Tag Archives: ISS

ISS Status Update: Cargo Craft Coming and Going

The ISS is going into another busy period with upcoming cargo ship movements.  First off, the latest Cygnus spacecraft, SS Gene Cernan, was unberthed and released to fly on its own.  SS Gene Cernan now moves into the second part of its mission: deploying nanosatellites, conducting another fire test (Saffire-III, the third and final in the series), and then deorbiting itself safely over the ocean.

The next bit of news is SpaceX preparing for their next flight to the ISS.  This will mark the return to flight of LC-40, the Cape Canaveral launchpad that was badly damaged in a Falcon 9/Dragon mishap last year.  Liftoff is currently scheduled for December 12, and their traditional pre-flight test fire was conducted yesterday, reinaugurating LC-40’s flame trench (skip ahead two minutes for the fire):

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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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The next crew is on its way to the ISS!

Soyuz MS-06 launched today!  And actually, by the time I’m writing this, they’re at the ISS, docked and preparing to board.  Here’s the spectacular nighttime launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome:

On board are Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba.  They are expected to stay in space until late February.

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Peggy Whitson has set a new record!

With the return of Soyuz MS-04, Peggy Whitson has established a new record — at 665 days, the most cumulative spaceflight hours for any woman on Earth, and also for any American.  Globally, she stands at #8 for cumulative spaceflight time.  She is also the only woman to have commanded the ISS twice, and also holds the female record for number of EVAs (ten, with a cumulative time of 60 hours, 21 minutes — there are only two men ahead of her in the overall records, Anatoly Solovyev and Michael Lopez-Alegria, with the caveat that record-holder Solovyev’s 16 EVAs does include two internal spacewalks aboard Mir).

Whitson returned in good health, as did her two crewmates, Soyuz commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Jack Fischer.  There’s gorgeous video of the final descent:

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The Eclipse – From SPACE!

The eclipse wasn’t just visible here on Earth — it was visible from above it as well!  Sometimes the view looked rather familiar, as here, from the ISS (shot by astronaut Randy Bresnik).  Why so familiar?  Well, the ISS isn’t actually that much higher than where we are on the ground.  Just 250 or so miles closer to a Moon that is a quarter of a million miles away.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory also got a view from its sun-synchronous orbit.  It’s view is a little bit different, because it actually orbits well above to geosynchronous altitude, and sometimes sees very different solar eclipses compared to what we see — from its perspective, the Moon can appear much smaller or much larger, depending on the specific orbital circumstances at the time of the eclipse.  Most of the eclipses seen by SDO are not visible at all from Earth.

But the coolest images of the eclipse from space are, in my opinion, those of the Earth.  From this perspective, what we see as a total solar eclipse is more like a lunar eclipse, because here you’re not seeing the Sun eclipsed.  Instead, you’re seeing the Moon’s shadow passing over the Earth.  Here it is, looking quite ominous in some clouds as seen by the ISS:

This one looks less ominous as it’s less zoomed in, but it has better context as you can see part of the ISS’s solar arrays, radiators, the tanks on the Quest airlock, the Rassvet module, and the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft which delivered the most recent ISS crewmates: Sergey Ryazanskiy, Randy Bresnik, and Paolo Nespoli.

And of course lastly, there’s the ultimate solar-eclipse-from-space view, courtesy of the DSCOVR spacecraft.  DSCOVR sits at the Sun-Earth L1 point, which means it gets an uninterrupted view of the Earth’s sunlit hemisphere at all times.  DSCOVR’s EPIC instrument takes full-color full-disk images every two hours and transmits them back to Earth.  This allows it to observe the full path of every total solar eclipse — and yes, it really does track the same way as the animations did.  You may notice, however, that the shadow is much messier than the computer animations you may have seen before the eclipse; the Moon has both a penumbra and an umbra, and that makes it fuzzy.  Only in the umbra (the darkest, tiny core of the shadow) do you experience totality.

All images are from NASA’s eclipse image collection, which you should really check out — it’s got more cool images that are well worth seeing!

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CRS-12 successfully launched!

A Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered the CRS-12 Dragon capsule to Earth orbit today, complete with a successful return of the first stage to Cape Canaveral.  It carries 3642 lbs. / 1652 kg of cargo in its pressurized compartment, and the 2773.4 lbs. / 1258 kg CREAM experiment package in the unpressurized “trunk” section.  (At around 10:27 of the following video, you can start to see CREAM in Dragon’s back section, complete with RMS grapple fixtures that will be used to extract it from the trunk later on.)  CREAM, Cosmic-Ray Energetics And Mass, has been flown from stratospheric balloons already; mounting it on the JEM Exposed Facility will give it the opportunity to make far more measurements over a long period of time.  Of more immediate practical return are the experiments in the pressurized compartment, including a crystal growth experiment funded partly by the Michael J Fox foundation to study Parkinson’s Disease, a commercial microsatellite to be deployed later, and an experiment that will grow human lung cell tissue scaffolds to be used in pharmaceutical and biological research.

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Soyuz MS-05 launches to the International Space Station

The latest crew has arrived at the ISS!  The international crew (Russian, American, and Italian) launched from Baikonur into a rapid ascent profile that allowed them to dock just a few orbits later.

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