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Concept: Satellite


Manned space flight induces a reduction in immune competence among crew and is likely to cause deleterious changes to the composition of the gastrointestinal, nasal, and respiratory bacterial flora, leading to an increased risk of infection. The space flight environment may also affect the susceptibility of microorganisms within the spacecraft to antibiotics, key components of flown medical kits, and may modify the virulence characteristics of bacteria and other microorganisms that contaminate the fabric of the International Space Station and other flight platforms. This review will consider the impact of true and simulated microgravity and other characteristics of the space flight environment on bacterial cell behavior in relation to the potential for serious infections that may appear during missions to astronomical objects beyond low Earth orbit.

Concepts: Bacteria, Antibiotic, Microorganism, International Space Station, Space exploration, Human spaceflight, Spaceflight, Satellite


The Chinese BeiDou system (BDS), having different types of satellites, is an important addition to the ever growing system of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). It consists of Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, Inclined Geosynchronous Satellite Orbit (IGSO) satellites and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. This paper investigates the receiver-dependent bias between these satellite types, for which we coined the name “inter-satellite-type bias” (ISTB), and its impact on mixed receiver attitude determination. Assuming different receiver types may have different delays/biases for different satellite types, we model the differential ISTBs among three BeiDou satellite types and investigate their existence and their impact on mixed receiver attitude determination. Our analyses using the real data sets from Curtin’s GNSS array consisting of different types of BeiDou enabled receivers and series of zero-baseline experiments with BeiDou-enabled receivers reveal the existence of non-zero ISTBs between different BeiDou satellite types. We then analyse the impact of these biases on BeiDou-only attitude determination using the constrained (C-)LAMBDA method, which exploits the knowledge of baseline length. Results demonstrate that these biases could seriously affect the integer ambiguity resolution for attitude determination using mixed receiver types and that a priori correction of these biases will dramatically improve the success rate.

Concepts: Communications satellite, Global navigation satellite system, Satellite, Satellite navigation systems, Low Earth orbit, Geostationary orbit, Geosynchronous orbit, Earth orbits


BACKGROUND: Arabidopsis plants were grown on the International Space Station within specialized hardware that combined a plant growth habitat with a camera system that can capture images at regular intervals of growth. The Imaging hardware delivers telemetric data from the ISS, specifically images received in real-time from experiments on orbit, providing science without sample return. Comparable Ground Controls were grown in a sister unit that is maintained in the Orbital Environment Simulator at Kennedy Space Center. One of many types of biological data that can be analyzed in this fashion is root morphology. Arabidopsis seeds were geminated on orbit on nutrient gel Petri plates in a configuration that encouraged growth along the surface of the gel. Photos were taken every six hours for the 15 days of the experiment. RESULTS: In the absence of gravity, but the presence of directional light, spaceflight roots remained strongly negatively phototropic and grew in the opposite direction of the shoot growth; however, cultivars WS and Col-0 displayed two distinct, marked differences in their growth patterns. First, cultivar WS skewed strongly to the right on orbit, while cultivar Col-0 grew with little deviation away from the light source. Second, the Spaceflight environment also impacted the rate of growth in Arabidopsis. The size of the Flight plants (as measured by primary root and hypocotyl length) was uniformly smaller than comparably aged Ground Control plants in both cultivars. CONCLUSIONS: Skewing and waving, thought to be gravity dependent phenomena, occur in spaceflight plants. In the presence of an orienting light source, phenotypic trends in skewing are gravity independent, and the general patterns of directional root growth typified by a given genotype in unit gravity are recapitulated on orbit, although overall growth patterns on orbit are less uniform. Skewing appears independent of axial orientation on the ISS – suggesting that other tropisms (such as for oxygen and temperature) do not influence skewing. An aspect of the spaceflight environment also retards the rate of early Arabidopsis growth.

Concepts: Plant, Root, International Space Station, Space exploration, Satellite, Kennedy Space Center, Orbital spaceflight, Space debris


West Texas' Permian Basin, consisting of ancient marine rocks, is underlain by water-soluble rocks and multiple oil-rich formations. In the region that is densely populated with oil producing facilities, many localized geohazards, such as ground subsidence and micro-earthquakes, have gone unnoticed. Here we identify the localized geohazards in West Texas, using the satellite radar interferometry from newly launched radar satellites that provide radar images freely to public for the first time, and probe the causal mechanisms of ground deformation, encompassing oil/gas production activities and subsurface geological characteristics. Based on our observations and analyses, human activities of fluid (saltwater, CO2) injection for stimulation of hydrocarbon production, salt dissolution in abandoned oil facilities, and hydrocarbon extraction each have negative impacts on the ground surface and infrastructures, including possible induced seismicity. Proactive continuous and detailed monitoring of ground deformation from space over the currently operating and the previously operated oil/gas production facilities, as demonstrated by this research, is essential to securing the safety of humanity, preserving property, and sustaining the growth of the hydrocarbon production industry.

Concepts: Causality, Earth, Carbon, Population density, Natural gas, Subsidence, Satellite, Permian


Autophagy maintains cellular health and homeostasis during stress by delivering cytosolic material captured by autophagosomes to lysosomes for degradation. Autophagosome formation is complex: initiated by the recruitment of autophagy (Atg) proteins to the formation site, it is sustained by activation of Atg proteins to allow growth and closure of the autophagosome. How Atg proteins are translocated to the forming autophagosome is not fully understood. Transport of the ATG8 family member GABARAP from the centrosome occurs during starvation-induced autophagosome biogenesis, but how centrosomal proteins regulate GABARAP localization is unknown. We show that the centriolar satellite protein PCM1 regulates the recruitment of GABARAP to the pericentriolar material. In addition to residing on the pericentriolar material, GABARAP marks a subtype of PCM1-positive centriolar satellites. GABARAP, but not another ATG8 family member LC3B, binds directly to PCM1 through a canonical LIR motif. Loss of PCM1 results in destabilization of GABARAP, but not LC3B, through proteasomal degradation. GABARAP instability is mediated through the centriolar satellite E3 ligase Mib1, which interacts with GABARAP through its substrate-binding region and promotes K48-linked ubiquitination of GABARAP. Ubiquitination of GABARAP occurs in the N terminus, a domain associated with ATG8-family-specific functions during autophagosome formation, on residues absent in the LC3 family. Furthermore, PCM1-GABARAP-positive centriolar satellites colocalize with forming autophagosomes. PCM1 enhances GABARAP/WIPI2/p62-positive autophagosome formation and flux but has no significant effect on LC3B-positive autophagosome formation. These data suggest a mechanism for how centriolar satellites can specifically regulate an ATG8 ortholog, the centrosomal GABARAP reservoir, and centrosome-autophagosome crosstalk.

Concepts: Protein, Protein structure, Cell, Signal transduction, Metabolism, Posttranslational modification, Proteasome, Satellite


Titan, the largest satellite of Saturn, exhibits extensive aeolian, that is, wind-formed, dunes, features previously identified exclusively on Earth, Mars and Venus. Wind tunnel data collected under ambient and planetary-analogue conditions inform our models of aeolian processes on the terrestrial planets. However, the accuracy of these widely used formulations in predicting the threshold wind speeds required to move sand by saltation, or by short bounces, has not been tested under conditions relevant for non-terrestrial planets. Here we derive saltation threshold wind speeds under the thick-atmosphere, low-gravity and low-sediment-density conditions on Titan, using a high-pressure wind tunnel refurbished to simulate the appropriate kinematic viscosity for the near-surface atmosphere of Titan. The experimentally derived saltation threshold wind speeds are higher than those predicted by models based on terrestrial-analogue experiments, indicating the limitations of these models for such extreme conditions. The models can be reconciled with the experimental results by inclusion of the extremely low ratio of particle density to fluid density on Titan. Whereas the density ratio term enables accurate modelling of aeolian entrainment in thick atmospheres, such as those inferred for some extrasolar planets, our results also indicate that for environments with high density ratios, such as in jets on icy satellites or in tenuous atmospheres or exospheres, the correction for low-density-ratio conditions is not required.

Concepts: Planet, Mars, Mercury, Atmosphere, Venus, Satellite, Dune, Aeolian processes


Future space exploration missions will take humans far beyond low Earth orbit and require complete crew autonomy. The ability to provide anaesthesia will be important given the expected risk of severe medical events requiring surgery. Knowledge and experience of such procedures during space missions is currently extremely limited. Austere and isolated environments (such as polar bases or submarines) have been used extensively as test beds for spaceflight to probe hazards, train crews, develop clinical protocols and countermeasures for prospective space missions. We have conducted a literature review on anaesthesia in austere environments relevant to distant space missions. In each setting, we assessed how the problems related to the provision of anaesthesia (e.g., medical kit and skills) are dealt with or prepared for. We analysed how these factors could be applied to the unique environment of a space exploration mission. The delivery of anaesthesia will be complicated by many factors including space-induced physiological changes and limitations in skills and equipment. The basic principles of a safe anaesthesia in an austere environment (appropriate training, presence of minimal safety and monitoring equipment, etc.) can be extended to the context of a space exploration mission. Skills redundancy is an important safety factor, and basic competency in anaesthesia should be part of the skillset of several crewmembers. The literature suggests that safe and effective anaesthesia could be achieved by a physician during future space exploration missions. In a life-or-limb situation, non-physicians may be able to conduct anaesthetic procedures, including simplified general anaesthesia.

Concepts: Anesthesia, Spacecraft, International Space Station, Space exploration, Human spaceflight, Spaceflight, Satellite, Outer space


Hackney, KJ, Scott, JM, Hanson, AM, English, KL, Downs, ME, and Ploutz-Snyder, LL. The astronaut-athlete: optimizing human performance in space. J Strength Cond Res 29(12): 3531-3545, 2015-It is well known that long-duration spaceflight results in deconditioning of neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems, leading to a decline in physical fitness. On reloading in gravitational environments, reduced fitness (e.g., aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and endurance) could impair human performance, mission success, and crew safety. The level of fitness necessary for the performance of routine and off-nominal terrestrial mission tasks remains an unanswered and pressing question for scientists and flight physicians. To mitigate fitness loss during spaceflight, resistance and aerobic exercise are the most effective countermeasure available to astronauts. Currently, 2.5 h·d, 6-7 d·wk is allotted in crew schedules for exercise to be performed on highly specialized hardware on the International Space Station (ISS). Exercise hardware provides up to 273 kg of loading capability for resistance exercise, treadmill speeds between 0.44 and 5.5 m·s, and cycle workloads from 0 and 350 W. Compared to ISS missions, future missions beyond low earth orbit will likely be accomplished with less vehicle volume and power allocated for exercise hardware. Concomitant factors, such as diet and age, will also affect the physiologic responses to exercise training (e.g., anabolic resistance) in the space environment. Research into the potential optimization of exercise countermeasures through use of dietary supplementation, and pharmaceuticals may assist in reducing physiological deconditioning during long-duration spaceflight and have the potential to enhance performance of occupationally related astronaut tasks (e.g., extravehicular activity, habitat construction, equipment repairs, planetary exploration, and emergency response).

Concepts: Exercise, Strength training, Weight training, International Space Station, Space exploration, Mir, Human spaceflight, Satellite


The mobile satcom antenna (MSA) enables a moving vehicle to communicate with a geostationary Earth orbit satellite. To realize continuous communication, the MSA should be aligned with the satellite in both sight and polarization all the time. Because of coupling effects, unknown disturbances, sensor noises and unmodeled dynamics existing in the system, the control system should have a strong adaptability. The significant features of terminal sliding mode control method are robustness and finite time convergence, but the robustness is related to the large switching control gain which is determined by uncertain issues and can lead to chattering phenomena. Neural networks can reduce the chattering and approximate nonlinear issues. In this work, a novel B-spline curve-based B-spline neural network (BSNN) is developed. The improved BSNN has the capability of shape changing and self-adaption. In addition, the output of the proposed BSNN is applied to approximate the nonlinear function in the system. The results of simulations and experiments are also compared with those of PID method, non-singularity fast terminal sliding mode (NFTSM) control and radial basis function (RBF) neural network-based NFTSM. It is shown that the proposed method has the best performance, with reliable control precision.

Concepts: Control theory, Neural network, PID controller, Control system, Control engineering, Sliding mode control, Neural networks, Satellite


The biodiversity and high productivity of coastal terrestrial and aquatic habitats are the foundation for important benefits to human societies around the world. These globally distributed habitats need frequent and broad systematic assessments, but field surveys only cover a small fraction of these areas. Satellite-based sensors can repeatedly record the visible and near-infrared reflectance spectra that contain the absorption, scattering, and fluorescence signatures of functional phytoplankton groups, colored dissolved matter, and particulate matter near the surface ocean, and of biologically structured habitats (floating and emergent vegetation, benthic habitats like coral, seagrass, and algae). These measures can be incorporated into Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), including the distribution, abundance, and traits of groups of species populations, and used to evaluate habitat fragmentation. However, current and planned satellites are not designed to observe the EBVs that change rapidly with extreme tides, salinity, temperatures, storms, pollution, or physical habitat destruction over scales relevant to human activity. Making these observations requires a new generation of satellite sensors able to sample with these combined characteristics: (1) spatial resolution on the order of 30 to 100-m pixels or smaller; (2) spectral resolution on the order of 5 nm in the visible and 10 nm in the short-wave infrared spectrum (or at least two or more bands at 1,030, 1,240, 1,630, 2,125, and/or 2,260 nm) for atmospheric correction and aquatic and vegetation assessments; (3) radiometric quality with signal to noise ratios (SNR) above 800 (relative to signal levels typical of the open ocean), 14-bit digitization, absolute radiometric calibration <2%, relative calibration of 0.2%, polarization sensitivity <1%, high radiometric stability and linearity, and operations designed to minimize sunglint; and (4) temporal resolution of hours to days. We refer to these combined specifications as H4 imaging. Enabling H4 imaging is vital for the conservation and management of global biodiversity and ecosystem services, including food provisioning and water security. An agile satellite in a 3-d repeat low-Earth orbit could sample 30-km swath images of several hundred coastal habitats daily. Nine H4 satellites would provide weekly coverage of global coastal zones. Such satellite constellations are now feasible and are used in various applications.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Habitat, Optics, Ecosystem, Ocean, Habitat fragmentation, Satellite, Habitat destruction