Stunning Rings and Two Moons

Saturns rings and two moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturns rings and two moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A stunning image of Saturn’s rings. There are two moons in this image too, the larger of the two is obvious and is Epimetheus and the other is Daphnis.

Daphnis is a wee moon being only 8 km / 5 mi. and is very difficult to see unless you click the image to get the larger view. Look just to the right of center and in the rings just to the inside of the (Keeler) gap.

More about Saturn.

Before you read the NASA supplied caption below, I wanted to let you know there are TWO different launches today and they are only a short time apart from each other:

1. The Progress 53 cargo ship is scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 20:53 UTC (15:53 EST) The coverage should be here: Update:  Launched,

2. A SpaceX launch is scheduled for 22:45 UTC (17:45 EST). The flight will put the SES-8 communications into a geostationary orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida USA. Coverage: Update: A delay due to an issue, next attempt not before Thursday.  The delay came around T minus 3 minutes 40 seconds.  I could not get back to the time and a news release with more info is still in the works.


Here’s the caption from NASA (link goes to much larger versions of the image):

Amidst and Beyond the Rings

While the moon Epimetheus passes by, beyond the edge of Saturn’s main rings, the tiny moon Daphnis carries on its orbit within the Keeler gap of the A ring. Although quite different in size, both moons create waves in the rings thanks to their gravitational influences.

Continue reading

Swarm Launched

ESA’s SWARM satellites are successfully launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia this morning in what has to be one of the prettiest launches I’ve seen in a long while. The launch went off perfectly at 12:03 UTC. ESA has since acquired signals from all three satellites so it would sound as if things are going smoothly.

The mission is going to be a very interesting one: study the magnetic field. Sounds simple, but it’s not so much. For example we know the magnetic field is basically set up by the molten core of iron at the Earth’s center.

Video source

MAVEN Is Ready to Go

Mission:  Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN)

Rocket: Atlas V

Launch Facility: Cape Canaveral Florida / Complex 41

Current Status: Go –

Launch Date: Monday, 18 November. 2013 18:28 UTC / 13:28 EDT

Odds of Launch: 60 percent (as of the morning of 17 Nov )

MAVEN on the pad ready for launch.  Credit: NASA.  Note. Will try to replace this with live video tomorrow.

MAVEN on the pad ready for launch. Credit: NASA. Note. I took the live feed off and the replay is in the next post

NOAA’s Forecast:

Monday: A 50 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 81. Southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the afternoon.

MAVEN will collect data to determine the role that loss of volatile from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.

To collect that data MAVEN will use a suite of eight sensors:

Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer
Langmuir Probe and Waves
Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer
Solar Wind Electron Analyzer
Solar Wind Ion Analyzer
Solar Energetic Particles
SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition

The principle investigator is Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) and this will be the first Mars mission managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Welcome Home

Soyuz Returns ISS crew and Olympic torch.  Image: RSA via Spaceref

Soyuz Returns ISS crew and Olympic torch. Image: RSA TV via Spaceref

Three Expedition 37 crew members returned to Earth yesterday aboard the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft. Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano undocked from the Zvezda service module at 6:26 p.m. EST Sunday to begin the journey home.

The trio landed in the steppe of Kazakhstan southeast of Dzhezkazgan at 9:49 p.m. (8:49 a.m. Monday, Kazakh time).  Welcome home!

The returning crew brought back a bit of very special cargo: the Olympic torch to be used to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia (07 Feb 2014).

The undocking marks the end of the Expedition 37 mission and the beginning of Expedition 38 aboard the ISS.


India Heads to Mars

Congratulations to the Indian Space Research Organisation for their successful launch of their first interplanetary mission with their own Mars Orbiter.

Yes, India is going to Mars and if all goes well the journey should take right around 300 days to get to Mars orbit insertion.

I look forward to watching the mission play out as time goes on. The ISRO is a wonderful organization and I am sure they will make the most of everything they learn along the way.

Currently the spacecraft seems to be functioning well and is undergoing in-flight systems tests during as of today a fourth “orbit-raising” maneuver – increasing the size and velocity of the orbit.

The ISRO have put together a very informative website for the mission that is worth the look. Mars Orbiter Mission Website


Fresh Faces Arrive at Space Station

Three fresh faces arrived at the International Space Station Thursday morning: Richard Mastracchio (NASA), Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin (Russia) and Koichi Wakata (Japan) arrived at the International Space Station early Thursday morning.

One of the special items they brought was the Olympic torch to be used to light the Olympic flame in Sochi Russia.

Russia being Russia and the wonderful sports competitors they are, plus hosts of the Winter games in February 2014 even decorated the Soyuz TMA-11M rocket in Olympic regalia. Very nice.

Space X Launch

Space X rocket production.  Image Space X

Space X rocket production. Image Space X

Launch time (scheduled): 16:00 UTC / 12:00 EDT / 09:00 PDT LAUNCHED!

I’ll add a video when it comes up.

Mission: CASSIOPE Mission for MDA Upgraded Falcon 9 Demonstration Flight of Canada

Launch Facility: Vandenberg AFB, California USA

Hope everyone saw Cygnus docked and installed on the ISS earlier.  If not click here.

September has been very busy for launches!

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.

Soyuz Launch

Deliver crew members to the ISS:

  • Oleg Kotov, Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) (to be Expedition 38 Commander)
  • Sergey Ryazanskiy, Roscosmos (Expedition 38 Flight Engineer)
  • Michael Hopkins, NASA (Expedition 38 Flight Engineer)

Return Crew members to Earth (on November 11):

  • Fyodor Yurchikhin, Roscosmos, Expedition 37 Commander
  • Karen Nyberg, NASA, Expedition 37 Flight Engineer
  • Luca Parmitano, ESA, Expedition 37 Flight Engineer (YAY Luca!)

Vehicle: Soyuz

Launch Facility: Baikonur Cosmodrome

Date: 25 September 2013 (26 September 2013 at launch site)

Launch Time: 20:58 UTC / 02:58 Kazakh time / 16:58 EDT

Docking time: 02:47 UTC / 22:47 EDT

Launch Live Link:

Launch coverage starts at 20:00 UTC / 16:00 EDT
Docking coverage starts at 02:00 UTC / 22:00 EDT

As usual I will replace the live link with a YT video (or equiv) when it becomes available.

I said at the start of the month September was going to be a busy month for launches!

Launch Day for Orbital

Mission:  Orbital Sciences Corp Cygnus Cargo ISS Resupply Demonstration Flight

Rocket: Orbital’s Antares

Current Status: Launched YouTube replay below

Launch Date: Wednesday, 18 Sept. 2013 14:50 UTC / 10:50 EDT

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

NOAA’s Forecast:

Wednesday: Partly sunny, with a high near 70. Northeast wind 8 to 10 mph. (about 7 to 9 knots)

The Antares rocket is designed to provide low-cost and reliable access to space via a two-stage vehicle having an option for a third stage depending on mission. In the current configuration Antares can provide low-Earth orbit capability for payloads in excess of 5,000 kg. Orbital’s Antares is building on a successful family of smaller launch vehicles including the Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur launch vehicles.

The Cygnus spacecraft is designed by Orbital to be an advanced maneuvering cargo delivery craft to provide ISS resupply services under a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Space Act Agreement. Orbital will use the Cygnus to perform eight missions to deliver around 20,000 kg of cargo to the ISS. Cygnus consists of a common service module and a pressurized cargo module. Orbital builds on a successful avionics systems from their LEOStar and GEOStar satellite product lines as well as propulsion and power systems from the GEOStar communications satellites.

Good Luck Orbital!