SpaceX Launch Coming Up

Mission:  SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-4)

Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9

Cargo ship: Dragon

Current Status: Go

Launch Date: Wednesday, 20 Sept 2014 06:16 UTC / 02:16 EDT

Odds of Launch: Unknown numerics but the forecast looks great.

NOAA’s Forecast:

Friday Night Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly before midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. North northeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Saturday Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Mission snippets:

CRS-4 is the fourth of 12 or more missions to the International Space Station.

More than 5,000 pounds of station supplies and materials to support 255 science and research studies to be conducted by the crews of Expeditions 41 and 42.

Dragon will also have as part of the cargo 20 rodents to ride in NASA’s Rodent Research Facility.

A very cool Rapid Scattermmeter to monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.

Cabbage – well not cabbage but a relative of cabbage for investigating plant growth in space.

Delivery of a new 3-D printer – this is a great addition, I can see them doing some fabrication for different things – very good.

Special Purpose Inexpensive Satellite, or SpinSat,to test how a small satellite moves and positions itself in space using new thruster technology.

Also SpaceX has been working on landing the Falcon for reuse on “landing legs”, this time around SpaceX will try to guide the first stage to a controlled soft-splashdown in the Atlantic. The effort sounds like it is a “let’s try this and see what happens” kind of thing. It is not given too much of a chance of success but I bet the knowledge gained will be more than worth the effort.

A Crescent Mimas

The crescent of the battered Mimas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The crescent of the battered Mimas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The Saturn moon Mimas was the target of Cassini’s cameras. One of the striking features of the moon is a crater known as Herschel. Herschel can be seen in the shadows at about the five o’clock position.

More about Mimas and a great look at the crater Herschel can be found here.

About the image from the Cassini site:

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon’s violent history.
The most famous evidence of a collision on Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) is the crater Herschel that gives Mimas its Death Star-like appearance. See Examining Herschel Crater for more on Herschel.

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 40 degrees to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 20, 2013.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 100,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 130 degrees. Image scale is 4,000 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.
Continue reading

Dawn Update

An artist concept of Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

An artist concept of Dawn. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

On 11 September, the Dawn spacecraft en route to the dwarf planet Ceres after visiting Vesta went into safe-mode when apparently an electrical component was disabled by a high-energy particle of radiation. A similar situation occurred three years ago and this time they followed the same strategy: swap of the other ion engines and a different controller so they could continue thrusting. A plan is in place to revive the disabled component.

This time around there as a second anomaly that impaired the ability to point the communications antenna toward Earth. Mission control was able to communicate using different antennas, actually pretty lucky because these antennas are much lower gain resulting in a weaker signal. It is thought a high energy particle could have corrupted the software in the main computer. A computer reset solved the problem.

So all is good right? Yes, however Dawn’s new arrival date has been pushed to April 2015 because of the thrust loss.

NASA’s Dawn site

Site J for Philae


The landing site for Rosetta’s Philae lander. Click for a close-up. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA


If you live in the US, you may not have heard the news: Rosetta’s Philae lander is going to be landing at Site J, shown in the above ESA image. Click the image for a close-up view of the landing site.

Why Site J? ESA explains some of the considerations:

Site J offers the minimum risk to the lander in comparison to the other candidate sites, and is also scientifically interesting, with signs of activity nearby. At Site J, the majority of slopes are less than 30º relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have relatively few boulders and receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond the initial battery-powered phase.

Check out J marks the spot for Rosetta’s lander

Rosetta blog is home to all the good stuff.


IC 559 from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, D. Calzetti (UMass) and the LEGUS Team

IC 559 from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, D. Calzetti (UMass) and the LEGUS Team

While we wait for the Rosetta news of the Philea landing site, let’s have a look at Hubble’s image of IC 559.

IC 559 is observable, barely. It is a small galaxy with a magnitude 14.2; yes you will need a decent telescope and very dark skies. A CCD would help greatly.

Want to try?
Point to: RA: 09h 45m 30s Dec: +09°32’50”. Wait until October when it will rise before daylight.

I have not been able to identify the reddish structure below IC559 also in the image.

From NASA’s Hubble page:

Far beyond the stars in the constellation of Leo (The Lion) is irregular galaxy IC 559.
IC 559 is not your everyday galaxy. With its irregular shape and bright blue spattering of stars, it is a fascinating galactic anomaly. It may look like sparse cloud, but it is in fact full of gas and dust which is spawning new stars.

Discovered in 1893, IC 559 lacks the symmetrical spiral appearance of some of its galactic peers and not does not conform to a regular shape. It is actually classified as a “type Sm” galaxy — an irregular galaxy with some evidence for a spiral structure.
Irregular galaxies make up about a quarter of all known galaxies and do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence. Most of these uniquely shaped galaxies were not always so — IC 559 may have once been a conventional spiral galaxy that was then distorted and twisted by the gravity of a nearby cosmic companion.

This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, combines a wide range of wavelengths spanning the ultraviolet, optical, and infrared parts of the spectrum.

Rosetta Closer Than Ever

A NAVCAM mosaic of 67P/G-C  ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

A NAVCAM mosaic of 67P/G-C ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Rosetta took this image from 27.8 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. That’s about half the distance of earlier images as mesured from the center of the comet.

The image scale here is 2.5 meters per pixel. Take a close look at the comet. . . See anything usual?

Check out Comet Watch – September 10. The link also has the four individual frames so you can put together a nice large image. I think I will print each out and see how piecing them together that way works.

More Than a Selfie

A Rosetta Mission selfie. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

A Rosetta Mission selfie. Copyright ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

It’s more than a ‘selfie’  this Rosetta image gives us a wonderful perspective of the Rosetta mission and the comet from 50 km.  Well done!

Enjoy the view because a thruster burn should get Rosetta into a 30 km orbit.

From ESA’s Space In Images:

Using the CIVA camera on Rosetta’s Philae lander, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was taken on 7 September from a distance of about 50 km from the comet, and captures the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, with 67P/C-G in the background. Two images with different exposure times were combined to bring out the faint details in this very high contrast situation.

Rosetta Blog

Coming Home

The ISS crew in the light blue: Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev (front to back) are returning home. Image Credit: NASA TV

The ISS crew in the light blue: Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev (front to back) are returning home. Image Credit: NASA TV

Three ISS crew members are getting ready to come home later today. The trio, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev are part of the Expedition 39/40 crew. Yesterday Steve Swanson turned command of the ISS over to Max Suraev (Dark shirt in front).

They will undock the Soyuz spacecraft they will use for the return trip at 18:01 ET / 22:01 UT and will land 3.5 hours later in Kazakhastan.

You can see landing coverage beginning at 21:15 ET / 01:15 UT about 15 minutes before the deorbit burn occurs for a 22:23 ET / 02:23 UT landing. Hopefully there will be good video of the landing, sometimes there is and other times not so much.

Hopefully I coverted the times correctly.

I also got a few images of the perigee-moon this morning, then the batteries in the camera went dead. I have new ones charging, been charging all day and still not ready. Hopefully I got one worth sharing.