OSIRIS-REx after first deep space maneuver

NASA officially confirms that OSIRIS-REx space probe performed successfully first deep space maneuver (DSM-1).

First Deep Space Maneuver (DSM-1) was performed on Dec. 28, 2016.  It was necessary to set up the probe on the correct course to perform an Earth gravity assist in September this year. Assist will begin lasting two years flight to Bennu asteroid, main objective of the mission. OSIRIS-REx performed DSM-1 using own main propulsion and after burning 354 kg of propellant changed its speed for 431 m/s. Telemetry data were downlinked via Deep Space Network confirmed good condition of the probe. Next phase of the mission was planned for today – OSIRIS-REx will perform another, smaller course correction.

Managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center mission is third mission covered by New Frontiers Program. It is based on cooperation between Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver providing spacecraft flight operations (Lockheed Martin was contracted as manufacturer of OSIRIS-REx). Goddard Space Flight Center and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during mission.

Last astronaut on the moon, Gene Cernan, dies at 82

Former astronaut Gene Cernan, second American who walk in space and astronaut who flew to the moon twice, last man standing on the the natural satellite of the Earth died yesterday in Houston.

Gene Cernan, astronaut and Navy pilot died surrounded by family after long illness. He was 82 years. NASA announced about his death on official web page.

Gene Cernan was born on March 14, 1934, in Chicago, Illinois, with Slovak and Czech roots. He graduated from Proviso East High School in Maywood in 1952; he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1956 at Purdue University. Next he joined Navy and became a Naval Aviator in 1958. He finished his education in 1963 with a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering (U.S. Naval Postgraduate School).

He was one from the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963 selected by NASA to Apollo and Gemini programs. Under the Gemini program he  performed the second American EVA (the third ever spacewalk) on 5 June 1966. During Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 mission he performed another three lunar EVAs. He was last man standing on the moon in history. Cernan as a Captain retired from the Navy and from NASA in 1976. As retired U.S. Navy Captain he was awarded with two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the JSC Superior Achievement Award, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, the Navy Astronaut Wings, the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross. He also was inducted into the U.S. Space Hall of Fame.

Flight of the new Japanese small solid fueled rocket without success

SS-520-4 sounding rocket failed to put into LEO orbit TRICOM-1 satellite during launch performed yesterday from Uchinoura Space Centre at 08:33 local time (23:33 UTC on Saturday). It was maiden flight of fourth configuration of SS-520 rocket – smallest launch vehicles in the world.

SS-520-4 solid fueled rocket is railed launched light vehicle created as alternative for H-IIA and other large rockets in delivering small satellites to LEO orbit. This prticular configuration was equipped in three stages and should be able to put 4 kg CubeSat satellite into a 180 km × 1500 km orbit with an inclination of 31° after reaching speed of 27000 km/h. Rocket in this version is long for 9.54 m with diameter at 52 cm and weight of 2600 kg.

This launch was already postponed due the poor weather conditions (strong wind) from 11 January 2017. JAXA, Japan’s space agency responsible for space launches and operator of SS-520-4, decided to launch SS-520-4 yesterday (UTC). TRICOM-1 satellite was already installed under the fairing of the rocket. This small (1U sized with mass at 3 kg) CubeSat satellite was built by the University of Tokyo and equipped with five cameras for Earth observation and transponders for transmitting data to Earth. It was planned to put satellite into 180 km × 1500 km orbit.

Yesterday pre-launch procedures were limited only to tests of the rocket and the payload. Due the fact, that SS-520-4 is solid fueled rocket it has not tanks which should be filled with propellant before start – launch preparations are usually take less time comparing to liquid fueled rockets. After receiving last weather forecasts, rocket was launched yesterday at 23:33 UTC from KS launch complex. After first 32 seconds rocket reached speed of 7200 km/h. Long for 6.1 m  first stage was cut off after providing 143 kN of thrust. During first phase of flight mission control center lost contact with rocket and telemetry data were not provided from T+20″. Tracking with utilization of radars showed, that at T+1’05” rocket was already on altitude of 78 km and released nose cone. At T+1’06” first stage was separated to let rhumb line thrusters installed on interstage to initiate spinning at T+1’17”. This phase of flight was necessary for correct stabilization of flight. At T+2’27” it was planned to jettison interstage. Unfortunately probably in that moment something gone wrong and planned for 7’30” flight was interrupted. First stage and second stage with third stage and payload fell into the Pacific Ocean. Peak altitude reached by second stage with TRICOM-1 attached to third stage was 200 km.

This was third launch of rocket from SS-520 family with another planned from Svalbard Rocket Range in Norway later this year.

Pesquet and Kimbrough after EVA-2 !

Thomas Pesquet of ESA and Shane Kimbrough of NASA finished today second ISS spacewalk in 2017 (EVA-2/Expedition 50) and performed flawlessly all tasks.

This time Thomas Pesquet instead Peggy Whitson was partner of Shane Kimbrough. During 197th spacewalk in the history of International Space Station they were supported by Peggy Whitson of NASA, who helped both astronauts to prepare their space suits and enter to Quest airlock. They left Station at 12:05 UTC – first left Shane Kimbrough, Pesquet entered space as second. They begun their lasting almost 6 hours spacewalk. Todays EVA was again focused on changing old nickel-hydrogen batteries supporting ISS during passing through night zone. These power packs are placed outside the Station on Integrated Equipment Assembly. To perform swap it was necessary to move three adapter plates from pallets. It was first task of Thomas Pesquet, who released first bolts and brought adapter plate. With Shane Kimbrough they managed to release from pallet and attach to IEA three adapter plates and connect three new lithium cells. After they finished main task, they could begun additional tasks. They finished stowing shield of Node 3 ISS module and took  pictures to document battery change and

Both astronauts returned to Quest airlock at 17:20 UTC.

First pictures taken by SuperView-1 01/02 already on Earth

Two commercial imaging satellites from Gaojing-1 series deployed prematurely after launch on 28 December 2016 seems to work correctly and already send first pictures. 

Satellites finally managed to reach correct position in orbit and pass all necessary tests. Chinese news agency Xinhua announced yesterday, that both satellites send first pictures taken with 0.5 m resolution with onboard panchromatic device. Additional multispectral imager operating with resolution of 2 m is also working properly and took first pictures.

On first pictures provided by CNSA and operator of the satellites, China Siwei Surveying and Mapping Technology Co. Ltd (subsidiary of CASC) it is possible to spot tourists sightseeing Potala Palace in Tibet Autonomous Region.

Satellites were launched from LC9 complex at Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on the top of the Long March 2D rocket. Due the not sufficient thrust of the first stage their were deployed on 213 km x 524 km orbit. Using onboard propulsion designed as maneuver thruster and utilizing probably most of fuel both spacecrafts managed to reach almost perfectly designated orbit (circular LEO with altitude of 500 km) on 2 January 2017.

Kuaizhou-1A launched – three satellites delivered to LEO orbit !

New Chinese solid fueled light rocket was launched today at 04:11 UTC with its first mission from  Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.

Launch was result of the contract signed between Chang Guang Satellite Technology Ltd. (CGSTL) and EXPACE/CASIC. Expace Technology Co., Ltd. Rocket delivered to space three satellites:  JL-1 imaging satellite and two small CubeSats-2U: the Xingyun Shiyan-1 and the Kaidun-1. First is remote sensing satellite able to provide high resolution images and video (1 m with swath of 11 km x 4.5 km) and will be used for forestry monitoring. Satellite will be also utilized for protecting natural environment protection, monitoring transport across the country and disaster prevention. Cubesat satellites delivered today are Xingyun Shiyan-1 and the Kaidun-1: first was developed by CASIC 9th Academy for testing new communication technologies on low Earth orbit. Kaidun-1 was developed by the Beijing Caton Universal Technology Ltd. and will be used for maritime traffic monitoring and was equipped with AIS ship-tracking receiver. Satellites were deployed after rocket reached orbit of 528 km x 543 km with inclination at 97.5 degrees.

Kuaizhou-1A was developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASIC) as commercial modification of Dong Feng 21 missile. Rocket is able to deliver 430 kg to LEO or 200 kg to 700 km SSO orbit. It is highly mobile launch vehicle delivered to launch site on wheeled TEL vehicle. Kuaizhou-1A can be considered as another variant of Kuaizhou-1 rocket (also solid fueled and delivered on TEL) and launched for the first time in 2013. Main difference seemed to be in construction of 4 stage, which remains attached to satellite in Kuaizhou-1 or is separating from payload in case of Kuaizhou-1. Rocket weighs 30 t and is long for 20 m with diameter for 1.4 m. Propulsion is based on DF-21 missile: first stage is heavy for 16.6 t, second stage weighs 8 t, third stage mass is 3.1 t. Fourth stage is liquid fueled, but full specification of engines was not yet unveiled.

Falcon-9 with Iridium satellites grounded by poor weather

Nine powerful Merlin-1D engines inside long for 70 m rocket are not enough in face of the power of weather.

Due the weather forecasts predicting heavy rainfall and winds, SpaceX was forced to postpone launch of their Falcon-9 rocket planned for 9th January 2017. Rocket remains safe with ten Iridium data relay satellites encapsulated under the payload fairing at assembling facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base at California. During passing weekend rocket passed through last tests before flight. SpaceX received on last Friday approval from FAA to perform launch of Falcon and ground specialists teams managed to perform successful test fire. Unfortunately Iridium mission still is on hold.

According to official statement given from Iridium, mission will be postponed for at least 6 days with first possible date at 14th January 2017 at 17:43 UTC.

Official weather forecasts provided by National Weather Service are not favorable for region around Vandenberg Air Force Base – first chance for clear sky over Vandenberg is predicted for Thursday, and probably rocket will stay inside hangar at Space Launch Complex 4-East at least until this day.

First EVA in 2017

Yesterday shortly after 12:05 UTC two astronauts left International Space Station to perform upgrades to the station’s power system. To finish all planned objectives both astronauts spent yesterday 6.5 h in space.

Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough and flight engineer Peggy Whitson both of NASA left Quest airlock yesterday to start second phase of modernization program of ISS power system. It was started in New Year Eve by flight controllers who remotely from the Johnson Space Center in Houston conducted operation of installation of three lithium-ion batteries in the integrated electronics assembly at the base of the starboard 4, or S4, set of solar arrays. Operation was conducted by the station’s robot arm.

Objective of modernization program is replacing 12 nickel-hydrogen batteries with six lithium-ion batteries, lighter and more efficient.

Next planned Extravehicular Activity with Kimbrough and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet is planned for 13th January 2017.

Gaojing satellites almost on their correct orbit !

Two Gaojing satellites delivered to incorrect orbit on 28 December 2016 are almost in the end of their journey to correct orbital position.

Problems with Gaojing (also known as Superview-1-1 and Superview-1-2) appeared just after launch from Chinese Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 03:53 UTC on 28 December 2016. Long March 2D rocket suffered for unexplained problems during first stage burn. Stage separated later than it was planned (7 seconds after time) and second stage performed longer burn for about 10 seconds. Central engine of the second stage (YF-22C) used most of the propellant and after cut off, four YF-23C had not sufficient amount of propellant to put satellites into correct orbit. Both Gaojing and BY-70 2U CubeSat were injected into 213 km x 524 km orbit inclined at 97.6°.

Specialists from mission control center had no other way but to order both satellites to use their propellant for reaching planned 500 km SSO orbit. Of course increased fuel consumption means, that for future orbit keeping, attitude control system would be using limited amount of propellant; mission time will be substantially reduced.

Luckily for the moment space journey which  started already on 28 December, is almost finished. Yesterday Gaojing-1-1 reached following orbit: 484 x 528 km x 97.61°. Gaojing-1-2 six hours later at 12:06 UTC was on 509 x 533 km x 97.57° orbit (it begun orbit raise maneuver on 28 December earlier than Gaojing-1-1). This orbit is quite close to planned 500 km SSO – according to Chinaspaceflight.com, satellites will now pass orbital tests and will enter the service.


Echostar-21 still without date of launch

ILS, operator of Proton-M rocket was forced to postpone delivering Echostar-21 communication satellite with Proton-M rocket. Launch originally planned for 28 December 2016, still remains without final date.

It is possible, that we will see Proton-M climbing over Baikonur Cosmodrome on January – but still we do not know exactly when. Manufacturer of the rocket – Khrunichev Space Center still performs additional tests of systems of the rocket and whole acceleration unit. It was necessary after state commission decided, that launch should be postponed due the technical reasons.

Satellite still remains encapsulated under fairing and is in good condition. Spacecraft was planned to extend constellation of Echostar satellites improve quality of services offered in Europe; it will provide mobile voice and data communications utilizing S-band transponders with 2 GHz frequency. Satellite was built by Space Systems/Loral (SSL) on SSL-1300S bus with estimated operational life of 15 years. Satellite weight is 6910 kg.

Last time Proton-M rocket was launched In 2016 on June with Intelsat-31 communication satellite under the payload fairing.

During this mission Proton-M will be combined with Briz-M upper stage.Rocket liquid fueled with N2O4/UDMH. Weight of the rocket is 712800 kg with height at 58 m and diameter at 7.4 m in the first stage, which is powered by six RD-253-14D14 (providing up to 10532 kN of thrust). Second stage (with height at 14 m and with diameter at 4.1 m) is powered with three RD-0210 and one RD-0211 engines providing thrust at 2399 kN. Third stage (with height at 6.5 m) is equipped with one RD-0212 with thrust at 613.8 kN. Briz-M is powered by one S5.98M with thrust at 19.6 kN.