Happy Doctor Who Day!

Fifty four years ago today, in a junkyard on Totter’s Lane, two schoolteachers worried about their young student wandered into a police box, and everything changed…..

So that makes today Doctor Who Day.  😉  Anniversary of the most extraordinary science fiction series ever recorded.  And in honor of that, Tom Baker has recorded a message:

(Yeah, I know in Britain it’s been over for a while now.  That’s the great thing about time zones — holidays get to last a bit longer!)

(Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving too!)

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The Penultimate Delta II: Launch of JPSS 1

The Delta II rocket was the main workhorse for NASA launches for a long time; now, after this launch, there is just one of them left on Earth.  (That last one left will fly next year, carrying ICESat-2.)  It has been a phenomenally successful rocket, with the highest launch-to-success rate of any launch vehicle ever flown, except Saturn V (which only flew a handful of times in any case).  This was the 155th Delta II, and the 99th consecutive successful flight; Delta II holds that record by a considerable margin, and if all goes well with the last mission next year, it will end its storied career with 100 consecutive successful missions.

JPSS-1, meanwhile, is the first of the Joint Polar Satellite System spacecraft.  Intended to replace the POES constellation, JPSS was born out of the NPOESS (National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System) program that would have shared polar-orbiting weather data responsibilities with the Department of Defense.  With that program dissolved, NASA/NOAA agreed to cover the afternoon orbit with JPSS, while the DoD would cover the morning orbit first with the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (their current and severely aging constellation) and then with the Defense Weather Satellite System.  DWSS was subsequently cancelled, and there remains no replacement for the aging DMSP; so NOAA has signed a deal with Eumetsat, where Eumetsat will cover the morning orbit.

JPSS-1 is flying into a critical role, as we have become intensely dependent upon accurate forecasting, and the massively successful Delta II was a perfect vehicle to place it into orbit.

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Launch, Launch, GRAY LAUNCH!

I’ve been offline due to a heavy workload at the office, but I have time to catch up a bit with launch videos!

On October 30, Koreasat 5A launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket out of Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A:

The next day, an Orbital ATK Minotaur C launched from Vandenberg AFB in California to place six SkySat satellites and four Doves into orbit.  Minotaur C represents the return to flight for Taurus, whose name was changed to Minotaur C to make a break from the bad luck that had plagued Taurus:

And then on November 5, a Long March 3B out of Xichang, China placed the next two Beidou spacecraft into orbit.  Beidou, when complete, will compete with the GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo constellations for satellite navigation.

On November 7 (in South America; it would’ve been November 8 in Europe), a Vega rocket from Arianespace placed the Mohammed VI-A observation satellite into orbit for the nation of Morocco, flying out of Kourou, French Guiana:

And lastly, after a one-day scrub due to an errant private airplane straying into the launch zone minutes before liftoff, the latest Cygnus cargo ship is on its way to the ISS.  Launched by an Orbital ATK Antares rocket out of Wallops Island, Virginia, this placed the OA-8 Cygnus “SS Gene Cernan” onto its path to intercept the ISS in a couple of days:

(PS. I’m from Minnesota.  So yes, it is Launch, Launch, Gray Launch.  And always will be.  😛 )

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Waiting for Series Eleven: introducing Team TARDIS!

The BBC has announced the new cast of regulars for Series 11.  There are three regulars being added, in addition to the new Doctor, but it’s not clear whether all of them will be traveling on board the TARDIS, 0r whether some will be homebodies like Danny, or Donna’s mother and grandfather, or Rose’s mother.  I’m calling them “team TARDIS” anyway for now.  😉

The new cast include Bradley Walsh as “Graham”, who will be joining Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor #13 on the TARDIS, Mandip Gill as Yasmin, and Tosin Cole as Ryan.  What role Yasmin and Ryan will play is currently unclear, but we’ll find out next year!  (Dang, that seems so far off still…..)

Left to right, their characters are Yasmin, Graham, the 13th Doctor, and Graham.

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NROL-52 flies on the fifth attempt

The Atlas V, performing flawlessly to place the classified NROL-52 payload into its unspecified orbit*, had a rare fifth launch attempt today.  This is the first time any Atlas V rocket has had to make this many attempts.  Of course, this one was launching from Florida, which is known for its fickle weather.  But fifth time was the charm, and the spacecraft is away!

 

*Spaceflight observers suspect that NROL-52 is a data relay satellite intended for geostationary orbit.  If they’re right, it will perform for the National Reconniassance Office a role similar to the civilian TDRS satellites operated by NASA, which allow continuous contact with spacecraft such as the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope, among others.

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Progress MS-07 flies on the second attempt

Last Thursday, the Soyuz rocket experienced a very rare abort when one of two umbilicals failed to separate at the appropriate time.  This cost the perfect geometry required to attempt a new two-orbit direct ascent approach, so they reset for Saturday, with the plan of reverting to the traditional two-day chase.  Today’s launch was carried out flawlessly, and Progress MS-07 is on its way to the ISS.

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Sentinel 5P launches aboard Rockot

ESA’s Sentinel 5P environmental monitoring satellite has been successfully launched by a Russian Rockot booster out of Plesetsk Cosmodrome.  The subarctic launch site is ideal for polar orbiting spacecraft, and Sentinel 5P will require a polar orbit in order to carry out its mission of monitoring pollutants over every major city on Earth.  Built in Great Britain with Dutch contributions (primarily instrumentation), it’s part of the Copernicus Program, an ambitious international project to provide real-time data on the status of the Earth’s atmosphere, waterways, ice sheets, and landmasses to all, free of charge.  The booster, meanwhile, is a decommissioned Soviet ICBM; arms limitation treaties mean Russia cannot keep the entire inventory, so they have been putting them to work as commercial launch vehicles.  The Rockot inventory is largely a set of ICBMs purchased as a block from the Russian government in the 1990s by a consortium of Khrunichev (which made the rockets originally) and DaimlerBenz; Daimler’s portion has since been bought out by Astrium (part owner of Arianespace).

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