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11/28/2022 – Ephemeris – The Artemis Program

November 28, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Monday, November 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 8 minutes, setting at 5:04, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:57. The Moon, 2 days before first quarter, will set at 10:09 this evening.

Now that the Artemis I mission is ongoing, and the spacecraft is in a large orbit of the Moon, it’s time to look at the rest of the program. In 2024 the SLS or Space Launch System, which is the name for the whole rocket, will send a four-person crew in their Orion Capsule around the Moon and back. From what I’m seeing right now, it will be a simple mission. It doesn’t appear that they will actually orbit the Moon other than a free return trajectory back to the Earth. The mission a year or so after that will be one to attempt to land on one of the few flat sites near the south pole of the Moon. Speaking of the Moon, the planet Saturn will be about eight of the Moon’s diameter’s north or above the Moon tonight.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT –5 hours). They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Earthset from Artemis I's Orion spacecraft

Earthset from Artemis I’s Orion spacecraft, as it moves around to the far side of the Moon. Click on the image to enlarge it. Credit: NASA

10/06/2022 – Ephemeris – Artemis I rescheduled

October 6, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, October 6th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 27 minutes, setting at 7:14, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:48. The Moon, 3 days before full, will set at 4:52 tomorrow morning.

Artemis 1 was going to launch on September 27th, But Hurricane Ian had other plans, so the rocket was trundled back to the Vertical Assembly Building. There, a battery or components of the auto destruct mechanism had to be swapped out before they attempted to launch again. All rockets launched from the US are required to be equipped with a destruct package to blow up the rocket if it veers off course, to not endanger lives on the ground. There are other tweaks, including charging or replacing batteries in all the CubeSats that are on board. The next possible launch period runs from November 12th to the 27th, with four blackout dates within that period. The weather should be better, being the tail end of hurricane season.

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

Artemis I November launch calendar

Artemis I November launch calendar. Dates in green are possible launch dates. I’m not sure, but red dates are also forbidden because the Orion Capsule will experience more than 90 minutes in shadow at a time. It’s powered by solar panels. Light green dates allow a long mission of 1 1/2 orbits of the Moon in the distant retrograde orbit (DRO). The dark green dates can only have 1/2 a DRO. Source: NASA.

09/13/2022 – Ephemeris – SpaceX Crew-5 flight to the ISS will be commanded by first Native American female astronaut

September 13, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, September 13th. Today the Sun will be up for 12 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 7:57, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:20. The Moon, 3 days past full, will rise at 9:38 this evening.

On or around October 3rd a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will be launched to the International Space Station with an international crew of four with the first female Native American astronaut Nicole Mann as commander, pilot Josh Cassada, both NASA astronauts, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina. Nicole Mann, a member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of northern California, is also the first female commander of a Commercial Crew spacecraft. She was originally assigned to the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, but was transferred to the SpaceX Dragon due to the prolonged problems with the former vehicle. Crew 5 will be a part of Expeditions 67 and 68 on the International Space Station.

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

SpaceX Crew 5 Official Portrait

SpaceX Crew-5 Official Crew Portrait – Left to right: Anna Kikina, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann and Koichi Wakata.

04/12/2022 – Ephemeris – The Axiom-1 mission is on orbit now

April 12, 2022 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 12th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 8:24, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:01. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 6:01 tomorrow morning.

The four private astronauts of the Axiom Space-1 mission were launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Capsule last Friday and are now aboard the International Space Station, or ISS for short, working on their own experiments during their eight-day stay. Around 2024 Axiom Space will attach a module to the ISS, and it will add other modules over the years. One of the last will be a solar power module, which will make their part of the station self-sustaining. By 2030 they will be able to detach their modules from the ISS to orbit free. This will allow continuous habitation in space after the ISS is deorbited in the 2031 time frame. Around that time frame, Blue Origin and Sierra Space and others hope to have their space station Orbital Reef on orbit. By then, NASA will save money by renting, rather than buying.

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

Axiom Space station growth plan

The planned evolution of the Axiom space station. It will start being a module attached to the ISS. 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.

As far as the Artemis-1 Wet Dress Rehearsal is concerned, that was scrubbed April 2nd and again on the 3rd, but they got farther. That’s the growing pains of a new rocket and launch tower. The Wet Dress Rehearsal will pick up again this week. The next scheduling conflict will be the preparation and launch of the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station now scheduled for April 21st. The Artemis-1 rocket is located on launch pad 39B, while SpaceX will launch Crew-4 from pad 39A, just 1.67 miles (2.69 kilometers) south of 39B.

04/11/2022 – Ephemeris – SpaceX Transporter 4’s weird launch trajectory

April 11, 2022 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, April 11th. Today the Sun will be up for 13 hours and 17 minutes, setting at 8:22, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:03. The Moon, 2 days past first quarter, will set at 5:37 tomorrow morning.

On April 1st SpaceX launched their Transporter 4 mission taking forty small satellites into sun synchronous orbits. Sun synchronous orbits are cool The plane of the orbit precesses 360 degrees over the period of a year so as it orbits it flies over the same part of the Earth at the same time of the day, so the sun angle on the ground is the same. This is great to see changes on the ground over time. To do that, the orbit has to have an inclination of 97 degrees. Which is hard to do launching from Cape Canaveral, the rocket must be sent toward the south-southwest, but must not cross southern Florida. So the rocket launches to the southeast and bends its path southward, keeping offshore. The second stage completes the turn to achieve the 97 degree inclination.

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

SpaceX Transporter trajectory, annotated

Screenshot of the animation from SpaceX launch webcast of Transporter 4. Launches of polar orbiting satellites are generally made from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, which have a clear shot to the south and south-southeast. Curving the launch trajectory like this exacts a penalty in the amount of payload mass that can be put into orbit. Credit: SpaceX.