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SENTINEL-3B – Deja Vu?

If you have a feeling of deja vu at the Sentinel-3B above don’t worry this is a twin. The first was launched in 2016 and this one is scheduled to be launched on 25 April 2018.

This great image is from ESA – S. Corvaja.

ESA’s caption — The Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite being mated with the Rockot adapter at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

The satellite is being prepared for liftoff, scheduled for 25 April 2018. Its identical twin, Sentinel-3A, has been in orbit since February 2016. The two-satellite constellation offers optimum global coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environment programme.

The Clouds of Venus

Our next door neighbor so to speak, Venus often called Earth’s twin is a very different place than Earth. Shrouded in clouds the surface temperature of the planet is around 477 C / 890 F everywhere; there are no cool spots. Those clouds are not happy rain clouds like we have, they are clouds of sulfuric acid. The surface pressure on Venus is something like 90 earth atmosphere. A very nasty place!

Still it is quite a nice sight and you can see it shortly after sunset from now until around the end of May, in fact, it will be getting higher in the sky every night until then. Occasionally we get a chance to see Venus in the daylight, but not often, it has been a couple of years.

Image description From ESA: Our sister planet Venus is a dynamic and unusual place. Strong winds swirl around the planet, dragging thick layers of cloud with them as they go. These fierce winds move so speedily that they display ‘super-rotation’: Earth’s can move at up to a fifth of our planet’s rotation speed, but winds on Venus can travel up to 60 times faster than the planet.

Observations from ESA’s Venus Express, which orbited Venus from 2006 to 2014, and other international spacecraft have probed deeper into this wind and cloud in past years, and uncovered some peculiar behaviour.

The side of the planet facing away from the Sun is somewhat more mysterious than the other side, but what we do know shows it to be quite different, with never-before-seen cloud types, shapes and dynamics – some of which appear to be connected to features on the surface below.

Super-rotation appears to behave more chaotically on the night side than the day side, but climate modellers remain unsure why. Night-side clouds also create different patterns and shapes than those found elsewhere – large, wavy, patchy irregular and filament-like patterns – and are dominated by mysterious ‘stationary waves’. These waves rise up within the atmosphere, do not move with the planet’s rotation, and appear to be concentrated above steep and higher-altitude regions of the surface, suggesting that Venus’ topography may well affect what happens in the cloud layers way up above.

These three images from the visible and infrared camera on Venus Express show these cloud features in detail: stationary waves (left), dynamical instabilities (middle) and mysterious filaments (right).

Venus Express was launched in 2005 and began orbiting Venus in 2006; the mission ended in December 2014. This image is based on the news item Venus’ mysterious night side revealed, published in 2017.

Image: ESA, NASA, J. Peralta & R. Hueso

Almost a Parade


The Chinese space station Tiangong-1 just reentered the atmosphere and any pieces that survived the process ended up in the Pacific Ocean.  Tiangong-1 radar image via fredzone.org

I was having great fun trying to figure out for myself where it was going to reenter. Between my internet problems (resolution delayed until today) and the busyness of N2YO I never got an updated elevation after I came up with my guesses. I get to try again.

It turns out there are THREE more objects heading for reentry by the end of this week. Now I have to say I have heard of anything being able to survive reentry but the possibility does exist for a nice show should it occur overhead at the right time.

First is the Indian rocket body PSLV R/B launched on 04 November 2013.
Predicted reentry time: 03 April 2018 at 22:30 UTC / 18:30 ET.

Track PSLV R/B at N2YO
Track PSLV R/B at SatView

Second is FLOCK 2E-3. The FLOCK series of satellites are about the size of a loaf of bread. Launched on 19/20 November 1998*, FLOCK 2E-3 is predicted to reenter on 04 April 2018 at 23:30 UTC / 19:30 ET

*Most sites list 19 November others 20 November – probably timezone dependent.

Track FLOCK 2E-3 at N2YO
Track FLOCK 2E-3 at SatView

The third is also a FLOCK satellite, the FLOCK 2E-6 set to enter at 14:24 UTC / 10:24 ET.

Track FLOCK 2E-6 at N2YO
Track FLOCK 2E-6 at SatView

Or track it with any of the various tracking websites or most of the planetarium software packages. The nice thing about the software programs is you do not need to be online.

The Space X Falcon 9 Heavy

Here’s the business end of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy and it’s a beast. This rocket will be the most powerful rocket in use by a factor of two according to Space X.

The Falcon 9 Heavy is built from three Falcon 9 nine engine cores to yield a thrust of 2.27 million kg / 5 million pounds of thrust. All that power will enable huge payloads to be launched depending on what the goal of the flight is. For example, a low Earth orbit the payload can be 62,800 kg / 140,660 lbs while a flight to Mars the payload can be 16,800 kg / 37,040 lbs. Check out the specifications on the Space X site.

If all goes well, we will get to see this behemoth take to the sky sometime this month.

Image: Space X via Twitter

Micro Transmitter – Receiver Combo

Now here’s a transmitter/receiver module ham radio operators like myself fawn over and thanks to ESA’s Sentinel programme maybe someday. . .

From ESA — A prototype transmit/receive module on a single 6×6 mm chip, intended to deliver miniaturised space radar systems for future missions.

Traditional transmit/receive modules used on Europe’s Sentinel-1 and comparable radar missions employ separate circuits for the high-power amplifier, the low-noise amplifier and the switch/isolator.

The aim, developed for ESA by TNO in the Netherlands, UMS in France, and Airbus Defense and Space in Germany, was to integrate all these functions onto a single chip, while delivering increased efficiency and a threefold increase in radio-frequency power.

The added ingredient enabling this was that the chip was made using gallium nitride (GaN) – the most promising semiconductor since silicon. If you have a Blu-ray player than you own a tiny crystal of GaN, used in high-performance blue lasers.

GaN can operate with high radio-frequency output power, low noise or at much higher temperatures than silicon. As a plus, it is also inherently resistant to radiation. ESA has been leading the industrialisation of GaN through the GaN Reliability Enhancement and Technology Transfer Initiative consortium.

This prototype was developed through ESA’s Basic Technology Research Programme.

A follow-up project to integrate the chip into a complete radar module suitable for a future Sentinel-1 successor mission is being undertaken through the Agency’s follow-up General Support Technology Programme.

Image: ESA/TNO

By the way, today is my brothers birthday.  He is a sometimes contributer here with some great photography.  Happy Birthday Andrew!!!!

 

Martian Aurora

The MAVEN spacecraft returned this ultraviolet spectroscopic data from Mars after the effects of a solar storm arrive.

NASA/Univ. of Colorado: These images show the sudden appearance of a bright aurora on Mars during a solar storm in September 2017. The purple-white color scheme shows the intensity of ultraviolet light seen on Mars’ night side before (left) and during (right) the event.

A simulated image of Mars for the same time and orientation has been added, with the dayside crescent visible on the right. The auroral emission appears brightest at the edges of the planet where the line of sight passes along the length of the glowing atmosphere layer.

The data are from observations by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument (IUVS) on NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter, or MAVEN.

Note that, unlike auroras on Earth, the Martian aurora is not concentrated at the planet’s polar regions. This is because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth’s to concentrate the aurora near the poles.

Solar Minimum Approaches

Yes the solar minimum approaches and ham radio operators around the world (including me) rejoice!

There is a Geomagnetic Storm watch out for today. The storm is a rather mild G1 event resulting from an increase in the solar wind due to an isolated, positive polarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS). Mild as it may be, there could still be auroras visible from possibly 45 degrees north and south onward to each of the poles, so if you have clear dark skies have a look.

More info at the US Space Weather Prediction Service

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has an excellent Solar Physics page about the sun spot cycle.

Data Relay Box Fails on ISS


That’s why there are back-ups!
NASA/Mark Garcia — International Space Station managers will meet Sunday morning to discuss a forward plan for dealing with the apparent failure of one of two fully redundant multiplexer-demultiplexer (MDM) data relay boxes on the S0 truss of the complex.

External MDM-1 apparently failed at 1:13 p.m. Central time Saturday. Multiple attempts by flight controllers to restore power to the relay box have not been successful. Troubleshooting efforts are continuing. The Expedition 51 crew was informed of the apparent failure and is not in any danger. The MDMs on the truss control the functionality of the station’s solar arrays and radiators among other equipment, and provide power to a variety of other station components.

Because the two MDMs have full redundancy, the apparent loss of MDM-1 has had no impact on station operations.

The image at flickr.