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04/05/2022 – Ephemeris – The first Axiom Space mission to the ISS amid a busy April

April 5, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 59 minutes, setting at 8:15, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:14. The Moon, halfway from new to first quarter, will set at 1:15 tomorrow morning.

One of the commercial entities working to launch their own space station is Axiom Space, founded in 2016. The first Axiom mission is Ax-1, an 8-day mission to the International Space Station that, as of when I am recording this last Sunday night, is scheduled for tomorrow on a SpaceX Falcon 9/Crew Dragon from launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral. The Artemis-1 wet dress rehearsal was halted earlier Sunday due to a pressurization problem with the mobile launch tower. That’s on pad 39B, a bit over a mile and a half away. I’m assuming that Artemis-1 has priority over the Axiom mission. Plus, there’s the SpaceX Crew-5 launch later this month to the space station, which also has president. It could be an interesting time at the Cape.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

April 4, 2022: The SpaceX Axiom-1 launch is now scheduled for no earlier than Friday, April 8, for an 8-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Crew-4 launch had previously been pushed back to April 20. The Crew-3 return from the ISS was to be 5 days later.

The Artemis-1 Wet Dress Rehearsal was scrubbed April 4th with a malfunctioning vent valve. A successful test will have fuel and oxidizer loaded and all prelaunch functions completed, and counted down to a bit over 9 seconds to launch.

Axiom Space: space station plan

Axiom Space station growth plan

The planned evolution of the Axiom commercial space station. It will start being a module attached to the ISS starting in 2024, according to the current plan. Various modules will be attached. After the power tower containing solar panels is attached, it can be detached from the ISS to fly free. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: Axiom Space.

09/17/2021 – Ephemeris – The Moon has an atmosphere of sorts; Plus, I capture Inspiration 4 passing overhead

September 17, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, September 17th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 7:49, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:25. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 4:24 tomorrow morning.

Jupiter, tonight, will be above the Moon. Everyone knows that the Moon is airless, that is has no atmosphere. That is not strictly true. Apollo astronauts saw glows and crepuscular rays in the direction of the Sun before its rising an after it set as they orbited the Moon. In 2013 NASA sent an orbiter spacecraft named LADEE to the Moon to investigate. LADEE stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. It orbited low over the Moon’s equator. The atmosphere of the Moon consists of some gasses like sodium, neon, argon and helium plus dust electrostatically charged by the Sun’s x-ray and ultraviolet emissions and sent aloft, up to many kilometers. The dust will fall back down, but the gasses will be dissipated by the solar wind. It’s very tenuous.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addenda

Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon tonight at 9 pm tonight, September 17, 2021. Jupiter will be moving to be directly below Jupiter by one in the morning. Created using Stellarium.

Apollo 17 twilight ray sketches

Apollo 17 twilight ray sketches. Credit: NASA/Apollo 17 Astronauts.

LASDEE

Artist’s depiction of LADEE in orbit of the Moon. Courtesy NASA.

Inspiration 4 spacecraft caught flying over Northern Michigan

Inspiration 4 spacecraft passing through Hercules

The thin vertical streak on the left side of the image is the Inspiration 4 spacecraft against the stars of Hercules in a 15 second exposure with a Canon Rebel T5 camera, f/3.5, ISO 6400, 18 mm fl. The famous Keystone of Hercules asterism is to the upper right of center. It’s a bit out of focus due to my problem seeing the screen at a high angle. (Getting old). It was quite dim, so I actually couldn’t see it in the moonlight. Credit: mine.

I was guided to the time and place in the sky by heavens-above.com

07/20/2021 – Ephemeris – Another giant leap for billionaires

July 20, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 20th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 4 minutes, setting at 9:21, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:17. The Moon, halfway from first quarter to full, will set at 3:18 tomorrow morning.

Today is the fifty-second anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the Moon with Apollo 11 and the 45th anniversary of the first robotic spacecraft to soft land on Mars, Viking 1. And if all goes well, it will be the first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket with capsule up to over 100 kilometers altitude for 5 minutes of weightlessness. On board will be Jeff Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin, founder of Amazon, his brother, and 82-year-old Wally Funk, one of the Mercury 13 women, who took all the physical and mental tests that the Mercury 7 astronauts took back in the late 50s and early 60s. She’ll be the oldest person to fly into space. And with them will be Oliver Daemon, 18, the youngest person to fly in space.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket and Crew Capsule

A test Launch of the Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and Crew Capsule. Credit: Blue Origin.

07/13/2021 – Ephemeris – Virgin Galactic had a successful full crew flight to the edge of space

July 13, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 16 minutes, setting at 9:26, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:10. The Moon, halfway from new to first quarter, will set at 11:59 this evening.

This past Sunday was Virgin Galactic’s first test passenger flight to what the United States calls space, past 50 miles altitude, in their VSS Unity spaceship. The four passengers for this test flight were all basically Virgin Galactic employees, including its founder, Richard Branson. The international definition of where space begins is 100 kilometers or 62 miles altitude. At either altitude, a suborbital spacecraft at its peak altitude would be traveling so slowly that the atmospheric effects are negligible. However, if a spacecraft were to pass through that altitude on reentry at over 17 thousand miles an hour, that’s an entirely different story. On July 20th Jeff Bezos will ride his New Shepard rocket up past 62 miles.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT – 4 hr). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

VSS Unity launch

Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship VSS Unity ignites its hybrid rocket engine after being dropped from its carrier aircraft Eve on a prior test flight to the edge of space. Credit Sky News.

VSS Unity under power

VSS Unity under power with its hybrid rocket motor. The fuel is a solid rubbery compound, with a nitrous oxide as the oxidizer. Powered flight lasts only 60 seconds to reach 56 miles in altitude. This is from a prior flight. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit: Virgin Galactic.

Floating in zero G in VSS Unity 22

Floating in zero G in VSS Unity 22. I can imagine the announcement: “The seat belt sign has been turned off. You may float about the cabin.” At least for 5 minutes. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit: Virgin Galactic video.

06/25/2021 – Ephemeris – The era of commercial human space flight has begun

June 25, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Friday, June 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 10:58 this evening.

It looks like this year 2021 is the year that commercial crewed spaceflight is going to take off, literally. There’s Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic with their air dropped VSS Unity that will achieve a few minutes of weightlessness in suborbital space like the old X15 did. Competing in suborbital space is Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin with their New Shepard rocket and capsule. Bezos and his brother are expected to ride the first crewed capsule flight later this summer. Running rings around these guys, actually, is Elon Musk’s SpaceX with three orbital Commercial Crew missions for NASA already under his belt and a completely civilian orbital mission, Inspiration 4, slated for the end of summer. So the era of commercial human space flight is finally beginning.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT-4). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

VSS Unity launch

Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship VSS Unity ignites its hybrid rocket engine after being dropped from its carrier aircraft WhiteKnight Two on a test flight to the edge of space. Credit Sky News.

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket and Crew Capsule

The Launch of the Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and Crew Capsule. Credit: Blue Origin.

SpaceX launches first two astronauts to the ISS

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from historic Launch Complex 39A and sends Crew Dragon to orbit on its first flight with NASA astronauts. Credit: SpaceX/Twitter.

Boeing also built a human rated spacecraft, the Starliner, which will be used to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. It will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. They are scheduled to repeat their uncrewed test flight this summer before they can send crews to the ISS.

Virgin has Virgin Orbital a company to air launch small payloads, Blue Origin is developing the New Glenn rocket a partially reusable rocket, which is expected to launch in 2022 or 2023. SpaceX is actively developing its StarShip completely reusable rocket and booster near Brownsville, Texas.

06/24/2021 – Ephemeris – SpaceX Inspiration 4 mission

June 24, 2021 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Thursday, June 24th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 9:32, and it will rise tomorrow at 5:58. The Moon, at full today, will rise at 9:59 this evening.

If all goes as planned, SpaceX will send four civilians, two men and two women, into orbit for a three-day mission aboard the Crew Dragon “Resilience” spacecraft, sent up by a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-September. It’s called the Inspiration 4 Mission to raise awareness and funds for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Their orbit will be higher, at 340 miles (540 kilometers) altitude, than that of the International Space Station. The mission commander will be Jared Isaacman, who is paying for the whole thing. Dr. Sian Proctor will be the pilot. Also, on the crew will be Hayley Arceneaux, a St. Jude childhood cancer survivor and now a Physician’s Assistant at St. Jude, and Christopher Sembroski. The crew has been in training since their selection in early April.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EDT, UT-4). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Inspiration 4 Crew

The Inspiration 4 Crew. Left to right: Jared Isaacman, Commander who financed the mission, and flies military jets for fun; Dr Sian Proctor, Pilot who is an entrepreneur, educator and trained pilot; Hayley Arceneaux, who is a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; and Christopher Sembroski. Credit: Inspration4 Photos.

 

02/26/2018 – Ephemeris – The Falcon Heavy, a game changer

February 26, 2018 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, February 26th. The Sun will rise at 7:25. It’ll be up for 11 hours and 1 minute, setting at 6:26. The Moon, half way from first quarter to full, will set at 5:52 tomorrow morning.

It’s been 20 days since SpaceX launched their massive Falcon Heavy rocket. Basically three Falcon 9’s strapped together, it’s now the most powerful rocket now in service, whose payload mass to orbit was only exceeded by the Saturn V Moon rocket of the Apollo days. Where the Saturn 5 was more than a billion dollars to launch and the Space Launch System (SLS) now being built with a similar price tag, a Falcon Heavy launch is supposed to be less than 100 million dollars. The next version of the Falcon 9, Block 5, should be powerful enough to launch astronauts to the space station, the original task for the Falcon Heavy. This may mean that the Falcon Heavy may have a short life span. This is because the next rocket is coming off the drawing boards, or rather CAD programs, the BFR, the Mars rocket will be even more powerful and reusable.  However the low price tag of a Falcon Heavy launch may be too inexpensive to pass up, even for NASA for heavy satellites of deep solar system missions

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Falcon Meavy launch

Test launch of the Falcon Heavy, as it clears the tower on February 6, 2018. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: SpaceX.

Side boosters landing

The side boosters landing back at the Cape. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: SpaceX.

10/17/2016 – Ephemeris – Elon Musk’s vision of how he’ll colonize Mars

October 17, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, October 17th.  The Sun will rise at 8:01.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 6:53.  The Moon, 1 day past full, will rise at 8:21 this evening.

On September 27th Elon Musk announced his plans to send people to Mars, hopefully by 2024.  He explained in detail how he would do it.  He made an hour-long presentation at the International Astronautical Congress meeting in Mexico, which can be seen on the Internet at spacex.com.  Also there is a shorter animation of how he expects to do it.  He expects to send hundreds of people at a time into Earth orbit.  The booster would return to the launch pad and another second stage with fuel loaded on top of it to be launched again on the next orbit to refuel the manned stage before sending it to Mars.  Robotic missions would be sent before to set up the infrastructure for the Mars Base.  I’m somewhat skeptical, but all great adventures start with a dream.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Arrival on Mars

New colonists looking out at the Martian landscape. Credit: Screen cap from SpaceX video.

Short 5 minute video:  https://youtu.be/0agVZwux1Hs

Full address to the International Astronautical Congress meeting:  https://youtu.be/IAZ-Xbn5hr0

09/15/2016 – Ephemeris – SpaceX has an explosion in its Falcon 9 second stage

September 15, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, September 15th.  The Sun will rise at 7:22.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 30 minutes, setting at 7:52.  The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:01 tomorrow morning.

The rocket company SpaceX had one of its Falcon 9 Rockets explode as it was being fueled for a test firing to check out its booster engines on September first.  The second stage, which was being loaded with fuel exploded.  Even if a tank had been ruptured, there should be no ignition source to cause the explosion.  Unfortunately the satellite, AMOS-6 a communications satellite destined for geosynchronous orbit, was already mounted on the rocket, and can be seen falling off the rocket just after the explosion.  This is the second failure of a Falcon 9.  In June of last year a helium tank inside the liquid oxygen tank in the second stage broke loose and ruptured the tank, while still being boosted by the first stage.  It took a few seconds after the rupture before the fuel ignited causing the explosion that ended the mission.  SpaceX has issued a request for videos or anything that might shed light on the latter accident.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Falcon 9 Explosion

A sequence of photographs of the Falcon 9 explosion. Credit: US Launch Report.

12/29/2015 – Ephemeris – Some space triumphs of 2015

December 29, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, December 29th.  The Sun will rise at 8:19.  It’ll be up for 8 hours and 50 minutes, setting at 5:10.   The Moon, half way from full to last quarter, will rise at 9:58 this evening.

This past year had several important events.  Perhaps the biggest was the flyby of Pluto and its moons July 14th By the New Horizons spacecraft.  The transmission of data and images will continue for most of 2016, but what has been revealed has been spectacular if puzzling.  In other space news Blue Origin landed their New Shepard rocket vertically after sending it straight up 60 miles.  In June the SpaceX Falcon 9 blew up while attempting to send its 7th resupply Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.  Eight days ago The Falcon 9 returned to flight orbiting 11 satellites for Orbocomm, and flew the booster from over 100 miles up and 100 miles out over the Atlantic to land upright on its designated landing pad back at the cape.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Pluto

Enhanced color portrait of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

Shepard landing

Blue Origin New Shepard rocket, with landing legs expended about to land. Credit: Blue Origin.

Falcon 9

First stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 descending on its center rocket engine to the center of the main landing pad at Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX.

These weren’t the only highlights of 2015.  Having only 45 seconds to devote to the story, I picked the three most important events.  I consider the reuseability of rockets to be the Holy Grail of reducing the cost to access to space.  The Space Shuttle was a partial, but ultimately failed solution.  SpaceX had the most difficult task in refurbishment and reuse because the first stage had to endure a supersonic reentry, though it didn’t need a heat shield.  We’ll have to see if the cost of recycling rocket boosters is cheaper than building one from scratch.