Tag Archives: landing

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.

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Recontructing Philae’s Landing

Ever been on a plane that bounced a few times on landing?  Well, this is worse.  Philae bounced a *lot* on its touchdown, and now thanks to a new reconstruction of its descent by the European Space Agency, we can really appreciate how chaotic the landing was — and how amazingly lucky the final touchdown really was considering all that went on before it.  Landing on these tiny objects is a lot harder than it looks.

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Soyuz rocket up, Soyuz spacecraft down

I gotta admit, it’s fun to listen to the French countdown for this classic Russian rocket.  😉  It’s also fun watching the higher quality video produced by the Europeans who manage the launches from French Guiana.  Although the seeing is generally much worse in the tropical rainforest as compared to the dry Kazakh steppes, they definitely invest in better cameras at Kourou.  This rocket placed Galileo FM05 and Galileo FM06 into the correct orbits, adding to the Galileo navigation satellite constellation.

There is no rocketcam on this one, but they do include footage from a prior (daylight) Soyuz flight from Kourou.  It’s great fun!

And then later today, the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft landed successfully in Kazakhstan, returning Gennady Padalka, Andreas Mogensen, and Aidyn Aimbetov to the Earth.  The crew have all been extracted from the spacecraft and are in good health.

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X-37B is home! (UPDATED)

Update: video of today’s landing is now up!

The first X-37B spacecraft has returned from its second trip into space (third for the program, as there are two vehicles), which lasted a record-setting 675 days, the greatest duration for any reusable spacecraft.  It landed at Vandenberg AFB in Florida this morning.  This is expected to be its final landing in Florida; the Air Force has leased one of the old Space Shuttle bays at the Orbiter Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center to be its new home, and future landings are expected to take place on the Shuttle Landing Facility strip.  This will be a money-saving move to avoid having to ship it across the entire continent between flights.  X-37B is cheaper to move than Shuttle was, but it’s still a substantial expense.

Here’s the video of today’s landing:

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