Earlier this week, the first Soyuz MS completed the first leg of its maiden voyage, arriving at the ISS right on time and docking smoothly. The spacecraft’s enhancements include satellite communications to make use of the new Luch spacecraft communications constellation (an analog to NASA’s TDRSS), navigation via both GLONASS and GPS, a phased-array radar to reduce the number of antennas needed, and more efficient thrusters and power system. The second Soyuz MS, due to fly in September, will also take a lengthy rendezvous to enable comprehensive testing, but after that they should be able to return to the six-hour ascent profile.
The crew have joined the ISS Expedition 48 crew, and will remain on the station into Expedition 49, to return home in November.
The new season of Doctor Who is now less than two weeks away, and the Beeb is ramping up the publicity for it. The reviews are out now for the series premier, “The Magician’s Apprentice” (a part one of two, so expect a gut-wrenching cliffhanger in the middle), and while they are frustratingly short on details to avoid spoiling anything, they are all positive, and it seems we’re in for a serious roller coaster ride with this one! Note: all reviews are spoiler-free thanks to very strict embargos on specific details that the journalists had to agree to in order to see the episode:
Blogtor Who review
Doctor Who TV review
Den of Geek review
And here’s a fun video introduction to Series Nine:
I’ve posted other videos of the relative sizes of things (planets and stars) but here’s a new one. It’s the same vein as before, but a bit more atmospheric, and it’s from Roscomos, the Russian space agency. (Turn on captions, and some of the text will be translated into English.)
NASA astronaut Reid Weisman and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst donned the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) suits and ventured outside the station today to move some equipment around into proper long-term storage locations, repair part of the electrical system, and fix some cameras. The spacewalk was completely successful, which makes a welcome change from the last few EVAs, which were much more interesting than one would like. Ahead, NASA has a heavy schedule of additional EVAs planned to reconfigure the US segment in advance of the arrival of the CCtCap spacecraft, which will dock to the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 that was used so heavily by Shuttle, but with a new more versatile docking adapter that will be sent up in a couple of Dragons’ unpressurized trunks next year. Things are getting exciting in low Earth orbit again!
ESA has released a highlights reel of the docking sequence. It’s neat to see the thruster firings as the computer brings the spacecraft in.
This is ESA’s final ATV, their cargo vehicle to the ISS and one of only two spacecraft types capable of delivering propellant for Zvezda’s main engines. (The other, of course, is the Russian Progress.) As ATV is designed to duplicate this function, it also docks the same way Progress does — it docks to the aft port of Zvezda, with a Soyuz-style cone-and-drogue docking system, using the Kurs rendezvous system.
Tomorrow, Mars Express is set to make the closest flyby ever of the innermost moon of Mars, the doomed Phobos. Tiny, resembling a potato, and possibly either a captured asteroid or shrapnel from a massive impact on the Martian surface, Phobos is sinking about a centimeter per year, and already is so low that on the Martian surface you may see it rise twice in one day. Little is known of the tiny world, but tomorrow’s flyby will provide the best measurements yet of its mass, as Mars Express passes a mere 45 km from the surface. This is much too close for Mars Express to photograph the world, as it will be traveling so rapidly relative to the spacecraft that it would be just a blur, but scientists monitoring the signal from the spacecraft will be able to measure tiny shifts as the gravity of Phobos deflects the spacecraft ever so slightly, providing the opportunity for the most accurate estimate of its mass yet and even allowing them to probe the interior mass distribution.
The European Space Agency released this video, computer generated from radar models of Phobos and overlain with actual imagery, to mark the occasion:
ESA: Mars Express heading for daring flyby of Phobos
Bad Astronomy: A Fearful Rendezvous for Mars Express
SPACE.com: Mars Express to Fly Within ‘Touching Distance’ of Moon Phobos
The swan spreads its wings (so to speak) in this video of Antares’ first operational flight, the first Cygnus flight. Check out the awesome rocketcam footage during this video:
Earlier, in the wee hours of the morning, Cape Canaveral also hosted a launch: the Atlas V launch of AEHF-3 for the USAF. United Space Alliance has a short but sweet highlights video including rollout and a great soundtrack; since AEHF-3 isn’t a “black” project, they actually let you see the rocketcam footage of the spacecraft separating at the end.