Tag Archives: Atlas V

Cygnus will fly in 360 degrees tomorrow!

United Launch Alliance has earned a reputation for some impressive video production efforts post-launch, and tomorrow, in collaboration with NASA, they’ve decided to up their game.  The 360 launch videos they’ve posted before aren’t enough — this time, for the first time ever, they’re going to stream a launch live in 360.  (This will also be the first 360 video of an Atlas launch; ULA’s previous 360 videos featured Delta IVs, including a Delta IV Heavy.)  So grab your Oculus Rift or your smartphone cardboard VR goggle adapters or just a 360-compatible browser (psst — I use Opera) and tune in to NASA’s channel on YouTube tomorrow.  The stream will start around 11AM Eastern Daylight Time.

If you don’t know what a 360 video is, it’s a video that you can pan around in over a 360 degree range while it plays.  It’s pretty incredible, and makes it feel so much more alive!

If you want a taste of what it will be like, or if you just want to make sure your equipment will show it in 360, here are ULA’s past 360 videos.  If it’s working, it’ll look just like a normal video — except if you click and drag, you’ll move around.  If it’s not working, you’ll see it all warped and weird looking, and you should try a different browser or player.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Space updates: Soyuz MS-02 returns, John Glenn to fly again, Chinasat 16, and Cassini’s next step

I’ve been way busy the last few days, so I regret I have not posted as often as I’d like.  But I’ll start making up for that.  😉  First off, the landing of Soyuz MS-02 from the ISS!  The imagery is great; you even get to see the capsule venting hydrogen peroxide as it descends under parachute (at which point the thrusters are no longer useful, so they dump the propellant to make it safer on the ground).  This completes the Expedition 50 mission.  On board were Sergey Ryzhikov, Andrey Borisenko and Shane Kimbrough.  Two crew will launch on the next Soyuz, due to funding constraints at Roscosmos which has forced them to make the difficult decision to reduce their crew size.  On a positive note, the commander of Expedition 51, who took command upon this crew’s departure, is Peggy Whitson, and NASA has just decided to extend her mission by three months.  She currently holds the female spaceflight endurance record, and by the end of her extended mission, will also capture the American spaceflight endurance record.

Meanwhile, in Florida, crews are preparing the next Cygnus vehicle, named for astronaut John Glenn, to be launched aboard an Atlas V to the ISS.  This trip will carry experiments to create new targeted chemo drugs in microgravity for Oncolinx (an experiment which will consume a lot of crew time; it’s stuff that cannot be done anywhere else), a crystal growth experiment that goes beyond the basic science of previous experiments and aims to build new radiation detectors, a mini greenhouse (the most sophisticated sent to space to date) with wheat and Arabidopsis seeds, 34 Cubesats in the pressurized compartment (to be deployed later from Kibo), and 4 Cubesats to be deployed by Cygnus itself after departing the station.  Finally, there are two experiments to be carried after Cygnus has completed its primary mission — the third SAFIRE test to better understand fire in microgravity, and three small reentry bodies that will be ejected prior to Cygnus’ reentry, a process which they are expected to survive.  They will splash down in the ocean and sink, however, so they aren’t expected to be recovered.  Instead, they will be continuously transmitting temperature data via the Iridium constellation, allowing testing of new heat shield materials under real-world circumstances.  Note: launch was delayed from March to April 18 due to a launch vehicle technical issue which has been resolved.

And although Falcon 9 has taken a lot of business away from Chinese launch vehicles, they still have a solid lock on their burgeoning government program.  A Long March 3B blasted off from Xichang with the Shijan 13 (Chinasat 16) communications satellite on board.  This is the highest-bandwidth spacecraft that China has launched, and in addition to acting as a technology demonstrator for several projects (including ion propulsion and laser communications), it will provide high-bandwidth Internet service to airline, ship, and train passengers in and near China.

And lastly, on a bittersweet note, yesterday JPL uploaded the instructions for Cassini’s next Titan flyby.  In six days the Cassini spacecraft is moving towards a major milestone — the last flyby of Titan.  This flyby will be used as a gravity assist to move the spacecraft from its current ring-grazing phase to the final phase of the mission, called the Grand Finale.  It will fly closer to Saturn that anything ever has before, completing several orbits before impacting Saturn in September.  But it will return astonishing data that could not be captured any other way, including passes through the tenuous outer atmosphere of Saturn and through the D ring itself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Spacecraft Animation: CST-100 Dreamliner!

It’s been a while since I’ve had the joy of posting a spacecraft animation, and today I get to share one that’s very special to me — animation of a complete CST-100 mission.  It’s not yet available anywhere I can just link it, but SpaceflightNow has posted it to their website.  And alas, it doesn’t have sound yet.  But it sure looks pretty.  😉

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/04/04/animation-the-flight-of-a-boeing-starliner-capsule-from-launch-to-landing/

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Cape Canaveral’s got a brand new zipline!

Cape Canaveral has a brand new zipline!  But alas, it is not available to tourists.  Not unless you’re a really, really, really rich tourist and have managed to book a ride on a CST-100 Starliner!

One of the requirements for a man-rated launch vehicle is some way to quickly escape the vehicle in case it’s about to go kablooie.  Mercury and Gemini had no escape system, other than the vehicle’s own launch abort system (which in the case of Gemini, consisted of ejection seats that were believed to be nearly 100% certain to be fatal if used on the pad, due to the sidewise orientation of the vehicle before launch), other than riding the elevator back down and hoping really really hard.  The first pad escape system that would save crews not yet in the vehicle or allow crews to safely egress during an abort was a super-fast elevator on the Saturn V launch umbilical tower that delivered the crews to a blockhouse under the pad, where they could survive for some time, long enough anyway for whatever was going on above to burn itself out and the fumes to dissipate.  On Shuttle, things got a little spunkier, with the addition of the slidewire baskets that would let crews slide rapidly to safety — which would consist of several armored transports  parked nearby, which they’d jump into and drive away as quickly as possible.

The slidewires were deemed more effective (and more reliable, being powered entirely by gravity) than the Apollo elevator, and so it is perhaps no surprise that ULA, in building a system to meet Boeing and NASA’s specifications, is opting for a wire again.  Only instead of a set of baskets that can carry several crew apiece, this one is a zipline with a couple dozen single-person seats, enough to evacuate the crew and ground support personnel, and because they are individual, you just jump in it and go — you don’t have to wait.

But I gotta admit, part of me really likes the fact that this system isn’t being built by some stodgy old defense contractor, like most of the system.  No, this one’s being built by a company that specializes in ziplines — Terra-Nova LLC.  And it’s pretty much exactly the same system they build for tourist use at locations around the world.  They’ve got extensive experience; from their perspective, this was actually a very small job….

Wheeeeeeeeee!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Atlas V successfully delivers NROL-79

Atlas V has put another notch in their impressive belt of successful missions.  It’s not a cheap rocket, but it is certainly reliable.  It’s an interesting launch to watch; the rocket seems to practically crawl out of Vandenberg.  This is the lightest variant of Atlas V, and from the performance I’d guess the payload/orbit is right at the limits of its capacity without boosters.  Makes it kind of fun to watch.  😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

Atlas V has a costumed mascot now

Good gracious.  I’m not sure whether this is amazingly awesome or totally ridiculous, or maybe a bit of both.  They seriously have a costumed Atlas V mascot now.  I kinda want to hug him.

Feb 28,2017. Vandenberg AFB CA. ULA's mascot Rockey greets guest visiting guest at the Atlas 5 launch pad Tuesday. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:50 a.m. local time (12:50 p.m. EST; 1750 GMT) Wednesday to deploy a National Reconnaissance Office satellite payload known as NROL-79.  Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

Feb 28,2017. Vandenberg AFB CA. ULA’s mascot Rockey greets guest visiting guest at the Atlas 5 launch pad Tuesday. A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:50 a.m. local time (12:50 p.m. EST; 1750 GMT) Wednesday to deploy a National Reconnaissance Office satellite payload known as NROL-79.
Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

Also, Atlas V is going to liftoff from Vandenberg AFB in California tomorrow morning at 9:50AM local time with a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.  It will be flying in its lightest configuration, and making a “coast hugging” path to the south (based on where the NOTAMs have been issued), although the final orbit is of course not disclosed.

Here’s ULA’s preview of the mission, using stock footage of prior launches and CGI animation:

Leave a comment

Filed under Space

WorldView 4, as seen by WorldView 2

DigitalGlobe, provider of the most detailed satellite imagery available on the commercial market, has completed on-orbit checkout and commissioning of their latest bird: WorldView 4.  WorldView 4 is a twin to WorldView 3, offering an unprecedented 1-foot resolution with its 3.6 foot aperture main telescope.  But since WorldView 3 is completely booked by the US military, WorldView 4 opens up this capability to the public.  In fact, it began acquiring images for paying customers on February 1, so this capability is already very real.

To commemorate the occasion, DigitalGlobe released this spectacular image, shot by WorldView 2, of SLC-3 at Vandenberg AFB right as the Atlas V rocket climbed away with WorldView 4 on board:

wv4-launch

Beautiful.  😉

Leave a comment

Filed under Space