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. 😉
Tag Archives: CCAS
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….
Delta IV pulled off another flawless launch from Cape Canaveral today, placing the Wideband Global SATCOM-9 satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. WGS-9 is a military commsat operated by the United States Air Force but jointly procured by five other nations: Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. This was not the first WGS satellite paid for by a foreign power; WGS-6 was contributed by Australia. And ground stations have been paid for partially by partner nations, who, again, receive bandwidth in proportion to their investment. USAF is moving towards launch of WGS-10 later this year, but that is expected to be the final element of the constellation, at least int the forseeable future.
This was the 35th flight of Delta IV, and the 108th successful Delta program launch in a row. This flew in the 5,4 configuration — 5 meter fairing, 4 solid rocket motors. Single-core Delta IV is expected to retire by the end of 2018, with only the Delta Heavy continuing on, alongside the Vulcan rocket that will be ULA’s next offering (intended to replace both Delta IV and Atlas V).
This morning, a Falcon 9 rocket roared into space from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A, the first commercial launch to lift off from this NASA launch facility. (Previous Florida launches of the Falcon 9 were from the neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Station, operated by the USAF.) Fittingly, this was still a NASA mission; the payload is the CRS-10 Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station. But the next flight won’t be; the next flight will deliver the EchoStar 23 commercial commsat to geosynchronous transfer orbit.
LC-39A was originally built to support launches of the gigantic Saturn V for the Apollo mission, and so everything is proportionately gigantic on this pad. Falcon 9 is the smallest rocket ever to fly from it, but later it is planned to support the massive Falcon Heavy, a triple-core variant that will be the most powerful rocket in the world when it flies, and that is the real reason for using this pad.
Today’s mission was completely successful, including the first daylight shore landing of a Falcon 9 first stage. That stage landed on the existing SpaceX landing pad at Cape Canaveral. And there’s some great footage. 😉
And here is spectacular drone photography of the landing:
An Atlas V in its base 401 configuration placed the SBIRS GEO 3 military early-warning satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit this evening:
Atlas V chalked up another successful mission today, blasting off from Cape Canaveral in the 431 configuration (4-meter fairing, 3 solid boosters, single-engine Centaur). The payload was EchoStar 19, a commercial commsat that will be operated by HughesNet to provide high speed satellite Internet service across North America. It’s unusual to see the highly reliable but expensive Atlas V flying a commercial mission; in this case, HughesNet selected the vehicle due to rapid availability. They are currently constrained from growing their service due to all of their existing spot-beams being at full capacity; EchoStar 19 will provide 160 more spot-beams, allowing them to grow beyond their current million customers. The spacecraft is expected to enter service in March, following on-orbit testing, and will join HughesNet’s two other spacecraft, EchoStar 17 and Spaceway 3.
At the age of 95, John Glenn has passed away.
You almost certainly know his name; John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, a hard-working and principled man who already had an impressive career before NASA selected him for its first astronaut class, the Mercury Seven. (The others were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepherd, and Deke Slayton.) He’d flown fighter aircraft in WWII and Korea, then after that set a record as the first person to fly across North America at an average velocity above the speed of sound, proving that the aircraft was strong enough to tolerate that. He wasn’t just fast; he was a damned good fighter pilot as well, earning a reputation for flying dangerously low (to improve shooting accuracy on ground targets, a decision which improved his kill rate but caused him to often return home with holes in his airplane, a fact which earned him the nickname “Magnet Ass” for all the literal flak he took) and for killing a lot of MiGs.
When Glenn was selected for NASA’s initial astronaut corps, he only barely met their requirements, just barely squeaking in under their upper age limit of 40. (It’s a little ironic he was the last of the Mercury Seven to pass, as he was also always the oldest of them.) He watched Alan Shepherd and then Gus Grissom fly on suborbital hops, boosted by the little Redstone rocket. And then, on February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the first manned flight aboard an Atlas rocket. (Atlas boosted four more Mercury capsules, and then retired from human spaceflight. Its much more modern descendent, the Atlas V, will return the line to crewed spaceflight in either 2017 or 2018 with the first flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner.) He remained active in the space program only through the Mercury program, resigning in 1964 to pursue a political career. It took a while to get there, but Glenn was as persistent in politics as he had been in everything else, and attained the Senate as a Democrat from Ohio in 1980. He served in this position until 1998, when he retired. The election to replace him was held while he was away from home in a very fundamental way — in 1998, he made his second spaceflight, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission, becoming the oldest person in space at the age of 77. After that, he retired, and enjoyed a long retirement — finally passing away at the age of 95.
With him, it feels as if an era has ended. While about half of the Vostok cosmonauts are still living (mostly because Soviet-era astronaut recruiting favored much younger candidates), the Mercury Seven have all passed. It falls upon us to remember them, and teach our children about them. They were trailblazers, and we must not let that trail grow cold.
John Glenn’s first launch, on Friendship 7:
And his second, on Discovery’s STS-95 mission:
And now, he’ll fly higher than anyone of us here on Earth can conceive. Godspeed, John Glenn. Godspeed.