Category Archives: Uncategorized

InSight Deploys SEIS

NASA graciously allowed the embedding of this image, however the version clipped the bottom of the image rather drastically (only the arm was visible) so I altered the embed code a little – hopefully it works out.

Now we have a seismometer from the InSight Mission on Mars. By the way, especially for teachers and students, the InSight Mission website is rich in educational activities and resources for the classroom — including Real Time Seismic Data in the Classroom.

NASA — NASA’s InSight lander placed its seismometer onto Mars on Dec. 19, 2018. This was the first time a spacecraft robotically placed a seismometer onto the surface of another planet. The seismometer is the copper-colored object in this image, which was taken around Martian dusk.

The seismometer, called Seismic Explorations for Interior Structure (SEIS), will measure seismic waves caused by marsquakes, meteorite strikes and other phenomena. Watching how these waves travel through Mars’ interior will let scientists study how the planet’s crust, mantle and core are layered. It will also reveal more about how all rocky bodies are formed, including Earth and its Moon.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the wind sensors.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

SpaceX to Launch GPS III – Scrubbed Again

The second attempt to get the GPS III into orbit.

The weather doesn’t look too good but we’ll see.

Pretty much the same launch window as before, coverage beginning at 14:03 UT/ 09:03 ET

Good luck!

Update: As I suspected, the launch is now scheduled for 22 December with coverage starting at 13:55 UTC

Oh by the way a Delta IV Heavy is scheduled to launch the NROL-71 Satellite into orbit at (21 Dec) at 01:00 UTC.

First Light from Parker’s WISPR

Wow, very nice quality and more importantly working as expected from the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe. Click the image for a larger version. You can also get the HD versions (and I HIGHLY recommend you do) from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.


NASA’s description of this image:
Russ Howard, WISPR principal investigator from the Naval Research Laboratory, studied the images to determine the instrument was pointing as expected, using celestial landmarks as a guide.

“There is a very distinctive cluster of stars on the overlap of the two images. The brightest is the star Antares-alpha, which is in the constellation Scorpius and is about 90 degrees from the Sun,” said Howard.

The Sun, not visible in the image, is far off to the right of the image’s right edge. The planet Jupiter is visible in the image captured by WISPR’s inner telescope — it’s the bright object slightly right of center in the right-hand panel of the image.

“The left side of the photo shows a beautiful image of the Milky Way, looking at the galactic center,” said Howard.

The exposure time – i.e. the length of time that light was gathered for this image, an interval which can be shortened or lengthened to make the image darker or brighter – is on the lower end, and there’s a reason: “We intentionally wanted to be on the low side in case there was something very bright when we first turned on, but it is primarily because we are looking so far from the Sun,” explains Howard.

As the spacecraft approaches the Sun, its orientation will change, and so will WISPR’s images. With each solar orbit, WISPR will capture images of the structures flowing out from the corona. While measurements have been made before by other instruments at a distance of 1 AU – or approximately 93 million miles – WISPR will get much closer, about 95% of the way to the Sun from Earth, dramatically increasing the ability to see what’s occurring in that region with a much finer scale than ever before and providing a more pristine picture of the solar corona.

Read the entire piece by Sarah Frazier, she covers the other instruments too and it’s a very good read.

SpaceX to Launch the GRACE-FO

Replay when available (if it isn’t on this link). Ground video was out of focus, they had a spot of bother with the auto-focus.

Mission: Iridium-6/GRACE-FO

Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9

Date/Time: 22 May 2018 19:47 UTC / 15:47 ET

Spaceport: Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

MarCO Is On the Way

Here is an artist rendering of the Mars Cube One or MarCO. Actually two Cube Sats (MarCo A & B) were launched along with and ejected with the InSight Lander. All three are apparently well and on the way to Mars. YES! Cube Sats were a brilliant idea right from the start.

NASA / Andrew Good – JPL: NASA has received radio signals indicating that the first-ever CubeSats headed to deep space are alive and well. The first signal was received at 12:15 p.m. PST (3:15 p.m. EST) today; the second at 1:58 p.m. PST (4:58 p.m. EST). Engineers will now be performing a series of checks before both CubeSats enter their cruise to deep space.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, is a pair of briefcase-sized spacecraft that launched along with NASA’s InSight Mars lander at 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT) today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. InSight is a scientific mission that will probe the Red Planet’s deep interior for the first time; the name stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

The twin MarCO CubeSats are on their own separate mission: rather than collecting science, they will follow the InSight lander on its cruise to Mars, testing out miniature spacecraft technology along the way.

Both were programmed to unfold their solar panels soon after launch, followed by several opportunities to radio back their health.

“Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!’ It’s a sign that the little sats are alive and well,” said Andy Klesh, chief engineer for the MarCO mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which built the twin spacecraft.
Continue reading

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

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.