Tag Archives: spacecraft animations

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.  😉


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Spacecraft Animations 4: Orbital Mechanics!

Several spacecraft have had really interesting trajectories, and explaining those is much easier with a little animated help.

Let’s start with the twin Voyagers, which were not the first to use gravity assist, but certainly the first to use it so extensively:

MESSENGER required 1 Earth flyby, 2 Venus flybys, and 3 Mercury flybys to step its heliocentric orbit down enough to slip into Mercury orbit with the available spacecraft engine:

Rosetta’s journey isn’t that complicated, but takes a lot longer — when it finally reaches its target it will have already been in space for 12 years.  Flyby of Earth, flyby of Mars, two more flybys of Earth, and then finally it was ready to go into the outer solar system and meet up with its cometary target; rendezvous is scheduled for next month.

Solar observing can call for some interesting orbits; here’s the twin STEREO probes, out in heliocentric orbit and gradually receding from Earth — in both directions, allowing study of the Sun over 360 degrees.

Going to Mars is usually a very straightforward matter of launching into the Hohmann Transfer Orbit, but that wasn’t an option for Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan); the PSLV just didn’t have enough power to launch something as large as that onto an escape trajectory.  So they had to get clever instead, using a series of burns after launch to pump their original parking orbit up to an Earth escape orbit that also happened to be a  Mars transfer orbit.

And we’ve all heard the fuss about ISEE-3 (which, by the way, has now successfully fired its engine! hooray!), so why was it such a big deal to try to talk to it *now*?  This orbit animation helps illustrate how much time it takes for it to come back around to Earth again, even though it’s actually pretty close (in cosmic terms) to our orbit.


This one, meanwhile, is pretty simple — just one gravity-assist.  But it’s going so far I figured it was worth including.  New Horizons, on its trip to Pluto.

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Spacecraft Animations 3: Gravity, then back to the Moon

I really don’t get tired of these.  😉  So here are some more!

The Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, a pair of identical spacecraft, deployed together, which measure tiny variations in their separation to probe the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision.  It’s a joint NASA/German Aerospace Center project.  GRACE is still in orbit today, but will likely decay from orbit in another year or so.

More recently, NASA sent a mission to do to the same thing at the Moon, called the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.  The twin GRAIL spacecraft were allowed to fall from orbit December 17, 2012.

And then there’s, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which launched together.  Keep watching after the rapid-fire version at the beginning; that’s just a sort of pre-titles teaser.  The full video follows, and it’s set to the most perfect music possible: The Blue Danube.

Last but not least, there’s the most recent mission to the Moon: the Chinese Chang’e 3, the first lunar lander since Lunokhod 2 in 1973.

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Spacecraft Animations 2: Juno!

I’ve got some more fun spacecraft CGI animations for you.  😉  These are from the Juno team, who appears to have gotten really excited about animations because they made a lot of them.  I’ll sort them by mission phase for you.  Enjoy!


Deployment of the massive solar arrays (the weird triangle on the end of one of them is a magnetometer):

Earth gravity assist flyby:

Spacecraft’s entire cruise trajectory:

Jupiter orbit insertion:

Juno’s orbits around Jupiter, weaving a sort of invisible web:

A broader look at Juno’s orbits around Jupiter:

The same basic thing, but from Juno’s viewpoint (blarg):

And deorbit at mission end:


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