All posts by Tom

Space X Launches Es’hail-2 – REPLAY

Another great launch from SpaceX. This time around it was Es’hail-2 mission for Qatar and is put communications satellite into orbit.

If you missed the LIVE launch don’t feel too bad, I did also; but thankfully I have both power and internet back!

There are a couple more launches coming right up too so check back, yes four launches in almost as many days.

Tomorrow: Cygnus cargo-spaceship to the ISS, time 09:01 UTC / 04:01 EST

Space Weather – Coronal Holes

Here is a look at the coronal hole providing an increase in solar wind and the sporadic aurora

There is a sunspot group now too; called Sunspot 2726 it is about centered on the solar disk (not seen in this image) and a plage in the northern mid-latitudes starting to rotate around the disk.  Aside from being an intensely hot area in the solar chromosphere and can be associated with a sunspot, a plage is a great Scrabble word.

The image shown is from ESA/ROB via I encourage you to check out

ESA:   This image show dramatic dark areas in the Sun’s corona and was acquired by the SWAP instrument on ESA’s Proba-2 mission at midday on Wednesday, 7 November.

The dark areas are ‘coronal holes’ – areas of open magnetic field in the Sun’s corona that emit charged particles as high-speed solar wind that spreads into space.

When it reaches Earth, this solar wind can affect the functioning of satellites in orbit.

The nice thing is that these are predictable events, as we can see these gaps or holes on the solar disc before the high-speed wind hits Earth.

ESA’s future Lagrange mission will significantly improve our ability to detect these holes and forecast solar wind effects, providing a lead time of three to five days.

Space Weather

If you are out and about after dark and you are in higher latitudes (meaning towards the poles) northern and southern hemisphere and have clear skies keep an eye out for an aurora. We have had sporadic aurora over the past couple days thanks to a coronal hole on the Sun. Disturbances in the geomagnetic field due to strong earthquakes may be another possible aurora source.

ESA: Earth’s magnetosphere is a region of space dominated by our planet’s magnetic field. The magnetosphere protects Earth from most of the solar wind, a flow of charged particles streaming out from the Sun.

However, some particles are able to penetrate this shield and reach the ionosphere, giving rise to space weather effects, including the beautiful polar lights, or auroras, as well as geomagnetic storms. Space weather has a real impact on our activities on Earth, and poses a significant risk to space-farers – robotic and human alike.

Various space missions, including ESA’s Cluster and Swarm, are investigating the magnetic environment around the Earth and how it interacts with the solar wind.

Meanwhile, Sun-watching satellites like the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), located at the L1 point between Earth and the Sun, monitor coronal mass ejections leaving the Sun and measure the speed of the solar wind 1.5 million km away from our planet, about 1 hour before it reaches Earth.

Image: ESA

It’s Business Time

Here’s a replay of the launch of Electron rocket called”It’s Business Time” by Rocket Lab. Launch time was 03:50 UTC / 16:50 NZDT 11 November 2018.

I believe the payload was a number of small satellites including at least one to provide connectivity to “the internet of things” which is interesting.

Congratulations Rocket Lab for the beautiful launch and great video!!

InSight Landing Plans

Here’s the plan. Will it work? We don’t have too long to wait now, just over two weeks on 26 November 2018 a parachute like we saw tested in last Sunday’s video will be put to the test and InSight will touch down gently or at least gently enough in the Elysium Planitia on the Red Planet.

Let’s not forget the two CubeSats: MarCO-A and MarCO-B (nicknamed “EVE” and “Wall-E” by their engineering team). The two little satellites will demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA’s InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet.

Parker Survives Encounter with Sun

Great news this time around from the Parker Solar Probe and a couple new records.

NASA: Parker Solar Probe is alive and well after skimming by the Sun at just 15 million miles from our star’s surface. This is far closer than any spacecraft has ever gone — the previous record was set by Helios B in 1976 and broken by Parker on Oct. 29 — and this maneuver has exposed the spacecraft to intense heat and solar radiation in a complex solar wind environment.

“Parker Solar Probe was designed to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from us on Earth — and now we know it succeeded,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “Parker is the culmination of six decades of scientific progress. Now, we have realized humanity’s first close visit to our star, which will have implications not just here on Earth, but for a deeper understanding of our universe.”

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the spacecraft at 4:46 p.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2018. The beacon indicates status “A” — the best of all four possible status signals, meaning that Parker Solar Probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.

At its closest approach on Nov. 5, called perihelion, Parker Solar Probe reached a top speed of 213,200 miles per hour, setting a new record for spacecraft speed. Along with new records for the closest approach to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe will repeatedly break its own speed record as its orbit draws closer to the star and the spacecraft travels faster and faster at perihelion.

At this distance, the intense sunlight heated the Sun-facing side of Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield, called the Thermal Protection System, to about 820 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature will climb up to 2,500 F as the spacecraft makes closer approaches to the Sun — but all the while, the spacecraft instruments and systems that are protected by the heat shield are generally kept in the mid-80s F.

Parker Solar Probe’s first solar encounter phase began on Oct. 31, and the spacecraft will continue collecting science data through the end of the solar encounter phase on Nov. 11. It will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the science data begins downlinking to Earth.

Orion Test Capsule Recovery

Very nice picture and a fun albeit stressful training session.

NASA: On Nov. 1, 2018, the USS John P. Murtha recovered the test version of the Orion capsule at sunset in the Pacific Ocean. The Underway Recovery Test-7 (URT-7) is one in a series of tests that the Exploration Ground Systems Recovery Team, along with the U.S. Navy, are conducting to validate procedures and hardware that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft after it splashes down following deep space exploration missions. Orion will have the capability to sustain the crew during space travel, provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities, and emergency abort.

Photo edited by NASA/Ron Beard, Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray