Following on from the Cygnus berthing to the space station this morning SpaceX successfully launched its modified Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon in the process achieving several firsts for the company.
The launch which came exactly five years after their first successful Falcon 1 launch was the first from their Vandenburg launch pad, the first of the longer v1.1 rocket, the first to use the Merlin 1D engines, the first to have a satellite fairing and the first Falcon 9 not dedicated to Dragon.
The rocket carried six satellite’s to orbit and from initial reports all were successfully deployed as expected and the rocket performed exceptionally well.
In addition to the above firsts, SpaceX were also hoping to re-ignite three of the first stage engine’s as it descended back to earth to slow the impact of the stage as it lands in the Pacific Ocean. If successful the plan is to retrieve the stage and potentially use it again for another mission. These are early steps in SpaceX’s plan to have fully re-usable rockets in the future.
With the successful completion of this launch SpaceX will now be ramping up the launch rate to meet the large launch manifest pending, with several more this year and starting in 2014 almost one a month through end of 2015 already booked.
The following images were captured from the SpaceX Web Cast and show the rocket during countdown, launch and after first stage separation.
With the arrival of the Cygnus spacecraft at the International Space Station the US now has two commercial suppliers to deliver cargo to the station. Since the retirement of the shuttle and before SpaceX and Orbital Sciences the US was reliant on International Partners Russia, ESA and Japan to deliver cargo.
There are now five cargo vehicles available for the station, Cygnus, Dragon, Progress, European ATV and Japanese HTV.
Below are some images of the Cygnus arriving at the station taken from the NASA LiveStream feed.
Now we just need for Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) Space Systems to complete their commercial crew vehicles and for NASA to have the funds to allow these to progress to actual flights and the station will once again have multiple craft able to launch crews.
Soyuz Launched to ISS This week saw another Soyuz launch to the space station on board the Soyuz TMA-10M were Russian Cosmonaut’s Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy as well as NASA Astronaut Michael Hopkins.
Following a flawless countdown the three launched at 4:58:50 pm EDT, eight minutes later they were in orbit and heading towards a four orbit, six hour rendezvous with the station. The crew docked a few minutes earlier than scheduled at 10:45 pm EDT and once all the leak checks were completed entered the space station at 12:34 am EDT to begin there extended stay aboard the station.
Due to their involvement in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games ceremonies the crew will leave after the TMA-12M has docked, this will be the first time since the Space Shuttle retired that there will be more than 6 crew members on the station at one time.
Cygnus berthing delayed The berthing of the Cygnus spacecraft was delayed last Sunday due to a technical glitch with how the spacecraft interpreted GPS data received from the station. Initially the plan was to back off from the station while Orbital worked on the problem and then attempt again on Tuesday. However after further discussions with NASA it was decided to wait until after the Launch and Docking of the Expedition 37 crew members. The berthing has been rescheduled to this Sunday 9/29, assuming everything goes to plan the Cygnus spacecraft will be captured by the Expedition 37 crew and berthed to the station.
SpaceX launch scheduled
Elon Musk CEO and CTO of SpaceX confirmed that the first launch of the Falcon 9 v1.1 has now been scheduled for Sunday 9/29 assuming no further problems are found and the weather co-operates. This will be the first time the longer version of the rocket, the Merlin 1D engines and a fairing will be used. In addition this is the first launch from the Vandenburg launch site for SpaceX and the first to dedicated to deploying a satellite.
If all goes to plan SpaceX will also try to re-light one of the Merlin 1D engines as the first stage approaches the ocean to test out some of the re-usable technologies that are planned for later flights and would allow the first stage to land back on earth and be used again for a future flight.
Elon himself stated that there is a high chance that something could go wrong with all the changes in this mission.
Dragon Launch Delayed The next CRS launch to the ISS has been delayed to February 2014 to allow SpaceX time to complete modifications to the Dragon spacecraft to increase the cold storage cargo capacity. This will almost triple the amount of scientific cargo that can be carried up to and back from the space station.
Space Dino – Nyberg creates Dino on ISS
This week Karen Nyberg a US Astronaut currently serving aboard the International Space Station (ISS) released a picture of a Dinosaur she created while in space.
Among the personal items she took to the station were needles, thread and some material, however The Dinosaur was created mainly from a velcro like material found in Russian food containers on the station.
She created the Dinosaur for her son, however he will have to wait a little longer before receiving the gift as Karen will remain on the station until November 11, and UPS/FedEx don’t currently offer delivery services to/from the ISS.
Water on Mars – Curiosity This week NASA announced that the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on it’s Mars Rover Curiosity had discovered water in soil samples that it had analyzed. During the analysis for the soil it was determined that about 2% of the sample contained water.
Laurie Leshin, Dean of Science at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institiute said “About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically.”
The SAM instrument takes samples of soil scooped up by the Rover’s arm and then heats it to 835C, SAM then uses several different processes to identify the chemicals found in the sample.
For further information about the discovery check out the full article here.
Cygnus Successfully Launched With the exception of one issue with the fuel system that caused a slight delay in the launch time Orbital successfully launched there Antares Rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft. The Cygnus is currently on route to the International Space Station and once a number of demonstration steps have been completed successfully is due to berth with the station tomorrow.
Once the vehicle has been unloaded the ISS crew will load items that are no longer needed, after about 30 days at the station it will unberth. Unlike the Dragon spacecraft the Cygnus cannot return back to earth but instead burns up during re-entry.
Latest reports show the the spacecraft has successfully fired it’s main engine’s to alter it’s course to the station, a number of the tests are performed close to the station to verify that the approach and capture can be aborted if needed. Once all the tests are passed NASA and Orbital will have a final go-no-go poll before the craft enters the keep out zone around the station so that it can be captured by the crew using the station arm.
SpaceX Static Fire Test Update
The first static fire test of the new Falcon 9 v1.1 showed up some anomalies, due to this SpaceX attempted another test this week which was successful. However due to the delay’s caused by needing the second test launch of the new version has been delayed until 9/29 to accommodate ICBM tests at the launch site.
Atlas 5 launch successful
A secure communications satellite was launched from the cape this week by an Atlas 5 for the U.S. Air Force. This was the first of two large launches on the same day on the U.S. East Coast, the second was the Orbital launch of Cygnus seven hours later.
Next Station Crew Soyuz Integrated
The Soyuz TMA-10M vehicle was integrated with it’s Launcher this week in preparations for the launch of Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, both with Russia’s Federal Space Agency on 9/26. The next major milestone in this preparations will be roll out to the launch pad expected on Monday 9/23.
Deep Impact Update
Following a month of attempts to re-establish contact with the now silent spacecraft NASA to announced that the mission is over. Engineer’s suspect that the vehicle lost stabilization control and was no longer pointing it’s Solar Array’s at the sun causing the battery’s to run out. The vehicle was tremendous successful having completed all of it’s primary mission objects as well as returning approximately 500,000 images of different space objects.
Space Alien Claim
This week a scientist if Britain claimed to have evidence of Alien Life taken from sample obtained from the upper atmosphere. The story got quite a lot of traction on some new media however was very quickly debunked. The same scientist has made similar claims in the past and each time has proven to be wrong because there has never been scientific evidence to back up his claims.
Life on Mars Update
Hope’s of finding life on Mars faded a little this week when a study by the Mars Curiosity Rover detected only trace amounts of Methane in the atmosphere. Of course if Mars One or other’s get there way this will change in the next couple of decades as human’s will visit the planet and bring with them microbes and other forms of life.
India Mars Mission spacecraft revealed The week India unveiled it’s first Mars Spacecraft expected to launch later in late October or early November. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the vehicle will have five scientific instruments on-board designed to conduct various experiments while orbiting the planet. The vehicle is expected to arrive at the planet in September 2014 following a 9 month cruise.
Boeing Tests CST-100 Thrusters
This week Boeing announced that it has completed a series of tests of the thrusters that will be used on the CST-100 Spacecraft when in orbit. In combination with Aerojet Rocketdyne the thruster manufacturer the tests assessed how the thrusters performed in different scenarios as would be expected in space operations. This is a significant step forward in the design of the spacecraft which is designed to talk crew into LEO.
Chinese Space Station final days
The Chinese Space Agency announced that their first Space Station Tiangong was entering it’s final month’s of operation before a fiery re-entry into earth’s atmosphere. Tiangong hosted two different crews during it’s lifetime and brought the Chinese one step closer to having a permanent presence in space.
While not related to Space I wanted to share the news from Elon Musk that Tesla are currently looking for Engineer’s to work on autonomous driving option for the Tesla Model S car. According to Elon they plan to use 360 deg flush mounted camera’s and radar which will require lost of image processing capabilities. Anyone interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org, the team will report directly to Elon.
We are back again with our weekly blog and what a week it has been for space news.
Voyager has left the Solar System This week the Voyager Science Team announced that the long serving Voyager 1 spacecraft had left the solar system, making it the first human made object to achieve the feat. As one of the team said this is a milestone as significant as Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.
36 years in the making and 12 billion miles from home the Voyager 1 spacecraft has already provided us with a wealthy of information from it’s flyby’s of Jupiter and Saturn and from it’s journey through several layers of the outer solar system.
So what is next for Voyager 1, the spacecraft itself has enough power to keep the current science instruments running for a few more years, at that point the science team will begin to power down different instruments until they are all silent. The spacecraft will still have enough power to operate for a number of years after that but will only be able to return engineering data on the health of the craft. Once the spacecraft has run out of power it will continue it’s journey towards AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis in about 40,000 years from now.
For more information on the Voyager spacecraft check out there mission page here.
SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 News This week SpaceX performed the first Static Fire of the new Falcon 9 v1.1 at their Vandenberg launch pad. SpaceX CEO tweeted later in the day that they had achieved full thrust for 2 seconds during the test, however due to some anomalies found during the test they will be performing another test on Saturday 9/14 and will announce a new launch date once the data has been analyzed.
Orbital Approaches Launch The first operational Cygnus spacecraft rolled out to the launch pad this week for a 9/17 launch to the International Space Station, this will be the final test launch of the Antares and Cygnus vehicles under the COTS program for NASA. Assuming nothing goes wrong Orbital will then begin commercial resupply missions to the station to augment those provided by SpaceX currently.
Japan’s Epsilon Launched Successfully
Following an aborted countdown recently, Japan successfully launched there new Epsilon rocket this week. The new rocket which has been designed to make launches cheaper and more efficient completed it’s first launch by placing a compact telescope into orbit.
Well that is all for this week, a short post but more to come next week
WISE approved for asteroid survey
NASA announced this week that the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft will be taken out of hibernation to start a three year mission to search for Near Earth Objects. While the primary instruments on the vehicle required frozen hydrogen to operate which ran out in 2011 the other instruments do not and these will be used for the new mission named NEOWISE. The science team will be contacting the vehicle in September to begin operations again.
Dream Chaser Captive Carry Test
This week the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser spacecraft completed a two hour captive carry test over Edwards Airforce base. This was the first time that a fully operation version of the vehicle had flown and gave engineers the chance to review all systems before a series of approach and landing tests will be performed. Initial tests will be fully automated before crewed tests are performed.
The Dream Chaser vehicle is one of three competing for the chance to launch US crews to the International Space Station. Personally I hope there is a way to fund all three vehicles to give the US unprecedented access to space for the future.
Gaia spacecraft at launch site
The European Galaxy Explorer spacecraft Gaia has arrived in French Guiana to begin three months of flight preparations before a November launch aboard a Soyuz Rocket. Once launched the vehicle will be placed a million miles from Earth and will use dual telescopes to map the precise locations of stars. For more information on the vehicle and missions check out it’s page here.
Hubble Time-lapse Movie
This week Astronomers released a movie showing 13 years of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of super-heated gas 5,000 light years long. The gas is being ejected from a super-massive black hole for more information and to see the movie check out the press release here.
Starbirth as seen by ALMA
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have released the image below showing material streaming away from a newborn star. For more information on the observations check out the full article here.
Curiosity Movie of Mars Moons
This week NASA released a video capture by the Mars Curiosity Rover of the Mars moons Phobos passing in front of Deimos. This is the first time any vehicle on the surface of Mars has captured one of the moons passing in front of the other. For information and to see the movie check out the article here.
Another successful Russian Spacewalk concludes
Once again Russian Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin ventured outside the International Space Station for a spacewalk. Unlike the walk last week that broke the record for longest by a Russian team this walked came in just short of 6 hours. The pair were able to successfully complete the objectives set out for them including one that didn’t look possible during to misalignment of the parts.
The spacewalk was the 173rd in support of space station assembly and maintenance, the eighth of Yurchikhin’s career and the third for Misurkin.
Spitzer Space Telescope celebrates ten anniversary
The Infrared Space Telescope was launched into space ten years ago this week, the fourth of the four Great Observatories launched by NASA it continues to show us the dark side of the cosmos with it’s infrared vision. For more information on it’s mission and to see the images it has returned check out the mission page here.
Fermi Space Telescope enters extended mission
Meanwhile the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope celebrated it’s five year in space by entering into an extended mission to perform a deeper study of the high-energy cosmos. The vehicle has already provided Astronomers with a detailed potrait of gaint black holes in distance galaxies and even details of thunderstorms on Earth. For more information on Fermi check out it’s mission page here.
And Finally The Astronaut Class of 2013 met with the media this week for the final time before they embark on their two year training program. Check out the release here including video’s and interviews with the eight.
We are back after a two week break to enjoy the New England summer, this week we have lots of great news.
Russian Cosmonauts set new Space Walk Record
The week two Russian Cosmonauts broke the space walk endurance record by complete a 7h 29m excursion outside the International Space Station. Cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin were originally scheduled for a 6h 30m walk but Russian officials elected to extend the walk to allow them time to complete a task originally planned for a later walk. The previous record was set in 1990 by two Cosmonauts working outside the Mir Space Station.
NASA looks at new mission for Kepler
After several attempts to restore the failed Gyroscopes on the Kepler spacecraft Mission planners have determined that the primary mission of the spacecraft cannot be restored and are instead looking at way to utilize the craft in it’s current configuration. They are looking at several options but haven’t selected one yet. In the mean time there are still plenty of planet candidates left to analyze from the data collected by Kepler.
Proton Rocket launches to resume
Following a review of the launch failure in July Proton Rocket launches are scheduled to resume in September. The review concluded that key yaw angular sensors were forcible installed upside down causing the rocket to fail so quickly after launch, several recommendations have been made to the component manufacture that will not allow this to happen again.
SpaceX completed Orbit and Entry review for Dragon
SpaceX recently completed a preliminary design review of the systems that would be used to keep crews safe while in space and during re-entry to earth’s atmosphere. During the review company engineers present NASA and industry experts with details of all the systems which were dissected to ensure nothing was missed. This was the seventh milestone in the CCiCap initiative and SpaceX are marching towards a summer 2014 completion of all the milestones.
SpaceX Grasshopper News
This week SpaceX’s reusable test platform Grasshopper completed the first lateral divert test demonstrating that it has the ability to correct the dissent even if the vehicle is not directly above the landing pad and land in the correct spot. These tests are all steps towards Elon Musk’s dream of having fully re-usable rockets in the future.
Commercial Launch Schedule Changes
Mission planners have switched the Orbital and SpaceX Commercial Crew launches scheduled for December 2013 and January 2014. The original plan called for SpaceX launch three SpX-3 to go in December but due to scheduling conflicts they have elected to switch the missions. This assumes of course that the Orbital Demo mission scheduled for late September is successful. For SpaceX this will be the first Dragon launch using the new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket which allows a greater cargo capacity on the vehicle.
NASA Astronaut Michael Foale retires
British born Astronaut Michael Foale has retired from NASA following a 25 year career which included a US record 374 days in space and saw him fly on Space Shuttle, Soyuz and two Space Stations. For more info on Michael check out his profile here.
Well that is all for this week, there are plenty of stories out there and I will have plenty more for next week. In meantime here are some of the sites I visit daily to get space news.
As we approach the end of July it seems things in the Commercial arena are ramping up, this week in space.
Falcon 9 v1.1 arriving for launch The first of the next generation of Falcon 9 rockets have started to arrive at the Vandenburg launch site. The v1.1 vehicle has several significant upgrades that pave the way for heavier payloads to be delivered to orbit. Included in the upgrades is a longer core stage which will hold more fuel, upgraded Merlin 1D engines which are easier to manufacture and provide more thrust. The first mission for the new version of the rocket will also be the first to include a payload fairing. Check out the full article here.
Boeing CST-100 preview This week Boeing released a preview of the inside of there CST-100 spacecraft. As part of the preview two NASA Astronauts Serena Aunon and Randy Bresnik conducted flight suit evaluations inside the vehicle. Check out the full article here, including video.
Orion Parachute Test successful
This week NASA dropped the test Orion test vehicle from the highest altitude yet and also tested what would happen if one of the parachutes failed to deploy correctly. The test was success and the test vehicle landed safely with just two of the three primary parachutes. For more information check out the full article here.
Ariane 5 Launch
This week the reliable Ariane 5 rocket successfully delivered two more satellites to orbit. Check out the full article here.
3D Printed Rocket Engine Parts
A hot fire test performed recently showed that Rocket Engine parts created via a 3D Printing process rival those created via more traditional methods. The injector which was manufactured in 3 weeks compared to 6 months and half the cost, was subject to 6000 degree’s during the test and showed no difference in performance between the parts. Check out the full article here.
This week the Cassini Spacecraft in orbit of Saturn took a picture of Earth.
This week’s space walk at the International Space Station was cut short due to a water leak problem in Luca P’s suit. Both astronauts where able to complete the first of there assigned tasks before the problem with the suit and due to the build up of water in the helmet of Luca’s suit Houston decided to terminate the walk and bring the astronauts back in early. None of the tasks assigned during this EVA were critical to the station operations. After the EVA it was reported that the water had a strange taste to it indicating that it wasn’t likely to be the drinking water that was leaking. As of today they are still investigating what could have caused the leak but have indicated that it wasn’t the water bag.
New Neptune Moon found
The 14th moon of Neptune was revealed this week, using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Designated S/2004 N 1 it is estimated to be approximate 12 miles across making it one of the smallest moons in the Neptunian System and orbit’s once ever 23 hours. For further information check out the article here.
Moon Express News
This week the Moon Express team announced the World’s First Mission to the Moon’s South Pole as well as the opening of a propulsion development facility.
The Moon South Pole mission in cooperation with the International Lunar Observatory Association will be both scientific and commercial. The lander will bring with it commercial communication systems as well as a 2 meter dish antenna to allow AstroPhysics observations to be performed. For further information check out the full article here.
To enable this and other missions to be successful Moon Express has also opened a facility dedicated to developing propulsion technology needed to land vehicles on the moon. Further information can be found here.
Mars Atmosphere History
A couple of papers were recently released based on data gather by Curiosity of the Martian Atmosphere. The papers based on the analysis of the atmosphere by SAM indicates that it was thicker in the past. For further information check out the full article here.
Atlas 5 Launch
This week the heaviest satellite payload ever launched was successfully launched into space using a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. Following a countdown that was delay once due to weather constrains the vehicle blasted off at 9am EST carrying the MUOS 2 communication satellite for the US Navy. Following a flawless launch and several firings of the second stage the spacecraft was deployed to it’s initial orbit. Check out the fall article here.
There wasn’t as much news this week, however I have embarked on a new investigation.
There has been a lot of press recently about 3D Printing in Space and as a way to create habitats on Mars etc. This got me thinking about how to supply the 3D Printer with the materials needed to actually create anything. For example if we were able to place a 3D Printer on Mars how would we be able to take the soil and create objects? I am going to use this section in future blogs to detail some of my findings, if you have any thoughts or suggestions please add a comment.
Another week has come and gone and the stories continue to flow in, this week we have a number of exciting stories plus four Kickstarter projects related to space.
Bold New Plan for first SLS/Orion Launch
This week NASA managers announced the new plan which would see the first uncrewed mission named EM-1 travel to 40,000 miles beyond the moon. Due to the change in the mission it will not take approximately 25 days to complete, with 18 of those used for the travel time and the rest performing tests at the destination point. For more information check out the full article here.
Curiosity on the Move
The Mars Rover Curiosity has begun it’s epic drive to Mt. Sharp, expected to take the next year to complete the rover is making a 5 mile journey to a spot which will allow it access Mt. Sharp’s lower reaches. Check out the latest new on the rover here.
Mars Rover 2020 Plans announced
This week a NASA Science Team outlined the goals for the next Rover to head to Mars, based on the same design as Curiosity the rover will look for signs of past life on Mars as well as collect samples for a possible future Sample Return mission. Check out the press release here and more information is available here.
Ariane 6 News
This week European Ministers approved the start of preparatory activities for Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle. For more information on the rocket design and goals check out the press release here.
NASA’s Polar Robotic Ranger
Rover succeeds in the harsh environment of Greenland a new NASA Rover passed a series of tests. Known as GROVER for Greenland Rover and Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research, it was designed by a team of students attending boot camps at Goddard. Despite the harsh weather the rover performed well during the 5 weeks of testing. For addition information check out the article here.
ISS Space Walk
This week Astronauts Christopher Cassidy and Luca Parmitano completed the 170th Space Walk devoted to station assembly and maintenance. Chris was performing his four space walk while this was Luca’s first. They were able to perform all the originally planned tasks for the walk as well as several get-ahead tasks. Both will be suiting up again on Tuesday for another spacewalk.
Astronomer’s witness birth of Star
Scientists using the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile witness the birth of a massive star approximately 10,000 light years from earth in a dark cloud core. The star is 500 times the mass of our Sun and brighter making it one of the largest stars in our galaxy. For more information check out the full article here.
Solar System Tail Viewed
Using the IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft scientists have been able to map out the structure of the tail that our solar system produces. We have seen similar tails around other stars but until now have not been able to determine if our own star actually had one. For more information check out the article here.
Future ISS Crew Members Announced
This week NASA and it’s International Partners in the space station announced three new crew members who will launch in June 2015 and make up part of the Expedition 44/45 crews aboard the station. The three are NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Japanese Exploration Aerospace Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko. For more information and the full bio’s for the crew members check out the article here.
Hubble Spots Blue Planet
Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have for the first time been able to determine the color of a planet orbiting an distance star. The planet called HD 189733b if viewed up close would be a cobalt blue color similar to Earth when viewed from space. However unlike Earth this is a Gas Giant that is orbiting very close to its star. Check out the full article here.
Solar Tsunami used to measure Sun’s Magnetic Field
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Japanese Hinode spacecraft have been used to provide the first accurate estimates of the Sun’s magnetic field. The Tsunami’s are created by massive explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere and by observing the effects of these they were able to determine that the Sun’s magnetic field is ten times weaker than a fridge magnet. For more information check out the article here.
Dream Chaser News
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) have completed the initial tow tests of their Dream Chaser spacecraft which is in the running for Commercial Crew missions to the ISS. The initial tests are designed to validate the performance of the craft and it’s equipment. For futher information check out the article here.
Kickstarter Projects It would seem that following the success of the ARKYD project on Kickstarter a number of others have started new projects for Space related missions.
VASIMR – Create Video of VASIMR missions CAT – A Thruster for CubeSats LunarSail – World First Lunar Sail Mission Moon Spacecraft – Send your own Spacecraft to the Moon
Here are some additional articles I found but haven’t summarized in the blog.