Posts Tagged ‘SpaceX’

05/28/2019 – Ephemeris – A new satellite phenomenon was visible last Saturday night.

May 28, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, May 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 15 hours and 14 minutes, setting at 9:17, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:02. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:57 tomorrow morning.

Last Saturday night at the star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore we saw an amazing sight. After 10 p.m. we saw a ghostly line in the sky. It looked like a jet contrail at first, but there was no jet making it, and besides at that altitude the Sun wouldn’t be shining on it. It reminded me of the tail of Comet Hale-Bopp that graced our skies 22 years ago, But the ghostly line was moving to the northward. It dawned on us that these were the 60 Starlink satellites SpaceX launched two days before. It was the first 60 of a planned 12,000 satellites that will launch in Elon Musk’s Internet satellite venture. The satellites, each too faint to be seen with the naked eye will soon spread out along their orbit.

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


Starling Satellite train

The train of Starlink satellites the night after launch from the Netherlands by Marco Langbroek from his video on

I went out during the writing of this week’s Ephemeris programs at 11:45 p.m. and saw three of them.  This time they went almost overhead.  There were three satellites close together in line.  According to Heavens-Above the train is really getting spread out, so I may have been seeing only some of them.  I didn’t see any fainter ones in between.  Overhead the three were quite bright.


An article about the Starlink satellite train:

Here’s a place (Heavens Above) to get predictions of the passage of the satellite train for your location:  They also have predictions for the International Space Station.

Scott Manley’s YouTube video – Will Starlink & Other Satellite Networks Ruin The Night Sky For Astronomers?

YouTube video of the Starlink launch:


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.



Crew Dragon Demo-1 liftoff

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


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.


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

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.


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.

04/04/2017 – Ephemeris – First relaunch and recovery of a rocket booster

April 4, 2017 Comments off

Ephemeris for Tuesday, April 4th.  The Sun will rise at 7:17.  It’ll be up for 12 hours and 56 minutes, setting at 8:14.  The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 4:24 tomorrow morning.

Last Thursday SpaceX launched a communications satellite, SES-10 toward geostationary orbit using a used Falcon 9 first stage booster, that landed last April.  To them it’s not a used rocket but a flight proven booster.  Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO is not going to try launch this booster a third time, but will give it to the Cape Kennedy Visitors Center.  Re-usability is the key, according to Musk to his plans to get to Mars and to possibly reduce the cost of getting payloads into orbit by as much as 30% than his already lowest prices in the industry.  Besides landing the booster on their automated drone ship, they were able to recover the two halves of the fairing that protects a satellite as it ascends through the atmosphere.

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


SES-10 launch

The second launching of this particular booster with the SES-10 satellite. Credit SpaceX video feed.

Landing No. 2

The video feed cut out during the landing of the booster, but the next shot was of the booster standing upright on the drone ship. Credit SpaceX video feed.

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  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.


Arrival on Mars

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

Short 5 minute video:

Full address to the International Astronautical Congress meeting:

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.


Falcon 9 Explosion

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

04/21/2016 – Ephemeris – Up up and a way my beautiful balloon*

April 21, 2016 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, April 21st.  The Sun rises at 6:47.  It’ll be up for 13 hours and 48 minutes, setting at 8:36.   The Moon, 1 day before full, will set at 7:16 tomorrow morning.

The successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 spacecraft and the Dragon module marked the returned SpaceX to supplying the International Space Station after its failure last June.  Besides the great achievement of landing the first stage of the Falcon on a barge, it delivered the Bigelow Aerospace BEAM inflatable module to the ISS.  It’s already been attached to the station and will be inflated next month.  Bigelow already has two inflatable satellites in orbit:  Genesis I and II launched in 2006 and 2007 and though retired, are still in orbit.  Inflatable spacecraft offer maximum volume for minimum weight.  If the tests on the space station prove the concept, the Mars manned spacecraft may feature an inflatable living module.

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

*Apologies to the 5th Dimension and Bigelow Aerospace.


Loading BEAM

The BEAM module being loaded in the Dragon Trunk. Credit NASA / SpaceX.

BEAM in the trunk

Dragon separating from the Falcon second stage with the BEAM module seen in the Dragon trunk. From a SpaceX/NASA video.

Inflated BEAM

What the BEAM module will look like when attached to the ISS and inflated. Credit NASA.


Cutaway view of the Bigelow Aerospace B330 Expandable Space Habitat. They are contracting with United Launch Alliance to send it into orbit. It will have 330 cubic meters of volume. Credit Bigelow Aerospace.