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RE: Venus Express
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Report for Period 6 August to 12 August 2006
During the reporting period the mission operations have been conducted according to the plan. The ground and the space segment performance have been nominal.

MET (Day) 	Date 	DOY 	VPER# 	Main Activity
271 06/08/06 218 107 Routine science operations
272 07/08/06 219 108 Update of Gyro Alignment Routine science operations
273 08/08/06 220 109 Routine science operations
274 09/08/06 221 110 Routine science operations
275 10/08/06 222 111 IMP Swap from A to B Routine science operations
276 11/08/06 223 112 Routine science operations
277 12/08/06 224 113 Routine science operations


At the end of the last Cebreros pass in the reporting period on DOY 224, Venus Express was orbiting Venus at 237 million km from the Earth. The one-way signal travel time was 789 seconds.
Payload Activities

ASPERA: The instrument is regularly operated as part of the routine plan.
MAG: The instrument is regularly operated as part of the routine plan.
PFS: The instrument is currently OFF and is not included in the routine planning. Next PFS tests in Venus pointing attitude are planned for the first 4 orbits of MTP 6 (24-27 September 2006)
SPICAV: The instrument is regularly operated as part of the routine plan.
VeRA: The USO is nominally powered but muted. Occultation observations with the USO un-muted took place on DOY 218, 220 and 223.
VIRTIS: The instrument is regularly operated as part of the routine plan.
VMC: The instrument is regularly operated as part of the routine plan.

Short Term Planning
The planning of STP015 was completed on time. The pre-check of POR for STP016 did not reveal any anomaly.

Medium Term Planning
The planning of MTP-06 was completed successfully. MTP-06 does not include the conjunction operations; a specific plan will be generated for that period.

Future Milestones
Trajectory correction manoeuvres will be performed on 2006-230 and 2006-236.
Throughout the next week short term planning activities for CP16 will be completed, and the pre-checks of the CP17 will be performed. The processing of MTP6 inputs will continue.
An operational strategy for the upcoming solar conjunction phase in October/November 2006 will be developed throughout the coming weeks.

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Report for Period 23 July to 29 July 2006
During the reporting period the mission operations have been conducted according to the plan. The ground and the space segment performance have been nominal with the exception of a few telemetry outages at the ground station due to a loss of lock.

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A false-colour, time-lapse movie in ultraviolet light captured by the Venus Express spacecraft as it flew over Venus' northern hemisphere in late May.
IMAGE (384kb, 400 x 400)

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On 20 April 2006, after its first 9-day, elongated orbit around Venus, ESA’s Venus Express started to get closer to the planet, until it reached its final 24-hour long orbit on 7 May. During this time, and up to today, the spacecraft has been working relentlessly: the new data coming in are already providing first glimpses on planetary features never seen before.



If taking the first ever clear images of the double-eye vortex at Venus’ south pole - imaged by Venus Express during its very first orbit - was already a first in the history of planetary exploration and a very pleasant surprise for the scientists, nobody could expect that the vortex had a structure even more complicated than possibly foreseen.

Infrared images taken by the Ultraviolet/Visible/Near-Infrared spectrometer (VIRTIS) on board the spacecraft not only provided the first clear view of the vortex, but also gave a much closer insight into it when Venus Express flew over the south pole at the end of May this year.

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South Pole Vortex
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ESA’s Venus Express data undoubtedly confirm for the first time the presence of a huge 'double-eye' atmospheric vortex at the planet's south pole. This striking result comes from analysis of the data gathered by the spacecraft during the first orbit around the planet.



On 11 April this year, Venus Express was captured into a first elongated orbit around Venus, which lasted 9 days, and ranged between 350 000 and 400 kilometres from Venus' surface. This orbit represented for the Venus Express scientists a unique opportunity to observe the planet from large distances. This made it possible to obtain first clues about the Venusian atmospheric dynamics on a global scale, before the spacecraft got closer and started observing the planet in greater detail.

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At 21:49 CEST on 6th May, when the spacecraft communicated to Earth through ESA’s ground station at New Norcia (Australia), the Venus Express ground control team at ESA’s European Spacecraft Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt (Germany) received advanced confirmation that final orbit was to be successfully achieved about 18 hours later.

Launched on 9 November 2005, Venus Express arrived to destination on 11 April 2006, after a five-month interplanetary journey to the inner solar system. The initial orbit – or ‘capture orbit’ – was an ellipse ranging from 330 000 kilometres at its furthest point from Venus surface (apocentre) to less than 400 kilometres at its closest (pericentre).

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 20:54, 2006-05-09

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A mirror aboard the Venus Express spacecraft has jammed.

The mirror is part of the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) instrument used to measure the infrared (temperature) of the planet's atmosphere and the surface.

The mirror is positioned in front of an interferometer and beams incoming light ray from either the planet, blank space or an internal black body used for calibration.
Currently it is jammed between the black body calibrator and deep space positions, however the mission team hopes to eventually free the mirror.

"Then we have a little problem here with PFS. In the launch configuration it has a mirror which is the one that directs the beam to the planet or to cold space or to internal blackbody source for calibration. The launch configuration is the black body pointing. After launch, the launch configuration checked out fine; less susceptible to noise from the spacecraft; everyone is happy. But when we tired to change to something other than black body, we got less happy." - Hâkan Svedhem.

-- Edited by Blobrana at 13:08, 2006-05-08

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European scientists have released the first photos of Venus' South Pole from their orbiting Venus Express spacecraft — revealing a swirling twist of cloud that closely resembles cloud formations around the more familiar North Pole.
The image, taken from a distance of roughly 206,452km and released by the European Space Agency, shows pale yellow clouds ribbed with darker spirals and a dark vortex.

The pictures were captured on 12 April by the Virtis (Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) and Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) instruments aboard the spacecraft.
The Virtis image is a false-colour, composite view, while the VMC picture is imaged in ultraviolet.

"We can see there is a twister here that is similar to that which we know from the north pole" - Horst Uwe Keller, who leads the team operating the craft's wide-angle, multichannel camera.

The images were taken one day after Venus Express went into orbit around the planet.


Expand (248kb, 705 x 724)
Composite, false-colour view of Venus South Pole captured by VIRTIS 12 April 2006 onboard Venus Express.
Credits: ESA/INAF-IASF, Rome, Italy, and Observatoire de Paris, France



ESA controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, switched on each instrument individually to make sure they had all survived after burning the craft's main engine to slow it down so it could be captured by Venus' gravity.
Over the next several weeks, scientists will run more thorough tests on the instruments, designed to help researchers better understand the atmosphere and climate of Earth's neighbour. By June, they expect to have all instruments functioning fully.
As the spacecraft tightens its orbit in the coming months, scientists expect it to capture more detailed and revealing images of Venus from a distance of only about 150 km.
Using infrared technology that allows the camera to peer though the clouds, scientists hope to be able to determine how the clouds of sulphuric acid that swathe the planet were formed and pinpoint the cause of the ultra high-speed winds that send them swirling.

"I think that the decisive question will be to discover the dynamic of the atmosphere. Why are the clouds turning in the direction that we see? Why so quickly?" - Horst Uwe Keller.

The euro220-million mission, the first to Venus since NASA sent up Magellan in 1989, aims to study the greenhouse effect on the planet, where the atmosphere is extremely hot and dense.
It also hopes to learn what caused the planet's volcanic resurfacing some 500 million years ago and whether there is any volcanic or seismic activity taking place today.

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After 153-days and 400-million kms, Venus Express, Europe’s first mission to Venus, has completed an orbital manoeuvre to bring the probe into orbit around Venus on Tuesday.
According to Hakan Svedhem, the agency’s lead scientist on the program, the probe will remain active for two Venusian days (486 Earth days), with the possibility of extending its life by another 500.
The critical 49-minute-long manoeuvre was designed to reduce the spacecraft's velocity relative to Venus by 15%, from 29,000 to about 25,000 km/h, allowing it to be pulled into orbit around the planet.
The main engine burn was initiated by controllers at the European Space Agency (Esa's) operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 07:17 GMT.

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It was on 9 November last year that ESA's Venus Express spacecraft lifted off from the desert of Kazakhstan onboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket. Now, after having travelled 400 million kilometres in only about five months, the spacecraft is about to reach its final destination.
The rendezvous is due to take place on 11 April.

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