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:





Also, if interested in seeing the aurora yourself, here’s my brief Aurora Guide to aid in your search.

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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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Remembering Columbia and Crew

The STS-107 crew includes, from the left, Mission Specialist David Brown, Commander Rick Husband, Mission Specialists Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Michael Anderson, Pilot William McCool and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon. (NASA photo)

Images credit & copyright: NASA and the crew of STS-107 Columbia.

“And for the whole time I was growing up, for as long as I can remember, any time anyone asked me what I wanted to be it was, “I want to be an astronaut.” – Commander Rick Husband.

Crew of STS-107 Columbia (left to right):

David M. Brown: Born, April 16, 1956: Son. Naval aviator, test pilot and flight surgeon; Brown worked on a number of scientific experiments and this was his first spaceflight.

Rick D. Husband: Born, July 12, 1957: Son, father, husband. STS-107 commander, U.S. Air Force Colonel and mechanical engineer, who piloted a Discovery during the first docking with the International Space Station (STS-96).

Laurel Blair Salton Clark: Born, March 10, 1961: Daughter, mother, wife. U.S. Navy captain and flight surgeon; Clark worked on a number of biological experiments and this was her first spaceflight.

Kalpana Chawla: Born, March 17, 1962: Daughter, wife. Indian-born aerospace engineer and first Indian-American astronaut and this was her second spaceflight as she flew onboard Columbia during STS-87.

Michael P. Anderson: Born, December 25, 1959: Son, father, husband. U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and physicist who was in charge of the science mission and this was his second spaceflight as he also flew on STS-89 which saw Endeavour venture to Mir space station.

William C. McCool: Born, September 23, 1961: Son, father, husband. U.S. Navy commander, naval aviator, STS-107 mission pilot and this was his first spaceflight.

Ilan Ramon: Born, June 20, 1954: Son, father, husband. Colonel in the Israeli Air Force, veteran of Operation Opera, the first Israeli astronaut and this was his first spaceflight.

“This cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart. We are that part of creation which seeks to understand all creation. We find the best among us, send them forth into unmapped darkness, and pray they will return. They go in peace for all mankind, and all mankind is in their debt.”George W. Bush February 4, 2003 at the STS-107 Memorial Service at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston TX.

January 16, 2003; the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program was to be OV-102’s 28th and final flight as Columbia launched into the Florida sky from Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) as STS-107. The 16 day mission went as planned but it was unknown at the time , that Columbia had a massive hole in the leading edge of its left wing that it suffered during launch. A piece of orange external fuel tank foam broke free and struck the orbiter in flight. After reviewing the debris strike video, it was determined that it was unlikely that the event caused damage as this was a relatively common phenomenon.

January 16, 2003: The crew of STS-107 Columbia walk out to the transfer van that will take them to LC-39A and their ride to space

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Remembering Challenger and Crew

Images credit & copyright: NASA.

“I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies.” -Christa McAuliffe

STS-51-L Challenger Crew: (Clockwise from top-left).

Ellison Onizuka: Born: June 24, 1946: Air Force Veteran, first Asian American & first of Japanese ancestry to reach space as a member of STS-51-C. He held a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from U Colorado at Boulder.

Christa McAuliffe: Born: September 2, 1948: she was the winner of the teacher in space contest, from Concord NH with a bachelors in Education and History from Framingham State College and a Master of Arts degree from Bowie State University. This was to be her first spaceflight.

Gregory Jarvis: Born: August 24, 1944: Air Force veteran with a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University, Boston MA. This was to be his first space flight.

Judith Resnik: Born: April 5, 1949: PHD in Electrical Engineering from U Maryland and second U.S. female astronaut in space with shuttle mission STS-41-D.

Ronald McNair: Born: October 21, 1950: Physicist from MIT, black belt karate instructor and veteran of STS-41-B whose mission was delivery of two Hughes 376 communication satellites as well as the mission that saw the first use of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) and first use of the Canadarm which was operated by McNair himself.

Dick Scobee: Born: May 19, 1939: Veteran of the Air Force, aerospace research pilot with a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona and veteran of STS-41-C.

Michael Smith: Born: April 30, 1945: NAVY Pilot, and Flight Instructor. He attended US Naval Post-Grad at Monterey CA. This was to be his 1st space flight.

“The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” Thank you. – Ronald Regan in his address to the nation.

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