Apollo 11 Launches

What a time this was! I am dating myself, but I do remember.

This NASA feed comes from Terminal Countdown Videos. There will be another video shortly if you don’t have time for this one. The upcoming will be from CBS News at the time.

MRO’s Curious Sight

Image: NASA JPL/CalTech

NASA: A dramatic Martian landscape can be seen in a new image taken from space, showing NASA’s Curiosity rover examining a location called “Woodland Bay.” It’s just one of many stops the rover has made in an area referred to as the “clay-bearing unit” on the side of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain inside of Gale Crater.

The image was taken on May 31, 2019, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). In the image, Curiosity appears as a bluish speck. Vera Rubin Ridge cuts across the scene north of the rover, while a dark patch of sand lies to the northeast.

Look carefully at the inset image, and you can make out what it is likely Curiosity’s “head,” technically known as the remote sensing mast. A bright spot appears in the upper-left corner of the rover. At the time this image was acquired, the rover was facing 65 degrees counterclockwise from north, which would put the mast in about the right location to produce this bright spot. 

Mirror-like reflections off smooth surfaces show up as especially bright spots in HiRISE images. For the camera to see these reflections on the rover, the Sun and MRO need to be in just the right locations. This enhanced-color image of Curiosity shows three or four distinct bright spots that are likely such reflections.

The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Heat Shield for Artemis

Orion is getting closer to flight. The heat shield is ready for Avocoat,

Caption from NASA:

The state-of-the-art heat shield, measuring roughly 16 feet in diameter, which will protect astronauts upon re-entry on the second mission of Artemis, arrived this week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for assembly and integration with the Orion crew module. Artemis 2, the first crewed mission in the series of missions to the Moon and on to Mars, will confirm all of the spacecraft’s systems operate as designed in the actual environment of deep space with astronauts aboard.

The large piece of flight hardware arrived from Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility near Denver aboard the NASA Super Guppy aircraft on July 9 and was transported to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout facility high bay where work will take place on July 10.  Currently, the heat shield is a base titanium truss structure or skeleton. Over the next several months, technicians will apply Avcoat, an ablative material that will provide the thermal protection.

Photo credit: NASA/Glenn Benson

Arianespace VV15 LOST

Arianespace has confirmed the loss of fight VV15 and the FalconEye1 satellite.

The loss occurred about 2 minutes into the flight. I think the other feed may still be active, but here is a replay.

The loss was evident in the control room even before the commentary had related any indication of something amiss.

The cause is yet to be determined but there the problems seemed to begin at the time of the time of separation of the first stage. I will of course update with more but not until later in the day as I will not be near a computer.

This just shows us that while these launches seem to be a routine event these days, it is very much not so.

Arianespace VV15 Launch

Fingers crossed for a successful launch with no weather delays this time!

Spaceport: French Guiana / Guiana Space Center

The Vega VV15 launch is number fifteenth Vega launch since 2012 and is Ariane’s sixth launch of the year.

Times from Arianespace:

  • 9:53:03 p.m., Washington D.C., USA time
  • 10:53:03 p.m., Kourou, French Guiana time
  • 1:53:03 Universal Time (UTC), on July 11
  • 3:53:03 a.m., Paris, France time, on July 11
  • 5:53:03 a.m., Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) time, on July 11.

Ariane Flight VV15 Set to Go

There will be a feed here starting at 00:01 UT / 20:01 ET.

Launch times from Arianespace:

  • 9:53:03 p.m., Washington D.C., USA time
  • 10:53:03 p.m., Kourou, French Guiana time
  • 1:53:03 Universal Time (UTC), on July 11
  • 3:53:03 a.m., Paris, France time, on July 11
  • 5:53:03 a.m., Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) time, on July 11.

ESA to the Moon

ESA: The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.

In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.

Every wire seen in this structure must be correctly connected and configured to ensure the systems providing power, propulsion, oxygen and heat get the spacecraft and its crew of four safely around the Moon and back.

Partially visible at the bottom of the Service Module are the auxiliary thrusters that have recently been installed. These along with two other types of engines will get Orion to its destination.

The main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown in space before. The eight auxiliary thrusters come in as backup to this main engine and to provide orbit corrections.

Lastly, 24 smaller engines grouped into six pods provide attitude control. In fixed positions, they can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions and rotate it into any position.

ESM-2 is expected to be completed and delivered to NASA in 2020.

The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in October 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module. The trio are undergoing thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio this summer.

The recent successful Launch Abort Test that proved the spacecraft’s system can pull astronauts to safety in the event of a launch anomaly has marked another major milestone for Orion’s first exploratory mission.

Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to gain speed and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human has ever travelled.

On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth.

The total trip will take around 20 days, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean without the European Service Module – it separates and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts.

The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavour.

Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.

ESA is committed to working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration targeting the Moon and Mars.

Image: Aribus