Futura Ready for Launch

The Futura mission launches in just hours as launch preparations draw to a close and ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti, Roscosmos’ Anton Shkaplerov and NASA’S Terry Virts board the Soyuz TMA-15M for launch to the International Space Station. One launched, the 274 tonnes of rocket propellant will get the crew at the station in just six hours.

Launch site: Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

Launch time: 21:01 GMT –  23 November 2014

A very nice launch and all is well upon reaching orbit.

Arrival: 24 November at 02:30

Watch this launch LIVE at ESA- coverage begins at 20:00 GMT

I have been following ESA’s Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and you can too: samanthacristoforetti.esa.int.

Space Walk Tomorrow


ESA’s Alexander Gerst in the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

The first spacewalk of Expedition 41 is scheduled for tomorrow at 12:10 UT / 08:10 ET.

Flight Engineer Alexander (ESA) and Reid Wiseman (NASA) will exit the International Space Station via the Quest airlock for a marathon 6.5 hour session outside the station for a couple of jobs.

The first job is to move a degraded pump module to the External Stowage Platform 2 something of a warm up for the second task the installation of the Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly.

The Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly provides backup power options to the Mobile Transporter railcar system. That’s the system than moves the Mobile Servicing System’s Canadarm2 and Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to work sites along the station’s truss.

Robotic support for the spacewalk will be handled by Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore (NASA) in the cupola.

Wilmore too will get to have some extravehicular time too. On 15 October there will be another spacewalk with Wilmore and Wiseman going to the starboard truss to replace a voltage regulator (called a sequential shunt unit) that failed back in May.

Coverage should be available at the NASA TV link at the bottom of the banner above.

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.

Soyuz Launched

This video of the Expedition Launch 40/41 launch yesterday (29 May Kazakh time) comes to us from NASA.

A beautiful night time launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan sending Soyuz Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), NASA Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency to the International Space Station for a five and a half month mission.

There is video from inside the spacecraft of the crew. I was kind of daydreaming about how the ride was bumpy. Then the third stage cutoff occurred, gave the passengers quite a jolt and I have to admit it made me jump too.

The Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft docked with the ISS and the hatch between them was opened at 11:52 EDT (03:52 UTC) just about eight hours after launch. Everyone made it safe and sound.


Blue Dot Launch Day!

The Expedition 40 crew from left are Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov, Commander Steve Swanson, and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Alexander Gerst, Maxim Suraev and Reid Wiseman. Credit: NASA

The Expedition 40 crew from left are Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov, Commander Steve Swanson, and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Alexander Gerst, Maxim Suraev and Reid Wiseman. Credit: NASA

The second half of the Expedition 40 crew is set to lift off today at 19:57 UTC (15:57 EDT). The first half of the Expedition 40 crew arrived at the station in March.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suarev will spend just six hours traveling to the International Space Station after launching in the Soyuz 39 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

This is also the start of Alexander’s so-called Blue Dot mission. Very cool stuff the Blue Dot includes dozens of experiments in physics, biology, human physiology and radiation.

One of the experiments is the installation of the German-built Electromagnetic Levitator. IT is a that furnace can melt and solidify metal alloys away from the container’s walls, helping scientists to understand the solidification and physical properties of molten alloys.

Another and possibly sketchy (just kidding) experiment is rodent research hardware to provide a platform for long-duration rodent experiments in space. Plus Rodent Research-1 testing the operational capabilities of the new hardware system, including the transporter, rodent habitat and access unit.

If we find out mouse traps are being taken to the ISS on a cargo ship or the Expedition flight (41) in September we will know not everything went to plan.

You should be able to get a live look at the launch at the NASA TV link in the banner above.

Live ISS Video

Live streaming video by Ustream

Here’s the ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment. The experiment was activated on 30 April 2014 and has worked quite well.

The UStream page tells more of the experiment and answers like: who do I see a black or gray screen.

NASA and JSC have a nice page with the video, a plot of the ISS location and a Google map of what’s under the ISS. Have a look.

When we had the shuttle missions NASA would often show television video of the Earth as the shuttle orbited. Frequently it was the best programming on TV. I need to watch as the ISS passes over thunderstorms in the dark areas to see if the HD camera picks up the lightning flashes.

Spacewalk Success

NASA Astronauts Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio completed a spacewalk today to replace a failed Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) back up computer, think of it as kind of a relay computer used to run some of the robotics on the spacecraft.

The problem was discovered during a routine check by Mission Control. This was a backup system and there was no problem with the primary system so there was never a danger to either the crew or the station. Still the back up is kind of an urgent need. The failed computer has been in place since April 2002 when is was delivered already installed on a station truss.

Hopefully we will hear of any forensic results concerning the failure; 12 years could be just old age. Still I’m curious.