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Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Rosetta: Date fixed for historic comet landing attempt

Comet 67P
Comet 67P has a very irregular shape. Landing site "J" is just out of view to the right

The date has been fixed for Europe's daring attempt to land on a comet: Wednesday 12 November.

It will see the Rosetta satellite, which is currently orbiting the huge "ice mountain" known as 67P, drop a small robot from a height of 20km.

If all goes well, the lander will free-fall towards the comet, making contact with the surface somewhere in a 1km-wide zone at roughly 15:35 GMT.

The European Space Agency (Esa) says the challenges ahead are immense.

Imagine pushing a washing machine out the back of an airliner at twice cruising altitude and expecting it to hit Regent's Park in London - all while the ground is moving underneath.

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Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling

MOM
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is one of the cheapest interplanetary missions ever undertaken

India's space programme has succeeded at the first attempt where others have failed - by sending an operational mission to Mars.

The Mangalyaan satellite was confirmed to be in orbit shortly after 0800, Indian time. It is, without doubt, a considerable achievement.

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Sentinel system pictures Napa quake

Napa interferogram
The white line traces the rupture. Coloured "fringes" denote movement towards or away from the satellite

Europe's new multi-billion-euro Sentinel programme has returned its first earthquake analysis.

The EU satellite system has pictured how the Earth moved when the Magnitude 6.0 tremor hit California's wine-producing Napa region last month.

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Rosetta's 10-billion-tonne comet

67P
Rosetta is now moving within 80km of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The comet being followed by Europe's Rosetta spacecraft has a mass of roughly 10 billion tonnes.

The number has been calculated by monitoring the gravitational tug the 4km-wide "ice mountain" exerts on the probe.

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DigitalGlobe launches super-sharp WorldView-3 Earth imager

WorldView-3
About 60% of DigitalGlobe's business is with the US government - for both military and civil applications

The most powerful commercial imaging satellite ever built has just gone into orbit from California, US.

DigitalGlobe's WorldView-3 spacecraft will return pictures of the Earth's surface down to a resolution of 31cm.

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Rosetta heads for space 'rubber duck'

Europe's mission to land on a comet was always going to be difficult, but the pictures released this week of the giant ice ball illustrate just how daunting the task will be.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is far more irregular in shape than anyone imagined.

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Spaceport Britain: 'No challenge is insurmountable'

Artist's concept of spaceport

It's more than 40 years since Britain abandoned its own launch capability, cancelling the Black Arrow programme just as it successfully lofted the Prospero satellite.

The subsequent withdrawal from the European Ariane programme confirmed Britain's deep aversion to rockets. Until now. The climate is changing. Ministers are putting public funds (albeit a small sum) into an air-breathing rocket-engine technology, and they've declared their desire to see a home spaceport.

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Rosetta: 'Spuds in space'

Comet 67P on Fri 4 July
Comet 67P seen on Friday 4 July at a separation of 37,000km

With the Rosetta probe closing in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we're beginning to get a sense of the ice mountain's shape.

The latest picture release from the European Space Agency (Esa) may only cover an area of about 30 pixels, but it's clear that 67P is no sphere. In some views, the object appears quite elongated.

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Ariane 6: Customers call the shots

Ariane
A6.1 would loft the big telecoms satellites; A6.2 would put up the low-orbiting, Earth-observation spacecraft

Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant.

More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.

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About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

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