Tag Archives: Vega

Space news catchup! Vega, Blue Origin, GOES-16’s lightning mapper, and more!

It’s been really busy lately, so I haven’t has as much time to post as I’d like.  So today I will make up for it with a bunch of space news updates!

First off, a rocket launch is always fun.  Arianespace’s Vega launcher placed the Sentinel 2B environmental monitoring satellite into orbit from Kourou, French Guiana:

Meanwhile, GOES-16 continues its commissioning phase.  As part of that, it has returned its first view of lightning from 22,000 miles away, a demonstration of its incredible capacity at this range.  The green lines represent the coast of Texas.  The lightning is all in real time, and is overlaid over an image taken at the same time by GOES-16’s revolutionary Advanced Baseline Imager.

This full-disk image was created from data from the same instrument, and shows total lightning energy recorded over a one-hour period (an hour which included the image above; that really bright spot in this image is the same storm system over Texas):

And then let’s go back to rockets!  Blue Origin unveiled their New Glenn rocket today with an animation depicting its flight profile.  It is definitely similar to the strategy SpaceX is using, but one difference is that the engine, BE-4, will also by flying on another rocket, ULA’s Vulcan.  Another difference is the strakes.  It looks quite lovely, and I hope we’ll get to see it fly soon.  They do already have a customer for it: the first flight customer will be Eutelsat.

And then, how about some good news on the political front?  Cutting NASA has long been a bipartisan pasttime, but the tides seem to be changing.  A strong bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives voted to pass the NASA Authorization Bill, the first time they’ve managed to do so despite annual attempts in the past six years.  (NASA has been operating under continuing resolutions instead.)  This bill budgets $19.5 billion for NASA in 2017.  Of course, now we have to see what actually gets appropriated; that’s a separate battle, and will start with the White House federal budget request.  So cross your fingers, space geeks!

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Successful launch of Göktürk-1A for Turkey on Vega

It’s been busy, so I missed posting this yesterday.  😉  This launch used Arianespace’s lightweight launcher, the all-solid-propellant Vega:

 

Meanwhile, India is presently in the final stages of PSLV launch preparations; I hope to post a successful launch video for them as well sometime tomorrow.  (If all goes well, that rocket will fly in just over an hour from now.)

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LISA gets dressed for a date with destiny

This is a pretty cool time-lapse video.  From ESA, this video is a time-lapse of the process of taking the LISA Pathfinder probe, encapsulating it, mating it to the Vega rocket, and finally launching.  It’s a glimpse at just a small portion of the work needed to get this spacecraft into orbit, but it’s a look we don’t often get to see except in a handful of stills.  It’s beautiful!

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LISA Flies, Cygnus Waits, and Hayabusa 2 Waves

The Atlas V launch of the OA-4 Cygnus flight was scrubbed due to bad weather at the Cape — mostly rain and fog at the launch site.  They will try again tomorrow, but there is only a 30% chance of favorable weather.  The forecast remains gloomy for several days, after which they start running into conflicts with ISS scheduling as there are other vehicles scheduled to visit the ISS this months.  Cross your fingers!

But the Vega launch of LISA Pathfinder was a complete success!  The technology demonstrator for the upcoming multinational LISA gravity probe mission is on its way to L1.

And last of all, the Japanese Hayabusa 2 probe visited Earth today, zipping on past to tweak its course to asteroid 162173 Ryugu.  This is a follow-on from the partially successful Hayabusa probe, which performed the first sample return from an asteroid, but incorporating lessons learned from that spacecraft, so this one should perform even better.  Here’s an animation of the flyby:

And here’s a view of Earth and Moon taken by Hayabusa 2 while on a approach a few days ago:

earthmoon-hayabusa2

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LISA Is Go!

After additional analysis of the Vega fourth stage, ESA and Arianespace engineers have decided to press ahead with the launch attempt!  LISA Pathfinder’s Vega rocket is sitting on the pad at Kourou, and if all continues to go well, will blast off in about two and a half hours.  You can watch it live on Spaceflight Now’s livestream feed.  Click here for their mission status page, which includes both the embedded livestream and live text updates, useful for slower connections).

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LISA Pathfinder delayed one day; Cygnus ready to fly

The ESA/NASA collaboration called LISA (Laser Inferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder that has waited years to fly is going to have to wait one more day.  It’s sitting on a Vega rocket in Kourou, French Guiana, but launch today has been waved off due to concerns about the performance of the rocket’s upper stage in the remote environment in which it will be expected to operate.  This is the first Vega mission to go beyond Earth orbit, as LISA Pathfinder’s target is the Sun-Earth L1 point, and the Italian-built and Ukrainian-powered fourth stage is untested in that regime; there are some thermal concerns that will be analyzed.  If it gets the go-ahead, the next launch opportunity is tomorrow evening at 10:04 PM CST (or Thursday morning at 1:04 AM local time).  LISA Pathfinder was built by Airbus Defense and Space in Stevenage, UK and will be operated by the European Space Agency.

Whether that flies or not, the next scheduled launch is set for Thursday evening between 5:55 and 6:25 PM EST from Cape Canaveral Air Station: an Atlas V bearing the OA-4 Cygnus capsule bound for the International Space Station.  It will be Atlas’ first ISS-bound flight.  Orbital Sciences has bought two Atlas Vs, so the next Cygnus will also ride up on one.  After that, Atlas will continue serving the ISS by lifting the CST-100 Starliners.  I have seen no word yet as to the name of this Cygnus spacecraft; so far, Orbital has named each spacecraft for an astronaut.  The last one was named “Deke Slayton”, and changed to “Deke Slayton I” after the accident, so I suspect this one might go up as “Deke Slayton II”.  But we’ll have to wait and see.  😉

Photo 8

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Busy launch week: Vega, Soyuz and Long March, with Falcon 9 on deck

Well, this is shaping up to be a busy week for rocketry!

First, on Tuesday, the fifth Vega rocket from Arianespace blasted off from Kourou in French Guiana, placing ESA’s Sentinel 2a Earth observation satellite into orbit.  The spacecraft is designed to monitor optically in conjunction with Sentinel 1a, which monitors via radar, and the data will be made publicly available for the benefit of agriculture, civil planning, environmental studies, and so forth.

Later the same day, Russia launched its latest Persona-1/Kvant reconnaissance satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz 2-1B rocket.  It’s probably a photoreconnaissance satellite, but of course very little has been acknowledged about the vehicle or its mission.  Note: I’m not sure where the audio for this video came from; it may just be generic

And today China unexpectedly launched Gaofen-8, the last in a series of high-resolution (“gao fen” means “high resolution”) Earth observing satellites for the China National Space Administration.  I don’t yet have a video of this launch from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Next on deck is Falcon 9, set to deliver the CRS7 Dragon flight to the ISS.  Liftoff is presently set for Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Station, weather permitting, and will include a flyback booster landing test.

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