ATV-4 ‘Einstein’ Leaves the ISS

ESA’s cargo ship ATV-4 or “Einstein” launched on 5 June from Kourou Japan and has been at the station since it delivered seven tons of cargo on 15 June. It ended its mission and left the ISS on 28 October but not before  it was loaded with trash and liquid waste products from the ISS.  As you can see in the video the separation was very smooth.

Einstein will slowly spiral down until it ends its mission on 02 November (Saturday). The cargo ship will be positioned so cameras on the ISS can record the fiery end of Einstein over the South Pacific as it interfaces with the atmosphere at 1200 UTC.

In the meantime, mindful of Einstein being the size of a double decker bus, I thought it might be visible on a good pass with binoculars. So I looked at predictions at Heavens Above and sure enough there was a pretty good one. Out I went and it was a very nice pass but didn’t see Einstein, tonight’s pass will be a good deal brighter so If skies are as good as they were last night I’ll be looking. Einstein is pretty small, but I am bound to try. I’ll set up a telescope stationary along the path and watch the field of view as the ISS goes by.

NOTE:  Comet ISON is now a binocular target !

I had beautiful skies this morning and spotted ISON even with the moon close by and just using a cheap pair of binoculars.  A check of the magnitude has it at 7.7 and will be improving quickly. Get outside before daylight and have a look if you can.  Look a little east of east of Mars and “lower” in the sky.  How much (and it’s not that far) depends on your viewing-aid with the cheaper binoculars Mars was on the edge of the field of view.

Here’s a video of the ATV 4 / ISS separation from NASA TV:

Expedition 37

The Expedition 37 crew aboard the ISS. Image credit: NASA

The Expedition 37 crew aboard the ISS. Image credit: NASA

I’ve been remiss in not including enough about the ISS in my posts. So to start and change that, here is one of the ISS crew of Expedition 37.

They are posed in the Kibo laboratory.

Pictured (clockwise from lower left) are Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, commander; Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryazanskiy, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, all flight engineers.

The image was taken the day before the Einstein cargo-ship docked on 14 Oct.

Visit the source page for larger version. Should you desire a wallpaper version, you can get that there too.

Enceladus Plus

Enceladus in "Saturnshine" by Cassini.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Enceladus in “Saturnshine” by Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here’s a picture of Enceladus from Cassini. The image was taken from a distance of 832,000 km (517,000 miles). The Sun and the camera are on opposite sides of the moon. The light provided to be able to see the moon and the now famous jets of water is “Saturnshine”, light reflected off Saturn.

Plus this:

You might have seen the news of Curiosity finding water on Mars. The soil sample contained two percent water. This is the first direct measurement as far as I know. There have been estimates of soil water detected by the HEND instrument on the Mars Odyssey. I managed to find the reference. Further findings will be very interesting, I’d look in one of the “gullies”, then again I’d be doing all sorts of things that might be fun for me but not for the mission.

Two percent is quite a lot I would think considering. Seems like there are a few variables too, like soil particle size. I’m assuming, and I say that because I don’t know nor have I been able to find out for sure, is this hygroscopic water (i.e. beyond capillary water)? I would think it would sublimate when exposed, continuing to look at that. Here’s the story. If anybody knows leave a comment.

Cygnus :

There will be an attempt a docking tomorrow morning (Sunday, 29 Sept.). Coverage starts at 08:30 UTC (04:30 EDT). I’ll put a video link here before hand.

Capture was successful.  Nice and smooth as far as I could see.   I noted about a four second delay between the streamed version and the television.  Had a little bit of a time getting the right feed and then my computer decided to spaz out for a few minutes.  Not a disease or anything but ever since a couple updates ago, we seem to have these little “fits”.  LOL.

Cygnus is now attached!

Space X

There will be yet another launch tomorrow too. Space X is scheduled to launch the Falcon 9 with Canadian research satellite (and the Canadian Space Agency) and MDA Corp.

The launch window opens at 16:00 UTC. I’ll have more on that launch tomorrow morning.

Cygnus Docking Delayed

An Orbital Science Slide from a press briefing on 4 September Showing some of the test points for objectives that must be met before docking. Click for larger. Credit: Orbital Science.

An Orbital Science Slide from a press briefing on 4 September Showing some of the test points for objectives that must be met before docking. Click for larger. Credit: Orbital Science.

Orbital’s Cygnus cargo ship docking to the ISS has been delayed due to an unspecified software problem.

The Cygnus had established direct data communications with the International Space Station at which time some of the data values received by Cygnus had unexpected values. Those unexpected values caused Cygnus to reject the data and an interruption of the approach sequence was necessary.

The cause of the data problem has been discovered by Orbital and they have a developed a fix.

The next docking attempt will occur no earlier than September 28th due to Wednesday’s launch of a Soyuz from the Baikonur Cosmodrome bringing Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency to the ISS.  More about that Wednesday.

When docking time does come, Cygnus being a new cargo craft it must as any new cargo craft that is to dock with the ISS must pass a series of objectives in order to prove it is capable. At each of the test points used to measure the objectives a go or no-go order is given by mission controllers before it can proceed to the next point (see image above). There are three more test points between 250 meters and capture. It is only after all of those tests or objectives are met it can then be captured or docked.


See all of the images from the press briefing where the above image came from.



Going and Coming

JAXA's HTV-4 entering the atmosphere on September 7th.  Credit: ISS and associated agencies.

JAXA’s HTV-4 entering the atmosphere on September 7th. Credit: ISS and associated agencies.

The International Space Station has a been a busy place. The Japanese HTV-4 was undocked on September 4th and it spiraled back towards Earth until on September 7th when this image was taken the ISS. The image shows the HTV-4 as it reentered the atmosphere and burned up ending its resupply mission.

In the mean time, preparations are underway bring Expedition 36 crew members home. Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy and Alexander Misurkin closed the hatch on the Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft at 20:19 UTC.

The three undocked from the Poisk mini-research module at 23:37 UTC and landed in Kazakhstan at 02:58 UTC (08:58 a.m. Kazakhastan time.

The next crew and soon to be Expedition 37 crew members: Oleg Kotov, Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy are getting ready for a ride to the ISS inside a Soyuz TMA-10M on 25 September 2013. They will be taking one of what I call fast track, from orbit to ISS in just four orbits and they are there.  Incidentally,  the three Expedition Crew members still on the ISS, Commander Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano, were the first to  that that “fast track” route.

HTV-4 Undocks

Updated with the YouTube version.

The Japanese cargo ship HTV-4 will undock from the International Space Station today at 16:00 UTC (12 noon EDT). Hopefully you get to see it LIVE above. If you miss the live broadcast, don’t worry I’m sure it will be up on YouTube shortly and I’ll switch out the  USTREAM player.

The HTV-4 be removed from the Harmony module by Expedition 26 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg using the robotic arm. The HTV-4 has been attached to the Harmony module since delivering over 3.5 tons of supplies and parts on August 9th.

The HTV-4 was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on August 3rd.

The docking room will be needed for the arrival of Orbital Sciences Corp’s Cygnus cargo vehicle in just a couple of weeks. Launch date is scheduled for 17 September 2013. This will be another one of those demonstrations missions, so it will be quite exciting.

UFO Near Space Station?

No don’t leave this is true! Seriously.

On 19 August an Unidentified Flying Object, well really a Unidentified Floating Object was seen by Expedition 36 crew member Chris Cassidy. Flying, floating it’s still was a UFO.

Not for long, Russian ground control quickly identified the object.

I was cracking up over a couple of the comments which you can read at the video source.

ATV-4 Albert Einstein

ATV-4 Albert Einstein docked to the ISS. Credit: ESA / NASA

ATV-4 Albert Einstein docked to the ISS. Credit: ESA / NASA

I was poking around the ESA website and ran across this image of the Automated Transfer Vehicle Albert Einstein docked to Russia’s Zvezda module.

The ATV-4 delivered about 6,589 kg (14,526 lbs) of various types of cargo to the ISS was the heaviest payload ever launched by Ariane 5.

The European ferry was launched on June 5, 2013 from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

The name (ATV-4) Albert Einstein follows ATV’s 1 to 3 having the names: Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler and Edoardo Amaldi.

The image makes for a lovely desktop and you can find those at the Wallpaper link above.

JAXA’s HTV4 Launch

On August 4, 2013 at 4:48:46 a.m. JST (Japan Standard Time) the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI 4″ (HTV-4) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

JAXA's H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI" (HTV)  Image: JAXA

JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI” (HTV). Image: JAXA

KOUNOTORI 4 is an unmanned cargo transfer vehicle, four meters across and about 10 meters long (33 ft by 13 ft), a size large enough to accommodate a bus. On this trip it is loaded with 3.5 tons of supplies, food and experiment hardware for the International Space Station and the Expedition 36 crew. The items include test samples for research experiments inside the Kibo laboratory, a new freezer capable of preserving materials at temperatures below -90 F and my favorite – four CubeSat satellites.

Arrival is scheduled for Friday, August 9th when the HTV-4 will move slowly into a holding position just 12 meters (40 ft) from the ISS. Once in position, Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy will use Canadarm2, the station’s robotic arm to grapple the vehicle in order to dock it to the ISS. Systems aboard KOUNOTORI4 will be monitored by Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano and when everything is ready the Canadarm2 will be commanded by the robotics team in Houston’s Mission Control center to install the vehicle to the Harmony node.

Excellent job on a beautiful launch JAXA!


Expedition 35 Returns


Being from a helicopter monitoring the Soyuz return, the video is a little shaky.

There is just something about landing on the ground. I know, tried and true but that jolt at the end. Everybody is safe and sound.