Dragon – Rendezvous and Grappling – CRS-1

Rendezvous COTS 2,3
COTS 2,3 Dragon Rendezvous with the International Space Station
Image Credit: SpaceX

Acronyms.

NASA TV provides coverage of the SpaceX/Dragon rendezvous and grappling. SpaceX will also provide coverage.

Events for this evening and tomorrow morning:

  • Height adjust burns start adjusting altitude higher toward station
  • COTS Ultra-high Frequency Communication Unit (CUCU) and on-board UHF communication system between Dragon
    and ISS is configured
  • Height adjust burn: Dragon begins burns that bring it within 2.5 km of station (go/no-go)
  • Dragon receives and sends information from/to the CUCU unit on station
  • Height adjust burn brings Dragon 1.2 km from station (go/no-go)
  • Height adjust burn carries Dragon into the station’s approach ellipsoid (go/no-go)
  • Dragon holds at 250 meters (go/no-go) for confirmation of proximity sensors targeting acquisition
  • Dragon begins R-Bar Approach
  • Dragon holds at 30 meters (go/no-go)
  • Dragon holds at capture point, 10 meters below the station (go/no-go)
  • Crew captures Dragon using the station’s robotic arm (SSRMS)
  • Dragon is attached to the station

This means 3:30 AM Phoenix time with grappling scheduled for roughly 4:00 to 4:30 AM tomorrow morning (11:00 UTC).

We will keep making updates here.

Dragon - ISS
Dragon Chasing the International Space Station about 8:30 PM Phoenix time
Image Credit: kevlar on You Tube

Virgin Galactic Unveils LauncherOne

LauncherOne
Virgin Galactic Unveils LauncherOne to Deliver 225 KG Orbit for $10 MIllion
Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

In an announcement today at the Farnborough International Air Show, Virgin Galactic revealed it is partnering with a privately funded satellite launcher to build a two stage air launched rocket capable of placing 225 kilograms into orbit for around $10 Million dollars.

Skybox Imaging announced it has raised $91 million for a high resolution imaging system, which will use LauncherOne.

GeoOptics Inc. is developing a constellation of remote sensing satellites to be orbited by Virgin Galactic.

Spaceflight Inc. will use Virgin Galactic, and Planetary Resources also plans to use LauncherOne.

Also, Surrey Satellite Technology and Sierra Nevada Space Systems, announced that they would create optimized satellite designs to match LauncherOne’s performance specifications.

ILS Proton-M Launches SES-5 Communications Satellite

Liftoff
Proton-M at Liftoff with SES-5
Image Credit: ILS

An International Launch Systems (ILS) Proton-M rocket lifted off its pad in Baikonur Kazakhstan yesterday at 11:38 AM Phoenix time (1838 UTC). There have been almost 400 launches of the Proton system since 1965.

Nine hours after launch, the Briz-M upper stage delivered the satellite to Geostationary Orbit.

Originally scheduled for launch last December, it was postponed due to an upper stage problem. Then, in June, an out of tolerance telemetry reading for a first stage sub-assembly eventually forced the vehicle off the pad and back to the processing hall for extensive testing.

Satellite Services (SESthe ) owns SES-5, which is equipped with 24 C-band transponders and 36 Ku-band transponders.

This 6,000 Kg communications satellite will be stationed at five degrees East, and provide Ku-band capacity for Africa and Nordic and Baltic countries. The C-band coverage is for Africa and the Middle East. It has an expected lifetime of 15 years.

SES-5, built by Space Systems/Loral, will also carry the first hosted L-band payload for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). The EGNOS payload, which was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC), will help verify, improve, and report on the reliability and accuracy of navigation positioning signals in Europe.

Hubble Space Telescope Sees Ancient Galaxy Cluster and Mysterious Object

Cluster
Galaxy Cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 and Mysterious Blue Arc
Image Credit: NASA / ESA /University of Florida, Gainsville / University of Missouri-Kansas City / UC Davis

In an article in The Astrophysical Journal, astronomers report a massive galaxy cluster 10 Billion light years away, the largest known at that distance, and a bright blue arc (gravitational lense?) perhaps 13 Billion light years away. The astronomers state that for that brightness and distance “…we expect to find no arcs over the entire sky as bright”. The abstract:

The galaxy cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508 at z = 1.75 is the most massive galaxy cluster yet discovered at z > 1.4 and the first cluster at this epoch for which the Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich effect has been observed. In this paper, we report on the discovery with Hubble Space Telescope imaging of a giant arc associated with this cluster. The curvature of the arc suggests that the lensing mass is nearly coincident with the brightest cluster galaxy, and the color is consistent with the arc being a star-forming galaxy. We compare the constraint on M 200 based upon strong lensing with Sunyaev-Zel’Dovich results, finding that the two are consistent if the redshift of the arc is z ~ 3. Finally, we explore the cosmological implications of this system, considering the likelihood of the existence of a strongly lensing galaxy cluster at this epoch in a ΛCDM universe. While the existence of the cluster itself can potentially be accommodated if one considers the entire volume covered at this redshift by all current high-redshift cluster surveys, the existence of this strongly lensed galaxy greatly exacerbates the long-standing giant arc problem. For standard ΛCDM structure formation and observed background field galaxy counts this lens system should not exist. Specifically, there should be no giant arcs in the entire sky as bright in F814W as the observed arc for clusters at z ≥ 1.75, and only ~0.3 as bright in F160W as the observed arc. If we relax the redshift constraint to consider all clusters at z ≥ 1.5, the expected number of giant arcs rises to ~15 in F160W, but the number of giant arcs of this brightness in F814W remains zero. These arc statistic results are independent of the mass of IDCS J1426.5+3508. We consider possible explanations for this discrepancy.

Soyuz TMA-03M Undocks and Returns to Earth.

Separation
Soyuz TMA-03 Undocking from the Mini Research Module (MRM-1)
Image Credit: NASA TV

The Russian Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft undocked from the Mini-Research Module at the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:48 PM Saturday night, while flying above China. This brought Expedition 31 to a close and inaugurated Expedition 32 under the command of Gennady Padalka. The other two crew members on ISS are Russian Sergey Revin, and American Joe Acaba.

The deorbit burn occurred at 12:19 AM Phoenix time Sunday. Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, and ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers, returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz Descent Module. The landing in Zhezkaghan took place at 1:14 AM Phoenix time (0814 UTC).

The remainder of the year is heavily booked with activity:

  • 15 July – launch (with 17 July docking) of the Soyuz TMA-05M/31S spacecraft, carrying three additional members of Expedition 32 – Russian Yuri Malenchenko, American Suni Williams, and Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide.
  • 21 July – the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3) spacecraft will launch to the ISS, for a rendezvous and berthing to the ISS
  • 22 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will undock from the Docking Compartment-1 (DC-1) module
  • 24 July – the Progress M-15M/47P spacecraft will perform a re-docking to the ISS to test a new Kurs-NA antenna.
  • 30 July – Progress M-15M will undock for the final time and reenter the atmosphere and burn up.
  • 1 August – Launch of Progress M-16M/48P, which will dock to the ISS just a few hours after launch to test a new fast-rendezvous profile.
  • 6 September – departure of the HTV-3 and burn up on reentry
  • 17 September – departure of Soyuz TMA-04M/30S with Gennady Padalka, Sergey Revin and Joe Acaba, marking the end of Expedition 32
  • 23 September – departure of Europe’s ATV-3 spacecraft
  • 5 October – Launch of the first Dragon flight under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract – known as SpX-1
  • 7 October – Docking of SpX-1

Glide Test for SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShip
SpaceShipTwo Glide Test
Image Credit: Virgin Galactic / Chris Van Pelt

This past week on 26 June, Virgin Galactic conducted the first glide test of SpaceShipTwo since completing a recent integration of rocket motor systems, as well as maintenance.

On the same day, RocketMotorTwo (RM2) completed a full 55 second test firing by Sierra Nevada Space Systems, the prime contractor for the engine. In addition, on 20 June, a full-scale RM2 test firing took place for the first time at Scaled Composites’ test site in Mojave, California, under full direction of the spaceship’s Rocket Motor Controller.

In May, Virgin Galactic received an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration for SpaceShipTwo and its carrier vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo. Since then, there have been seven test flights, and three full scale rocket motor firings.

Virgin Galactic expects to reach powered flight by the end of the year.

Chinese Crew Conducts Manual Docking With Tiangong-1

Manual Dock
Beginning of Manual Docking of Shenzhou-9 with Tiangong-1
Image Credit: CCTV

Chinese taikonauts completed another objective of their current mission aboard their spacecraft, Shenzhou-9, when they completed a manual docking maneuver with the orbital module Tiangong-1 around 0450 UTC Sunday (9:50 PM Saturday night Phoenix time).

Several hours prior to this, the crew set Tiangong-1 for independent flight in case an emergency was encountered. Then commander Jing Haipeng and the other two crew, Liu Wang and Liu Yang, entered the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, donned their flight suits and performed an automated undocking.

This was followed by backing away to 400 meters. The crew then closed to 140 meters and the two vehicles maintained their positions while the ground control evaluated the data. Approval was given for the manual approach controlled by Liu Wang. The spacecraft approached to within 30 meters for a short hold.

Finally closing at 0.4 meters per second, Shenzhou-9 completed the docking procedure.

With this objective completed, the taikonauts will continue their testing of the orbital module, and medical and physiological tests and exercises.

They are scheduled to return to Earth on Friday, 29 June.

Manual Dock
Final Moment Before the Manual Docking of Shenzhou-9 with Tiangong-1
Image Credit: CCTV

Andromeda and The Milky Way – Collision in 3, 2, 1…

…billion years.

Today
Looking From Our Milky Way toward the Andromeda Galaxy
Image Credit: NASA; ESA; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

With a small telescope, you can see the Andromeda Galaxy as a thin disk near the top of the image, and just off to the left side of the Milky Way, which stretches from top to bottom.

Thanks to the four refurbishing missions by the Space Shuttle, NASA has been able to gather extended data on the motion of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way. Based in this data, we now know how and when the two galaxies will collide.

Below, Andromeda and the Milky Way move closer, pass each other in a burst of star formation due to the tidal disruption, and eventually coalesce into an Elliptical Galaxy.

1.37 Billion
The Andromeda Galaxy Is Clearly Visible 1.37 Billion Years in the Future

2.06 Billion
2.06 Billion Years in the Future, Andromeda Dominates the Night Sky

3.49 Billion
3.49 Billion Years in the Future, Andromeda Dominates the Night Sky

3.78 Billion
Tidal Disruption Begins to Distort the Galaxies at 3.78 Billion Years

3.86 Billion
With Tidal Disruption Comes a Massive Outburst of Star Formation

3.98 Billion
Massive Distortion of Both Galaxies Occurs as They Pass Around 3.98 Billion Years

4.60 Billion
Star Formation has Begun on a Massive Scale 4.60 Billion Years

5.83 Billion
After Another Billion Years, Massive Stars Have Gone Nova

7.00 Billion
The Two Central Regions of the Galaxies Have Coalesced into an Elliptical Galaxy

Atlas V Launches NROL-38 Spy Satellite

Ascent
Atlas V 401 Ascends with the National Reconnaissance Office NROL-38 Satellite
Image Credit: ULA

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed a new spy satellite into orbit this morning. An Atlas V 401 left the Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 5:28 AM Phoenix time (1228 UTC) carrying the NROL-38 satellite. This is ULA’s 50th EELV launch and uses a Centaur upper stage to carry the satellite to Geosynchronous orbit.

The mission is classified, but some clues about the mission can be gathered from the rocket used and the notice to airmen (NOTAMS) issued for the launch. The Atlas V 401 means the spacecraft is relatively light, and the flight path was due East from the Cape, which indicates a low inclination orbit. The spacecraft is likely a Satellite Data System (SDS) communications satellite, destined for geostationary orbit.

Ignition
Ignition
Image Credit: ULA

liftoff
Liftoff
Image Credit: ULA

Ascent
Ascent
Image Credit: ULA

downrange
Downrange
Image Credit: ULA