Progress MS-04 lost on takeoff

Just days after the reentry of the latest Cygnus cargo vehicle, Russia has lost a Progress spacecraft.  Something went wrong during the third stage of the flight, and the vehicle broke up and reentered over the Tuva Republic of eastern Russia, just north of Mongolia.  Most of the vehicle is believed to have burned up in the upper atmosphere.  It will take time to determine exactly what happened, but initial indications suggest a premature separation of spacecraft and launch vehicle.

Progress was carrying 710 kg of propellant for Zvezda, 420 kg of water, 52 kg of oxygen, 315 kg of food, 115 kg of miscellaneous gear including medical and hygiene supplies, 83 kg of gear for the Russian segment’s toilet system, 67 kg of air purification hardware, an Orlan suit, cables, cameras, science experiements, and 87 kg of supplies for NASA (including equipment for the environmental control and water recycling systems).  All of that of course has now been lost.


Consumables on the station are within comfortable margins at present.  The next scheduled cargo flight is a Japanese HTV on Dec 9.

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China complete their Tianlian tracking and data relay satellite constellation

China has made no secret of their ambitions to have a world-class human spaceflight program, going beyond mere publicity stunts, and last week they completed one of the major elements for that: the fourth Tianlian tracking and data relay satellite.  These four geostationary commsats will cooperate to relay information from Chinese spacecraft to ground stations, allowing the same uninterrupted 24/7 high bandwidth communications that NASA has long enjoyed through its Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation.  (Russia, by contrast, has relied on ground stations.  This is less of a handicap than one might think, given Russia’s enormous land area — although it can’t give them 24 hour coverage, their ground station coverage obviously dwarfs anyone else’s.)

Tianlian I-04 launched aboard a Long March 3C on November 22 from Xichang Launch Center.

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Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner With a Drone

There really aren’t any words I can add that improve upon this video.  Just watch it.  ;-)  (But probably do not try this.)

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FANFIC FRIDAY: The Three-Edged Sword, Chapter 4

I’ve barely made it in time for Fanfic Friday, but in my defense, it’s Thanksgiving weekend here, and that means we’ve all been spending time with the relatives, getting some good quality time in.  ;-)  If you’re just joining the story now, I strongly recommend going back to Chapter 1 and working forward.

<< Back to Ch 1 . . . < Back to Ch 3 . . . Forward to Ch 5 (TBD)

A Babylon 5/Highlander crossover

“Understanding is a three-edged sword.”
-Kosh, Vorlon Ambassador to Babylon 5

CHAPTER FOUR: The Unforgivable Act

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!-
Why look’st thou so?’-With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

It was a quiet morning in MedLab, affording Dr. Franklin the opportunity to search the station records for Miranda. He didn’t find much; she wasn’t renting quarters and was probably living Downbelow. And that was odd, because she didn’t need to rent quarters; in the wake of the Korolev accident, the survivors had all been offered temporary free housing until they got back on their feet. Miranda hadn’t been one of the lucky few to have come off on a shuttle, and doubtless had lost most of her belongings in the mad dash to the lifepods.

Franklin considered what Carson and MacLeod had said last night. They had been unwilling to go into detail, but it was clear the woman was in some kind of trouble. He was reluctant to pry too much; if he found out about legal difficulties, it might be something he’d be obliged to report, so it was probably best not to find out in the first place. It was entirely possible, however, and indeed likely that Miranda knew someone would be looking for her. So perhaps she had refused the offer of free housing not because it was cramped and spartan but because it was traceable. So the simple searches wouldn’t work. He didn’t need to involve security, however. He’d ask his contacts in Downbelow. He ran periodic free clinics Downbelow and had developed a good rapport with some of the people there. They wouldn’t rat somebody out to security, but if he explained that he was concerned about a patient from the Korolev, no doubt someone would be willing to help.

A bell chimed, reminding Franklin that Garibaldi would be stopping by soon to see the autopsy results on Matthew Sorenson. Franklin closed down his search on Miranda and pulled up the autopsy notes for review. It wasn’t complicated. The man had been killed in a fairly straightforward fashion — someone had made a single deep cut into his abdomen, slicing neatly through muscles and organs. It was probably a blessing that the killer had also bisected the descending aorta. The rapid blood loss had probably rendered Sorenson unconscious in seconds.

It wasn’t a knife wound, though. It was all done so cleanly that it had to have been done by a weapon that was very sharp, very long, and probably heavy. That better described a sword than a knife. Franklin shook his head as he considered the implications of that. Humans almost never used swords in this day and age, but several of the alien races aboard the station did, most notably the Centauri and the Narn. If Sorenson had been killed by an alien, it wouldn’t sit well with the Human community.

Fortunately, Franklin wouldn’t have to deal directly with any of the fallout. That would be Garibaldi’s problem.

The door to MedLab slid smoothly open. “Well, well, well,” he said as he looked up. “I was just thinking about you.”

Continue reading

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Happy Thanksgiving! Even in space!

My family and I had a fabulous Thanksgiving with a lot of extended family and people we don’t get to see very often; it was truly delightful.  To all who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you all had a wonderful day as well!

250 miles above us all, the ISS crew also celebrated, sharing this American holiday with their international crewmates:


They had turkey, sweet potatoes, corn, and more.  Here’s hoping it tasted every bit as good as the stuff we here on the ground got to eat!  (And it might have; NASA’s food scientists are getting pretty creative these days.)

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Happy Birthday, Dear Doctor!

Today is the 53rd birthday of Doctor Who, one of the most amazing shows ever to grace our screens.  In honor of the occasion, the BBC has put together this remarkably complete video showcasing all of the Doctor’s regenerations:

Enjoy this nostalgic little trip down memory lane!

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Sneak peek of the Doctor Who Christmas special, 2016!

This sure looks intriguing!  The BBC ran it for “Children in Need”, and now I really can’t wait for Christmas!

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