Now in its second survey orbit, Dawn has taken pictures of the bright spots with a faster shutter speed. It’s really too short an exposure for dim Ceres, but the hope was to get a better look at the bright spot. Unfortunately, it’s STILL too bright to make out details! So the mystery remains.
The CRS-7 Dragon launch aboard Falcon 9 ended in catastrophic failure today. This is the first failure in the Falcon 9 program, and will of course ground the rocket for at least a few months while the investigation is carried out. The rocket was lost at about two and a half minutes into the flight. SpaceX later disclosed (via Elon Musk’s Twitter account) that there was an overpressure in the second stage oxygen tank; as the problem appears to start high up on the rocket before it disintegrates, this seems likely to have something to do with the failure, though it may not be the actual root cause. As it happened prior to staging, there was no first stage landing attempt; the first stage was destroyed along with the rest of the vehicle.
I have yet to watch the post-launch press conference, but in case you want to now, here it is (I will be watching it later):
A great deal of hardware was of course lost on this flight, including a student experiment that was being reflown following the loss of the last Cygnus vehicle, and the first of two International Docking Adapters, critical for the commercial crew program which will be parking at them in a couple of years (and which no other spacecraft presently can carry). Furthermore, this follows on the heels of a Progress failure unique in the history of the vehicle and does put the station at a disadvantage in terms of supplies; fortuitously, the station is currently at a reduced headcount to support the yearlong mission, so the supplies will stretch further. Presently, consumables are comfortably adequate through October, and there is a large Japanese cargo vessel, the HTV, scheduled to fly in August, so they should be okay. But it’s a blow to science research, and to commercial crew preparations as well as the overall Falcon 9 program.
This is nuts and adorable. ;-)
And DANGIT, but I am getting anxious for the series to start up!
Well, this is shaping up to be a busy week for rocketry!
First, on Tuesday, the fifth Vega rocket from Arianespace blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana, placing ESA’s Sentinel 2a Earth observation satellite into orbit. The spacecraft is designed to monitor optically in conjunction with Sentinel 1a, which monitors via radar, and the data will be made publicly available for the benefit of agriculture, civil planning, environmental studies, and so forth.
Later the same day, Russia launched its latest Persona-1/Kvant reconnaissance satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz 2-1B rocket. It’s probably a photoreconnaissance satellite, but of course very little has been acknowledged about the vehicle or its mission. Note: I’m not sure where the audio for this video came from; it may just be generic
And today China unexpectedly launched Gaofen-8, the last in a series of high-resolution (“gao fen” means “high resolution”) Earth observing satellites for the China National Space Administration. I don’t yet have a video of this launch from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
Next on deck is Falcon 9, set to deliver the CRS7 Dragon flight to the ISS. Liftoff is presently set for Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Station, weather permitting, and will include a flyback booster landing test.
He’s been in so many things, but he’ll always be John Steed in my mind. An impeccable performance. He’s just passed away, at the ripe old age of 93. I don’t know what to say, so I’ll just link to Io9’s wonderful tribute, and then leave you with this, the magnificent credit sequences from Diana Rigg’s (Emma Peel) time on the series:
…or at least the most distant one. New Horizons is screaming towards Pluto, aiming for a very rapid flyby in just a few weeks. To whet our appetites, NASA has given us this:
I can hardly wait. ;-)