ULA Delta 4 Ready to Serve

Images credit & copyright: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

LAUNCH ALERT: Friday, March 15, 2019 at 18:56 EDT (22:56 UTC) the United Launch Alliance (ULA), will be launching a Delta IV rocket in its Medium + (5,4) configuration carrying the 10th Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS 10) spacecraft (formerly the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite) for the U.S. military.

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Expedition 59/60 Crew Ready for Flight!

Soyuz MS-10 in flight. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Images credit & copyright: Roscosmos/NASA.

Launch Alert: Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 15:14 EDT (19:14 UTC) a Soyuz-FG rocket; MS-12 (ISS 58S or Soyuz 60) will lift off from Launch Pad 1/Launcher 5 (LC 1/5) at the legendary Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz spacecraft will carry three crew members of Expedition 59/60 on a four-orbit, six-hour “fast track” trip to the International Space Station (ISS). This will be the 12th flight of the upgraded MS Soyuz which replaced the TMA version and the 2nd flight since the failed launch of MS-10.

Soyuz MS-12 will dock to the nadir, (Earth facing) port of the Russian, Mini Research Module-1 (MRM-1) Rassvet “Dawn” module where it will remain there for approximately 6 months as a crew escape vehicle should they need it and ultimately a return vehicle.

NOTE: NASA Astronaut, Nick Hague will be on this flight just 5 months after flying on the failed MS-10 mission that disintegrated in flight.

Want to see the ISS overhead? Here’s everything you need! https://danspace77.com/iss-tracking/

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SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) is Here!

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX and NASA.

LAUNCH ALERT! Saturday, March 2, 2019 at 02:48 EST (07:48 UTC) SpaceX Falcon 9 (core 1051.1) will be launching from NASA’s legendary Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center carrying, for the first time, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft (Dragon D2-1 or C201) as part of Demonstration Mission 1 (DM-1) for NASA’s Commercial Crew contract. This first of two demonstration missions to the International Space Station (ISS) will be uncrewed and if successful an in-flight abort test with the same spacecraft will take place this summer and if that succeeds then DM-2 will likely follow later this year and be the first to carry astronauts (Doug Hurley & Bob Behnken) into space from the United States since the launch of STS-135 Atlantis, which launched from the same launch pad on July 8, 2011. This will end the longest drought in U.S. human spaceflight history. The longest drought prior to this was the gap between the landing of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project on July 24, 1975 and the first launch of the Space Shuttle, STS-1 Columbia on April 12, 1981.

The timeline for this mission calls for launch from KSC and booster landing on March 2 (Sat), with rendezvous and autonomous docking to Station taking place on the 3rd (Sun) where Dragon will deliver roughly 400 pounds of supplies and a “Starman” in full SpaceX flight suit for monitoring. Dragon is scheduled to remain at station until March 8 (Sat) when it will undock, deorbit and splashdown to complete a successful mission.

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 3rd launch of 2019 and the 75th SpaceX flight overall (5 Falcon 1, 69 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy). Mission parameters will allow for a landing on SpaceX’s East Coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)” which will bring to total successful landings to 35; 22 on drone ships and 13 on land.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 from FL Coming Up

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX and NASA.

LAUNCH ALERT! Thursday, February 21, 2018 at 20:45 EST (01:45 UTC on the 22nd) SpaceX Falcon 9 (core B1048.3) will be launching from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) to deliver the Nusantara Satu communication satellite as well as the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s S5 space situational awareness satellite and SpaceIL’s lunar lander known as Beresheet.

This will likely be the first time a twice flown Falcon 9 has launched from East Coast and the first launch of a commercial lunar lander.

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 2nd launch of 2019 and the 74th SpaceX flight overall (5 Falcon 1, 68 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy). Mission parameters will allow for a landing on SpaceX’s East Coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)” which will bring to total successful landings to 34; 22 on drone ships and 12 on land.

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Godspeed Little Giant

Opportunity sees its shadow on July 26, 2004 (sol 180)

Images credit: NASA/JPL.

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark…” – Opportunity’s final message

Launch of Opportunity on July 7, 2003 on a Delta II from SLC-17B

Mars Exploration Rover “Opportunity” (MER-1 or MER-B) launched onto its journey to the Red Planet on a Delta II from Cape Canaveral, Space Launch Complex 17B (SLC-17B) on July 6, 2003; about a month behind its twin, “Spirit” that launched on June 10, 2003. Almost seven months later, on January 25, 2004 Opportunity bounced down to a stop on Meridiani Planum in a small crater known as Eagle Crater just three weeks after Spirit’s January 4 landing at Gusev crater.

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Masterpiece in the Sky

Image credit & copyright: Goran Strand.

On occasion, and if you live in a favorable location, you are given the opportunity to witness one of the greatest natural phenomenon offered to us here on Earth by the universe; the aurora. Goran captured this spectacular display last October from Ostersund, Sweden. Like moving artwork painted across the sky, this display is seen leaving its mark, not only in the sky but also reflected on the water. For once, the lights of the nearby population stood no chance at hiding the universe from all onlookers.

I hope you enjoy this image and as always please be sure to check out more of Goran’s work.

What are aurorae? (short synopsis):

The aurorae, known as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in the Northern Hemisphere and the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights in the Southern Hemisphere are a form of space weather created by our home star. Spaceship Earth is constantly being bombarded with a stream of energized particles known as the solar wind. On occasion, the Sun can also unleash a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) which is a large shot of material ejected by the Sun in one event.

We’re talking about actual material from the Sun and not light so the trip takes about 2 to 3 days to cross the 93 million mile void to Earth vs. the 8 minutes that it takes light to make the same journey. Because of this, we see CME events happen and can predict what their impact energy will be when they arrive a couple days in advance.

When the material reaches Earth, it follows Earth’s magnetic field lines and interacts with the atmosphere at the poles. The strength of the event determines how far from the polar-regions that aurorae can be seen. The constant stream of energized particles (solar wind) usually doesn’t produce much of a show unless you’re at a very high latitude while CME events have the potential to put on a show well into the U.S., Europe and up as high as Northern Australia. CME’s also have the power to create havoc with the electrical grid as they can trip breakers and create widespread blackouts if powerful enough.

You may have also seen images of aurorae in different colors. Usually green, but sometimes it shows up in multiple colors such as red and or purple. This difference is caused by the charged particles interactions with different chemicals in the different altitudes of the atmosphere.

The Sun also has an 11 year heartbeat or “solar cycle” and at the peaks of these cycles the Sun becomes much more active. The solar maximum for solar cycle 24 (the current solar cycle) was extremely weak however. Solar cycle 25 begins in late 2019 with a solar maximum set to begin roughly in the mid-2020s. Cycles 24 and 25 aren’t the number of cycles that the Sun has had of course. It’s just the number of cycles that we’ve been recording since their discovery in 1755.

Goran Strand Photography: http://www.astrofotografen.se/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Astrofotografen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fotografgoranstrand

Instagram: https://instagram.com/astrofotografen/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FotografGoranStrand

Also, if interested in seeing the aurora yourself, here’s my brief Aurora Guide to aid in your search. https://danspace77.com/aurora-guide/

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Ariane 5’s 1st Launch of 2019 Coming Up

Images credit & copyright: Arianespace/CNES.

Launch Alert! Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 21:01 UTC (16:01 EST) Arianespace will launch their massive Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA247 carrying the HellasSat 4/SaudiGeoSat 1 and GSAT 11 from Launch Site, Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3 (ELA-3) at the Arianespace Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

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