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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!

JAXA Launches Epsilon-1

After a delay of a couple of weeks the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA launches it’s first Epsilon Launch Vehicle, Epsilon-1 with the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere (SPRINT-A).

The launch took place at 14:00 p.m. from the Uchinoura Space Center. So far everything is happening as planned and the solar paddles have been deployed and the spacecraft is reportedly in good condition.

As is the custom, the SPRINT-A has been renamed. The nickname is HISAKI.
Continue reading

LADEE Update

Thought you might like this LADEE pre-launch press conference describing the mission. A video of the launch is in the previous post if you didn’t see it.

There were early reports of a problem with the reaction wheels used to position and stabilize the spacecraft. Mission managers don’t sound too concerned:

“The LADEE spacecraft is working as it was designed to under these conditions – there’s no indication of anything wrong with the reaction wheels or spacecraft,” said S. Pete Worden, Ames center director. “The LADEE spacecraft is communicating and is very robust. The mission team has ample time to resolve this issue before the spacecraft reaches lunar orbit. We don’t have to do anything in a rush.”
LADEE team members are currently analyzing the situation. Normal checkout takes a couple of days, and this anomaly may add a couple more days to the process.
“This is not an unusual event in spacecraft,” Worden said. “We plan in the next few days to complete spacecraft checkout.”


LADEE Launch Day

Mission:  Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer – LADEE

Rocket: USAF Minitor V (integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Current Status: Go

Launch Date: Friday, 06 Sept. 2013 23:27 EDT / Saturday 07 Sept. 2013 03:27 UTC

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

NOAA’s Forecast:

Friday: Sunny, with a high near 74. North wind 13 to 17 mph.

Friday Night: Clear, with a low around 62. Northeast wind 5 to 8 mph.

This is going to be an exciting mission from start to finish. LADEE will be the first lunar launch from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia even though Wallops and NOT Cape Canaveral, is the oldest continuous rocket launch range in the United States.

LADEE is the fist payload to be launched atop an USAF Minotaur rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp.

Once LADEE gets to the moon and that depends on launch time because of the way the spacecraft will approach the leading edge of the moon for orbital insertion, it get into a 250 km (156 mile) altitude orbit paving the way for even lower altitude orbits during the planned 100-day mission.

Once the mission is complete LADEE will impact the lunar surface. I did say it was going to be exciting start to finish.

NASA’s LADEE website.