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03/15/2019 – Ephemeris – The era of US crewed space launches begins

March 15, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Ides of March, Friday, March 15th. Today the Sun will be up for 11 hours and 53 minutes, setting at 7:48, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:53. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 5:07 tomorrow morning.

Two weeks ago, the United States began to get back in the human space launch business with the launch of a test Crew Dragon space capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, all made by SpaceX. The 6 day mission to dock with the International Space Station and then return to the Earth was an apparent success as everything appeared to go smoothly. After a successful in-flight abort test with the same capsule in a few months, another test with a crew will be flown. Boeing’s Starliner capsule is not far behind with a possible uncrewed launch in April. Both companies have abort tests to get behind them before crews can be launched. SpaceX is expected to launch a crew as early as June.

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

Addendum

NASA

Crew Dragon Demo-1 liftoff

SpaceX Falcon 9 Crew Dragon Demo-1 liftoff. Credit NASA.

Docking

NASA-SpaceX Demo-1 Screen Cap of docking at the ISS. Credit NASA.

Inside the Crew Dragon

Inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Credit NASA/SpaceX.

Splashdown

NASA-SpaceX Demo-1 Crew Dragon Capsule splashdown in the Atlantic. Credit NASA/SpaceX.

03/02/2015 – Ephemeris – The Dawn spacecraft (The turtle wins the race)

March 2, 2015 Comments off

Ephemeris for Monday, March 2nd.  The sun will rise at 7:19.  It’ll be up for 11 hours and 12 minutes, setting at 6:31.   The moon, 3 days before full, will set at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

On Thursday March 5th NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will fall under the gravitational influence of the asteroid, or actually recently promoted dwarf planet Ceres and enter orbit.  The journey took 7 years including an intermediate year-long stop at the asteroid Vesta.  Dawn uses the latest in ion thrusters, or latest when it was launched.  Using power generated by its solar panels it ejects xenon ions from one of its three ion thrusters to produce a thrust comparable to the weight of a piece of paper.  It can accelerate the spacecraft from zero to 60 miles per hour in a few days.  In the tale of the hare and the tortoise it’s in the tortoise class, at least to start.  Ion engines are 10 times as efficient as chemical rockets and they can thrust for years.

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

Addendum

Dawn spacecraft at Vesta

Artist’s rendition of the Dawn spacecraft at Vesta. Credit: NASA/JPL

Ion engine test

Ion engine test. Xenon ions glow blue. Credit NASA.