Progress MS-02 launches to ISS

The Russian Progress MS-02 spacecraft launched successfully today beginning a two day journey to dock with the International Space Station.

Roscosmos elected to do the two day journey to allow time to fully test all the upgraded systems on the newer MS version of the vehicle.  The first Soyuz MS crewed mission is due to launch in June and validation of the systems is required before that can occur.

This is the second of three cargo vehicles scheduled to travel to the station in less than a month.

TMA-17M Docks with ISS

Following the successful launch earlier the Soyuz TMA-17M carrying Oleg Kononenko, Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren arrived at the international Space Station following a four orbit journey.

After the launch it became clear that as with TMA-14M one of the solar panels had not deployed correctly, this didn’t impact the docking and as before the panel deployed either during or after docking.

Once the spacecraft completed the docking leak tests were performed to ensure a good connection between both vehicles before the hatches were opened allowing the three crew members to join Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Korniyenko and Scott Kelly.

Videos of the docking and hatch opening

Soyuz TMA-17M launches to ISS

Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren launched this evening from Baikonur Cosmodrome towards the International Space Station.

Once in orbit the spacecraft deployed its solar panels and KURS docking antenna’s before beginning the six hours, four orbit chase of the ISS.

We will follow up with an article after the docking and hatch opening.

Image below of the launch

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ISS Resupply Vehicle Launches successfully

Following on from two recent failures the Progress 60P (M-28M) spacecraft lifted off successfully this morning,

Lifted to orbit aboard a Soyuz-U rocket the automated spacecraft successfully deployed its Solar Arrays and Kurs docking antennas before firing its thrusters to begin the journey to the ISS, for this flight the spacecraft will use the two day approach due to the phasing of ISS and the schedule change due to the previous Progress M-27M failure.

The last progress launch made it to orbit aboard the newer Soyuz-2.1a rocket but due to a malfunction in the upper stage the spacecraft span out of control and eventually burnt up in the atmosphere.

Below is a video of the launch, we will publish another article following the successful docking.

Progress 59 Launches

Russia launched the next Progress re-supply vehicle to the International Space Station early this morning the launch and deploy to orbit was successful, however the Progress M-27M spacecraft suffered a glitch once in orbit resulting in mission control deciding to use the two day flight plan instead of the six hour which had become common practice.

Below is video of the launch, we will publish another article following docking and hatch opening.

Galileo Satellite’s launched to wrong orbit

Update to our previous story regarding the Soyuz Launch of two Galileo satellites.

At the end of the webcast yesterday ArianeSpace believed the satellites had been deployed to the planned orbits, however U.S. military orbital tracking data indicated the satellites were flying in a lower orbit than planned. Officials confirmed a launch anomaly in a statement late Friday.

“Complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit,” Arianespace, the French launch services company, said in a statement.

Arianespace said investigations into the launch anomaly are underway and more information will be provided after a flight data analysis to be completed Saturday.

Orbital data from the U.S. Air Force showed three objects in an orbit with a low point around 13,700 kilometers — about 8,500 miles — above Earth. The objects are in an orbit with an inclination of 49.7 degrees, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite and launch activity.

Update: Several sources have said that there may not be enough fuel on the satellites to correct their orbits, if so they will need to launch two replacements in the future to complete the full constellation.

ArianeSpace launches two Galileo satellites

This morning a Soyuz rocket lifted off from the French Guiana Space Center carrying the first two fully operation Galileo satellites.  Galileo is the European’s version of the Global Positioning System, there are currently four satellites which were used to prove the system worked as needed, now that phase has completed the rest of the satellite fleet will now be launched to bring the system to full capacity.

The launch was delayed a day due to bad weather at French Guiana yesterday but launched successfully this morning following a smooth countdown.  The satellites were deployed from the Fregat upper stage after a brief second firing of the Fregat engine following a 3h 38m cruise to the desired orbit.  Once the spacecraft were deployed confirmation of communication with the ground stations was received.

Below are some screen grabs of the launch.

 

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Soyuz Launches O3b Satellites

This afternoon a Soyuz rocket lifted off from Guiana Space Centre carrying four 03b satellites to orbit.  These satellites will complement the existing 03b satellites that are already in orbit and provide high speed internet around the world.

The rocket lifted off as expected at 2:55 pm EDT, 2m later the four strap-on boosters completed their job and separated from the main stage which continued upward. 4m into the flight the fairing protecting the satellites was ejected having served it’s purpose.  After 5m 15s the third stage took over and continued to power the rocket into space as the second stage fell away below it.  9m 40s into the flight the third stage shutdown leaving the Fregat upper stage and satellites in orbit to begin their journey.

The Fregat stage performed three separate burns to deliver the the first two satellites to their drop off location, once they separated successfully Fregat fired one more time so the other two satellites could separate correctly.

O3b’s Steve Collar confirmed that Ground stations have acquired signals from all four satellites launched today.

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Weekly Space Blog 5/30

Sea Launch successfully launches Eutelsat Satellite

The Zenit 3SL rocket lifts off from the Odyssey launch platform at 2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. EDT) Monday. Photo credit: Sea Launch
The Zenit 3SL rocket lifts off from the Odyssey launch platform at 2110 GMT (5:10 p.m. EDT) Monday. Photo credit: Sea Launch

Following a 15 month gap between mission’s Sea Launch returned on Monday to successfully launch a 6.6 ton Eutelsat 3B satellite.  The Zenit 3SL rocket lifted off successfully and following a nominal flight successfully deployed the satellite to orbit.

The communication’s satellite will now use it’s engine’s to transfer to it’s final operation orbit at 22,300 miles where it will serve markets in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Latin America.

Built by Airbus Defence and Space it carries 30 Ku-band, 12 C-band and nine Ka-band transponders which will allow it to broadcast television, internet and data services.

 

Mars Opportunity Update

Opportunity Explores Region of Aluminum Clay Minerals  – sols 3657-3662, May 08, 2014-May 13, 2014:

Opportunity is exploring south of ‘Solander Point’ on the west rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover is exploring the region of aluminum-hydroxyl clay minerals seen from orbit.

On Sol 3657 (May 8, 2014), Opportunity collected a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of the surface outcrop, called ‘Ash Meadows,’ then placed the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) for a multi-sol integration. On Sol 3659 (May 10, 2014), the rover drove just under 85 feet (26 meters) to the east, approaching a region of extended outcrop as a possible site for clay minerals. Also, Opportunity tested the new two-second spacecraft clock correction sequence. Over the next two sols, the rover collected an atmospheric argon measurement with the APXS and performed two more one-second-clock corrections.

On Sol 3662 (May 13, 2014), Opportunity bumped 7 feet (2 meters) forward to approach an exposed rock outcrop for further in-situ (contact) investigation.

As of Sol 3662, the solar array energy production was 761 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.621, and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.964. Perfectly clean solar arrays would have a dust factor of 1.0, so the larger the dust factor, the cleaner the arrays.

Total odometry is 24.49 miles (39.41 kilometers).

NASA Releases book on Communicating with Aliens

Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence.

More information and links to the books can be found here.

SpaceX complete’s qualification of SuperDraco Thruster

SpaceX have completed qualification of their SuperDraco thruster after completing a series of hot fire tests.  The thruster will be incorporated in the second version of Dragon which was unveiled on Thursday this week, see my previous post on the unveiling.

Next Orbital Cygnus flight delayed

To allow Aerojet Rocketdyne more time to investigate the recent AJ26 engine failure during testing Orbital has announced that their next mission to ISS has been delayed to No Earlier Than (NET) June 17th.  A final launch date and time will be announced once the investigation has concluded and depending if there are any changes needed because of the investigation.

New Station Crew successfully launched

On Wednesday the next International Space Station (ISS) crew were successfully launched and six hours later docked to the station.  See my previous post for more details including images of the liftoff, docking and hatch opening.

Expedition 39 Mission concludes

Yesterday Station Commander Koichi Wakata handed control of the International Space Station to US Astronaut Steve Swanson to begin the final stage of the TMA-11M crews return to earth.  Mikhail Tyurin, Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata have spent the last 188 days on the space station, during which time they saw the departure of Progress M-22M, the arrival of Progress M-23M, the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon, undocking and re-docking of the Progress M-23M to test KURS-NA.  In addition due to the failure of the MDM a spacewalk was added to the manifest.

Today the three crew members bid farewell and then entered their Soyuz capsule concluding with the closing of the hatchway between the station and capsule at 3:26 p.m. EDT.  After the leak checks were completed the Soyuz TMA-11M undocked from the station at 6:36 p.m. EDT and slowly moved away from the station.

At 9:04 p.m. EDT the deorbit burn was performed beginning the return to earth for the crew which concluded with the safe touchdown of the crew module at 9:58:30 p.m. EDT.  The crew were successfully removed from the module after landing and are doing well.

The following are images capture from NASA TV of the different events today.