Archive for the ‘Soyuz’ Category

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

The United States federal government remains partial shutdown as it has been since mid-December. This is far more than a story about NASA, of course. But since this is a space blog, here is an article from the Orlando Sentinel about how the current situation is affecting some NASA contractors in Florida.

NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation Center in West Virginia has been renamed for Katherine Johnson, a native of the state.

Nancy Grace Roman, who served as NASA’s chief of astronomy in the 1970’s and is credited with ensuring the Hubble Space Telescope project moved forward, has died at 93 years of age.

The Dragon capsule for “Demo Mission 1” was rolled out to the launch pad in Florida. This test mission will be in preparation for the first flight with astronauts onboard.

NASA had to postpone a visit by the head of Roscosmos (Russia’s space agency) due to political pressure.

In Orbit

It’s been a tough time for space telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 is currently inactive due to a malfunction. Also, Russia’s Spektr-R telescope is reportedly out of communication.

There were 10 orbital rocket launches since my last post on December 16th:

On the ISS, things have been busy with the usual ebb and flow of operations. On December 19th, the three person crew of Alex Gerst, Serena Aunon-Chancellor, and Sergey Propokyev returned to Earth in their Soyuz capsule.

Meanwhile, the remaining ISS crew was busy organizing supplies and conducting science delivered on the latest Dragon capsule. The capsule, designated Dragon-16, returned to Earth on Sunday, January 13th, splashing down for recovery in the Pacific Ocean.

Around the Solar System

NASA’s New Horizons probe – famous for its flyby of Pluto in 2015 – successfully imaged a distant Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, or Ultima Thule. This flyby was many years in the making, even though the object was discovered well after New Horizons launched in 2006.

China successfully landed their second lunar rover, Yutu 2, part of the Chang’e 4 mission, on the far side of the moon.

Weekly Links

It’s been a busy and important few weeks in spaceflight. Some major milestones linked below.

Down to Earth

NASA announced nine recipients in the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

Virgin Galactic completed a successful powered flight of SpaceShipTwo, reaching over 80 km altitude (note that some organizations define space at 80 km while others define it at 100 km).

In Orbit

Among the launches listed below, the most significant is probably the Soyuz launch from Kazakhstan, which was a return to flight for the ISS program. Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques launched safely and docked to the ISS.

Meanwhile, the crew from the failed launch in October has been reassigned to a future flight.

There have been 9 orbital launches since my last post on November 25:

  • November 29 – An Indian PSLV rocket launched carrying an Earth observing satellite.
  • November 30 – A Russian Rokot rocket carrying communications satellites.
  • December 3 – A Russian Soyuz rocket launched with three crew headed for the ISS.
  • December 3 – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from California delivered a plethora of payloads.
  • December 4 – An ESA Ariane 5 rocket launched carrying satellites for India and South Korea.
  • December 5 – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched carrying a resupply flight for the ISS.
  • December 7 – A Chinese Long March 2D rocket launched carrying payloads for Saudi Arabia.
  • December 7 – A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched carrying the Chang’e 4 mission to the moon.
  • December 16 – A Rocket Lab Electron rocket launched from New Zealand carrying a number of cubesats.

The first stage booster for the Falcon 9 rocket launch on December 5th had to abort its return to launch site landing and ditch in the ocean.

Meanwhile, the Dragon capsule successfully arrived at ISS.

The two Russian cosmonauts currently aboard the ISS conducted a lengthy spacewalk last week to inspect their Soyuz capsule from the outside.

Around the Solar System

NASA’s latest Mars lander, Insight, successfully touched down on the Martian surface last month and has already begun operations. Below is a picture from the lander.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex is now station keeping near asteroid Bennu. The probe has already discovered water-bearing minerals in the asteroid.

Voyager 2 has passed through the heliopause and into interstellar space.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

A major election took place in the USA this month, with implications for the future of NASA and space exploration, among many other policy concerns. Here is a brief summary from The Planetary Society of some of the impacts to members of congressional space and science committees.

The ISS was prominent in pop culture this last week. Check out the short Macy’s ad below and then the longer sketch scene from SNL.

In Orbit

Seven orbital launches since my last post on November 4th. With 92 successful launches as of today, 2018 is poised to have the most launches in a year since the early 1990s.

  • November 7 – An ESA Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana carrying a weather satellite.
  • November 11 – New Zealand’s Rocket Lab launched an Electron rocket carrying their first commercial payloads.
  • November 14 – An Indian GSLV rocket launched carrying a communications satellite.
  • November 15 – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from California carrying a communication satellite for Qatar.
  • November 16 – A Russian Soyuz-FG rocket launched from Kazakhstan carrying a Progress resupply flight for the ISS.
  • November 17 – A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launched a Cyngus spacecraft on its way to the ISS.
  • November 18 – A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched carrying two Beidou navigation satellites.

The Progress robotic resupply reached the ISS and successfully docked on Sunday.

An HTV cargo vehicle departed the ISS carrying trash, but also a small return capsule. The return capsule was an experimental new way to return science from the ISS, and was retrieved successfully at sea.

Around the Solar System

Check out this new imagery of asteroid Bennu from the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

Microsoft co-founder and commercial spaceflight pioneer Paul Allen died last week.

Rocket Lab has decided it will operate a launch site from Wallops Island, Virginia.

In Orbit

There have been 9 successful orbital launches since my last post on October 14th:

A private Chinese rocket startup, LandSpace, failed to put a satellite in orbit on the first launch of their ZhuQue-1 rocket.

Roscosmos completed the accident investigation of the Soyuz abort last month and released the below onboard camera footage. The first crewed return to flight since the accident is expected in December.

Both the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have been recovered from safe mode.

In other space telescope news, NASA announced that Kepler will cease operations.

NASA released photographs from the Soyuz flyaround following the most recent crew undocking in October. This was the first detailed flyaround and photographic survey of the ISS since the end of the Shuttle program.

ISS on October 4th, 2018

Around the Solar System

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and ceased communications.

Check out this amazing GIF of asteroid Bennu from the Osiris-Rex spacecraft. This is an early look at an unexplored world.

And here’s a cool video from Hayabusa-2 of a touchdown rehearsal on asteroid Ryugu.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

The big news this week was the aborted ascent of Soyuz MS-10, planned to take Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin to the International Space Station. The abort occurred 2 minutes into the flight, at about the time that the first stage boosters separated from the core stage. The crew survived via the successful activation of the abort system and they were rescued after a safe landing downrange in Kazakhstan. NASA and Roscosmos will be investigating the incident in order to safely return to flight. In the meantime, three crew members of the Expedition 57 mission remain safely aboard the ISS.

Former space shuttle astronaut Rick Searfoss died last week at 62.

The US Mint has announced the design for an Apollo 11 commemorative coin.

The new Neil Armstrong biopic First Man was released this weekend, to largely positive reviews.

The US Air Force announced major funding contracts for three rocket companies to develop new boosters: Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin.

In Orbit

The only orbital launch since my last post a week ago was a Chinese Long March 2C carrying two reconnaissance satellites.

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is now also in safe mode, following an anomaly last week. Hubble, which went into safe mode on October 5th, is yet to resume scientific observations.

Around the Solar System

A new study finds that there are likely blades of ice – or penitentes – around the equator of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

JAXA has delayed sample return operations at asteroid Ryugu with the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, citing a need to study the terrain further.

Out There

Astronomers have discovered a star in our galaxy with almost no “metal” content (meaning elements other than hydrogen and helium). This likely means the star is from the very first age of the universe.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

NASA’s Marshall SpaceFlight Center has a new Director, Jody Singer.

Members of the Jet Propulsion Lab’s media relations team have won an Emmy Award for coverage of the Cassini mission.

Holly Ridings has been named the new chief of the Flight Director office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Veteran NASA astronaut Tim Kopra has left the agency. He flew to space twice, once serving as ISS commander.

SpaceX has announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has paid to be a passenger on a test flight around the moon.

In Orbit

The following orbital launches have occurred since my last post.

  • September 10 – SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida carrying a Canadian communications satellite.
  • September 15 – ULA launched a Delta II rocket from California carrying several research payloads.
  • September 16 – India launched a PSLV rocket carrying two Earth-observation satellites.
  • September 19 – China launched a Long March 3B rocket carrying two Beidou navigation satellites.
  • September 22 – Japan launched an H-II rocket carrying an HTV cargo freighter bound for the ISS.
  • September 25 – ESA launched an Ariane 5 rocket carrying two communications satelites.
  • September 29 – China launched a Kuaizhou rocket carrying a small technology demonstration payload.
  • October 8 – SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from California carrying an Argentinian Earth-observation satellite.

The HTV-7 cargo vehicle was captured and berthed to the ISS several days after it launched.

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying the returning ISS Expedition 56 crew has landed safely in Kazakhstan. Now that Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev are home, the next Soyuz is readying for launch. The Expedition 57 crew of Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin are preparing to launch on Thursday, October 11, which will brin ghte ISS crew back up to 5 people.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has entered safe mode due to a failed gyroscope.

Around the Solar System

Still no news from beleaguered Opportunity rover, on the surface of Mars. It has been 4 months.

And now on the other side of Mars, the Curiosity rover is having issues of its own. JPL engineers are troubleshooting an interruption in science data from the larger rover.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully deployed 2 small rovers from the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft onto the surface of asteroid Ryugu.

Out There

Astronomers have detected the first evidence of an exomoon (or moon around a planet around another star) using data from the Kepler and Hubble space telescopes. The planetary system is 8,000 lightyears distant.

A bit of fun exoplanet news: astronomers have discovered a planet in orbit around 40 Eridani A, which is the star system of the fictional planet Vulcan from Star Trek.

And lastly in the busy period of astronomy news, a new dwarf planet has been discovered beyond Pluto.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

Exos Aerospace successfully launched their first suborbital rocket in New Mexico.

One of the astronaut candidates from NASA’s class of 2017 has resigned before completing his training for personal reasons.

There are some interesting new space books out that may be worth reading (note, these are all on my list but I have yet to read them):

Early reviews of the new Neil Armstrong film are coming in and they are widely positive.

Firefly Space Systems, which had previously furloughed its entire staff, is now back with 140 employees working on rockets.

In Orbit

There were no orbital rocket launches in the last week. The major excitement was onboard the ISS when flight controllers identified a very slow but unexpected cabin atmosphere leak that required teamwork between the ISS crew and ground teams to pinpoint. The astronauts used well practice procedures and tools to find a small hole in one of the Soyuz return capsules that appeared to be the culprit and patched it.

Around the Solar System

NASA’s Opportunity rover is still silent under a dust storm. Mission managers have set a 45-day deadline for contacting the rover, after which time they will transition to several months of passive listening.

NASA’s New Horizons probe has taken its first image or the Kuiper Belt Object it will visit in 2019, Ultima Thule.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

NASA announced a new class of 6 flight directors for human spaceflight at Johnson Space Center.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) performed a pad abort test of their launch escape tower for future crewed spaceflights.

Launch towers at Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral were demolished last week. These launch towers were built for the now retired Delta II rocket. Instead, Moon Express will use the site.

Launch industry newcomer Rocket Lab plans to open a second launch site somewhere in the USA.

James Morhard has been nominated to the open position of NASA deputy administrator.

Astronaut Dan Burbank has retired from NASA.

In Orbit

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has entered a hibernation mode as it nears the end of its long mission.

There were three orbital rocket launches since my last post on July 1st:

Operations have been busy on the International Space Station. The Dragon resupply ship that launched at the end of June arrived at ISS on July 2nd. Then the above mentioned Progress resupply arrived.

On Sunday morning, the latest Cygnus cargo spacecraft departed the ISS packed full of trash. Before it left, it performed a demonstration maneuver to reboost the ISS.

Upcoming notable launches include a SpaceX launch from Florida on July 20th and a SpaceX launch from California on July 22nd. Still no firm launch date on the rescheduled Rocket Lab launch.

Around the Solar System

Still no update from NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been socked in by a dust storm on Mars.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

Peggy Whitson, the American astronaut with the most day’s in space, has retired from NASA.

Orbital ATK is no officially a division of Northrop Grumman.

An interesting Pew Research Center poll was getting some media coverage last week, after it showed that the American public’s priorities for NASA do not line up with its official priorities (at least when you measure “priorities” by funding levels).

Check out the trailer for the upcoming film First Man.

The new NASA Johnson Space Center director, Mark Geyer, now has a twitter account.

The soccer ball used to kickoff the 2018 FIFA World Cup was previously flown to the ISS.

In Orbit

There were four orbital rocket launches since my last post on June 5th:

  • June 5 – China launched a Long March 3A rocket carrying a weather satellite.
  • June 6 – Russia launched a Soyuz rocket carrying three new crew members to the ISS.
  • June 12 – Japan launched an HII-A rocket carrying a reconnaissance satellite.
  • June 16 – Russian launched a Soyuz rocket carrying a GLONASS navigation satellite.

In upcoming launches, Rocket Lab will launch its first commercial flight from New Zealand on June 23rd.

The Soyuz crew arrived at the ISS a couple of days after launch, bringing the onboard crew to six withSergey Prokopyev, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Alex Gerst now onboard.

Astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold completed a nearly 7-hour spacewalk at the ISS last Thursday, in order to complete maintenance activities and install new cameras.

Around the Solar System

A major dust storm on Mars has caused NASA to lose contact with the solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity. The rover is in low power mode waiting out the storm. Mission controllers are waiting for sufficient battery charge to allow the rover to restore communications.

Fortunately, the nuclear powered rover Curiosity can keep on roaming through the dust storm. It captured this image of the hazy sky from Gale Crater.

Scientists with the Curiosity mission published two new papers detailing discoveries related to season methane concentrations in the atmosphere and ancient organic molecules in rock samples.

An extension to NASA’s Juno mission, currently in orbit of Jupiter, has been approved.

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft is now close enough to asteroid Ryugu that it has been able to image the small rock.

Out There

Astronomers have made observation of a “tidal event” in which a star is seen falling into a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy.

Weekly Links

Down to Earth

Legendary astronaut and moonwalker, Alan Bean, died at age 86.

Air Force test pilot and Shuttle astronaut, Don Peterson, died at age 84.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo had another powered test flight.

Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut who had been serving at SpaceX as the director of space operations, has taken a new faculty position at USC.

NASA obtained imagery of the volcanic eruption in Guatemala.

The President of the United States signed Space Policy Directive 2, which aims to reduce the regulatory burden on commercial spaceflight.

In Orbit

A number of orbital rocket launches since my last post on May 20th:

Notable rocket launches coming up include a Soyuz rocket with 3 astronauts launching form Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning.

The Cygnus spacecraft was successfully captured by the ISS robotic arm on May 24 and installed on a docking port, delivering tons of supplies.

NOAA’s new GOES-17 weather satellite has a serious problem that will prevent it from retrieving all the intended data.

On June 3rd, three crew members undocked from the ISS and landed back in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz after 168 days in space.

Around the Solar System

The discovery of an asteroid in a retrograde orbit (backwards) has raised questions about whether it could be a captured interstellar object.

The Curiosity rover on Mars is back to drilling samples, after that particular instrument had been held in reserve for about a year.

A new study of Pluto data from New Horizons finds that there are likely dunes made of solid methane on its surface.