Artistic concept of the Jupiter space tug and the Exoliner cargo module with the service robotic arm near the International Space Station (Image courtesy Lockheed Martin. All rights reserved)

Lockheed Martin has announced plans of its own private spaceship that will be among the contenders for the next contract for cargo supply to the International Space Station for NASA called Commercial Resupply Services-2 (SRC-2). The company proposes a solution more sophisticated than its competitors’ because it’s not simply a cargo spaceship but a combination of a reusable space tug, called Jupiter, and a cargo module called Exoliner.

Hubble Space Telescope images of Ganymede's aurorae colored blue overlaid on a Galileo space probe image of the moon (Image NASA/ESA)

The Hubble Space Telescope has been used to study Ganymede, the largest Jupiter’s moon, and in particular its aurorae. Analyzing their characteristics, it was possible to get the best clues found so far of the existence of a Ganymede underground ocean of liquid salt water. This ocean may contain more water than it exists on the surface of the Earth.

Artistic cutaway of Saturn's moon Enceladus that shows hydrothermal activity (Image NASA/JPL)

An article just published in the journal “Nature” shows a research based on the detections carried out by NASA’s Cassini space probe. Among other information provided by the mission there’s also evidence that on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, there are signs of the presence of hydrothermal vents. This means that there are waters heated by geothermal energy similar to those existing on Earth, where the presence of various microorganisms abounds, particularly those known as extremophiles.

The Atlas V 421 rocket at liftoff with the MMS space probes (Photo NASA)

A few hors ago the four MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission) spacecraft were launched atop an Atlas V 421 rocket from Cape Canaveral. After nearly two hours the spacecraft started separating from the rocket’s last stage, one at a time at intervals of about five minutes. It’s only the beginning of a complex phase of tests, deployment of their booms with the sensors and positioning of the probes in a tetrahedron configuration which will last more than five months.

The MMS mission is really ambitious because it’s based on the work of a constellation of four identical spacecraft that will operate together in a tetrahedral formation in order to make three-dimensional measurements. The purpose is to study the magnetosphere in a way more sophisticated than those previously attempted.

In particular, the space probes will study the phenomenon of the magnetic reconnection. It’s a process in highly conductive plasma in which the magnetic topology is rearranged and the magnetic energy is converted into kinetic and thermal energy and into particle acceleration.

Cosmonauts Elena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev and astronaut Barry Wilmore assisted after their landing (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago, NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft, which landed without problems in Kazakhstan. The three of them spent almost six months on the International Space Station, where they arrived on September 25, 2014. Initially, they were part of Expedition 41, in the second half of their stay they were part of Expedition 42 with Barry Wilmore as Station commander.