology Programme for Cosmic Vision, the agency fired a pair of experimental surface penetrators from a rocket sled at a test facility at the UK Military of Defence Pendine site in Wales last July. The goal is to find ways of delivering instruments beneath the ground or ice of alien worlds without drilling.  Read More

Artist's concept of the LADEE spacecraft (Image: NASA)

Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It’s a mature, reliable technology, but it’s reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter.  Read More

Alphasat hitched a ride aboard an Ariane 5 ECA rocket, which took off from Kourou in Frenc...

Europe's largest telecommunications satellite has gone into orbit following a successful launch from French Guiana on Thursday. At 8:38 p.m. GMT, Alphasat (all 6.6 tonnes of it) was picked up at Inmarsat's Beijing ground station, confirming that the satellite was operating as expected.  Read More

Skylon with the SABRE engine in sutaway

The British government announced on Tuesday that it has authorized an investment of £60 million in the Skylon spaceplane. The funds will be used to further develop the revolutionary SABRE engine, which is designed to power the Skylon into orbit and back without the need for outside boosters or tanks.  Read More

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